The wonders of Guilin


The scenic Guilin city centre


Renowned for its unique and picturesque scenery, Guilin is considered to be one of the most beautiful cities in China. I wasn’t sure what to expect spending after 2 peaceful days in the Yangshuo countryside, but I was quite pleasantly surprised by the city’s greenery and relaxing atmosphere esp. considering it is one of the most popular tourist destinations in China.


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Top & main: Guilin Botanical Garden; bottom right & left: our Chinese style hotel and its pond full of gold fish


Our hotel, Guilinyi, located inside the Guilin botanical garden, is like an oasis in the city! It is like a Chinese style resort with fish ponds, tea house, exotic plants and flowers. Being inside the botanical garden gave us an opportunity to stroll around, although the garden is not very big, it has an European garden, a Japanese garden and an amusement park within!



Top left & right: the historical Wangcheng City; Main: The amazing Reed Flute Cave


We were not very lucky with the weather and it rained quite heavily for most of the time, so we skipped outdoor activities like the river cruise and opted for sightseeing within the city centre. The sightseeing was interesting but too touristy ( and slightly stressful), we much preferred our leisurely stroll along the riverbank and around the lakes.




Unlike other larger Chinese cities, Guilin seems greener and slower, we thoroughly enjoyed watching the health conscious locals exercising, fishing or dancing in groups… It turned out that people-watching was one of the highlights of the trip!



The tranquil beauty of Yangshuo


Main: Camel hill in the background; bottom right: Moon hill


It has been years since I last visited China ( Hong Kong and Macau don’t count), and Guilin has always been on my mind, so I suggested it to a friend who was also keen on exploring this part of China.

Our original plan was to spend more time in Yangshuo ( an area famous for its natural scenery outside of Guilin) and do activities such as cycling and hiking. However, we were not prepared for the sudden drop in temperature on the first day and my friend fell ill the day after ( luckily it wasn’t bird flu). Hence, apart from bamboo rafting on the first day, she spent the next day in bed and I ended up cycling and doing sightseeing on my own.




I have heard a lot about Yangshuo’s picturesque scenery, yet beyond the specular views, I also felt very calm here. Being able to hear the sounds of birds, hens, cows and dogs, and seeing farmers and villagers working and living like their ancestors for generations was wonderful. Yes, there were some tourists traps too, but this is China after all, so it is almost unavoidable.



Top and main: Bamboo rafting down the river; bottom left: Yulong bridge from the Ming dynasty; bottom right: plastic bottles and rubbish floating around!


Bamboo rafting was an activity recommended by our hotel, and despite our hesitation at the beginning about safety issue, we finally agreed to do the 90 minute ride down the river. Once on the raft, we noticed that it didn’t have any life jackets, but we were also relieved to see that the river is actually quite shallow. Our initial dam got us both slightly wet and made us laugh hysterically, but we were able to enjoy the ride more afterwards. The activity itself is very commericalised with many eager photographers taking photos of us and trying to sell them back. Though for most part of the journey we were alone on the river, which was fun and relaxing. The downside was seeing plastic bottles and other rubbish floating around at one point, which was a real shame.



Cycling in rural Yangshuo…


The next day, I cycled around the rural countryside, which was probably the most popular and best way to see the area. A local elderly woman on a bike saw me reading a map ( hand-drawn by the hotel staff) and told me to check out a nearby ancient village called Jiuxian. I was slightly sceptical at first but she told me to follow her ( and her bike) and then showed me the route into the village. Thanks to this kind local, I spent the next hour or so wandering around this small village but intriguing historical village dating back to 621 AD ( Tang Dynasty).

With the rapid development of China in recent years, ancient villages are disappearing fast, so to see this village still intact was quite a pleasant surprise. I only wish that other historical villages like this one would be preserved and not be demolished or rebuilt into “Disneyland style” villages ( wishful thinking)…



An authentic and historical village, Jiuxian


Later in the evening, I went to see the rather touristy and chaotic ( in terms of traffic and people at the entrance) light show, “Impression Sanjie Liu” directed by Zhang Yimou. And no surprise, it reminded me very much of his opening ceremony at the Beijing Olympics. There are some spectacular visual effects, and I like the fact that all the performers are all locals ( farmers, fishermen and children etc), however, I just didn’t ‘feel’ for it.

