Heart & Soul: Go that extra mile


Beyond the hustle and bustle of the city, Taipei’s citizens show amazing hospitality.

When I think about ordinary folks willing to go the proverbial “extra mile”, it reminds me of some of my experiences during my holiday in Taipei last year together with my spouse.

Apart from helpful and friendly local folks who gave us directions when we asked, and those who snapped photos for both of us, we had three unforgettable occasions when the Taiwanese went beyond what was expected.

When we reached Taoyuan International Airport in Taipei, the first thing we did was to look for the bus ticket counter. We wanted to take a bus from the airport to the Taipei Main Station as our hotel was located nearby. While we were looking for the signs, a maintenance worker who was in the midst of fixing the ceiling lights nearby overheard us.

He stopped his work and asked us in Mandarin, “You two want to take the bus to the city, right?”

Then he accompanied us to the counter and even queued up to purchase the tickets for us. Instead of just giving us the directions, he insisted on walking us to the bus stop to make sure that we didn’t miss our bus. Before he returned to his work, he shared with us some quick tips on how to get around the city.

“Have a great time in Taipei,” he uttered with a smile and walked away.

We were so grateful. Just imagine, just minutes after arriving in a different country, we met this complete stranger who took it upon himself to help us out all the way.

When we arrived at the hotel, we were in for another surprise. Other than the warm reception from the affable staff at the front desk, one of them by the name of Jasmine Liu greeted us in Malay, “Selamat datang ke Taipei.” At first, I thought she was a Malaysian who had studied in Taipei and was working part-time at the hotel. Then we found out that Jasmine was a local. It was on her own initiative that she learned few useful Malay words, which included apa khabar (how are you), makan (eat) and sedap (delicious), just to make Malaysian hotel guests feel at home.

One morning, my spouse woke up with a mild headache. I went downstairs to the front desk to get paracetamol tablets from the staff. That afternoon, we went back to our room to freshen up after going out, as we planned to visit the famous Shilin night market later. When we went to collect our room key, Jasmine was on duty then. When she saw us, she handed my spouse a mini Thermos flask and said, “I heard from my colleague that you had a headache this morning. So I bought some local herbal drink which can relieve your headache.”

We were taken aback and felt very touched by her kind and caring gesture. On the day when we checked out from the hotel, Jasmine was not on duty. Yet she took the trouble to arrange for her colleague to call her up, so that she could say goodbye to us personally over the phone just before we left for the airport. Just before she put down the phone, she said: “Jumpa lagi!” (We’ll meet again.)

She went well beyond the call of duty to ensure that our stay at the hotel and holiday in Taipei were truly an enjoyable experience.

On our first day in Taipei, we had decided to visit the famous Long Shan Temple. It’s easy to reach this oldest temple in Taiwan, as it’s located right next to a MRT station. Since it was a beautiful sunny Saturday morning, we decided to walk to the temple. After a while, we stopped at a stall selling white bitter gourd juice to quench our thirst.

Then I decided to ask for directions to the temple from the stall owner. Beside us there was a man together with a woman in a wheelchair. When the man overheard us asking for directions to Long Shan Temple, he turned around and voluntarily offered to show us the way.

Seeing that he was with a wheelchair-bound person, we did not want to inconvenience them, so we politely turned him down. Surprisingly the woman on the wheelchair said, “It’s no problem. We’re going the same way.”

He introduced himself to us as Mr Chen and the older woman was his mother. While we were walking towards the temple, he told us that every Saturday morning he would take his mum out to unwind outdoors. When this helpful Taiwanese man and his mum found out that it was our first trip to Taipei, they insisted on showing us around as they said they weren’t doing anything particular on that day anyway.

They brought us to offbeat places and narrow city lanes where the locals dine, shop and frequent. They even introduced us to some of their friends whom we met along the way. To add interest to the impromptu “tour”, Chen’s mum shared with us anecdotes about the places of interest back when she was a teenager. Before we parted ways, Chen insisted on treating us to lunch. Over our bowls of noodles, we talked and laughed as if they were some old friends from Malaysia. He even gave us his phone number and told us to call him the next time if we ever went back to Taipei again.

We saw the famous Taipei 101 skyscraper, savoured the delectable assortment of Taiwanese snacks, and visited its popular night markets. But what we cherished most was the people, who generously went out of their way to help us and made our holiday so memorable. We can’t thank them enough.

It’s been more than a year since we came back from Taipei, yet we still remember the maintenance guy at the airport, speak highly of Jasmine’s remarkable service, and we definitely will not forget the wonderful time we shared with Chen and his lovely mother.

Taipei , Heart Soul , mile