Here are some impressions I recall now, a week after my return to Korea.
(2) Drinks are cheap and common because of the heat. Food is also cheap and the variety is enormous. Of the drinks, the most surprising was watermelon juice with milk. It tasted great (it sounds like it would not, I know). Taiwanese were very often with a drink in hand, usually a cold juice or a cold tea. I bought juices in shops for something like 30 U.S. cents. Something similar at a U.S. 7/11 would cost a few dollars.
(3) People were pleasant, polite, helpful, and never rude. The Hong Kong friend I met there said Taiwanese are more polite than Hong Kongers and much more polite than Mainland Chinese. I was also told while still in Korea that Taiwanese are much kinder and nicer than Koreans. I was told this in Korea by two Taiwanese who've spent a while in Korea as Korean language students (one hopes to work in a trade business and one who hopes to teach Korean to Chinese and/or Chinese to Koreans). After five days, I generally agreed with their seemingly-self-serving appraisal of Taiwanese vs. Koreans. I wondered why this might be. Korea and Taiwan are similar in many ways, have similar recent histories and economic models, have a Confucian background, and so on, and are sometimes referred to collectively in the West in a way similar to people say "the Dakotas" in the USA. So where might Taiwanese pleasantness come from, versus the lingering truth behind the stereotype of "the dour Korean" (that Americans first formed in the late 1940s and 1950s)? I don't know. Is it the weather?
(4) There were a shocking many small motorbikes (which they call scooters) zooming around, many more than cars. It all seemed very unsafe to me, but the local people insist it is safe, and they all do it, even families crowd onto the same motor scooter. I asked about driving habits. There was a kind of "passing the buck southward". Taipei people (in the far north of Taiwan) said that Central Taiwan (Taichung) was a little dangerous but that the far south of Taiwan was really almost "anything goes" and no one wears a helmet, police don't care, etc. Central Taiwan people said that their region was okay, but if you go to the far south you'll see it is dangerous. I never went to the far south to see what they might say. This "passing the buck southward" thing reminds of something from post-#60 -- See the comments -- In fact, I am consciously using the same terminology as from that post).
(5) Do Taiwanese want to unite with China? No. Nobody I talked to gave any hint of desire to unite with China for any reason. One particular girl working at a Night Market had a black T-shirt that said in stark white English capital letters: "Taiwan is Not a Part of China". (A Night Market is a multipurpose shopping, eating, and entertainment areas that opens after people are let off from work and closes around midnight, and each one I went to in Taipei and Taichung was very busy.) Taiwan has a separate history from Taiwan over the past 120-plus years. It has not been united with China since the late 1800s. It was under Japanese administration from 1895-1945, and in 1949 it was again severed from the mainland and the Republic of China on Taiwan was formed as the mainland fell to the Maoists. Taiwan was brought under American protection in 1949 and has had a very different history since then.
(6) How strong is Christianity in Taiwan? I attended a service at a small church in Taipei on Sunday at the invitation of one of my hosts. It was in Chinese. I didn't understand anything. The sermon was longer than I am used to in the USA, but long sermons seem more common in Asia; Korea too. Their worship books had some English translations of songs in the back, but I didn't know many. The community was strong and welcoming. (I concede that this is one thing East Asians do better than we do. They are more loyal to their communities.) I was told by a member of this church that Greater Taipei is around ten percent Christian, with significantly less in the rest of the country. (Chiang Kai-Shek himself was a convert to Christianity in adulthood circa 1930, but I recall no mention of this in the Giza-Pyramid-like grandiose memorial to him in Taipei and the museum inside it despite spending a few hours there). Most Taiwanese seemed to vaguely follow Chinese traditional religions intertwined with Buddhism. At a seaside town called Tamsui north of Taipei, I saw a kind of parade in honor of a goddess called Mazu, a patron of fishermen. The guys were carrying a dragon down a narrow old street. I observed it a while, and was amused that the procession kept having to stop because they kept bumping over parked motor scooters and had to stop to set them back up. I didn't at all like the loud firecrackers people attached to this procession kept setting off near my vantage points.
(7) Taiwan's money is called "Taiwan Dollars" for some reason, usually inexplicably abbreviated as "NT", and sometimes (equally inexplicably) written in Chinese using this character: "元" which I know to mean "Yuan". In any event, Taiwan's money, whatever we call it, has pictures of two people on it: Some have Chiang Kai-Shek, president-for-life until his death in 1976, and other coins have his mentor Sun Yat-Sen (the founder of the Republic of China in 1911). Do the people honor and revere Chiang Kai-Shek? I asked some Mainland Chinese in Korea about this, and they had generally good opinions about him. I found none of the several P.R.C. Chinese I asked (all born around 1990) bore any hint of ill feeling towards Chiang and one in particular seemed to love him (see post-#244 "Mao Zedong the Praiseworthy" and also #282 "Chiang Kai Shek's Dream"). I asked the two Taiwanese I knew in Korea this question directly (I felt alright doing this on neutral soil), and they got kind of nervous and evaded answering, saying it was too complicated! Chiang Kai-Shek seems more popular in Mainland China than in Taiwan.
