Meet Ed of the Where the hell is that Taiwan guy? video series.
Introduction: Ed Wu has an inspiring story to share. He came up with an idea to promote his native culture around 2 years ago and has since traveled to 65 countries on 5 continents. He’s made videos for YouTube that have become internet sensations now totaling to almost a million views. He was originally inspired in part by Where the Hell is Matt? who made videos dancing around the world. Ed plans to reach 100 countries next year as a continuation of his project. Stay tuned until the end to see his video from Africa as well as some pictures from his adventures.
Introduce yourself and tell us a bit about yourself.
– I am from Taipei, and I am 25 years old. I studied sports marketing at National Taipei University.
How did you get started on this trip? I understand that it wasn’t your original goal.
– I actually started at age 22. My first trip was to India. I was planning on traveling like a backpacker, but 5 days before I left I came up with an idea to do this project. I spent 3 weeks in India and filmed myself dancing in about 10 cities. To do this, I had to learn how to dance by downloading some videos off of YouTube. I had never danced before.
Was there something in particular that made you realize that this was what you wanted to do?
– There are 3 main reasons that I decided to do this.
1.) I started traveling when I was 19 years old. I spent time in New York City and Boston, among other places. I met a lot of people who did not know anything about Taiwan. Additionally, when I was interning in Orlando, people would ask me questions like how long is the drive from Japan to Taiwan, or say things like, “Oh I have been to Bangkok,” rarely anything of Taiwan, so I wanted to teach them.
2.) I was a national player and team leader for WCG back in Taiwan. When we played we weren’t allowed to use our national flag, and we were asked to change the flag front other 15 countries’ player, that’s an really bad experience to me. Only the white one given to us. Our flag is red, not white.
3.) Instead of being overly political, I chose to do something soft and fun, that people would remember.
What would you say is your ultimate goal?
– My main goal started out as introducing Taiwan to the world. I want to go to 100 countries and make Taiwan known to the people of the world. Over my travels, my goal became bigger. I want to unite the people of the world. When I travel, people feel like they are a part of my project and they want to help me. Additionally, as I have visited some orphanages, I want people to care more about the poor and helpless children in the world.
Many people may think that the costume that you use is just something funny, but it actually has deep cultural roots. Can you explain the significance to us please?
– The costume that I use is called San-Taí-Zí (三太子), or the Third Prince. It is used in traditional festivals and temples. It represents a mythical figure that is significant to us in Taiwan.
What does being Taiwanese mean to you?
– What many people do not realize is that Taiwan has a very pure and original Chinese culture. Because of the Cultural Revolution under Mao Zedong (文革), much of mainland China lost its history. Under Zedong, there was no religion; temples were destroyed; books were burned; statues broken; and more. Basically 30 years to destroy 1000s of years worth of culture. In Taiwan, our religion and culture were persevered.
What is your favorite (or are) some of your favorite things about Taiwan?
– I like that Taiwan is very traditional. The people are very warm and hospitable and we have great food markets. An example of their generosity is the donation that Taiwan gave Japan when they suffered from the earthquake. We gave a donation greater than all the other countries combined. People love our culture when they come to visit.
– My favorite is bubble tea. It is very good.
You have been in many places now and seen many things. Do you have a list of some of your more memorable experiences?
– I have been to 65 countries across 5 continents. My favorite country by far was Iran. The people were very generous and friendly. Everywhere I went people were offering to help me, give me accommodation, and feed me. I think that they have a very beautiful country with a rich history, and lovely people. I made many good friends there.
– One interesting experience was when I was making my first video in India. I was standing outside of the Presidential hall, when I was surrounded by 10 policemen and questioned. They thought that I was a terrorist, even though I had already been featured on the local news and in local newspapers. I went to ask for a specific gate number at the palace where I wanted to dance and they became suspicious. They drove me back to my hotel where they checked under my pillow and bed, took my camera and watched all of my videos. They eventually realized that I was just dancing in all of them.
Is there one thing that you wish more people knew about Taiwan?
– I’d be satisfied if more people knew about it. Many people have not heard about Taiwan. We do not have too many tourists because flights can be somewhat expensive, but we have many very beautiful things. For example, there are at least 100 mountains in Taiwan. We have red sand beach, great scuba diving, temples, and interesting festivals.
