What I'm Reading

Traveling in Our Generation

A few months ago I discovered a book 從北京到台灣:這麼近,那麼遠 (From Beijing to Taiwan, so close yet so far) by 趙星 (Zhao Xing). Although World Journal’s bookstore in Chinatown had a copy for $23, I decided to wait for my sister to bring it back from Taiwan for me.

It was worth the wait. As with most Chinese books, the layout is superb, with tinted pages and pictures to emphasize the travelogue nature of the book.

Based on blog entries of her 11-day journey through Taiwan, Zhao Xing’s trip last August was the result of a dream she had seven years ago to visit Taiwan. Not only is her dream now fulfilled, her experience with Taiwanese hospitality has surpassed her expectations.

For me, reading the book is a journey down my memory lane and a joy at discovering a kindred spirit.

I, too, had a dream of visiting Taiwan which I fulfilled in 2009. Although much  younger than Zhao Xing, I also kept a blog of my travels. I visited nearly every single place she did, and can identify with her delight in Taiwan’s transportation system.

And for someone who doesn’t watch many movies or know much about Chinese pop music, the three singers and two movies she mentions are my favorites as well. Zhao Xing even goes to visit the film site for 海角七號 (Cape No. 7).

She stays overnight with strangers she met on couchsurfing.org and is treated to motorcycle rides by friendly uncles. She has no definite plan, except what sights she wants to see, arranging bed-and-breakfast (民宿) stays on the fly.

With these experiences Zhao Xing taps into a personal thrill of seeing the world in this haphazard but enjoyable fashion which most desire but would not dare attempt. But she pulls it off, and makes a host of friends along the way.

She represents an enterprising generation of Chinese young people born after 1985 who have a lighter, broader outlook on society than their predecessors. With a love for the simple delights of life — good books, music, and pleasant company — Zhao Xing speaks for myself and many others of our generation.

Her travels through Taiwan have been my dream, and in reading these accounts I am transported back to some of the pleasantest times of my life, even while waiting an hour for the bus in the rain.

I didn’t care if it took me three hours to get home — I was in Taiwan.

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