So I was just recently in Taiwan for three weeks again, after having just left seven months ago. This time I was there to accompany my sister, her husband (AMR), and his parents. There are a lot of things to do in Taiwan but mostly it’s two things: eat and shop. I’ve already covered the foods of Taipei in my Eat Your Heart Out: TPE posts, but here’s a listing of the stuff I bought that were necessities during this trip.
Keep in mind, these are definitely not things you should buy -- for that you could consult a list like “20 Locals and Expats Share Their Gift Shopping Ideas in Taipei” -- but rather stuff I felt compelled to buy even though I was just in Taiwan a half a year ago. Prepare for an onslaught of cute things.
But first a plug for the Louis Vuitton City Guide, Taipei edition. My friend Steph, aka Thousandth Girl, was one of the writers on it, and I just got a copy. Right off the bat I learned that Taipei developed west to east, "from temples to glass towers" and the city centre slowly moved from Ximending to East District and on. Total aha moment as I never realized that small fact.
The LV Guide has a nice overview of Taipei's neighborhoods, and provides recommendations for hotels, restaurants, bars, cafes, "good things," nightlife, arts and culture, interior cachet, five walking tours, and offers up an awesome 24 hours in the city itinerary. Go check it out! And now on with the shopping...
Wall Clock ($40): Apparently it’s not easy to buy cheap well-made wall clocks that have smooth sweeping action. And are whisper quiet. No tick tock tick tock. This was one of AMR’s top shopping targets and he knew just the person to bring him to the promised land: my mom. Tucked into an alley on Dongmen’s wet market is this store that just sells clocks. AMR was in clock heaven and he walked out with three, and then somehow I purchased a wall clock on a whim for a wall I don’t have. Oh well, first the clock, then the wall!
The clocks are all Seiko and I believe the style of clock a person selects must speak volumes about them. Mine is pictured on the left, with neon-style numbers and a palette of muted colors. Divine from that what you will. The owner of the shop hooked us up and says he also does brisk business online. The store is called Nasa Watch but I can't find an address so maybe my mom will have to take you there. [Link]
Black, scoop bottomed T-shirts ($9): During my time living in Taipei, I basically just went to one guy for my upper wear. He’s located in an alley at Shida Night Market and his corner stall was across the street from my friend’s apartment so basically we saw him all the time Dare I say it, we became friends. This 朋友 also happened to be about my size and build and whenever he wore something I liked, I just got it. After awhile, I pared down my selections to just white and black versions of this extra-long, scoop bottomed tee. They were perfect for me, and also came in tank top versions. You don’t know how hard it is for me to find T-shirts, I have a whole blog post in draft about this from years ago. Perhaps I should post it. Anyway, these were great T-shirts, and a perfect thickness for me.
So I went back to his stall this trip and poof, he was gone. Replaced by two young women running a women’s clothing stall. Tragedy! It’s hard to convey how devastating this was, and I had to settle for buying some inferior related type T-shirts at a stall in Shilin Night Market. The price was cheaper, $9 versus $16, but I’d have preferred to buy them from my friend. [Link]
Forever 21 shirt ($20): While the Forever 21s in Taipei don’t differ much from the ones Stateside, it’s still my go-to store for stuff. For example, I had to wear a collared shirt for a club opening thing. And since I didn’t bring anything appropriate, I hopped into Forever 21 and grabbed a white shirt with horizontal black stripes on the upper sleeves. Later some guy at the club said it was “very Korean.” I have no idea what that meant.
