The second-largest city in Taiwan, Taichung is spacious despite being a growing metropolitan center, with ample green space and walking paths throughout the downtown core. Although considered a slower pace to Taipei by locals, it felt both fast-paced and sleepy at the same time, with many of the same offerings as its bustling and dense neighbour Taipei.
If you are driving to the city from Taipei, which is what I did, you will be pleasantly surprised by the dense tropical vegetation that lines the highway. It took me by surprise how lush and verdant everything is, a reminder of Taiwan’s southern position in the East China Sea. A quick two-hour bus ride from the airport terminal (loaded up with bus snacks, of course) gets you into the bustling city of Taichung.
For the first leg of my trip, I was staying with my friend’s grandmother in the remainder of an old military dependent village, which was built to house soldiers fleeing China after losing the civil war. The houses are simple, but carry the mark of a by-gone aesthetic, of beautifully carved sculptures that adorn the buildings in various places, yet are a constant reminder of a violent past. This aesthetic charm was marred by the unpleasant history of these communities that were often thought of as ghettos and left disconnected from essential services for a long time. Despite this, the community is resilient, with many of its residents well into their nineties.
This was one of the quickest international trips I’ve taken, but I wouldn’t have changed a thing. I was lucky enough to travel with my friend and have the inside scoop on what to see and do, meaning my 4 days felt like 7 days.
Food Hot Spots:
- Feng Xia Night Market
- Chun Shui Tang – Original Bubble Tea
- ShuiNan Market
- Ice Cream at Optometery
- Oyster Pancake at Taitung
- Shaved Ice – Traditional Style
- Glacier Coffee
Things to Do:
With the exception of Fantasy Storyland, I was unable to get to these other places, however, these come highly recommended from my travel companion who has lived in Taichung and visited many times.
- Fantasy Storyland
- Taichung National Art Gallery
- Explore Sun Moon Lake
- Walk the Gaomei Wetlands
- Flower Expo
Night Market Culture
Taiwan is well-known for its night market culture, and it delivered a million times over. A nightly occurrence, the night market scene starts around 8 pm but seems to hit its pinnacle around 10 pm. Crowds of people move together in unison, all looking for their next snack. The lanes are lined on either side with street vendors, there is a mix of people seeing products and food vendors. The most popular spots always have a long line, so you have to evaluate your priorities. I will say the ‘snacking culture’ suits me well. It may seem intense at first glance, eating so much fried, sugary, and salty food, but as my friend noted, it’s so hot, and you sweat so much it balances all the electrolytes you lose.
Highlights on Street Food in Taichung:
- Fried Mushrooms – Stacked High – so salty and delicious
- Bubble Tea is so refreshing after salty foods, I recommend lower sugar
- Scallion Pancakes with Egg
- Pig’s Blood Cake
The markets blend into the surrounding environment so well, twisting and turning and creating an exciting
Taichung is the birth place of bubble tea. The origin story derives from a unique mix of circumstances that yielded one the most unexpected drinks of the time, into one of the most famous and enjoyed beverages in Taiwan and the world at large. You can read the full story here.
Things to Know About Bubble Tea:
- Types of Tea – Milk, Slushie, Fruit, or Tea
- Sugar – You will need to indicate the level of sweetness
- Ice – How much ice do you like in your BT?
- Jellies – Pearls (Tapioca), Coconut (My favourite)
Although bubble tea is ingenious and delicious, it comes with a lot of plastic waste, straws, cups, and carrier bags. The most surprising to see is the plastic carrier bag. However, a shift in perception around this type of waste, and its adverse effects on oceans and marine animals has resulted in creative energies focusing on reusable alternatives.
The result, crafty and utterly adorable cup holders (ideal for coffee too) with savvy handles to ensure a hands-free experience for whatever may come your way. When you’re in the markets, I recommend keeping an eye out for these little treasures, they are worth it for your time in Taiwan, and you may even use it when you get back home. Be a trendsetter.
Fantasy Story is a group of restored buildings, offering an off-beat mix of artists studios, restaurants, cafes, bars, and shops. Part artistic experiment and revitalization project the area has become a hot spot for locals and visitors alike. The buildings retain their original form and building materials, while temporary occupants add a contemporary aesthetic to the interiors.
Plants grow wild and add a lush and vibrant edge to the historic brick buildings. Weaving through large doorways, up staircases that share space next to an old-growth tree creates a unique and enticing vibe, drawing you deeper into the heart of the complex. A little gem I found was the Taihu Brewery, a beautifully designed and renovated space boasting an impressive beer list of their own making, other local breweries and international beers.