27 Jan 2017
Quick question – name one city in Taiwan. Taipei will probably be the first to come to mind, and maybe even the only place you’ll think about. Known around the world for its sprawling night markets, buzzing club scene, and iconic monuments like Taipei 101, one of the tallest buildings in the world, it’s no surprise 7.5 million tourists visited the capital city last year.
Taichung is another Taiwanese city with a slightly different flavour. An hour south of Taipei via the High Speed Rail, Taichung doesn’t have the manic energy of Taipei. It doesn’t even have a subway network. So, why is it a still a big attraction for many tourists? Here are 9 things you can do there that might just convince you:
Fine dining in Taichung is something that every visitor needs to experience. Taichung is home to Le Mout, which is one of the two restaurants in Taiwan that made it onto the 2016 list of Asia’s 50 Best Restaurants. The contemporary French establishment snagged 30th place on the list, and offers one of the best wine lists on the island of Taiwan. However, if you’re not looking to burn a hole in your pocket, there are plenty of cheap eateries in Taichung that could still keep your belly happy.
From street stalls selling Taiwan’s much loved fried chicken, to outdoor markets selling barbecued octopus, to noodle stands selling Taiwan’s signature beef noodles; there is food everywhere you turn. Japanese ramen stalls and curry houses are also scattered across the city.
Taichung is Taiwan’s cultural heart, and is home to some iconic museums, festivals and more. The National Taiwan Museum of Fine Arts is stunning, showcasing artwork, sculptures and installations from Taiwanese artists. The city also has an outdoor jazz festival every October, which showcases musicians from all over the world.
Another must-visit attraction is the Rainbow Village, which is a settlement for ex-soldiers. A 93-year-old man saved the village from demolition back in the day, and continues to preserve the village by hand-painting murals featuring children and animals.
While Taipei is home to clubs that never sleep, Taichung is home to night markets that stay open till dawn. Countless food stands perfume the air with the aroma of noodles, desserts and everything barbecued. Taichung is also a perfect place to sample some refreshing bubble tea, since it was the place the popular drink was invented. And if you’re looking for something truly unique, how does a giant ball of cotton candy shaped like a duck sound?
There are also game booths, where the kids can throw darts, shoot basketballs, or even play a game of mah-jong to win stuffed toys. Vendors spread across the market sell a wide range of wares, including clothes, accessories and toys, all of which you can bargain for.
One of Taichung’s most famous markets is the Feng Chia Night Market, which is open every night, and is visited by locals and tourists alike.
Unlike Taipei, which is hot, humid and often home to typhoons, Taichung has more pleasant weather. Taichung is the perfect destination to visit throughout the year, especially because it enjoys sunny skies and agreeable climes all year round. The mild weather is due to its location just above the Tropic of Cancer. The city’s annual average temperature is 23 C (73 F), according to the city government. Owing to the sunny days, you’ll see many people venturing outside, stepping into parks, markets and festivals all over Taichung.
Taiwan may be famous for hot springs, but the Guguan hot springs in Taichung tell a special story. There is a widely believed tale that a soak in the waters helped Japan’s Emperor Meiji and his wife bear a son.
Guguan is about two hours away from Taichung, so you can even choose to spend a night at one of the resort hotels, which have their own hot spring pools.
An hour from Taichung’s city centre lie the Gaomei wetlands, which are south of the mouth of the Dajia river. A perfect spot for bird-watching or enjoying the sunset, visitors can also head to the boardwalk to look at the birds, crabs and other wildlife. At the end of the boardwalk, you can also kick off your shoes, and wade into the shallow water.
The location is also a brilliant backdrop for photographs, with giant wind-power generators lining the other side of the wetlands. Should you want to do some shopping, there are street hawkers near the boardwalk entrance who sell hot squid balls, locally grown mushrooms and other produce.
You don’t always need to head to Taipei for a brilliant shopping experience. The latest clothes, handbags and accessories are found all over Taichung at reasonable prices. There are also numerous shops at the night markets, and they offer bargain deals too. If you’re looking for something hip, yet easy on your pockets, then head to NET, a mid-range budget clothing chain. NET has multiple locations all over Taichung, so all you have to do is find the closest one.
Taichung’s sunny weather makes for perfect conditions for a trek on one of its many trails. Hiking trails at the Dakeng Scenic Area provide stunning views of the city. Most trails are easy and family friendly. However, for more seasoned hikers, there are also more challenging trails. Most trails have vendors offering food and drinks along the way, in case you forget to pack along your own refreshments.
Apart from all the attractions in Taichung, there is one thing that makes it a truly lovely place to visit – the people. Imagine standing outside a store waiting for it to open. Or maybe you just happen to be outside waiting for a bus. About an hour before the store actually opens, staff from the store actually come out to offer candy and hot beverages. This actually happens at one Taichung department store. Staff at restaurants and shops are friendly, and seldom pressurize tourists to buy anything. Local taxi drivers are helpful, and view tourists as golden opportunities to practice their already impressive English.
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