Pages: What Cebu can learn from Taichung-A A +A
By John Pages
Business as a team sport
Wednesday, October 30, 2013
A FEW weeks ago, my wife Jasmin and I spent some time in Taichung. It’s located in Taiwan and, next to Taipei and Kaohsiung, it’s the nation’s third largest city.
What can we emulate from Taichung?
First, it pays to be nice. Roger Federer (I know... this is a business column but I couldn’t resist the sports insert) once said, “It’s nice to be important but it’s more important to be nice.” The people of Taichung are the nicest people Jasmin and I have met. That’s true. We’ve had the good blessing to have traveled across Asia, the US and Europe and we have never met a kinder, more smiling, and sincerely helpful group of people than the Taiwanese.
I know our “Filipino hospitality” is world-renowned but you ought to experience their type of welcome and niceness. In any busy corner where you don’t know the way, they’ll guide you and make sure you find your destination. In all the shops we visited, they don’t do “hard sell.” Unlike, for example, in Hong Kong (especially 10 years ago or older) where, when you step inside the shop and you don’t purchase what you ask about and they’ll give you that frown — in Taichung it’s the opposite. Look all you want... it’s okay if you buy or not. They’ll sincerely say, “Xiexie” (Thank you).
It pays to be nice. We should emulate this trait — whether we’re a doctor, an entrepreneur, an office staff, a clerk, a CEO. Be nice. Always. And do it sincerely.
Two, transportation is free. Am I kidding? Yes and No. In Taipei, they have the MRT stations scattered all over. Not in Taichung where buses traverse throughout the city.
The bus rides are for free! Seriously, anywhere within eight kms. from where you embark, you have zero charge. Amazing. You just buy a card from 7-Eleven, swipe it as you enter any bus, and you move around the city without paying.
How do they go about having free bus service? The City of Taichung subsidizes the cost. Not everybody, of course, rides the bus; plenty have cars and motorcycles or opt for the faster (with pay) taxi service. But for students and senior citizens and those who can’t afford vehicles — bus transport is for free. This means that their taxes truly go back to the servicing their citizenry. One more word on their buses: They don’t exhale pollution. They’re not e-buses; they’re fuel-based but, because of strict checking, you don’t see any dark smoke — unlike, sadly, many of our jeepneys.
Three, night markets are essential for tourism. Yes, our malls, specifically SM and Ayala, are huge and can compete against any size anywhere worldwide, but we don’t have “night markets.” You see these everywhere: Bangkok, Kuala Lumpur, HK. In Taichung, the biggest night market in Taiwan is found there. It’s called Feng Chia and it’s blocks of shops, eateries, and thousands of people roaming. It’s fun. Don’t know where to get a bargain on a pair of shoes? Go to the night market. Hungry? Do the same. One long stretch of road is closed to traffic and devoted to all forms of food. One of their most popular, yet with the most foul of smells, is the Stinky Tofu. I never tried it and stayed as far as I could with nose closed. The locals say it’s the best.
More on food, there’s tofu, scallops-on-a-stick, fried intestines, oysters-with-scrambled-eggs, squid balls...
Speaking of drinks, no mention of Taiwan is possible without talking about Milk (bubble) Teas. They said it originated there. They’re everywhere.
And in everyone’s hands. You can’t find a corner that doesn’t have a tea shop. Coca-Cola? I pity the softdrinks makers there. They’re hardly consumed. Everybody is holding a plastic cup of tea.
Is this a travel endorsement? Absolutely. We promised Jana, our 14-year-old daughter, that we’d skip Hong Kong or Singapore in our next trek to visit Taiwan. When you yourself do, remember not just Taipei — but also meet the nice people of Taichung.
Published in the Sun.Star Cebu newspaper on October 31, 2013.