July 31, 2011

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Zhongli City 中壢市, Taiwan

Taiwan's beef noodles capital

Zhongli City 中壢市 (also spelled Jungli, Chungli, Jhongli, Chongli) is one of Taiwan's biggest cities. Greater Zhongli (Zhongli together with his twin city Pingzhen) has a population of nearly 580.000 (source), which would make it the 6th biggest urban center in Taiwan. This weekend my wife and I were looking for a place to "走走" or to walk around and for a long time I wanted to see this big, yet widely unknown Taiwanese city.

Zhongli is about 50 min away from Taipei, if you take a regional train. It's a little smaller than the nearby Taoyuan City, but has a much more pleasant ambiance, even though it's constantly in its shadow. Zhongli is known for its big Hakka population, however there are significant portions of Southeast Asian gastarbeiters and descendants of soldiers, that came to Taiwan in the late 1940s from the Chinese mainland. It was this group of migrants, that brought one of Taiwan's most popular dishes to the island: Beef noodles. The city is far from clean and attractive, that's visible to every visitor, who arrives here at the main station. I would personally not like to live here, but I'm somewhat convinced, that returning once in a while would be a good idea. I definitely need to see more, because I've only seen the central part and the famous night market. What I've noticed are the wide roads, which makes it more pleasant to walk. It also minimizes the number of lurking scooters behind oneself on the sidewalk, which is a nice change from the bad habit people have in Taipei's suburbs. Central Zhongli looks like stuck in the 1980s, I've not seen many modern buildings, what's worse, there were many completely empty and abandoned buildings with a dirty facade and smashed windows. I'm not updated about the urban revitalization projects of Zhongli's city center, but I do hope that something will be done to meet the housing standards of the 21st century. There is hope on the horizon, because right next to some of the ugliest buildings, there is the Zhongping Road, a road reserved only for pedestrians, polished up with a European style paving (reminded me of my hometown) and finished up with trees, which make it a kind of a green lung of the city.

Let me share my photos of Zhongli (July, 2011):

This are the platforms of the Zhongli train station.

The waiting room inside the station.

View to the left from the station: Zhongzheng road.

View to the right: Yuanhua Road.

The station is a bit elevated, you need to go down the stairs to reach the plaza.

The station is ugly, but still less than the one in Taoyuan.

A minute away from the station is Zhongping road.

Zhongping road is Zhongli's road reserved for pedestrians only.

This is one of the longest and most pleasant promenades in Taiwan.

It reminded me of my country, because for our cities is normal to have such streets.

It was a delight to pass by trees and no scooter was "pushing" me.

On the way we saw those instant illegal vendors and a lot of people surrounding them.

Zhongping road is full of shops and prices are lower compared to Taipei.

Zhongli, a shopping paradise? Maybe for some.

A road like many others in Zhongli.

The long Zhongping Road ends with one of the tallest buildings in the city.

This building is now housing the China Trust Hotel, but it used to be a SOGO department store before. It's nearly 124m tall and was built in 1989, it's currently Taoyuan County's tallest building, but in a couple of years it will be surpassed by a new one currently under construction (source).

Zhongyuan road.

Another view on the China Trust Hotel.

At this point we were tired and went to have cup of coffee in a shop nearby.

After we returned, it was already getting dark. We headed to the night market.

And here it is: One of the most beautiful night markets I have seen so far!

Zhongli Map - View Larger Map

Zhongli YeshiThis is a map of our tour that day, feel free to follow.

More about the Zhongli night market in my next post. If you ask me, if it's worth to go to Zhongli, I would say yes. But it also depends on the purpose of your visit and your expectations. Mine were pretty low, as I knew that I won't be visiting a historic city like Tainan or Danshui, nor a tourist magnet such as Jiufen. However, there are many parts of Zhongli I need to explore, when I come back, so you can expect a deeper review some time in the future. For now, a superficial overview should be enough.

