In February, during Chinese New Year, I had the wonderful opportunity to visit Taipei, Taiwan, for a couple of days. Living in Hong Kong has opened up a whole new world of places to visit. Taiwan was only an hour and a half away so it seemed silly to pass up the opportunity on the few leave-days I get. I never would have thought of going to Taiwan if I wasn’t already in the Far East but, suffice it to say, it was such a beautiful and friendly city that I would love the opportunity to go back there and explore more of it. After spending six months in a crazy, hectic city like Hong Kong, Taipei had a slower, more relaxed pace of life to it, though, granted, Chinese New Year is a very quiet time to go as many businesses shut down and people tend to spend time with families.
Before heading to Taipei I did some research around bookshops to visit. I already knew that they had a big reading culture as their biggest book retailer, Eslite, occupies a few floors of Hysan Place in Causeway Bay. However, when I looked up where to go in Taipei, I was delighted to read that the Eslite Dunhua shop was the first 24-hour bookshop in the world. As The Guardian put it: Taipei prefers all-night reading to all-night raving – my kind of place.
I visited the Dunhua branch on my second day in Taipei. It was tucked away on the second floor of an ordinary-looking building, which I never would have known about if I didn’t look it up first. Although just an ordinary retail bookshop, this Dunhua branch of Eslite was very special. As the Guardian article highlighted, the fact that people can sit and read books off the shelf without the pressure to buy has made it a popular destination for locals and tourists alike. I was amazed at the amount of people just sitting on stairs reading the time away. It was a very unique experience.
Eslite also had a brilliant selection of English language books. I witnessed some of my favourites, like Angela Carter and Margaret Atwood, and also came across Marilynne Robinson’s newest and latest book in the Gilead trilogy, Lila, which I had been looking everywhere for in Hong Kong (I have almost finished reading it!).
I also came across a Taiwanese book-in-translation which I found only appropriate to get. Called Rose, Rose, I Love You by the popular writer, Wang Chen-ho, it tells the tale of a village that has lost all sense of perspective when the prospect of a ship of ‘lusty and lonely’ American GIs come to town. I’m not quite sure how good this book will be but it is named as a ‘ribald satire’, so, hopefully, it will make an interesting read.