I was on my way out of the Royal Taipei Hotel and was just fresh from the forty-minute ride from the airport.Â In one hand, I was holding my dependable tote bag containing my camera, a bottle of water, calculator and my wallet filled with crisp Taiwan dollars that I just exchanged at a nearby bank.Â In my other hand, I held a piece of paper with the Chinese name of my destination.Â You see, I had to sweetly request the hotelâ€™s concierge to write the Chinese name for me to make sure that the taxi cab driver would know where to take me. I went out the hotelâ€™s door, hailed a cab and confidently handed over the piece of paper to the driver.Â The driver nodded and I sighed in relief.Â I thought giddily to myself: â€œXimending, here I come!â€
Because of its popularity and impression that it leaves its visitors, Ximending is currently already being called the â€œHarajuku of Taipeiâ€. Â It is considered to be the place to see and be seen most especially for the younger crowd. People, not necessarily only the Japanese, but all those who are very much into Japanese stuff and Japanese pop culture would be familiar with Harajuku.Â Harajuku is â€œTHEâ€ fashion and shopping mecca of Japan.Â It is famous for the Harajuku Girls who are extraordinarily dressed in outlandish costumes even if they are only going about their normal daily routine like hanging out with their friends.Â Youngsters in Japan spend a lot of their time in Harajuku during weekends and doing anything else would certainly seem unacceptable to them.
You can expect the same things with the vivacious district of Ximending.Â Â There are towering billboards everywhere you look and glitzy lights practically light up the entire place.Â Stores line every street and shops overflow literally from every corner. You could easily strain your neck when you look up at the towering building s and you will surely be mesmerized by the modern shopping malls that offer a wide arrange of goods like electronic items, personal care stuff, clothing, footwear, bags, souvenirs, Taiwanâ€™s traditional handicraftsÂ among others.
Shops include some local bookstores who sell almost everything Japanese like the usual magazines, books, apparel, accessories, CD albums.Â A number of stalls also sell different Chinese charms like beads with elegant designs as well as jewelry items that are made of jade.Â You can also find other traditional items like delicate Chinese scrolls, meticulously prepared bamboo products, and really lovely Chinese watercolour paintings.Â Some specialty shops just concentrate on pottery and ceramic items like beautiful tea sets that are sold at different prices.Â Another great find would have to be incense burners that are very much an integral part of Buddhist culture that is prevalent all over Taiwan.
Another well-known kind of business in Ximending is the name chop business.Â A chop is a personal seal wherein the ownerâ€™s name is carved by using Chinese characters.Â The chop serves as replacement for the signature and it is used as a very important form of identification.Â Chops that are stamped on red ink are intended for authorization of documents.Â Tourists have a great time asking vendors to translate their names into Chinese characters so that they can have their very own personalized name chops done.
Shopping hours at Ximending do not end when the sun sets.Â Prepare yourself for some serious shopping as a lot of establishments extend their operating hours up to late at night.Â The open air street markets offer amazing products that are sold at really affordable prices.Â I highly suggest that you bring a handy calculator when you go shopping in this area because most vendors do not understand English.Â Use your calculator in haggling to get the best possible discounts.
My favorite part about my walking tour of Ximending was that I could do a little bit of food tripping even when I was busy doing a bit of shopping.Â You can most certainly find a lot of international fast food chains with the area. But my personal favorite would still be appetizing street foods that are being sold almost at every street corner.Â There are food carts that sell assorted fruit drinks while others sell strange looking food items like grilled squid cakes, tofu, and assorted fried delicacies, among others.
There are really so much to see at Ximending that you will soon realize that one trip to Taipei is never enough.Â You are transported to a whole new exciting world that is filled with glitzy lights and extraordinary fashion where shopping possibilities seem endless.