Some random thoughts about Taiwan following a short visit:
- The Taiwanese are cleaner, quieter, more polite and more orderly than the mainland Chinese. The streets are spotless, people don’t shout into their cell phones, riders wait patiently in line to board a subway, and drivers don’t try to run you down if you cross in the front of them.
- Though they were fierce opponents in China’s civil war, Chairman Mao and Chiang Kai-shek had a lot in common. Both were ruthless dictators who tried to wipe out their enemies. Both promoted a cult of personality. Both are now honored with numerous statues and memorials that treat them like gods instead of deeply flawed leaders.
- With its tropical foliage, beautiful beaches and majestic mountains, rivers and parks, Taiwan reminds me a little of Hawaii.
- Taiwan’s currency, known as TWD, makes you feel rich. It takes about 30 TWD to equal one U.S. dollar, so you find yourself carrying around a lot of 500 and 1,000 TWD bills. Nothing makes you feel like a moneybags more than spending 100 TWD on breakfast or 500 TWD for a T-shirt.
- Japan ruled Taiwan for 50 years until the end of World War II, and that influence is still felt. The island has a lot of Japanese-style buildings and gardens, many older residents speak Japanese, and it’s a popular destination for Japanese tourists.
- Like Americans, the Taiwanese love baseball and basketball. Wei-Yin Chen and Wei-Chung Wang are current major-league pitchers, and NBA player Jeremy Lin has Taiwanese heritage. Taiwan also has won 17 Little League World Series titles, the most for any foreign team.