Wow, I somehow managed to build up a real backlog of posts that I need to write! I have pretty much caught up in the photo processing department, so that’s most of the work done, but I feel it is important to document these things on this blog, so here goes: my trip report for this year’s trip to Taiwan.
From 18 to 22 June, I was in Taiwan due to work. Around the same time last year (2011), I was on a similar trip to Taiwan. Basically, because I am a trade magazine editor/journalist IRL, I got invited by a Taiwanese trade association to go on a media tour of some of the country’s technology/manufacturing operations in order to write a report about it in the magazine.
As with last year, I took the chance to explore parts of Taiwan (mostly Taipei) during the times when I was not otherwise engaged in work-related activities – which is mostly in the evening. Last year, I did all the normal touristy things like go up to Taipei 101, and the Shih-lin Night Markets.
This year, the assigned hotel, while not as “boutique” as last year, was actually at a more central location which meant I could walk 5 minutes down the road and hit a crazy bustling shopping part of town (the 2011 hotel was in what I would characterise as a more business/government area which was a bit quieter at night). My experience was also boosted by the fact that I managed to get a SIM from the local telco Chunghwa and install it in my phone, giving me access to SMS, calling and of course, the all-important 3G internet access, which meant I could use maps and GPS to stop myself from getting lost.
When you mention Taiwan to anyone, the first thing they’ll usually say is “food”. And it’s certainly true, the amount of quality food in Taiwan, and the prices, means it’s near impossible to be hungry over there, especially if you are on a budget powered by the octane-like Australian dollar. If you leave it too late, the shops close at 10am, but then you have the convenience stores which are cheap and good (like the Japanese ones, unlike the Australian ones).
Even though I’ve lived in Australia for so long, I find that I can settle really quickly into the pace of life in Asian cities. The ability to hop around places using the rapid subway system, navigating the streets, finding bargains, etc, comes naturally. Of course, with mobile internet access, any shred of doubt in regards to navigation quickly dissolves as well.
On my first night, I was just walking around and stumbled upon a quaint little cafe which played French songs. It was close to 9:30pm (remember, the cut-off is 10pm) when I went in but I still managed to get served. Of course, the wait staff there were fairly perplexed that this solitude nerd-like male had wandered in… I was careful this time round to get business cards of places I visited. This particular cafe is called u*ki smile. It’s modelled on a Japanese French-styled cafe (if you were to find a French-style cafe in Japan, this is what it would be like, is what I mean).
A lot of people were queuing up at this shop. I think it’s a Japanese import, which does shaved ice. Strangely, this place is crowded at around 10pm, but fairly quiet the rest of the time.
One of the places I visited as part of the media tour group was a restaurant called Five Dime Boathouse Restaurant, which was opened by Xie Li-xiang, a self-taught architect. It’s one of the most bizarrely-architected restaurants I have been to my whole life. It seems a bit strange walking in via a ramp, but once the doors open and you get inside, the first thing I think of is that it’s like a cave. And then as you explore, a diverse number of themes start to emerge – stuff thrown together that somehow managed to still work together as a whole.
As you can see, the bottom level has a pond, with a native-like boat, and some koi fish.
There was also some free time to visit the nearby Miramar shopping centre, which has a ferris wheel built into it.
Later on that night, I had arranged to meet shiroin, which is one name most people should know. He is one of the leading cosplay photographers in the world (and I don’t say this lightly), who was based in the US but has returned to Taiwan. He flies around quite a bit so he has shot in a large number of countries. He brought me to a place called “Atlantis Coffee” which is run by a local cosplayer he knows. I had their curry rice, which is said to be a specialty at the cafe, as well as lavender milk tea, which I have fallen in love with.
One of the special things about Atlantis Coffee is their corgi, which is a mascot of sorts for them. It’s got a personality of its own, and what’s interesting is that if you look up where Atlantis Coffee is on Google Maps, and go into Street View, he is actually visible.
Another interesting place which I found near my hotel is called Rose Garden, a Victorian-country-style manga cafe. Like most manga cafe, it’s got shelves lined with manga, but it’s themed in a Victorian-era country manner. Since I found this by wandering the streets late at night, I didn’t have my DSLR with me and only have telephone photos to show this with. Their site has better pictures though. There’s a waterfall in the middle of it (the area on the right hand side of my first picture).
The last day I was in Taiwan was assigned as the day for most people to fly out of the country, so since my flight was in the evening, I had the entire day free. After checking out from my hotel, I went on a photoshoot with a couple of Taiwanese cosplayers (to be detailed in the next post), and after that they gave me a short tour of the various otaku hang-outs in Ximending and also the Good Smile Cafe near the Taipei main train station.
Unfortunately, the Madoka / Fate themes had passed by the time I visited, and Project Mirai was the feature. I didn’t have a lot of time, since I had to rush back to the hotel for my ride to the airport, but did manage to take a few snaps around the place. But yes, there were a lot of figures around the place, and really cute Snow Miku wallscrolls too, but I don’t think they sold them.
At the airport, I was strolling around the terminal when I saw a boarding gate which was totally decorated with the Hello Kitty theme.
That’s it. I’ve been back for a week now, but it feels like such a long time ago. Maybe because work and other things have been busy. More photos (mostly because I didn’t post a lot of food here) can be found on the Facebook album.