THE SELF-REFLECTION JOURNEY – Concluding Thoughts

I see HOPE in the future of Taiwan people.

Compared to the mood 5 years ago when we last visited Taiwan, the locals, generally speaking, seem to have lost quite some shining glory.

Although the service staffs are still very polite and hospitable, it’s not hard to spot their furrowed brows and under-radiated smiles. It is as if the full force of current economic woes are being thrusted upon their shoulders.

With the pan-green government currently in power plus China’s muscles flexing strategic moves in the region, the looming threats against any call for independence cannot simply be brushed aside. How is one able to sleep well when you are made aware that someone has his finger firmly on the trigger of a gun pointedly aiming at your shiny head?

As it is, there are way less mainland tourists compared to the past. Yet, I see a positive trait in the Taiwanese – their conviction and persistence in paying more to support locally produced, toxic-free farm products, especially so in the rural towns, are very encouraging and inspiring.

These people’s deliberate decisions to shoulder social responsibility through their conscience-driven actions at the expense of self-profiteering are clear proof that Taiwanese are willing to sacrifice short term gains in exchange for a sustainable longer term future.

Such efforts will only lead to one outcome: Taiwan’s younger generations will have a bright future awaiting them. 前人种树,后人乘凉。

All it takes is a critical mass of good men and women to steadfastly guard this spirit of genuine sustainability.

Hence my personal take is this: if reunification does finally take place for China and Taiwan, as in genes mixing, I’m convinced that the better parts of these genes will overcome the less ideal parts. That’s a God-given fact of how society will make progress over time.

维护未来,坚持做有利于环保的事情,台湾同胞,继续加油吧!

Thank you for reading.

P/S : Taipei 101 – The pride of Taiwan – reminds me of the mighty Goliath standing among mortal beings.  Yet, God allowed a skinny David to take him down using just a sling and one solid rock.  May all my Taiwanese friends continue to work in faith through trust and obedience to overcome the Goliath in their lives! 

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DAY 5 REFLECTION – Taiwanese’s problem-solving methology

(情,理,法 vs 法,理,情)

Yesterday, I accidentally drove into a small road that was only meant for motorcycles.  A few policemen were conducting road checks at the end of the road.  I was like :- “Siao liao! Sure kanna summon one!” 😨

As I inched my car towards them, I wind down my window to justify that I am a tourist and prayed that they would let me off.  Before I could open my mouth, the policeman chided me left, right, centre.  I was shell-shocked for awhile.

Suddenly, I felt my car hitting something near the front right wheel.  The other policemen yelled at me claiming a motorcyclist’s foot had gone under the wheel!

That was a double whammy!  I quickly reversed my car slightly as three policemen came over to give me a huge piece of their minds – “How you drive one huh? The poor guy’s foot got run over, you know or not?”  Oops!  Oops!

I apologized profusely and told them I am a foreign tourist hence a bit blurred.  Amazingly, one policeman led us to the side, made sure the motorcyclist was still able to walk (thank God he was wearing a pair of safety boots), and asked if we would like to settle the matter privately, failing which he would call the traffic police.

The motorcyclist was very forgiving and just asked for a nominal medical treatment fee.  The policeman asked him multiple times to ensure that he would not regret his decision after accepting my compensation on the spot.

Finally, I wished him well, we shook hands and went on our separate ways.  What a huge relief it was! 😂

This incident kind of demonstrated how a problem gets resolved in Taiwan.  First, they let out their raw emotions and held nothing back.  Once the stress is released, they’d try to reason with common sense and logic.  lf logic fails, then they apply the rules of law. Hence, their order is 情,理,法.

Compared to Singapore, people tend to see if the law has been violated first.  If yes, then they may try to justify their wrongdoing by reasoning.  If the law enforcer doesn’t buy it, as a last resort, they will plead for mercy and grace.  Hence, our order is 法,理,情.

As for me, I’m just grateful to be let off the hook to continue with our journey.  Thank you, Lord!

Oh, and if you happen to ride a bike, do wear a pair of safety boots please! 👢👢

DAY 4 REFLECTION – Learning from Taiwan’s service excellence.

