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Taichung City on the Move (Taichung Park and Yizhong Area)

February 13, 2014 Destination Global No Comments Email Email

Long a city with an unusual hybrid blue-collar/academic character, serving the factories that powered Taiwan’s famed economic miracle and home to numerous universities, Taichung is fast reinventing itself as a city of dynamic cultural sophistication.

Everywhere you look, it seems, you see cranes and crews putting up new buildings or fixing and prettying up old ones.

The city, which ate up surrounding Taichung County in 2010, has a total population of over 2.6 million, with just over 1 million in the urban core. This core is known for its roominess. There is park space aplenty, and big museums, spacious restaurants, and sprawling teahouses. In numerous locations broad meridians separate parallel road sections lined with restaurants, cafés, boutiques, and galleries. Known for having Taiwan’s most pleasant weather – drier than Taipei in the far north and cooler than Kaohsiung, Taiwan’s second city, in the far south – Taichung’s pace is noticeably laid back. To give you a taste of what the city has to offer, following we present samplers of three districts of distinctive character.

Taichung was founded in 1721 by immigrants from mainland China. The original settlement was called Datun, or “Big Mound.” Today, tranquil 20-hectare Taichung Park occupies the hillock and surrounding area upon which the original settlement was built. Designed and opened in 1903 by the Japanese when they controlled Taiwan, it is a key city landmark and a designated heritage site. Its best-known structure is the lovely Lake Heart Pavilion, which hovers over the waters of small Sun Moon Pond. The lake was formed from the original wetlands here, and the pavilion was built by the Japanese in 1908 to serve as a rest area for a Japanese prince in attendance at a ceremony celebrating the arrival of the railway in Taichung. Other park attractions are Taiwan’s only remaining Chinese watchtower, built in the 1880s, classical-style arch bridges, the magnificent old Japanese-planted banyan trees, and rowboating on the pond. The park and nearby Japanese-built Taichung Railway Station, an attractive Renaissance-style structure opened in 1917, are the hubs of the city’s old district.

During the famed Taiwan Economic Miracle of the 20th century’s second half, when the local economy expanded at breakneck pace, islanders knocked down old buildings at equal pace to make way for the new. Today there is equal passion for preserving the country’s architectural heritage, and Taichung boasts many fine showcase projects.  Miyahara (, a maker of confections, has saved and renovated a Japanese-era eye-clinic building at 20 Zhongshan Road and a 1960’s credit-cooperative building at 72 Zhongshan. At both, modern glass-and-steel additions are fused splendidly with the original exteriors.

Both Miyahara outlets have a delicious array of fresh-made ice creams for sale. Specially recommended are those made with in-season Taiwan fruits, notably Hami melon, mango, lychee, passionfruit, and banana. Both also have an upscale Chinese-cuisine restaurant on the second level. In addition, 20 Zhongshan has a large library-theme display area for Miyahara gift and souvenir packages – pinapple cakes, sun cakes, soft candies, and more.

The sun cake and pearl milk tea (bubble tea) are Taichung’s most famous contributions to the snack-treat world. The first sun cakes saw the light of day in 1954 at what is today called Tai Yang Tang Lao Dian (; Chinese) at 25 Ziyou Street, now operated by the second generation. The round, flat pastry has a shell of flaky, paper-thin layers created with phyllo dough and a maltose filling that is neither greasy nor too sweet. Originally made with pig lard, today vegetable oil is used. The cakes are a popular gift choice.

With numerous secondary, post-secondary, and what are called “cram” schools in the area, Yizhong Street Commercial District, home to one of Taichung’s most popular night markets, is like a giant kitchen for students. Because of its primary clientele, prices are low, low, low, though the food is terrific and the quality of the youth-fashion clothing and adornments good. All night-market snacking classics are here – stinky tofu, oyster omelets, bubble tea – but among the most iconic Yizhong Street comestibles are giant fried chicken steaks, with Yizhong Hao Da Jipai the go-to stand, and the shaved-ice desserts, especially at Yizhong Fengren Bing, its signature treat a tangy shaved-ice concoction with sweetened kidney beans, condensed milk, plum juice, and ice creams made with fresh local fruit.

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