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Tao Lin's iPhone Photos of Taipei

The Grand Hotel

Over the next few weeks, in celebration of the forthcoming release of Tao Lin's latest novel, 'Taipei,' we will be featuring a weekly selection of photos taken by the author during his recent trip to Taipei, Taiwan. This selection focuses on the Grand...
Tao Lin
Κείμενο Tao Lin

Over the next few weeks, in celebration of the forthcoming release of Tao Lin's latest novel, Taipei, we will be featuring a weekly selection of photos taken by the author during his recent trip to Taipei, Taiwan. While there, he took thousands of pictures with his iPhone, pictures which he has divided into albums titled things like "Taipei fashion," "Taipei carbs," "Taipei babies," and "Taipei animals," among others. The images were taken between January and February 2013 during one of his semiannual visits to the Taiwanese capital, where his parents live.


Taipei will be released on June 4 from Vintage and is available for pre-order now. To read an early excerpt from the novel that we published in 2011 titled "Relationship Story," click here.

The Grand Hotel (est. 1952) was rated, in 1968, as "one of the world's top ten hotels," according to Wikipedia, "by the US Fortune magazine."

Richard Nixon is listed 1st under "Notable guests" on The Grand Hotel's Wikipedia page. Nixon "Stayed at the hotel during an Asian trip in 1965." Ronald Reagan is listed 2nd; Bill Clinton 3rd. 5th is Benigno "Ninoy" Aquino, Jr., who "Stayed at the hotel the night before his assassination on August 21, 1983."

My parents and I were coming to the hotel to eat at its buffet.

The hotel's main (and only, I think) fountain. Centered directly in front of the hotel, unmistakably the official focal point for those approaching from a distance, the lawn sprinkler-like fountain seemed "hilarious," I kept thinking. The impression, which was both blatant and nonchalant, was of a perfectly executed "extremely half-assed job."

The tiny, inaudible (I think) fountain, seen from the other side, at an angle. Taipei 101, far in the distance, is visible above & to the left of the fountain water.

There were ~15 of these, mostly dragons, in the lobby. I think this was the only fish.

I was barely aware of this until a child, who was running around, asked his dad, I think, if it was "a dragon's tail." Then (after the dad-like man confirmed it was) I felt like I'd been interested in it but (because I'd only suspected, not believed, that it was a dragon's ass, detached and isolated, or maybe because I didn't want to underscore my lack of curiosity) had "blocked it out."

The Grand Hotel is "owned by the Duen-Mou Foundation of Taiwan, a non-profit organization," according to Wikipedia.

I repeatedly thought "this is the funniest hotel I've ever been in" in an "I can't stress this enough" tone (and probably began to view more things as funny) after processing what this was: 2 crabs on a lily-pad, for sale as "LEATHER ART," with a "Certificate of Authenticity" reading "THIS IS TO CERTIFY THAT MY CREATION IS AN ORIGINAL HAND-MADE PIECE COMPLETED ON. THE INFORMATION LISTED HERE IS TRUE AND CORRECT TO THE BEST OF OUR KNOWLEDGE" and, below that, the artist's name/signature & other, obscured information.

This ancient-looking, computer-like thing seemed hilarious, I thought, in a subdued manner.

I think I was grinning almost nonstop, from other things, when I saw this, which (after an "I can't believe it" reaction lasting maybe a few seconds) I processed as "having taken things to the next level."

The caption reads: "October 25, 2012 Yao Ming, the Chinese Moving Great Wall (former NBA player) was invited to visit Taiwan as the Special Olympics Global Ambassad or to support the Special Olympics athletes. The Grand Hotel was honored to support the event for charity."

The caption reads: "December 27th, 1978. U.S. Department of State Deputy Secretary, Warren Christopher's car was surrounded by protesters throwing eggs, causing the car to go at a low speed."

The caption reads: "The emergency underpasses of the Grand Hotel were completed when the main building was under construction. For 39 years, it had maintained a high degree of mystery, and has become an exclusive feature in a tourist hotel of the world today."

I thought "this is the funniest photo I've ever seen" probably ~25x while looking at it & somewhat regularly the rest of the day/night. I felt earnestly amazed, at times, while looking at it in person. The next 3 photos are angled close-ups of this photo.

(Also in this hotel, which I recommend visiting: an exhibit of cabbages that, except size, all looked the same and were handmade, I think, out of salt, for the purpose of a competition; a refrigerator-size computer-thing with the largest "touch screen" I can remember ever seeing; the buffet, which had funny translations like "Western Cold Selection" and a coffee machine from, I think, a company called "Greatness.")

Previously - Facedown Generation

Follow Tao on Twitter @tao_lin