Overall, I enjoyed my short stay in Yangshuo, I like its ruralness, lushness ( which reminds me of the English countryside) and friendly people… and it triggered my interest to explore other rural parts of China that hopefully also convey the same authentic and charming quality.



The people and animal…



The return of Taiwanese cinema

Taiwanese cinema enjoyed its peak from the early 80s until mid 90s. This was the New Wave and second New Wave period during which many talented directors made their marks. Apart from the art house cinema’s favourite, Hou Hsiao-Hsien, there are also Wu Nien-jen, Tsai Ming-liang,now the most famous Taiwanese director, Ang Lee, and my personal favourite, Edward Yang.

Unfortunately, Taiwanese film industry went into decline from mid 90s onwards due to foreign competitions, piracy and simply a change of the audiences’ taste. Finally, in the last few years, several local films like Cape No. 7, Monga, Seediq Bale and You Are the Apple of My Eye etc were able to enjoy huge box office successes in Taiwan ( and even in Hong Kong). Hence, Taiwanese cinema is now enjoying its revival with many new directors offering something fresh and poignant back to the local cinema.

Recently I saw three very different Taiwanese films but all immensely enjoyable:


Go Grandriders ( directed by Tian-hao Hua) – this wonderful and touching documentary follows 17 octogenarians ( their average age was 81) who took a 1,178km trip around Taiwan by motorcycles within 2 weeks. Although the film is not overly sentimental, I was moved to tears by the riders’ courage, passion and determination. The positive and “young at heart” attitude is admirable, and it makes you realise that it is never too late to follow your dream. I highly recommend this to everyone especially elderly who suffer from illnesses because it will bring hope and forgotten dreams back.



Touch of the light ( Directed by Jung-Chi Chang) is a feature film based on the director’s previous short film, “End of the Tunnel,” about the life story of blind Taiwanese piano prodigy Yu-siang Huang, who also plays himself in the film. Although not a groundbreaking film, it is sensitive, funny, down to earth and inspiring. Both leads ( including actressSandrine Pinna) are natural and likable, and have good chemistry on screen. It is rare to see films depicting the difficulties and prejudices that blind people face in their everyday lives, so it is commendable for the director to do so without turning it into a soppy melodrama.



Will you still love me tomorrow? ( Directed by Arvin Chen) is the second feature by the American Taiwanese director and after receiving critical acclaim for his first feature, “Au Revoir Taipei”, expectations are high on his new film. Fortunately, this film did not disappoint, it even reminds me of Ang Lee‘s “Wedding Banquet” because of the topic and style. It is a romcom yet it deals with issues such as repressed sexuality, betrayal and traditional family values. The acting of the entire cast ( most are well-known singers in Taiwan) is superb, but I thought Mavis Fan is particularly outstanding. A difficult and unusual topic to handle esp. in the rather conservative Chinese society, but the director has done a great job and the ending is surprisingly “sweet and comforting”.



It’s too early to predict if Taiwanese cinema will continue to flourish in the years to come, but with these new talents and investment and support from the government’s cultural department, things are definitely looking up and I look forward to seeing more good work from Taiwan.


Creative Taiwanese packaging & graphics

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Sweets/ candies packaging


I have always been a fan of Japanese packaging but when I was in Taiwan, I was quite excited by the creative and humourous packaging especially with food. From tea to honey, rice, candies, crackers and cakes, every package has its own style and uniqueness. Here are just some snapshots that I took while I was traveling:


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Tea packaging


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Left: Seafood crackers; Right: Rice packaging


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An interesting range of food packaging including red bean, honey and banana cheese pie


Exhibition graphics and museums’ signage are equally interesting, I especially love their toilets’ signage:


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Exhibitions’ graphics


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Cute oilets’ signage at museums and shops


Design & craft shopping in Dadaocheng & Datong

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The beautiful ArtYard is a relaxing place for tea, coffee and craft shopping



ArtYard ( 67, Sec. 1, Dihua St)- Converted from a historical building built in 1923 near the Xiahai City God Temple, the airy and relaxing ArtYard is consisted of a craft shop, art gallery, tea room and cafe. Some of the beautiful ceramics are sourced from Japan, but others are locally produced including their own brand, Hakka blue. I love the small courtyards within the building and the retro South St. Delight tea room… if only this were in London, I would probably visit it everyday even if I am not really a tea lover!

