I don’t know if its selection bias or confirmation bias or both, but it seems as if Taipei has a lot going on in terms of promoting the arts. Last weekend I went to an Arts and Cultural Center 文創中心 in the basement of MRT Longshan Temple station: Monga LongShan Creative Center.
The station is located in Wanhua district, which formerly had a reputation for being poor, unkempt, and unsafe. But in recent years there’s been an effort by the government to revitalize the area and preserve the heritage of the historic area. So in the basement, there are all sorts of handmade stationary stores, clothing design shops, and an area with clay houses!
Look at the details in this house! The fabrics, bags, cat, even the mirror in the corner.
The dioramas/houses all shared a theme of past architecture in Monga, some of which still exists today. Like this Monga pepper cake store! Pepper cake is a bun that is often coal baked with a crisp skin and soft inner breading; the filling is pork with liberal amounts of green onions and black pepper. The wooden barrels are typical of what is used to bake the pepper cakes, you can see these types of barrels in the pepper cake stores around NTU as well.
Close up on the people! Pepper cake usually comes in small brown paper bags, like the one the girl below is holding. I love the red coin sorter that’s in here too–so accurate and true to life. Probably the only thing I don’t love is the price tag LOL. Although for a model of this detail, $39000NTD, or $1296USD, is probably worth it for an art collector? IDK.
In another nearby diorama depicting childhood games, there’s hopscotch. More importantly, there are a pair of blue plastic slippers! These are so Taiwanese. You see these everywhere in the patios and bathrooms of Taiwan, they were #hip before those shiny striped Adidas slippers became a thing.
After touring the basement, we went up and out into the streets, then hunted down–what else–a famous pepper cake shop! Yum! We happened to buy the very last one, the next batch would have taken another 20 minutes of waiting. It was juicy and fragrant, much yum.
There’s a big map on the wall for tourists, and by semi-following the map, and semi-wandering, we found the BoPiLiao area, a section of historic buildings that were preserved. Currently many of rooms and houses are repurposed into small exhibition halls, with college students displaying their final design, art, or photography projects. We found one with 3 students who visited unique bookstores in Taipei, and in their exhibit there was a rug area where you could actually sit and read 🙂
Oh yeah, the red brick walls were very popular amongst avid Instagrammers, and you have to be careful to not walk in front of someone’s carefully #curated #artsy #casual #candid shot.
Right around the area is Huaxi night market, which has an alley that sells lots of weird things like snake and crocodile. When you walk past the restaurants, you can see aquariums with small crocodiles, or terrariums with snakes. SSssss.
And then next to those restaurants are a ton of foot massage places and manicure shops. It’s an eclectic mix.
Outside, though, on the 2 parallel streets with night market street food, it’s more normal. Egg cakes, wheel cakes with red bean (Yay!), baked squid, all sorts of noodles and rice. And in a shaved ice store, you can order sweet corn as a topping! I’ve had a lot of Taiwanese food but I’ve never had corn on shaved ice before. It was surprisingly good, actually. Chewy and sweet.
Oh! And there’s a sit-down store where you can get pieces of fried pork chop in noodle soup, eat the pork while it’s still crispy, before it gets soggy in the soup! Get a side of vegetables too, because their minced meat sauce is unique, and because fiber is so good for you. #eatmorevegetables!