First stop: Taipei’s Ximending!

27 Apr

We started the trip in Taipei, where we stayed in the Ximending quarter. This is definitely one of my favourite parts of the city – it’s a young and hip chaos of everything pink and cute, japanese fashion, colourful street signs, restaurants, music and street vendors. From noon to midnight the streets around the central Ximen square are bustling with people buying and selling everything imaginable (especially if it has Hello Kitty or Spongebob Squarepants on it). It’s basically an all-day night market.

Ximen means ‘East Gate’ because the area, as you might guess, is situated where the old eastern gate of the city used to be. This gate was torn down a little over a hundred years ago, though you’ll meet other gates around Taipei that are still standing, usually in the middle of an intersection or roundabout. The Japanese used to have some governmental buildings in the Ximen area, but otherwise the area has always had a slight ‘reputation’ and was and still is famous for theatre. Don’t let rumours of crime and student prostitution put you off – as everywhere else in Taiwan, you always feel safe, and the rumours are due to a high density of young people.
We stayed in the Just Sleep Hotel, which we had chosen because of its good ratings on TripAdvisor. We were not disappointed – it was clean, the rooms were a good size, breakfast was fine, the location is great (5 min. walk from Ximen MRT station) and the staff was very nice and helpful. This was something that we tested thoroughly, as our luggage had not been on the plane, and only got to us after a couple of days and several insistent calls to the airport from the front desk staff.


The area north east of Ximending has a street for everything. Need a camera? Then this is where to go - the small stores all have the same selection, more or less, so it's up to you to get the best price.

The area north east of Ximending has a street for everything. Need a camera? Then this is where to go – the small stores all have the same selection, more or less, so it’s up to you to get the best price.

Other attractions within walking distance:

  • Taipei City Mall is an underground mall connected to the Taipei Main Station. The mall has lots of different stores and a food court and is connected to the train, HSR and MRT systems. Entrances are also close to two malls across from Taipei Main Station, but these are not too interesting compared to the general standard of Taiwanese department stores, and the underground mall is more fun. Unless you need to buy a GPS, in which case the ground floor of the eastern department store tower is the place to go.

    Tapei Underground Street, as it is also called. Copyright: TravelPod

  • The Taipei Presidential Office Building is a large red- and white-squared building where you can take a guided tour and learn more about… well, Taiwanese presidents, I think. I’m not sure if it’s the guide’s fault or mine, though it might have had something to do with going to bed quite late the night before on the round trip with the other exchange students, when I went on the guided tour… But I don’t remember much, except for being surprised at how few countries Taiwan (or Republic of China, to be exact) has official diplomatic relations to (22 + the Vatican), most of these being countries like Kiribati, Palau, Nauru and Tuvalu that may need a little bit of recognition themselves. But the building is pretty and you may learn more than I did.

    Photo: Dailytravelphotos

  • 228 Peace Memorial Park. 228 refers to a terrible massacre around February 28, 1947 where tens of thousands of people were killed by Kuomintang soldiers, and was the beginning of what is called the White Terror period of Kuomintang reign in Taiwan. This incident was taboo until 1995, but is now publicly discussed and annually commemorated as National Peace Day, though further research will show that there is very little information about what actually happened beyond the broad facts, and most information comes from a handful eye-witness reports mainly published outside Taiwan. There are many places around Taiwan dedicated to Er Er Ba (228), but though I’ve tried, I’ve never managed to get any Taiwanese to discuss the topic with me, and it seems like it is still not something people are comfortable talking about. The park is beautiful, though, and there’s more information about 228 in the Taipei 228 Memorial Museum by the north entrance of the park.


    They love signs, the Taiwanese. And public restrooms everywhere is one of the perks of traveling in Taiwan. Not exactly sure how to interpret this one in the 228 park though…

  • The Taipei Botanical Garden is worth a visit if you need a green break. The park is huge, and famous for birds and it’s interesting to get the names to the many indigenous plants you’ll see while traveling around the island.
  • The Modern Toilet Ximending branch restaurant north west of the Ximen MRT station is quite something. If looking at the sign from the 228 Park made you hungry, this is the place to go. A restaurant chain inspired by everything happening in and on a toilet and with the slogans ‘Go pee-pee or go poo-poo’ and ‘To pee or to eat?’ is not something you will see everywhere. But the Taiwanese love the unusual and the quirky, and though I’ve heard the food isn’t very good, the whole experience is a must-do to test of what it takes for you to lose your appetite.


    Oh, Taiwan…


2 Responses to “First stop: Taipei’s Ximending!”

  1. Vincent May 23, 2013 at 05:00 #

    Hi there, I was wondering if you know where I might find Lakrids from Haribo or Katjas. Cheers Vincent

    • Lise May 23, 2013 at 09:21 #

      You can often find it in luxury supermarkets on food court level in large department stores like SOGO 🙂

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