Visiting landmarks like Taipei 101 is a great way to explore the bustling metropolis of Taipei, but a local travel company is now promoting a more authentic way of getting to know the city — living a day in the life of a street vendor.
“We came up with the idea simply because we wanted foreigners to know more about the island and people living on it,” said Peter Lin, the founder of a four-person tourism company established last year.
The 30-year-old and his team of recent graduates escort interested foreigners free of charge to meet local vendors and help them understand how less fortunate people struggle to make a living in the city.
“The visitors are not the only ones who benefit from the program,” Lin said. “The vendors do as well, because they rarely have the chance to interact with foreigners.”
“Sweet Potato Mama for a Day,” one of Lin’s blockbuster tours, for example, brings together visitors and single Taiwanese mothers who have not had much chance to travel, yet still yearn to see the world.
Years ago, a dozen single mothers started selling baked sweet potatoes on Taipei’s streets with the help of a social welfare foundation that promotes independent living.
All day, the women push a portable oven around, often bringing their children along.
“The moms’ faces light up whenever they see people visiting. They just love companionship,” Lin said, noting that the language barrier has never been a problem, because smiles always get the message through.
“I am Canadian and Miss Wong is Taiwanese. My Chinese was as bad as her English, but it didn’t seem to interfere with our connection,” a retired teacher by the name of Dana wrote on Trip Advisor, a Web site that posts opinions about tourism-related issues from globetrotters.
“We laughed a lot and tried to teach each other some language, and I shared her hope,” said Dana, who is also a single mother.
“My experience involved so much more than just eating a healthy snack cooked in a traditional way. I got a taste of a life I would never have known and will never forget,” she said.
A 24-year-old Indonesian who has been studying at a Taiwanese university for two years said he did not know this side of Taiwan until he signed up for the tour.
Besides learning how to bake delicious sweet potatoes, Citra Satria Ongkowijoyo said he became more aware of the concept that “teaching people how to fish is better than giving them fish.”
Nguyen Tuan Anh, president of National Taiwan University’s Vietnamese Student Association, said: “I would suggest the tour to Westerners.”
Many people from Vietnam, like other countries in Southeast Asia, already know what it is like to lead a difficult and challenging life, so the tour would probably be more attractive to people from developed countries, he said.
“The beauty of travel lies in the people you meet and not the sights you see,” said Lin, whose travel experiences in the US as a foreign exchange student and as a volunteer in Nepal inspired him to promote such tours.
Showing postcards and e-mails from customers in the past year, Lin stressed that Taiwan has much to offer.
“Taiwan’s biggest assets are not its infrastructure or geo-political position, but the kindness and vitality of its people,” he said.
RULES IGNORED: CDC Deputy Director-General Chuang Jen-hsiang said that crew members who break the rules would be required to complete the full 14-day quarantine Three EVA Airways flight attendants were fired last month and this month after they failed to follow the government’s quarantine requirements. This was the first time that flight attendants have lost their jobs for quarantine failures. One flight attendant reportedly breached the quarantine mandate by going to school, visiting relatives and dining with friends, while lying to the company about her activities, EVA Air said. The Centers for Disease Control (CDC) and the Civil Aeronautics Administration (CAA) have established disease prevention measures for cabin crew members, such as monitoring their health and reporting their temperature daily, the company said. While on flight duty, crew
LOOPHOLES: The people behind biased media content produced by a Chinese network, likely without sending staff to Taiwan, remain anonymous, a source said Beijing’s latest attempt at psychological warfare through heavily biased online media is aimed at sowing discord and polarizing Taiwanese society, the Mainland Affairs Council (MAC) said. The council’s comment came in response to Chinese network Southeast Television, which late last month began broadcasting an online program featuring commentary by Taiwanese unification supporters that authorities suspect was filmed illegally in Taiwan. To circumvent cross-strait regulations, the broadcaster collaborated with online service provider Baidu to air the series titles Diverse Voices From the Taiwan Strait (台海百家說). Only Taiwanese are shown on camera, without revealing the host, interviewer or production team. In one video, political commentator and
A group of overseas Taiwanese in Norway are taking a case on their national identity to the European Court of Human Rights — with plans to file the case in the first half of next year — after Norway’s Supreme Court rejected their appeal to change their listed nationality from “China” to “Taiwan,” Joseph Liu, a Taiwanese lawyer living in Norway, told reporters on Monday. One of the initiators of the movement, “My Name, My Right,” Liu and his group plan to hire lawyers from the UK and France who know European law and have knowledge of Asia to represent them,
SUPPRESSION: Michael Tsai, a former defense minister, said that Beijing’s list of Taiwan independence advocates contravenes the UN’s Universal Declaration of Human Rights The best way to respond to threats from China against Taiwan independence advocates is for the president to publicly reiterate Taiwan’s sovereignty, former minister of national defense Michael Tsai (蔡明憲) said on Sunday. Chinese media on Nov. 15 said that the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) was compiling “a list of stubborn Taiwanese separatists and will severely punish them in accordance with [China’s] Anti-Secession Law and hold them accountable for their actions for the rest of their lives.” Chinese media subsequently accused Premier Su Tseng-chang (蘇貞昌) of being a “first-rate war criminal,” because of his policy on mask exports. “The vast majority