Once upon a time, Taipei’s streets were chock-full of taxis, buses and racing scooters, and its sidewalks congested with people and trash. The air was foul, and the architecture – shrines, temples and old colonial buildings aside – was ugly. Central planning seemed sporadic or even nonexistent. In the late 1980s, as the scars of former martial law began healing, citizens realised that while they were materially rich, their quality of life was poor. They demanded change and over the next decade, city planners did what you’d expect those schooled in Asia’s most computer-savvy society to do: they played a protracted game of SimCity, only for keeps.
‘Traffic is hideous!’ cried Taipeiers, and a light-rail network was built. ‘The rivers are putrid, and our kids have nowhere to play!’ was the next complaint. ‘Strengthen environmental laws and build parks on every river bank’, was the answer. ‘Ugly buildings, we can’t stand looking at ’em, ’ moaned the people of Taipei. ‘Then let’s build interesting-looking places!’ was the Solomonic decision of city planners.
Naturally, this explanation is a vast oversimplification; a myriad of other complex political, economic, and social changes were also taking place. Still, in a veritable blink of the eye, Taipei has gone from an ugly duckling of Asia to one of the region’s most dynamic, comfortable and liveable cities. Most important to the intrepid traveller, Taipei is also fun. If you take some time to explore, we think you’ll agree that Taipei is a city that’s managed to strike a fine balance between business and beauty, and between chaos and convenience.
Ready to go?
These tours & activities make it easy:
- See the Taroko gorge on a day trip, one of the seven wonders of Asia
- Discover the highlights of Taipei in a half a day
- Visit the hot springs of Yangmingshan National Park
Last updated: Jan 24, 2013
Tips & articles
1 July 2010
Here at Lonely Planet, we have travel experts on tap. In this excerpt from the July 2010 issue of Lonely...
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