TILAT #8: Cafe culture

Until about ten minutes ago I hadn’t even noticed this one. Life in Surat Thani revolved around cafes for a significant portion of the time due to a lack of internet access in the majority of teachers’ accommodation. If you wanted your Facebook fix, needed lesson inspiration or wanted to Skype someone back home you did it over a latte and a cake. However in Taichung, despite both my apartments so far being hooked up to the web and having plentiful coffee supplies and a French press, and flying in the face of the plan to save every penny possible, I’m spending more and more of  my weekend free time in cafes.

Why? Well on that point I’m stumped. I don’t know what it is they do here but there’s some magical mix that some of these places have hit on. The decor, the ambience, the music, the drinks selection, the nibbles – they all conspire to give me a fuzzy home-from-home feel. My first choice for the past four months has been Match Cafe, one of the first places I visited and now a regular Sunday haunt. I’ve even been recognised at a bar as “that guy from Match Cafe” by someone soon to become my Chinese tutor. I find it hard to think of a more welcoming place and I know if I have any problems relating to being a stranger in a strange land that Sophie or Nelson will help out. The number of lazy Sunday hours happily frittered away surfing the net and shooting the breeze there is quite frightening.

Aside from Match there’s a constant stream of new spots I’m discovering, little gems tucked away in all corners of the city. Of note so far has been Robot Cafe near People’s Park. As the name suggests there is something of a theme from the place, with an enormous Gundam towering over the entrance, human sized robots of all descriptions watching your every move and tiny mechs in every nook and cranny. It’s a kid’s dream and pretty much nerd paradise.

Today I find myself in Forro Cafe, a new gem I pass every day en route to the gym but which I always managed to forget about. It exudes a wonderfully creative vibe with a tree hanging from the ceiling, guitar and keyboard in the corner and a wall of Post-It notes inviting your own artistic contribution. The tiny back garden gives some welcome greenery in the centre of the city and features a deliciously creepy faded child’s rocking horse – especially spooky in today’s rain. As I type I’m sipping on a blueberry iced tea and nibbling on a pre-dinner cheesecake, soaking up the sounds of Beck’s Odelay and listening to the murmur of Chinese chit-chat.

I may be nursing the king of all hangovers thanks to 7-11 (more on that in an upcoming post) but I also have a kingsize happy. Thanks cafes.

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