16 April 2011
Weekend Reading List: I Heart Taipei
What is it about hotels that makes me eat like I'm in a Hollywood movie? This morning, I woke up in Taipei and went down quite eagerly to breakfast, and ate alot unthinkingly, including two large, fluffy, flakey croissants with lashings of butter and strawberry jam. And then I put on a sweater, and walked next door to Eslite. Eslite is the largest bookstore chain in Taiwan, and has a flagship store in Eslite Mall, located in the glossy Xinyi District. It's a lovely four-storey bookstore, set within a charming mall (more food, and all sorts of novel, pretty things to browse). Eslite has a "store within a store" design, with a Japanese bookstore, Chinese bookstore, arts bookstore (I found this section engrossing and comprehensive, and they even had an exhibition/art space and a charming cafe) and many other themed "stores". There is, unexpectedly, a wide range of English books and magazines, and an entire floor dedicated to the children's bookstore and children's discovery museum on the fifth floor. Which brings me neatly to the point that Taipei is so much more civilized a city than Hongkong - I've often been rather stumped that a city that prides itself as being cosmpolitan does not support any sort of a proper bookstore at all. Hong Kong has sprawling malls full of designer junk, and in the crags you find a half-hearted Dymocks or newsstands crawling with cheap tabloids but a proper bookstore like Taipei's Eslite, or even our own lovely Kinokuniya? I remember once wanting to buy a proper a book in Hongkong one sad bookless weekend and it was exasperating. Even the international magazines were months old. No wonder that Hong Kong people scare and bore me. You know, of course, that the expats thrive there - it really is the last outpost of the colonial era, isn't it? They really do the kow-tow properly in Hong Kong, like nowhere else I know. It's uncivilized. It's boring. It's the only city that makes me want to huddle in my hotel room untill the ordeal of being there is all over.