TILAT #10: Free stuff and generosity

Well dang, there I was going to write another wildlife post about today’s excursion to the thoroughly amazing Metropolitan Park when I remembered I have homework to do. Yes, homework. No time, for writing lengthy screeds, editing 250 photos or love, Dr. Jones. So instead here’s a super-quick couple of Taiwan treasures.

First is the free stuff. It means exactly what it says, there’s free stuff everywhere in this country, it’s fantastic. When I pick up my soy milk at Carrefour every week, guaranteed half the bottles will come tethered to a free pint of some other variety of milk – coffee, flavoured, brown rice milk, plain old coo juice (or boob water if you’re Thai). Not only that but the old woman charged with doing the tethering will thank me profusely for taking one of the free samples! In addition the trek round the store is laced with freebies; on any given day I can gorge myself on baked goods, meats, cheeses and fruits, all washed down with soft drinks or even booze – gratis.

It’s not just the supermarkets, twice now on filling my scooter’s tank with gas (a mere £2.50) I’ve been presented with a much-needed bottle of drinking water. No explanation proffered and none requested. It just happens. Even regular stores love the free sample idea – on browsing the gift shop at Dakeng Honey Museum I was bombarded with honey sweets, honey biscuits, honey booze and, of course, honey. It worked too, went in for a look and left with a litre jar of honey, a box of honey fudge and a bottle  of 40% abv honey liquer! Freebies can be devious.

Now for the generosity. The same helpful spirit which infused Thailand and cemented its place in my heart also exists in Taiwan, although it’s less open. Sometimes though an act of kindness shines through and makes me do an internal happy dance for the remainder of today. Before visiting Metropolitan Park I took a wander up to nearby Art Street, really a collection of small alleys housing all manner of craft and clothes shops and a few cafes. I stopped in at Crab Cafe for some lunch and was seated at the only place available, a rather large four-person table. No bother, suits me.

However, no sooner had my meal been delivered than a family of four walked in and were stuck for a seat. Being the gentleman I am (Hear that? That’s my own trumpet. I’m blowing it.) I offered to move to a newly-vacated two-seater in horribly broken Chinese and was treated to thanks and smiles from the group and staff. By the time I finished my leisurely coffee and read a little the cafe was nearly empty and I stepped up to pay my bill. The woman behind the counter looked confused and called for her partner, indicating that she couldn’t find the bill. It transpires that the family had paid my tab and didn’t so much as say goodbye for fear of disturbing my reading.

Aww. Made me feel like I was cuddling a puppy for the next half hour*. When you’re having troubles and kinda need home or a friendly face or any link to reality, a little gesture like that goes a long way. Thanks Taiwan.

* It only lasted half an hour because by that time I was, inevitably, incensed by Taiwanese drivers once again. Even called one an ass-pyjama although I’m not sure what that means.


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