Taiwan’s west coast city of Taichung is fast becoming one of its most popular destinations and is certainly a great place to find unique souvenirs. There are six large shopping malls and each has a good selection of high-end fashion from all the top international names plus footwear, jewelry, and stylish accessories.
Markets are always great fun and the main two in the city are Second Market which is very traditional and has numerous stalls selling everything imaginable and Xiangshang Market which is the main fresh food market selling fruit, vegetables, seafood, teas, spices and a wonderful array of homemade noodles.
Do you like night markets? Feng chia is a fun night market with a great array of stalls and good street food whilst Yizhong Street is the busiest as it appeals to the city’s students as its street food is amazingly cheap – and so tasty.
The great thing about souvenir shopping in Taiwan is that prices are good so you are bound to find the perfect gift or souvenir even if you are on the tightest budget – happy shopping!
1. Buy some of the famous sun cakes
Mention Taichung and you are likely to spark a lively conversation about sun cakes! These delicious round golden cakes are made from flaky pastry and are filled with a sweet maltose filling. In recent years, local bakers have been experimenting with making a lighter healthier version. The ones that seem to be the most popular of all are the milk sun cakes baked by Chia Wia Sina – be warned, there is always a queue!
2. Sample some fragrant Taiwanese tea
Taiwan is known for the sweet aroma of its tea and there are several specialist tea houses to explore. The tea factory in Nambour is the perfect place to learn about the country’s quality teas and to taste the different types. There are a variety of excellent teas to choose from including Bao Zhong OoLong, Dong Ding OoLong, Nascent, Bodhissattua, and Alishan. Try before you buy and sample the new style cold teas that are fast gaining in popularity. Apart from beautifully presented packs of tea to buy, there are numerous pretty tea sets and teapots too.
3. Enjoy the sound of the saxophone
It may be surprising to learn that Taichung is world-famous for its saxophone production – equalling Japan and France. Several specialist shops are stocking locally made instruments that are a superb quality made with the highest level of craftsmanship. Apart from buying a saxophone (which of course would make an amazing souvenir), there are many saxophone related and general music souvenirs available.
4. Admire the colorful lacquerware
Beautiful lacquerware has been made in the Fengyuan district of the city since the Japanese colonial period (1895-1945) when the craft was brought from Japan. There were then many factories in Fengyuan and they produced 99% of the country’s lacquerware. Stylish and brightly colored the lacquerware makes a lovely souvenir and is available in bowls of varying sizes, chopsticks and pieces of artwork.
5. Sip some fine Taiwanese wine
Superb wines have been made in the Waipu area of Taichung since 2000 when vines were grown as an experiment by Hung Chi-Pei. The experiment was a great success and his Moscato Oro Vino (Putao Wine) made from the golden muscatel grapes has won prestigious gold awards in Paris (2014) and London (2015).
6. Choose some jade jewelry
Jade is widely available in the city and the Jade Market in Wenxin Road definitely has pieces at lower prices than the local shops. As you wander amongst the stalls you will see local buyers examining pieces carefully with a magnifying glass and it is certainly worth doing your homework in advance so that you know what you are looking for and will be able to tell the difference between real and fake.
Along with jade, the market has many other types of jewelry and ornaments that make perfect souvenirs.
7. Buy a box of pineapple cakes
These are other popular – and really tasty- souvenirs from Taichung. They are small deep cakes with a crispy crust. Pineapple cakes can be widely bought in the city including the versions filled with cherry and blueberry. The top brand of pineapple cakes is Sunny Hills Cakes in Baguashan (Bagua Hills). It can be great fun to visit the factory to see the pineapples being grown organically, to enjoy a cup of tea, visit the giant Buddha statue and of course to buy some pineapple cakes! Interestingly, the taste of the pineapple cakes varies throughout the year. Cakes made from fruit harvested in the winter months have a pleasant and slightly sour taste whereas the ones made with summer fruits taste very rich and sweet.
8. Think computers & electronics
Prices are really competitive in Taiwan and the best store to visit in the city is Nova which stocks a huge range of laptops, PCs, iPhones, etc. Even if you just want some accessories, there is a huge selection in stock on the lower ground floor and again, prices are hard to beat!
9. Opt for some traditional chicken feet
This is certainly a very authentic foodie souvenir to buy! The chickens’ feet are each separately preserved in aspic jelly and this jelly is said to be rich in collagen which is known to be good for the skin and anti-aging! The chicken feet are packed in display boxes and will certainly be an unusual gift to take home!
10. Buy some excellent Taiwanese sake
In 2005 a sake factory opened in the Wufeng district of Taichung and its new employees began making sake by hand in the traditional way that they had learned from the top sake producers in Japan. The factory is run by the district’s Farmers’ Association and uses the area’s top quality and very aromatic rice. The pure rice sake (Dai Ginjo) produced is of excellent quality and has won several international awards including a gold medal in Brussels in 2018.
Bottles of the sake can be bought throughout the city, but it is fun to visit the factory to watch the brewing method and to enjoy a taste of the different sakes made on site. A range of other products including rice, jams, and vegetable snacks are on sale in the tasting bar too.