An up-close observation of Taipei’s cultural landscape
In recent years, whenever I travel to a new city, the first thing I do after settling in is visit local bookstores. There I hunt for local travel guides and independent publications that oftentimes contain information that cannot be found in mainstream travel books or on the Internet. No matter what brings you to Taipei, I highly recommend that you visit its bookstores. Looking at the landscape of the publication business through visiting these stores is one of the best ways to understand the city.
For travelers too busy to research specific bookstores to visit, I suggest the Eslite 24-Hour Bookstore (Dunnan branch). There, one can find comprehensive travel books in Chinese, Japanese, and English as well as Taiwanese design merchandise and local produce and goods. Still, my personal favorites are independent bookstores — such as Shimokitazawa Generations, Mangasick, and Pon Ding — who have vibrant characteristics and unique ideals in their curation of books. These bookstores are also very supportive of Taiwanese creators and here, one will be able to see the greatness of Taiwan’s independent publishing.
Lately, the operation and existence of independent bookstores have spurred widespread discussion. Also, cultural institutions have started to invest in the businesses. Certain independent publishers and bookstores have taken the initiative of establishing associations. There’s even a film project, “Poetries from the BookstoresImagery Poems in Bookstores,” whose first season documents 40 independent Taiwanese bookstores. Go check it out at http://goo.gl/pknlrH (only available in Chinese).
Bookstores worth visiting:
A1. Shimokitazawa Generations 下北沢世代
Taiwan’s first zine specialty store with a unique taste in books
2F-2, No. 141, Section 2, Heping W Rd, Taipei City
886 2 2314 5650
A2. Pon Ding 朋丁
An independent publication and exhibition space run by designers
No. 6, Lane 53, Section 1, Zhongshan N Rd, Taipei City
886 2 2537 7281
11:00~20:00 Closed on Mondays
A3. Mangasick 漫畫私倉
Taiwanese, Japanese and Hong Kongese subculture manga and publications specialty store
B1, No. 2, Alley 10, Lane 244, Section 3, Roosevelt Rd, Taipei City
886 2 2369 9969
14:00~22:00 Closed on Wednesdays
A4. Jiu Xiang Ju Books 舊香居
An old-school vintage bookstore well worth the trip
No. 81, Longquan St, Taipei City
886 2 2368 0576
13:00~22:00 Closed on Mondays
A5. Taiuan-e-tiam 台灣e店
A curation of all Taiwan-related books and merchandise
No. 6, Lane 76, Section 3, Xinsheng S Rd, Taipei City
886 2 2362 5799
A6. VVG Thinking 好樣思維
Hidden in a brick warehouse, a secret land of goods and books from all over the world
Hangzhou N Rd, Taipei City (Huashan 1914 Creative Park Brick Lane Bld. C)
886 2 2322 5573
Special edition 1: A brief history of Taiwan’s indie music scene
台灣的獨立音樂（indie Music）場景大約可以追朔至1994年展演空間SCUM的開業，場地要求登台樂團至少要有一首自己的創作曲，唱片廠牌如真言社、友善的狗、魔岩等陸續推出創作型音樂人林強、伍佰…的專輯，樂團也有糯米團、五月天、脫拉庫、濁水溪公社、閃靈、1976…的百花齊放，幾個代表性的展演空間Vibe、女巫店、地下社會、河岸留言、The Wall等也漸漸為人所知。
下一個較大的躍進來自於2000年所舉辦的「貢寮海洋音樂祭」，相較於當時已多人參與的「春天吶喊」與「野台開唱」，海洋音樂祭有公部門資源挹注，夾帶了更多的宣傳能量，將當時逐漸嶄露頭角的音樂人如陳綺貞、Tizzy Bac、旺福、88顆芭樂籽、蘇打綠、圖騰、盧廣仲等，一舉帶上媒體版面，帶起另一波樂團浪潮。成立於2006的線上音樂平台Street Voice與2007年的Indievox，更透過網路傳遞將這股創作能量廣為發散。
For this special edition we have Jiang-jiang, bass player for Sorry Youth, to shed light on the development of Taiwan’s indie music.
1994～: It started from writing a song
Taiwan’s indie music harkens back to 1994, when performance space SCUM was established. SCUM required that every band who performed on the their stage have at least one song written by them. Record labels such as Truth Society Records, Friendly Dog Records, and Magic Stone Records released albums from singer-songwriters such as Lim Giong and Wu Bai. Bands like Sticky Rice, MayDay, TOLAKU, LTK Commune, Chthonic, and 1976 also flourished during this time. Consequently, performance spaces such as Vibe, Witch House, Underground Society, Riverside Live House, and The Wall became popular and even symbolic.
