Savouring noodles while singing to Bowie
In the heart of Taipei, the hip neighbourhood of Ximending has a few surprises for the curious traveller. As you come out of the metro at Taipei Main Station, the bustling streets, designer boutiques, street food stalls and street performers make your head spin. Hypnotised by the giant screens on Zhongxiao East Road, you wander up to the enormous Party World building with its queue of young Taiwanese. Full of excited energy, they come to have fun at this KTV karaoke club which plays songs in English. On Friday and Saturday evenings, this place is open all night long and gets full to the rafters.
You make your way down a long corridor, like the ones you see in luxury hotels. An usherette shows you in to a small, dimly lit room. Next to the comfortable sofa, there is a tablet giving you access to an impressive repertoire of instrumental versions of international songs. Do not be shy! Grab the microphone and let the melody flow! Your own personal rendition of David Bowie's ‘China Girl' has your friends shrieking in amazement. One by one, they get up and have a go at a track by their favourite group, moving their hips to the rhythm. On a large TV screen, the compelling images of a cheesy video scroll by. You get so into it that you have completely forgotten to eat. But there is no need to cut your live performance short to go an find a restaurant nearby. Simply pick up the phone in the room and order beef noodle soup and cold drinks. The show goes on in a general state of euphoria. Some Taiwanese do not emerge from this party hotspot until the small hours. So, do you fancy impersonating a popstar for the night?
Party World KTV
No. 55 Section 1
Zhong Hua Road
+886 2 2361 9898
A concert in the aisles of a giant bookshop
As well as its highly charged karaoke clubs, Taipei has plenty of other night-time surprises in store for you. A stone's throw from the Zhongxiao Fuxing metro station, there is a place to more than satisfy all culture vultures. No matter what time of day or night, the gigantic Eslite Dunnan Branch bookshop is full of hard-working students and young hipsters, but also families and tourists drawn in by the reputation of the place. How can a bookshop open 24 hours a day attract so many people? Over the five floors of this legendary store, there are over 230,000 books of all genres, published in Chinese and foreign languages.
In this temple of Taiwanese culture, you will find people crouched in every recess, sitting on the staircases or at tables, everyone utterly absorbed in what they are reading. The shop's policy allows everyone to read for as long as they like without necessarily paying for their book. Suddenly, musical rhythms reach your ears. A pop singer performs a live concert between the fashion and accessories department and the wine cellar. On the next floor, you can watch a live recording of a TV cookery programme. This hybrid place is more akin to a concept store or multi-cultural centre than a traditional bookshop. While you are here, find yourself a locally made designer item and lay a curious eye around an exhibition of contemporary painting.
Eslite Dunnan Branch Bookstore
No. 245, Section 1
Dunahua S. Road, Da'na District
+886 2 2 77 55 977
Shrimp for dinner… but catch them first
A city with a perpetual buzz, Taipei showcases the whole gamut of Chinese cuisine at its night markets. After strolling past steaming stalls, tasting rather bizarre specialities like snake soup, get ready for some see-it-to-believe-it shrimp fishing! All over the city, the Taiwanese gather around large fresh water pools to tease plump shrimps with long blueish claws.
Head to Chun Cheng, one of these shrimp farms that are always open, located on Zhishan Road. Once you have paid for your one-hour package, go and pick up your bamboo cane, hooks and bait. Before casting your line, watch the professionals seated at your side very carefully. In an hour of intense fishing, you will have caught enough shellfish for a rewarding dinner. Once they are washed in clean water, they are then skewered, grilled on a barbecue and served up on your plate. Taipei never ceases to amaze.
Spring City Shrimp Fishing Restaurant
Section 2, Zhi Shan Road