Travel in Asia: Getting Around Taiwan
North Americans are in love with their automobiles. We love our cars. There are one car, two car, even three car families. We have large cars, small cars, luxury cars, economy cars, shiny new cars, rusty old cars, muscle cars, antique cars, but there is one thing we don’t have in North America – scooters.
The Taiwanese Kymco scooter is one of the foundations of Taiwanese society. Taiwan could not exist without the scooter. It is their car, their bicycle, their truck and their bus. It is transportation for the masses. Families in Taiwan often have no car, but they do have one, two, even three scooters. Scooters can navigate the narrow streets of Taiwan, climb rolling hills, and avoid stray animals walking the street. Ten scooters can park in the space needed for one car.
A scooter has no gears to shift. It only has gas and brake, all hand-operated. Grandma can drive it. A scooter can last forever in this beautiful Taiwan climate. Although it only has two wheels and a 125 cc engine, it does everything.
What is really incredibly amazing about scooters is the many imaginative and useful ways that Taiwanese people can use their family scooter. Family transportation? No problem. Put one adult and two children on the seat, put the baby in a small chair between your feet, and put the dog on the platform next to the baby to catch the breeze. Now everyone is ready for a refreshing hair-raising ride into town. Need to move a lot of things? No problem.
How high and wide can you stack it? Or, for those heavy lifting jobs, just tie a two-wheeled dolly to the back of your scooter seat and use it as a trailer, loaded up with boxes and furniture. Pizza delivery? No problem. Strap an insulated container to the back luggage rack and you can carry six steaming hot Domino’s pizzas for easy delivery in thirty minutes or less. Safety? No problem. No license at all is required to drive scooters with 50 cc engines, only for the bigger machines. The law requires no helmet, so you see everything from bicycle helmets and World War II German helmets to hair blowing wildly in the wind. A little short of cash? No problem.
Scooters are very inexpensive – a good used scooter can be purchased for about $300 US, including insurance for the year. An oil change costs about $4.50 US, and with the price of gas at about a dollar a liter, the scooter is the most economical vehicle on the island. Nothing beats a scooter for cheap and easy. Tall or short?Thin or heavy?Young or old?Smoker?Cell-phone addict? Trying to eat breakfast? No problem. Scooters can accommodate all body sizes and needs comfortably.
When I see the Chinese acrobatic troupe with thirty people on a bicycle, I know that they probably trained for their amazing balancing act by riding a Taiwan scooter.