Shopping in Taiwan is generally a pleasant experience. The sales persons interact with their customers bearing exceptional friendliness. Why do we not get similar treatments in Singapore? Here is my personal analysis:-

1. Taiwanese express their emotions effectively through words.
Taiwanese drama series deploy actors and actresses who could memorize lengthy conversations effortlessly. If our local drama needs 5 minutes for a scene, its Taiwan counterpart could easily stretch beyond half an hour! Hence, I believe Taiwanese are groomed from young to focus on the right use of emotive words to make us feel genuinely welcome.

2. Taiwanese know their products intimately.
While Taiwan sales persons are not pushy by following you everywhere in the shop and  they give you sufficient space to browse, they remain 120% alert on when to chime in for the kill.  Unlike our local sales persons who are shy (stingy perhaps for some?) with words, they are always ready to share about product features and benefits, whispering softly like background music so they don’t get so in-your-face.  What happens when you feel good?  Your sub-conscious mind will eventually urge you to seal this wonderful retail experience by emptying your wallet with joy and great satisfaction!

3. Taiwanese seem well-trained in the psychology of buying.
Taiwan sales persons would typically stand in front of their shops saying “进来看哦,不买没关系啊!” (“Come in and look see. No buy no problem!”)  Their prices are usually fixed-priced but they are prepared to throw in some freebies or give us a bundled deal.  Their focus is not to pressure us to close a deal but to gain a satisfied customer.  You happy, they happy too!

Hence, the critical success factors (CSF) for service excellence are:- Be pleasant. Be knowledgeable. Be bold and generous.

Just don’t get them started by asking about their favorite color though!

P/S : If not blue, then green.

Afterthought: This corn seller in the picture even convinced me to buy two so-called organic corns from his stall, despite proudly professing that his corns were so healthy that even worms would eat it.  The art of selling shamelessly!  Me – willingly conned to share a boiled corn with a cooked worm as He – happily took our money to the bank.  What about the bank, you’d ask?  They’d just laugh at us – roll on the floor. Bankroll – got it?

Thankfully it wasn’t half a worm…

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DAY 3 REFLECTION – Driving like a Taiwanese.

This trip is only my third time driving in Taiwan but I am beginning to feel like a pro already. Here are my personal observations and learning about Taiwan’s driving manners.

1. Focus on what’s ahead.
Don’t bother to look into rear view mirrors. You are in front so you own the road until someone else gets in front of you.

2. No horning unless the driver in front is dreaming.
Although there are cars and bikes going all around you, drivers hardly thump their horns. So, just keep calm and carry on.

3. Be prepared for everything. Yes, anything.
Just when we thought we had seen it all, something unexpected would always appear on the road.

Case in point:- A scooter with a doggy in a basket at the feet. A motorcycle crossing the road with the pedestrians – both directions. An old man strolling across the road with a “you hit me, you die!” attitude.

In other words, wherever you go, just need to look straight ahead. Be bold and have full faith that the ones behind are keeping their eyes on you. Oh, lest I forget, keep praying too!

大家一起向前看吧!

P/S : Do take a closer look at the picture.  A cute little doggy was curiously popping out its head admiring what was ahead.  Look how calm it was!

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DAY 2 REFLECTION – Do what we love. Love what we do.

We’d planned to visit a natural soap making factory “山茶房” but google map directed us to its retail shop instead. That’s how we stumbled into another old street that sells all sorts of local produces.

As we walked past a tiny shop selling tea leaves, I noticed the shop lady who looks elderly yet her skin complexion is wrinkles and freckles-free. So we dropped in to try out her tea leaves which she was promoting.

She is a retired postal worker and her sister is married to a tea farmer. Since she has acquired a life long passion to drink only good tea, her sister invited her to be a tea seller.

Her motto is a simple one : “If I am going to meet many customers daily to introduce various tea leaves, I will be drinking all the tea which my customers would like to sample-taste. If the tea leaves that I sell are bad for my customers’ health, wouldn’t it be even worst for my own health?”

Hence, she decided to do the right thing. She invests in her own health by personally visiting local tea farmers to check out their farming methods and ensuring they do not use pesticides indiscriminately. She also sends their tea leaves for lab tests at S$150 per test to ensure they do no contain the 黄趨 toxin.

