Feature on Taipei in the July/August 2010 issue of Monocle magazine.
Taiwan’s politicians are known for their brawls in Parliament, pushing and slapping and throwing shoes at each other as they debate the terms of new legislation. It’s an apt analogy for all Taiwanese people, really: passionate, opinionated and genuinely concerned about making things better. In the capital city, progress is on view everywhere but it is peppered with just enough of the chaos that keeps Taipei continually interesting, constantly changing.
From the raised motorways that cut across the city, the capital of Taiwan looks like a forbidding, traffic clogged and perhaps grumpy sprawl at the crossroads of Asia. Make a speedy descent down an off-ramp, however, and you find yourself in another city. Greenery spills from caged-in balconies, tiny parks sit proudly amid Swiss-style stucco apartment blocks and cosy cafés compete for pavement space with foot massage parlours and open-air bakeries. A diplomatic outcast and way off the radar of those who should know better, Taipei is a little bit Wanchai, in parts Daikanyama, at the fringes Nagano, and maybe a little bit Seoul.