(8) Taiwan still calls itself the Republic of China (The visa stamp says "R.O.C. China (Taiwan)", but almost nobody officially recognizes it. I bought a Taiwanese candy snack called Cola Candy, and on the package it has the following expiration date: "105.1.31". Guess what that means! In fact, it is Year-Month-Day, and "105" means "the 105th year of the Republic of China", i.e. 2016! (1911-2016 is 105 years). I remember Japanese still today use a similar dating system based on their emperors.
(9) On Foreigners. I saw some Western foreigners around, here and there, and a Turk or two doing a "Turkish ice cream business" (I have seen the same businesses in Korea, especially Itaewon). I recall seeing only one Black person. It was near Taipei Station on Saturday evening, as I was waiting to meet my Hong Kong friend who frequently visits Taiwan and happened to be there that week. I had no phone or Wifi so I didn't know what was going on. I came out of a particular exit (there are dozens of exits at Taipei Station and its underground shopping complex). To my surprise, a Black guy is there, of the same ancestral stock as American Blacks. On first glance I guessed he was not from the USA. After spotting me, he came up, grinning, and asked me if I know where "Exit Y-3" is. I, of course, had no idea. His accent and demeanor confirmed in an instant that he was not an American Black. I wondered where he might be from. I asked. Gambia! In West Africa. I asked if he was a student. He said he was, in another city, not Taipei. He asked what I knew about Gambia. I said not much. He said it had a funny shape. Soon he was gone. I was left there puzzled about how an African from Gambia ended up in Taiwan. I am sure they can't just show up and wave a passport and walk in, as I did. Several explanations came to mind. Church partnership? Unlikely, as Gambia is an Islamic country. Economic agreement? Maybe. The real answer came two days later. I told a car-full of Taiwanese, who were my hosts in Taichung, about the encounter with the lost Gambian in Taipei. To my surprise, they all knew about Gambia. This was strange, I thought. It felt like Twilight Zone moment. Does everyone in the world know more about Gambia than I do? Later, the Twilight Zone mist lifted. One of my hosts, Allan, told me that Gambia is one of the few countries that politically recognized Taiwan (until very recently), so there was a special relationship. Here is a list of countries that fully recognize Taiwan, the most substantial of which now may be Panama.
(10) The Chinese are not native to Taiwan any more than we Whites are native to North America. In fact, Chinese began to settle and win control over Taiwan from the native "aboriginals" around the same timeframe as we won control over North America and pushed back the Indians. Aboriginals are much darker than Chinese, bulkier, and have different facial shapes. I presume they are related to the Filipinos and other SE Asian islanders. I met some aboriginals in the interior when we went to the "Formosan Aboriginal Culture Village" (which is half interactive folk village and half Disneyland-style amusement park with roller coasters and that splashing log ride they all have). The aboriginals are now only one or two percent of the population and mostly live in the mountains. They seemed very relaxed and outgoing, if not particularly ambitious. The Chinese have the reputation for being highly aggressive (in business dealings) and overly ambitious, so these Aboriginals would seem easy prey if on the same playing field. The stereotypes about Taiwan aboriginals I was told were that they were highly athletic and have a taste for alcohol.
(11) Attitude towards Japan. My impression was that Taiwanese seemed to like Japan very much. I saw no crude and distasteful anti-Japanese monuments as have been popping up in Korea. I asked about attitudes towards Japan directly, and found no hint of any ill feeling. This is in contrast to South (and North) Korea where certain powerful forces have long promoted hatred of Japan, and have successfully inculcated this hatred into the young generations. The thing is that Taiwan and Korea have very similar experiences vis-a-vis Japan. Both were under Japanese control and made full provinces of the Japanese Empire. Any complaints Korea could make could be made equally by Taiwan. Taiwan was even under Japan for even longer than Korea was. Taiwanese chose to indulge in these hatreds of ghosts of the past. I didn't sense any bitterness at about now-long-distant history. Taiwan seems to do very brisk business with Japan (a huge majority of cars seemed to be Japanese).
(12) Fertility Crisis. Taiwan was a busy and bustling place. Walking through a night market, we would have no idea that there is a fertility crisis ongoing. The Total Fertility Rate has been below 1.2 babies per woman since 2004, which means the child generation will be half as large as the parent generation. It has been below 2.1 (replacement level) since 1984. On the other hand, Taiwan in 1915 had only 3.5 million people, versus 23.5 million today. We might expect a Taiwan with an impending serious labor shortage to bring in mainland Chinese. Mainland China has a similar very low fertility situation, probably also below 1.2 babies per woman now, I read. Korea and Japan are in the same position.