2000～: Music festivals and a new wave of bands
Compared to the already-popular music festivals Like Spring Scream and Formoz Festival, Ho-hai-yan Music Festival, founded in 2000, had more publicity as it was largely funded by the government. Therefore, it was able to catapult the then up-and-coming musicians — such as Cheer Chen, Tizzy Bac, Won Fu, 88 balaz, Sodagreen, Totem, and Crowd Lu — into the center of media attention; in turn, inspiring an insurgence of bands. Online music platforms Street Voice and Indievox, founded respectively in 2006 and 2007, also helped propagate this creative energy via the Internet.
2014～: When music becomes poitically involved, occupying society
Taiwan’s indie musicians have always been deeply concerned about politics and active participants of society. On the 18th of March, 2014, university students and civilian organizations launched a social movement to occupy the Legislative Yuan (Legislative Bureau) in protest against the negligent fashion in which it passed the Cross-Strait Service Trade Agreement, which would greatly impact Taiwanese people’s livelihood. Around half a million outraged people marched the streets in demonstration. Punk band Fire Ex. wrote “Island Sunrise” as the theme song of this movement — known as the Sunflower Student Movement. The following year, lead vocalist of Chthonic, Freddy Lim, along with other key figures of the Sunflower Student Movement, founded the political party — New Power Party; that same year, Lim was also elected member of the Legislative Yuan. Musicians and bands who were active participants of the student movement heightened the public’s knowledge of Taiwan’s indie music, creating a unique phenomenon in which music becomes involved in society. Now, let us wait and see how Taiwan’s music scene will evolve.
Follow the expert
The Delicious Mullet Roe, by Huang Xiao Dai
Huang Xiao Dai is a Taiwanese essayist and author whose works include, . In this essay she guides the readers on a journey of appreciating Dadaocheng through savoring mullet roe.
“Food is God for the people.”
Perhaps this ancient saying can serve as an introduction to the importance of food for Taiwanese people.
When one visits Dadaocheng, I must recommend that they try the delicacy that is “mullet roe.”
Mullet roe is a dish made of salted and dried mullet roe pouch — after a female mullet is caught, the ovary is removed, cleaned, washed, and salted to rid it of odor and left to dry under the sun and then in the shade.
In the past, mullet roe was reserved for auspicious occasions such as weddings, birthday celebrations, and festivities or served cold during Chinese New Year family reunions.
Mullet roe, burnished and golden in color, is served in slices piled up into a blossoming flower on a round plate, accompanied by sliced garlic shoots and peppery raw daikon.
Preparing mullet roe is a simple task, one simply douses it in liquor and lights a fire. The salty taste of mullet roe echos that of the sea and requires no additional seasoning.
The owner of the mullet roe specialty store Li Ri Sheng Trading Company, Wang Li Ping, said to “Remove the membrane, place the roe on a porcelain plate, and pour kaoliang (sorghum liquor) over it. Light a roll of paper to introduce the fire to the liquor, allow the plate to be engulfed in blue flame and turn the roe over so that both sides are evenly roasted to a golden color. Once you are met with the fragrance of the roe, let it cool and slice it width-wise into pieces in varying thickness.” She explained that, “Some people love mullet roe but feel embarrassed to take two pieces at once. So it is important to serve the roe in large and small slices.” Roe accompanied by sliced daikon, garlic shoots, pear, and apple is even more delectable.
Some elderly people are fond of mullet roe but cannot afford to chew it, in which case cooking the roe in liquor is a good solution. Add equal parts sorghum liquor and water into a frying pan, wait till the liquid bubbles up and place the roe in the pan; the liquid should come halfway up to the roe. Cook the roe on medium heat and flip the roe over regularly to ensure that both side are evenly cooked. Turn off the heat when the liquid has evaporated and the fragrance is released. Once the roe is cooled, slice it to serve. Roe cooked in this fashion is soft, moist, and perfect for an elderly person who craves it.
Cooking is a cultural heritage and the techniques of cooking mullet roe is certainly part of the historical context of Dadaocheng. One simply has to try this authentic Taipei delicacy.
