Saturday, February 23, 2013

That's a neat idea!/その発想、いいね!

I had to go to Kaohsiung for an errand on Thursday, and while I was there I got lunch at a small restaurant and noticed something interesting on the table (see below):
It's a holder for the plastic cases that chopsticks come in.  I've actually probably seen these before at other places, but I don't think I ever really took notice of them before.  These are really necessary in Taiwan since many restaurants have their tables placed outside and even the slightest gust will send anything paper or plastic flying.
The design you can see in the photo above and the ones below is a very normal design for a restaurant in Taiwan.  The building is sitting over this open space where the tables are.  The cover means that people won't get rained on or be subject to the extremely strong sunlight, but the open design with no walls means that the wind can pass through and keep things cool.  Given that the average temperature down here in the southern part of the island is still around 68 degrees even in the middle of "winter", a design that keeps things cool is pretty important.
Now some of you may be noticing that there does not appear to be a sidewalk anywhere in this photo.  To this I can only say, you are 100% correct.  There is no real sidewalk.  There's kind of a space to walk right on the side of the street, but it's often blocked by haphazardly parked cars or potted plants that the tenant of the first floor space has let spill out practically into the street.  You can also walk through the open area under the roof, but this only works as long as there aren't tables or motorcycles blocking your way.  Not all of Taiwan is like this mind you, some streets do have proper sidewalks, but still, many don't.  I found this to be often true in Japan as well.  While overall Japan and Taiwan are probably more friendly to pedestrians than the US (mostly just because of their more built up public transport infrastructure and more compact cities) one place they both lose a lot of points is in not having proper, walkable sidewalks in places where people actually want to walk.  The US, admittedly, doesn't have sidewalks in lots of places, but also these places are typically places where you wouldn't want to walk anyway seeing as the entire area has been designed with the assumption that everyone will just drive where they need to go.
However, I'm not from the US, I'm from NYC, so I find the state of sidewalks here to be rather appalling.

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