I remember roaming through the vibrant, old, slightly mysterious Raohe night market for vietnamese sandwiches and medicinal herbs. And the usual late evening snack among families having dinner on tin stalls, gamblers, couples’ cute food on sticks and the constant shouting of a thousand sellers or so.
The equally vibrant, old and slightly mysterious Ciyou temple sits next to the start of Raohe street.
Going past the captivating facade on one lazy noon and to the back side. Unexpectedly smooth?
And, across the street, the wall separating Songshan neighborhood from Keelung river. Pass the gate and what do you find — an urban blue and green calmness punctuated by joggers, rowers, high bridges and a ferris wheel in the distance. Taipei both sides.
Once, a traditional cup of tea, maybe in a tea house among verdant hills and foggy rivers…
Tea arrives with its half dozen containers (for leaves, boiling water, cooling water, used tea and more), accompanying snacks, and mosquito repellent.
In a tiny plot twist, focusing on the background…
and the view across said hills:
Everything’s inside “Bitan Scenic Area”, Taipei’s abrupt southern border; the fitting end to its unique urban continuum.
I remember stars spilling off a wall…
and tiles from ’70s summery dreams.
On noons of May in tropical Tainan.
Shutters of the Suho Paper Museum.
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1. Night markets
2. Night markets
3. Fucking night markets!
I probably need to get specific at this point.
When most people get ready to leave their job for the day, the stalls and shops of night markets start preparing for business. Around sunset and up to roughly midnight it feels like the whole city is outdoors, having dinner, socializing, playing and shopping in the streets. About a dozen big markets are scattered around Taipei plus every neighbourhood practically has its own, down to a street lined with food stalls every few residential blocks.
One could speak for hours (it has happened) about the energy and character of Taiwanese night markets. But this won’t do them justice.
Indicatively, two of the largest ones are vast Shilin and old Raohe. Locals often consider the large ones too touristy and prefer more earthy ones for their dinner, like Jingmei or Huaxi street, the “snake alley” (the latter is in the old downtown and one can still have snake and its byproducts in there; don’t miss the surrounding alleys; remember, you have cyberpunk tastes). And for your literal street wear there is Wufenpu, all dedicated to clothing.
2. Guanghua electronics market
A day+night market, complete with its alleys and eateries, selling electronics. Enough said. For good measure, right next to it you have the digital plaza, a kind of techie mall. The higher up you go on its floors the lower-level you get, from flagship stores on the ground floor to capacitors on the fifth. Interestingly, there are chances your gadgets will be recommended and your new computer modded by young women here.
(Note that an actual mainstream gamers’ mall opened next to the plaza just recently; but it’s not part of this list.)
Tip: Cash might be your friend.
You are bound to step into a documentary that you never dreamt of adding to your to-do list. Only that it will be real, everyday life.
Flashbacks from the residence and gardens of late dictator Chiang Kai-Shek, one of the founders of present-era Taiwan.
PS: The current shaping of Taiwan has an interesting and bloody history, less well known to westerners than that of other east Asian countries. Even less well known is that it is not a member of the United Nations, although the tag appears on most of the older electronics and items of your household, I would guess.
Xinyi district on a hazy night.
(Easily the city’s glitziest part, but with Taipei 101 to set it apart from the crowd.)