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a few scant first impressions (Taipei to Jubei)

August 25, 2011

(7:45:33 AM) stealthbananax4: Walk around?

(7:45:37 AM) stealthbananax4: What time is it there, dark?

(7:45:47 AM) negativecosine: it’s night, and while that doesn’t mean it’s like, closed

(7:46:00 AM) negativecosine: actually Taipei’s probably at its most active between seven and eleven at night

(7:46:06 AM) negativecosine: all the shops, and the night market, and whatnot

(7:46:16 AM) negativecosine: but I am physically worn out from all the schlepping today

(7:46:58 AM) stealthbananax4: Ah.

(7:47:05 AM) stealthbananax4: Taipei sounds rad

(7:47:28 AM) negativecosine: you’d love the shit out of it

(7:48:08 AM) negativecosine: it’s got this weird ass bifurcated sleep schedule, so everything’s closed in the mornings, opens around eleven a.m., stays open ’til like ten

(7:48:27 AM) negativecosine: and the night markets start around eight and go to maybe a little past twelve, haven’t been out late enough to see them close

(7:48:48 AM) negativecosine: if you’re up and about between three a.m. and 10 a.m. nothing’s open

(7:48:49 AM) negativecosine: nothing

(7:51:32 AM) negativecosine: and then there’s the huge intersection of normal market and night market, hence the upswing in activity from seven to ten

(7:51:43 AM) negativecosine: also the interbutts just crapped out for a bit, did I miss anything

(7:53:36 AM) stealthbananax4: Nope.

(7:53:41 AM) stealthbananax4: I like this night market idea

(7:53:58 AM) stealthbananax4: Sounds like a place one goes to buy blow, hookers, and milk because goddammit somewhat finished the carton and left it in the fucking fridge

(7:54:03 AM) negativecosine: it’s sweet, a whole extra layer of shit just… springs up, like, from nowhere

(7:54:16 AM) negativecosine: it’s mostly weird shit, very little actual illegal

(7:54:19 AM) negativecosine: that I’ve seen

(7:54:35 AM) negativecosine: we’ve been sticking to the secondary alleys so far, no tertiary dark ones

(7:54:57 AM) stealthbananax4: Goddammit. Why did not I not sign up for this.

 

In truth, I don’t think I know yet what exactly I signed up for. The way I’ve been living in Taipei the last few days is bizarre, probably a combination of covert jet lag and really quiet culture shock. We’ve been consistently waking up pretty early, around eight or nine, and going out to find breakfast on the relatively empty streets. In the morning, there are only a few things open, mostly food places, and not all of them. The chains (7-11, Family Circle, etc) are open, and they’re thick enough on the ground that you’re going to be able to get some sort of pastry and tea for breakfast no matter what. The shops don’t begin to roll up their doors until around eleven, by which time the heat has set in, and I’m usually already sticky and a little fatigued by this time. It’s also around that time that we generally make it onto the train for wherever we’re going—it’s one subway stop from Ximen to Taipei Main Station, and from there you can get to most of the country. The high speed rail from Taipei to Hsinchu is amazingly easy and fast, and we’ve gone back and forth three times in three days, taking care of various kinds of business. Getting from the hostel to the subway to the HSR is a bit tricky, mind—the heat and humidity makes every three-block walk through downtown Taipei seem like a Goddamn Intrepid Excursion, especially while at all encumbered by any kind of luggage, and navigating the underground labyrinth of Taipei Main Station was sort of terrifying the first few times. But once you’re on the HSR it’s something like a thirty minute jaunt to go some seventy miles, and it’s air conditioned and there’s a snack cart and everything.

Jubei is a little weird. The part closest to the HSR station—which is where we live, actually—is in a very odd stage of flux, as far as I can tell. The HSR station is very new, probably less than fifteen years, and it’s opened up this neighborhood as a possibility for a commuter’s suburb. As such, it’s almost entirely construction site, with almost no infrastructure. There are dozens of huge, beautiful apartment buildings and condos in the works, but only about half of the buildings (or less) are finished. The sidewalks are cracked, warped, very overgrown. The stray dogs are rampant, the vacant lots are like jungles, and the buses don’t come to most of the future residential areas. I think the thing about this neighborhood is that it’s like it decayed backwards in time—it’s splendid in the future, grand, clean, well-run, but as you move back towards the present it gets decrepit, empty, a little creepy. It’s a pre-ghost town.

The school’s pretty nice, though. And sometimes there’s a breeze to relieve the heat, and there’s a pretty good sandwich shop around the corner. No grocery store—that’s a ten minute walk and then a half hour bus ride into downtown—but it’s enough. It’ll do.

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