Motorcycles everywhere

Trip Start Sep 30, 2005
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Trip End Jun 04, 2006


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Flag of Taiwan  ,
Tuesday, October 18, 2005

If China is the Kingdom of the Bicycle then Taiwan must be the kingdom of the moped. If economic development is moving from bicycles to mopeds, then Taiwan is indeed a bit more economically grown up than it's mainland neighbour. You quite literally can't walk down the pavement for motorcycles parked there beneath the shaded walkways protecting pedestrians from a combination of sun and heavy rain. It seems as if every shop has a rubbish bin outside in which all their rubbish is being burned. It certainly contributes to some interesting aromas as you walk down the streets which are to do with something more than just food.

Taipei is quirky in these small types of differences, band the main drags are all glitz, shiny glass and western shopping with multi-lane highways humming with vehicles and the subway system running high above the street as often as it runs underground. As ever in Asia though a couple of blocks back often takes you in to less ordered hustling local communities, street markets and help-yourself restaurants. In the South of the city I can honestly say that amongst the fakes designer goods and tourist tat, I saw some of the most amazing food markets I've seen anywhere. They make the street markets of Guangdong look mundane which for anyone who's been to Guangdong is quite a statement to comprehend. The 3 metre snake next to the stall selling spiky fish heads with a tattoo and body piercing artist in between was an interesting view to stand and get my head around.

For all that Taipei does seem a little quirky, it's another busy city that I've enjoyed visiting. You don't have to look very hard or read very closely to find that that the cultural ancestry and national identity are at the forefront of life and debate in the city. In the press, there are continual allusions to troubled relations between China and Taiwan, and the memorials and plaques around Taipei's parks and gardens are very pro-revolutionary. I think the thing that struck me most of all though was learning the simple fact that this isn't Taiwan, or Chinese Taipei, or any other politically loaded moniker you might hear, this is the Republic of China. It's one of the first welcome signs you see at the airport, but the name both shows and hides a raft of issues.
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