We were quite fortunate that our hotel in Taipei was located in Ximending, a shopping area immensely popular with Taiwan’s fashionable youth. Just on our street, rows of local and Western shops, food stalls, and restaurants attract the attention of young pedestrians; unsurprisingly, due to the volume of consumer youth in the area, outdoor advertisements and on-ground promotional events abound, and we were witnesses to quite a lot of it during our entire three-day stay there. In fact, it was, since the Japanese colonial period, planned as a recreational and commercial district, and it has been the same way since, still being one of the most popular areas in Taipei’s West District.
The Ximending Pedestrian Area and the streets behind it come alive every night with shoppers, diners, and just about a sample from all walks of Taipei life. It becomes so crowded in the evenings that there is a scheduled time for it to close itself to motorists (weekends and holidays) so pedestrians can roam freely and explore the area.
At one point while we were on our way to the Ximending train station, a local hip-hop artist decided to lug around a boombox with him and set up a live performance right smack in the middle of the crowd. I envied him, for I could have easily done what he did (but in Tagalog)! Apparently, this is a normal occurrence as new CD releases and small concerts are regularly being staged here.
Ximending is also known for its Movie Theater Street (Sec. 2 of Wuchang Street) where many film production outfits hold events and post promotional movie posters in the pedestrian area. Movie theaters abound and it can easily be packed whenever a movie stages a promotion here. Also standing tall above the other locations in Ximending is the Red House, a century-old, public-run market that is “the most well-preserved historical and market building classed as a municipal heritage site.” We haven’t had the time to check out what’s in the building (called the Octagon Building due to its shape) and around it, but it’s said that the Grid of Hundred Treasures inside and the Market for Artists and Designers at the North Square just outside is a visual treat.
As for shopping and dining, I think it’ll be near impossible for any tourist with just a few days in Taipei to fully appreciate this sprawling district with tons of local and international brands begging you to visit them. Such is the abundance of stores and its fashionable appeal that its called the Harajuku (and Shibuya, as well) of Taipei. My tip to budget travelers: leave your wallet at home and bring just enough for meals, as the temptation to buy clothes, trinkets, and whatever else just screams at you from every imaginable direction. Well, yeah, leave your wallet at home, as along with the Shilin Night Market, Ximending is one of the areas with the highest crime rates in the city (although we felt safe walking around its crowded streets).
For a dose of youthful urbanity in today’s Taipei, Ximending is the place to go. Believe me, they’ve got it all right here in one place.
A local hip-hop artist decided to lug around a boombox with him and set up a live performance right smack in the middle of the crowd. I envied him, for I could have easily done what he did (but in Tagalog)!
Wanhua District, Taipei, Taiwan