Adventure 1/12: A Stroll Through the Neighbourhood

May’s entire universe, featuring a lot of trees.
The area I decided constituted my neighbourhood block. Don’t ask why.
  • There were 4 rubbish bins, 37 park benches, and (on a Saturday morning) 3 Teslas within my neighbourhood block. Why did I keep this tally of strange objects you may ask? Rubbish bins: I’m forever looking for a rubbish bin near my apartment(last week I biked with an empty takeaway box on my handle bar for half an hour trying to throw it out on my way to a cafe). For a clean city, there are incredibly few public rubbish bins. I now have four starred on my Google Map and have eliminated my rubbish problem. Park benches: if the city lacks in rubbish bins, it more than makes up in greens spaces and place to put your feet up. Perfect for a quick 7–11 lunch pitstop. Teslas: I live directly above a fairly flash barbershop and without fail there is always a Tesla parked out front. It’s not just the owners car either, it’s a new Tesla every day. I wanted to figure out if all the Tesla owners in Taipei have some kind of barbershop pact, or if there are just a lot of Teslas in the city. My tally didn’t really help me figure this out.
  • Early on a rainy Saturday morning, the demographic of people walking the streets is roughly 90% elderly people. Many of them offered up big smiles when I said good morning, while others who too focused on their Tai chi to notice my greeting. There was also one woman who was singing at the top of her lungs in the middle of a small park? Not just humming a morning tune, but full-on belting out a musical number. I was both impressed and confused.
  • The neighbourhood looks very, very different when everything is closed! Not just because it’s quiet, but because almost all of the shop fronts have elaborate graffiti on the roller doors. Strangely, the block was a lot more colourful on a grey Saturday morning than it is during the middle of a busy weekday.
  • There is truly no division between old and new in Taipei. In my favourite example, there’s a cafe in my neighbourhood called Tzulai that serves $6 lattes and sells bamboo coffee mugs. One shop down the road is a breakfast joint where you can get a bacon & egg sandwich and a cup of tea for less than $2. Both are busy everyday.
  • In the biggest green space in my neighbourhood — YongKang park — I got so bored that I read all of the little information plaques littered amongst the trees. On one of these plaques I found the answer to an ongoing question I’d had — why are there so many parks and green spaces in a city that is so densely populated? The answer is about as lovely as it gets. In 2003 the Taipei City Government passed a law that prohibits the destruction of trees that are more than 15 metres tall or 50 years old. If a tree is assessed as meeting this criteria (an assessment done by specialist Japanese tree doctors), then it is marked as protected and can not be chopped down. Many of the green spaces that seem odd in their placement — wedged between busy streets, or lodged amongst high rise buildings — are actually protected land, guarded by a particularly old, or particularly tall tree. Since learning about this and diving too deep into the Taiwan tree conservation rabbit hole (apparently there are hundreds of tree poachers in Taiwan known as shan laoshu or “mountain rats”), I’ve started to keep an eye out for these old, protected trees. Which tree is keeping this space open and green? Who’s the protector of this piece of land? It’s a pretty lovely way to look at the city.

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