Taking the MRT on a cloudy damp cold grey drizzly day in March in Taipei, Taiwan. I’d forgotten as it’s been so long since I’ve experienced this type of weather, how it might have an affect on how you approach the day and I chose to roll over and have another hour of sleep! Then I was prepared for whatever was in front of me. It got me thinking about the different countries I’ve been to and how the lack of sun affects the physiology of people and how approachable they are to a stranger. My conclusion is simple; people smile more in the sun. They’re more content. The pace of life is slower. There’s no rushing around. There’s a lack of urgency yes, but things generally tend to get done. That’s not to say they’re less happy but outwardly they appear so.
I was sitting on the MTR today in Taipei, Taiwan (see local MRT map press here) and looking across the way as every seat was taken. Everyone was wearing dark clothes, hats, scarves. They all looked dreary, downtrodden and exhausted. Not one smile amongst them. By the end of the day I felt like they looked. The damp and drizzle and cold makes you weary. All I wanted was a hot bath (ended up being a warm shower) and climb in under the duvet. I have 2 duvets and a blanket as the nights, for me, are especially cold in this draughty old building.
The cold also has an impact on what and how we eat. When I’m in the heat and humidity I never feel hungry. I feel bloated with heat and probably liquid to stop dehydration. In the cold I crave carbs, hot soup, and hot milk and want to eat and eat. I’m feeling cold to the core and almost every joint I’ve damaged over the years is screaming at me. My body is in pain. It wants the glorious heat of the sun to warm it up to ease the increasing pain I’m in.
Over the next few rainy days on the MTR, in Taipei I noticed a change in mood and a change in the colour of the clothes. Some bright uplifting colours started to appear and the mood of the carriage was uplifted. Maybe I’d just noticed what I was feeling, but today I felt more uplifted, possibly due to painkillers, and noticing people chatting and laughing. I just kept smiling at people and received a smile back every time.
The MRT in Taipei is a wonderful place to watch people. There’s no pushing and shoving, but orderly queues within white painted lines, courtesy is offered to passengers getting off the trains whilst those climbing in, board from the right. Even when the trains are crowded there’s still an air of friendliness, seats being offered to those in greater need, and people chatting merrily away to each other and laughing. What I still can’t get my head round is with the amount of people, and not once has anyone bashed into me, nor me them. It does make for a pleasant experience.
To ride on the MTR it’s worth buying an Easy card, and loading some cash onto it for discounted prices. It’s just like the Oyster card in London, or the Opal card in Sydney. Finding the trains and line is also easy. Each line is colour coded, and each station is printed in Chinese and English and has a number. So if your home station is Songshan, as mine is, my coded station is G19, on the green line. number 19. Easy. to wait for the train stand in the lines printed ‘wait behind the line’, in front of a glass safety barriers, When the train approaches the station very gentle music starts to play slowly reaching a crescendo as the train arrives,. A light starts to flash also as a extra warning for the hard of hearing. The train stops perfectly lined up and the glass barriers gently slide open. What could be simpler! On the train the announcements in Chinese and English, plus the usual flashing information using the name, number and colour of the line. Again gentle music starts to play, this time to announce approaching a station when you are able to change lines. Child’s play. Even I never went wrong. Journeys are fast, safe, and fairly silent, no jolting or squeaky breaks, and no rattling of the sleepers. And it’s cheap. My average journey of maybe 10 stations is about $24 NT, about 60p.