Waiting on Dad in Taichung
Taichung was my first stop on my dadventure, a trip I took because my dad was sent to Taiwan on a business trip and I decided he needed a chaperone. Unfortunately, he was actually on business while we were in Taichung so this was some solo exploration. I was a little unsure about the city seeing as it wasn’t as well known as the capital, but I found it charming and welcoming, with plenty to do!
The High Speed Rail (HSR) in Taiwan is very quick and Taichung is really close to Taipei. It’s a quick one hour ride, so if you do plan on staying in the capital, this even doable as a day trip!
What struck me right away, compared to the other Asian countries that I had visited in the past, was that there was very little English written throughout the city, or spoken by its citizens (the situation was only a little better in Taipei). Most signs had English, so getting around was very doable, but stores and restaurants rarely did. I had to do a lot of pointing at pictures and saying “one”. If there were no pictures, I was literally closing my eyes and letting my finger choose for me. No better way to explore a culinary culture!
The Rainbow Village in Taichung
This little corner of town was a little hard to find. Even though it is on Google Maps, it starts off as a pretty nondescript painted fence that one could easily dismiss as part of a playground and walk past. On my second run through, I noticed a little gap in a wall at the end of it that lead to an entire little neighbourhood of gorgeously colourful houses that were entirely covered in paint!
It has an interesting story of houses having been on military land that the government wanted to reclaim. In order to prevent this, one man (now nicknamed Grandpa) started painting them and turned it into an attraction. The government saw the benefit to that and let them keep it! Grandpa is still often there, happy to take a picture with you and share some of his recent paintings for a small donation!
Sun Moon Lake
So much to do here. I only had a few hours because I left late and had to be back by 5 to catch the train to Taipei that afternoon, but I could have even booked a room at one of the many hotels surrounding the lake and spent a night given the time. The area is beautiful and I would have loved to have woken up there to a sunrise over the lake with one of the delicious Chinese pastries and a cup of their amazing tea.
The gondola was my favourite part. Pro tip: time it over lunch or dinner and take some food with you. It’s a great view to enjoy some food from. I took some wonton soup and sipped it as my gondola glided over the rolling hills. Not sure if you’re actually supposed to do that though so be discrete.
Apart from that, there is also an amusement park, an aboriginal village and plenty of hiking trails, all of which I had to miss out on. FOMO is real sometimes. Also, the vast food options alone are worth spending a night!
Feng Chia Night Market in Taichung
This was my first Chinese night market experience and I was totally blown away! There were so many lights, so many smells, so many different kinds of foods, and shops everywhere! Still, very little English, so you’re not always sure what you’re getting, but at least you can see the food and point directly at it. It’s honestly hard to go wrong!
Lots of great shopping too. Lots of stores have similar items so shop around a bit for the best price before deciding on something. I felt like bargaining was a little less common than in places like Thailand or Vietnam, but maybe that’s only because I was less comfortable with the culture and English was less common so communication as a whole was more difficult. As time went on, I started doing it a little more. Prices always dropped, but nothing like the 50-75% drops like you would get in South East Asian markets, where paying the listed price is laughable.
Working in Taichung
Most restaurants don’t mind you opening up your laptop and I never felt rushed to leave a premise. That being said, if you’re out of the centre (think Rainbow Village area), most places don’t have wifi. City wide wifi is sometimes available but this is where a MiFi could really help. Outlets are actually more common than internet. But the tea is good, the food is cheap and people are friendly. I had no problem plugging in!
After two days here, I felt like I still had more to see, but my dad’s business was finished and it was time to take the train back up to Taipei. I barely had time to open my laptop to continue my work when we arrived! Never complained about a quick transfer before but I really could have used another hour there…