We were dwaddeling down the coast — just starting to find a rhythm — when we realized that our time was almost up. There were meetings to attend, factories to tour — business to be done. So we took the short way back to Taipei. Stashed our bikes at the house of a friend of a friend of a friend. And took to the fashionable shopping districts in search of a wardrobe transformation.
When discussing this trip (or imagining the eventuality of it) in Nepal we had entertained wild ideas about custom tailored suits and perhaps doing the whole tour of the island so attired. It turns out that bespoke suits aren’t particularly cheap in Taiwan ( as they are in some other asian countries) at least for clueless foreigners like ourselves. So we abandoned that idea, and traveled in our normal, somewhat less-fancy riding attire. Which rendered those few clothes even less suitable for attempting to look respectable.
So with the deadline fast approaching we headed out in search of a respectable facade. Matt, having somewhat of a more conventional wardrobe than l, really only need a nicer shirt. l on the other hand, needed a complete makeover…. And l got one. But we threw our plans to look normal out the window almost immediately. Looking for breakfast (preparing for our shopping adventure) we stumbled across a tailor with a hot-pink suit coat in the window — which was exactly my size.
It was far from cheap, and Taiwan this time of year was much too warm to wear a suit — but it was obvious that l had to buy it…. And it did look lovely with my silk opera hat. But now, with such a dazzling coat, I really needed an outfit to match. It was evening by this time, but no matter. In Taiwan, shops open late and close around dusk, at which time the streets and shuttered storefronts are taken over by semi-legal ‘night-markets.’ Which operate until quite late, each market specializing in something. And The Sha Da Market, well within walking distance, is known for relatively cheap, fashionable clothes.
Finding a shirt was fairly easy, but pants became a multi-day ordeal. It turns out that straight legged pants more or less don’t exist in Taiwan (at the moment). The choice was between tapered-leg skinny-jeans, which were merely tight, and those which appeared painted on. The trouble being, that l really dont like pants (and usually avoid wearing them), in part because my (cycling adapted?) legs, especially my calves, don’t fit well. And in this case literally didn’t fit at all. We went to every store and stall in the night market without finding any pants (or skirts) that would work with my ensemble.
So we spent the whole next day shopping as well. Matt fared a bit better than l. Finding a heavily discounted pair of his favorite pants, and a lovely floral shirt. True gentleman that he is though, he kindly he stuck it out, and kept searching with me until I found some pants which more or less fit (l had to alter the waist). At which point we retired to our room to play dress up.
Far from blending in, looking ‘normal’ or business casual — we ended up costumed like a stage-designer’s idea of hippies pretending to be businessmen, in some sort of musical comedy. Which l suppose isn’t too surprising, or far from the truth. Fortunately, we needn’t have worried. No one we met with was particularly dressed up — Matts regular clothes would have been just fine. And l stuck out like a sore thumb, and would have either way — though a dapper and over-dressed eccentric is likely more palatable, than a dirty cross-dressed one.
In any case our agents are consummate professionals, and were unfazed by our appearance/ lack of experience. Who did an excellent job of introducing us to the world of bicycle manufacturing. And in their capacity as translators explaining our somewhat unusual needs/desires/designs to the various suppliers. Our week of meetings and factory tours was incredibly useful, fascinating and enlightening. It is so much easier to do business face to face. To be able to point at the part of the drawing that isn’t quite right. To have physical samples to compare/reference. And to see how and where everything is made. We dressed for success (after our own fashion) and our visit to Taiwan most certainly was.