It is so early. I remember opening the sliding window slowly to get a feel of the weather outside. The air is freezing and the surrounding is rather quiet. No people walking going somewhere, no chattering that fills the air with warmth. It’s definitely not a busy day in Taipei. I look at the clock, and hurried to get myself bathed and dressed. “Running late for the train for Alishan is not good”, I say to myself.
We carry our heavy bags for the longest chase, possible. Supposing we are able to catch the morning train to Alishan, it will still take us 4 hours just to get there. That would eat up so much of our day tour, it is no longer an option. As a group, we decided to take the THSR (Taiwan High Speed Rail) which only takes over forty minutes instead of more than two hours via common bus. It’s faster and more convenient, though a lot more expensive, at this point, we have no choice. We need to take it.
Fast forward to the scene of us awaiting for the train. Anonymous people wearing grim on their faces. No one dare say a word. No one bats an eye. The train zooms into our eyes’ peripherals. “Train going to Taichung”, the automated announcer repeatedly recites. We settle on our designated seats. The coach smell of strong coffees and warm pastries.
I pull my phone and camera out of my backpack, and start taking video snippets and photos of our high-speed rail ride. It almost dizzies me—how fast the train moves. Every building, every cloud are just blurred lines. Abstract. I scoot a little and make myself comfortable. Finding the spot to doze off is sometimes hard. A few minutes later and I finally fall into a deep sleep. I open my eyes, only to realize we are just a station away from Taichung.
Hou Li Farm
The station is not what I expect it to be—modern, sophisticated, and it almost looks like an airport. We grab our brunch at the takeaway counter of Mcdonald’s as we wait for the tourist information center to open.
By 9 am, the clerk ushers us and helps us on how to get to the places we intend to visit today.
As per the directions given to us, we head straight to the old railway (TRA) to reach Hou Li Flower Farm, our first destination. After alighting at Houli Station, we take a cab ride to the flower farm.
How to get there:
THSR Taipei to Taichung: 700 NTD
Taichung Station to Houli Station: 36 NTD
Cab Ride to Houli Flower Farm: 200 NTD (4 pax)
Entrance Fee: 150 NTD
Click the link to read my separate post about Houli Flower Farm: http://www.uncoveringeden.com/travel/taiwan/eternal-summer-at-houli-flower-farm/
At about quarter past 2, we arrive at Rainbow Village. A short stretch of houses that were painted by Rainbow Grandpa Huang Yung-Fu. The whole location is rather tiny. From what I have seen from the internet, I expect it to be ginormous. But nonetheless, the feelings that surround this tiny community still evokes the same intensity. Vibrant hues of flaming orange, cool blue fill the walls and interesting graffiti drawings of cute characters bring it to life.
I suggest getting a cab to lessen the commute time.
Address: 408 Taichung City, Nantun District, Taiwan
Hours: Daily from 9am to 6pm
Late in the afternoon, after a long cab ride, we are finally back in the city proper. The streets noticeably become wider, and cars are now suddenly in huge numbers. Animation Lane is quite narrow. A pop of color in the grayish neighborhood. I remember most of the anime characters here—Ghost Fighter, One Piece, Doraemon, to name a few. A sudden spark of joy lights a fire in me. I feel like a juvenile walking corner after corner, taking numerous photographs of my once childhood heroes.
Take a cab outside Rainbow Village. You can haggle with the price. Our initial fare was 300 NTD but our driver agreed with us paying 200 NTD in the end.
Address: Lane 100, Linsen Road, West District, Taichung City, Taiwan 403
Chun Shui Tang
We walk cluelessly along the interconnected streets of Taichung to reach Chun Shui Tang. This shop claims to have invented Bubble Tea in Taiwan. Almost sundown, when we get to cross a Japanese-inspired exterior. I tried to decipher the Chinese characters, but failed. “I should really get back to studying foreign language”, I whisper under my breath. In retrospect, I should have kept those notes and read it once in a while. It could really be a big help right now. Getting lost in translation is not what I have planned for myself.
The interior is vintage Japanese. Endless lines of varnished wood fill the bottom part of the walls. Whilst different paintings occupy the other half.
We order their pearl milk tea, because its basically what they are known for. The ice skates on top of the glass, like Antarctica’s massive icebergs. Milky water makes up for the rest as the tapioca pearls sinks in the bottom. I play with it a bit, spearing the sinkers, but the water and the pressure helps it escape.
The taste is just okay. Nothing spectacular. But this is the first one in the entirety of Taiwan. It is history. And I am now a part of it. How cool is that?
Thank goodness, we get to experience this. I don’t want to have a hangup on this once we leave Taichung.
That there are a few branches of Chun Shui Tang here in Taichung. We opted to go to the one on Siwei Street.
Address: No. 30號, Siwei Street, West District, Taichung City, Taiwan 403
Working Hours: Monday to Friday 11am-10pm, Saturday and Sunday 10:30am-10pm
Miyahara Ice Cream
Day turns to night, and the pavements’ color change from white to golden-yellow. The wind is colder now but still gentle. I put my jacket on again but I still feel shivers tingling down my spine.
Nearby Taichung THSR, is another tourist destination, Miyahara Building. It is one of the most famous spots here and we are taking a chance tonight. As we get to the street across Miyahara, I notice the flock of people outside which makes me want to try it more.
I am a bit skeptic about it. If you think about it, it could just be a beautiful-looking building, nothing more. Miyahara used to be an eye clinic, was salvaged and turned into practically a retail store selling ice cream, chocolates and pineapple treats.
There are two main entrances. One is for the retail store and the other is for the ice cream parlor. Since we are a bit restricted with time, we go in the parlor, instead. It is as sophisticated as those you see in the movies—big crystal-clear glass, just like a chest, with assorted ice cream flavors like gems inside it.
I notice the unique flavor names as I slowly peruse against the counter. Up and down my eyes go, inspecting. Too indecisive to pick one. It’s difficult to choose because of their pastel colors. I am drawn to it. There’s something so attractive to how they bring the stale containers to life just by existing. I sometimes wish I could spew out colors that would make me special, stand out. Guess that’s not gonna be happening anytime soon.
“One scoop of salted caramel”, I shyly mumble as I point my finger to what I hope is salted caramel. He lets me pick a topping. I choose the red bean cake. It costs 90NTD per scoop and an additional fee for the waffle.
I push the doors open and feel the cold night air once more. What is it with us, choosing to eat something cold on a freezing night. Only heaven knows.
Opening Hours: 10am-10pm
Address: No. 20, Zhongshan Rd, Central District, Taichung City, Taiwan 400
I suggest to explore Taichung. Yes, it may cost you more, traveling from Taipei and back, but it so much worth it. The air is lighter and the sun is brighter. The colors are richer, too! It’s true what they say about traveling the road less traveled often leads you to the most amazing places and experiences.
One day is really not enough to explore the ins and outs of a city. I want to bask in its unpopular streets. Taste the food that I have never tried before. But that’s the beauty of having to not go with every single list on the itinerary. Then you are forced to go back. You are forced to suffer once you go back home. Suffer from the fact that you went home incomplete because finally you have left a piece of yourself in a foreign land. That’s the brutal truth about traveling—you will go back