West Side Route 1: Dadaocheng, Ximending, and Monga (Wanhua) Area
The vigorous and pioneering old part of town
In Taipei, the vestiges of history and experiences the glory of former days and local sentiments can all be seen on the west side. A century ago, Monga and Dadaocheng were the most prosperous ports in all of Taiwan. Ximending, while Taiwan was under Japanese rule, was developed into a fashionable entertainment area. As time elapsed, the center of Taipei’s city development shifted to the east and as a result, the west side gradually declined. Still, its century-long cultural significance and profundity cannot be replaced and at the slightest spark, it will ignite once again. Incense lit by pious believers is ever-burning at Longshan Temple; Monga was and still is home to the rawest vitality of the common people; Dadaocheng, saturated with a human touch, has recently attracted creators and brands who share similar values. Here, the new encounters the old, amalgamating into new life. I believe the only path to experiencing the true nature and sentiments of Taipei is to go to the west.
A day’s journey
11:00 由迪化街北端逛起：有老字號糕餅店「李亭香」、烏魚子名店「李日勝」；新進駐的店家則有販售在地食材的「大稻埕259」、生活風格品牌「蘑菇」與創作者基地「URS155 團圓大稻埕」等。
22:00 去「Woolloomooloo」西門店或隱身大稻埕老屋的「Mikkeller Taiwan」續攤；更free style一點的推薦啤酒攤車「Beer Cargo」，或買瓶台啤去天橋上開喝，望著中華路車流回味今日的新舊台北之旅。
• 沿途有許多老建築與故事值得探索，若想更深入了解可參加Taipei Walking Tour固定舉行的大稻埕導覽。http://www.taipei-walkingtour.tw/
9:00 Visit the row of old eateries in front Tsu Sheng Temple for good, straightforward food. Savor a bowl of meat congee or pork knuckle with noodles under banyan trees and enjoy a leisurely Chinese style breakfast known only to the people of Taipei.
10:00 Head to the century-old tea shops such as Lin Hua Tai or Lin Mao Sen for good teas that make for good gifts.
11:00 Start from the northern end of Dihua Street and make your way down. Visit Li Ting Xiang, a longstanding pastry shop, and stop by the renowned mullet roe specialty shop, Li Ri Sheng. Then check out new shops like Dadaocheng 259, who sells local ingredients, lifestyle brand Mogu, and creators’ base URS155 Tuan Yuan.
12:30 Go to Peacock, a restaurant located in ArtYard that incorporates Taiwanese ingredients into Eurasia cuisine, or walk to Yongle Market and find a variety of eateries in the area. I recommend Yongle Rice Paste Noodle and Fried Mackerel Soup located on Minyue Street.
14:00 Single or not, come to Xia Hai City God Temple and pray to Yue Lao for a happy love life. Work your way through the shops, tea houses, and cafes in the ArtYard buildings then head to inBlooom for printed fabric souvenirs.
16:00 If you enjoy independent publications, head straight to Shimokitazawa Generations. If you prefer to experience the charm of old streets, hang around the area; there is much that awaits you.
17:30 If all is well in your life, come to Longshan Temple and pray that you are kept safe; if not, pray to Guanyin for a fortune stick that may offer you guidance.
18:30 For dinner, explore the many traditional eateries along the old Monga streets, such as Su Family’s Meat Ball and Savory Rice Cake and Double Joys Squid Paste Soup. Conclude your meal with a bowl of sweet fruit with shaved ice at Longdu Ice Dessert Parlor.
19:30 Stroll to Guiyang Street, try the nostalgic flavors of Yongfu Ice Cream then head to the Nishi Hongan-ji Temple plaza and visit Rinbansyo for some Taiwanese herbal tea that will warm the cockles of your heart.
20:30 Once a market during the Japanese Ruling Era, the historic site of Ximen Red House is now an art and cultural space with many shops on the first floor. Behind Red House is a famous outdoor gay bar area.
22:00 Make the most of your day by going to Woolloomooloo’s Ximen branch or Mikkeller Taiwan, located in an old building in Dadaocheng. For the free-spirited ones, find a Beer Cargo or buy a bottle of Taiwan beer to enjoy on a bridge and reflect upon your day’s journey as the cars go by.
• This route covers a lot of ground so renting a uBike is a good option.
• There are many old buildings and stories along the way worthy of exploring. Taipei Walking Tour offers an in depth guided walking tour. For more information visit http://www.taipei-walkingtour.tw/
In recent years, Dadaocheng started hosting a firework festival on Chinese Valentine’s (the seventh day on the seventh lunar month). Be sure to check it out if you’re around!