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Guest Feature: The Geeky Heart of Taipei

If you are a geek, and find yourself in Taipei, know this: you must visit the Huashan-Bade-Guanghua geek complex. They can supply any geek, whether food geek (there is a farmer’s market), korean drama geek (lots of korean drama DVDs) and even the jade geek (yep, there’s a jade market too).

Naturally, it’s the best place to buy comics books in Taipei, and possibly even the best place to buy comic books in all of Taiwan. First, let’s look at Huashan Cultural Park.

A picture of the former factory buildings which are now Huashan Culture Park

Once upon a time, Huashan was a factory. As Taipei de-industrialises, authorities try to repurpose the leftover structures, and Huashan is one of their more successful efforts. It has galleries, trendy cafes/eateries, a yoga center, and hosts various artsy/indy events. Futhermore, it’s a popular location for wedding photos. When I talk to young people about what places in Taipei they recommend visiting, Huashan is one of the places they mention the most often. However, there is not much in the way of comic books around Huashan.

Outside of the exhibit for the M Riders is a cardboard cutout showing all of the main characters from the TV series.

Here is a temporary exhibit at Huashan dedicated to The M Riders, a Taiwanese fantasy TV series. I don’t know much about it, though based on what little I’ve seen, it looks like it has been heavily influenced by Harry Potter.

This is a sign on Bade Road which shows a bunch of circuitry, highlighting Bade Road's techie credentials

Now let’s head to the Bade Rd. market.

Along Bade Road, we se the signs of many tech stores

As you can see by the street signs, this section of Bade Rd. is full of technology stores.

This storefront is quite open, designed to invite people passing by to browse through the various gadgets

This is a typical store-front.

Street stalls selling typical Taiwanese street food mix with the technology stores

Here, in the alleys, tech stores mix with vendors of standard Taiwanese street fare, in case you get hungry while browsing through wares (and it’s the wrong day of the week for the farmer’s market).

This is a picture showing Animate from the outside

Of course, all of the geeks converging on Bade Rd. to get their gadgets also need something to read. Animate, one of Taiwan’s largest comic book stores, is right here to serve them.

Animate carries lots of manga and otherwise geeky magazines.

Here is the magazine section.

Along the staircase of Animate you can see various ads and comments about manga/anime

Here is the staircase.

Unfortunately, they did not want me to take pictures of the second floor (where most of the store is). However, they have a huge selection of (new) manga of all kinds, as well as lots of light novels, and manhwa, and the type of manhua which is styled after Japanese manga. Alas, I have never seen any of the types of manhua which stray further from the Japanese style at Animate. But that’s just the front part of the store. In the back part of the store, they sell lots of anime/manga themed merchandise. And in the very, very back is the “18 and older” section, naturally.

A picture of the 5-floor Guanghua Digital Plaza from the outside

But now it’s time to head to … GUANGHUA DIGITAL PLAZA!

A picture of the various technology-selling stalls on the ground floor of Guanghua Digital Plaza

Here’s a picture of the ground floor of Guanghua Digital Plaza. Though the ground floor has some eateries (which I do not care about) … the real business is selling the big gadgets. Like computers.

Of course, many of the tech stalls at Guanghua Digital Plaza are actually outposts of the (larger) stores in Bade Market. Because everything is much closer together inside Guanghua Digital Plaza, it’s easier to do comparison shopping, or to shop for mutiple items. Therefore Guanghua Digital Plaza gets much more foot traffic. All the stores want a slice of that.

A picture of a stall selling HP computers next to a stall selling Fujitsu computers

This is the stall where I bought the computer I am using to write this post.

One of the features of shopping at Guanghua Digital Plaza is the haggling. It is easier to haggle at Guanghua Digital Plaza than at the Nova Arcade on Chongqing road (the other major spot in Taipei to buy electronic gadgets). It is often said that you should never accept the list price for anything (at least for the tech items). I am not good at haggling, so I can’t give advice, but you should definitely try to get as good a deal as you can.

A view of the types of stall found on the second and third floors of Guanghua Digital Plaza

Let’s go up to the second and third floors – where all the comic books are!

