National Taiwan Utopia

National Taiwan University – the one school honored with the mystical reputation as Taiwan’s token in education. Culturally, it’s basically like the Ivy Leagues of, with a lot less elitism, and student debt.

Despite its reputable cultural presence,  I’d never visited the famous and historic campus. For two years I had lived a short 5-minute bike ride away, never motivated enough to visit the breeding ground of Taiwan’s best students and hipsterism.

Crossing off another item on my bucket list, however trivial, I decided to have a look at where the magic happens.

Of course, it had to start with some NTU campus food. All the tastiest affordable food in the world seem to surround colleges, feeding starving and stressed out students, who, very profitably, travel in packs.

img_7858With a trusted friend familiar with the campus, we hit up Oomori (大勝日式豬排) for some authentic Taiwanese-style Japanese food. Another trait with shops around campuses – they seem to be very efficient with their usage of space. Perhaps it’s due to the valuable real estate of a mere walking distance to a hatchery for the distinguished.

Oomori is a small Izakaya-style shop with very low ceilings and tiny stools, staffed by young and attractive boys who made me blush and giggle as I handed in our order sheet.

How good can a typical tonkatsu be? I hope my taste buds aren’t just abnormally tingling due to the excitement of Funemployment, because I found myself chowing down the pomelo-flavored fried chicken with great joy. On a side note, the eccentric venue comes with its corresponding quirky outhouse, which is a unique experience all of its own.

Food monsters sedated, we continued the stroll the neighborhood until we finally arrived: the National Taiwan University campus — a historic site, perhaps also a time capsule, bustling with young blood backdropped by vintage architecture.

NTU's campus entrance, with the signature rows of tall palm trees and vintage architecture.
NTU’s campus entrance, with the signature rows of tall palm trees and vintage architecture.

As outsiders I found myself surrounded by scurries of attractive Taiwanese youths, sporting reading glasses that perfectly complemented their faces, while emitting ambition and strive out of the pores of their skin. Students pedaled by on gorgeous fixed-gear bikes or rusty old wheels squeaking with character. In a beautiful Taipei sunny day, these kids smiled ear to ear as they shuffled to their next class through the rows of lengthy palm trees, some carrying other beautiful members of their species on the back of the bike, who held on carefully and oh so romantically.

Perhaps it was a part of the curriculum to be a cyclist, because there were more bike bells ringing by than boring old pedestrians like us. I suddenly felt inefficient and primitive for not also having something to pedal by beneath me in the midst of this traffic.

Mesmerized, it was only swiftly after the class bell rung again did I wish I had taken a snapshot of the this precious moment in the daily life of this utopian world. It resonated so much in my mind, I roughly sketched my impression of the daily college student commute in Taipei City:

A warmhearted sketch of students as they commute to class at NTU. 

Soon afterwards, we found another gem to further prove that this campus is fertile with all things happy. We stumbled upon a greenhouse straight out of a schoolgirl love novel, covered in white paint, chipping from its adorable years of vintage existence. Call me a romantic, but I felt like watering some plants here would result in a guitar-strumming, Salinger-reading, overly-attached but gorgeous boyfriend. Time to take a look at the NTU website and find some ways to justify a degree in fisheries science.

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