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 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).
Zhongli Map - View Larger Map
This 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.