Ride or die: Scooter riding in Taiwan

Travel: A scooter swarm and the dance of life and death in Taiwan

Among the chaos and the streaming lights there are tiny rockets moving between buildings and jostling people out of the way as they walk into the street. In South Korea, Japan, Thailand and China these pocket rockets roam through the night, comandeered by a mixture of salarymen, young punks and mums with kids strapped to their chests.

If you ever jump on board one of these thundering surfboards you will feel the heat and vibration between your legs. No its not like that. No it is like that, really.

Your hair flickering back behind your head like medusa. A bracing wind like a shock of recognition about the coming winter hits the back of your neck and chills you to the bone. Hold on for dear life to the one in front of you, she or he is going to be the one delivering you to your destination or to the gates of hell.

Bubblng up around the scooter riders are sewerage smells from below, and the smokey fishy essence of a fish shop on the corner, combined with the blowing, perfumed and burnt smell of pressed and couiffed hair from the hairdresser. All around them are the puttering and spluttering noises of angry mechanical beasts at the intersection. Each impatiently awaits his or her turn to go once the lights turn from amber to green. The cacophony of scooter sounds are deafening. Each machine comes within a hair width of the others and all are screaming towards a final destination – home, work, karaoke bar, restaurant, night markets.

There’s a real sense of anonymity and bodily lightness to each of the scooter riders, each manoeuvers their machine with daring and aggressive certainty. Each muscles through traffic and turns through a maze of street vendors, pedestrians, shops and parked cars as though cutting through brie cheese with a butter knife.

As light as a feather and as deftly as a Russian gymnast the scooter riders take sharp turns and come to a halt. There is a sense that each one is a small miracle, a small death-defying, fate-tempting swirl of humanity that managed to escape the clutches of some dark eventuality. Each one of the scooter riders is bouyant and indefatiguable and concretely alive once they get off the scooter and arrive at their destination. Whether they realise this each time they ride or they don’t isn’t clear.

Ride or die: Scooter riding in Taiwan
A scooter swarm and the dance between life and death in Taiwan Photo by A.Dennis 2009

 

 

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