My fellow Singaporean-Texan expat friend, Andy, had a business trip to Taiwan for some sort of oil and gas commodities trading client meeting. I don’t really know what that means. Luckily in my world, that translates to a great friend of mine who used to live in Taipei and speaks Chinese invited me to his awesome temporary pad in Taipei for a weekend tour.
Taipei is my first “real Asia” experience. You are surrounded by people who don’t speak english, menus with unascertainable characters based on words rather than letters, wonderful and terrible (I mean down right awful) smells you have never smelled, crowdedness, and shopping like you have never seen. Singapore, HK, and other places I’ve been definitely have a stronger Western notion.
The part that really suprised me: I loved every second of it. Honestly, most of me figured as a non-Asian I wouldn’t feel much of a connection to a place so unbelievably foreign…That I would feel a bit lost and ready to come home. This may end up being the case in some of the other places I go next, but there are some pieces of Taipei that made it really special.
The Secret Charm
At first glance, you would think this place is completely gross. The outsides of buildings are really ugly and look like they could use a good scrub. Not much thought (if any) is put into the architecture, and you aren’t quite sure why you are there. However, as you get settled and actually walk down the streets you can see the heavy Japanese and light American influences on this Chinese Territory. Interiors have clean, crisp design with an appreciation for simplicity and cuteness. (Although I haven’t seen Japan outside the airport… This is how I picture it).
The Tiny Piece of Americana
Although a weak tie, Taipei is the first American influenced place I’ve been in Asia, which may be one reason it’s touched my heart. The places I have been so far in Asia have had their share of infiltrations from the French (Cambodia, Thailand) and British (Singapore, Hong Kong, Malaysia, Indonesia) which leave a reminiscence of those cultures (think electrical outlets and side of the road you drive on as the bold and obvious… Down to little mannerisms and food influences). I don’t know how to describe it, but that root was visible compared to the other places I’ve been.
A Big Personality… Yet Refined
Really, you could tell Taipei had a lot of personality. Between lots of locally owned design (fashion, housewares, furniture, etc.) at a reasonable price, the night market with a carnival inside, and a local tea trail much like you would see in California wine country, Taipei has a lot of originality to show for. There was also a good amount of fine dining and culture nice but not overwhelming to the point where it is the only option. It is also home to the 101, the once tallest building in the world.
Want to see more? Check out the photos at: https://www.facebook.com/media/set/?set=a.1668722968146.2036211.1539480031&type=1&l=04aa98f24f