Walking Taipei (part 2)
Functionality and faith amongst the concrete
After writing my first impressions of Taipei, I tried to leave, frustrated by its coldness, a product of its scale, newness, and a business-at-all-costs attitude.
Thankfully I wasn’t able to change my flight, so I stayed for another ten days and by focusing on the patches of warmth I’d seen, got a better sense of the city.
That meant ignoring the commercial downtown, an economically important, wealthy, but small part of the city, and concentrating entirely1 on the mostly older, less central neighborhoods of apartment buildings, scooter repair shops, ground floor manufacturers, temples, 7-Elevens, lotto stores, and open air markets.2
I spent most of my time in the temples and 7-Elevens, because both are sanctums of quiet and calm in a city that is neither of those things. Places you can jump into, out of the stream of zooming scooters, to catch your breath and find a little room to yourself, and maybe a moment of transcendence.
Both are always an option because there are 7-Elevens3 and temples on almost every block, often side by side.
It might seem odd to pair 7-Elevens with temples under the label of sanctums. One is bright and all about commerce, the other dark, and in theory, all about spirituality. But 7-Elevens, despite being over lit and stuffed with stuff, are surprisingly calm, and the temples, while under lit, are aesthetically loud — ornate and stuffed with stuff — and surprisingly (at least to me) about commerce. Or at least a fortune obtained by making money.