We were in Taipei and it happened to be Typhoon Usagi’s reign. So we were happy to wander around the city.
Between xiaolongbaos at Din Tai Fung, I googled for shops that sold fountain pens and art supplies shops in case we had extra time. Happily, I had some results.
Later that day, when we had some time because Simple Life market was closed, I asked Siew if we should go to find art supplies or to the pen shop. Very kindly, she said pen shop. Hence, we hailed a cab and went in search of TY Lee. The road it is on is not hard to find but when you are there, you might miss the shop. For reference, here’s a picture of what you can look out for.
We walked in there and it was bustling, an unexpected contrast with the quiet neighbourhood. Apparently, in Taipei, location matters not. Most of the people there were men, and right at the door, an old fellow was filling up a book with sepia handwriting. He and his companion were chatting loudly.
All the pen counters were filled, and I hence went to look at ink. I was looking for Noodler (which the internet said the shop stocks) but didn’t see any. While poking around at some note books, we were offered paper cups of cold water. Very good, considering the mugginess of the day.
We felt shy a little, and at one point, I was hugging a TWSBI note book, and thinking we’d leave after we pay for it. The note book was in the style of a black Moleskine but the sample book was filled with handwriting made with fountain pens. Any good pen geek knows Moleskine paper is good for anything but fountain pens. The ink just bleeds. But TWSBI obviously has no such problem and on one page, someone even did a fountain pen wash (no warping, no seeping/ bleeding). Each book was around S$16. !!
Then a gap along the pen counter opened up, and instead of paying I asked to see TWSBI pens. The older gentleman who served me was the kind of salesman I take a liking to. He tells you things in a steady manner, he shows you things and you just have to begin to ask something and he’d know what you want and proceeds to answer you. There is no hard sell. When you need to think, he keeps quiet and takes a small step back.
At this point in my fountain-pen purchase history, as long as the nib feels good, the rest is just packaging and a feeling. And whether I want to pay $X today on a fountain pen.
My calculator told me X=60 for a TWSBI Diamond Mini. I recall that my “research” in the past showed non-availability in Singapore, resulting in jacked up prices/ shipping. I also remember reading about how TWSBI designs its pens based on feedback it actively seeks from the fountain pen community. So in those few moments, with suitable encouragement from Siew, I decided to buy the pen.
So, there you go, a TWSBI 530 in my bag. Plus some Platinum carbon ink and the TWSBI note books.
Platinum carbon ink is another story. It is suitable for fountain pens but dries sufficiently to be fairly permanent. TY Lee sells it for cheaper than what I see on Amazon – US$40.
I wanted something permanent so that I can make watercolour drawings with my fountain pens. And Platinum carbon ink is said to render a true opaque black. When he heard that I wanted to use the Platinum ink, the man immediately tried to dissuade me from using it in the TWSBI because the fine matter in this ink might clog up the pen. I told him I’d use it in the Lamy Safari, though in retrospect I wasn’t sure if that brought him comfort!
Having made my purchases, the in house pet dog made a brief appearance. It was a lumbering old thing but he looked so lovable.
If you are in Taipei, and want some fun in a pen shop, you shouldn’t miss TY Lee/ 小品雅集.
Location: Taipei, Da-an District, Rui-an Street, Lane 208, Number 76