Here are some tall, rolling bookshelves inside a comic book stall.

This is a pretty typical set up for comic book stores / rental shops throughout Taiwan – tall, shifting shelves to pack in as many comics as possible.

A store selling various kinds of outdoor gear

Here’s an outdoor-gear store. I told you this area catered to geeks of all kinds.

A small hole-in-the wall bookstore which manages to stock a lot of used books.

Now here is a little book store that I love. Though it’s small, they have a good selection of comic books:

Comic book series bundled together and stacked on upon the other.

Of course, with all of those comics stacked up on each other, browsing is a bit challenging – how can you know what’s buried under there? That’s why there is a list of all series currently in stock; if you indicate interest in a series, the store keeper will pull it out for you.

Kpop stars are dancing on a bunch of computer screens to show off the quality of the image.

Here are some Korean pop stars showing off the visual quality of these monitors. All things K-pop are very popular in Taiwan (well … manhwa is not very popular in Taiwan, though I suspect it sells much better in Taiwan than in the United States). If you browse the monitors at Guanghua Digital Plaza, you will see a lot of K-pop dancing.

This is a small Mollie's Used Bookstore tucked inside Guanghua Digital Plaza

And here’s Mollie’s outpost at Guanghua Digital Plaza. Mollie’s Used Bookstore is one of the local used bookstore chains. While this Mollie’s merely has a small selection of comics, it’s always worth a look.

A bunch of manhua titles for sale, including Creative Comics Collection, Old Master Q, and various wuxia titles

If you were disappointed that Animate does not sell manhua which veers from the Japanese style, this store has a nice selection of such manhua.

A typical corridor on the third floor

Somewhere on this floor is the store where I bought the camera I’m using to take all these pictures … but I can’t seem to find it.

Yet another hole-in-the-wall comic book store at Guanghua Digital Plaza

Here’s another great comic books store. This place just sells used comics – specifically, it just sells bundled used comic books. It’s great if you want the full run of a semi-popular-thru-somewhat-obscure series without putting your wallet through too much pain.

A typical video store selling DVDs and VCDs at Guanghua Digital Plaza

And here’s a video store. There are a number of these throughout the second and third floor. They sell Hollywood fare, Hong Kong fare, Chinese fare, Japanese live-action fare, anime, lots and lots of Korean dramas, and local idol dramas. Notice that there is a sign on top for the Emma anime.

A hole in the wall bookstore / comic book store which manages to have quite a selection in spite of its size

And here’s Wawa, which has by far the best selection of new comic books in all of Guanghua Digital Plaza. They even have some new comics which I have not seen at Animate.

New copies of a bunch of volumes of (Chinese language) Glass Mask

For example, they have Every Single Volume Of Glass Mask. New. It’s not hard to find a used set of Glass Mask, but having new copies of the entire run in stock? That’s impressive.

A bookstore which is utterly crammed with used books

And here’s another little store that I love.

A stack of comic books outside a bookstore

Again, the comics are stacked up right out front, though there are also many comics inside too (I never understood how this store is organized, and that’s okay – it make is more like a treasure hunt).

The inside of the bookstore, where used books are stuffed into every nook and cranny possible

And here’s the interior. Look at how books are spilling out of every book and cranny. While it’s not so good for the books, I love this kind of used bookstore. It feels so much warmer and cozy than bookstores where everything is neatly and coldly laid out.

So that’s Huashan-Bade-Guanghua. I admit that it’s quite commercial (well, Huashan Cultural Park is less so), but buying, selling, and trading what you love is quite exciting. Every time I visit, I think I already know everything that’s there – yet I always manage to discover something new. And if you visit yourself, I’m sure you’ll disover something new yourself.

Sara K. has previously written Why You Should Read Evyione and a review of Mary Stayed Out All Night for Manga Bookshelf. She now has her own blog, The Notes Which Do Not Fit, though you won’t find much about comic books or Asian culture over there. She currently lives in Taoyuan County, Taiwan.

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Comments

  1. God. Yes. I wish I could read Japanese and had access to this bounty ^^. Also – the link to your new web blog does not seem to exist.

