The path up Nanshijiao Mountain twists back and forth the entire journey, tempering each successful climb with a sharp, narrow corner. An older man, perhaps in his sixties, with skin like leather in folds along the back of his neck, cycled up beside me. His calves tensed as he pushed down on the peddles, and he grinned jovially on the overtake.
I growled and got back on my bike.
For tourists and locals alike, Elephant Mountain is far and away the most well-known and well-travelled destination along the Taipei skyline. And for good reason; it’s a short hike, to rather spectacular views, made all the more surprising by the sprawling streets of Taipei in miniature below.
We passed the time by pointing out the brightest stars, the formations we could just about recognise. Eventually, with the breeze against my face, I drifted towards sleep.
Which was when I heard a shout – my flatmate, breathless and excited. “Hey, look, that star is moving!”
“When you climb,” Joe tells me, “you understand your body. Sometimes I complete a challenge and think: Oh! I can do this movement, it’s unbelievable! Maybe it sounds like I am overstating, but it’s exactly true in my mind. Recently, I learned to jump between handholds, and the feeling was just amazing. I can feel my body changing, getting better.”
“Every year of my life since I was two,” Dominic Crapuchettes tells me, “I would go up to Alaska in the summer and my dad would fish.” A few years later, they worked the fishing boat together through long, challenging days, and the job, he explains, was hard. “If you go way back to when I was seven, I was miserable.”
A conversation with the designer of one of my favourite boardgames, Evolution.
My tiny half-plot allotment is the best £17.50 I spend each year, even though it’s no more than 8 by 11 meters. On a warm spring or summer morning there’s simply no nicer place to be.
The rules to our expedition were simple: walk, and walk, and walk, and don’t head back until our feet have whittled down to red raw stumps.
On that last point, we were quite successful.
There are all sorts in Taipei. Sharply dressed businesspeople, heads down, hands to their sides, trying to assume the most aerodynamic shape possible as they charge towards the MRT. Potbellied old men with their t-shirts pulled up, wafting humid air onto their slick tummies. Ladies – and I mean ladies in the most regal senseContinue reading “The Bird People of Da’An Park”
By 5:00am I am out of the door, greeted by the approaching dawn. The sky is shifting from black to a brighter grey. If you don’t stop for a moment and take notice, the world seems silent and still. But I have learned to look and listen. Birds are talking, trees are creaking, clouds are starting to take shape as the darkness gives way.
“Everyone loves a night market,” Pamela tells me. “There are many of them all across Taipei, and in different cities throughout Taiwan. They usually open at around 6pm and can get really, really busy. Regular streets and roads are suddenly occupied by hundreds of shops, usually tiny stalls with just a couple of people at work. Sometimes, it’ll just be the shop owner, taking money, chatting to the customers, and cooking the food – all at the same time! It can get very hectic.”
That bike ride to Oxford was one of my very first adventures, in the sense that I really thought about it as an adventure, not a holiday, or a trip, or a day out. And even though it was small, hardly worth mentioning, really, and even though I failed, it’s still one of my absolute favourites.