FROM SEASIDE FILM FESTIVALS TO 24-HOUR BOOKSTORES, ASIA OFFERS A CAPTIVATING HEAD TRIP

BEST BOOKSTORE
Eslite
TAIPEI, TAIWAN
By Adam Shemper

Posted Monday, November 15, 2004; 21:00 HKT
In Taipei, if you ask young locals where to go, they'll happily tell you to visit the National Palace Museum and various bustling night markets. But, they urge, there's one other not-to-be-missed hot spot: Eslite Books.

One of the few bookstores in the world open 24 hours a day, Eslite is a wonderfully hospitable space: readers lounge in the aisles, couples cuddle, and, lulled by the steady stream of classical music, some solitary souls fall asleep, staying until sunrise. You can browse more than 3,000 imported magazines, a huge array of art books, and a literature section with about 212,000 Chinese- and English-language titles. The high prices don't deter customers—many use the store as a library, reading without ever buying.

Eslite—a 12th century French word for "élite"—opened in 1989. Its founder, Wu Ching-yu, had made his fortune selling commercial kitchen equipment, and launched the store after heart surgery left him searching for a more uplifting enterprise. Wu's company now boasts 50 shops around Taiwan, with more than half a million people visiting the flagship branch every month, including devotees from Japan and Hong Kong. They mingle with the fashionably dressed twentysomethings who flock here because Eslite has become Taipei's place to be seen. But it's also the best spot in town to hole up in comfort with the perfect book.

From TIME Asia - Best of Asia. November, 2004.

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