A week after coming back, what is it about Taipei that has stuck in my memory?
Men’s hairstyles, for sure. Indeed, every time I saw someone with his hair spiked sideways like a fan, I had to wonder: isn’t he driving a scooter, like everybody else? And so, doesn’t he have to wear a helmet? I still don’t understand how they manage.
In most cities, an address is a simple two-dimensional thing: you give the name of the street and the number, like 742 Evergreen Terrace. Sometimes, a street may have a North side and a South side, or a East side and a West side. So you may have to say 129 West 81th Street.
In Taipei, this is just the start. Each major street, besides possibly having a North and a South (or East and West) side, is divided into sections, each section being about one or two miles. My hotel, for example, was off Zhongshan North Road, Section 2. Now, this is just the beginning. Side streets of main roads don’t get a name, but rather a number, as if the street itself had a street address. So my hotel was on Zhongshan North Road, Section 2, Lane 11. Now you can add the number of your building and have your address. Unless, that is, you are in a side street of the side street. Such side-squared streets are called alleys (in the English standard translation). This, for example, is the name of such a street:
I want to stress once more: this is just the name of a street, not a complete address. It’s like the sign near my place that says “18th.”
Both at the museums and at the clubs that we went to, we found lockers instead of a coat check. It works very well, especially in clubs. It is safer, and there is no queue. It is a bit odd that a corner of a club would look like a gym, but you get used to it. I was reminded of my first entrance in a club in Beijing. The coat check had a long line (which was brazenly jumped by a person while I was waiting), at the end of which there was a short but wide woman in a tiny coat check room, completely surrounded by hanging clothes. She was wielding a sort of broomstick with a hook on it, that she used to hang clothes on hooks that were running all over the walls. She said something in Chinese to me when I gave her my jacket. Someone translated for me. “She says to look where she is putting your coat, so you can tell her where it is when you pick it up.” Evidently, the number of my coat check ticket had no relation with the location where she hanged it.
The club that I liked in Taipei, besides the lockers, had good music and a nice vibe, as already reported. The cover charge entitled each of us to two drinks. When I asked for a beer, the barman gave me a warm beer. (It was Heineken, not Guiness.) When he saw my face when I started drinking, he helpfully offered a glass full of ice. I remembered reading about the warm beer on the web, but assuming it was just an urban legend, like the friendly shopclercks. And so I had two warm beers that night, and two more the following night. You can’t let something free go to waste.
The following monday, I was taken to an “all you can drink” night. For a substantial cover charge (about US\$15) one could have any drinks all night, and there was a DJ, a dance floor, and quite a few people for a Monday night. A sign at the entrance informed the patrons that there was an extra charge for spilling drinks on the floor or for throwing up. We did not stay long enough to see if anybody was charged extra that night.
It was only in the last night that we had some dignified drinking. We went to a small, nice place called Bistrot near the Taipower Building stop of the subway, which I highly recommend to any other theoretician who should happen to visit Taipei. They had a very wide selection of beers, including, amazingly, Chimay, which was served in a proper Chimay glass. They also had Hoegaarden, and pretty much anything you can name.