Wednesday, March 5, 2014

Taiwan Travelogue: Ximending at night

Ximending is one of the most happening districts in Taipei and this place is just as busy in the day as it is at night, with the majority of the young Taiwanese population flocking to this district for shopping and dining. The popularity of this place is fueled with the Japanese inspirations and influences which started from the early settlement of the Japanese here, in this part of Taipei City where it is the west gate, thus earning it the name of Ximen ( 西門 ).

Of course, that is not all to the origin of the name of this place located in the Wanhua District of Taipei, as the name was named due to the west gate located outside of the city and after the administrative division of Seimon-Cho (西門町 )  during the occupation of the Japanese. The place was soon transformed by the Japanese from an administration to include places of entertainment such as theater and business centers; and today, it is known as the hub of entertainment in the city.
Pubs, clubs, malls and street performances make their way into this place and this place, with the vibrant nightlife, has attracted most of the youngsters to spend their time here; be it on weekdays or weekends.

The effervescence of the nightlife clearly identifies with the bustling city life, and the Japanese influence can be heavily spotted around here; with the restaurants, shops and fashion. In fact, if one has been to Tokyo, you can distinctly see the traces of the Harajuku Street and Shibuya Street all rolled into Ximending, although, the formers are also famously known for the bold and quirky sense of fashion. I did not spot much of the fancy or daring street fashion adorned by the youngsters in this area; though there were street performances spotted at various areas in the district. Juggling, street dances, and hip hop styles make up the hip and trendy aspects of Ximending.

It is also interesting to note that Ximending is also the first and largest pedestrian districts in Taiwan, and while the roads are closed to motorists, the location of this area also makes it one of the places for the bus transfers which runs along the other roads adjacent to it.

While Ximending remains a modern district at large, with major brands boutiques and shops dotting the major cross sections of the streets,  there are still stalls set up outside these shops by the hopeful vendors hoping to earn a living or two off the street pedestrians. These peddling activities are prohibited by the authorities as can be seen from the anxiety of the vendors as they alert each other upon sensing the presence of the authorities in the vicinity.
I witnessed the shouts of one vendor to another and how they pushed their carts immediately in the opposite direction while the police blow their whistles and chased after them.
While I sympathize with these vendors, I can understand the rationale behind the authorities to prohibit such activities in the district to maintain the image of the city.

Many small stalls can be spotted along the streets of Ximending

If there is one thing I observed about Taiwan, it is the love for the street food among the locals.
Street food can be found almost everywhere in the city; legal or not, and while authorities prohibit the  illegal peddling of food and also the consumption of these food due to the hygiene reasons, it is still interesting to note how the locals and tourists are just brushing the advices aside and still head towards these stalls to get their street food fix.

Scenes from the happenings in Ximending, at night

These are the legal food stalls/booths, which had operating licenses.

Spotted a stall selling pancakes; which looked rather unique.

There are many such stalls; selling drinks - from herbal tea to juices and the favorite Taiwanese bubble milk tea. The locals love their bubbly drinks, and thirst quenchers can be found almost everywhere on their streets.
(So one thing's for sure, one won't die of hunger of dehydration while in Taiwan)

Ximending is filled with restaurants and I have noticed an incredibly large amount of Japanese restaurants, with the occasional appearance of Korean and Western chains, but mainly Japanese food dominates the streets here. It is no wonder this is compared to the famous streets in Tokyo, but I would say that the strong influences from the Japanese occupation had taken its toll in the modernization of this district to this very day.

There is also much shopping to be done here; with the local boutiques declaring attractive prices in their efforts to outbid each other in drawing their very own crowds of shoppers, and as mentioned, this district spots many young girls and boys stalking the streets and therefore, most of the fashion styles that can be found here are distinctively stylish and keeping with the current trends appealing to the younger generation. Prices, can be rather attractive too.

With the lively and happening crowds all gathered at this part of the city, there is no question to why this place is marked as one of the most visited and must visits on every tourist's itinerary while in the city of Taipei.
My first night in Taipei was filled with the scenes of the hip and trendy of the metropolis, and it is indeed an interesting spot for people watching and to revel in the bright night city lights, which is all common if you come from the city, but oh well, it makes all the difference when you are in a different city, don't you think?

Note: I personally find Ximending rather similar to not just the streets in Tokyo (Harajuku and Shibuya), but somehow this place also reminds me of the Wanchai district in Hong Kong, also filled with the mass of after workers/students thronging the place.

It is worth to take a look at Ximending; whether you hail from the city or not, to personally experience that local touch of Taiwan from the unraveling of the scenes on the streets for which Taiwan is known for, be it during the day or night, or if your schedule permits, do it both to see the difference for yourself which I did, and will be shared in a different post.

Ximending is rather a crowd-commanding place, I must agree, and while traces of Japanese influence can be seen in the restaurants and shops, the scenes that take place in this district still very much reflects the local culture of Taiwan, making that distinctive point from the other famous streets in the world. It is, in her own, a rather unique identity or icon of the streets of Taiwan; and a rather modern one at that.

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