Further down the street inside the A.S.Watson building, there is smaller ArtYard (1, Lane 32, Sec. 1, Dihua St), which houses a textiles studio/ shop InBloom, Bookstore 1920s, Luguo cafe and Thinker’s theatre. These artistic lifestyle shops and cafes blend extraordinarily well in this old neighbourhood and has given it a new spirit without destroying its soul.


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ArtYard: InBloom and Bookstore 1920s



Walking towards the Taipei Train Station into the Datong district, there are two gems hidden in a narrow alleyway… Ri Xing Typography ( 13, Ln 97, Taiyuan Rd) is a small factory that houses the world’s last complete set of traditional Chinese character molds for lead-type casting. This family-run factory was founded in 1969 and it now hopes to turn the factory into a museum and digitise lead type into computer fonts as part of its preservation and restoration plan.

The factory is not very big but it is like a living museum full of lead types. With only Taiwan, Hong Kong and Macau still using traditional Chinese characters these days, preservation is essential to pass on this irreplaceable heritage. Hence the owner’s effort to preserve this heritage is highly commendable.


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Last of its kind: Ri Xing typography shop


Opposite the Ri Xing typography shop is another wonderful letterpress workshop and stationery shop, 324 print studio ( No. 16, Lane 97, Taiyuan Rd), created by artist/ illustrator, Yang Jung-Ming. This shop not only sells letterpress stationery but it is also full of vintage curiosities. I am always excited to find independent and quirky shops like this when I travel, when streets around the world are becoming more homogenous, shops like this is like a breath of fresh air!


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A letterpress lovers’ haven: 324 print studio


Not far from the MRT Zhongshan Station, there is a colonial-style building ( built in 1926) that once served as the residence of the U.S. ambassador. This building was abandoned for almost 20 years before it was turned into SPOT Taipei Film House ( 18, Sec. 2, Zhongshan N. Rd.) in 2002. It is run by the Taiwan Film and Culture Association with the international acclaimed Taiwanese director Hou Hsiao-hsien as its president. Apart from an art house cinema, it also houses a gallery, a coffee shop and a branch of Eslite Bookstore that stocks a large collection of film-related materials and local designs and crafts.


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Spot Taipei film House and shop


Between MRT Zhongshan Station and MRT Shuanglian station, there are many interesting independent shops including:

Booday ( No.18-1, Lane 25, Nanjing W. Rd), a Taiwanese lifestyle brand that sells t-shirts, fashion accessories and stationery. All the products are handmade in their studio including a range of cute letterpress cards. The small shop also has a cafe upstairs with regular art exhibition and even cooking classes.

Next to Booday is Lovely Taiwan, a gallery-like shop that promotes Taiwanese culture and sells crafts made by local artisans including the Taiwanese aborigines.

One of the most interesting design magazines in Taiwan is called PPaper ( No. 2, Lane 26, Section 2, Zhongshan North Rd), this publishing house also has a retail outlet in the area selling stationery, home and fashion accessories ( N.B. the shop is only open from Wednesdays to Sundays).

Ruskasa ( No. 15-1, Lane 26, Section 2, Zhongshan North Rd) is a Taiwanese handmade furniture shop that delivers simple but well-crafted wooden furniture that are similar to the styles of the Japanese and Scandinavian.

Hidden in an alley near the Museum of Contemporary Art is 61 Note ( No. 6, Alley 10, Lane 64, Nanjing West Rd), a small gallery/ cafe/ shop that stocks timeless and well-crafted Japanese designs that are hard to find in other local shops.


