In the heart of East Asia lies Taiwan, historically known as “Ilha Formosa” or “The Beautiful Island” by 16th-century Portuguese explorers. This island nation serves as a melting pot of cultures and technological innovations.
During my stay in Taiwan’s largest city, Taipei, I have been introduced to an environment that is culturally, linguistically and often ideologically different from the United States.
The Air You Can Wear: Adjusting to Taipei’s Humidity
The moment I stepped off the plane at Taoyuan International Airport, I was greeted not just by the anticipation of my new life in Taipei but also by something far more palpable: humidity.
It’s as if the air itself was giving me a moist, warm hug, saying, “Welcome to Taiwan.” This was a marked contrast to what I was accustomed to in Austin, Texas, where the air is relatively dry and you’re more likely to feel parched than drenched just by standing still.
In Austin, the humidity, or lack thereof, has its own challenges, especially with the scorching summer heat. But Taipei’s humidity is a different beast altogether. It clings to you, making your clothes stick to your skin within minutes. Even in the evening, the moisture in the air remains, unlike the dry Texas nights where the humidity seems to evaporate with the setting sun.
Adjusting to this new atmospheric norm required some lifestyle tweaks. First and foremost, staying hydrated became more critical than ever. The humidity can be deceptive, making you feel like you’re not losing water when, in fact, you’re sweating more than usual. To keep my bathroom and closet from becoming moisture havens, I’ve invested in dehumidifying packs. These little lifesavers work wonders to absorb excess moisture and keep my belongings and living space comfortable.
Although the humidity was a challenge to deal with at first, with some adaptation, I grew accustomed to it within a few weeks and began to enjoy the benefits of Taiwan’s subtropical climate.
Green and Clean: Taipei’s Commitment to Environmental Stewardship
Nestled in a subtropical climate, Taiwan is a lush, green wonderland that captivates with its natural beauty. But sustaining this verdant landscape amid urban development requires concerted efforts, and Taipei stands as a shining example of environmental stewardship done right.
Taipei streets are remarkably clean. The reason isn’t just civic pride but also a well-implemented trash policy that requires residents to dispose of waste in a sorted and timely manner.
There are no curbside trash cans; instead, in the evening, garbage trucks signal their arrival to residential complexes to the tune of “Für Elise” and people bring out their sorted trash and recycling to the truck themselves. This hands-on approach cultivates a sense of responsibility among residents, making everyone a stakeholder in the city’s cleanliness.
But the city’s commitment to the environment extends far beyond trash disposal. Take, for example, Da’an Forest Park. The park is one of Taipei’s largest green spaces, often referred to as the “Lungs of Taipei.” The park not only offers a respite from urban hustle and bustle but also serves as a testament to the city’s effort to maintain green, sustainable spaces.
The lush landscape, complete with ponds, gazebos and a variety of flora and fauna, highlights the importance Taipei places on balanced urban development. It’s not just a park; it’s a statement about the value of green spaces in urban planning.
In essence, what strikes me most is how Taipei’s environmental policies don’t just feel like mandated regulations but more like a shared ethos among its residents. Whether it’s through trash sorting, the cultivation of large green spaces or the promotion of eco-friendly transportation options, Taipei walks the walk regarding environmental stewardship.
Coming from the United States, where environmental policies can often be a point of contention rather than a collective effort, experiencing Taipei’s unified approach has been both eye-opening and inspiring.
The Convenience and Safety of Living in Taipei
Coming from Texas, where cities sprawl over vast landscapes and owning a car is almost a prerequisite for a convenient life, the accessibility and livability of Taipei came as a delightful surprise. Back home, lackluster public transportation and the need to drive long distances for basic amenities often felt like barriers to enjoying city life, making Taipei’s contrasting landscape a revelation.
My initiation into Taipei’s incredibly convenient lifestyle began with the simple act of purchasing a Mass Rapid Transit (MRT) card. This small piece of plastic became my passport to the city, granting me easy access to its clean, efficient and timely public transportation system. MRT trains and buses are a godsend, running until midnight and connecting key parts of Taipei, which instantly made me appreciate the infrastructure that’s in place for both locals and newcomers like me.
And let’s not forget the city’s biking culture! Taipei is dotted with bike rental stations, featuring a quick, convenient way to get around while enjoying the city’s scenery at a low cost. Bike lanes are common, and drivers generally respect cyclists, creating a harmonious coexistence. Cycling here feels less like a chore or a risk and more like an integrated part of city life.
What amplifies all these conveniences is the overwhelming sense of safety that envelops the city, even at night. There’s something incredibly liberating about being able to take a midnight walk or bike ride without a second thought. Whether I find myself traversing the intricate lanes near Taipei 101 or meandering through a bustling night market, I’ve never felt the need to constantly look over my shoulder. The city exudes a sense of community and security that motivates me to explore its boundaries.
This post was contributed by Arsalaan Asad, a Global Ambassador for Fall 2023. Arsalaan is a junior biochemistry and English studies major studying abroad in Taipei, Taiwan.