I saw Ten Reasons Why Taipei is the Best City on Facebook. It lists ten reasons why Taipei is the best city: safety, shopping, food, 7-11s, the people, expenses, the sights, the events, transportation, and culture. To which I reply: Harumph! Taichung is clearly the better city.
1. The people. People in Taipei aren't friendly, people in Taipei are cold -- compared to people in the rest of Taiwan. That includes Taichung, though in fairness, Tainan and Kaohsiung are even better. If you think people in Taipei are friendly, you need to get out of Taipei more often.
2. The weather. Yeah, you'll like Taipei, if you like rain, gray skies, and life-sucking humidity that makes summers unbearable and winter an agony of bone-chilling cold. Living in Taipei and feeling like riding your bike? Better get on the train to somewhere else... meanwhile here in the California of Taiwan, AKA Taichung, one day of blue skies follows another, with the rain falling politely in the mountains to keep our water supplies brimming over. Oh yeah, how's that water rationing treatin' you, Taipei? On Sundays our cyclists are out in force and the routes are endless, with beautiful Nantou and Miaoli right next door, and our cycling routes aren't flooded with packs of supercharged motorcycles because -- let's face it -- no one in Taichung can afford such an expensive toy anyway.
3. The food. The food scene in Taichung is... is... well, let's move on to the next one, shall we?
4. Taichung works, Taipei plunders. Taichung produces marketable goods for export. Our streets and alleys are stuffed with factories making machine tools, sporting goods, and other useful stuff. Taipei produces non-tradeables, like regulations and mind-destroying TV shows. Meanwhile we in Taichung create the tax base that Taipei ruthlessly plunders to support the lifestyle so many praise. The rest of Taiwan is underdeveloped to keep Taipei lookin' good. We protest! Taichung is a working class town with a cocky, anarchic attitude, something like Taipei used to be before "modernization" created an expensive, overly regulated city full of branded stores selling a faux, imported lifestyle ordinary people can't afford.
5. The traffic and parking. In Taipei you need to hire a native guide just to understand the weird array of one-way streets, while in Taichung, we don't even have traffic regulations. In Taipei the law is enforced, creating trouble for everyone. In Taichung we say "Law? What law?" and gaily run red lights and park wherever we want. Ever tried to park your car in Taipei? 'Nuff said!
6. The buildings. Sure, we don't have a hideous phallic symbol that looks like a stack of gigantic Chinese takeout boxes occupying expensive land in our swankiest district. What does Taipei 101 really symbolize? Income inequality: as income inequality rises, so does the height of the buildings. Look around Taichung and what do you see? Low buildings, a symbol of equality and of productive people who work for a living. So what if, as my Taipei friend puts it, the towns around here look like Cambodian truck stops. They're affordable. In Taichung rents remain cheap and the price of homes within the reach of the inhabitants ($10,000 a month for my 150 ping house w/backyard. Eat your hearts out, Taipei'ns). Meanwhile ordinary Taipei residents have to buy homes in... Taoyuan. And how about that cost of living? In Taichung you can raise a family of four on a salary that in Taipei forces you to live at home with your pushy controlling parents as an overworked, undersexed singleton, just to save a little money.
7. Culture. In Taipei you have the Lantern Festival, a faux Chinese festival used by corporations for advertising. In Taichung we have one of the largest religious processions in the world, a faux religious event run by gangsters. Much cooler. Taipei is the corporate capital of Taiwan, Taichung is the gangster capital. I ask you, which is cooler? In Taipei the KMT mayors have ruthlessly destroyed many of the city's authentic cultural sites, while in Taichung, we don't have this problem. Because we don't have any authentic cultural sites.
8. Getting away. Taipei is a little bubble of Not Taiwan completely different from everywhere else in Taiwan, a bubble whose walls often prove to be surprisingly strong. You work and work and work, and one day you wake up and realize it's been months since you've been out of the city, and Taiwan itself remains a land unknown to you. We don't have this problem in Taichung. It's really, really easy to leave Taichung.
9. Events. Yeah, you have some events. You've got Color Runs and He110 Ki@@y runs (no city that hosts a He110 Ki@@y event can ever claim to be the cultural capital of anything). Yawn. We have the world famous Jazz Festival and one of Earth's leading bike shows, Taichung Bike Week. And we have... wait, I'm thinkin'...
10. We're in the real Taiwan. Taichung is the real Taiwan, where people work in factories, drive second-hand scooters, and sit in front of 7-11 drinking beer and chatting. Where the elementary school populations are measured in hundreds. Where the split between Blue and Green is 50-50 and our election campaigns are thus true contests and not pointless rituals of KMT dominance. Where gangsters run their wives for elected positions and gravel digging is a major industry. Where the hands down most awesome KTV in Taiwan, the Golden Jaguar, holds sway. Where herds of pachinko parlors and love hotels dot the landscape, a veritable Serengeti of vice. We're Taiwan, while Taipei... "it's Chinatown."
Why does Taichung kick Taipei's butt? Leave your reasons in the comments below...
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