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HOME > TAICHUNG > ARTICLES

COMPASS MAGAZINE > January 2012
 

Foreigners' Top 10 Taichung Spots

Foreigners' Top 10 Taichung Spots

Foreigners' Top 10 Taichung Spots

Foreigners' Top 10 Taichung Spots

Taichung's non-Taiwanese visitors and residents share their favorite city attractions

Words by Douglas Habecker Translated by Angel Pu
Some photos provided by John Schirmer, Dwight Johnson, David Flint and Li-Han Lin

For the past half-century, Taichung has played host to a countless number of foreign residents and visitors who have come to the city as businesspeople, missionaries, teachers, military personnel, foreign contract workers, tourists and for other reasons. Today, there is even more diversity as the number of tourists and other visitors continues to grow. In addition to continued strong presence of non-Taiwanese from North America, Europe and Japan, local hotels report strong tourism growth from Hong Kong, Macau, Singapore, Malaysia and, of course, mainland China.

Whether one already lives in Taichung, is visiting for a few days, or is hosting guests from abroad, the common question is, What places do foreigners especially enjoy going to in Taichung? Ask the same question about Taipei and the quick-and-easy answer usually includes Taipei 101, Shilin Night Market and the National Palace Museum. However, in Taichung, this query usually elicits a pause as one mentally reviews and categorizes a number of places that could be attractive to non-Taiwanese. This is not to say that Taichung isn't attractive to outsiders. On the contrary, most foreigners express a strong affection for the city and its people.

"I'm a big fan of the city; it is where my wife and I met (she is Taiwanese) and since I work within the cycling industry, it is a city of great importance to me," writes one American businessman, Tim Jackson. "Taichung has a lot to offer and I miss the city--can't wait to get back."

"I do have to say I miss living in Taichung all the time. I don't think I was ready for how much I would miss it," notes Kevin Putzke, another American bike industry professional who recently moved back to the United States.

"I've been in Taipei for the last few months and I miss Taichung," emailed Irish businessman Ken Carroll. "The Taichung weather is truly something to enjoy in itself but it makes so many more things possible--anything outdoors, really. It has rained here in Taipei since October and it has not stopped all day long today. The sunshine in Taichung is an overlooked blessing. The city is also small enough to walk around. I think the pace of life in Taichung is much more relaxed. Another thing is the size of the restaurants and teashops--there's s real space in the Taichung tea shops to relax."

"This is an amazing little city that I love...hard to choose just a few places!" replied Dave Flint, a Canadian teacher and long-time city resident who suggested an entire detailed itinerary for visitors that included a trip to the Jade Market, views of the city and coast from the Taichung Metropolitan Park, a stroll on Art Street, a meal at Taichung Port, Fengjia Night Market, a KTV session ("People NOT from Taiwan need to experience a KTV!") and a drive up to Dakeng Scenic Area and the Xinshe mushroom farms.

Partly out of curiosity and partly as a useful reference for foreigners and Taiwanese alike, Compass Magazine conducted an informal survey of dozens of foreigners from a variety of backgrounds, as well as those who interact with foreigners a lot, such as hotel staff. The list below is by no means the result of scientific study, but gives a pretty good idea of where foreigners enjoy going. Some places are obvious choices while a few others may be surprising. (Note: Many of these places are specially marked on the Compass' "Downtown Taichung" map with special "T" icons, noted below next to names.)


Foreigners' Top 10 Taichung Spots

1. Dakeng Scenic Area
Located to the east of the city in the foothills leading toward the Central Mountain Range, Beitun district's Dakeng was a top vote-getter among foreigners, particularly resident non-Taiwanese who enjoy its variety of hiking trails, bicycling and driving opportunities, hot springs, fresh air, rural feeling and the chance to simply get out of an urban setting. "When family or friends visit, if they are rugged, we take them up to Dakeng," says Morrison Academy teacher John Schirmer. On a related note, many foreigners also said that they enjoyed the cafes, teahouses and mushroom farms of Xinshe district, just to the east of Dakeng. "For a non-weekend, non-holiday destination, the Xinshe area is great," says long-time American resident writer and entrepreneur Cheryl Robbins. "There is a good collection of farms producing mushrooms and flowers, as well as coffee shops with gardens."


Foreigners' Top 10 Taichung Spots

2. Taichung Folk Park
This was a surprise second-place finisher, particularly given the fact that this long-standing Beitun district park complex is currently been torn up with renovation/construction work. "A few of the tourist shops are still open but you have to enter from the back side. A good place to buy things to take home to friends," notes Morrison Academy teacher Dwight Johnson. "Our family has always loved the Taichung Folk Park. It is under construction until the end of June, 2012, but is a wonderful place for all ages," writes American Beth Turner. "The entrance fee is only NT$25! There is a koi pond where you can feed the fish (only NT$10/box of food), cool seating under trees, a Taiwan historical museum downstairs (very cool in the summer), big yards to play games (we take football or bacci ball) or have a picnic. Also a great place for family pictures with the traditional buildings."


