Travel Watch: Detour, Taichung

The world’s biggest Guinness Book of Records Museum is a memorable–if peculiar–draw for visitors to Taichung, a gentle city of universities and bookstores about an hour’s flight from Taipei.

Until September, the museum–housed inside a gargantuan ersatz Guinness book and boasting a burger-shaped fast-food joint–features living, breathing, two-toed Botswanian tribeswomen and bedazzling Indian magicians. Beyond the kitsch quotient Taichung offers charming features like Chingkuo Boulevard, which separates the city’s old and new quarters. The 2.5-km-long avenue is dotted with sculptures, shaded by a canopy of soaring trees and bookended by the Natural Science Museum and the Taiwan Museum of Art; visitors get into the latter for free until it closes for renovations on June 20.

The Sogo department store on Taichung Harbor Road is a good landmark for negotiating the city. Stand with its Swiss clock behind you and you’ll spot the Grand Formosa Taichung, which opened in May. The hotel has discounted its rates by 40%, offering rooms from $160 until the end of the year (tel. 8864-328-8000). The Formosa boasts seven restaurants plus a wine and cigar bar that swings until the wee hours. Taichung’s other frenetic nightspots include the three-level Pig Pen bar and club (free entry for foreigners on Fridays) and the excellent E-Café (124 Liu Tsuan West Road, Section 2), featuring a décor of stylish black-velvet lounges and plush red cushions. For al fresco dining there’s always Chingming 1st Street, a European-style avenue that makes for a great break from Taipei’s more frenetic, scooter-filled streets. And after the Guinness Museum, swing by Napoli Italian Restaurant for a liter or more of ice-cold ale. In this climate, you might just set a few records of your own.

–Adam Connors

Originally in TIME Magazine, online at http://www.time.com/time/asia/asia/travel_watch/taipei/detour.html. Site design also by Adam Connors.

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