You will see a lot of unusual, yet interesting things all around you living on this beautiful island. The buildings, the people, how they work, move and operate is fascinating to me. Below are a few interesting observations I have made while living in Taiwan over the years.
Helmets are a tricky topic in Taiwan. You might wonder how safe the average helmet really is, because 95% of the helmets you see being worn don’t protect the entire face or head. On occasion you might see the odd grandpa riding along on his scooter, probably not going very fast or very far, looking like he forgot to secure his helmet with the clip. Sometimes I wonder how the wind doesn’t blow it right off while they are riding! Remember to secure your helmet properly before setting off on your journey!
Sometimes you will see drivers or passengers on scooters not putting their feet onto the footrests of their motorcycles. Instead they dangle their legs from the sides of their scooter; and some drivers even let them hang with their sandals almost touching the ground. If you are lucky, you can see the rubber being shaved off the bottom of their indoor sandals! It’s unusual, yet interesting to see.
If you are not sure what a trike is, it’s a 3-wheeled motorcycle usually used to collect and transport recycling. They can be quite a rare sight – but when you do see them, they demand a certain amount of respect. Most of the time, these vehicles look like something out of a Mad Max movie. Sometimes they bellow smoke out the back and can struggle to get up to 30km/h on their little 90cc engines; others are propelled solely by human horsepower. The driver of this vehicle is probably old enough to be your great-grandfather. We know them, we love them, and we respect them – because we know the trouble and dedication they go through to make a dollar, and keep themselves active in the community.
The blue trucks are usually blue collar workers in Taiwan that do all the hard laborious jobs the clean-cut office workers like us, aren’t cut out for. These guys are pretty tough looking and usually have someplace to be – as soon as possible. They often travel frightfully fast, so if you see them coming up behind you or next to you, it’s best to stay clear of these vehicles. Move over and allow them to pass.
You will see a lot of unusual objects attached to scooters. Scooters are the workhorses of the city, and they allow people to get around a lot quicker than they could by car. People load tools, ladders, large gas canisters, recycling, drag home-made trailers and other interesting objects. I’m always amazed with what I see tied to a scooter!
You might be lucky enough to lay your eyes on a scooter carrying more than two passengers. Sometimes you are fortunate enough to see a whole family – mum, dad, two children and a dog! This isn’t the safest way to travel, so it’s always best to keep your distance and give them enough space to move and pass.
There are a number of younger riders that take scootering to a whole other level. If you don’t see them, you will definitely hear them. These riders modify their scooters to not only look fierce, but to sound fierce too. They have modded-out exhaust pipes that make unbelievable sounds. They almost sound like the freestyle motocross motorcycles that do all the jumps and tricks! These are often the daredevils of the road! Or is it a safety mechanism, like training wheels on a bicycle? “Look out! Here I come! Brrraaaap!!!”
Traveling Through Tunnels
Passing through a tunnel feels almost sacred. I’m not sure why, but all the rules become like scripture when riding through a tunnel. Most people drive admirably slowly and carefully through tunnels. For a brief moment all the road rules make sense. Everything is safe and calm in a tunnel. For a brief moment, you have a break from the chaos of the outside world. The safest I feel on a road is probably while passing through a tunnel. However, once you leave the tunnel again – game on!
Although these unusual things can sound a bit intimidating or ridiculous to some of us, they are part of what makes Taiwan special, and are beautiful examples of the organized chaos that we see on the roads and in these cities.
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Ride safe and lead by example!