Taiwan holds a special place in my heart.
It’s the country that I grew up in; the place that provided my family and I with lives of comfort and stability. Over the years, as I’ve anchored myself in my Filipino heritage, Taiwan has drifted away. I rarely get to speak Chinese now, and haven’t had a long-stay visit in over two years.
I miss the country. And I’ve only realized it recently.
I miss the ease of transportation, unlimited supply of tea, surplus of night markets, and the safety and simplicity of life that people have. Most of all, I miss seeing my family.
Though I never fully fit in as a local, it is still the closest thing to home.
Here are three things I miss about Taiwan.
1. Comfort of life.
I’ve recently spoken to a dear friend of mine from Louisiana who grew up with me in high school. We both agreed on one thing: there’s no place like Taiwan when it comes to comfort.
I remember the ease of going downstairs from my apartment and getting xiao long bao (soup dumplings) across the street for less than $2. I played basketball with my friends at 12am, and walked around the parks with my best friends without any concern about our safety.
If you want to grab a snack at 2am, you won’t have to look far for the closest 7-11. If you want to go to the mall, hop on the local bus and MRT (subway) and you’ll get there in less than 30 minutes for less than $3. If you want to go on a weekend getaway, treat yourself to an HSR (high speed rail) train ride and go across the country in less than four hours.
The comfort that Taiwan provides really comes down to the food, transportation, and safety.
2. The genuine kindness of the people.
In the American School I attended in Taiwan, all my foreign teachers displayed a deep affection for the people of the country.
Taiwanese people are some of the nicest, most peaceful people you will ever meet. Rarely did I ever have to worry about my belongings being stolen. If you dropped your wallet on the ground, people are likely going to pick it up and rush to give it back to you, or hand it over to security.
I remember being in the car when my Dad was renting movies at a DVD store (I know. This was before Netflix and streaming), and a person knocked on the car window. I opened the door and that person handed over my Dad’s wallet.
Taiwan is mainly a cash economy, and anyone who finds a wallet is sure to find some cash in it. That person easily could have taken it away.
But Taiwanese people are genuinely good people who mean no harm.
3. Food and drinks.
I mentioned the food earlier, but this deserves a section for itself.
Taiwan is home to some of the most delicious food in Asia. It is like Din Tai Fung on steroids at a much cheaper rate (for those who have eaten at the restaurant). You can get dumplings and xia long bao in the night market, treat yourself to xian su ji (popcorn chicken) late at night, or get dan bing (Taiwenese egg pancake) every morning; all for a few dollars.
For the boba lovers out there, Taiwan is paradise. You can have boba with every meal you have if you wanted to. A large cup of milk tea that costs $5 in California would be sold for $2 or less in Taiwan. For the dieters out there, you could get a cup of iced, sugarless green tea for a $1 to go with your meal.
People sometimes ask me, “why not return to Taiwan if you grew up there?”
At the end of the day, I want to live in a place where I can hop from one culture to another; from the Philippines, to Taiwan, to the U.S.
So far, that place for me is California.
For the meantime though, I thought I’d give a shout out to the country I miss dearly.