“The road from appearance to reality is often very hard and long, and many people make only very poor travelers. We must forgive them when they stagger against us as if against a brick wall.” —Franz Kafka

Monday, October 17, 2016

Taipei, a once over

Taipei City

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. 

Taipei morning with steam buns
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?

Taipei bike rack - few bother to lock their bikes.
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.

Daoist Baoan Temple priest - Taipei, Taiwan
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 andevery time it beganumbrellas instantly popped open creating a nearly unbroken canopy over the entire sidewalk thenwhen the rain stopped a few minutes laterthe canopy disappeared. This happened repeatedly throughout the day—every day. Add music and you'd think it was a flash mob ballet.

Nightly trash pick-up - Taipei, Taiwan
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.

Reflexology path - Tai  Taiwan
Reflexology path
Taipei

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.

4 comments:

Roy said...

The reflexology path looks a little intimidating. Everything else though seems like an improvement. They seem to aware of the idea of noise pollution. Strikes me that our Western "rough-and-ready" cowboy culture has become a little perverted, with the wall-of-sound music and cars whose horns honk when you lock the door. WTF. Even the new chip-reading credit car machines make an obnoxious noise to alert you to take your card out.
I was gonna say I've been noticing that, around here, I see Asian ladies with their umbrellas opened when walking around on a sunny day, so, possibly umbrellas are a thing?

asha said...

I have to admit, I didn't walk barefoot on the reflexology path. It was intimidation. I only crouched down to photograph it.

Don said...

It's been a decade, but I remember the booths where people would lean over a bowl and I guess they'd melt the wax out of their ears or something, I was never clear on that. The lady on a bicycle who asked us if we wanted to meet girls. The constant buzzing of scooters that contrasted with the relative silence of bicycles on the mainland. Saw a couple scooters crash, the sound of plastic scraping along the pavement. The crowds went Ooo and everyone rushed in to help.

asha said...

Yeah. People are really helpful. We saw a lady trip and fall in the subway and several young people rushed over to help her. Can you think of one American city where a group of young people would rush to help an middle aged woman, or anyone, up off the street?