Go On, Scoot!

Trip Start Aug 12, 2009
Trip End Ongoing

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Where I stayed

Flag of Taiwan  , Taiwan,
Tuesday, May 15, 2012

Chatting recently over a coffee and watching the world go by, we remarked on what would happen if say 20% of the scooters on the streets of Taiwan became cars. There can be little doubt that this will happen given the increasing economic prosperity of the region and as and when it does, we shall probably see gridlock on a par with London for example, or Paris or Rome or...... why don't we just say any major town or city in the western world. For now though, when it comes to Asia, two wheels rather than four are king of the road.

This was true in much of Europe in the 1950s and 60s too and while in Britain at least it would be easy to blame the weather for why everyone jumped into cars, looking at the likes of Spain, staying dry was clearly not the only reason.

We had already become accustomed to scooter life in Thailand and the joys of being able to get around easily and cheaply are obvious to most. However, the scooter is not just a tool for getting to work, it is about a far wider social life and the ability to explore. Whole families regularly travel on just one, often carrying some extraordinary furniture, dogs are frequently passengers, substantial signage, even small businesses can be accommodated on one's Kymco. 

Steve has some previous form for dodgy motorcycles from his misspent yoof, and true to form having agreed to pay the princely sum of NT$10,000 (about 200) for our Yamaha Super Jog, halfway back home, we hit a pot-hole and the fairing fell off. Fortunately our local garage soon drilled some extra holes into it and fixed it back on, for free! 

So we soon began to explore, heading up mountains, and across rice paddies, finding tribal towns, canyons, waterfalls and some wonderful country villages. During these trips we get the warmest of welcomes from locals who unlike the city people, are not used to seeing us white folk. We get given snacks, invited in for tea, goodies given to us to take home, ushered into family barbecues and generally great times, even if conversations are limited. 

In a bold attempt to find some hot-springs one day, we climbed and climbed to the top of a mountain and in so doing ran low on petrol. Stopping in a mountain village we inquired as to the nearest point to buy fuel only to discover it was the town where we had filled up before we set out. We were subsequently admonished by a local policeman for not carrying spare bottles of fuel on the bike.... So we just coasted back down the mountain feeling like naughty children.

And we are not alone in enjoying the weekend excursions to the hills. We are frequently joined by friends as we go further and further afield. A friend sold us his Kymco Jockey so we have now become a two scooter household. The Sunday drive has become one of the highlights of the week. 

As for city driving, it is simply the finest way to keep those reflexes fresh and reactions sharp as one tries to second guess what the rest of Taiwan's traffic will do next, literally anything is possible. 

So they are cheap to buy, cheap to run, cheap to insure, quicker than a car, easy to park and leave a very silly grin on the face. The difficulty of car parking is one reason why the scooter may not have had its day just yet. 

Hearing comments from friends at home about how much it costs to fill the car up these days, the costs of commuting, parking and so on, we were having a coffee the other day and started to speculate: imagine if people back home discovered the joys of scooting, wouldn't that be a great way forward......   

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