After the morning ceremonies, Ted wondered through the golden gates and towards town. He wanted to take in the vibe of Taipei and also to buy some more T-shirts and light trousers for this humid weather. He walked along the concrete pavement and marvelled at the bilboards in Chinese. He spotted a sign for a meditation and yoga retreat centre. ‘Perhaps I can go there for some meditation and yoga classes’, Ted thought to himself as he neared the city centre.
‘A market is probably the best place for buying what I need.’ Ted started looking into different streets to try and spot an open market. There were many department stores and trendy shops around, but somehow Taipei had a very nice feel to it, with art work spread along pavements and plenty of flowers and trees to lighten the atmosphere.
‘This doesn’t feel like a big city at all, even though thousands of people live here’, Ted muttered to himself. He stopped at a cafe to get an iced latte. Despite his healthy eating and drinking habits, he still loved coffee more than anything.
Soon enough he spotted a big open-air market. There were stalls filled with fruit, clothes, books, CDs… Anything that you could think of. Hundreds of people were milling about. Ted spotted a couple of Westerns and they exchanged glances and smiles.
‘Funny how you feel solidarity to other people standing out from the crowd’, he thought as he chose a mix of colourful shirts and trousers, as well as a pair of sandals, from a stall manned by a young lady who smiled shyly at him and responded in broken in English.
‘I must learn some Chinese before I come and buy more clothes’, Ted said to the lady before he wandered off to check out the rest of the market.
The market seemed to sell everything that one could think of. Ted was in particular drawn to traditional Taiwanese necklaces and clothes. They were made of very pretty colours and would look beautiful on anyone. They were surprisingly similar to African clothes, with bold patterns and wooden beads.
Ted spotted a table filled with golden Buddha statues of all sizes.
‘Ah, I always wanted to have one’, Ted said to the man behind the desk. As he looked up, he saw that the man was also a Westerner, tall with dark brown eyes. ‘Then you’ve come to the right place’, the man said. ‘I have plenty here and they are reasonably priced as I believe that anyone should have a chance to buy one regardless of their financial situation.’
Ted looked around the table and, indeed, he could see statues of all sizes, all glistening in the beautiful sunlight. He placed a small one on his palm and took a closer look at it. It was mesmerising. ‘How much do you sell this one for?’ Ted asked. He felt that he just had to buy the statue, that it somehow needed to accompany him on his journey.
‘I can sell that one for you for 20 dollars’, the man said and grinned.
‘That really is a good price’, Ted nodded as he handed the dollars to the man. ‘I don’t think that I can find a better deal anywhere.’
‘I’m here to surprise and delight’, the man said and laughed. There was something intriguing about the man, Ted thought as he put the statue in his bag. ‘Do you live in Taipei?’ Ted asked, trying to sound light, although in reality the man made him feel on edge.
‘Oh, I live here and there’, the man gestured around the market with his hand. ‘A traveller or a gypsy as most would say. Or a restless soul.’ He laughed some more and Ted smiled. It sounded like the man was of the 70s hippy generation.
‘I have been in Taipei for some time, yes’, the man continued. ‘I would love to open my own retreat centre here. A place for Westerners to come and relax, to get away from their boring lives back home.’ ‘I can see there being a market for that’, Ted noted. ‘There is and I hope to conquer it’, the man winked at Ted.
‘Hey, I am staying at a retreat centre just down the road. Why don’t you pop over for some tea one of these days? It would be good to talk some more with you. You know how it is, difficult to come across people here who speak something else than Chinese.’
Somehow the idea sounded appealing to Ted. He found this man intriguing, although he knew so little about him, and would have liked to talk more with him.
‘I certainly will’, Ted said and the two men shook hands. ‘But can we please have some coffee instead of tea? I am missing my cafeine fix!’
The man laughed. ‘My sentiments exactly. Coffee date it is then. Come any afternoon and ask for Darky at the reception. Here is the address to the centre.’ The man scribbled on a piece of paper. ‘I’ll have Nescafe ready for us.’