As we drank cups after cups of various tea leaves while soaking in her in-depth sharing of how to brew good tea to extract maximum health benefits for our bodies, I was fascinated by her thorough knowledge in the art of tea drinking.

My takeaway from her is this: When we choose to do what we really love and do the right things, we will truly enjoy every minute of it.

Hence, we must never work for the sake of money. Let’s pursue our passion wholeheartedly for God will surely make a way, even when there seems to be no way.

P/S : I forgot to introduce this beautiful old town.  It’s called Sanxia Old Street (三峽老街).  It’s located in ….where else?  Sanxia town of course!  New Taipei City, Taiwan.  Visiting Taiwan soon?  Add it to your itinerary and yes, if you happen to meet this tea lady, please do sit down and enjoy her tea stories. 

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DAY 1 REFLECTION – The PhD who sells bubble tea.

We were wandering around the Daxi Old Street (大溪老街) in the evening.  Unlike other famous night markets, this one closes by 7pm. As we lugged our shopping prizes back to the car park, we were drawn to a small bubble tea shop called Saccharose Flavor “蔗世界” designed with a bright n attractive signboard. Unlike other bubble tea shops, it offered only a small variety of drinks, all made with cane sugar.  (Visit here for more details : https://www.facebook.com/saccharose.flavor/)

The shop owner was exceptionally welcoming towards us even though he was preparing to close shop for the day. He invited us to sample his own recipe of lemonade n lemon tea that tasted exceptionally refreshing n authentic. He then spent a good 10 minutes sharing how he had painstakingly prepared these ingredients rather than buying directly from local factories. What a learned n passionate man!

As we chatted some more, the youthful looking man disclosed that he has an EE basic degree, a Comms Master degree n even a PhD. Yet Taiwan’s slumped economy has rendered him jobless. Rather than wallowing in sorrows, he decided to sell healthy bubble tea instead. He puts his research skillsets to great use by researching on using genuine ingredients to serve healthy drinks n educate the public about drinking to good health.

I am very inspired by his positive, humble, curosity n continuous learning attitude towards adversity.

When life gives you lemons, what do you do? Make lemonades, literally!

P/S : The menu is so well designed!  Only an Engineer will appreciate it.  Clean. Clear. Concise.  No whims and fancies.  Take it or leave it.

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PORTSDOWN ROAD AREA

Strictly speaking, the Portsdown road residential area is a not a park.  There are many old black and white apartments and some detached houses that have been there for ages.  All these houses probably belong to URA and are rented out mostly to expatriates and some locals.  While many have been fully refurbished and well occupied, some apartments have certainly seen better days and are undergoing various forms of conservation works to preserve their conditions.

Nested in an enclave between the busy AYE (Ayer Rajah Expressway opposite of the Science Park), the rustic Tanglin Halt estate and the newly developed Fusionopolis high tech zone, it feels almost like Alice in wonderland.  The beautifully lined up trees, trimmed bushes and eyeful of greeneries offer visitors a huge respite from the hustling and bustling slew of activities just a stone throw away.  Once you enter into this special twilight zone, you’ll immediately feel yourselves being transported into a serene sanctuary, almost like another world of its own!

Yet at the fringe of portsdown road, there are some interesting art schools and eateries to bring your families there to unwind and enjoy its unique ambience.  The most historic must-visit place would have to be the famous Colbar restaurant.  It was literally moved piece by piece (rock by rock, wood by wood, and metal by metal) a few hundred metres across to its current site due to residents’ feedback when a new road connecting AYE to Commonwealth/Queenstown area destined the building to be bulldozed over.  There are sign boards in this restaurant explaining the historical significance of this place.  As for the food it serves, if you enjoy hearty and greasy English breakfast, you would have a field day!  Otherwise, just stick to the standard zi-char items.  Oh yes, it’s a great place to enjoy a couple of beers with buddies in the evening too…so long as you don’t mind the mozzies that happen to come out for their dinner too! :-p

While you are making plan for your first or next exploring trip there, do allow your eyes to feast on these photos below.

God bless you!

Francis How

11th January, 2015

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