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Taichung: Many Happy Returns

We have always meant to check out Taichung and we got our chance finally last month when we were invited to a weekend pow wow.  And we will definitely be back. Even our Taiwanese friends ask us in all seriousness why we like Taichung so much.  We think it is a bit obvious, don’t you?  You mean besides the abundant sunshine, the short flight (under 2 hrs), the seriously good grub, the laid-back attitude, and the more humane pace and quality of life?  Taichung are all of the above and more from what we have seen and where we have been.  So here goes.


A small cup of coffee can gauge the vitals of a city anywhere in the world.  We are half serious, but we have done this so many time and it has been quite indicative.  Ivette is located in the Xitun district (an area where it is experiencing the greatest growth) and their coffee is one of the best we have tasted in town.  The moment you walk into Ivette you feel like you have been teleported to a chic cafe in Melbourne.  Their honest food policy meant that they source locally and seasonally and let the food do the talking.  They even have a small urban farm on the top floor that provides the edible flowers, fruits, vegetables and spices for the restaurant below.  You don’t want to leave this place once you have sat down.


Straight out from the dreamscape of an Ursula Le Guin sci-fi novel, this pharmacy across from the National Taichung Theater by Toyo Ito stands at the crossroads between nature and science.  Cutting edge and traditional skincare remedies from both East and West are set against the backdrop of hanging gardens and even a double helix staircase.  There is even a small contemporary art gallery on the second floor.  Oh, and the super friendly and knowledgeable pharmacists make a mean cup of hand-dripped coffee, too.


Ever wonder why Japanese read so much?  It’s not because they have more time or enjoy reading more but because of their beautiful bookshops.  Tsutaya (“one of the most beautiful bookstores in the world”) opened very recently and it is already a hugely popular tourist destination as well as a safe haven for all bookavores.  Of the tribes who belong there, we add foodies as well since you can now enjoy the famous Doug’s Burger from Okinawa at the adjacent Wired Tokyo cafe.  This is a place where you definitely would not want to starve your stomach to feed your brain.


Channeling your inner bohemian or French girl chic?  With brands and one-off pieces from Paris, New York, LA and Japan, this select shop will inspire the most seasoned fashion week front bencher to the closeted fashionista alike.  The high fashion and home items culled from antiques markets around the world are gloriously displayed in a romantically gritty industrial space that nails the New York loft look to a T.  The small but quality cafe deserves a bigger presence.


Are you brave enough to add this to your itinerary because you will need about an hour to compete with all the other Instagrammers for wall space for those endless selfies (which you don’t mind really at the end)?  Far from the madding crowd this place is not, but you will be so rewarded if you choose to head over to this truly unique neighborhood. For one thing, you might get a chance to see Rainbow Grandpa (a nonagenarian!) in action.  He is the brains and brawn behind the colorful makeover of this housing complex for retired military defendants.  This place is a reminder that great art and great artists can be found outside of the establishments.


1. Giftwell’s guide and resources to creative gifting.
2. Hong Kong’s open secret.