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Off the Brochure Taipei, Taiwan

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Taipei, Taiwan can be a maze of new experiences–night markets, underground cafes, temples and a youth-centric nightlife.   Travel correspondent Jordan Whitley gets drawn into the enigmatic spirit of the city and reports back on her pick of off-the- brochure finds.

I am watching Mr. Lin, who must be no younger than 80, skillfully make knives. A cigarette hangs unnervingly loose from his toothless grin. Working in black pajama shorts and a white linen top, Mr. Lin entrances us with the rhythmic push and pull of steel blade over a stone block. Back and forth. Smoke wafts through the tiny, shelf-lined room and with it, oddly, clarity.

Mr. Lin, Knifemaker Extraordinaire

My prized satchel of knives in tow, the woman in the khaki fishing vest walks me through the lively corridor, past the antique jade jewelry cases and the woman selling two kinds of chickens: alive in a crate, dead on ice. She buys me dried plums and offers up taro ice cream scooped from a metal canister on a makeshift rickshaw. And she warns me not to buy the illegal shoes and handbags lined at my feet. We navigate through a strange sea of good natured betting rings and pass into Longshan Temple. My new friend shows me how to “make a wish” with two red, peeling, moon-shaped wooden pieces. We kneel together with others on velvet benches. And here, in the swirl of incense and hospitality, I learn to pray.

In this moment, I am awash in the enigmatic pull of Taipei, a city somehow all things at once

—futuristic, fast paced, worldly, yet provincial, kind, easy, its Chinese roots exposed, but with an liberated heartbeat. At every turn, a new adventure, a new friend. More >>