The differences between Taiwan and mainland China are impressive. I visited China three times over eighteen years but this stay in Taiwan was a first. Of course, both territories speak Mandarin and are culturally Chinese. Westerners will probably find Taiwan an easier place to start blending in. You will find here ten good reasons to choose Taipei and Taiwan as your travel destinations.
1. You don’t need a visa to visit Taiwan.
There is no required procedure for a 30- or even 90-day stay in Taiwan as a tourist. The visa asked on Chinese territory costs $200 and is hard to obtain.
2. There is no Great Firewall in Taiwan.
This means wherever you are, you can access the internet with a really fast connection as it is not filtered. Many things, like Facebook, are totally blocked in China. You can also watch CNN, the BBC, and other tv channels, whereas all foreign networks are blocked in China. To a new geek addict, this is of the utmost importance.
3. Religion is an integral part of Taiwanese life.
Christianity is well established on Taiwanese soil. My granddaughter goes to a christian school. In China, buddhist temples are crammed with tourists. In Taiwanese temples, crowds of true worshippers were the thing that really impressed me. The temples I saw on mainland China rather looked like soulless artifacts. In Taiwan, I was able to watch real worship and this helped me to have a better understanding of it. It is a shame such a rich aspect of Asian culture was wiped out of modern China.
4. Taipei is much cleaner.
The restaurants are really clean places. Rest rooms are all furnished with toilet paper and soap, which is not always the case on mainland China. The streets are clean – no one spits on the ground and babies are not changed everywhere. Taiwanese people may even actually seem paranoid – you will see a lot of them wear masks so as not to catch diseases.
5. Pollution is not worse than in any American city.
In Beijing, pollution is awful. I suffer from asthma. As a result, I feel like a canary in a coal mine. Every time I visited mainland China, I had bronchitis. I bought antibiotics before going to Taipei as I thought the same thing would happen but after two weeks, I realized with pleasure that I had left the country without having fallen ill or used my rescue inhaler.
6. Most people there speak English and are more foreigner-friendly.
The population is highly educated. Parents generally expect their children to be postgraduate students. China is trying to close the gap.
7. In Taiwan, I’m not a strange beast.
On mainland China, people always wanted to take photos of me, my husband or my granddaughter and, after a while, I thought it was weird. There is no such problem in Taiwan.
8. It is very easy to find a taxi.
Taxi drivers in Beijing are really just average. Many of them refuse children or luggage and it was not unusual to wait thirty minutes with many empty taxis passing us by as if they did not see us. In Taipei, we always got in the first taxi we hailed. That was a great relief.
9. In Taipei, the population respects order and the highway code.
Drivers stop at traffic lights. As a pedestrian, you feel at ease when you know you can cross a street without having to walk in a group so as not to be run over.
10. I’ve seen more Chinese antiques in Taiwan than on mainland China.
The Forbidden City and the Summer Palace were a disappointment – nothing but buildings, fine but empty. All the beautiful things seem to be at the National Palace Museum in Taipei. Apparently, this is because the Kuomintang seized everything after the Communist Party of China took its share. Maybe it was a good thing if we consider the many relics that were destroyed during the cultural revolution. To see these relics allows you to see deeper into the culture and the history.
These remarks do not mean that China is not worth visiting. Here are a few interesting things you will find on mainland China.
1. There are not nearly as many foreigners in Taiwan. Everybody goes to China. I was very often the only blonde in sight, wherever we went. That did not bother me but in time, that could be a problem.
2. I was told that there were no better, more fashionable clubs for expatriate young people than in Beijing.
3. Thanks to economic growth, there are more job offers in China.
4. Wealthiness is discreet in Taiwan whereas it is spectacular in China. The streets of Beijing and Shanghai are filled with expensive cars and luxury department stores. I’m not sure this is an advantage. It’s more of an observation.
5. The food is very good in both places but there is a greater variety in China. I love the north-western Chinese food, which I did not see in Taiwan.
6. Prices for food and goods seem identical but there are many more tourist-oriented goods in China, like the Beijing Silk Market, which I really enjoy when I want to buy presents.
7.There are many places of interest in China, like the Great Wall, which is unique. This is a breath-taking country.
All things considered, I feel inclined to say that the people there are beautiful, be it on mainland China or in Taiwan. The culture is fascinating. Both destinations are worth traveling to.