From stinky tofu to singing carbage trucks – 5 interesting things to know about Taiwan

Every country has some interesting facts about it that most people might not be aware of – unless you happen to be a Buzzfeed addict. So far we’ve written about Korea and Japan, but now it’s time to take a look at Taiwan. This island nation has been gaining some popularity among expats and travelers over the years and has become more and more attractive as a study abroad destination as well. After writing about 5 reasons to study abroad in Taiwan, we’ll now run you through 5 interesting facts about Taiwan, from the surprising and inspiring to the stinky and the tasty.

1. Bubble tea has its origins in Taiwan

A man is selling bubble tea from a stall in the evening where there are two people waiting in Taiwan.
Bubble tea is Taiwan’s gift to the world of tasty beverages. Photo by William Daigneault / CC BY

You won’t have to look far to find it: bubble tea is sold almost every corner of Taiwan. In fact, bubble tea was originally created in Taiwan in the 1980’s, after which it has spread all over Asia and even to western countries.

Bubble tea, also called boba or pearl tea, has countless of variations starting from the traditional milk tea with tapioca balls all the way to refreshing fruit tea served with coconut jelly. Although boba might not be everyone’s cup of tea (pun intended) we strongly encourage you to try this Taiwanese specialty. Who knows, you might discover your new favorite drink!

2. You can drive around Taiwan in only 8 hours

Yellow cabs are driving in a street in Taiwan.
Taiwan is so small that you can drive around the whole island in 8 hours. Photo by Punnatorn / CC BY

Good things come in a small package, and Taiwan is no exception. The island is so small, you can drive around it in just 8 hours. You can also reach the south of Taiwan in only 2 hours by high-speed train. This means that you’ll spend less time on the road and more time looking at the awe-inspiring natural wonders and historical sights that Taiwan has to offer.

So, why not dedicate a weekend to visit the historical Tainan city or experience the beautiful coastline and Taroko National park in Hualien? And for the extra adventurous people, there is always the option of hopping on a scooter and touring the whole island. Are you in?

3. You can take away your trash to the tune of Beethoven

Taiwan has a unique way of collecting trash. When walking around the streets of Taiwan, you won’t see any garbage bins. Instead, there are garbage trucks that go round the town and collect the carbage straight from the people.

So far, so good. But how do people know when to take their trash out? This is where it gets slightly extraordinary. The trucks play Für Elise to prompt people to bring their garbage to the truck. During the holidays, the truck drivers switch to Christmas mode and play Christmas songs.

So, whenever you hear Beethoven in Taiwan, you know that it is time to toss your garbage away!

4. Taiwan is saying bye-bye to plastic

A coffee with a heart made of milk in a stone cup that is standing on the table.
Let’s be honest, coffee tastes better anyway when it isn’t in a plastic cup right? Photo by Nathan Dunlao / CC BY

Taiwan is on a mission to become a single-use plastic free country by 2030. The first steps to become a more eco-friendly nation will already be taken within the next few years: plastic straws will disappear from major restaurants in 2020 and extra payment for using straws, plastic shopping bags, disposable utensils and beverage cups will be introduced in 2025. Way to go Taiwan!

5. Taiwan’s beloved snack will make your nose fall off (but tastes good)

A dish consisting of tofu and dumplings is laying on a plate in Taiwan.
Stinky tofu: the smell will make you cry, but the taste will make you smile. Photo by Sgltw2017 / CC BY

“It’s hard on the nose but easy on the tongue”, this is how the popular Taiwanese snack was once described by an owner of a street food stand in Taiwan. Stinky tofu is a Taiwanese form of a fermented tofu that has a strong, pungent odor. They say that it smells like wet socks or strong blue cheese. The stink is very strong and can be smelled from 300 meters distance. So, there is a reason why it is usually sold in the street markets instead of inside the restaurants.

Traditionally, the stinky tofu is made by marinating it in a special brine for weeks or even months. Each producer has their own secret recipes for the brine, but usually, it includes fermented milk, vegetables, meat and fish. Stinky tofu is often served with sides like pickled cabbage, cucumber, chili and soy sauce.

You might also be interested in: Top 5 Things To Do In Taiwan

Want to try this unique delicacy? You can find this special treat at Taiwan’s many food markets, which are very popular especially during the night-time. There’s even a street that is devoted to stinky tofu near Taipei. The “Stinky Street” is located in a town called Shenkeng and can be easily reached via public transport. Give stinky tofu a try and challenge your taste buds!

Studying abroad is one of the best ways to get to know a country deeply and discover more interesting facts like these for yourself.

Find out more about studying abroad in Taiwan

Asia Exchange is a Finnish company providing study abroad opportunities in Asia Pacific for students from all around the world. Want to get travel tips and new blog posts straight to your inbox? Subscribe to our monthly newsletter! If you have any questions about studying abroad, feel free to contact us! We’ll get back to you as soon as possible.

This article is written by our IT Coordinator Miika!

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