It’s an area converted from an old cigarette production factory that now houses different artisanal crafts, innovative stationary, and design exhibits. The old factory are where most of the rotational exhibitions are held, and nearby is another building with 5 floors that is basically a department store.
The park would have very limited hours during Chinese New Year (which started with CNY Eve last night), so I decided to come before my visiting hours are severely restricted. I’ve heard many good things about this place, and I love browsing–but not buying–stationary, so off we go!
But first, I made a lunch stop at what’s called a self-serve food place, where you order an entree and then fill your own plate with three sides from a table that had 10 different ones to choose from. I chose all vegetables, because I love vegetables. The owner told me all about her grass jelly tea, which she says she makes herself with the herbs she gets from her hometown, MiaoLi. She said that the herb tea is really good for getting rid of toxins, which is necessary for people who eat out a lot, because restaurants like to put preservatives in their food. I almost asked her if she puts preservatives in her food, but didn’t. In any case the tea was good, pure and unsweetened, so for the first time ever I walked around the streets holding a black beverage that’s not coffee!
After studying the map for a bit (offline, since I don’t have enough data to run Google Maps), I found the side entrance. The area leads into a habitat conservation pond, on which you can see the reflection of the department store building. There are fish in the pond! But you’re not supposed to feed them, because nature.
The cigarette factory is shaped like a hollow square, so there’s an open garden in the middle. They called it a Baroque garden, but in my unprofessional opinion it didn’t seem very Baroque. I loved seeing how the factory is made of old style materials, and just beyond the factory walls like tall glass skyscrapers. The juxtaposition of old and new, nature and city, is one of the reasons why I love walking around in Taipei.
This also reminded me of the creepy sculpture garden scene in Last Year at Marienbad. Sculpture, fountain, very few people. I see no difference!
Walking inside the factory, there are two types of rooms: ones where you need to buy a ticket to view the exhibit, and another for small shops. This is SongYan Gallery.
SongYan Gallery is one of the main shops, and it’s super adorable. There are shirts, different handmade stamps, unique cards, and even a section to assemble your own personalized wooded crafts. You pick the base (ie a clock, a blackboard, a coaster, then select wooden ornaments and/or people to stick on as decorations. Look at the little people! look at the dogs! The trees! I can’t.
There’s also this sweet and punny shirt
And for those who have wondered why Taipei is always drawn at the top in maps of Taiwan, here’s a horizontal map for your postcarding urges.
Walking out you’re greeted by a hallway that’s reminiscent of schools haunted by ghosts, but it’s still sunny outside so you’re either fine or about to meet a ghost that’s up 24/7.
Survive past the hallway and go upstairs to collect your reward: an artistic sign for the design library. Unfortunately the library requires a ticket for admission, and I couldn’t decide what I wanted to buy a ticket for (the design exhibit? the other design exhibit? the library??) and ended up not buying a ticket for anything.
Having thus completed my round inside the factory, I went out into the department store, which has a unique tiered architecture outside, and several panels detailing what’s on each floor. The first 5 floors are Eslite bookstore, and I’m guessing the rest on top are all offices. Not sure for what, though.
I really like bookstores in Taiwan, because they don’t just sell books. There’s different thingamajigs, and the bigger chain ones such as Eslite will also have cafes and high end kitchen products. Everything is arranged in a very sophisticated way, showroom style.
For the rest of the afternoon I wandered around the actual books area. Bookstores in Taiwan will have seats so you can actually sit down and read a book. I picked one out among the stacks, then read the whole thing in one sitting. It was a series of short essays by an actress/blogger on life, truth, relationships, cats, etc. Here’s to hoping you find your next great read among the stacks!