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Top left: Booday and Lovely Taiwan; top right: PPaper shop; Main: Ruskasa; Bottom left: 61 Note


Earthtree/ Motherhouse ( No. 8, Lane 20, Section 2, Zhongshan North Rd) both share the same retail space and values, selling fair trade and eco-friendly products. Earthtree carries People Tree and Nepali Bazaro, while Motherhouse is a Japanese brand that specialises in leather handbags and accessories produced in developing countries.

Walking into Mymilly zakkaNo. 6, Lane 33, Section 1, Zhongshan North Rd) is like wandering into a neighbourhood household store in Japan ( or a Japanese family’s home)… it is cosy and full of wonderful Japanese household products including tableware, stationery and textiles. A sweet shop!

Similar to the bamboo shops in Kaohsiung, Lin tien Coopery ( 108 Zhongshan N Rd Sec 1) is the last of its kind in Taipei. Housed in a Japanese style red brick building, this shop has been trading at the same spot since 1928. The founder, Lin Xinju had worked as an apprentice and learned his skills from his Japanese master before setting up his own store. The shop still sells handcrafted buckets and barrels made form red cypress like it did all those years ago, amazing!


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Top left & main: the wonderful myMilly Zakka shop front; Top right: Colourful birdhouses above Earthtree/ Motherhouse


Food & drinks:

Next to the Lin tien Barrel Store is a Baroque style red brick building that has been carefully restored and converted into Monument cafe ( No. 2, Changan West Rd) by its passionate Taiwanese owner. A lover of historical architecture, he hired a restoration team from Tainan and after 8 months’ of work, the cafe was born in 2006, and it even won him a restoration/ architectural award in 2007.

Home to much of the Japanese colonial administration under the Japanese occupation, this area is still full of Japanese restaurants, though the most popular one must be Fei Chien Wu ( 1F., 13-2, Alley 121, Chungshan N. Rd., Sec. 1). This cafeteria-style restaurant is famous for its low prices, generous portions and grilled eel! It is not a place to linger but it is fast, tasty and very reasonable. Arrive either earlier or later to avoid long queues at the busy lunch hour!

Almost opposite the myMilly Zakka is a dark brown Japanese style wooden building which used to be a former residence of a Japanese photographer almost 90 years ago. The building was restored by a local architect and now the ground floor functions as The Island cafe ( Lane 33, Section 1, Zhongshan North Road) with the architect’s office on the first floor. This cafe reminds me of the cafes in Karuizawa, Japandim, subtle, atmospheric and very relaxing. A perfect spot for a light lunch or coffee after some sightseeing in the area.


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Main: Monument cafe; Middle & bottom left: The Island cafe; Middle right: Grilled eel over rice at Fei Chien Wu; bottom right: Lin Tien Barrel Store


There are many other interesting shopping areas in Taipei such as Yongkang St and the East district, but I will save it for some other time…



In search of old Taipei: Dadaocheng


Top left: Dadaocheng wharf; top right: Xiahai City God Temple; Main & bottom: traditional shops and food stalls


After visiting the Lin Liu-hsin Puppet Theatre Museum, I decided to explore the flavourful and historical Dadaocheng district. Walking towards the museum, I couldn’t help but notice the beautiful colonial architecture that are rare to find elsewhere in Taipei.

The area was once an important trading port in the 19th century, especially for tea. But over time, the area lost its appeal and many historical buildings have been deserted. In recent years, the city’s government started to preserve and revamp the area again, reviving this once prosperous area.

Dihua Street was where all the commerce took place back then, and even today there are still many traditional dried food stores. I was later told by a kind sales lady ( who spent about 20 minutes explaining the area’s history to me) that the area is especially crowded before and during Chinese New Year because of shoppers doing their festive shopping here.



Top left: Chen Tian-lai Residence; second row right: Lee Chun-sheng Memorial Church; third row left: Fa-chu-kung Temple; third row middle: A.S. Watson & Co. Building


For architecture lovers, there are many interesting sights here ( some can only be viewed from the streets) including:

Lee Chun-sheng Memorial Church – a church built in the memory of the famous Dadaocheng tea merchant and ardent philanthropist Lee Chun-sheng, and has a facade that resembles a face!

Chen Tian-lai Residence – a grand three-story Baroque style former residence built in 1920 that belonged to a well-known tea merchant.