Triangular folding glass cases ($5): One of my greater finds, I must say. I bought some of these glasses cases before but returned for more. Turns out they were easier to find than I anticipated, just keep your eyes open at night market glasses shops. The great thing about these glasses cases is that they fold down flat. Similar ones can be purchased on Amazon for about ten dollars. My sister and in-laws bought like twenty to give out as gifts. Everyone needs one, or two! [Link]
Skirt Pants ($9 - $50): Lately all I’ve been wearing is skirt pants. I bought my dream ones last year at Mana 嗎哪民族風服飾 — they have a few stores in Taipei — but had a hard time finding street versions. This time around, I found them at street markets and got a pair for super cheap. The Mana ones are more quality, and I bought two, but those were for friends. Straight up, pant skirts are the best, so ridiculously comfortable. [Link]
Glasses and sunglasses ($9): I bought a pair of sunglasses and a pair of regular glasses because when in Taiwan, you just have to. And if you have prescription glasses, getting them done in Taiwan is ridiculous cheap. Plus you don’t need a prescription. And duh, the frames are sized and fitted for Asian faces. You can buy expensive frames and go to expensive places to get the lenses, but I prefer to just get night market frames for like $8 and then have lenses put in for $20. Beat that.
Cell phone cases ($8): If you’re looking for cell phone cases, the night markets are a wonderland. Especially if you lean toward the splashy ones. One night, I sent my wish into the aether for a cactus design and the next day I found a great one. And then I bought another watercolor one for non-cactus days. Double steal!
Rohto eye drops ($5): While I couldn’t scientifically declare what the best eye drops are, I will tell you conclusively that these Rohto eye drops are the best in the world. It’s all in the design, which is square and flat and a joy to have in your bag. Beware, there are a few different types, including specific ones for contact wearers and non-contact wearers. I use the one with the blue cap. Which Amazon apparently doesn't offer. Get. These. Eye. Drops. [Link]
Uma Hana bags ($5): All around the night markets, especially Ximen, you’ll see these plastic-y waterproof bags with various prints on them. George wanted a nice sized overnight bag, and then once we got into a particularly large store, her and AMR ended up purchasing much more than that. Backpacks, tote bags, sling bags, you name it, they probably got it. Turns out Uma Hana is a Taiwan brand and if you’re carrying one it conveys ultimate “FOB life” status. I bought a rainbow bear printed smartphone pouch for when the trusty fanny pack just doesn't go with the outfit. Because bears are universal.
And now onto the useless trinkets that I can’t resist. Even if I basically resisted 90% of the stuff I actually would have bought.
Mouton the Elephant luggage lock ($7): The best thing to do if you’re gonna buy any mascot type stuff is to just pick one and go with it. Unfortunately, I have more than one mascot love. And Mouton is one of them. Mouton is a pale blue circus elephant with pink and white striped ears. Irresistible. I don’t even use luggage locks, but I just wanted this piece as a figurine. I mean, as a gift for my niece...
Snoopy mug ($8): My mom hates mugs. (She has no mugs at her house.) We love mugs. And if AMR was going to brew us daily cups of wonderful Taiwan roasted coffee, we had to have mugs. And so we both bought Snoopy ones and then carried them home with us to continue the adventure.
Taiwan bear magnet ($5): It’s a magnet shaped like a can of Taiwan Beer, but with a smiling Formosan bear on it. And the word mark says “Taiwan Bear.” Brilliant?! I can’t wait to buy a fridge to accompany this magnet.
Kumamon keychain, Formosan black bear keychain ($5): I don't really have keys for anything, but that won't stop me from collecting keychains. Kumamon is a Japanese black bear (apparently now "Japan's most popular bear”), and I couldn’t pass up a tiny Formosan black bear keychain. Now to get keys to pair with these keychains...
Hello Kitty tin, with stationary inside ($3): I allowed myself only one Hello Kitty themed item, aside from my subway card, and this was it. I'll probably use it to store secrets or something. Your secrets!
Cell phone ring ($2): These are everywhere now, and as loathe as I am to affix anything to my beautiful cell phone case, I did get a yellow bell-shaped ring holder, just in case it proves useful. My new cases are real slippery and I'd hate to drop my phone. Fashion versus function right? [Link]
Totoro eyemask ($4): When you need to fall into a deep sleep, why not have Miyazaki lead you the way? "Full of sweet memory, full of deeply happiness." If only it were that easy right?