Saturday, August 21, 2010

Time to address driving standards (Taiwan Today)

Over the past two decades, Taiwan's road network has been massively expanded. New freeways and expressways have shortened journey times. In urban areas, dozens of roads have been widened and straightened.

Even though the number of cars on the roads has increased, driving from one part of Taiwan to the other is now much quicker than it used to be. Unfortunately, infrastructure enhancements have not been matched by any significant improvements in the standard of driving.

Most local drivers are extremely tolerant when faced with slow or indecisive road-users, yet foreign drivers using Taiwan's roads are more likely to comment on the recklessness and impatience they see every day.

The standard of driving in Taiwan is far from the worst in the world. But the behavior of ROC citizens on the road lags far behind the country's overall level of development.

Driving practices frequently seen outside Taipei include running red lights, failing to indicate when turning or changing lanes, tailgating, passing slower vehicles on the right, and parking illegally. Using a cellphone while driving is common, and more than a few drivers let passengers get away without wearing seat belts.

Western expatriates often ask: How can such courteous and friendly people as those in Taiwan behave so ruthlessly on the roads?

Driving standards are an issue that deserves greater government attention, and not just for the sake of expatriates...

This opinion piece can be read in its entirety here.

Friday, August 20, 2010

Living history (Silkroad)

Chou Kung-shin, who became director of the National Palace Museum (NPM) in May 2008, is leading Taiwan's famous museum at an exciting time in its history: in 2009, annual visitor numbers topped 2.5 million for the first time; the NPM is gearing up for its first branch museum to open in 2012; and the easing of tensions between Taipei and Beijing has allowed the NPM to borrow an increased number of paintings and art collections from museums in mainland China...

This interview was published in the August issue of Silkroad, Dragonair's inflight magazine.

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Sitting on a government committee

The Research, Development & Evaluation Commission of the Executive Yuan has appointed me a member of the Advisory Committee for the 2010 English Services Emblem Project.

This project aims to boost the level of English in the retail, medical and other sectors of Taiwan's economy, and to help foreigners find businesses where English is understood and labeling and signs are bilingual. Stores, restaurants, hospitals etc that think they offer a decent bilingual service apply to the RDEC for an 'English Emblem.' Those which pass a preliminary test are then visited by teams of judges (I'm one) who inspect the labels and signs, ask the staff questions, browse the website, and give a score which may lead to the business getting a 'gold emblem' or a 'silver emblem'.

In 2009, the team of which I was a member visited hospitals, clinics and drugstores in Taipei, Taichung, Chiayi, Tainan, Kaohsiung and Hualien. This year, I've been inspecting restaurants, drugstores and shops in the Kaohsiung area.

Friday, August 6, 2010

Without a care in Kaohsiung (Asian Geographic Passport)

Taiwan's second city is post-industrial in the truest sense of the term. Dominated until the 1990s by shipbuilding and other unglamorous trades, Kaohsiung's quality of life has made such breathtaking progress in recent years that it's become a popular destination for those seeking blue skies and genuine maritime flavour...

Asian Geographic Passport is a travel-oriented bimonthly published by the team behind the rather fine Asian Geographic magazine.The Central Park rapid-transit station, shown here, was designed by the Tokyo office of Lord Richard Rogers' architectural firm.