HYDERABAD: Located less than two hours away from Taipei, Taichung is an impressively large city, which is home to many different arts and cultural influences and some of the best night markets. Taichung captivated me at the very first sight.
The tall, stately buildings, sophisticated neighbourhoods, ultra-modern cultural spaces, it certainly is a futuristic city. Originally composed of several scattered hamlets, the city of Taichung was planned and developed by the Japanese. It was called “the Kyoto of Formosa” because of its quiet beauty. The city is home to many cultural sites, museums, temples and industries. We checked into the Millennium Hotel set in a luxurious district and set out to see the local attractions.
This highly touristy spot is known for its colourful artwork painted on small houses. In 1924, a former soldier, Huang Yung-Fu began painting in his settlement now known as “Rainbow Village”, to save them from demolition. Over the years his vibrant creation, which includes birds, animals and people, has spread over the remaining houses in the village, which once contained 1,200 homes. The sun was fierce but in that heat, we roamed around the tiny village, peeping into every house to admire the murals.
Miyahara is a redbrick architecture built by Miyahara Takeo, a Japanese ophthalmology doctor in 1927. It was the largest ophthalmology clinic in Taichung during the Japanese colonial period. After the surrender of Japan in 1945, Miyahara became Taichung Health Bureau. As time passed by, the suspended Health Bureau slowly decayed and became an unused dangerous building.
Fortunately, Dawn Cake, a pastry company renowned for its pineapple cakes, acquired the building and preserved Miyahara’s original redbrick walls and archway. The interior decor was redesigned like Hogwarts in the movie Harry Potter. Anything relating to Harry Potter draws large crowds and Miyahara is no exception: it is buzzing with people all the time. The well-groomed waitresses guard and guide, some of them even offer samples of delicious chocolates. Visitors can also try Dawn Cake’s signature ice cream and bubble tea and buy pineapple pastries as they come wrapped in classy old world packing!
Dotted with various adorable themed cafes, Taichung is popular with the young Instagrammers. Some have weird names and even more weird interiors like “Modern Toilet”. The quirky toilet-centric interior with poop-shaped cushions, bathtubs and showerheads is said to be truly an interesting experience! Here people happily dig into scrumptious food and amazing drinks served on plastic toilet bowls instead of regular plates. But No!! We did not go there. Instead, we chose a pleasant and funny “I’m Talato”. Designed with a swimming pool filled with giant replicas of ice cream cones, this place is perfect for the selfie loving crowd. Through the glass we watched a young woman going crazy, posing for a hundred pictures drowned in a dummy swimming pool filled with gigantic ice cream cones. Their creamy and delicious gelato is worth the trip.
National Taichung Theatre
Designed by the Japanese architect Toyo Ito in collaboration with Cecil Balmond, the dramatic design is notable for its cavernous, curved and folded interior forms. In this enigmatic cave space, the natural light, as well as the sounds and images of wind and water create a cosy environment.
One can feel the flow of air, sound and light not only in the foyer, but also within the restaurant, sky garden and everywhere else in the building. Each surface of this building is intertwined, flowing from place to place. The design uses simple horizontal and perpendicular variations to create a changing space, where hard, artificial lines have been replaced with an organically flowing and flexible system with varying sizes of grid layered on top of each other.
On the building’s exterior, you can see many light blue circles. Like air holes allowing the theatre to breathe during the day, the rays of light allow natural warmth and light to pour in. At night, yellow light permeates the environment of the theatre inside and out – a truly distinct atmosphere. The building creates an aesthetic cultural life that promotes a symbiotic relationship between humans and the natural world. When we were visiting the different theatre spaces were busy with vibrant activities. Watching a play in this theatre must be an amazing experience. Lucky Taichung citizens!!
Feng Chia Night Market
The Feng Chia Night Market is Taichung’s largest and most popular night market and a great place for foodies! If you can tolerate the smell of stinky tofu, if you can meander your way through the labyrinth of shops, and if you are good at bargaining, then you are at the right place. You can go back home loaded with goods at amazing prices!
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(The author is a documentary filmmaker and travel writer; she blogs atijayaprataptravelandbeyond.com)