Category Archives: Travel

A Global Search for Stationery: Taiwan

This post and images was graciously created by the wonderful Tiffany Babb. She is a New York based poet, comic creator, and academic.  You can find more of her work at www.tiffanybabb.com

Taipei is a stationery lover’s paradise. No matter where you are, you won’t have to go far to get some shopping done in the city. Even in the most residential areas, you’ll find yourself walking by some form of school supply shop or stepping into a convenience store with a decent assortment of mechanical pencils, erasers, rulers, and pencil pouches.

During my time in Taiwan, I was able to visit most of the stores recommended to me. My first stop was Kuangnan, a brightly lit two-floor store (the upper floor is where you can find stationery). The stationery section of the store focused on pens, notebooks, and binders, but I did find a pencil section which featured a selection of labelled and unlabeled dime pencils. I also grabbed a cool pencil pouch for about 3 US dollars.

ESLITE

The second store I visited was the large Eslite location near City Hall. Visiting Eslite was quite an experience. It felt like a glossy shopping mall with a strong literary bent. I found everything from a Powerpuff Girls café to an organic olive oil shop. In my mad rush to find some pencils, I first stumbled across the “Writing Center” (pictured below) which mostly carried fountain pens and fountain pen related ephemera. They had these gorgeous Caran D’ache pencils—a set of four for $30 USD, which I had to pass on, but a quick trip upstairs landed me with some well-priced single Caran D’ache pencils, a cool store brand notebook, and an Agatha Christie novel I hadn’t read yet.The store is a must for lovers of washi tape, as I felt like I couldn’t walk ten feet without bumping into another selection of (admittedly not cheap) beautifully designed tape. I also found this huge table of Rhodia products, half of which I hadn’t seen before. The store also carried Leuchturrm, Midori, and Moleskine products. The day I set out to hit the rest of my stops, it was pouring rain (yikes!) I’m pretty sure I ruined by shoes, but my love for stationery won out, and I found some real gems!

DAISO

The Daiso I visited (in the Living Mall) carried Golden Swords, only the B cores, but they also carried a host of other Japanese pencils that I had never seen at Daiso before, including the Kitaboshi red/blue pencils, Kitaboshi HIT 4Bs and 6Bs, and even some pretty Mitsubishi pencils. They also had the newer triangular natural wood pencils. Apart from the much better pencil selection, I didn’t see much difference from the actual store in Taipei and those visited in Southern California.PINMO PURE

I only stopped by the Pinmo Pure store for a few minutes, but it was a really cool little DIY notebook place. If I had more time, I could imagine spending hours there picking through the various grades of paper, stamps, covers, and binding options before coming out of the store with an awesome personalized notebook. Like a lot of boutique stationery stores in Taipei, the store’s aesthetic very trendy and the employees seemed friendly.

KINOKUNIYA

When I first got to the Kinokuniya, I was a little disappointed. Don’t get me wrong—the store is big and beautiful and carried a bunch of amazing stationery options, but I just didn’t see much that was  different from what I could find in the branch in New York or LA—at  least not in the single pencil category. There were a few more more Japanese pencil options, but most were in box sets and a little pricey for me. I did note that they had a few really cool displays of both ballpoint and fountain pens, but due to my lack of knowledge about pens, I couldn’t tell how special or rare they were.I was about to leave when a jar of pencils caught my eye. In this magical jar I found some loose Palomino Blackwing 602s, a couple of Pearls, an older MMX with the gold stripe (which I snapped up), a vol. 1138 (!), and three vol. 24s (!!!) I rushed to pay for my purchase, constantly glancing around me making sure that no one was going to take my treasures away from me.TOOLS TO LIVE BY

Tools to Live By was the kind of stationery store you wish you had down the street from your apartment. It’s meticulously kept and curated and carries a strong assortment of pretty much anything you’d ever want. It was also the store I visited which carried the most American made pencils and notebooks. They also had a nice selection of fountain pens and ink.  They had a myriad of Japanese pencils as well as American pencils including loose Field Notes pencils (both the round ones and carpenter), Rhodia pencils, Palomino HBs, and a couple of loose Guy Clark editions too (which I happily picked up). They had some individually wrapped (!) Pitch Black Field Notes. They also had a really amazing selection of high quality (and priced) “Tools to Live By” branded items from delicate and surprisingly heavy scissors to beautifully thin metal rulers.CONCLUSIONS!

Taipei is a really great place to check out if you’re a fan of stationery. The city is wonderful (lots of tree covered mountains in the distance), with a very clean and easy to use subway system. High quality stationery including Faber Castell and Staedtler as well as (surprisingly) Wopex pencils can be found pretty much in any stationery store as well as Taiwanese brands like Liberty and Rabbit. If you’re not picky about brands, you’ll be able to find plenty of pencils and cute notebooks of varying size and quality for fifty cents to a couple of dollars.

Motherland

The mountains here are a force of nature,

oceans of stone roiling beneath a vibrant forest

that shivers as warm winds pass through.

The boundaries between air and earth are indistinguishable

As the tallest peaks disappear into the sky

It seems as if they’ve been there forever

Waiting to split open the earth

And swallow the sky.