A blog about writing, reading, travelling and great characters I meet in life. I love these things more than cheese-on-toast times trampolines times monkeys.

Tuesday, 28 June 2011

Taipei - toon town of Taiwan

I remember a time when everything that was brilliant in my world was made in Taiwan.

Barbie dolls and Casio watches. Hand held Donkey Kong games and electronic keyboards.

It was the late 80s and early 90s. And I was a kid excited by new toys - especially man-made, electronic, plastic fantastic stuff!

It’s night time when I step off the plane in Taiwan, so when I get to Taipei city, it is lit up like a neon lollipop. Vivid colours and bold shapes just like an animation.

I come across Taipei 101, the second tallest building in the world at 509 metres.

Inside, there are artist’s impressions of the city as a cartoon, with Taipei 101 at the centre.

In the world’s fastest elevator, you whizz up to the top of Taipei 101 in under a minute. My ears pop near the top of the tower. Looking out over the city, I’m struck by the shapes, lines and blue-green colouring.

And that's when Taipei starts to cartoonify in my mind - everywhere I look, cartoonification!

By day, I come across cute kids and daft animals – absolutely the stuff of cartoons.

We're sitting in Chiang Kai-Shek Memorial Square watching the changing of the guards ceremony that takes place every hour.

And to a non-Chinese speaker like me, everywhere I look there are bright pictures and shapes and signs.

The power of branding is evident here. Logo is everything.

And there’s make-believe food – like toffee tomatoes at the night market and green fluorescent stuff that belongs in a Jetsons cartoon. There's also bubble tea (tea with pieces of jelly in it).

Market stalls with the everlasting Hello Kitty T-shirts...

Even some of the metro trains are covered in cartoons.

And I feel completely safe in Taipei. Even if something was to go wrong, just like Road Runner I’d be fine in the next scene. Turns out, I’m not just dreaming about the feeling of safety in Taiwan’s capital city – Taipei has a very low crime rate.

I stay in a great dorm in the centre of Taipei. I meet Johnnie Grinder there - he's from California but now lives and works in Taipei and is planning an amazing interactive installation. Johnnie's an animator, a coincidence that makes me smile in the light of how I’ve perceived Taipei before I met him – check out Johnnie’s fab blog. Here are a couple of Johnnie's sketches that I really love, can you spot any Taipei influences?

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