The Mountain and the City

by on 週一, 02 十二月 2013 評論

The Mountain is looking at the City spreading. The City tries to rise but just spreads. Building after building, a forest of concrete, steel and glass; how small it looks when you take altitude and see it from above- from the height of a peak!

The City is looking at the Mountain, the Mountain so tall that air is thin up there, and no one can live long on its flanks. The City creates towers and creates lifts, it wants to bring people up and it thinks that, one day, those mineral elements will look so small. Year after year, tall buildings appear.

The Mountain is looking at the City and envies its light and fashion, its nightly illuminations and flowing red and white streaks of light. Sometimes, a lonely car is riding Mountain crests at night, and then a filament of light make it shine for a brief instant.

The City is looking at the Mountain, so cold and so dark, a giant ice-cream with vanilla, it thinks sometimes, and it can't help but despise it. The City is sure about its appeal. It won't tolerate the old-fashioned, too rustic, too simple, too empty space around it. It spins always faster and wants to attract everything in its race, faster and faster.

City and Mountains, in Taipei, are bound tight together in an intricate circle of Love and Hate. From the origin of the island itself, Mountains emerged and climbed towards the sky from the deepest layers of the earth, breaking through the sea and the typhoons, but the cities, on the surface, slowly grew into them from all parts. Taipei was born in a basin, it was open to the sea for communication, but the space available became ever smaller and the city gradually climbed, leveled and pierced through the rocks around it to make way for new roads and tunnels. But it couldn't win, the rocks were there and claimed their toll of human lives. Betel nut grew and created mudslides, the fruits breaking people's life, and yet people kept domesticating the mountain.

The Mountain, as an empty space, remains also unattractive. It is cold and dry, a land that favors hermits and those who need to feel lonely for a while. The mountain still has a majestic beauty that the plain lost long ago, with all its factories and ruins, its roads and pollution, its pretention and misery. Both coexist, it is a dramatic view since the island itself is so small, and space so rare. To a modern visitor, it looks almost strange that it takes more time to drive from east to west through the mountains compared to running around the Mountains.


The map was wrong, once again. I thought I was going to the Vietnamese Embassy, but the small road in Neihu kept pushing into the forest. It wasn't really steep, there were also not many houses along the way. Some military restricted areas. Poor cottages in the shadows, some of them even without electricity. No cars on the street. Why would the Vietnamese Embassy be here, I wondered? But I followed the road, at each curve I thought the building would appear behind the next slope.

I had been walking for an hour already. Should I go back? Where was this road going? When you walk alone, there's always a feeling that things around you are strange, almost threatening. The Autumn sun through the shade looks like it is vanishing gradually. The air is becoming cold. Nothing. No Embassy. But I am attracted. I can almost hear myself breathing now. It is getting steep. I turn my head but see nothing through the forest. The air feels also a bit better. Already 3.30pm. Will I be able to come back?

I want to go back, now. But I walk to the next curve. The trees vanish. Behind me, Taipei. In the late afternoon, I can see the buildings, suddenly so small, and the light that draws their delicate shape. From the distance, all human life and misery seem to have been washed away from there. Only the shapes remain. I can't believe I walked this far. I can't expect anymore Vietnamese Embassy. I know I'm lost. I'll have to go back.

But in front of me, the road keeps going on. I don't know what to expect. It is a small path, no car can go here. There are cracks on the side, and you can see the grass in the holes. The vegetation is different, too: there are some ferns, and some strange plants I have never seen before. They seem to play with the wind.

I can't go back, something draws me always further on this road. It is merely a path now, I can hardly see the city anymore. Why had I come there, then? A visa? An embassy? I can't know for sure. It doesn't matter. I keep going. All is silent around me. Just the air, dogs barking in the distance. I feel at peace now. I realize that living down there, in the city, I keep comparing myself to my peers, my life is limited by what makes it shine, all the pressure from other people composes my personality, I am part of this huge stream. But here, alone, I am not worth much but I can be myself. For a while, things that matter to me become clear like the surrounding air.


The Mountain is a place of Majesty and Loneliness for me, but this is a forgotten feeling for a citizen, something precious because it almost doesn't exist anymore. If you want to feel how it's like, just go and see by yourself, on the road past the Vietnamese Embassy, you'll see, maybe...

Benoît Girardot

I'm Benoit, a French guy, arrived in Taiwan around 5 years ago, and it's already hard to remember what I did in my old life! Maybe I lived in Germany? I used to have a weird job, selling breast implants all around Asia, but I quit and am now learning Chinese. I love Taiwan, and I don't really have any words to describe why Taipei is such a cool city... so I'm taking pictures instead.

I have a blog about Taiwan, the idea is to get a deeper understanding of Taiwan-as a foreigner, with language barrier and all kinds of pre-conceived ideas, it is not always an easy task! I post a mic of pictures, videos, articles about the cool people and things I meet on the island! You're welcome to come have a look by yourself!






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