(Streets of Taipei, Zhonzheng District)
The trip from Taoyuan International Airport ( formerly known as Chiang Kai-shek International Airport, a story I’ll return to later on ) to my hostel in Taipei was a sweaty journey. The temperature in Taiwan is not exactly winter-y. The thermometer showed a decent 22 degrees on Christmas Eve. I’m not sure how cold it was in Europe, but if it ever hit a number like that it would cause people to make endtime predictions.
On the train to the capital, I was actually taken aback at how extremely efficient everything around me was organized and how today’s technology was put to its full use. I’ll try to illustrate it with the following picture.
Now this is not exactly futuristic, I know, but it is something you wouldn’t see on trains in Europe. At least not most. It is what you see around Taiwan all the time: user friendliness and the multimedia of the times applicable at every street corner.
The train from Taoyuan to Taipei went through the abyss of night.
I remember very well the train rides from Ghent to Mechelen, Antwerp, Hasselt and so forth. Train rides back before I had a driver’s license and, consequently, had to save myself with Belgium’s rather pricey public transport system. That’s when I realized only trains can create this very tranquil and introspective atmosphere. There’s no driver at the wheel you’re aware of. It is an impersonal move forward in the company of other passengers who, most likely, are also not engaging in any conversation.
With a huge backpack on and some extra luggage to challenge gravity, not a single deodorant could save me. Shoving all I had packed with me from Hong Kong through the mass of people in Taipei, I should have been too focussed on getting to my destination. But what I did mostly was absorbing all those faces under the weight of all I had on me.
Pretty symbolic, I’d have to say in retrospect. I was about to leave a whole lot behind in Taiwan. And there was a whole lot I had made my own in Hong Kong. Before I cover the “Beautiful Island” as it was aptly called in the old days, it’s time to go back to Hong Kong. To the city where the future of Asia is more visible than any other.