As a white girl with auburn hair and blue eyes I’ve attracted some attention in Taiwan. Children will look at me shyly and sometimes whisper to their parents. Older will women will come up to me and hold their arm up against mine, remarking at how pale my skin is. Men sometimes stare at me on the metro. Overall, my experience has been pretty positive. I stand out, but most people are curious and welcoming. Many people I’ve met know a few words of English and are eager to try them out on me.
Sanchong is just over the bridge from Taipei. It is a tiny island surrounded by the river on all sides. It has about the same population as Brooklyn. Before my brother moved to Sanchong he spoke to a friend who had lived there for a few years. This friend told him, “if the devil had an anus, if might be Sanchong.”
It’s true that Sanchong is not a nice as Taipei. It’s like Taipei’s awkward cousin who lacks a little in hygeine. However, Sanchong is very convenient. It is just minutes outside the city and it is much more cost effective.
Apparently, back forty or fifty years ago, Sanchong had the reputation for being a very rough neighborhood. It was known to be the place where the Taiwanese gangsters were located. Now it’s a fairly safe neighborhood where I feel perfectly safe catching the bus back at 11 pm and walking a few blocks back to my brother’s apartment.
The biggest danger is from the mopeds. Sometimes families in Taipei seem to treat a scooter like a minivan. They load a bunch of kids (and occasionally even a dog) onto the moped, everyone hanging on and often helmet-less. This was shocking to my delicate American ideals where helmet laws and seatbelt laws are enforced.
I am in Seoul now and in neighborhoods like Itaewon, I am just another traveller. I am not such an uncommon sight. It’s slightly less chaotic in Seoul than in Taipei, but I still have three weeks left before I return home.