Travel: City Basics of Taipei

May 10, 2006 at 4:52 pm Leave a comment

Underworld

Despite a name that would lead one to conclude this is a techno bar, in fact Shi-Da’s Underworld is the local emo bar. Seeing as how modern society most produce people with the ability to bitch while barring on 6 string instruments, Underworld has become the focus of Taipei’s punk, pop, and emo scene… well untill they lost the ability to hold live shows and hence now only sell CDs for local bands. The jukebox is stocked with various emo classics including Alex Chilton and others and the DJ the night I was there claimed to know everything. She quite literally told me, it’s all here… altough I didn’t hear any Little Wings. Drinks are the usual inflated bar price, but over all not to bad for Taipei. Lots of foreigners in this college district and an atmosphere familar to anyone who’s ever walked into a gentrifying dive bar, Underworld is essential for understanding Taiwan’s college culture. Down Shi-Da next to Watsons. It’s a basement bar.

p.s. apprently The Wall is where all the bands play. never been there though.

Red Cafe

Across the street from Underworld is a small european style coffee bar close enough to the college to get wi-fi. Contains the usual assortment of coffee drinks and teas with food to boot. Also has one of the best engrish menus around including Buddhist Sea Nun Root Beer i.e. Heinekken and thousand aspects of lots of things (which are usually covered in cheese). Nice atmosphere and a good place to chill decent brazilian-ee soundtrack with good prices. The burmese curry is good too.

Zaka

Every town needs a good clean minimal coffee bar which is what Zaka is. Expect the usual soundtrack of minimal to ambient electronica, thoughtful deep downtempo and the occasional folk-ee track along with bossa nova and brazilian classics. Food is well priced and has the usual eclectic americanish bar food feel i.e. pizzas made with salsa instead of tomato sauce stocked with fresh vegetables etc. Really worth going too becuase of the internet, atmosphere and all that, but of course as a hipster hotspot it’s staff are well woren before you get there and while attentive, they got boyfriends and girlfriends rolling out the doors at all times. Surprisingly minimal amount of fliers for grafitti shows etc.

Carnegies

I will distance myself from Carnegies with the following statement: my roommate took me there. Anyway, every city has a bar that business men go to to hook up with possible prostitutes or floozies while away on business, carengies is no different. It’s the local meat market and the place to find hot single youngins of hetero persuasions while seeing girls dancing on the bar to bass and techno. Beware of local fixtures that have learned to spot the richest man in the room and move in with only a few ass flaps and titty twists on the dance floor and come prepared to find business men acting badly. But still if you gotta visit a meat market, here is the place to go. The bar doubles as a dance stage ensuring that at all times you are ensconed between businessmen and women’s legs to further ensure you get the maximum smarm in the fatest amount of time possible. One of the best examples of how bar design can further ensure you meet women, it’s bar as stage and cramped dance floor mean you’re always in reach of the next possible one night stand.

Oishi

As drop shops go Osishi doesn’t stand next to Korea or Japan’s stores… but then again it’s fucking Japan dude. I mean do you have any idea how intense those dudes are? Anyway, Oishi a collectors store of records I’m assuming have “breaks” on them, thrifted American vinyl, hip-hop, and reggae. It’s about the only one in Taipei so be grateful. The staff is nice and speaks english well plus they throw parties and will e-mail you about it. Record price as fairly high even by New York or Osaka stands two 7″s cost me about 20 something dollars, but then again: there are good 7″s Budos Band and a nice Jamacian/dancehall number. The store is more notable for stocking local design and hats that you can’t find elsewhere and it’s freebies of nice stickers enouraging you to, “Don’t stop diggin,” and other record spotting sayings further enforce the image of intense track spotting, but it’s selection often times feels like a flea market dig instead of the focused on the wall aspects of Japan’s niche stores and Korea’s stockings of breaks and hip-hop records. Worth noting more for parties and the occasional shipment of japanese 12″s of American classic funk and soul joints.

Update: woke up this morning and this shop was closed. they’ve pulled most of the records.
this is fairly normal, most of the stuff in this neighborhood closes every few weeks.

ESLite Bookstore City Hall Station

I think it’s 6 – 7 stories of books, toys, and music ESLite is basically Barnes and Noble on steroids. Amazing for it’s stockings of decent Japanese books and toys and of course Karel Zeman DVDs. Magazine selection is good, but lacks notables like Freize and Art-It is consigned to the Japanese book store. DVD selection is good, the basemant has about every trendy t-shirt shop that Tokyo has ever offered, and it’s upstairs has a constant design exhibition going on of unbuyable and blogged before designers from the Taipei area. English bookstore is good and has lots of stuff. CD store is what kills here, ESLite distributes most of the indie music in Taiwan and it shows. There selection of indie and japanese music is incredible including small time bands like the jeweled antler collective to mainstream selections of recent Japanese improv. Heavy and decent selection of European electronica and most releases form major players in the U.S. and abroad. A good cross selection of Euro, Asian, and American music along with a decent jazz selection. Prices are higher than Japan though or New York.

PageOne

Located on the last floor of the 101’s mall PageOne is a monster of an bookstore and includes selection of Asian authors in translation (including recent Indian authors I’ve never heard of), a small selection of CDs, a giant selection of design books. Magazines are ok, but this is worth it more as a pit stop around the 101’s mall and it’s selection of Sony exhibitions, European upscale designers, and other things.

Conclusions: I had a whole big conclusion about Taipei written out the other night, but then I meet some people last night, had a good time, and they basically summed it up fairly easily. Taipei has good shopping, but little culture. It’s still more about buying things than experiencing them. A low level of art galleries or outlets for music (there are some of both, but they’re scattered around) really make it seem more dry than most of Asia, but with time it will hopefully improve, or maybe China will bomb us tomorrow… who knows?

p.s. check Samantha Culps blog. It looks like HK is getting pretty crazy these days.

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links for 2006-05-09 links for 2006-05-11

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