Foreigners' Top 10 Taichung Spots

3. Yizhong Street Night Market
This night market, located in North district just off of SanMin Road near Chung Yo Department and Taichung First Boys' High School, barely edged out its larger counterpart, Fengjia Night Market. Australian school administrator Tim Heading said Yizhong Street was his favorite because Fengjia was "way too crowded". "Yizhong Street Night Market has so many small stores selling self-designed, creative items, plus clothing and other items," said Hotel ONE Public Relations Manager Candy Chiang, who noted that it was the top destination for her hotel's Asian visitors from Hong Kong, Macau, Malaysia, Japan and elsewhere.


Foreigners' Top 10 Taichung Spots

4. Fengjia (Feng Chia) Night Market
"If visitors haven't been to Taiwan, I take them to the Feng Chia Night Market," says Cheryl Robbins about Taichung's biggest, best-known night market, located around Feng Chia University. "This is crowded and bustling every night of the week and absolutely huge. So, this is a great introduction to the night market culture of Taiwan."


Foreigners' Top 10 Taichung Spots

5. Wenxin Road Weekend Jade Market
In addition to jade, this large market, open afternoons and evenings on Friday, Saturday and Sunday on WenXin Road, Section 2 (near Taichung Port Rd.), sells a wide variety of jewelry, sculptures, art, tea products, local religious items, and other traditional knickknacks, making it a must-visit among resident and visiting foreigners, especially those looking for exotic souvenirs and gifts.

Due to the construction of Taichung MRT, Taichung Jade Market will be relocated on 28th of March, 2016. New location: 957, WuQuan W. Rd, Sec. 2, Nantun Dist.


Foreigners' Top 10 Taichung Spots

6. Taichung Art Street
Also known as the "Tunghai Art Street", this area of cute, cozy European-style shops, restaurants and cafes is centered on Longjing district's GuoJi [International ] Street, which is located atop Dadu Mountain on the opposite, north side of Taichung Port Road, Section 3 from the maze of shops known as "Tunghai Villa (Donghai Bieshu)", above that university's campus.


Foreigners' Top 10 Taichung Spots

7. Art Museum Parkway
Not to be confused with Art Street, this greenway leads away from the National Taiwan Museum of Fine Art's main entrance plaza and is lined with older stand-alone houses that have been converted into an eclectic variety of creatively-decorated international cafes, shops and restaurants, offering everything from French, Turkish and Italian dining to steaks and traditional Chinese cuisine (see Compass Art Museum Parkway map).


Foreigners' Top 10 Taichung Spots

8. National Taiwan Museum of Fine Arts
Foreigners said that they enjoyed this museum--home to the island's largest collection of Taiwanese art--not just for its variety of local and international exhibitions, but also for its sprawling park grounds and attractive architecture. (Compass Art Museum Parkway map)


Foreigners' Top 10 Taichung Spots

9. Taichung Metropolitan Park
Many foreigners agreed with Dave Flint's above comments that this enormous park--the largest of its kind in Taiwan when completed--offers excellent day and night panoramas of both the city and the western coastline from its position atop Dadu Mountain in both Xitun and Longjing districts. Its grounds also make it excellent for walking, biking, kite-flying, picnics and other activities.


Foreigners' Top 10 Taichung Spots

10. Taichung Bicycle Trails
The city's Tanyashen (Tanzi-Daya-Shengang), Houfeng (Houli-Fengyuan) and Dongfeng (Dongshih-Fengyuan) bicycle trails received top marks from foreigners, particularly residents with families. "If it is not a weekend or holiday, and the weather is good, one of my favorite places to go is the Fengyuan-to-Houli and Fengyuan-to-Dongshi bike paths. These paths are fairly flat and make for a nice leisurely ride through some picturesque scenery," said Cheryl Robbins. (Search taiwanfun.com and Taichung City Government websites for more information.)


  Besides these top 10 places, foreigners had dozens of other recommendations when it came to places and activities they enjoyed. These included the National Museum of Natural Science ("excellent exhibitions"), Taichung Botanical Garden ("my all-time favorite place in Taichung....like getting into the mountains and forests while being in the city"), the Civic Square (People's Park) commercial and park area, Taichung Park, the Taichung Confucius Temple, the giant laughing buddha at Paochueh Temple, and traditional markets in Shuinan and other areas ("never quite the same shopping experience from week to week....you never know what you'll find, and there are always interesting things to see and taste...part of an authentic Taiwan experience"). When it came to must-try activities, suggestions included local tea shops, hot pot restaurants, a Taiwanese "hair-wash experience", local golf courses, summer baseball games ("you can bring your own food and drinks and tickets are cheap"), antique shopping and, of course, visiting the city's countless restaurants, department stores and malls.

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