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Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Passing ports in Taipei

Everyone in the Kaminoge family took the day off today in order to travel up to T'aipei 台北, and the American Institute in Taiwan 美國在台協會. The purpose of our visit to the AIT was the renewal of Amber's US passport, but we also spent some time in Hsimenting 西門町 afterward before taking a bus from the relatively new (and nice) Taipei Bus Station 台北轉運站 to Fengyuan. A long day, but a successful one (I hope).

Taipei is...different, at least in comparison to the other cities, towns and villages in Taiwan. Obviously, it's more cosmopolitan, but I've also noticed that, unlike other major urban areas around the world, Taipei actually seems like a better environment in which to raise my daughter than other burgs on this island. Usually, one takes for granted that rural areas and small towns are much better places to bring up children than a metropolis of 2.6 million people. In T'aipei's case, however, it appears there's a greater sense of order and respect at play in the capital city, from the way people stand to the right on the escalators in MRT 台北捷運 stations in order to let those in a hurry pass by on the left, to the vehicles that actually slow down (and even stop!) to allow pedestrians to cross the road when the latter have a green light. Contrast this with the rest of Taiwan, where everyone seems to be unaware of the presences of those around them, where I fear for my daughter's life every time we have to cross the street, and where every fourth person or so looks like they have some connection or other to a criminal gang.

Of course I'm exaggerating (it's more every fifth person is a gangster) - Taipei is certainly no paradise. At the same time, however, the rest of Taiwan is hardly a bucolic idyll, not with all the polluting factories, ugly architecture, dangerous driving conditions and apparent lack of concern for the general welfare. Considering that T'aipei is remarkably quiet for a city of its size and population, at least in comparison with other great Asian mega-cities I've spent time in, such as Tōkyō 東京 and Ōsaka 大阪, and some serious thought needs to be given as to where would be best for my daughter to grow up should it become necessary to stay in Taiwan (though I fervently hope I don't have to make that decision).

Amber strikes a pose in Hsimenting (上), and checks out the scenery on the bus ride home (下):

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