Being a non-Mandarin speaking Chinese (a.k.a. banana), I never dreamt that I would one day visit Taiwan. This is one of the countries that I did not place in my bucket list due to my perceived language barrier.

As a travel writer-cum-content creator, obviously, I go to countries that I can effectively communicate while travelling, where I can ask questions freely in order to have a deeper understanding of all places that I visit, so that I can promote them as tourist destinations.

Taipei City

Taipei City

Well, in January, I received an invitation to visit Taiwan, for SIX days. Despite my lifelong reservation about being a “banana”, thus my inability to communicate with the locals, I accepted the trip.

What put me at ease was the fact that my tour leader was a fellow Ipohite. Like me, she speaks English, Bahasa Malaysia, and Cantonese. She volunteered to be my translator as she is also well versed in Mandarin.

斗六門當歸鴨麵線 in Taoyuan City, Taiwan

斗六門當歸鴨麵線 in Taoyuan City, Taiwan

That’s one concern down. Still, being invited as a travel writer, I had to ensure that I was explicit where I visited. Seeing that it was a “Small Town Ramble” where we would be going off the beaten track to visit lesser known destinations, I had anticipated that most signage are in Mandarin. They might as well be in Greek, for all I know.

to the street food haven of Guohua Street in Tainan

to the street food haven of Guohua Street in Tainan

As a months-old Google Local Guide, I came up with the idea to mark on Google Maps every landmark that I visited, so that I could retrace my route when I got home. Thank god for my tour leader, as not only are the signboards in Mandarin, even their businesses on Google Maps are in the local language! *sweat*

Chiayi City

Chiayi City

Of the 40+ places that we visited over six days, approximately half of them have corresponding English names. That’s good but not adequate for me to retell my Taiwanese exploration.

With the places marked as visited on Google Maps, I can easily copy out their business name, even though I have no idea what they mean, which explains the many Chinese words in my Taiwan blog posts.

Did you think that I picked up the language after eating Taiwanese food for six days? Haha, I wished it was this easy! It is said that Mandarin is the hardest language to learn, and I wholeheartedly agree!

 biscuit shop in Lukang

biscuit shop in Lukang

As a long-time Google Maps user, this is the first time I have utilised it beyond searching for places of interest and reading reviews of F&B outlets.

Realising how useful Google Maps is, if only we maximise all its features, has spurred me to contribute more to Google Maps, especially in marking new places, correcting misinformation, and putting lesser known eateries in the spotlight, not only within my own community, but also places that I travel to in the course of work and leisure.

鹿港童年往事之懷舊柑仔店 in Lukang sells old-school souvenirs

鹿港童年往事之懷舊柑仔店 in Lukang sells old-school souvenirs

All major destinations of my Taiwan trip have been included in this Google Maps List (Link). Hopefully, you will find this itinerary handy should you plan a trip to the island.

Talking about Google Maps, I am most excited about the biggest annual event for Google Local Guides, Connect Live 2019, which will be hosted in San Jose, California this November.

Needless to say, I am thrilled to be invited to APPLY for a spot to join 199 other Google Local Guides for three days of networking, and learn from inspiring Local Guides to improve myself. Also, I would get to meet the people behind Google Maps and Local Guides programme.

However, this opportunity of a lifetime won’t come easy. The selection criteria is extremely stringent, understandably. After all, Local Guides from around the world are applying!

No matter what, I am giving this a shot and hope to make the cut! Best of luck to all applicants! #localguidesconnect. woohoo!

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With love

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