I have a love/hate relationship with Taipei. I really do. This city and its people puzzles me, excites me, inspires me, frustrates me, challenges me...Below is a list of things I love and hate about Taipei that shows my struggles in making peace with the city.
Walk-ability (Love it!): Taipei is a very walkable city for two reasons: I feel safe walking on most of the streets in Taipei at any time of the day and there are lots of opportunities to window shop while getting from point A to point B. Walking anywhere in Taipei is never boring.
Pollution (Hate it!): The smog, second hand smoke and carbon dioxide emitted by 2 million people can be a bit suffocating; especially during the stifling summer heat. Everywhere I go, I can't help but notice the smell of diesel. The only way to get some semi fresh air is to get out of the city.
Eating (Love it!): Taipei is gastronomical heaven! Street food is abundant at anytime of the day. There is also a diverse collection of exotic cuisine for any budget. But the ever changing choices of fine dinning is what I live for. Fresh ingredients paired with exceptional culinary artistry with prices set at only half of that in Europe, it is a luxury I've learned to splurge on.
Endless lines (Hate it!): There is something popping up in Taipei every week. A new restaurant, bar, clothing store. The trends come and go so quickly. One thing for certain that does not go out of style is...the endless lines. Everywhere you go, you see lines. If there is a new restaurant you want to check out, think again, because so does the rest of Taipei's population. My worst nightmare: getting a table for Sunday brunch and ice monster during the summer.
Long Summers (Love it!): This one may be more subjective because I personally love summer. I love extended hours of daylight, I love the bright colors this city possesses in the summer, I even love the choking heat at the height of summer because it makes being in an air conditioned room much more delectable. Most of all, I love being able to walk around in shorts and a t-shirt 9 months out of the year. I also take advantage of summer sales that usually occur in July and August. Since Taipei summers last until at least the end of November, which means I don't have to wait a whole year to wear my new purchases.
Humidity (Hate it!): Am I melting? The 90 percent humidity plus high temperature in the summer will have you feeling like a block of melting ice. However, in the winter months, the lack of sunshine in combination with the high humidity imposes a health hazard. MOLD! Humidity harbors mold to grow and food to perish at an accelerated rate. Which means endless cleaning and scrubbing. It's not rare to see a layer of mold on a piece of furniture that has not been used or cleaned for a mere couple of days.
Night life (Love it!): There is a versatile selection of nocturnal haunts to frequent in Taipei. The Night markets are popular for locals and tourists alike. There are pubs and bars that stay open until 5-6AM, 24hr eateries are posted all over Taipei, 24hr tea shops, karaokes, and Eslite (xinyi) has a 24hr book store. With such a vibrant night life, sleeping seems overrated.
Mosquitoes (Hate it!): I can't say that Taipei is mosquito infested, because it's really not that bad. But during the spring and early summer, those little leeches can do some damage. Especially for me whose allergic reaction to mosquitoes include swollen limbs. I've tried several mosquito repellents and some have worked fairly well but I absolutely hate the smell.
Leisure activities and events (Love it!): Taipei is like an energizer bunny that never runs out of battery. No matter what time of the day it is, you'll never lack for something to do. There are countless studios offering dance, yoga, and singing classes at very affordable prices with many sessions to choose from. Famous event venues like Songshan Cultural and Creative Park or Chiang Kai Shek Memorial Hall have events going on nearly every day of the week. The only downside: so much to do but not enough time to do it.
Rain (Hate it!): From November and December 2011 there were less than 20 hours of sunshine. Outside of those 20 precious hours of sun, Taipei was smothered by a constant depressing drizzle for what seemed like a coup d'etat by the dark forces. It's depressing just to think about.
Public transportation (Love it!): I love living in a city where there is no need to own a car or drive one. Even better that I will never find myself having to squeeze a mid size sedan into a compact parking space. Public transportation is cheap and easy to use in Taipei. It will get you to anywhere you want to go. Taxis are also easily accessible. You can flag one down and the driver will stop pretty much regardless of where you're standing.
Expensive housing (Hate it!): Every inch of land is gold in Taipei's city center. Apartment rentals and sale prices are nearly 5 times of that in other parts of Taiwan. If you're the type that dreams of a house with a beautiful garden, you can forget about living in Taipei. Individual houses are for the filthy rich and powerful. The rest of us normal middle class folks live in apartment buildings. But with real estate price hikes and a sluggish economy in the recent years, even tiny apartments no where near a metro station is not easily affordable.
Afternoon tea (Love it!): Whether you opt for an opulent afternoon at a 5 star hotel or just a quick snack off the street vendors, Taipei will not disappoint when the clock hits 3:15PM. Unlike most people who cannot venture out in public alone without a book, I delight at the chance to have afternoon tea by myself. On a day I can get away from the kids for a while, I head to my favorite afternoon jaunt in Bellavita's A3 to drown myself in coffee and stuff my tummy with delicately made mini sandwiches and decadent pastries.
What do you love or hate about Taipei?