April 13, 2014
Xinyi District - Part 2
Following on from the last post, we bring you more things to do and see in the Xinyi District.
From the area around the cinema where we left you last time, walk across the road or take the raised, covered walkway towards the next shopping area. The covered walkway is great when it's raining, and you can go from Taipei 101 all the way to the Mitsukoshi department stores area. I say stores as there are currently four buildings (there is a map here: http://www.skm.com.tw/en/Foreign/Store/4d6c8b25-f31a-4d83-b016-d97973648188).
This is a bustling area, and there is often an activity taking place between the buildings. There are several restaurants, but the focus is most definitely on shopping, and high-end shopping at that. Most of the major international brands are represented here, so this probably isn't the best area to buy traditional Taiwanese gifts. Nevertheless, it is an excellent area to experience the modern side of Taiwan.
After the shopping, I recommend you head left to Taipei City Hall. It might not seem like an obvious please to visit, but there are a couple of areas of interest, especially if you have young children and the weather is suitable. There is a public "beach" on the Songzhi Road side, which is actually a large sand pit for the kids and a few tables with sun umbrellas for the adults, to give it a beachy feel. It can be extremely popular, but it does seem to go down very well with the children. Bring something to drink, as it is a bit of a sun trap and can get very hot. There is an area where you can wash off the sand when it's time to go. There is no charge, but it is first come first served.
If you are feeling the need to get inside for an hour or so, I next recommend the seemingly little-known but really quite entertaining Discovery Center of Taipei (http://www.discovery.taipei.gov.tw/). The Center is actually inside the City Hall building, so you won't have far to walk. I recommend taking the elevator straight to the 4th floor and then work your way down. The 4th floor is perhaps the most interesting as well, with exhibits showing the history of the area, a model of the city which you can walk over, and a movie theater. There is also a large topographical map showing the Taipei basin and the rivers that run through it.
The model of the city is great for adults and kids alike as you can literally walk along the streets of Taipei from above. It is actually the area of Taipei that was contained within the original city walls, and the old layout of the city is superimposed on the new. There are also models of the old gates, which is a nice touch.
The movie theater, or "Discovery Theater", shows four different films starting on the half hour from 9:30 am. Each lasts around 15 to 20 minutes and will keep the attention of most children, especially as the seating area rotates and the screen wraps around the whole theater. There are various hands-on activities on the third floor which are also entertaining for the children. And special exhibitions are held on the second floor.
Every time I visit, there seems to be something new or improved, and I strongly recommend you take a look. In addition, admission is free! It is open Tuesday to Sunday from 9am to 5pm, but closed on Mondays and national holidays.
If you fancy a cup of tea or coffee or are getting peckish, I recommend either heading to the Eslite building or to the Hankyu Department Store (just behind the Eslite building). The Hankyu Department Store is quite a cool place to hang out (there is a very well known brand of coffee shop for example), but if you have children, Eslite is probably better as there is a toy department where they can also do various art-related activities (these are not free), and a children's book area. Eslite is actually known as a book store, so if you are after something to read, this is one of the best places to look.
If you still have the energy, National Dr. Sun Yat-sen Memorial Hall is within walking distance, and I will write more about that in a future post. If you are ready for dinner, there are many, many restaurants in the area from Eslite to ATT4FUN to Mitsukoshi to… well you get the idea.
All in all, you could easily spend a day in Xinyi District, and if you would like to get a feel for the modern side of Taipei, I recommend you make a visit. There are an ever increasing number of MRT stations so it is really easy to get to, and you really should at least see Taipei 101 when you are in Taiwan.
•Previous article: Xinyi District part one (and an Alishan railway update)
•Next article: Wulai From Above