It was surprisingly difficult to find a decent, high-quality notebook here in the heart of Taipei. I went to almost a dozen stores before finding one.
I was thinking, "What is this, is paper a luxury good here in Taiwan?"
And then it occurs to me -- maybe paper will be a luxury good in a few years. Probably tablet computers and other computing surfaces will be good enough at that point so that the loss isn't strongly felt... but it's not hard to envision a world where a standard paper notebook costs between $5 and $7, and you have to go to a specialty store to get it.
Arbitrage and speculation get a bad rap sometimes, but they're incredibly useful.
I'm leaving Ulaanbaatar shortly and I'll be heading to Japan. I went to stock up on some basic supplies - personable consumables and work stuff.
Strikingly, paper is really expensive here for Western-grade, Western-style paper. The local shops literally don't carry it. Instead, they have this checkered sort of paper. It's like graph paper, but with thick black lines. I prefer black ink, and after trying out one of those notebooks, I couldn't read what I'd written.
I tried some of the upscale department stores (Sky Department Store, State Department Store) and there's literally no Western-style, 60 sheet lined notebooks in the $1 to $2 range like you'd see in the USA. They have high end notebooks for $6 to $12, and they have these thin flimsy 20-page booklet-type things for around $1. I settled for the booklet.
Now, if there was the demand to make it worth it, someone importing Western style paper from China at 20 cents a notebook and selling it here for $2 per notebook would be creating a lot of value. If this presented a large enough opportunity, eventually you'd see the margins go down towards cost, as happens in almost all industries.
Art Works!: The photographer explaining a particular piece to curious visitors during the opening.
Buying art in the Philippines is not surprisingly, a good example of how Filipino society works. In short, you have to use your connections.
A few months ago, one of my good friends decided to come out and start exhibiting his photographs. A Catholic Priest blessed with the resources and hunger for traveling, he has over the course of his travels taken dozens of beautiful photos. He confessed to me that he was hesitant to exhibit his work, worried that none of it was good enough. He eventually got over this and sent out invitations to a few close friends and family.
Art Works!: A sample of his invitation, that would eventually be showcased in a national paper.