Do you mean Thailand?
The Adventurous Mailbox is established as a Taiwanese company. If you are like my friend from NYC who came to visit after a business trip to Hong Kong, you may think Taiwan is a very random place to live, let alone set up a business. Many American friends of mine don’t know anything about the place at all, with many thinking I live in Thailand. Having lived here for ten years, though, there are clearly many great reasons to call Taiwan home. One of my hopes with The Adventurous Mailbox, actually, is to help promote it a bit. Taiwan, a fiercely democratic and obnoxiously friendly place, needs all the attention it can get as China looms large, set on enveloping the independent nation.
Before living in Taiwan, I actually first lived in China for a couple years, and I absolutely loved it. The people were extremely hospitable, the food was amazing, the landscapes breathtaking, and just immersing myself in such an old culture was fascinating. Even so, living in the Chinese bubble proved infuriating. Not only is Facebook blocked (gasp!!!), but emails containing sensitive words mysteriously don’t get delivered, TV shows suddenly go dark for a few minutes if the content is not completely pro-Chinese, and you generally feel separated from the international community.
The Good Stuff
Later, after having moved to Korea for a couple years, I came to Taiwan to visit a friend, and I immediately fell in love with the place. It had that Chinese feel to it, but was populated by free thinking, spirited people who, though you could in no way say were Westernized, were still involved in the international discussion and exchange of culture. After moving here, shortly after I came to appreciate much more about the place. For starters, Taiwan’s healthcare system, practically free for all tax-paying residents (including preventive care, dental, and Chinese medicine), is consistently ranked as one of the best in the world. It also ranks high on lists of safe places to live. In truth, there isn’t a street in Taipei I wouldn’t feel safe walking down any time of night.
Taiwan is also a modern and completely wired little country, also boasting high speed rail and great public transportation. Taiwan has a decent human rights record, where individual freedoms are protected. As another progressive feather in its cap, Taiwan currently has a female president and great female representation in the legislature. Higher education is affordable here, as is the cost of living. And oh yeah… Taiwan just became the first country in Asia to have marriage equality.
The Bad Stuff
Of course, Taiwan is not a perfect country. There is a lot of corruption in the government, leading to problems with oversight and standards. As a result, there have been a few food scares (tainted oil being sold to restaurants for cooking, for example) and buildings have fallen down in earthquakes that really shouldn’t have.
There are also some minor things that drive me crazy about the place. For starters (and I will never admit this to the locals for fear of being deported), but I am not a fan of the food. It tends to be kind of mushy and gooey, as cooks will add cornstarch or tapioca to just about anything to achieve the proper level of goo. The Taiwanese are also very, very bad drivers. Like, aggressively bad. There isn’t a crazy scene of farm animals, rickshaws, bikes, mopeds and cars on the roads like in China, but there are a whole lot of people who don’t really need to look behind them before making a sudden U-turn on a busy street.
In addition to the food and traffic, the weather gets oppressively hot (the Tropic of Cancer runs through the middle of the island, making the northern half sub-tropical and the southern half full-on tropical) and the air quality is rather horrible. The latter isn’t entirely Taiwan’s fault, though, as a large amount of the pollution comes straight from neighboring China, getting trapped here due to Taiwan having the tallest mountains in Southeast Asia. Luckily, though, those same mountains provide a nice escape form the densely populated, urbanized haze of the lower elevations.
All Things Considered
In short, Taiwan is a progressive, friendly island that is a great place to live. It isn’t necessarily exciting, but it is in close proximity to amazing travel destinations; just a couple hundred bucks can fly you to places like Thailand, Angkor Wat, or Bali. I guess it is like the Ohio of Asia ~ certainly not exciting but a safe and good place to set up shop and get on with the business of having a life.
So, what else about Taiwan? If you aren’t familiar with the place, here’s the history of Taiwan as written by Crameye Junker in the Country Breakdown section of the adventure book set in Taiwan:
Taiwan’s history is crazy! At first, only aboriginals lived here. Later, Chinese folks started coming over. Then, Portugal and the Netherlands both set up shop, until the locals kicked them out. For a long time, then, China controlled the island, but they had to give it to Japan after losing a war. Japan set up Taiwan as a colony, built tons of roads and established a lot of industry. When they lost World War II, though, they had to give up Taiwan. Then, in 1949, millions more came over from China after they had lost a civil war. They set up a new government on the island and were pretty nasty to the locals for a long time, but eventually the people fought for and achieved a democracy. Most people in Taiwan consider it to be an independent country, but China still threatens to take it back claiming it was always theirs, which is kind of strange since originally it only belonged to the indigenous people.
If you ever have any questions about Taiwan or are planning a visit, don’t hesitate to get in touch with any questions!