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October 2019

Issue: October 2019

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Welcome to a world of travel, entertainment and culture, curated from a global collective of writers, photojournalists and artists. Each article of our award-winning magazine is sure to inspire, no matter which of our destinations you call home.
 
 
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Travel to Taipei

 
 

Xinyi, Taipei

1 October 2019

A lively arts scene, lux e shopping and untouristy street food are three reasons to join the cool kids in this dynamic ‘hood

On setting foot in Xinyi, you would be forgiven for thinking you had arrived in Manhattan. Yellow cabs whizz by with little regard for pedestrians; a browse around the shops suggests a fondness for high-end brands. And as Taipei’s financial district, it glit-ters with skyscrapers – the 508-metre, bamboo-shaped Taipei 101 was once the world’s tallest. In 2020, it will be joined by the US$1 billion, 280-metre Taipei Sky Tower. Home to two luxury hotels and a shopping mall, the tower is a bold statement to potential visi-tors: come on in, we’re open.

It’s remarkable considering that Xinyi officially came into existence less than 30 years ago. A 1920 map of the area shows nothing but undeveloped marshland – after the land was annexed by Taipei in 1938, it was mostly used to grow crops. In 1981, work started on the Xinyi Planned Area, intended as the city’s new governmental and financial centre, but it wasn’t until 1990 that the city government founded Xinyi district, carving out parts of neighbouring Da’an and Songshan districts to do so. Today, Xinyi’s high-rise properties rank among the world’s most expensive.

Despite its wealth, at ground lev-el Xinyi retains a kooky charm that is quintessentially Taiwanese. Can-teen-style “lunchbox” restaurants serve garrulous locals crowded around boxy CRT televisions, and incense emanates from the Buddhist and Taoist shrines at every storefront. A journey from north to south reveals manicured gardens with tall trees and koi-filled ponds. Head east along Xinyi Road, past the buskers and street-food stalls on Xinyi Plaza, then south to find the trailhead leading to the deep forests of Elephant Mountain, which has superlative views of the skyline. It’s best to time a visit to the mountain with sunset – which is crowded but picturesque – or New Year’s Eve, when fireworks launch from the tiers of Taipei 101.

Words: Sarah Gillespie, Images: Emily Lush

SONGSHAN CULTURAL AND CREATIVE PARK

This sprawling cultural complex epit-omises Taipei’s transition from manu-facturing hub to design capital. Origi-nally a 1930s tobacco factory, Songshan closed its doors in 1998, reopening in 2011 as an arts centre championing lo-cal talent. Check out inBlooom, found-ed by Taipei University of the Arts graduate Qiuqiong Yu, where you can browse printed gifts from 100 Taiwa-nese suppliers. They also offer a 30-min-ute print-your-own experience, where customers can customise their own tote bag or T-shirt. When you’ve fin-ished shopping, sip an Instagram-wor-thy coffee at Café Sole before taking in the neo-Baroque Eco-Pond outside – the statues are based on the tobacco factory’s female workers.

No. 133, Guangfu South Road, +886 2 2765 1388, songshanculturalpark.org

SUN YAT-SEN MEMORIAL HALL

Western-educated doctor Sun Yat-Sen was instrumental in ending dynastic Chinese rule, becoming the first pres-ident of the Republic of China in 1911. Though his ruling Kuomintang party were eventually overthrown on the mainland, they retained power over Tai-wan and it is for this reason that many see him as the father of the nation. His neoclassical memorial hall, designed by local architect Wang Da-Hung, cuts an imposing silhouette, even against Xinyi’s busy skyline. Arrive on the hour to watch the smartly clad guards perform an elaborate changeover. The surrounding gardens are prime peo-ple-watching territory, especially in the late afternoon when groups of elderly Taiwanese practice tai chi and giggling teens dance to Mandopop.

No. 505, Section 4, Ren’ai Road, +886 2 2758 8008

TAIPEI 101 OBSERVATORY

On a clear day, the views from this 89th-floor observation deck stretch beyond the city boundaries, where the suburbs knit into the surrounding forest. Its rear view is even more impressive – the “damper,” a 660-ton steel sphere, stead-ies the tower during earthquakes and high winds. In April this year, the dam-per recorded the largest movement in its 15-year history, moving 20 centime-tres during a 6.1 magnitude quake. The tower’s elevators are also an impressive feat of engineering, with a top speed of 38mph. Zoom downstairs to get your luxury shopping fix at the five-storey mall, which stocks international brands such as Gucci and Louis Vuitton.

110, Section 5, Xinyi Road, +886 2 8101 8898, taipei-101.com.tw

XIANGSHAN HIKING TRAIL

One of Taipei’s biggest draws is its prox-imity to nature – few places embody this as well as Xiangshan, or Elephant Mountain, a verdant oasis that cuts right through Xinyi’s skyscrapers, and offers a fantastic view over the district. Within minutes of starting the 600-step climb to the peak, the jungle closes in and you’re surrounded by fragrant camphor trees and nodding, blood-red hibiscus flowers. Information points explain the medicinal and economic significance of various plants. There are intermediate viewpoints for those without the time or energy to reach the top, including a group of boulders deliberately placed for photo opportunities. Dedicated hikers can turn right just before the peak for a trail that snakes deep into the jungle, taking in nu-merous temples along the way.

Alley 342, Lane 150, Section 5, Xinyi Road

TONGHUA NIGHT MARKET

Compared with the better-known night markets in Taipei’s northern districts, Tonghua attracts few tourists, which al-lows for leisurely browsing of stalls and chatting to sellers. Chow down on juicy, meat-filled steamed bao buns, fried balls of “popcorn” chicken, or try a local favourite: rice sausage. Taipei’s an-swer to hotdogs, the offering comprises a sweet sausage in a compacted sticky rice “bun,” sprinkled liberally with gar-lic. For dessert, order an ice-cream roll: neat balls of taro, coconut and pineap-ple ice cream are placed in a crepe and sprinkled with coriander and peanut brittle shavings. Watching the process is half the fun.

Alley 1, Lane 40, Linjiang Street, Da’an District

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