Living in Taiwan presents so very many wonderful opportunities for travel, cultural experience, culinary adventure and social surprises that it’s easy to overlook one nagging and constant downside – the lack of reading material. Of course, there’s always GuanXi magazine, but so far we’re on a seasonal schedule and as much fun as we hope to be, that’s just not enough to satisfy the needs of folks who read for pleasure.
I’ll take a good book over a movie anytime. It all began, for me, with Dr. Seuss and over the following 44 years, ranged across a pretty broad spectrum of literature and trash: Marquez, King, Vonnegut, Conrad, Heller, Atwood, Davies, Orwell, Dostoevsky, Mailer, Bukowski, Clarke, Asimov, Hitchens, Richler, Wolfe, Steinbeck, Kesey, Thompson…the list goes on and continues to grow.
Finding new books is a tough nut to crack on the island. Whenever I visit the capital, I make a requisite trip to Page One Books in Taipei 101 which, as book stores go, is like a slice of heaven on earth. The place is like that commercial for Direct TV: a guest is checking into a motel and asks the clerk if they have movies. She replies, “We have every movie ever made in any language…ever.” The guest asks, “How is that even possible?” If you can’t find a title at Page One, you only imagined it – it doesn’t really exist.
Servicing your reading jones in Taichung is a bit more difficult. Yeah, there’s Caves…but I can only browse the limited selection of Penguin Classics so many times before I return to wandering the import aisles at the grocery store to reread the RDA of riboflavin in Frosted Flakes and the warning labels on cleanser…again.
For this reason, if you love to read, the 7th Annual WHOSE Travel Charity Book Exchange is one event you must not miss. Each year, folks go through their bookshelves like a kid trading hockey cards: Read it, read it, read it…haven’t read it…read it, read it…and donate bags of books. Now, for me, just browsing through tables, racks, shelves and stacks of books would be enough – a perfectly excellent and rewarding way to spend a day. But it’s not just books. Let me explain.
Thousands of donated books are for sale – generally for a minimum donation of $50NT each (fancy hard covers slightly more, which is still an amazing deal), but there is also live music – the best musicians and bands show up to play their asses off FOR FREE.
Cheap books and awesome live music! It couldn’t possibly be any better! Wait a minute…Yes, it could! Beverages. After all, if one is going to please the eyes and the ears, one might as well have a few stiff drinks to lubricate the afternoon.
So that’s it. That must be all there is, right? Books, music and booze. What else could there possibly be? Glad you asked. Prizes! Local businesses have donated a metric tonne of fantastic prizes to be raffled off throughout the event: Dinners, services, products. Buy a ticket (or a bunch of them) for a shot at taking home any of the awesome giveaways to be drawn throughout the day. You don’t even have to be there. Winners will be notified and prizes can be claimed at WHOSE travel. This year, businesses from all over the community have stepped it up and given some great prizes: a saxophone (complete with lessons), a mountain bike, World Gym memberships, massage and chiropractor freebies, dinners at some of the best places around town and free dives with Discovery Scuba.
Also, for the first time, there will be kid’s entertainment. Bring the fam and leave the kids on the second floor of Frog 1 to be entertained by the Taichung Improv team, a clown, cartoons and a ventriloquist. Supervision is provided, and there could be a fire safety lesson in there somewhere so the kids can learn how to light the BBQ this summer.
With such an incredible menu of pleasurable distractions on offer, it might be easy to feel a little bit guilty about the whole thing – crossing that fine line between epicurean pleasure and hedonistic gluttony. Allow me to soothe your tide of guilt. All proceeds from the WHOSE Travel Charity Book Exchange go, as the event name suggests, to help those in need. The beneficiary of monies raised this year is the Childhood Burn Foundation of the R.O.C.
Do yourself a favour and come out to one of the best annual events this city has to offer. Find a few books, have a few drinks, dance til you drop, win a prize and help kids in need. If you can find a better way to spend a Saturday…nah, forget it. There isn’t a better way to spend a Saturday.
The Frog Family, GuanXi Magazine, The Compass Group, 185 Warehouse
Saturday, March 12th from 2:00pm to 10:00pm
Frog 1 Restaurant青蛙墨西哥餐廳1號店 and WHOSE Travel -北美旅行社
106 Hua Mei W. St. Sec 1