Taipei was a pleasant surprise. If anything, I was expecting the usual color and chaos of other S.E. Asian cities, but Taipei was mellow nearly to the point of hypnotic.
|Breakfast in Taipei|
People were friendly and helpful even when they didn't speak English and the city was clean, prosperous and quiet. Even the motorbikes, so much a part of life in Asian cities, were quiet. And Taipei was safe. The Westerners we met, many of them long time residents in Taipei, were quick to mention it. Still, we were shocked to see that most of the bicycles downtown were left on the rack unlocked. Where else does that happen anymore?
|Few bother to lock their bikes.|
And we loved the vegetarian and vegan restaurant options. We especially liked the buffet at Minder Vegetarian. In fact we ate there every day, sometimes twice a day. But, there was one quirky thing about Taipei, the umbrellas. Umbrellas are popular among Asians as protection from the sun, it's practically a cliche, but in Taipei it was something more.
|The only "litter bug" we saw was a Daost priest |
ritualistically throwing leaves onto the sidewalk.
Ba'oan Daost Temple
A light rain fell intermittently throughout our entire stay and—every time it began—umbrellas instantly popped open creating a nearly unbroken canopy over the entire sidewalk then—when the rain stopped a few minutes later—the canopy disappeared. This happened repeatedly throughout the day—every day. Add music and you'd think it was a flash mob ballet.
|People carrying their trash to the garbage truck|
during the nightly trash pick-up - Taipei, Taiwan
But perhaps the most amazing thing of all to me was that people in Taipei don't litter and there was hardly a trashcan to be found, not on the street, not outside stores or cafes, not anywhere. In Taipei people just don't drop trash on the street. It's mind blowing. The streets and parks of Taipei are almost completely litter free. But, when the nightly garbage truck announced itself in the neighborhood with a tinkley blend of ice cream truck jingle and Twin Peaks soundtrack, people came out in spite of the rain and tossed their would-be-litter into the truck.
I didn't intend for this to be just a laundry list of Taipei's glories. Laundry lists are boring. Certainly, like everywhere, Taiwan must have a dark side. Such widespread conformity can be a red flag but, otherwise, we just didn't see it. As it stands, we were intrigued and hope to return.