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.