From our archives, Compass Magazine, Nov. 2001
By Tammy Huang Translated by Cheryl Robbins
Following the success of the Taipei Hsimenting area redevelopment project, the Taichung City government decided to spend NT$30 million to revamp Chi Kuang Street into a 1,000-meter-long, pedestrian-only area. As the longest pedestrian-only street in the city, this project is expected to bring shoppers back to the downtown area. The original paved road has been redone in brick and ceramic tiles. If you look closely, you will see ‘Chi Kuang Shopping Street’ in Chinese engraved on tiles near drains and on benches along the street, adding to the distinctiveness and sophistication of this street.
There is a lot to see and do on and around the Chi Kuang Shopping Street. Starting out from the end nearest to Kung Yuan (Park) Road are Japanese fashion and gift shops specializing in Japanese magazines, CDs and Japanese celebrity merchandise. These stores are the best place to keep up-to-date with the latest fads in the Land of the Rising Sun. There are also a variety of craft stores with needlepoint kits, beads and other materials and accessories that are sure to inspire a number of DIY craft projects. Continuing on, on the right hand side, you will come to Ah Tien (on the corner of Cheng Kung Rd. and Chi Kuang St.), a small but well-known outdoor stall that sells a variety of stewed dishes. The food at this stall is so good that some of its customers come here from as far away as Taipei. Crossing Cheng Kung Road, you won’t miss a large high-rise shopping and entertainment complex, First Square. This building contains an underground parking garage that can hold 500 cars. Office space begins on the eighth floor, with the lower floors featuring small boutiques mostly selling fashion clothing (including heavy metal, hip hop and teenage fashions from Hong Kong, Japan and Korea) and accessories at discount prices. There are also a number of watch and jewelry stores, as well as electronics stores specializing in cellular phones and accessories.
Due to its proximity to the Taichung train station, First Square customers include visitors to the city and students. This is also a popular weekend hangout for workers from Thailand and the Philippines, so there are some very authentic Thai and Filipino eateries here. One place worth visiting is the Hsing Fa Ting Ice Shop, which has been in business for 60 years. Here, customers can choose from more than 10 kinds of dried fruit and fruit preserves, as well as sweet beans. To this is added a small mountain of shaved ice and Hsing Fa Ting’s exclusive syrups. Although the city now has its fair share of more modern shops selling ices and smoothies, it seems that Hsing Fa Ting’s ice concoctions will never go out of style as it is always crowded, even in the coldest weather. From here, head back to Chi Kuang Street and cross Chung Cheng Road. You will come to another well-known food stall called Hsiang Hsiang Fried Chicken (corner of Chung Cheng Road and Chi Kuang St.; tel. 2222-1553; open 12 noon-10 pm) which has earned a reputation for chicken that is tender inside and extra crispy outside. Continuing on Chi Kuang Street past Chung Cheng Road, the number of clothing boutiques decreases dramatically and is replaced with pharmacies, fabric stores and tea shops. One shop worth mentioning in this section is GNC (180, Chi Kuang St.; tel: 2221-2218; open 10 am-12 midnight), part of the largest health food store chain in the world. This store sells vitamins, health food products and skin care products from the US.
Another street that intersects Chi Kuang Street is Electronics Street, which is now also a pedestrian-only area. This street possesses a large number of stores selling computers, peripherals and related items. If you’re in the market for computer equipment, spend some time here shopping around for some of the best deals in town. Coming to the end of the pedestrians-only section of Chi Kuang Street near Min Tzu Road, there are a number of teahouses and coffee shops, each with a unique atmosphere. These include Corner Internet Cafe (94, Chi Kuang St.; tel. 2223-8477; open 24 hours), Cha Juei Chu Kuai (51, Chi Juang St.; tel. 2220-6369; open 10-12 am), Firefly Colony (68, Chi Kuang St.; tel: 2221-7887; open 10:30-12:30 am) and Yi Yian Yi Yu (41, Chi Kuang St.; tel. 2221-1659; open 2 pm-2 am). These are all good rest stops or ending points for a tour of Chi Kuang Street. On a final note, Chi Kuang Street is currently a pedestrian-only area on the weekends. It may eventually be closed to traffic on weekdays as well, after 6 pm. Of course, some drivers may not be aware of these changes and will attempt to drive here during pedestrian-only hours. Therefore, pedestrians should beware, especially at intersections!