*For a more formal and the general background of this project, please read the page “About the SMC.” (recommended!) This article would focus on the introduction to my relation with the Taipei city.

As you may have known, the first half of the SMC project will be carried out in Taipei City, Taiwan, which also happens to be my hometown for eighteen years! Therefore, I expected it to be a rather easier start for the challenge since I am more familiar with the environment and more importantly, I have a family here to guide me when I lose direction. However, oddly, I started to notice that I am more of a stranger to the map of my hometown than to the map of Toronto, where I have spent two years for university so far. I summarized five reasons that might explain this phenomenon.

  1. Since I have a family here and some of the members have cars, I have been relying on them when traveling further than walk distance, whilst in Toronto I usually have to figure my own way out in the city (although this also leads to my great dependence on digital maps).
  2. Similarly, as the taxi fare is much lower than that in Canada, it is easier and more common to get to places while leaving the job of route searching to the driver.
  3. In my opinion, streets and roads in Toronto are much easier to read and understand. By this, I mean that they are mostly neatly North-South or East-West  direction, whilst in Taipei City the proportion of perfectly neat and straight streets is lower and there tend to be more hidden lanes and alleys woven between streets and blocks.
  4. In Toronto, TTC (Toronto Transit Commission) offers only four subway lines in which only two, the Young-University and Bloor-Danforth, are run in major areas and most parts of the subway routes are linear (with only five interchangeable stations between different lines). Moreover, the subway stations are named after the closest streets or intersections. For example, Bay station on Bloor-Danforth line is on the intersection of Bloor St. and Bay St. On the other hand, Metro Taipei offers five lines (not including the shuttle lines between Beitou(北投) and Xinbeitou(新北投) or Qizhang(七張) and Xiaobitan(小碧潭)) with up to fourteen interchangeable stations and most metro stations are named after landmarks or small region names.
  5. In general, the spirit of exploration rises when I left my hometown to start a new life in a different city. And my university schedule is also more flexible which allows me to do more exploration than before. (Well, not to mention when TTC stops working I will be forced to do some extra exploration near stations I usually wouldn’t get off at.)

These are not to compare which city’s planning or transportation is better. Rather, it is to show that how our cities and the systems within are organized really has a lot to do with one’s sense of direction. For me, it is shocking to realize the image of my most familiar city in the whole world is actually so fragmented in my head that, embarrassingly, I cannot even tell the location of the 16 districts within or where most of the main streets are.

Therefore, in these two months, I decided to travel in Taipei City with only the paper maps I bought and note down the routes I take. For me, it is a re-introduction to the city I am born in. Hence, my plan for the SMC in Taipei City includes 3 main parts:

  • City travelling (will be posted as “Journals”)
  1. Travelling with a designated destination (with address provided) and paper maps
  2. Travelling without a designated destination and mark down the routes I take while getting to know the surrounding areas and neighborhood
  • Research: The history of the places I’ve been to
  • Survey: Am I the only one feeling this way? How much do people in Taipei rely on digital maps? (In Taipei) Does the use of digital maps necessarily has negative relationship to one’s sense of direction? Or are they even associated?

For more detail information about the City (ex. area, population, transportation system details, etc.) please refer to the Logistics page.

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