Tuesday, 23 December 2014

Christmas in Taipei

'Bright lights, big city' is fitting description of Taipei at Christmas time. Brightening the shopping districts throughout the city, strings of lights adorn trees and buildings, and Christmas trees, Santa Claus(es) and other strange and wonderful figures dot the cityscape. Just going out at night at this time of year is a pleasure in itself, providing you don't mind crowds too much. Christmas isn't celebrated in the sense that schools or workplaces close for the holiday, but plenty of Christmas shopping goes on.
The tree above is at the Miramar shopping centre near Jiannan MRT station, and this in only one facet of its decorations. The ferris wheel is also brightly lit, inviting Taipei citizens from near and far to come and worship the gods of consumerism.

We were at Miramar the other day to see the final part of The Hobbit, which I found to be the best of the three, though that may have something to do with the fact my husband snuck a bottle of wine into the cinema.

I'm not a big department store shopper, and I didn't do my Christmas shopping at Miramar, but there are plenty of stores for people who like to do all their shopping in one fell swoop. When I did go shopping a couple of days later, I passed the large store in Xinyi on my way to Eslite. Like all the others, this store was festooned in true festive spirit.

Outside Eslite were what I think were giant Russian dolls, because Christmas!

And the front of Eslite was also decorated with ... fireworks? a huge rose? Pretty, anyway.

Even some MRT stations have their own Santa and Christmas tree.

I like to shop in narrow streets and small shops at Christmas time. I suppose because the experience is more intimate and personal (and cheaper). The City Mall at Taipei Main Station is always worth checking out for bargains. When I went there the other night, I found a new development called Gashapon.

'Small Capsule, Big Surprise' reads the slogan. Behind the sign stand rows and rows of capsule machines where for NT$ 20, 50 or 100 you can take a chance at buying a capsule containing a toy or other fun item.

City Mall is also the short cut to Taiyuan Road, which is one of my favoured narrow streets full of small shops in an area of narrow streets and small shops. Exiting at Y13 from City Mall brings you out at Taiyuan Road and two shops well known for selling Christmas decorations and other knick-knacks.

Taiyuan Road is also home to my number one favourite toy shop in Taipei, Dong Dong Toy. This shop, at No. 54, stocks toys from all over the world, crammed into its tiny two-storey interior. I never fail to find something interesting for my own and friends' children here.

We're postponing Christmas to Sunday this year so that we can properly enjoy it, rather than try to fit it into a school day, so my shopping still isn't over. Like Christmases everywhere, Christmas in Taipei is tiring, but fun.

Monday, 15 December 2014

Taiwan Tales

I've been shamefully lax at posting lately, and it's mostly due to a seemingly ever-expanding range of activities I find myself drawn into.

One of the most recent time sinks has been writing a story to be included in Taiwan Tales.

To quote the blurb:

More than merely stepping through the streets and trails of a land, the narrated word allows one to learn about ideas, sense passions and glimpse dreams of a place and its people. Here are eight short stories about Taiwan: an island, a manufacturing powerhouse, a nation of Buddhism and Capitalism, a land straddling a geographical ring of fire as well as a political one, a country colored by both ancient traditions and high-tech modernity. Written by authors who have called Taiwan home, each tale offers an absorbing perspective on this unique country.

The anthology contains stories by many talented writers, and I'm proud my story sits among their work.

Fiction writing has grown to be a great love of mine in my time in Taiwan. I was chuffed to see another of my stories appear recently in Perihelion, and I have one more soon to appear in Lamplight magazine. 

With all this time spent writing, I shouldn't have much left to do other things, but in truth there are so many interesting, enjoyable and heart-warming activities going on I find it hard to resist. The Red Room events are always tempting, and Conrad and I recently took part in their five-year anniversary event. Conrad sang an Annoying Orange parody of Queen's We Will Rock You, to the accompanying rhythmic clapping of the audience, as part of the Stage Time and Juice contingent (regular Red Room events for adults are called Stage Time and Wine). I also went along to their Aside event, which showcases the best performers. 

Each year it seems Christmas becomes more and more recognised and celebrated in Taipei. There are decorations up in the busy shopping districts and classier apartment blocks, and Christmas songs and carols play in the shops and on the buses. We aren't a religious family, but Christmas is part of the cultural heritage my son could miss out on growing up in Taiwan, so I was happy to take him along to Taipei City Playgroup's Christmas party.

Santa was extremely youthful this year, but no one minded as long as he gave out presents. 

Other Christmas events we've had the pleasure to take part in include Radio Redux's reading of a Christmas Carol. Last year we took part in performances of the stage adaptation, but this year we had a cosy reading circle instead, which was just as much fun and far less nerve-wracking.

Now well into our fourth year in Taiwan, we are over the 'hump' of our proposed six-year stay. At this rate, the remaining time will pass quickly. Too quickly.