Taiwan’s second-largest city rarely features in travel itineraries, but “The Kyoto of Taiwan” is home to the country’s largest night market, a free bus network, and is where bubble tea was first invented. Well worth a stop-off, methinks. Here are 8 things to do in Taichung.
1 – TASTE BUBBLE TEA AT IT’S BIRTHPLACE
Yep, boba tea (bubble tea for non-Americans) first came into existence when a Taiwanese bloke saw a Japanese bloke selling cold coffee on the streets of Tokyo in the 80s, and decided to do his own version, from a street-side stall in this city. Chun Shui Tang was where a global phenomenon first started, and today it’s still going strong, with a two storey restaurant serving (as well as the obvious), excellent dim sum. If you’re visiting Taichung, it’s just gotta be done.
2 – GET LOST AT TAIWAN’S LARGEST NIGHT MARKET
Staking the claim of the country’s biggest night market, Feng Chia is a mammoth place with hundreds, likely thousands of stalls selling every conceivable Taiwanese delicacy, in addition to being a huge shopping centre with practically everything you can imagine up for sale too. Unlike Shilin in Taipei which for me felt overpriced, overcrowded and overrated, although Feng chia is utterly mental and super busy, it’s way more relaxed and for me, much more fun. And the grub is way better value and tastier too.
3 – HAVE SOME SERIOUSLY INSTAGRAMMABLE (AND TASTY) ICE CREAM
Once a dilapidated eye-hospital, the building housing Taichung’s, and possibly Taiwan’s, most famous ice cream store is almost as pretty as the ice cream itself. Miyahara has a ridiculous range of ice cream (including 17 types of chocolate), topped with all manner of outrageously tasty extras and served in the most obscenely Instagrammable dish you can imagine. And this monstrosity (pictured above) only costs $7.50USD!!
4 – TAKE A PICNIC AT TAICHUNG PARK
City parks in Asia (outside of Japan) don’t tend to be remotely nice, but Taichung totally bucks that trend, with a lovely, well maintained park with a lake, some beautiful old trees, a lake full of fish and turtles, squirrels everywhere and more birds in the beautiful old trees than I’ve ever seen in a city park. A really lovely place to while away a few hours if you have the time.
5 – RIDE THE BUS… FOR FREE!
Like many cities in Taiwan, Taichung used to have a major traffic problem, so in 2014 the city made all journeys below 10km completely free. As long as you have an EasyCard (100TWD/$3USD from a station or convenience store, usable across Taiwan), you can travel all around the city without spending a penny. And as a result, Taichung is one of the cleanest, most traffic free and least polluted Asian cities I’ve traveled to.
6 – EXPLORE LITTLE VIETNAM
The Vietnamese account for 29% of the foreign population in Taiwan and in Taichung it feels like way more, with Vietnamese restaurants, hair and nail salons on many a street corner. In particular, Jiguang Street is almost entirely populated with Vietnamese stores and restaurants and is one of the best places to eat Vietnamese food outside of Vietnam (trust me, Huong, my Vietnamese girlfriend, says so).
7 – WANDER AROUND AN AUTHENTIC LOCAL MARKET
Taichung’s local markets are friendly, fun, safe and absolutely full of great places to eat. In particular, the Second Market is a great place to eat or just spend an hour wandering around and it’s also where you’ll find plenty of souvenirs and local gifts too.
8 – HIKE SOME 3000M+ PEAKS
Just two hours from the city is one of Asia’s most fantastic hiking areas and one you simply cannot miss if you are this close. One the far Western edge of Taroko National Park (read my post on what to do in Taroko here) is the Hehuanshan (Hehuan Mountain), part of Taiwan’s most popular hiking region. It’s perfectly doable to hike four or even five 3000m+ peaks in one day and the area is often described as the “Alps of Asia”.
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