Taipei 101 was the first stop on our list to visit. I was at Taipei 101 last year with my mother and two nephews and very impressed with the massive structure and engineering technology. On the observation deck last year, we also had the most expensive ice cream cone that I had ever had, which my two nephews still talk about it till this day. This year I was the seasoned visitor to lead Da Pong around to visit the building of Taipei 101.
We took the subway and buses to get to Taipei 101. Although we had obtained our international driver’s licenses before we left Canada, we decided not to rent a car in Taipei. My brother also offered us his car for our stay in Taipei but we just didn’t feel comfortable driving in Taipei. I have to say that my driving record has been excellent, but I am not so sure that I can ever adjust to the Taiwanese driving style. What I don’t need is to have an idiot driver changing lane illegally to pass me by and scratch the car, which is rampant in Taipei anyway. The Taipei subway system is excellent in my view, and the bus system connected to the subway is quite good. On top of all, the taxi is not too expensive, either. So, risking our lives to drive in Taipei is out of the question.
The wealth that Taipei 101 displays is beyond our comprehension. We were there on a Monday which might not be the busiest day for the retail business. We were in awe to see all the expensive shops under one roof and wondered how the stores could have stayed alive in business. Then we soon found out how.
Da Pong left his camera strap in Canada. Without the hand strap, it could be dangerous for him to lose his grip on the camera which was a Christmas present from me. So, while we were in Taipei 101, one of the biggest shopping malls in town, we decided to look for a hand strap for his camera before any of our out of town trips. Sure enough, there is a Sony Store inside Taipei 101. We were hoping to find a generic hand strap for his Nikon camera. How difficult could it be for a simple hand strap?
The salesman at the Sony Store was very kind and attentive to show us the only two hand straps they had, which were only two hundred New Taiwan dollars apart. We calculated the prices and somehow felt strange with the number we were given. Well, it appeared to be cheaper, compared to the prices we might pay back home, but hey, “This is Taiwan!” we thought, and maybe we got a good deal. Six dollars might just be the right price to pay in Taiwan. We happily picked the more expensive one, walked to the counter and gave our credit card to the salesman. Only did we find out later that we were just not very good with the money conversion math. Duh! We moved one place too many on our place value math!
Somehow, we thought the hand strap cost six Canadian dollars, which would be on the cheaper side but not unreasonable. The receipt we signed turned out to be equivalent to more than $60 Canadian. Wait a minute, 6 dollars might be a bit more on the cheap side, and I could definitely accept 16 dollars for a little tiny piece of plastic and Velcro. Holy! The strap turned out to be more than $60 Canadian dollars! By then, we felt being totally ripped off, but it was too late. We already told the guy to take the strap out of the package and assemble it on the camera.
Well, this is the price at Taipei 101, the gold diggers in Taipei. A pair of jewelled sandals at a fancy shop can cost up to $400 Canadian. I may have cherished my feet every much but I don’t think I am worthy of wearing that kind of expensive sandals. I am not worthy!!
On top of Taipei 101, while Da Pong was fascinated by the engineering technology displayed on the wall of the observation deck, the smooth ride of the elevator and the giant ball situated inside the building, I was pondering about the wealth distributions on the island. On one hand, you have people spending money on brand-named items like there is no tomorrow (or suckers like us who got ripped off), but on the other hand, you have people worrying about the food on the table for tomorrow.
Put it this way, I have never seen so many Louis Vuitton stores in close proximity in my life. Well, I have never seen so many people with LV bags in my life on a subway, either! Did Louis Vuitton have a sale or what? If you have asked me to find a LV store near me, I don’t think I can find one easily close to where I live. Granted, a brand name such as Louis Vuitton usually represents some reputable quality. However, there is also a hefty price tag that comes with it.
What would be the quality life that people in Taiwan would like to pursue? I don’t know the answer, but anyway, we certainly will forever remember the most expensive ice cream cone and the camera hand strap that we got at Taipei 101.