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.


  1. I believe this branch in your pix is in Tai Chung becos I was there :)
    yes, the taiwanese are avid readers. They have 24 hour bookshops like 15 years ago.

  2. I feel the same about HK. Dreadful place.

    I adore Eslite. The Dunnan branch has the 24-hour bookstore and cafe and even in the wee hours, there are lots of people in there, on the floor (tucked neatly into corners), on the steps, or huddled over coffee, quietly reading.

    Their music and film section is wonderful too. Lots of indie and arthouse, complete with handwritten recommendations punctuated with smiley faces.

    Those guys definitely know what they're doing.

  3. Dear Beauty and Dear Wallfleur: Indeed I like the Taiwanese for being such avid readers; for being interested in culture; for being unfailingly poilite; and friendly; and nice. And they invented bubble tea, which goes down well with a good book.
    Indeed Eslie has a richly curated movies shop and a browsed a long time there looking at DVD titles which i'd never even heard of: an entire section seemed dedicated to gay titles in every language!

  4. I'll always remember Eslite (what does it mean) becos one guy likes to take me there after I feed him panty pudding (?) and then he will feed me niu rou mien after Eslite. It became a weird routine. Take away panty pudding and it's a chong yao taiwanese serial :P

  5. Dear Beauty: Such, ah-hhhem, "recollections" have no place here I'm sorry. Let's stick to books shall we?