First, there are the people. The Taiwanese are truly a class act - gracious, polite, willing to stop and help strangers, always putting their best face forward even in hard times. And even the aforementioned taxi drivers - they, too, amaze me with their kindness and honesty and refusal to sacrifice their morals. At least three times, including just this past weekend, I've gotten into a taxi not knowing my destination was just around the corner, and they dropped me off and refused to take any money. (In Shanghai, I've been driven literally a few inches and paid the full fare, though the driver could simply have pointed and said, "It's right across the street, over there.") And the taxi drivers, and just about everyone else here, are just so nice, so decent and caring. Quite a different story than in Hong Kong. Similar to what I often experienced in Singapore, but no where else in Asia (or the US, for that matter).
I don't think I love the people of any other country more than I love the Taiwanese. I can tell story after story about good Samaritans, delightful conversations with strangers, offers to help from out of the blue. And just thinking about it now, knowing I will be here only another five or six days (three days this week, and a couple days in January when I return and gather my stuff), I am filled with a sentimental mixture of sadness and appreciation and respect. I know I am going to miss these people soon. Very soon.
There are lots of little things that make Taiwan so magical. The throngs of people lining the main roads like Zhongxiao Dong Lu all through the night, even at midnight, shopping and eating and drinking. The immaculate subways and an infrastructure that really works. The courtesy of the drivers, who actually stop as the light turns red and always yield to pedestrians. The odd weekly ritual when seemingly everyone in the neighborhood gathers on the street to socialize with one another as they wait for the garbage truck to come and take away their trash. (There are almost no public wastebaskets here, and getting rid of garbage is a social event - you really have to see it to understand and appreciate it. Literally hundreds of people pour onto the street to participate, carrying their plastic bags of carefully separated recyclable and disposable rubbish.) The gorgeous mountains that surround the city, leading to the hot springs of Beitou. The boisterous night markets where the vendors never push you to buy and the prices are fair (bargaining doesn't seem to be part of the general culture here). The little alleys that wind around the major streets filled with small shops and restaurants. Honest landlords who go out of their way to provide excellent service. Even honest real estate brokers. I know there must be crime and dishonesty here, but I've never seen it.
Tell it, Richard....it's a privilege to live on the Beautiful Island