Taipei first impressions

Let's be disingenuous and contrast with China. Well the people seem relaxed, confident and don't have that impassive coldness in their faces. Whereas the Chinese youth are as one lost in or hidden behind their mobiles and their peculiar taste in fashion labels and design, the Taiwanese have more cultured passtimes like reading, holding conversations and art. I think an interesting indicator of their sophistication and intelligence is the low rate of smoking and hawking up phlegm.

The 7-11 stores on every block are a treasure trove of bottled teas, plum being my favourite, exotic juices, chilled coffees, soya milks, rice milks and more. I didn't even notice Pepsi or coke. They function as snack bars too with hot buffets of sausages and cauldrons of tea eggs The guys at the counter will microwave things up and you can sit on a stool in the window. Family mart is the same. Meanwhile there are kiosks for buying train tickets and charging the Taipei card which functions as a pre-pay card like the octopus in hk.

You forget what the weather is outside, lost in the labyrinthine multi-layers of malls beneath the main station and running the length of Zhongshan. This is wondrous for the seemingly high number of elderly in motorised wheelchairs, and a pleasant shady place for the groups of youths practising cheerleader dancing and hip hop in the mirror walled arcades. Not a cop or security guard in site, clean, peaceful, lively but no sense of rowdiness or shouting. Between Zhongshan and songshan is a long stretch of book stores with kids, teen, adults and elderly browsing and meditatively immersing themselves in the printed word. I bet there is a damn sight more variety of writings here than in the people's republic…. The mall under the main station is less highbrow, with games arcades, astrologers, an Indonesian corner, ice creams (yes I had one, and although big was not up to gelato standard), stalls selling games figurines. As the place closes for the night I emerge on the street at the bottom of Zhongshan only to find typhoon style rain. By the Jeff koon style silver balloon dog sculpture, the first on a line of interesting small scale outside pieces that line the white brick undulating walkway that follows the Zhongshan metro mall overground (including robots, snails and rabbits), shelter the guys who usually sleep the streets here and guys taking a break from scootering through the deluge. The plastic bag translucent yellow and blue ponchos are not enough tonight.

More to follow. I plan to chill out and write now I'm in Hualien.

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