We were somewhere around Computex on the edge of the city when the panic began to take hold. Could the venerable Tom’s Hardware team of roving reporters survive yet another day of death-defying taxi rides, interesting culinary experiences, and laborious booth preparation ?
Yesterday began with a wild taxi drive to the convention center to put the finishing touches on our booth before the show opened. The problem (well, one of many problems) with the taxi drivers over here is that very few of them speak a lick of English, and the problem with us Johnny Tourists is that we don’t speak a lick of Mandarin. What usually happens is that we give the address in English to our hotel receptionist, who quite helpfully translates it onto a piece of paper for our taxi driver.
The only problem with this solution is that we had multiple destinations for the day and somebody forgot to label the scraps of incomprehensible (to us) pieces of paper with their English meanings. So Patrick, Humphrey and I jumped into our taxi outside the hotel, handed the driver a scrap of paper and about a minute down the road discovered that we were on our way to an unscheduled visit to Gigabyte.
Many wild gesticulations later and we were on the right track to the convention center, albeit in the middle of morning rush-hour traffic. It’s not that everything comes to a stop in Taipei traffic. Oh no, that would be too sane. Instead, everyone - the brash moped drivers in particular - tries to find ways around one another. Oddly enough for all the griping we’d been doing about the taxi driving, we’d only encountered one accident (which didn’t look all that major) in our time here this week. They’re stone cold crazy behind the wheel over here that’s for sure, but at least they’re used to it.
Upon reaching our location (or near enough to it, lacking proper directions) we discovered that the finishing touches on our booth were coming along well. We even had a "booth babe," an attractive woman who, I am proud to say, was smartly dressed. And despite the fact she didn’t dance around in her panties like the other cookie-cutter booth babes (thank you very much, ATI and Kingston) the Tom’s Hardware booth was holding its own in attracting fans.
But my babe-ogling time was all too short. I was the man (presumably with a plan) on the ground and I had many miles and more than a thousand exhibitors to cover. I managed to pass the same block of booths about four times before finding my bearings. The press of the crowd was overwhelming. And did I mention it was hot ? Balls-sticking-to-the-legs hot.
Finding spots to grab a bottle of water was essential if you wanted to survive in this town, and I soon discovered that the dancing-babes booths were waning in popularity as the temperature soared. The new darlings of Computex were the stacks of prominently displayed curvaceous and enticing water bottles. But how to get one without looking like I was just there to quench my thirst ? I quickly figured out that one of those delectable bottles could be mine for five minutes of banter with the public relations people and a quick snap of my camera.
As I made way through the throngs in Hall 2, I again found myself distracted by a roaming babe who lured me with a large sign that said "Follow me." So of course I did. When I arrived at the booth she was promoting, I encountered some totally smart booth babes conducting a tough technical quiz on the makeup of the company’s products. The questions went somewhat exactly like, "And who makes the best products in such and such a category ?" The poor saps around me obligingly shouted out the company name as I thought to myself, "The company that’s branded you girls from head to butt, that’s who." Oh, the sheer entertainment value of it all.
I finally caught up with Patrick and Humphrey at the free open buffet above Hall 1. We listened to the band, drank beer (really bad beer), drank some more and then decided to head back to our hotel. Outside we found ourselves in a monsoonal downpour, so we decided we had no choice but to hail a taxi.
What followed was a mix of the now familiar ice-cold terror and frantic hand gestures until we eventually reached our destination. I love Taipei. In a terrified sort of way.
More coverage to follow from Day 2 of Computex. Stay tuned...