If you have assembled a computer or have ever paid any attention to packaging, you probably are familiar with the phrase “Made in Taiwan”. Taiwan has established themselves as probably the primary source of many computer products. Over 60% of the laptops in the world are created here. Acer (who just purchased Gateway) is headquartered here. They make most of the motherboards for computers as well as a lot of the memory. Even though much of the actual manufacturing is moving to China, many of the companies are still owned and operated out of Taiwan. (there is surprisingly more economic activity between China and Taiwan than you’d think).Given all the manufacturing here, you’d think that this would be an excellent place to buy computer parts, and you’d be right. In addition to the actual official market which is in a series of very long buildings and sort of looks like a farmers market out of Blade Runner, there are many small shops around it for several blocks. All of them open right up to the sidewalk so you can look around and talk to vendors (assuming they speak English) without leaving the sidewalk.
Many of the vendors have very extreme niches. I saw one store which was nothing but computer cases. Some shops are only cell phones. Some specialize in memory. I went into one store which was bigger than most and had a wall of fans. Nothing but CPU fans. They also had shops that would make any cable you need. USB. Firewire. Crossovers. You name it. I found the biggest selection of volt and ammeters I’ve ever seen and tons of crap which would put even the best Radio Shack to shame.
Because its Taiwan, you also see a lot of stores with nothing but laptops. Not all the deals you will find are equal, but the laptops and PC parts are particularly cheap.Unfortunately, I don’t need a laptop and can’t really lug around a desktop PC. What I was in need of was a camera.
I have a Nikon D200. It’s a great camera. It is also a big camera. It’s heavy and very conspicuous. It is great for taking photographs, but not very good at taking simple pictures. If you want to take a photo of some food or a sign you see when you are walking down the street, carrying this big hunk of glass around your neck doesn’t cut it. I wanted a small point and shoot camera that I could carry in my pocket for taking simple every day photos. I had a Sony DSC T1 for several years and I really liked it. It was thin, easy to use and took fine photos. Unfortunately, the AC adaptor for it got lost along the way so I needed to get something else.
The deals on small electronic items like cameras isn’t as good as what you’ll find on computer parts at Guang Hua because they are not manufactured in Taiwan. However, the fact that you have so many stores in competition with each other in such a small space means you will still get a better price than you would find at a normal camera store.
I eventually purchased the Sony Cybershot DSC T-100 which is the current generation of the camera I used to have. It can do simple video, it has a very large LCD on the back and it can easily fit in my pocket. All of the photos taken for this post were taken with my camera right after I took it out of the box. I was also able to get a 2gb memory card for it for about $20.
Having used a SLR since the start of the trip, I can tell the obvious limitations of the camera. It doesn’t save as high of quality images as my SLR. I can’t zoom as much nor can I take as wide angle photos as well. I don’t really have any control over the exposure or sensitivity of the camera. It isn’t as responsive as an SLR nor can it take photos as fast. Nonetheless, I like it because it fills the role I wanted it to fill really well and it is still 8.2 megapixels. I got mine for about US$300 and most of the prices you see online are between US$350-400.
If you are ever in Taipei and want to check out Guang Hua, it is really easy to get to. Just get on the metro, take the blue line to the Zhongxaio Xinsheng station. Walk about one block north and you can’t miss it. You will be hit over the head with stores and ads for electronics.