Thursday, September 08, 2011


About streets in Taiwan

9/08/2011 Taiwan Explorer
Because they are more than just streets

This is a photo of a street I took in New Taipei, where it still looks like old Taipei.

A street in Taiwan is like a small town, a village or its own planet, figuratively. The central part is reserved for wheeled vehicles such as automobiles, scooters, buses and lorries. The pedestrian species, as intelligent as it is, knows that it is in great danger, so it rather keeps moving along the street's brims. It seems that most Taiwanese streets in bigger cities don't like green plants, however some human inhabitants would put them in rusty pots, where they vegetate amid the exhaust and noise and other dangers from the hostile environment. A sidewalk on a Taiwanese street can be a parking space, a business area, a living room, a promenade or even a kitchen. Almost every Taiwanese street, if it's longer than 100 meters, will have at least a betel nut shop, a hair saloon, a tea shop, a convenience store, a scooter repair shop and a clinic. Convenience comes from the Chinese word 公忞你恩姿 (pronounced "kongwennientse") and means convenience. Taiwanese like to have things easily accessible, thus if something is within 100 meters - they will walk. If 101 meters or more, they will probably ride the scooter. It's convenient, they will note. I agree, it is. But...

A market close to one's home is a convenient place to acquire food. 

Markets, be it daily or nightly, are usually placed on a designated street, rather than on a reserved covered area. This phenomenon is what experts would call "remains of old China", that can still be found in Taiwan. The streets in Taiwan are micro-cosmoses, where you can observe the Taiwanese soul in its most honest version. It's the street, where couples meet for the first time: She hops on the scooter, he drives off and few blocks later they stop at a stinky tofu vendor and have a perfect dinner date. It's the streets, where obasans, Taiwan's famous old ladies, carry bags full of bamboo cones and other vegetables, slowly promenading back to their kitchens. It's the streets, where ojisans, Taiwan's stereotypical old gentlemen, like to sit down and chat about their daily challenges while chewing betel nuts.

And it's the street, where a sleepy foreigner marches to the subway every morning, trying to get to his office and do his job as best as he can on yet another day like any other. That foreigner happens to be me.

[My UNIQUELY TAIWAN page][Both photos by MKL, 2011]