(Planning to Retire in Tamsui…with Jo’i D from Taipei)

For the Taipei issue, more than any other, I encouraged the boys to choose where they wanted to shoot. For Issue (01) Lviv and (02) Berlin, the locations were all pre-planned by me and my assistant Andriy. For (03) Reykjavík and (04) Lisbon I started to loosen up a bit but still kept things quite controlled. 

For Taipei, however, I was very open. Partly this was just because I didn’t know where to go. Tourist literature about Taipei, in English anyway, isn’t so abundant yet. Furthermore, my tactic of dropping random pins on Google maps and then looking at Streetview didn’t reveal much of anything inspiring. I felt a bit lost, so I sought guidance from the boys. And that’s probably not a bad idea in future – they live there after all – so why not let them decide, not just ‘cos the locale might look good on film but ‘cos the place means something to them?

Jo’i D suggested we shoot in Tamsui, right by the riverside. I had a quick look at pics online and was instantly on board. It was almost an hour on the MRT train from central Taipei though, but worth the ride. I instantly fell in love and starting asking Jo’i if he knew how much a flat there would cost. I was already planning to retire in Tamsui.

When you arrive at the station, it looks like a pretty typical modern Asian city, with lots of mid-rise buildings crammed with shops and restaurants and roads clogged with traffic. But then you just walk two minutes toward the riverfront and things calm. With a backdrop of mountains and a cooling breeze, the boardwalk is a place to feel calm from the bustle.

On Tamsui Old Street there are plenty of vendors and street food (like in all of Taipei, the culture is all about street eats).  There’s a bit of the charm of an English seaside town apparent, except instead of sticks of rock for sale, you can buy sticks of homemade Italian-style nougat. You also find a lot of vendors selling whole deep-fried squids, tentacles and all. If there’s one negative thing I can say about Tamsui is that the whole town smells like fried squid… but I suppose you get used to it. 

I’ll be honest. Taipei is super cool but it’s not the prettiest place by any stretch. But Tamsui is pretty, so if you’re in Taipei and start tiring of the grime, head north on the MRT to the end of the line. Oh and there’s boats here that take you to Bali… Bali, Taiwan anyway!

See more of Jo’i D and read his story in Elska Magazine issue (05) Taipei


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