Notes from Formosa

I just got back from a week-long trip to Taipei, Taiwan's capital and largest city. I don't have anything particularly insightful to say, but I can't charge the trip to Catallarchy's lavish expense account unless I blog about it, so here we are. I forgot my camera and couldn't take any pictures, so I'll just link to other people's pictures where appropriate. They're probably better than the ones I would have taken anyway. They're definitely better than the ones Dr. Wilde would have taken, partly he didn't come on the trip, and partly because he always holds the camera backwards and ends up with pictures of his nose.

Anyway, here are some of the interesting things I noticed about Taipei, which may or may not apply to the rest of Taiwan. First, it's actually pronounced TAI-bay rather than tai-PAY. In the old Wade-Giles system of romanization, P was used for B sounds and P' for P sounds. The apostrophe indicates aspiration, which is what differentiates P and B. Beijing used to be romanized as Peking for the similar reasons (but as far as the K goes, your guess is as good as mine).

The basic unit of currency is the New Taiwan Dollar, and one USD is worth roughly 33 NTD. Taiwan makes a $100 bill, which is the next best thing to a $3 USD bill. Incidentally, they have no smaller bills, and the smallest coin is $1, making Taiwan's smallest coin and bill are worth roughly three times as much as their American counterparts, or six times as much after adjusting for PPP.

People in Taipei respect the escalator's left lane. As someone who prefers to walk on escalators, I was quite happy to see this. The lanes on the roads are another story altogether, though---I once rode three blocks in an oncoming traffic lane after the taxi driver decided for no apparent reason that the lanes on the right side of the road were unsuitable for our purposes. Oddly, most taxis have had the female portions of the back-seat seatbelts removed. I haven't figured this one out yet. I can understand making cars without seatbelts to save money, but I can't think of any good reason to disable working seatbelts.

Transportation in general is remarkably cheap. A short trip on the subway costs only $20 ($0.60 USD), and the longest one costs only $65 ($2 USD). For subways, this could be attributed to subsidization, but taxis are cheap, too. A 30-minute ride to the airport cost me only $400 ($12 USD). A comparable ride in Seattle costs $40 USD or so.

I'm planning on milking this for a few days, so I'll stop here. More tomorrow.

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