Posted by: David Stewart | October 22, 2008

Taipei Quick Hits

This place isn’t really China at all.

  • Twelve Starbucks sightings. There are 200 on the island, all with perky happy baristas.
  • Has a lot in common with Japan – in the subway people stand in orderly, marked queues; people never cross an intersection until the “walk” signal comes on. No jaywalking anywhere!
  • As an aside, those “walk” signals show an animated walking figure. When it gets close to turning to “Don’t Walk”, the figure starts running faster!
  • Starbucks aside, there seem to be fewer western brands in evidence than in Seoul, and less competition from Fake Starbucks.
  • An extremely clean city. Much cleaner than any city I have seen in China, except perhaps some parts of Hanzhou. Now it is sub-tropical, so some old apartment buildings look like they could use a scrub, but in general the city is almost obsessively clean
  • The world’s tallest building for now – TAIPEI 101 – looks totally out of place. The next highest building in the city is half its height, and then the rest of town barely registers about 20 stories. You don’t have the avenue of the titans effect of Shanghai.
  • Only 2 million population. This is 10 times growth since 1930, but still tiny compared to the other far eastern dragons. This means they don’t have some of the scourges of traffic elsewhere too.
  • The metro system is terrific and incredibly easy to decode. And cheap!
  • Taxi cabs are plentiful, and all seem to be some vintage of Honda Accord.
  • 32 Taiwan Dollars to the US Dollar. This means you can spend $250 for a beer in a restaurant and not blink an eye.
  • The city is jammed with restaurants and they seem to be packed solid every night of the week. Is it possible that people just eat out every night here?
  • Lonely Planet is right in observing that Taiwanese seem to have an incredibly sunny disposition, on the whole.
  • And of course, it’s clear why mainland China wants to constantly assert its rights to Taiwan, and why it may eventually reacquire it. It’s a gem.


  1. yes, it’s a gem, and that’s why the Taiwanese don’t want to be part of China 😉

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