[My TAIWAN TRAVEL page][TAIWAN][All photos by MKL, 2011]


  1. Hi Nino! That's very interesting the facts you pointed out about Zhongli. I think it's important to have lower expectations or else it's easy to feel disappointment - so I'm glad you were able to enjoy yourself at the night market here :) What would you go back to Zhongli for other than the night market?
    I guess one of the huge perks you pointed out in Zhongli would be the lack of scooters pushing you on the sidewalks. That's insane that scooters are allowed on sidewalks! We're not even suppose to allow bicycling here on sidewalks as sidewalks are for pedestrians and every vehicle must stay on the road for pedestrian safety. But I understand that Asia has drastically different ideas of "pedestrian safety" than we do.

  2. hahah! I thought it was funny how straight forward you were when you said the station looked ugly :P
    Looks like a pretty neat place to shop! :p
    The night-market makes the whole place look so much better though :p So pretty with all the lights.

    Did you and your wife eat some beef noodles? :p

  3. I know you like to steer clear of politics MKL but the Zhongli Incident is a pivotal moment in modern Taiwanese history and surely merits a mention.

  4. @Karen: I would return to see the mosque, a big park, a temple and I'm sure there are few other interesting spots, just a little bit outside the center :) Scooters driving on sidewalks behind you is common in many Taiwanese cities.

    @*~kAy~*: Well, I feel it would be fake, if I always praise everything, I don't do that even when I write about my home country ;) It is ugly, however there are many beautiful ones such as in Hsinchu, Ilan or Taichung :)

    @James: Of course it deserves to be mentioned, but like you said I steer clear of these things, I'm a travel blogger, focus on the fun sides (mostly), when I travel. For every political and historical event in Taiwan's history there are like 100 blog posts written by expats, who analyise every detail of it. We don't need another one, I believe. But I can offer photos and impressions of my travels in a systematic way, hopefully one day covering every bigger and smaller town in Taiwan and be a resource to future travelers.

  5. I think these things are of interest to travellers. Even in mentioning the 'descendants of soldiers' you're inescapably being political.

    Mentioning politics and history doesn't = negativity. We wouldn't even be able to indulge our pastimes (such as blogging) in Taiwan if it wasn't for what went before. Sometimes a post can seem conspicuous by the absence of such things.

    I haven't searched but I don't think there are a lot of expat mentions of this. Seems a shame to so assiduously avoid the issue even in passing.

  6. @James: I didn't go too deep into the whole history and everything, because I've only seen the city a little on the surface. You have good points,k though. However, not every traveler is same and not every reader of travel blogs has same expectations about the focus of a post. But since I'm the owner of this blog, I decide where I want to go with this thing and on what to put the importance. I'm very interested in history and politics and I can debate these things with my wife and friends in real life, but I'm reluctant to share my views on my blog, as written words can be easily misunderstood, perverted, taken out of context etc. Anyway, that's how I do. You just have to know that it's impossible to make it "right" to every reader in every post, so instead of focusing on the expectations of others, I rather focus on my own. And I like it this way :) What's your main idea, when you write about visiting a certain place in Taiwan? Where do you place your focus? What kind of blog do you want to be?

  7. Interesting questions. I'm not sure I have a focus, which is why my place is such a mishmash. I think we share interests but differ on presentation.

    I very much enjoy reading good travel pieces but I'm just not that interested in straight rundowns. I'm after something a bit quirkier that tells me something I didn't know or at least presents things in a way I might not have thought about them.

    It's like what I say in my rants about food blogging (my Laos blog most prominently): if I'm writing about an eatery, it's usually a given that I like the grub (unless I'm indulging in Ms Liu-esque vendetta-inspired character assassination of the owner ;) ).

    When I read a food or travel blog that is just a straight description of the fare, surroundings, I switch off. The fact that the person is blogging usually means they like the place, so I don't need to hear how great the food is. Entertain me!

    The same for place descriptions. A lot of towns and cities in Taiwan are similar in appearance, so some digging beneath the surface is required or at least an interesting angle to pique my interest.

    If there are, as you say 100 posts on the politics/history of a place, then there are infinitely more with the run of mill descriptions.

    I suppose what I'm getting at, to answer your question in my habitually convoluted fashion, is that my direction, or what I aim at and expect, is stimulating, thought-provoking and witty writing it.

