Where can I find this book about bar scene here? I read this review but bookstores don’t seem to have it. - M.
Guiding the way to Taipei’s bars
It comes as no surprise that Dave Riney and Gina Payne met in a bar. Both fans of a good, strong drink and staying out late, the two hit it off during a night on the town here in Taipei. Two years on and many bars later, the British couple have come up a guide that promises to help you find that next great Taipei nightspot (and avoid the bad ones) “whether you’re stone-cold sober or slobbering drunk.”
“Taipei Pub Crawler: His and Her Bar Guide” (Poptown Press,) covers about 88 bars in Taipei and nearby areas. Targeted at English speakers, the book focuses on “foreigner-friendly” drinking establishments where you can get by with little or no Chinese.
The guide is probably best suited to the recent arrival or visitor to Taipei, as anyone who’s been in the city for more than a year or two is likely to have sampled a fair few of the places on the list. But enthusiastic newcomer or jaded veteran, it offers an entertaining read thanks to the authors’ lively and amusing style.
Offering a refreshing male-female perspective (“Women, of course, have different needs from men, and these distinctions extend to bars and drinking,” Payne writes), the book features a his and her review of each bar. Riney uses a “Pints Up/Pints Down” rating system (indicated by icons showing an upright beer mug and an upturned beer mug, respectively) and Payne makes her judgment based on a scale of one to four kisses (one is bad, four is excellent). “Being a woman, it might sound sexist, but I needed something a little more nuanced than ‘yes’ or ‘no,’” she says.
Riney, 36, and Payne, 31, both editors at English-language publications in Taipei, began their joint bar-hopping/writing project late last year. Riney had been mulling the idea of a bar guide for some time and eventually persuaded Payne to join him in penning a review of a bar in Hsimenting. Over the next while, the two built up a small collection of his and her reviews of bars in the area.
All of the pair’s outings were undertaken anonymously and some alone. In fact, reading the book, it’s not immediately clear that the authors are a couple because of their frequent references to the presence (or lack thereof) of good-looking men and women in a particular bar. While such honesty might have taken its toll on less open-minded partners, Riney and Payne obviously felt it was their duty to offer tips to all those lonely singles out there.
Taipei Pub Crawler was eventually released June 19, the authors’ relationship and livers intact.
Besides a passion for nightlife, the guide also grew out of a dissatisfaction with reviews in general. “You don’t see critical reviews of practically anything in Taiwan,” Payne says. “You see a write-up about a bar and they all sound like they’re good bars and you go there and it’s like, ‘This writer just outright lied. This place is horrible.’”
Riney, in particular, shows he’s not afraid of slamming a place, calling one cluster of bars in Taipei (without naming names) “a soon-to-be-extinct giant dinosaur” and another in Panchiao a group of overpriced “clones.” Whether or not you agree with the authors’ verdicts, it’s definitely helpful to know, for example, that a certain bar is going to sting you for NT$1000 for two drinks and nuts while another is going to make you feel like “you’re trapped in a zoo full of aggressive predatory carnivores.”
So what do these bar connoisseurs each consider to be the ideal watering hole? Payne, who’s a fan of Jack Daniel’s and cosmopolitans, likes a place with “a space to dance and a space to drink” and “a bartender who knows his or her craft.” Riney, who’s a beer man, believes the best kind of bar is one that is “cozy and not sterile” and where “the workers have personalities.” Both agree the ultimate test of any drinking establishment is whether you can go in alone and strike up a conversation with someone without feeling the desire to flee.