Old and new. The ancient and the super modern. Opposites. Oxymorons. Coexisting. That’s Taipei folks – ancient traditions and architecture and modern technology, street art, modern art, ramshackle art, the way it’s always been done, and “keeping up with the latest” or coming up with something new; colours, smells, sounds, movement, action… I love it all. One has to embrace the insane traffic and find ways around it, which isn’t too hard. My refuge from the onslaught of traffic and people are the paths along the river to cycle or walk on; the university campuses; the pedestrian zones and parks. One can feel completely removed from city life. And the locals take advantage of it too.
Given how much it rains in Taipei or how searing the sun can be, most buildings include covered walkways – one reason why I couldn’t see much of the storefronts from my window at the quarantine hotel. Taipei is very alive! So much going on 24/7!
Alas, Bo-Pi-Liao Historic Street is closed on Mondays, so I will come back another day.
My camera is at the repair shop – it dropped from a height onto hard ground, a meeting not without consequences… the stabilizer is very unstable now and affects the focus, so let’s see if they can fix it. I found the repair shop via a tripadvisor comment – it comes highly recommended, though addresses can be tricky to find. Luckily, some streets are dedicated to one service or article, i.e cameras. So I head to “Camera Street” and successfully find the tiny store, explain the issue to the technician by (sort of) demonstrating what happened and showing him the flickering image on the display. He utters one word – “wait” and calls someone. Ten minutes later, an English speaking employee arrives and helps with the communication. Okay, they will look at it. If they can fix it, the cost will be $2000 TWD (roughly CAN$95). If they can’t, it will be free of charge. Hopefully within a week? Really? Wow, great! Keeping my fingers crossed that they’ll be able to restore it. I love my Lumix and would be sorry to let her go. Meanwhile, iPhone will have to do. And on occasion Kaya’s camera.
Taipei is best discovered by foot or bicycle (or both). There are so many interesting tiny alleys and paths once you leave the main roads. So much to discover! Thanks to the city, Youbike is extremely convenient for explorations. Sturdy, reliable bikes, three gears (you don’t really need more), a basket, no helmet required, countless stations all over town. To sign up you need a Taiwanese phone number and (as a tourist without Taiwanese ID#) you need to be okay with not being insured. And – of course – have an Easycard! You can sign up online or the kiosk. Doing the single rental with credit card is time consuming and a bit confusing, so I don’t recommend it. I tried it once. You’ll be charged a $2000 TWD deposit ($95 CAN) which will be replaced by the rental amount (TWD$20/hour – not even a $) once the bike is returned. You just have to go through the process every single time – which sucks. Once registered with the Easycard it’s super simple – swipe the card, take the bike, and when you return it, swipe again. Done! Once in a while just recharge your card. It’s a great service and so many people are using it. If there is an issue with the bike, you leave it with the saddle pointing backwards and service personnel knows to have a look. Along the river, and throughout town, I see locals of any age using them.
Observation: despite the delicious food which comes in good portions, there are hardly any obese people here! Lots of healthy food! And there is a spirit of exercise. I’m excited seeing so many older folks out and about along the river, walking, biking, scooting, using the numerous exercise stations along the way, dancing, doing Tai Chi or Qi Gong, or simply enjoying a stroll, a talk. Outside Karaoke is apparently popular, too. There are fields for baseball, tennis courts, playgrounds, sculptures, public bathrooms, gatherings under bridges, areas for little kids learning how to ride a bike.
On Sunday it was busy! A beautiful day. I ended up riding south towards Bitan for many kilometres, serious runners and cyclists in full gear overtaking me. And those who like the more quiet sport of fishing setting up along the river. Big fish in the river. Carp and who knows what else – I’ve seen some big ones jumping. Not sure if people eat them or just fish for the fun. I’m thinking the latter though it depends on where, I guess. According to Wikipedia, there are four major rivers running through Taipei and New Taipei. The Tamsui River’s three tributaries are the Xindian River, Dahan River and Keelung River. My route took me along the Xindian River which provides drinking water for about four million Taipei residents – hopefully from higher up where the dam is. All of the rivers in Taipei are heavily polluted by both raw sewage and industrial pollution from illegal industry. The natural watercourse restoration is on the agenda of the Taipei City Government, the Taiwan Central Government and several citizen organizations.
To my great delight, I’ve discovered that I have an accessible roof terrace on the 16th floor of my building (I live on the second floor.) Thank you life! I was hoping for something right where I live and voila, the gift presented itself. A sunset spot. A view in every direction. Love it!
I share a flat on the second floor with two Taiwanese – Johnson (from Chicago) is here for an extended period to look after his 96 year-old mother who is ailing. And Jeff is a student at NTU. All of us are not around the flat a lot and so far, I’ve enjoyed conversations with both. 🙂 I’m in the Wenshan district of Taipei, close to the river, to parks, Youbike stations, MRT, shops, restaurants… and just a 20 minute bike ride to Guting where Kaya shares a flat with two lovely women. We are well taken care of. Thank you life!
Yesterday, Kaya and I went on a hike… and quite the hike it was! Stay tuned for my next post.