Greetings from beautiful breezy, dry, cool Taipei!
Just kidding. At the beginning of summer, Taipei is beautiful but it is not breezy (unless a storm is imminent and you are standing in precisely the correct spot). With temperatures ranging in the mid-80s to mid-90s, it’s also far from cool. Umbrellas are ubiquitous throughout the city for the aforementioned exceedingly hot temperatures and for the always looming thunderstorms. I’m told that Taipei in August may be even more brutally hot but receives more washings from the frequent taiphoons. (I’m a huge fan of taiphoons as they used to come regularly in Hong Kong and allow a respite from work)
I’ve traveled to Taipei a number of times (humble brag: mostly for running marathons and half marathons) and each time I’ve been surprised by the lack of skyscrapers in this city as well as the general friendliness of people. It’s unsurprising why many Hong Kongers move here permanently and why so many people are utterly charmed by Taiwan.
In fact, I see Taipei as having far more in common with the calm and quiet of Kyoto than the hustle and bustle of Hong Kong. Perhaps this calm and quiescence is due to the oppressive heat, but I believe it is the spirit of Taiwan that has imbued the Taiwanese with a sense of serenity that is broken only by the constant grindings of scooters on the roads or the general busyness of Ximending.
I’m not sure if this suits me. As a born and bred salt of the earth American and naturalized Hong Konger, I’m accustomed to being busy and walking quickly to and fro regardless of my destination. Even after spring semester of graduate school – which could be arranged to fit next to the definition of busy in the Britannica Encyclopedia – I seek to be occupied by a task.
This morning, I became occupied by the Elephant Mountain hike, which allows hikers to sweat copiously in anticipation of an Instagram worthy photo of the Taipei 101. Luckily, the is a dearth of hiking around Taipei, which I hope to explore and a dearth of vegetarian restaurants to furnish such sweaty hikes. Until then, 再見!
Lexi Wong is a Sigur Center 2018 Asian Language Fellow studying Mandarin in Taipei, Taiwan at National Taiwan Normal University’s Mandarin Training Center. Lexi is currently a first-year graduate student at The George Washington University’s Elliott School of International Affairs where she is studying International Affairs with a regional concentration on Asia.