An American Pizzahound in Taiwan – Retro Blogging May 11, 1998

My adventure began when I decided to take a vacation to the Republic of China on Taiwan with my girlfriend, Chu-Wan.

Prior to my journey, I tried to make all the necessary preparations that any would-be international traveler would need. For example, I used the Internet to check out information about obtaining a US Passport and information about the country, visas and any pertinent travelers’ information.

The R.O.C., or Taiwan as it is more commonly called, exists in a unique status. The Nationalist Chinese government was ousted from mainland China by the Communists in the 1940’s. The Nationalists set up a provisional government on the island of Taiwan, which is off the eastern coast of the mainland. Both governments still claim to be the one, true government of all of China, including Taiwan.

In the 1970’s the U.S. government formally transferred recognition of China’s government to the People’s Republic in Beijing, leaving the R.O.C. as a non-government in the US’s official eyes. As they are not the government of a country, they cannot maintain foreign embassies in the US, nor do we have embassies in Taiwan. Both governments maintain “Cultural Exchange” centers, which act as surrogate embassies. Information on Taiwan can be found at on the Internet, and it was there that I first turned for my research.

The US and Taiwan maintain friendly relationships, so a US citizen with a passport valid for at least 6 months, can enter Taiwan without a visa or any advance paperwork provided that they have verifiable plans to leave the country within 14 days.

There are no required immunizations to enter Taiwan, unless you are traveling from a Yellow Fever infested area, such as Africa. I was pleased no end to learn I wouldn’t need any shots.

As my departure date loomed near, that sudden grip of paranoia that says, “You’re missing something important. They’re going to turn you away at the gate when you arrive,” began to play havoc in my brain, and so I frantically began looking for every additional scrap of information I could find.

Only a week before my departure I discovered a little worry. Although no immunizations are required there were several that were strongly recommended depending on your circumstances. I had researched the Center for Disease Control’s web page and concluded that I should get Tetanus and Polio boosters, and that I should also get protection against Hepatitis A. As a further precaution the CDC strongly recommended mosquito and insect repellant containing DEET.

With this information in hand, only two days before my flight, I found myself in the office of a “travel medicine specialist.” He looked over my itinerary, discussed my vaccination history, and then printed the information from the Center For Disease Control concerning Taiwan. His conclusion: I needed to get my Tetanus and Polio boosters, that I should get some protection against Hepatitis A. and that I should buy plenty of bug spray containing DEET.

Well, it’s nice to have a professional opinion, and it only cost me $175. At least that included the shots.

Satisfied that I had taken every possible precaution, I prepared for departure.

Notes from the 21st Century
This history of Taiwan and China is a long and complex one, and it is a very polarizing issue for both the people who live there and those concerned in the rest of the world. My description of the ROC here was based solely on US Government documents at that time.

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