TaiwanTravel TipsTravelog

An Overview of Taiwan

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Posted By Zyen Hoo

Taiwan is officially known as the Republic of China (ROC). This should not be confused with mainland China, which is officially known as the People’s Republic of China (PRC).

Here’s a quick bite-size introduction to Taiwan.

The following are based on my personal experiences while I was in Taipei. I will be sharing general touristy information, and avoiding politics. I apologise in advance for any errors, omissions or misrepresentation; any inaccuracies to the actual fact is regretted.

CURRENCY

Taiwan uses its own currency known as the New Taiwan Dollar. The short form is expressed in TWD or NT$.

The New Taiwan Dollar does not have any decimals, i.e. no “cents”; therefore the smallest denomination is NT$1.

As of this blogpost time, RM1 = NT$0.14.

What current Taiwanese cash looks like

LANGUAGE

Taiwan has a population made up primarily of people of Chinese descent.

So… it is only natural that people here would speak Mandarin.They also spoke what they called Taiwanese, which is actually Hokkien. My friend Cecilia told me that it is closest to Klang Hokkien, which is what she spoke, so she fits right in with them.

In Malaysia, we have localized versions of a Chinese dialect, with Hokkien differing in Northern, Central, and Southern Malaysian states, with the most famous notably being Penang Hokkien.

Many of them, especially those in the service industry, also spoke a little bit of English, which makes it easier for foreigners and “bananas” like me to communicate with them.

“Banana” – A Malaysian slang used to describe someone who is of Chinese descent, but unable to speak or read Chinese.

Most of their road signs are bilingual, with English words in small fonts below the larger Chinese characters.

Many of the notices in the touristy spots are bilingual, but not all. Some are purely in Chinese.

An example of road signs in Taiwan. Most of the road signs have English names under the Chinese characters

THE PEOPLE

Taiwanese people are very polite; and it’s not just a service industry mannerism. They speak very politely to each other as well, and this is evidenced by their language. The phrases in their everyday language is extremely polite, which is quite different from how I hear Mandarin spoken in Malaysia. As for Hokkien, I have always found it to be rather rough on the ears, but the Taiwanese have a way of making it sound quite gentle.

You can even see how they treat each other through their driving. They almost never honk at each other, and they always give way to pedestrians or to one another. I don’t think this is because it is due to regulations; I think this is really part of their culture.

TRAFFIC

The vehicles in Taiwan are left-hand drive, which means that traffic drives on the right side of the road.

The main roads are generally 2-3 lanes wide for each direction, but some of the smaller streets are quite narrow. At first, I thought that they were one-way streets. It turns out they are TWO-way streets… the drivers just give way to one another when they approach.

Red lines on the lanes indicate that parking is not allowed.

An example of a side road in suburban Taipei. Yes, these motorcycles are parked legally. Yes, this is a two-way street!

TRANSPORTATION

Getting around in Taipei is quite easy, as it is a modern and advanced city. The public transportation is quite reliable – bus, taxi, MRT, bicycles – and can be easily accessed with the EasyCard.

Article about transportation in Taipei coming up really soon!

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