You don’t need thousands of dollars to visit Taiwan and to get around the tiny island.
Hitchhiking in Taiwan is truly one of these experiences in life you better don’t elude. And for me they are one of my most memorable and valuable moments in Taiwan. Moreover, it is environment-friendly, you save money and above all you meet people with different backgrounds on the road. In no other country I didn’t only receive free rides, but also invitations for lunch on other snacks.
Besides Japan, Taiwan is a credible safe country to hitchhike.
The culture in Taiwan is characterized by people who are genuinely willing to help you.
Although, most of them couldn’t speak English, but they hectically call their friends or family members (who speaks broken English), just to help me. They will drive you safely or walk with you until you find your stay. They will give you money for taxi if they can’t bring you to your hostel, even though it is only 10 minutes walk away. And they will invite you to accompany them and their family for dinner. The list just goes on.
The mileage of my total hitchhiking trips in Taiwan for more than 3 months: About 2600km (1615 miles).
Spring: Irene and Chen
My first hitchhiking experience is a story I will even narrate to my grandchildren (I doubt I have some).
Repeatedly, until they label me as an old and senile lady.
Two people came into my life who would become a huge part of my life back then in Taiwan and until now: Irene and Chen.
It didn’t start well with my first hitchhiking in Taiwan.
My friend from Puli advised me a wrong hitchhiking spot. I stood there like a dumb girl with a poster misguiding in the reverse direction. Even the drivers gave me a hand sign to cross the street and stand on the other side of the road. But my brain didn’t work at 9 am in the morning.
A lady approached me and spoke frantically something in Chinese, I showed her the written message on my poster that I am not able to speak Chinese. Then she pointed on the backseat of her scooter, I trusted her and got on her vehicle. Fortunately she dropped me off at a better spot.
And like the fate wished it, the first hitchhiking in Taiwan would be also my longest waiting time. I waited around thirty minutes (this is pretty long for a solo female traveler in Taiwan!).
Meanwhile old, staggered people on their scooter passed me by.
At this time I was already a pro in disregarding inquisitive glances from people I would never see in my life again.
Suddenly a car stopped and it took a load off my mind, you can’t imagine how much the sun in Puli burned my face. So there she is, Irene, my saviour.
Who else was on board? Chen, her fiance and their two Japanese friends.
Irene is an English teacher, that she would be our translator was reasonable.
After one hour driving we stopped to have lunch, they invited me.
I tried to decline but without any slight of success.
During lunch Irene asked me if I would join them to Qingjing farm. Inwardly I was so excited, I have read it somewhere but it was too far away from Sun Moon Lake to visit. I nodded a “Yes”.
This sheep farm in the mountains has an amazing view over the valley.
It was one of the moments I started to consider staying a whole year in Taiwan. One more fact about me: I LOVE sheeps.
I mean who doesn’t adore their cloud-shaped cuddly wool?
Maybe I lost sanity but I could have cuddle with them all day long.
While we drive over way up to Hehuan Mountain. A tremendous landscape revealed in front of me.
After a drive up via the highest highway in Taiwan, we are in Wuling with a sign marked the height of 3275m (10744 ft).
I tried to hitchhike from there to Hualien.
Side note: It is pretty easy to do hitchhiking on the east coast of Taiwan, there are only two options: Whether you go north or south.
Irene waited joyfully with me for about 10 minutes before Chen would approach us. All of a sudden he said: “We’ll drive you to Hualien”.
Heavily surprised but at the same time way too emotional, I nearly cried. It means that they would arrive in Taoyuan by midnight.
Going to Hualien is an extremely drained detour for them.
But they insisted and were attached to their idea of bringing me to my hostel.
In Hualien we went out together for dinner and again they didn’t let me pay. We exchanged our Facebook. It wouldn’t be the last time I saw them.
