absentfather

Letters for my kids to read in the future, from around the world now

A week in Taiwan

Dear George,

No surprises, I’m on board a plane again. I’m on the Tarmac at Taipei’s Taoyuan International airport waiting to fly 12 hours to Amsterdam then home to Nottingham.

I haven’t been away with work since Hong Kong in August but now have a devilish couple of months when I am away 4 weeks out of 5 in 4 different countries and will mean I see very little of you. To make matters worse, I am only back from this trip for 2 days and for most of those you will still be on holiday in Mallorca with your mum, grandparents and cousins. I see you for one evening and then wake up at 4am to fly to Brazil. You’re at an age (almost 2 now, where did the time go?) where you are doing new things every day and I’m missing them. Skype has let us down this week which makes it worse.

So what of this trip? Not much to tell you really, it was all work until into the evenings and then moving on to the next city. I went to Taipei, Hsinchu, Taichuhng, Tainan and Kaohsiung then back up to Taipei. All I really saw were hotels, Starbucks, a Karaoke bar and a couple of restaurants with no time for being a tourist. I’ve been to Taiwan so many times now and all I have seen is the cities. One day I’ll make time to see the eastern side and middle of the island that everyone here assures me is beautiful. Taipei continues to grow in population, sucking the youth from the rest of the island whilst the middle-aged move out to Hsinchu and Taichung to larger, cheaper housing and commute on a fast train. There is real worry about the economy as wages haven’t gone up in the best part of a decade, growth has slowed, the hi-tech industry is being out-competed by other parts of Asia and the population is ageing. The rich are rich and everyone else is slogging away for not great returns, so property is too expensive for most couples and this is delaying family life. Someone told me that people have kids more out of duty than anything else – to help the economy.

Karaoke is massive in east Asia. In the UK it is a public performance, but here you go to huge buildings full of lots of small private rooms for only you and your accomplices to use. You can order all types of food and drink with waiter service and usually even have your own toilet. It is a time-sucking black hole once you are inside and have drunk a couple of beers – the hours fly past in a blur of Blur, crooned Frank Sinatra, and frankly optimistic Whitney Houston . The performances start, the Viking in you comes out and everyone starts crucifying well known tunes. It is great fun, but only because it is so strange to us Europeans and treated as a bit of a joke. Locals use is as a social and business forum and not the drunken screech-fest that we do. I am particularly good at Faith by George Michael and Chasing Cars by Razorlight (by that I mean not totally appalling) and not much else.

Some things I saw this week:

– Din Tai Fung – a Michelin starred but very reasonable dim sum restaurant, which was excellent
– The Eva Air check in desk at Taipei airport which is Hello Kitty themed. Hello Kitty is a cultural phenomenon in Taiwan and has arguably influenced visual culture in the asiatic region for the past twenty years – hence their fondness of cute characters in all advertising, etc
– Painted junction boxes. It’s like middle class street art
– Kiss and ride sign. This is the drop off point for cars at stations/airports, although it sounds much ruder

My flight has taken off now and it’s close to midnight, so I’m going to kick back and try to get some much needed sleep.

Love,

Dad

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