Tuesday, April 18, 2017

Taking it easy in Taichung (En Voyage)

Quiz time: Which city is Taiwan’s second biggest? Most people would nominate the maritime metropolis of Kaohsiung, and by some criteria that’s a logical answer. However, Taichung not only already has more inhabitants than Taipei (2.77 million versus the capital’s 2.69 million), but is also expected to overtake Kaohsiung in terms of population within a few years. It’s time, perhaps, to stop thinking of central Taiwan’s economic and cultural powerhouse as the island’s “third city.”

Taichung has lots of people, and there’s a lot going on, but it also has plenty of space. Amid its 2,215 square kilometers, visitors can find dozens of spots where kicking back is the done thing. For the artistically-inclined, National Taiwan Museum of Fine Arts is a must-see. Except for special exhibitions, admission is free, and the third floor features works by Chen Cheng-po, Li Mei-shu, Richard Lin and other important Taiwanese artists. 

From the museum, a 15-minute walk along Linsen Road brings you to Natural Ways Six Arts Cultural Center. The two buildings here formed part of a prison between 1937 and 1992 - yet they’re utterly gorgeous, and possibly the region’s finest relics of the 1895-1945 Japanese colonial period. The current name of this edifice honors the six disciplines Confucius regarded as essential to a good education.

Taichung’s other major exhibition space is quite different, and an especially good place to take children. In addition to geo-science and biology, you’ll learn about herbal medicine and Taiwan’s Austronesian indigenous minority. Make sure you’ve enough time for the adjacent botanical garden, the highlight of which is a soaring conservatory. The interior recreates a tropical rainforest ecosystem, complete with a waterfall and gurgling creek. 

Taichung City Government stitched together a number of green spaces to create the 3.6km-long Calligraphy Greenway, a broad strip of trees, grass and public art that links the two aforementioned museums. In the streets nearby, you’ll find many of Taichung’s best restaurants and most inviting coffee shops.

Because many Taiwanese are busy working or studying during the daytime, and few hope to acquire a suntan, you’ll see far more people in the city’s parklands after dusk than when the sun is shining. Public spaces bustle as late as ten o’clock in the evening, delighting visitors eager to make the absolute most of each day.

Anyone who goes to Fengle Sculpture Park expecting museum-style classicism is in for a shock...

To read the whole article, get a copy of the April issue of EVA Air's inflight magazine. The photo (which I took) shows Taichung Prefecture Hall.

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