Koo’s Salt House a late-Renaissance style residence built in 1910 by Koo Hsien-jung, the father of Koo Chen-fu, former chairman of Straits Exchange Foundation.

A.S. Watson & Co. Building – a prominent colonial building on Dihua street built in 1917. It was the first western medicine pharmacy in Taiwan, ( now it is known as Watson’s, the world’s largest health and beauty retail group based in Hong Kong) but the building underwent 12 years’ of restoration because of a fire that destroyed the original structure.

Xiahai City God Temple ( with web link) – a small but historical and famous temple built in 1859. It is especially popular with singles seeking love…

Fa-chu-kung Temple – a rather strange looking temple was originally built by a tea merchant in 1878 and was rebuilt in 1996 designed by Taiwanese architect, C.Y. Lee ( the designer of Taipei 101). It is now a narrowly-shaped five-story building with a modern lift, which is rare to see in any Asian temples.

Opposite the temple is a plague commemorating the 228 massacre that started at that spot in 1947.

Dadaocheng theatre – a theatre where one can enjoy traditional opera including puppet shows, Taiwanese, Hakka and Beijing opera.

Yongle market – next to the Dadaocheng theatre and on the first ( or second if you are non-British) floor of the Yongle market is a haven for fabrics lovers. The market is like a maze but it has everything one needs for sewing!

URS44 story house ( with web link) – this small “story house” is located inside a 1924 colonial building and it is part of the city’s Urban Regeneration Station ( URS). Visitors can learn about the area’s history from writings, old photographs and architectural models.


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Top left: Dadaocheng theatre; top right: Yongle fabric market; Main: paper craft of the Chinese zodiac signs; Bottom left: URS44 Story house; bottom right: plaque marks the spot where historical 228 massacre started.


Since this area’s history is intertwined with tea trading, so a stop at the 106-year old Wang’s Tea shop is a must. This shop/ factory has been here since 1935 and it has a shop for tea and teaware, and a working refinery factory at the back. Not realising that factory tours need to be booked in advance, I turned up unannounced but managed to get a brief tour by their kind staff. Walking around, I felt like I was transported back in time, I could imagine the place looking quite similar a century ago!

Opposite the tea house is the Chaoyang Tealeaf Park established in 2003 by the city’s Government. The park itself is not very special, but what caught my attention was the floor plaques that illustrated the process of tea making or manufacturing which is quite thoughtful and educational.


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Top left: Wang’s tea shop front; top right: Floor plaques outside of the Chaoyang Tealeaf Park; Main, bottom left & right: Wang’s tea refinery factory



Taipei’s paper and puppet museums

There are many arts and crafts museums in Taipei but I found these two museums particularly unique and charming, especially for those who are interested in traditional arts and crafts. Suho memorial paper museum is located in a busy business district and can be easily missed, but once inside, the museum has a tranquil quality that is hard to find elsewhere.

Like the Japanese, the Taiwanese are very fond of paper, and this museum is dedicated to the memory of Su Ho Chen, the founder of Chang Chuen Cotton Paper, whose dream was to establish a museum devoted to paper.


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My favourite spot: the tranquil bamboo hut on the roof top


The architects and curators have done a splendid job in converting a long narrow 4-storey old building into a multi purpose space without feeling cramped. On the ground floor, there is a mini paper factory and a wonderful shop selling a variety of paper products, stationery and books. The permanent and temporary exhibition area is located on the next two floors, but my favourite is the rooftop where all the DIY paper workshop and other cultural activities take place. I was so pleasantly surprised when I discovered this indoor bamboo hut opposite the paper workshop, as I stepped inside, I immediately felt calm and I couldn’t help but meditated for a little while…


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Left: Love the exhibit outside of the toilets: The culture of cleaning. Right: My DIY scrap book!


Soon it was time for the paper-making workshop, with an extra NT$80 ( less than £2), I was given an opportunity to make a beautiful piece of paper with small flowers. After it was dried, they gave me the handmade paper, which came with a cute paper-making workshop certificate! Also, visitors are encouraged to make their own scrapbook by the paper, strings and stamps provided… a nice touch!

