Unpretentious Taiwan invigorates the spirit

Friday, June 15, 2012
By Shaun Robert

Touching down at the airport, I knew very little about what to expect. Prior to leaving, I had deliberately avoided learning about what Taiwan was like. I knew that it had once been (or still was) a hub for cheap manufacturing, and had some beef with China, but I had no image of it in my mind. I was perhaps expecting it to look like a stereotypical image of Japan; clean, modern, buttoned-down.

Stepping out of the terminal, I was greeted by oppressive smog and clouds as I waited for a ride near some construction work. Everything was concrete, dull and industrial.

Into the city and it was more like “Blade Runner” than anything else. Little streets packed with neon signs, food stalls, “barber shops” and convenience stores. Crossing the street was time-consuming and hazardous. Ordering food was pointing. I had not known what to expect, but at the same time I didn't expect this. It seemed chaotic, like a society without regulation or courtesy.

Those were my first impressions, and so of course they were wrong.

Now, many years later, these things that first shocked and disappointed me are exactly the same things which keep me in love with this country, and keep me from leaving.

Taiwan has an unabashed, unpretentious sense of freedom that enriches every experience. In Taipei this may not be as strong, but if you live or travel anywhere else it fills you with life. You can just live and do whatever you want without worrying about being hassled by Johnny Law or bored people with chips on their shoulders that want to tell you what you can't do.

Of course there are rules and laws, but they don't weigh down on you like in the West. There is no massive, dark cloud of security to oppress your thoughts or joy like in China. There is no Big Brother.

There is only a sense that you left alone — with everybody else — to live how you want to.

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