Indulging in a city's nightlife can be one of the best experiences a traveller can have, but it may also pose a problem for more introverted tourists. While it's a thrill to check out a destination's bars and night clubs, sometimes it's hard to resist the urge to spend some time in a more placid environment with a good book. If you want to get the best of both worlds, a trip to Taiwan's capital, Taipei, might be the best choice for you.
Centuries-old buildings and bustling city streets often form the centrepiece of Asia travel plans, but a more recent trend in Taiwan offers a more relaxed way for literary travellers to spend their days. A trip to the country certainly offers the chance for more energetic excursions, but its thriving scene of independent bookstores shouldn't be overlooked, according to Taiwan Today.
One store that has turned shopping for books into a vacation activity rather than just a transaction is Taipei's Zeelandia Travel and Books. The store has modeled itself as a destination for shoppers to make the most out of their vacations, according to Taiwan Today.
Instead of offering a selection of books based on destination, Zeelandia groups guides by themes such as cuisine and family travel. Aside from its book selection, the store provides workshops in photography and other skills that can make any trip more enjoyable. It also provides travellers with a cheap way to brush up on travel tips by renting out guides to destinations that are off the beaten path.
"This is a real plus for budget travellers as they do not need to spend money on something they will use only once in a lifetime," Vienn Chang, Zeelandia's owner, told Taiwan Today.
Reading the night away
For those who really want to dive into Taipei's book culture, Eslite is the bookstore of choice. The central Taipei store is open 24 hours and is often full of patrons around the clock, according to CNN. Growing from one store in Taipei in 1989, the chain now boasts 42 locations across Taiwan and one in Hong Kong. The company also has plans to open a store in China.
Eslite's success with its 24-hour model may have something to do with Taipei's well-established nightlife. One patron, Wan Hsuan Chang, told CNN that the people of Taipei are used to nighttime excursions, such as shopping at night markets or going to night clubs. The store offers more than just rows of books, as well. According to CNN, the central Taipei location features five floors, dedicated to fashion, music, food, events and, of course, books. This eclectic combination makes the store an attractive destination even for people who aren't looking for a new book.
"Many cool people hang out here. Some come here to read, others just to kill time and meet friends. It's like a place for modern culture and it's close to some of the best nightclubs and bars," Huang Yu Han, a late-night customer at Eslite told CNN.
The store's cafe is a popular place for people such as Han to spend their nights. CNN reported that online reviews of the bookstore often cite it as a place to pick up a date, further cementing its status as an alternative night club. It's not just a hangout for locals, either. Eslite told CNN that about one-fourth of visitors to Taiwan visit one of its branches somewhere in the country. Timothy Wang of Eslite told the source that the key to its success is providing a welcoming environment for everyone who steps through its doors, regardless of whether they leave with a book in hand.