The museum’s small shop itself is worth the trip for paper lovers, it stocks very unique paper-related products including vintage diaries published by Chang Chuen Cotton Paper. A few shops down the street is another paper shop that sells a variety of handmade paper and stationery which is also worth visiting.


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A small but informative and wonderful museum full of surprises!


Near the river in an old Taipei district is where another wonderful but quirky puppetry museum is located. The Lin Liu-Hsin Puppet Theatre Museum was established by The Taiyuan Arts and Culture Foundation and it has its own in-house troupe that give performances at home and abroad.

With an even more difficult task than the Su Ho Museum, architects and curators had to fit an incredible amount of information and props into a historcial and narrow building with steep staircases, and result is quite fascinating. Although slightly cramped, they have done an amazing job in utilising every space available… with the help of strong graphics/ colours and partitions.


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This 4-story museum has permanent and temporary exhibitions on Taiwanese, Chinese and foreign puppetry with interesting history and facts displayed in a creative way. On the ground floor, there is a small shop and an open workshop for visitors to see how puppets are made. Again, my favourite spot is the top floor where visitors can experience what “hell” is like according to the Chinese traditions and customs!

The museum also has a mini-theatre where regular performances are being held and a roof-top with a wooden water theatre where visitors can try out Vietnamese water puppetry themselves! Cool!

This museum is not only about preserving traditional Taiwanese heritage, it also pays tribute to a traditional craft and historical entertainment that is slowly dying… By supporting these museums and craftsmen, we can keep these traditions and crafts alive, allow them to integrate with new ideas and evolve into a new art form that will appeal to the younger generation.


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Taipei’s bid for 2016 World Design Capital

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The Red House in Xiemen


The reason why I want to emphasise Taipei’s bid to become the next World Design Capital ( after Cape Town in 2014) is because their effort can be seen and felt while I was in Taipei. They even dedicated a website for this, so they are quite determined to make this happen. And from what I have seen, I think they rightly deserve the title.

Taipei is one of my favourite Asian cities and it is often overlooked by travelers from the West because it is less exotic than Bangkok, not as ‘cool’ as Tokyo nor as cosmopolitan as Hong Kong. Yet Taipei is a city full of hidden gems, it is culturally rich, eco and heritage conscious, but best of all is that the people there are generally warm, welcoming, polite ( mostly well-educated) and humble.


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Top and main: Songshan Cultural and Creative Park; bottom: Huashan creative park


In recent years, several heritage buildings and sites in Taipei have been restored and converted into creative parks. One of them is Huashan 1914 creative park, a 7.2-hectare former winery built in 1914. Now art or photography exhibitions and concerts are regularly being held here, but there are also shops, cinema and restaurants on the site. Another similar site is the 6.6-hectares Songshan Cultural and Creative Park, a former tobacco plant built in 1937. This park is home to the Taiwan design museum and design center, however, it is a a rather confusing site with many warehouses and not enough clear directions. It is especially easy to get lost in the maze-like factory building.


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Inside The Red House


Another interesting building is the The Red House originally built in 1908 in the Xiemen district. This historical octagon building has been transformed into a cultural hub with a theatre, exhibition area, shops selling local designs, tea house as well as outdoor cafe and handicrafts market.


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Treasure hill artists village


Treasure hill was home to many former veterans since the 1940s, now the shantytown-like area has been transformed into an artist village called Treasure Hill artist village. The village reopened in 2010, although not many of the original families moved back to the village, it is still interesting to see the local and art community living or working side by side. Not all studios and exhibition space are open at all times, however, it is worth visiting the area because of its unique atmosphere and history.


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Seed project IV – A mobile museum near Taipei 101


The concept of the Seed project is quite unusual, it aims to integrate art, culture, architecture and community together and has “popped up” annually in different parts of the city since 2009. The 4th seed project is a mobile museum that hosts temporary exhibitions on art, architecture and life. The current exhibition is “Breathing architecture” ( until 10th May), featuring work by WOHA, a Singaporean architectural firm with strong emphasis on nature in order to create a greener and healthier living environment.



