March 04, 2014
Xinyi District part one (and an Alishan railway update)
We start this post with an update on the Alishan railway as it is the thing we are asked about most, and it is not always easy to find up to date information. The good news is that another section has been opened, from Chiayi Railway Station to Fengchi Lake Station. It is being reported that the remaining section will be completed by October 2014, although the scale of repairs after Typhoon Morakot in 2009 is still daunting. Anyone who took the train before Morakot can attest to the precariousness of the track, and much of the repair work will need to be done manually. As promised, I’ll keep posting new information as I get it. I should also add that Alishan is still accessible by road and the drive is also very scenic. Nothing quite beats the train though.
Instead of focussing on a specific destination this month, I want to recommend an area of Taipei, the Xinyi District. If you have a spare day in Taipei then this is a good area to experience the modern side of life. Xinyi has seen (and continues to see) growth and development on a breath-taking scale even for Taipei. This may be partly because the land was owned by the government and used as military housing for those coming to Taiwan after 1949. In the 1990s this land was zoned for development, and since then the area has boomed, now slated to be the most expensive real estate in Taiwan. Some open areas can still be seen, although I doubt they will last.
This development has resulted in a gleaming array of tall buildings, the most famous of which being Taipei 101. But there is more to this area than Taipei 101, and you could easily spend a day wandering around. As the area is so modern, don’t expect street stalls and traditional style shops, so check out previous posts if that’s what you are after. If you would like to experience modern, cosmopolitan life in Taiwan, however, read on. In addition, all of the places I mention here are indoors (apart from the walk between them), which is good for the cold days we are experiencing at present, and also good for the summer days as everywhere mentioned here is air conditioned.
There are two MRT stations around the area I want to discuss: Taipei City Hall, and Taipei 101/World Trade Center Station. Taipei 101 is probably a good place to start and it is difficult to miss. I have written about the building before, and even though it is no longer the tallest building in the world, it is worth a trip to the top on a clear day. There are a number of high-end shops, and the food court in the basement is a good option during weekdays, although it can get very busy.
Following on that theme, there are a bewildering number of department stores in a very small area. There is a covered walkway from Taipei 101 to ATT4FUN, another newly revamped department store (http://www.att4fun.com.tw/ in Chinese only). There are actually some good places to eat in this building, so if part of the family needs a rest from the shopping, this is a good rest stop.
Next to ATT4FUN is the Vieshow Cinemas multiplex (http://www.vscinemas.com.tw/). I realise it is not that cultural to see a movie, but if the weather is extreme, the shopping is getting too much, or the kids really want to see the latest release now, then this is a good option. There is also a more snack-like food court on the second floor. To beat the queues, you can book online via their website then pick the tickets up when you arrive. Also, make sure you book English language versions of children’s films, as many popular animated films also have versions dubbed into Chinese.
So enjoy your movie and shopping, and join us for part two as we visit the Discovery Center of Taipei, jump on a YouBike, visit one of the biggest book stores in Taiwan, and more…
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