Without the Cultural Revolution, Taiwan preserves many aspects of old China
Date: December 8, 2015
By Stuart Leavenworth, BEITOU, Taiwan
Aspects of modern bohemianism apparent also at resorts like Beitou, near
Hiking, soaking, eating, practicing your Chinese – it can all be done in Taiwan
There’s a simple trick to meeting people in Taiwan – just look lost. Pull out a map on a street corner, or stare befuddledly at your smartphone, and sure enough, someone will stop and ask if you need help.
It happened so many times during a recent week in Taiwan that it became a running joke. These offers of assistance almost inevitably led to extended conversations with our good Samaritans in a fumbling mix of English and Chinese. They were intrigued to know where we were from and what we thought of their home, a place the Portuguese named “Isla Formosa,” or beautiful island.
For more than a century, Taiwan has been known as a generous welcomer of outsiders, and the tradition continues. Possibly because their future is so precarious – living on land claimed by China, with a democratic government unrecognized by most of the world’s nations – the Taiwanese take great pride in greeting people and showing off their culture.
Beitou, an old village absorbed into Taipei, the country’s capital, is a fine place to experience Taiwan’s warmth. It bubbles straight out of the ground. Just a 30-minute subway ride from the center of downtown Taipei, Beitou is the epicenter of hot springs on an island steaming with geothermal activity. You can pay top dollar to visit a luxury resort, or just take your shoes off and soak your feet in one of the brooks that tumble down the hillsides.