I was in Taipei two weeks ago for a shoot for Harper’s Bazaar Indonesia. Admittedly when I was told to shoot in Taipei, I was a bit sceptical. Why Taipei? I never even put it in my list of top ten Asia countries to visit. I asked my mom who travelled here before and she raved about it being so “friendly” and “clean”. Still, those are not the adjectives I was looking for. I tried to google for more information about the city and found only mostly about eating out or night markets. Not convinced.
But it just took me a few minutes being in the city to quickly realised how wrong I was for being sceptical. First of all, it’s the people.
From the moment I landed in Taipei, I got nothing but friendliness and genuine politeness from just about everyone. I accidentally dropped my phone inside a cab because I’m useless, and we managed to get it back with the help of another cab driver who was also lending us his internet for me to locate my phone. The cab who got the phone was apparently parking nearby waiting for me to get it (unable to pick up my calls because he didn’t understand english).
For the remaining time of the trip, I realised that the kindness and generosity is a norm, not an exception. Being a (self-acclaimed/ridiculous) self-dependent traveller, the experience of being around the open-hearted Taiwanese has melted my heart. I’ve never visited a country where literally every single person wants to go out of their way to help you. Some countries with different language can create a barrier or intimidate but Taipei did none of those. Aside from Japan, this is probably the other country where I feel completely safe roaming around the city by myself (and even looking like a lost tourist, which is a big DON’T in some other countries).
Beitou Hot Springs
The second reason why I love the city is the place itself. Taipei is a clean city with so much character. I’m not talking Singapore-clean. Still there’s no stray trash or weird smells on the streets (except when you’re passing a chou doufu 臭豆腐/stinky tofu stall). The cityscape layout is dense but not tall with a sea of tall rise buildings like Shanghai, Hong Kong or Beijing. The side streets are compact with tight alleyways, individually-built apartment buildings, tiled walls and lot of plants. In some areas where I was walking around I felt similarities with some Japanese cities like Osaka or some parts of Tokyo.
The last reason (I’m sure there are hundred more that can make it on the list, unfortunately I only got 48 hours) is the street food! Now I know almost every Asian country boasts its own night markets with hundred of delicious street food vendors. There are numerous markets in Taipei but in between work, we only got time on our last evening to visit Shilin, the biggest and most famous night market in Taipei. In some other countries, night markets can be a nightmare because of the smell, hygiene factor and the street trash, but not in Taipei. Despite being the most famous and most touristy destination, Shilin remain clean and friendly like every other part of the city.
Shilin Night Market
I will cover our short trip to Jiufen on my next post. Meanwhile, 48 hours roaming the city is just not enough. I’m definitely coming back to this city for another trip because they have stolen my heart.
All photos were shot using Sony A7Rii + Zeiss 55mm, Sony RX1Rmii and iPhone.14