Archive for the 'Driving' Category

Scooter culture in Taiwan

Hawaii has surfer culture, Japan has sumo culture, America has hot-dog culture and France has wine and cheese culture.  Well….what does Taiwan have?  Scooter culture, of course!  These machines are all over the island and a major mode of transportation for the masses.

Back home, when I was less experienced and…well…dumber, I’d turn up my nose at scooters.  They were for women and eunuchs, I thought.  No real man would ride one!

After owning and driving one (legally, if any cops or lawyers are reading this), I absolutely love em.  Besides being super convenient, very efficient on gas and pretty much a moving closet, they’re also incredibly cheap.  Used ones can go for as little as 10 000NT ($333.33) and maintenence is a joke.  I replaced my old engine with a new one for a mere 5000NT ($166.66).  So, suffice to say, I’m a scooter fan now.

To the untrained eye, they may appear to be the same, but trust me, there are different types of scooters and different personalities that ride them.  Over the course of my time in Taiwan, I’ve observed a lot of scooters, so here is a tongue-in-cheek look at some of the categories of scooter/drivers in Taiwan. Continue reading ‘Scooter culture in Taiwan’


Time and distance in Taiwan

Taiwan is a tiny island (at least compared to Canada) and travelling to different places here is incredibly easy.  The train system in Taiwan can take you from Taipei (north) to Kaohsiung (south) in a matter of 4.5 hours.  If you take the high speed train, that time gets cut down to 1.5 hrs, and by plane, about an hour.  From the point of view of anyone coming from North America, this is peanuts.

Back home, I’d regularly drive 1 – 1.5 hrs. to meet a friend for dinner, then drive back.  Just driving across my town could take 30 mins, so when I landed in  Taiwan, I was pleasantly surprised at how close everything seemed to be.  Travelling across the island would be easy.  So, I was astonished when Taiwanese people described a city 100 kms away as very, very far! Continue reading ‘Time and distance in Taiwan’

New Zealand’s colourful driving signs

Most of our time on the road was in a rental car.  We chose this route for a number of reasons.  Having a car allowed us freedom from schedules, freedom to go anywhere we pleased, a portable shelter we could sleep in (to save money on hotels and such), the ability to give  hitch-hikers rides and a portable storage area, so we wouldn’t have to carry anything on our backs.

Besides all of that, it was simply nice to drive in a western country again (even if I had to drive on the wrong side of the road).  The traffic felt safer, and I didn’t have to worry about any crazy scooter maniacs crashing into or cutting me off.  Unlike on Taiwan’s roads,  I could turn off my sixth sense and drive like a normal person.

The price of the rental was not too bad (around NZ$ 675 for 14 days – unlimited kms etc etc) from Omega car rentals.  We picked up the car in Nelson and returned it in Christchurch (both locations near the airport).

One of the unforseen consequences of renting a car was the exposure we had to NZ’s road signs.  I’ve never seen signs like these in Canada, the US or Taiwan.  They definitely go all out for road safety in NZ. Continue reading ‘New Zealand’s colourful driving signs’

Implementing traffic “laws” in Taiwan

Driving a scooter in Taiwan is a hazardous undertaking – kinda like having an open wound and swimming in shark infested waters.  While there is a police presence it sometimes is a joke.  The implementation of the “laws” can be totally contradictory and make no sense.  Here’s a story of one such incident.

A friend of mine was driving home one day and made an illegal left turn.  In a lot of intersections in Taiwan scooters cannot just turn left.  They have to go straight on a green light to a little box, then turn 90 degrees and wait for the the next light to go green.  Something like this: Continue reading ‘Implementing traffic “laws” in Taiwan’

Getting a scooter driving license in Taiwan

While a lot of people drive without licenses, if you are going to be staying in Taiwan for a long time (especially in the bigger cities) it’s definitely a good idea to get one.  And it’s ridiculously easy.  There are different classes of licenses (50cc scooter, 51cc-249cc, 250cc+, car…etc etc).  Most of the scooters here fall in the 51cc – 249cc category (mine is a 125cc), and if you are a foreigner looking to get a scooter, most likely it will be one of these.  So here’s how you go about getting a license for a 51cc – 249cc  scooter. Continue reading ‘Getting a scooter driving license in Taiwan’

When not knowing Mandarin pays off

I was driving back home from school.  It was a gorgeous day.  The roads were fairly empty, and my mind was wandering over the lessons covered in class.  Normally I am a fairly cautious driver because the traffic conditions here are subject to abrupt change.  I always follow all the rules of the road (a LOT of drivers don’t), and I’ve even managed to quash my instinct to turn right on red lights Continue reading ‘When not knowing Mandarin pays off’

Driving in Taiwan

Once you’re used to it, it’s not really that bad, but the journey getting there is terrifying and nerve-racking. I was getting sick and tired of having to walk everywhere (my town has no public transportation system).  I had thought about getting a scooter for a while, but was still concerned about license issues.  I didn’t have an international one, and couldn’t get a Taiwanese one yet.  Also I didn’t want to do anything here that I wouldn’t do in Canada (like drive without a license).  Silly me.  Although I will be getting my license soon, at the time I was unaware that almost all foreigners drive around without licenses.  Finally the frustration of not having wheels overtook my fear of the law and whatever moral highground I was trying to maintain, so I bought a scooter. It cost me 12 000 NT ($400 Cdn).  Named Bronx.

The steroetype is that Asians are terrible drivers.  And now I understand why that steroetype exists.  While a lot of people follow the rules, a lot don’t.  Here’s a few differences between what I’m used to and what happens here: Continue reading ‘Driving in Taiwan’

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