Mention the words hitchhiking to anybody in the western world and there are certain to be a large number of people that recommend that you do anything but. I spent my whole life in Europe before coming to Asia and I had never once considered that sticking my hand out was a reliable or safe means to get around. Taiwan definitely doesn’t give off that same vibe and I’ve actually grown to use it as a regular means of transportation.
Most people who see a tall, white blonde girl here are either dying to know how you ended up on the side of a road in Taiwan or see an opportunity to practice their English and this has worked tirelessly in my favour when I’m stuck for a ride. In fact, I’ve made a couple of friends doing it.
It all started with a trip to Dulan in Taitung County with my friends last February. On the last day of our trip, a couple of us decided to head south in search of sun and the other two of us decided to take the opportunity to see the famous east coast of Taiwan. We had heard very good things. We’d come down via the west coast on the reliable train system, but going back up the east coast using public transport isn’t quite as straightforward, or alternatively, it’s absolutely packed. In the place where we were staying, we had met a girl who had got down by hitchhiking and so, by her recommendation, we thought we would give it a go. So the next morning, we set out to the side of the road, put our thumbs out and we were in a car with an old Taiwanese couple within about five minutes.
Now of course if this were a regular hitchhiking story then we would have hopped into various cars all the way up to Taipei, but Taiwan always has a way of blowing you away in manners you wouldn’t expect. That couple dropped us in a village about twenty minutes up the road. We decided to walk out of the hustle and bustle of the town in the hope that we might be able to flag down a means of transportation a little easier. Upon doing this, we heard a large honk of a horn from behind us and turned around to see a large bus, parked by a bus stop, and a driver beckoning us towards him. At this point, we tried to tell him that we didn’t want to catch a bus, but he honked his horn again and momentarily, a few people got off the bus and started approaching us. We thought that they were trying to help us with the public transport system, but after being dragged towards the vehicle and entering said bus, we were faced with thirty or more beaming faces welcoming us to our new seats. It was a Taiwanese tour bus and they were having us along for the ride. They immediately fed us, watered us, took selfies with us, tried to, unsuccessfully I might add, coerce us into some KTV and then drove us all the way back up to our destination Hualien whilst stopping at some of the top attractions on the way.
The truth is that if you’re going to hitchhike anywhere in the world, then Taiwan is one of the safest, friendliest and most beautiful places to do it.
For the next article in the series, click here: Life in Taiwan: Beautiful Island
About the Author
Ella is an English teacher in Taiwan and has been living and teaching in Asia for the last two years. She has loved seeing kids enjoy learning English. In her spare time Ella has been learning Chinese, climbing mountains and finding hidden waterfalls in Taiwan’s beautiful countryside. You can check out her adventures on her Instagram https://www.instagram.com/ella.watson93/ or read about them on her blog www.byebyeblighty.wordpress.com.