    • I *think* I’ve found Sara’s blog, and have edited to link to it. She can let me know if that’s not really hers! :)

    • Yep, that’s the right link and the right blog. Thanks Melinda.

      Anyway, the language you need to open up this bounty is Chinese (traditional characters), not Japanese. There are some Japanese-language comics for sale too, but the vast majority are in Chinese.

  2. My keyboard is now covered in envy-derived drool.

  3. I am quite envious of a friend who goes to Taiwan nearly on a yearly basics then. Though I believe Taiwan is Chinese, and not Japanese, though they were a Japanese colony.

    • It’s true that 99.5% of Taiwanese people use Mandarin, Taiwanese, and/or Hakka as their primary language, which are all ‘Chinese’ (saying ‘I speak Chinese’ is a little like saying ‘I speak Germanic’ – does speaking ‘Germanic’ mean speaking German, English, Swedish, Dutch, etc.). It is also true that Taiwan was at one time a part of the Japanese empire. But to say that Taiwan *Is* Chinese … that is a sensitive subject considering Taiwan’s long, complicated, and sometimes painful history with China – especially since right now the People’s Republic of China is threatening to invade Taiwan with military force. And the discussion is even more confusing in English because, while it’s not controversial to say that the vast majority of Taiwanese people are ‘huárén’ (that is Mandarin for ‘Chinese People’ when used to describe the ethnicity) it is controversial to say that Taiwanese people are zhōngguórén (that is a different Mandarin word for ‘Chinese people’ used to describe nationality). I think it is best to stay away from the subject unless one wants a vigorous and emotional debate (indeed, I would get very emotional if somebody was pointing a bunch of ballistic missiles at me … wait a minute, I am in Taiwan, and those ballistic missiles are pointed at Taiwan…)

      • My apologies for singularly labeling Taiwan as that then. It is politically worrying about the missiles being pointed toward Taiwan.. sounds like a similar situation with North and South Korea. Still I was commenting on someone commenting not being able to read the manga in Japanese, since I recall that the written language and as well as the photo above, has Chinese characters. I guess I wasn’t as specific in my comments then. Still I definitely like how this blog entry is quite photo happy.

  4. This post makes me wish I had kept up with my Mandarin after college (though I was learning simplified characters, so it’d still be hard to read manga from Taiwan). It seems like there’s so much more available in Mandarin, but I don’t have the slightest idea where/how to go about importing series from Taiwan that we don’t have in the US. Any suggestions? I would be a great way to start back up again. I was kind of under the impression that there weren’t alot of simplified Chinese manga.

    I was wondering who made that post about Eviyone, I remember it was a guest post. I have a volume from the library at home on my desk just because of that one post.

    • I am so very happy that you decided to try Evyione :D

      If you want Chinese-language comics, may I suggest YesAsia.com? They offer free international shipping for orders over 50 USD. While there are some in-print Chinese-language comics which they do not seem to sell for some mysterious reason, they still have quite a selection. Taiwan’s top online bookstore, http://www.books.com.tw/ has a better selection, but I do not know whether they do international shipping, or whether the international shipping fees are reasonable.

      If you want out-of-print stuff, or stuff that is not available at online stores for some other reason, then you might want to arrange affairs so somebody could search Guanghua Digital Plaza for you and ship it. If there is something very specific that you are looking for, I might be willing to perform such a service (I love browsing Guanghua Digital Plaza anyway).

      And if you decide to take up Mandarin again, I suggest visiting http://www.hackingchinese.com/ – if you browse through the posts, you can see that I comment quite frequently over there.

  5. EmmKays91 says:

    HOLY MESS. I just stumbled on this while Google searching for two particular manga sets… and DEAR. GOD. I want to live in those book stores. I bet they’d have the Taiwanese version of Ayashi no Ceres in there!! :O I saw the entire run of Fushigi Yuugi in one picture! :D (I already own those, though. XD)

    This store and any comic book store in Japan. I want to live in them.



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  1. […] ground, there are lots of ways to get them in Taiwan. I have an article at Manga Bookshelf about Guanghua Digital Plaza, but that’s hardly the only place to get comics in Taiwan (if have specific questions about […]



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