Efforts that aims to make the city greener and livable for all


The Taipei city government should be commended for their efforts to transform the city’s urban landscape. Walking around the city, I often noticed abandoned or concrete space between buildings that have been turned into small community gardens with plants and seating. I love this idea and I think all cities should do the same to make the city greener and more livable.




Honestly, I am not sure how these World design capitals are selected, but I think it is about time that Taipei and Taiwanese designs are being recognised by the international world!

Good luck Taipei!


Kaohsiung’s Bamboo street


Bamboo street’s bamboo and rattan handicrafts


When I first started writing this blog, I was slightly reluctant and hesitant. Although I love to share with people, sharing with the public about my life and inner thoughts seem slightly out of my character.

However, over the time I have learned to use this as a platform to express my view points and feelings, to support other businesses or people, and most of all, to record events, old traditions or crafts that are slowing disappearing in our fast-paced and technology-driven world.

In Kaohsiung I saw a city that is developing quite rapidly and as always, there are prices to pay for this too. A local friend wanted to show us their local crafts stores that she thinks are likely to disappear in the future, and so I felt compelled to record what might become history one day.



Will these shops still be there in 10 years’ time?


Known as “Bamboo Street”, these old traditional shops have been here for generations, and they still make handcrafted products like they did in the past ( including old raincoats and wedding baskets). We spent over an hour chatting to different shop owners, taking photographs and buying handcrafted souvenirs to bring home.

We later learned that one of the owner’s daughter lives in New York and is not prepared to move back nor take over the family business. And surprisingly, he told us that some of their products are actually made in Vietnam or other developing countries because this trade is withering in Taiwan and young people would rather work in offices than to learn and make traditional crafts as living. It saddens me to hear this but I am also aware that it is the reality in our modern day society.



Bamboo steamers and wooden bathtubs and buckets shop


Even though I know that there are some Taiwanese designers who are using traditional craft techniques to design new sustainable furniture and products, but is it enough to keep the industry alive in the future? This I am not so sure of. I can only hope that these traditional skills or techniques will be passed on eventually and not be all lost one day.


Kaohsiung’s Pier-2 art center & 25Togo shop

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Like I mentioned in the previous blog entry, in recent years, Kaohsiung’s city government has been investing a lot of money and effort aiming to turn Kaohsiung into a more competitive and livable city, and one of the city’s biggest project was the development of an old pier full of abandoned warehouses.

Similar to many former factories or warehouses in Taipei, these warehouses have been converted into art and cultural space to host temporary art/ design exhibitions, and the area is now known as The Pier-2 art center.


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Although the area is still being developed, I was very impressed by its outdoor communal area, i.e. turning old railway tracks into cycling lanes and installing large outdoor art pieces for the public to enjoy. Most of the temporary exhibitions are also free, and currently there is a wonderful exhibition, “The delight of Chinese character festival” ( until 14th April) which showcases work by local Taiwanese artists and designers.


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Temporary exhibitions including The delight of Chinese character festival


Another reason for my visit was because I have been invited by Ashley ( who I have emailed many times but never met in person) from 25Togo to attend a forum featuring several up-and-coming Taiwanese illustrators at their shop in the area. This flagship shop not only sells their own designs but also products by other local designers and some foreign brands. Besides the shop on the first floor, there is also an ice cream parlour on the ground floor as well as an exhibition space on the top floor.

I was greeted by Ashley upon arrival who kindly showed me around the shop and gave me a coupon for two scoops of ice cream at the parlour. All the ice cream is freshly made and changes daily with unusual flavours such as peanut butter and Yakult ( yes, the ice cream was yummy and much appreciated on a hot spring afternoon).


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25Togo Bright! ice cream parlour and shop


While I was in the area, I noticed several tourist coaches arriving, which means this area has become a major tourist attraction. However, after wandering around for several hours, I did not come across many tourists, most people looked like locals ( or perhaps they were Taiwanese from other areas), so it did not feel like a tourist trap.

It will be interesting to see how this area continues to develop in the future, but I am pretty certain that Kaohsiung will change rapidly in the coming years and may become a key creative hub in Taiwan/ Asia one day.


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