Taichung is not really a “morning person.” Despite an abundant cafe culture, most of these lovely tea and coffee spots don’t open their doors until well after 11am (some of them literally list their opening time as “usually before noon”) which is fine for my second coffee, but I need the first one within 20 minutes of waking up. The city definitely comes alive in the nighttime, with markets, clubs, and bars all going strong until the wee hours. Here are some places to check out after the sun goes down.
Taiwan is famous for these, the city of Taichung has several, and while we were staying at T-Life Hostel, we had one of them right on our doorstep. The Dong Hai night market kicks off around sunset every day of the week and most vendors are still serving their fried treats until nearly midnight. We never noticed a peak night, and in fact, Sundays were just as buzzing as Fridays.
To get there:
Full disclosure: I am 36 and haven’t been to a night club since I spent the six months after I turned 30 proving that I wasn’t old yet. But one night at T-Life, after a few drinks in the common area with the staff and some fellow travellers, we found ourselves being talked into going to a nightclub. Finally caving to the argument that it would be a “true cultural experience,” we all piled into Ubers just after midnight.
We went to 18TC, which is the best night club in Taichung according to our university student hosts. We showed our IDs at the door (bring your passport!) paid our cover (ladies pay less, as usual) and took our drink tickets to the bar.
18TC is an all-you-can-drink affair, so you exchange your drink ticket for your first cocktail or beer, and then keep it with you the rest of the night for refills. Conveniently, there is a sign listing drinks in English and Mandarin (including 90s throwbacks like Sex on the Beach) so you can just point to your choice and the bartender will oblige.
We danced-danced-danced until the lights went up at 4am. All video evidence of the evening has since been destroyed, but here’s a picture that captures our mood.
After that, we all took taxis back home, pigged out on steamed buns and fried tofu, and then collapsed into bed. Look, I’m still not old yet!
To get there (taxi or Uber recommended):
Your traditional bar or pub is not really a fixture of Taiwanese culture, so we had to do a bit of research to locate options in Taichung, but the ones we did find were delightful.
Within walking distance (if you like a longer walk) is EasyPub, a little joint on a pedestrian-only street in the Fuke Road shopping area right across from Tunghai University. There is lots of street food right around it, so its easy to grab some dinner before your drinks.
The exterior is vaguely like a traditional pub, wood-framed windows with neon signs advertising Red Bull and Heineken. Inside it’s dark and cozy, with a beautiful wooden bar and well-stocked shelves. European football was showing on the television when we arrived around 7:30pm.
The atmosphere is easygoing, and although the drinks are definitely on the pricier side, the bartenders are seriously skilled. We watched them create one amazing concoction after another, finally inspiring me to try their sangria, which involves hand-muddled fruit and a smouldering cinnamon stick. Delicious.
Later in the evening there was a bit of live music, as a soulful guy played the keyboard and crooned classic lounge numbers like “Whiter Shade of Pale” and “If I Could Change the World.” We headed back to T-Life around 11:30, walking via the quiet, darkened Tunghai campus, making a quick detour for a cheeky Mos Burger before going home to bed.
To get there by bus:
If craft beer is more your scene, head downtown to the West District and pull up a chair at ChangeX, which is not quite a bar — more like a restaurant with an off license, but still offers a great drinking experience. It’s down a very quiet side street, and has a few outdoor tables in addition to the bright and cheerful seating inside. They have a rotating selection of about six options on draught, some local and some imported.
We tried the Maui Coconut Porter (from Hawaii) and the Driftwood New Growth Pale Ale (from Victoria, BC) which were both solid beers. They also have a wide selection of bottles from all over the world, so it’s a great place to sample something new, or if homesick, to find your comfort brew.
ChangeX also has a nice menu with pizzas, donburi bowls, and a few desserts as well. We shared the spicy chicken and cheese donburi and it was a gooey delight.
To get there by bus:
If boozy nights lead to morning misery and you want to self-medicate with a heavy breakfast and some hair of the dog, Uptowner Taichung, located right near the canal in downtown (Zhong Ming Elementary School stop on any Taiwan Boulevard bus) make omelettes, pancakes, hashbrowns, BLTs, and Bloody Marys. We saw a lot of expats there, but also quite a few locals. If you want an authentic, American-style diner experience, I can confirm that this place was doing it right.