Click Pic for Taichung Gallery
What is it with places like Taichung, Osaka, Bristol, or even Glasgow that makes them so much cooler, have so much more character and seem so much more laid back than their capital cities?
I don’t know, but Taichung is such a city.
And I’m really struggling to explain why I like this city so much.
Taichung is not particularly beautiful, it’s not particularly special, it doesn’t bring anything new to the table that has not been seen before, but it has a “certain vibe” to it that got us captured from the moment we arrived.
The general pace of street life is considerably slower compared to Taipei. Like in all of Taiwan people are incredibly friendly and we felt at home from the very start. You can truly feel that not only in Taichung but Taiwan in general, people are glad that you visit their Island and they want to make a good impression. Taichung seems to have a closely-knit community while being open, warm and welcoming to foreigners. But still, I have a hard time to find the words that would make you understand just how cool this city really is, because how do I explain a “certain vibe”?
I think what the cities I mentioned at the beginning of this post have in common is that they all live comfortably in the shadows of their glowing, hyper polished capitals.
Capitals that are polished to such an extreme, it makes them barely resemble the countries they are the capitals of.
Instead they bend to every tourist need and review score on booking.com. And maybe this is why a deep sub culture can set root and bloom in cities like Taichung, a sub culture that lives alongside and grows in parallel to its tradition rather than against it, and all in an easy-going kind of way.
By staying out of the imminent limelight, these cities have to justify very little, they can experiment and improvise.
Taichung is like a debut album where artists are usually a lot more creative and experimental, free from the pressure to deliver a follow up success, free from being squeezed into a certain category or style.
Taipei in contrast makes good music but feels as if it’s about to release its Best of album.
Isabelle Geffroy, also known as Zaz, has released her debut album in 2010 and if you listen to it, you will hear how carefree, cheeky and experimental it is.
Every song sounds like it is sung free from any pressure, emitting a certain “I don’t care who you are and I don’t care if you like my music or not” – attitude that makes it instantly likeable. Her voice raw, unpolished, with character.
And while Lana del Ray’s second album “Born to Die” was and is superb, a total commercial success and the album everybody seemed to talk about forever, the much more sexy, creative and experimental album was her first one.
I’m almost tempted to propose that everyone should only ever listen to the very first album of any artist. Almost.
Taichung feels like that debut album before hitting the charts.
Yes, I believe non-capital cities live more comfortable in the shadows of their capitals. It’s like Mike Pence living more comfortable in the shadow of this maniac, nodding his life and his country away, rather than growing a spine and take a stand, even if that means having his own feet put to the fire.
Taichung feels and looks young but is full of history,
it’s lovingly self-unaware,
These all make good ingredients for a good recipe.
It’s a city where the youth makes their voices heard loud and clear. Audibly, visibly and with confidence, while at the same time they seem to respect the generations that came before them. It’s a city that is so virgin in many ways, so teenage, not having really found itself in the 21st century, not having its opinion fully carved out. A city not spoiled by success, not afraid of failure and therefore happily acknowledging and embracing a new era in a curious yet relaxed way.
Not all is perfect in Taichung. Houses often crumble and surveillance cameras are everywhere, everywhere, everywhere. A nightmare for the few privacy minded folks amongst us, but tell me one major city that is different in 2017.
I’m old enough to remember that in the West, the public was assured that surveillance cameras are only ever to be installed in “Hot Spots”. Spots where the crime rate is particularly high. Now every square meter has turned into a Hot Spot, but are we really surprised, when the general public sports the “I have nothing to hide”-attitude?
A statement that is so breathtakingly stupid and short sighted, it’s painful just to write these words.
Still, Eva and I could perfectly imagine living in Taichung. Little places in our 8 months old travel have impressed me more than this city and it never felt so hard getting it clear in my head why that is.
I think it really all comes down to the Vibe I mentioned earlier. It encapsulates you when you first enter the city, and it drags you along the whole time and you can do very little about it and in any way you don’t want to do anything about it. It just feels like such a very, very smooth ride, from the moment you arrive, to the moment you leave.
In the beautiful video game “Journey” there is this kind of “Snowboard” section, that makes you shout for joy when you first play it.
It’s so well done, so very smooth visually and so perfect how it translates this smoothness from the screen to the controller, into your hands and into your brain. And I could show you a million videos of it, but unless you pick up a controller, play it and have a certain knowledge of video games to understand in context how well this section is done, you will not grasp what I’m on about.
Taichung, is the same. You need to come and experience it yourself, get on a smooth, smooth, snowboard ride, don’t let go and hope it won’t ever end.
The magic with Taichung is that long after you left, it still sticks in your head. Like Orwell’s “1984”, small daily reminder prevent you from forgetting it.
Debut albums you’ve heard, games you’ve played, books you’ve read, all will relate in some way to Taichung. At least this is the case for me. I’m in Tokyo now and actively resisting to stuff Eva into a suitcase, buy a ticket and go back.
Imagine. While in Tokyo!
Taichung is truly magic and maybe José González had Taichung in mind when he wrote:
One night of magic rush,
The start of simple touch
One night to push and scream
And then relief.
Well, he probably didn’t have Taichung in mind.
But I do.