January 23, 2013

The first meeting - my new country

The first meeting

As I already mentioned, I am about to start the new chapter, to move on, take the next step.

Hiking just outside Taipei, Taiwan
Hiking in the north of Taiwan
And the next step is to give up corporate life (for now at least, but maybe forever, something time will tell), give up the comfortable live I am living here, and go for the new challenges, move on to Asia, the region I have been dreaming on for so long, and test my barriers there, see if my wings will carry me and how to make Asia my home, the way Germany became my my home when I moved here.

I am in Asia every year, even if I visit different countries, so I do have a feeling for what I am getting myself into. Not completely, that I admit, but I have a feeling for this part of the world. Never the less it felt important to me to meet my new home country before I actually move there - so in December, shortly before Christmas, I boarded a plane and set off to visit Taiwan for the first time.

The plan was to partly stay with friends, do things with them as well as on my own, and partly travel around, not to make any final decisions on location and school (I do already have some sort of plan) but more to get a feel for the whole country, so that I would know what to expect.

I arrived on the 24:th and I was immediately positively surprised - and that said, my expectations were already high, after having heard what my friends and others were saying about Taiwan.

View of Taipei, after a hike
Taiwan is a very well organised and structured country. I was immediately baffled by how smoothly the passport control went, and how easy it was to get around in the airport, without being hassled by various people trying to get you to buy this and that or travel with their taxis, and later on I was amazed how smooth the traffic was actually running - but then again, I have been to Jakarta in Indonesia, to Cairo in Egypt, to Bangkok in Thailand, to Istanbul in Turkey, and plenty of other places, so I did expect traffic to be rather bad, but still.

Taiwan has some 20 million inhabitants, but you don't feel it, I feel that it is often more crammed Germany or even in the south of Sweden, than in Taiwan, not the least when using public transportation. In Taiwan and especially Taipei the public transportation worked extremely well.  

Also, Taiwan is far more than just the big cities and electronic markets, you have high mountains - the highest being almost 4000 meters high (the highest mountain of Sweden, Kebenekaise, is about 2200 meter, if I remember correctly), beautiful hiking areas, you have hot springs and gorgeous spas, you have beaches and great surfing, especially in the south, you have almost everything. Fact is, I felt a lot closer to nature in Taiwan than I do in Germany, the mountains and nice hiking areas are just around the corner in Taipei, the capital, and just like the Norwegians, I got the impression that the Taiwanese people love the nature.

The temples, very much a part of day- to day life in Taiwan
Another thing that fascinates me with Taiwan is how the temples and the religion is very much a part of daily life, in a way I didn't feel in Hongkong or in China, in Beijing and Shanghai I had the feeling that money is the religion... In Taiwan it felt more integrated, even if it isn't quite the same as in Thailand, where more or less every man will at some point be a monk - some for a few months during summer holiday, some for many years, but it is still integrated, in a positive, non-forcing and very open kind of way.

Religion doesn't seem to be something that Taiwanese people talk a lot about, it is just there and it is just practiced, but I may be wrong, that may just be the first impression.

The best part about Taiwan though, part from the people, is that the Taiwanese value the same things as I do - good food. Taiwan is a true food nation, the people take enormous pride in their food, and they are happy to share it with you, and happy to teach you about it. The markets are fantastic, colourful stands presenting every vegetable and fruit you can imagine (as long as it is in season), the seafood and the meats are amazing, there is a tradition of cooking vegetarian dishes as well, and there is something for everybody. You all share your meal, order plenty of dishes (as many as there are people plus one is a good ground rule if you are not sure) and then you enjoy it together. It is an attitude that suits me incredibly well.

Excellent food in Taiwan
Food, the pride of Taiwan
The Taiwanese food is not necessarily spicy, but it is full of flavours that marry well. It's is a true food heaven, with influences from many different groups of people that have passed through Taiwan, not the least the Japanese .  What's also speaks for the Taiwanese is that they are open to new flavours, open to try new things and open to experiment, a very positive trait. I had things that I had never tried before when I was in Taiwan, or I tried them, but not with the same seasoning - lotus, various different types of bamboos, green beans, squid, angry-looking but tasty fish cooked with a glace, and so on - there was simply too much food to even mention, I am happy to have my photos, because with them I can look back and remember all the good reasons I am going to Taiwan.

All in all; The first meeting with Taiwan was an amazing experience, and I am eagerly awaiting the day when I can depart and head over there - it is going to be absolutely fascinating to spend at least a year in the beautiful country shaped like a sweet potato.


Kim Olson said...

I loved reading about your first impressions of Taiwan. Since I've never been, you give a great description of what to expect from a visitor's standpoint.

I quit the corporate world, too, and hope to never go back. Your new chapter sounds thrilling and I'm excited to see where your steps lead!

TravellingAK said...

Thank you Kim,
I am convinced that Taiwan has a lot to offer and I had a very good first impression. I am pretty well travelled but I love that I am still amazed by the things that are out there, and not getting blasé.
Great to hear that there are others that quit the corporate world as well. I am quite excited to soon take this step, but I am a bit nervous about it as well, as it is a world I have been in for a while... But it is time for a change and for something different!