WiFi CityStates: Chiayi, Taiwan


Chiayi, TaiwanNot exactly the largest or most bustling metropolis we’ve covered in our five-part series this week, Chiayi on the southwestern side Taiwan is home to only around a quarter million people. But one of those people is Japundit‘s Dan Bloom — a journalist, blogger and best-selling author who has been one of my favorite conduits for information and perspectives from the far east. What makes Dan unique is that he doesn’t even bother with a laptop, relying entirely on web-based applications accessed at local internet cafes.

Since Dan’s a fantastic writer in his own right, and we have no experience travelling, living or working in Asia, we chose to edit his comments for clarity, but otherwise let him speak for himself:

“I do not own a computer myself, never have, and have used email cafes for over 12 years in Japan and Taiwan. I do all my work from a series of email cafes in a small town in south Taiwan. I write my news articles for editors at print and internet publications at the email cafe, 24/7/365, and am in daily contact with editors in Taipei, Tokyo, and New York, plus a large group of fellow writers and reporters on three continents– Asia, North America and Europe — all from my mobile “home” office, the local email cafe. I pay $1.50 at one shop for a cup of java and have free internet access all day for that price. At another email cafe, I rent the computer for 45 cents per hour. I don’t own a computer because I live in fear of machines that always break down and crash. At the mail cafe, I have never lost anything, as nothing ever crashes. This is my writing life: Go to email cafe at 9 am each day and check emails, start where I left off the next day, and I love it.

“The locals here tend to use the email cafes and Internet cafes just to play games all day and all night. I am the only one using the computer for intellectual or information purposes. Rather sad. Good coffee, latte, cappucino, expresson, and low price (about $1 [NT$35] for a cup of coffee). Free computer time Lasts for about an hour, so I stay there for three to four hours each morning. Food is quality,inexpensive baked goods — cakes and pies. Very comfy chairs, a long desk with 5 computers — WintTels with Office — but no speakers so i cannot hear music (damn). A good email cafe is called InterGlobal Access. With 50 computers, it’s smokey, noisy fun.

“Long live the Internet and long live mobile computing. I hate offices and newsrooms and have not set foot in one since 1999. Never will again. Goodbye to all that.”

Dan proves that with hosted applications and server-side data storage, a laptop isn’t even a necessity for the mobile worker. And that even far from one’s ethnic and cultural roots, one can successfully pursue a career and focus on the work they love.

Photo of Chiayi at night by Yi-Tao “Timo” Lee.


Dan Moore

This is fascinating. I had a few additional questions for the journalist:

How long did he spend working in an office as a traditional journalist?

What email web application does he use?

Does he use any other web applications (Yahoo! notes, Writely, etc)?

How about email lists? What is his preferred email list software?

What other tools does he use to portray himself as a professional to new possible editors? Website? Cell phone? What else?

It’s a fascinating lifestyle and I wished, as I read the piece, that he’d focus a bit more on how he did it, rather than the food costs where he did it.


I can’t speak for other places in Asia yet, but I was just in Singapore, Hong Kong and Bali. They would all be other good examples of mobile computing. In Hong Kong and Singapore, wifi networks overlap each other and it is not uncommon to have a dozen or so show up, invariably one of them is free or often among the secure ones you will find the name of a local cafe where they will give you the password for a drink order. And of course there is Starbucks, wifi for days.

In Bali (mostly south central Bali around Denpasar, Ubud and the Kuta beaches) you will find high speed interent cafes everywhere. I assumed this reflected the number of foreign travellers, but the majority of users are Indonesian.

I brought a MacBook with me on an extended Asia/Australia trip thinking I would need it for something. And in retrospect, between Meebo for IM, Yahoo and Gmail for email and the handful of other internet services. Not sure I need the laptop, though I would be interested in a good digital locker service to store things like web pages with visa or travel information. Suggestions?


Are you planning to do other non US cities too, like in India or Singapore in this column?

Maybe, you can have a kind of Best “Bedouin” liveable cities list!

Danny Bee

Speaking of working outside offices and escaping from your daily cubicle: here are a few choice words on the subject:

ESCAPE FROM YOUR CUBICLE! (an Internet poem!)


Escape from your cubicle!

by David Henry Newman

d_h_888 AT yahoo DOT com

Yes, escape from your cubicle

get out into the world

into the sunlight

the starlight

the summer breeze

escape from your cubicle

by bolting out the door

taking the elevator down to the ground floor

as quickly as possible

get out of there!

don’t wait for the closing bell

don’t wait for five o’clock to come around

get out of your cubicle right now

do the right thing

and escape into the freedom

that awaits you outside the door

no more sitting down doing nothing

no more boring meetings

no more slow-moving lunch breaks

no more boring commutes to work

get out of your cubicle right now

at the quickest possible moment

don’t miss your chance to be free

run, don’t walk

fly out that door!

make your escape at this very moment

— mid-sentence! — midbook!–

take this poem with you

as you run down the hall

happy as you’ll ever be

happy as you’ll ever be

is it a done deed?

Did you get out with your soul on fire?

Are you ready to do battle

with all the days of the rest of your life

when you can pursue the things

you always wanted to pursue

paint the pictures you always wanted to paint

visit those far-away places

you always wanted to visit

spend good times with the people

you love and admire

yes, if you’ve read this far,

try it!

right now!

escape from your cubicle

cut off all the ropes and strings

holding you back

and become one with the universe

free at last

free at last

Free from the confines of your confining cubicle


Escape from your cubicle

Forever … (or maybe just a day!)


And not to mention you can chill out at the Alishan mountains when you feel like it!

Gosh I miss the turkey rice!

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