One of the main reasons I dared to go solo in Taiwan was that Taiwanese are awesome. They were ready to help when asked, often going out of their way to take me where I needed to go. They spontaneously shouted “jia you!” (literal meaning: “add oil”; real meaning: “keep going”) from their cars or roadside stalls. They initiated conversations and were extremely encouraging when they found out I was riding around Taiwan alone.
One of the obstacles to travelling solo, especially for women, is the fear of being robbed, raped or murdered. For the record, only once on this trip did I worry for my safety from a person. This was a man who approached me when I stopped at a junction. He asked for money, but when I said I had none he just walked away.
As a tribute to the Taiwanese in particular and humanity in general, I want to post photos of all the people who helped me. They helped me not only to complete my trip safely, but also to believe. To believe that human beings are fundamentally good and want to help if given a chance. To believe that I have become a kinder person by their example. To believe that if only all of us travelled more, reached out more, spread more good around… the world will truly be a better place.
This couple happened to be cycling into Hsinchu at the same time as me. After I said “jia you” to the wife, they said they were researching motels for the night and asked if I wanted a room in the same place they chose. As it was my first night and I was clueless, I gratefully accepted.
On my second night, I randomly asked a scooter rider next to me at a junction if she knew any hotels nearby. She started to describe the route to one, then decided to ride all the way there with me following. She even showed me a good place to have dinner near the hotel.
After I had some mechanical issues with my bike, namely a rear tyre that wouldn’t inflate, this couple put my bike into their pickup and drove me to a nearby Giant shop in Tainan.
The lady owner of the Giant shop posing with me outside, while her husband was inside doing the actual work of sorting out my bike problems. They even used to live in Singapore for 5 years. Small world indeed.
On the way into Kaohsiung, a cyclist I caught up to offered to show me how powerful his bicycle brakes were. He raced off and told me not to follow too closely as he would stop suddenly, which he did. He also gave advice about not attempting the Suhua highway, which I heeded.
A local cyclist found me munching a banana at a major intersection leading to Kenting but without signs to Kenting, and voluntarily stopped to tell me the right way to go. He lived in Tainan and was cycling to Kenting where he had left his car so he could drive home to Tainan.
While climbing two small mountains on Day 5, I overtook a recumbent cyclist who then overtook me back, and we had a sort of mini race. He also helped me pick up a muesli bar which fell out of my pocket.
A lady in Kenting who told me that I could find hotels in Eluanbi, so I didn’t have to end my ride in Kenting. She said she was too ugly to be in a photo. If people only knew how beautiful they really are…
My most treasured encounter. I’d asked a young male cyclist if he knew any hotels near Taidong. A betel leaf chewing scooter rider with red stained teeth overheard us and offered to take me to one. He had to spit out his leaves as I couldn’t understand his mumbling at first. While the cyclist watched dubiously, I dubiously followed this man who took me to two different places (I rejected the first one as it was a dormitory with no private room). Along the way he made cheerful conversation and was extremely admiring of my solo effort. He too said he was too ugly for a photo. Yet of all the people I met on this trip, he most restored my faith in human nature for he showed me that sometimes the book is so much better than its cover. He is therefore to me most beautiful.