Our first Christmas as husband and wife was awesome! We traveled by bus to Taichung, which is only about 1 hour away, depending on the amount of traffic. We were on the 7:50 AM bus, and it was a very quick ride. I was expecting around a 2 hour ride, so when all of a sudden we were in the city in half that time, it caught us by surprise. We had a map in hand of the area we were headed to, and after asking for advice from a passenger on board, we got off at the stop she recommended. We immediately weren’t sure about which street we were on, and couldn’t locate it on our map. Lucky for us we walked right in to a Starbucks, got our gingerbread latte on, and got pointed in the right direction.
Our first destination was the National Taiwan Museum of Fine Arts. It is located at the south end of a place in Taichung known as The Parkway. It is a strip of sculptures, parks, and trees that runs north south through a part of the city. It was really neat. We strolled along, admiring the high rise buildings, but feeling the peace of being somewhat removed from the hustle of the city. We took our time walking, taking all of it in.
We arrived at the museum and headed inside. There was an exhibit by a French painter, Marie Laurencin. It was the only thing that cost money, so we ended up spending around $8 each to walk around an art museum for 3 hours. The French woman’s paintings were really cool. I noticed a sign outside of the exhibit saying no photographs, but once we were inside, we saw many people taking pictures. One lady didn’t even turn off the shutter sound on her phone’s camera. I swear the sound echoed throughout the hall. We thought, what the heck, everyone else is doing it and nobody seems to be stopping it. So we walked back to a few of the paintings that we really liked and took a few pictures. Well that lasted for all of 2 minutes, as a young lady came up and asked us to not take pictures.
After that exhibit we continued on exploring the museum. There were many different types of exhibits, some really cool, and some just so so. There was an entire gallery of goat paintings and graphic design (2015 is the year of the goat.) The weirdest exhibit was 2 different sculptures of goat people, one that was sitting and breathing through an oxygen mask, and another that was walled off behind some glass, but was hooked up to a motion sensor so when you got close to it it seemed to come to life. Our favorite exhibit was many old photographs of Taiwan from 1940-1970.
After exploring the museum for around 3 hours we were tired, and extremely hungry. We headed down to the bottom floor to a famous tea house where everything was crazy expensive. So we had 2 bubble teas and 2 pieces of toast. Oh, and it was raining by now. We needed a game plan, and an umbrella.
After dropping $240 on some tea and toast ($8 USD) we decided to take a taxi to Taichung Station. According to google maps it was around a 20 minute walk from the museum. That didn’t sound like fun in the cold rain, and after we took the taxi and paid 4 dollars for the ride, we were very happy with that decision. I saw that behind Taichung Station was a big shopping mall, called ModeMall, and that was our next destination.
The train tracks ran directly behind the station and we needed a way to cross over them. I looked at my map and saw only 2 different streets that were close by to do it. I chose the closer one of the 2. So we started to walk. The street I chose looked to be a busy place for outdoor markets, but not today. Everything was closed. So it was completely deserted, and dark. We kept on going, and it was a lot farther than it looked on the map. But eventually we saw a small pedestrian bridge to cross the tracks. We went up and over, and on the other side we saw 3 adults sitting on a couch under the bridge. I guess that is their spot to hang out.
After crossing the tracks we walked down the sidewalk of a busy street. We could see Mode Mall a block away, it was very tall. That one block appeared to be abandoned buildings with a chain link fence running down the front of it. At one point all the buildings were caved in, into a huge pile of rubble. I don’t know if this is some sort of earthquake damage, or possibly where the city plans to build something new. We were glad to make it inside the mall though, out of the cold and the rain. We were still starving too. So we went to some place called Ireland’s Potatoes and had a beer with a side of fries. After resting a bit, we explored the mall.
We explored the mall for a few hours, and thought about eating at one of the restaurants there. After checking a few of them out and looking at the menu, we decided to just head back towards the bus station and eat at somewhere on the way. This decision would be the single greatest decision we made in this entire trip. So we headed back the other way, not down the deserted street, but down a busy street packed with people and cars. We passed many places to eat, but for some reason we didn’t stop at any of them. Maybe we were just too hungry.
Far too quickly, we were back at Taichung Station. We had passed all of the restaurants without stopping. I remembered seeing the street directly in front of the station had a lot of restaurants, and this was our last chance. We couldn’t go very far, it was still drizzling and cold. We walked down the next block, and I saw a place called ‘Atari Restaurant.’ The name caught my eye. It didn’t look like much, but the place next door to it looked cool. We didn’t see a name, but it was an old brick building, and it looked completely different from the other buildings around it. We weren’t even sure if it was a restaurant, but we saw people inside, and it looked busy.
We went inside and saw that it was a sweet shop. Many different kinds of cakes and chocolate were for sale. It looked like something out of Harry Potter. There were old bookcases and display cases. It was very busy and had many different things to buy. They all looked good, but we really hadn’t eaten a meal since 6 am that morning. We needed food. Over near the staircase was a person standing at a podium. I walked over and asked him if they served food here. He said yes and led us upstairs to a beautiful restaurant. As soon as we sat down we knew that it was all worth it. Starving all day long, not eating at the Mode Mall’s overpriced restaurants; to be here and eat this food now. We had a wonderful meal with a bottle of champagne. It was very relaxing and comfortable. The servers were so nice, and it felt so good to just sit and take it easy. This was our first Christmas dinner, and maybe one day we can have one that compares to it. It was the perfect end to the perfect day. Our First Christmas.