Digital Taipei Part 1

Category: Techtoday

I was quietly munching on my KFC hamburger outside the Taipei Main MRT Station, just above the underground MRT Mall one Saturday afternoon. A group of young Taiwanese students were having an outdoor activity to one side, toting their shiny new HTC and Samsung phones. I was so embarrassed for my archaic Nokia E63 mobile phone that I was sure they would hand me an HTC One if I whipped my phone out and started using it. Like an idiot, I left my Canon PowerShot A2000IS at my lodgings, though I guess the equally obsolete 10MP camera  would have been more embarrassing than using my iPod Touch for taking photos (which could pass for an iPhone 5 from 10 feet away with the right casing). Unfortunately, I prefer using any decent camera over any mobile device for taking photos so it's with chagrin I'm uploading shoddy images to this blog post.

Should have asked her for a photo . . . so I made like Peter Parker and took it while clinging to a wall (literally).

Please don't notice my phone!

My business trip took me to lovely Taipei, which took me totally off guard. Now, most everyone who has visited the most popular cities in Asia think Singapore is superficially superior, Tokyo is truly technological, Seoul is simply slick while Bangkok boasts the best bevy of beauties. However, they should never ever pass up Taipei - Taiwan's capital deserves a visit not only for its reputation as the world center of tech production and design but for the country's modernity and charm. Taipei feels like a modern Japanese city minus the pretense, noise, and neon signs. The city doesn't have the arrogance of Singapore or Hong Kong and retains the traditional tastes of South Korea and Japan. As a current resident of Shanghai, it was pleasant finding people lining up before entering the Metro and people still talking to each other while riding the train (whereas everyone is busy with their tablets or phones in bigger cities).

While heading off downtown via their excellent MRT system, I observed the device usage of the passers-by. I was surprised that not many flaunted their 7" tablets. Much later, I watched the locals casually read from their Galaxy Tabs, iPad Minis, and Google Nexus' as they relaxed in Peace Park. However, unlike New Yorkers and Shanghainese, very few made a lot of noise with their devices as they rode the trains. They actually talked to each other and very few wore headphones as they commuted. It was absolutely charming and I was glad I didn't bring along my huge Sony MDR-ZX100 headphone.  A quick check of my iPod Touch showed that there was a free wireless available within the the public transportation system, and yet very few were in any hurry to clog the bandwidth (compare this with Chicago O'Hare International where everyone seems desperate to be logged on the moment they get to the departure area).

Wireless on the MRT

Nova Electronics Store

Although Taipei MRT Main Station is big enough to confuse even the most experience New Yorker who has memorized Port Terminal, once you exit, the best of Taipei is there for the taking.

Although it may come off as a political statement, most Asian cities have more in common than they think and as I mentioned earlier, Taipei has a familiar and exciting feel similar to some of the more PR-focused Asian capitals. There are excellent food stalls, well-maintained historical sites, and of course, multilevel department stores  which have electronics-related items by default. The ESlite bookstore sells Apple accessories, the small stalls selling clothes will have pretty durable laptop bags, and of course, there's the huge boutique electronics stores that anyone who has visited Asia should always expect. I made a beeline for Nova, which is just opposite Shin Kong Mitsukoshi Department store. There was a small concert in front of the aforementioned department store so onlookers were probably wondering why I was taking a photo of the Nova building instead.

Continued on Digital Taipei Part 2


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