During Chinese New Year, Irene invited me to celebrate Lunar New Year with her family. Every opportunity which comes into my way, I joyfully grab it. I truly admire her family and friends. All of them treated me like a princess when I came to visit them in Changhua.
We did a one-day trip to Lukang and later I got invited to hold a presentation about my world travel in front of her students, which I happily accepted.
Until today this remarkable experience was one of the best hitchhiking adventures I ever had and the beginning of a deep connection between Irene, Chen and me.
Already 15 minutes. Numerous cars are passing by. Nobody stops so far.
The spot is not much promising.
A small old timer stopped, inside a man who is an elementary school teacher called Wei.
Right at the first moment I sat inside of his car, it felt familiar and acquainted.
15 minutes ago: Wei’s original plan is to go to the cinema in Taichung. But then he saw a small girl standing on the road putting up her thumb. Passing by while considering whether to pick this girl up or not.
Then he would turn worriedly the car, in hope it would be the right decision to pick up the girl with the dark pink jacket.
After picking me up: We talked like we have known each other for years. At the gas station the sweet old timer packed up, somehow we managed to fix the car. Even though his car was not suitable for driving long-distance, he pushed the limits of his beloved old timer and drove me to Kenting.
We exchanged our numbers and one month later I came to Changhua to meet his adorable family.
The family and I had two meaningful days together, one out of the two days we spent time at Sun Moon Lake. Since then we are still in touch and he became my pen pal.
Wei dropped me off in Kenting. 3 minutes later a man from Kaohsiung picked me up. Wunan couldn’t barely speak English.
On our way to Dulan he stopped at 7-11 and bought thirst-quenching beverages for us.
None of us speaks the language of the other, but somehow the communication still works with a smile, hand gestures, face expressions and google translator. Arrived safely in Dulan, we exchanged our Facebook. He invited me to visit his family in Kaohsiung. Although I spent only one day with his family, I adore his wife with the two daughters immensely. They made me feel so special and somehow they were honoured to show me around their city.
I am looking forward until we see each other next time in Taiwan again.
Winter: Beautiful and generous people
I met during hitchhiking so many beautiful souls. And I felt far more safe and happier hitchhiking with people who speak no English
than I did when I was taking the bus in Berlin, surrounded by drunk and upper class people who spoke my language yet refused to help me or sometimes even accost me. I faced three times the situation, that the person would drive me to a bus station and bought me a bus ticket.
They insisted to pay for me, but that’s not the end of the story.
They would give me extra money to supply myself with beverages and meals, the money suffices to pay for a taxi ride in Taipei.
Please go to Taiwan if you lost hope in humanity, in a short span of time all your esperance will be restored again.
And Spring again…
I learned so much during my time in Taiwan.
And I don’t exaggerate if I claim that I had one of the best times in my life back in Taiwan.
Once you travel Taiwan, try something new. You can eat your burgers and pizzas in your home country. Mingle with the locals at night markets or just give a stranger a treat and buy him bubble tea, beer or whatever. Don’t petrify in your old habits but instead try something new.
New experiences doesn’t mean automatically it will be a good one, but at least you tried. Give it a chance and try go gain a new experience.
In order to discover more of yourself, get out of the comfort zone and grab every opportunity which life has offer to you. Enjoy the moments that make you uncomfortable, these moments make you tick. Be grateful for the not so pleasant days, because you grow exactly from this kind of shitty days. One day you will look back and that is what will cling forever in your mind. And believe me, your limit can be expanded into a level you would have never expected.
So book the damn flight and explore this absolutely beautiful country with its people. The hardest part is not to jump into the cold water, the hardest part is actually – when you realize how alluring crystal-clear water is and the moment you have to exit. Don’t wait until someone pushes you and don’t even wait until counting 3 until you jump. Just jump. Just try.
My gratitude and love I have for this country is endless and
I want to take a moment to say thank you to everyone I was lucky enough to encounter during my time in Taiwan.
Thank you for all the joy and the terrific time we had together!