Thursday, April 3, 2014

Taiwan Travelogue: Wufenpu Garment Wholesale Area



Wufenpu (五分埔), literally translates to the "Land of Five Divisions" is a name derived from the five families who migrated from Fujian, China and bought over the land from the aboriginal tribe here (Malixikou). The natives were said to have been the inhabiting the area since the era of the Qing Dynasty, and the land was mainly used to rear pigs; with the farms dotting most of the space here.
In addition to that, it was also said that there was a number of mental institutions in the same area and it was probably due to the above reasons whereby the land has been mostly neglected due to its poor conditions, and also the fact that the land was infertile as nothing could be grown here.
The other reason for the name was also probably due to the fact that the area, located in the Xinyi district of Taipei encompasses five neighborhoods; within the section 5 of Zhongxiao East Road to the Zhongpo North Road.

So, how did a barren land in such poor conditions, filled with only the pungent smell of the domestic farms and mental hospitals ended up to be the largest garment wholesale market in the whole of Taipei?


The story dates back to the beginnings where the place started had a turning point in its fate after the World War II, where a gush of flooding waters which almost had the whole of Taipei underwater (infamously known as the Flood of August 7), caused by a major typhoon left many of the elderly residents of Taipei homeless. The government stepped in, taking immediate measures by donating a piece of land; yes, this piece of barren land and the Ministry of National Defense chipped in to do their part following the donation where they built an approximate of 1,200 temporary homes for the poor homeless veterans.
Economy in Taiwan flourished thereafter; attracting many from the other states and districts to take an interest, and to try their luck at making the bucks in none other than the capital. A huge group from Fangyuan town; Central Taiwan migrated in flocks to Taipei and ended up renting these homes from the elders in the district, which they soon turned the homes into a garment business hub. The homes were turned into shophouses; where the making of the clothing would take place on the upper (second) floor along with their residence while the first floor would be converted into a business space or a pret-a-porter shop to sell their works. As the home owners; the earlier veterans retire, they sold their houses to these folks and the prey-a-porter business hub continues until this very day; filling the whole district with all these shops and eager clothing entrepreneurs ready to make a good living out of their businesses.


Most of the shops here are open for business on a daily basis, and the place can get pretty crowded on weekends; filled with avid local shoppers and tourists eager to walk away with a good bargain.
While the place is generally a wholesale garment area, there are shops which will sell clothing by piece as well.
It would help to have good negotiation skills around here when bargaining with the shop owners, and as the general shopping rules apply, do not be too keen to close a bargain.
Shop around, or take a browse around and go by your instincts. If you think the item is overpriced, it probably is. I can't tell you to tour the entire area before you make your mind, for the place is filled with crowded alleys and with the many intersections, you could probably lose your direction to get back to the original shop where you saw the item you liked.
Therefore, the gut feeling really applies here, and just be careful when bargaining.

They will typically ask the number of pieces you would want when you are interested in a particular style, as with most wholesale strategy. The reason is because prices would vary significantly; with the larger number of items you are purchasing, it is just common sense that there would be bulk discount applied. Do not get fooled by this if you are not interested to purchase more than the number of items you are interested in; unless of course, if you are also looking for wholesale items for your own business, then that would be a totally different story.
(However, I have noticed that they are rather cautious and wary of non-regulars who deal with them on the wholesale and the discounts seem to vary; whereby they would charge the regulars a fixed price (possibly much lower) and then give you a different price, which they will say is a standard.)
As mentioned, just be cautious and you might be surprised with some of the really good bargains you can get off the discount rack around here.





Besides clothing, there are also food stalls available, and there is a whole street where food and drinks stalls are located (haven't I emphasize enough that there is no end to the availability of food everywhere in Taipei?)





Walking around can take easily 3-4 hours; especially if you are a shopper or just trying to get your way through the crowd in the narrow alleys with two-way traffic and indecisive shoppers in front of you. Throw in the wholesalers pushing their goods on those barrows and you get the picture.
Navigating can be confusing, but not totally bad as the alleys always lead to the main street or the main intersection so it is not such an easy task to get yourself lost here. However, locating the shop that you spotted and decided to browse further, might be quite a challenge unless you make a mental note of the directions yourself.

If you are not a shopper, this is still an interesting area to drop by to check out the business and interaction between the locals. Besides, this is a lifestyle and where you can see the locals in action, so yeah, this is more of a people-watching (if you're not into clothing and shoes and bags) area.
Majority of the shops here are more appealing to women, but there are also shops for men, and children.

One thing though, you will need the stamina to keep up with the walking to explore the market (I hardly think that's a problem for the ladies), as there are no seats or comfy couches for one to sit on. In fact, there is not really a space or pavement when you can just sit and wait either and even the stalls or shops do not have seats for their customers. So, keep up with the walking if you are there to really knock yourself out with the shopping.

I found this stall, which was quite interesting...


They were selling egg cakes! It's amazing that I only managed to try these on my third day in Taipei, but still, these were freshly baked and hot, so they are good!
(I did seem a little carried away with these egg cakes instead of the shopping!)


Wufenpu in the evening



The food stalls on the outer perimeter of the wholesale garment area





Overall, Wufenpu may appeal as a large wholesale garment district with low to medium range of pricing and clothing quality and fashionable trends inspired by Korea, Japan and Taiwan.
Most of the clothes/fashion items here are locally manufactured with a small percentage being imported from the above fashion hubs as well.
Not a bad place to check out, if you are a shopper, or not....there's always the food, and the local culture that you can watch out for here, not to mention the fashion trends sported by the locals and the boutique owners themselves!~

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