“Matsu Temple,” I explained.
She seemed surprised and then conveyed that she and her family were going there too and offered to take me there.
“Sure,” I thought looking around, half expecting to see the family station wagon pulling up.
Then she went on to explain that they weren’t here yet and that I should go up to her nearby apartment with her and wait for them.
Yeah, I know. It sounded really fishy but what the heck, I was young, reckless and actually had nothing better to do.
So we went back to her place. She sat me down in front of the TV, gave me a cold green tea and told me she was going to get ready and ducked into the next room.
Being from the big city, I started getting really paranoid. My senses were heightened and I tensed. Tensed for what? Flight? Fight? I wasn’t sure but in a few minutes my hostess came back and announced that we could go downstairs now.
Downstairs I her uncle and another young lady had pulled up. We got in and headed off to the Matsu Temple. On the way I found out that these two newer strangers spoke even less English than my first acquaintance.
I was a bit skeptical of the whole affair. There must be some angle here, right? But in the end, we ended up going to the temple. We walked around. We laughed at a Buddha that was displayed with a lit cigarette on the counter top at the front entrance. They helpfully pointed out some of the more arcane icons at the huge temple (even if their explanations in broken English were equally arcane).
Then on the way home stopped off at 3-4 small, cheap snack shops which I later found out were known for their respective specialties. They even refused to let me pay even though I did manage to force my money on the owner of one of the shops.
After 2-3 hours spent together, they asked me where I would like to be dropped off. I mentioned a place and that was it. No fuss, no muss. They had just seen it as a pleasant encounter for the afternoon, no questions, no demands.
This was just my story about the incredible hospitality of the Taiwanese. I’ve heard so many since.
There was my friend Josh, who after pushing his broken down motorcycle in the baking Taiwanese summer, was greeted by a young guy on his scooter. The guy slowed down just enough to tell Josh that there was a repair shop down the road and that it was his uncle’s. “Great,” Josh thought. They’re just looking for sucker foreigners to milk. His options were limited though and so he continued pushing until he found the shop in question.
When he got there, he recognized the guy that had just hailed him. He grabbed a tall cold tea that he had just bought, handed it to Josh and told him not to worry. In the end, the uncle fixed his bike and didn’t even charge him.
Sure there are horror stories too but never have I, in all my travels, heard as many wonderful stories of hospitality as I have here in Taiwan.