The roads in Taiwan are swarming with scooters, no matter what town or city, day or night.
One of the things that most ticked me off in terms of cultural differences between the UK and Taiwan is that here, scooters are, in fact, allowed to drive on the pavement. Yes, they can just bump right up the curb and drive on the designated pedestrian pavement despite there being a road exactly parallel. To me there is just no reasonable justification to this. Why things are this way, I really don’t know – I guess so they can drive right up to the door of the 7-11 or milk tea shop. But that’s just how the days roll by here…
Though where we live in LuoDong pretty much everything is walkable – that is we can walk to work in 5 minutes, to the supermarket and the laundrette in under 10, and to the night market in 10 as well – the only way to get out to the mountains or to the coastline of the Pacific Ocean is to have a scooter.
So knowing absolutely nothing about buying a scooter, me having never ridden one before and Luke having done so once on some ad-hoc adventure in Indonesia years ago, we took the train 25 minutes north to Toucheng to meet a guy selling a scooter. Having been looking at scooter sale listings on Tealit.com and narrowly missing out on the previous scooter the guy was selling, we actually managed to be the first people to call him up and get out there.
With a head definitely full of weed and an unnecessary amount of spare helmets for one scooter, the guy told us he was moving to Costa Rica in 3 days because Taiwan just wasn’t hot enough, bro. After a quick test drive in which Luke precariously looped around the station and I nearly mounted the curb a dozen times and knowing nothing about purchasing a second-hand scooter, we parted with NT$13,000 (approx. £280) and bought ourselves our first ever joint purchase, a 150cc scooter.
With my misplaced self-confidence in my driving ability, I thought that after having been driving around the UK in my own car for 4 years, that a scooter would be no trouble. I was, of course, mistaken. Driving a scooter is nothing like driving a car – it involves some amount more balance and strength. Originally thinking the steering was too heavy for me to manage, I was tipped off by Laura (another NST working at our school) that you have to drive with you body, not your arms. After a couple of practice straight line streets at night time, I finally got the hang of it, albeit a little bit shaky. As well as this, one of the first things we were told when we first arrived here was to be wary of the driving style – that is to say, red lights are mere “guidelines” and can be run at anytime, and the Taiwanese aren’t the most slow or vigilant of drivers, not to mention remembering to drive on the right-hand side. The general rule of thumb is to always watch the 10 metres in front of you, and any driver with a bigger vehicle than you has right of way no matter how wrong they are!
We took our first scooter day trip to Dongshan, the river park which Luke blogged about earlier this week, and afterwards drove to the edge of the Pacific Ocean, just to see what we could see.
*Luke has a swanky new scooter helmet, as you can see, and I have a scratched-up second-hand one which I am working on emblazoning with all the stickers I get from 7-11.