One of the first things to strike (almost literally) you about Taiwan is your life flashing before your eyes when a scooter almost knocks you down. Your most immediate thought will be, ‘I am never going to join these hooligans on the road’ and for good reason. A lot of them follow road rules as mere guidelines, the older generations don’t even tend to look at the direction they’re travelling in, and the amount of things that they can physically get on their scooter is just – albeit impressive – an accident waiting to happen. Within a few weeks here, two older women, on separate occasions, ran into the back of my leg when I was walking down a market street. In all fairness, it was most likely below 10kmph and barely made an impact on my day, but I did enjoy the fact they looked at me like it was my fault when in fact, they had been driving in one direction and looking at a stall to the side of them.
The day then, that you suddenly decide to join the madness, could well be deemed as your first steps towards insanity. Once it happens, there really is no going back. Those first few rides on the road can feel like your heart is going to explode out of your chest. You’ll go at 20kmph, and those around you will most likely be tripling it, whizzing in and out between cars, challenging red lights and most likely eating their dinner at the same time. But give it some time, and you’ll find yourself becoming accustomed to the madness, learning how to guess what their next dangerous move might be and finding the back alleys by which you can at least avoid some of the crazy.
Once you get started on the scooter life, there really isn’t any turning back. Taiwan just starts to be a little more convenient for you once you get yourself going on one and it really starts to feel like you have settled into life here. There are also very few things that can really beat a ride up into the mountains. For myself, my experience of Taiwan wouldn’t have been half as adventurous as it has been if I hadn’t got myself a scooter. I’ve driven Taiwan’s most beautiful roads and seen some of the most beautiful views. I wonder how much of that I might have done had I made the decision to stick to my own two feet.
I would highly recommend driving some of those cross-island roads on one. It’s a long way, there is no doubt about that one, but driving on a little scooter amongst mountains that touch the sky and views that go for miles has a way of making you feel like you ended up in a storybook. Of course, if you do decide to do that, then make sure your scooter is in good shape because the last thing you want to happen is for it to overheat in the middle of a five hour stretch of basically nothing but open road. By simply going to the mechanic beforehand you’ll ensure two things – the first, that your scooter isn’t going to give up and second that your charades ability will skyrocket because the chances of you knowing all the words you’ll need are not all that high if you haven’t been here very long. You’re most likely going to have to mime it for the mechanic. I remember I once went to the mechanic when I got a puncture in my tyre and I had no idea how to explain that to him. Instead, I motioned to the tyre and made a big explosion sound. He found this quite hilarious, understood completely and now consistently laughs at me and makes an explosion sound if I happen to walk past his shop.
Want to learn more about living and teaching abroad? Visit our Teaching Jobs Abroad blog.
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 or read about them on her blog: www.byebyeblighty.wordpress.com.