I resided in Zhongli, Taoyuan, for two months at the very end of 2015 for reasons outlined in my first dispatch. In short: I wanted to try out living in another city in Taiwan and had a few good friends in the area, one of whom is fellow Canadian blogger Josh Ellis. In my time in Zhongli I captured numerous scenes from everyday life in this burgeoning conurbation of half a million. This post is meant to convey a sense of what it was like to live there for a while—just as I previously did for my time in Wenshan District, Taipei. It is not meant to be a comprehensive guide or a review; think of this as a loose collection of snapshots and impressions of a mid-sized Taiwanese city not commonly documented in English.
I briefly visited Meinong in July of 2014 while cycling around southern Taiwan. I hadn’t done any planning prior to arrival and knew nothing of what I was getting myself into nor what sights I should have made an effort to see. I was navigating almost exclusively by instinct, riding in whatever direction seemed interesting, simply to see what was there. Gathered here are several of my photos from a few uninformed hours in this bucolic rural township in Kaohsiung.
I was wandering through Sānhé Night Market 三和夜市 on the first day of the new year when this small shop caught my eye. The formal name of the place is Céngjì Huāzhīgēng 曾記花枝羹 and, as the last three characters would suggest, they specialize in squid thick soup, a popular Taiwanese snack. The highly stylized characters on the signboard look something like seal script 篆書 to my inexpert eyes—with the last character, “gēng 羹”, swapped for the more traditional “焿”. Don’t ask me to make sense of that first character, mind you—it is enough to know that “huā 花” means flower.
Last week I moved from Taipei to Zhongli, a mid-sized city of approximately half a million1 about 45 minutes down the Western Line 西部幹線 in the heart of Taoyuan. I have been all around the island but haven’t explored much of what you might call the “middle north”, the strongly Hakka-influenced area stretching from the rugged borders of New Taipei south to Taichung that includes Taoyuan, Hsinchu, and Miaoli. Perhaps by staying here awhile I will find opportunities to explore more of this part of Taiwan and fill in some blank spots on my personal map.
I was drawn to the twin night markets of Kaisyuan Night Market (凱旋觀光夜市) and Jinzuan Night Market (金鑽觀光夜市) in Kaohsiung based on their reputation as the largest in Taiwan. Supposedly they are both approximately 30,000 square meters in size and feature 500 to 1,000 stalls—but these figures may represent the sum of both night markets. At any rate, I was a little surprised to discover how poorly attended they were on a Sunday night, particularly as I had just arrived from a brief tour of the busy Ruìfēng Night Market (瑞豐夜市) in Zuoying.
A couple of months ago I randomly took the train to Douliu, the capital of Yunlin, the most rural county on the western plains of Taiwan. Douliu is regularly the subject of jokes so I was pleasantly surprised by what I found there: an old street lined with Japanese colonial buildings, the quirky “Hungry Ghost” covered market, and an abandoned entertainment complex to explore. Even more surprising was the size of the Saturday night Renwen Park Night Market 人文公園夜市 located southwest of the downtown core. I have become something of a night market connoisseur since living in central and southern Taiwan and wouldn’t hesitate to declare this night market one of the biggest and best on the island.
I lived in Wenshan, Taipei, from October 2013 until April 2014 when I moved south to Tainan. In those six months I captured a great many photographs from in around the area, the finest of which were previously shared on this blog in a post about the urban landscape of Wenshan. It was my intention with that post to portray southern Taipei from the vantage point of mountaintops, hillsides, river banks, and pedestrian overpasses, with only a couple of shots from street level. This time around I would like to zoom in and share scenes from everyday life in Wenshan.
Jīngchéng Night Market 精誠夜市 is perhaps the largest open air night market in Changhua, Taiwan. Unlike some of the other big night markets in the area Jingcheng hasn’t been developed for tourism in the slightest. I doubt you’ll find it in any guidebook and there isn’t anything written about it in English that I have been able to find online. And, to be fair, there isn’t anything special about Jingcheng, particularly not if you’ve been to the fantastic open air night markets of Tainan. Still, if you’re a night market connoisseur like me—or merely interested in trying something different—it might be worthwhile to check out, or you can live vicariously through my photos.
Beigang is a historic town on the riverside border between Yunlin and Chiayi in southern Taiwan. I made a brief, unplanned stopover in Beigang while riding north to Changhua in the summer of 2014. I was only vaguely aware of Beigang’s existence, having at some point read something about Cháotiān Temple 朝天宫, one of Taiwan’s most famous Mazu 媽祖 temples, but I had a hunch that there might be more to see—and I was right! If you enjoy visiting traditional towns with a lot of history then Beigang should definitely be on your list.
Tonight I visited one of the biggest night markets in Nantou, the Cǎoxiédūn Tourist Night Market 草鞋墩人文觀光夜市 in Caotun. Located at the north end of town, the sprawling open air Caotun Night Market offers a somewhat unusual twist on the Taiwanese night market formula of meals, snacks, drinks, cheap goods, clothing and accessories, and fairground games. I have now visited more than a dozen night markets in this area of Taiwan and this one definitely stands out.