What has been your process for organizing this project? Have you just randomly traveled through different countries, or have you planned out many things?
– Most of my travels have been random. I do usually choose a region, and then decide where to travel to from there. For example, I might say central America, then choose a few countries once I arrive there. When I go places, I typically find backpackers, dancing groups, and other people who can help me. I’ve had to negotiate my dances in almost every country.
In one of your videos you mention how you have visited many orphanages? There is a reference in it with its relation to Taiwan. Can you explain this a little?
– Yes. I have visited orphanages in many countries such as Laos, Cambodia, Vietnam and even Brazil. I do see a slight resemblance to Taiwan, but that isn’t my main reason. I mainly do it to give the kids a different and memorable day. With my costume, I come and am able to put a smile on their faces. That means a lot to me, even if it is just for a moment.
Additionally, I hope to leave the kids with a positive memory of Taiwan so that if they meet one of my countrymen in the future, then they will treat them well and respectfully.
As a guy from Taiwan, how have you been received around the world? Do you feel that you have been welcomed, or treated poorly? Are there any stories that you would like to share?
– I have been welcomed almost 100% of the time. I’d say 99% to 1%. Because I am filming a video, people feel excited to be a part of the project. They believe in what I am doing. At first, I just wanted to promote my country of Taiwan, but then I realized that many other people wanted to promote their countries through my videos. It became more about connecting others. For political reasons, there are times when I am not respected properly because people do not recognize my passport. Only about 10 countries in the world have positive relations with Taiwan. Taiwan is often bullied on the world stage. For example, some people refuse to do business with people from Taiwanese people, but this is only some people. There was one incident recently where Taiwanese fishermen were shot in the Philippines and nothing happened because they were Taiwanese people.
You have traveled to many places; surely at times it was difficult. Have you done everything alone or have you had help along the way. Additionally, what have been some of the challenges of traveling this way?
– It was really hard for me to find sponsors. Overtime I have gotten more. Business men from Taiwan will occasionally give me several hundred dollars encouraging me to keep going. When I started, I received a lot of negative feedback mostly because what I was doing was not normal and there was a lot of misunderstanding. I have worked hard to convince my parents that what I am doing is a worthwhile cause as they were not always in support. Even many of my closest friends, discouraged me from the beginning. All of this negativity was much stronger first, but as I have been more successful I have received more support.
With your views nearing a million on YouTube, how successful do you think that your project has been? What do you hope that people learn from watching your videos on YouTube?
– So far, I think that it has been fairly successful. In my final video, I hope to have around 30 million views. I am unsure about how successful it will be. I may have 30 million, I may only have 100,000. I don’t know.
I noticed that in your Africa video that you mention a quote: “why not run and chase your dream like a child without fear”. How do you hope that this will inspire others?
– Since I was a child I always did what I wanted to do. I never listened to my parents or my teachers much and took a path that was very different from society. I had three great internships: one in Adidas, one in Microsoft, and one for Disney. Through these, I got to travel to New York, Mexico, India, and Boston. It was these experiences that gave me the courage to make this current trip and project. I was told that I should be spending more time in the university classroom, but I didn’t. I always did what I wanted to do, even when others doubted me.
What advice do you have for someone who wants to do a similar trip?
– Even my closest friends doubted me when I began my trip. Just try, even if you fail at least you know that you could do it. It’s the ending I always say to the audiences when I got speech.When u knew what u loose, that’s not bad, like cellphone, wallet, money or girlfriend…something like that, cus u can make it up, or u can try to have a new one. What really bad is, u don’t know what u lose, like my story, if I forgave up that moment, I don’t dare to start that India trip, then I was gonna loose the friends, memories, experience I had during this tirp. That’s really horrible, and I will never know this.
About the interview: Ed and I sat down for a live interview. I asked him questions which were written in both English and translated to traditional Mandarin Chinese. He answered all questions in English while I took notes. I wrote his answers based completely on what he told me and then he approved them. He made a few finishing touches.
More Pictures of Ed:
More interviews from Backpacking Diplomacy: