In Chinese, it says 'fei1 chang2 tai2 wan1'
(Last update to this page: 1/2/2003)

"Barf out! Gag me with
a pair of disposable chopsticks!"

YUCK! That's one of the most common things a foreigner will say after arriving in Taiwan. It won't happen right away. The Chiang Kai-Shek airport near Taipei isn't the most modern-looking airport in the world, but at least it's relatively clean. Just wait until you get on the bus. Taiwanese people have a habit of eating boxed meals during their long bus rides. Strong, indescribable odors fill the air. Plastic bags crinkle constantly (because people don't completely remove the box from the bag). Wooden chopsticks (bleached with toxic chemicals) are used once, then dumped with the paper box the meal came in, tied shut with one or two rubber bands, and stuffed into the plastic bag the meal came in along with the mandatory styrofoam bowl for the rice.
On a clear day, you can see a few blocks ----->
A view with no room!
There were mountains there YESTERDAY!
The fine city of Taichung!
(Gasp! Wheeze! Achoo!)

Well, January 1, 2003 brought an end to all of that. What? It didn't?! I thought that using plastic bags, disposable utensils, and all that junk was gonna be illegal from then on. (You're supposed to bring your own shopping bag now. If you forget, you are supposed to be able to purchase a thicker, reusable plastic bag for just NT$1.)

Ha! That'll be the day. This new plan was phased in over a long period of time, starting as early as July of 2002 (here in Taichung, at least). At that time, I had already been reusing or refusing plastic bags for years. As of December 2002, the local Carrefour and Geant hypermarts were still giving plastic bags to most of the customers ahead of me in line without charging them for the bags. But many vendors are complaining that the policy was implemented too quickly, not giving them enough time to order paper bags, cups, and other non-disposable items. On the first day the new rules were put into effect, more than 40% of the vendors who were inspected by the Environmental Protection Bureau were not in compliance with the law. Read about it here.


While many remote parts of Taiwan are absolutely gorgeous, populated areas are inevitably covered with litter. Lack of concern by individuals makes up a lot of it, but capitalist greed holds a good share, too. You're lucky (perhaps a "singularity"!) if you don't have ads for locksmiths and moving companies pasted right onto the front of your house! Industrial zones reek of toxic waste which flows through creeks and rivers into the supply of drinking water, and puddles of "garbage juice" line the streets of residential areas.
Convenience stores, straws, bags, disposable vehicles, etc.

Convenience stores in Taiwan give new meaning to the word "convenient"! In a stretch of about 1.5 km along the main road near my former home, there used to be FOUR 7-11s. Besides the 3 remaining 7-11s, there are 2 Niko Marts which are located just 2 or 3 minutes walking distance apart. If you buy a canned soft drink at any of these stores, you should expect to receive a straw with it. Even if you buy only 1 item, you'll probably receive a plastic bag (to add to the "garbage quota") along with it. When you tell the cashier that you don't need a bag, you may have to say it 2 or 3 times (even if you're using correct, well-pronounced Chinese), and when they finally understand you, you may get a strange look. Sometimes, you'll hear a compliment: huan2 bao3, which means something like "environmentally aware." Just smile and nod. They need good examples, but any attempt at an explanation will probably go in one ear and out the other. (Note: I wrote this paragraph in 2000. In 2002, despite new laws, much of it still applied. We'll have to wait and see how the implementation of the new law pans out in 2003. Improvement is coming, but it's damn slow!)

If you ever grow tired of riding that smoke-spewing motorcycle back and forth from your front door to the really convenient convenience store just down the road, just leave it lying on its side near the curb to collect garbage in its basket. Park it under a footbridge. Or shove it in a ditch. (Nobody'll touch it there!) Isn't that how it's supposed to be?!

"The Tale of Sisyphus"

At any time of day or night, you can find frail-looking, old, weather-beaten folks with hunched backs picking the refuse containers outside these convenienceBetcha never carried this much stuff in your CAR! stores and the dumpsters near student apartment buildings looking for plastic bottles and cardboard boxes. Some of them push wheeled carts in a manner resembling Sisyphus trying to push that rock up the hill. Others ride motorcycles with multitudes of plastic bags hanging from every possible place. You'd be amazed at the amount of stuff they can carry. While it's kind of a disgusting task, I kind of admire what they do, pushin' that rock up the hill only to have it come rolling down again when they near the top... It really seems pathetic. If only others would do their part to keep this island clean.


Stray dogs account for more than half of the total number of dogs in Taiwan. More info on the stray dog population can be found at PETA Taiwan (English) and Animal Pepl (English). If you want to know about the worst animal pounds in Taiwan, click here for more info compiled by PETA (People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals).
Please let us know if any information here is inaccurate or outdated.
If you have any suggestions, comments, complaints, or criticism,
send them to us, or wither away in complacency ! ! ! ! !

Check out the newest additions to the Mondo Taiwan website:
Sounds of Taiwan
Spot the Difference
Translations of "Western" Movie Titles

The number of locksmith ads on my front door