    Most of all, I'm after something original that I can't get elsewhere.

    Oh, being a beef noodle hunter in much the way you are with nightmarkets, was disappointed not to hear about any recommended establishments!

  8. Hi, Thanks a lot for sharing all the information about where you've visited and your life-experiences when living here. It brings me the other view to see this place and the world, and to me, it's important, 'cause most people are only see what they see in their minds even though what they see may be quite far from the reality or the fact itself.
    And I do like your way of expressions and the reasons why you have all these blogs. We can never just fit other people's expectations, 'cause we aren't living for entertaining others, but it's our lives that we make our own choices. If people don't like it, just leave it, and it's a kind of respect to us and themselves.

    I went too far, lol.
    I've ever stayed in Taoyuan City and County for many years, or more likely to say I was brought up there until I moved out around 2 years ago. And my opinions are the same as yours. To be honest, I don't like these areas much. But to me, it actually represents the citizens' ways of living, 'cause the people here aren't here for traveling or some of them don't care about their historical backgrounds much(it's only what I've got from my personal experiences, it may be quite different from what other people think about, 'cause I don't know everything.) What we see is what people here make, and is what they get used to. And according to what I've known from my personal experiences, it's the way of living and where they life looks alike from most people in this society(better to say that it's from most of people that I've ever known here.) However, everything is worthy of being thought about, and it's quite interesting!

    PS. If you would love to visit other areas in Taoyuan County, there are few places which are more interesting to me.
    *Dashi: Good for '走走.'
    (Old Street, Featured Snacks)
    *Fushin: More natural part and having aboriginal cultures.
    (Mountain, River, Vegetable and Fruit(now is the season of peach!))

    Again, Thanks for your sharing.

  9. A good guide for Taiwan, so are these posts, Nino! I am back from my vacation in the Balkans (Montenegro, Serbia, Bosnia, Albania) and I will try to catch on your blogs, my blogger friends. I decided to visit Slovenia next year:)

  10. @James: Thanks for sharing. But for me it's also important who is my audience. And I have some regular readers, who are used to my way of writing and follow me like 2 years and there are those who come from Google (the majority of my daily visitors). They look for info on Taiwan, for informational posts. And that's why many of my posts are for readers who have never been here or don't know a lot about Taiwan. You of course are an expert and to meet the expectations of expats in Taiwan would be very hard. Sooner or later all of us visit every small town on the island, so what does impress us after that? Probably some very extreme unusual stories, no idea. I think when I see most of Taiwan, I will more focus on neighboring countries, such as Korea, Japan, Phillies and South East Asia...

    @suinfinitor: Hey :) Thank you for dropping by and your comment meant a lot to me. I try to be a bridge between my own culture and my adopted culture. And yes, I do not try to meet everybody's expectation, it's impossible. I do not claim I'm an expert on anything, I just share my views and my life (hence the title of my blog). I agree with the part where you write about "citizen's way of living" - on the surface it looks as if most people have a more or less same generic life, but if you dig deeper, you see differences and nuances. That's what I sometimes try to observe. In the post above I didn't go too deep. Maybe after my next visit.

    @Traveling Hawk: Welcome back and always welcome in Slovenia :)

    @Traveling Hawk:

  11. Hi !!
    I would like to thank you for this amazing blog. I went to Neili, a small and cute city next to Zhongli for my studies, last year, and it feels so good to see your pictures and read about Taiwan!
    It's a wonderful country where people are so nice, I miss it a lot.

    Keep writing and telling us about this amazing island.

    And again, thanks for your sharing !!

  12. @Anonymous: Thanks for your kind and enthusiastic comment :D

  13. Hey, I don't know if you've been to Zhongli as of late, but it's been drastically changing. The station is still ugly, but all of the shanty houses around the river near the night market have been demolished. There is work going on to put an MRT in its place, I believe the old Sogo will be the station, but that part is just hearsay and for now Sogo sits there mostly uninhabited. All of the bridges in the area have been rebuilt and are aesthetically pleasing with structure sculptures, mosiacs, flowers and benches and there are similar walkways along the river. They have recently begun updating that ugly green road bridge in one of your pictures, too!


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