Wufenpu, to the east of Taipei City, is a wholesalers’ district jam-packed with heaps of clothes, from cute bunny t-shirts to hippy pantaloons. Supposedly the biggest clothing market in Taipei, it’s not really that big – but I guess that’s just because as a Westerner from the outskirts of London where Oxford Street is a huge and sprawling clothing metropolis and this is a compact box in the middle of some grid network roads.
What Wufenpu is all about is all kinds of clothes at pretty cheap prices. The rows of shops domino down wide streets and narrow passages offer an eclectic mix of clothing. What’s cool is that gothic hoodies stand right beside stores of cutsie-pink oversized tops that’re in for women here, and that’s next to a hippy shop puffing out incense, and that’s right by a neon patterned leggings stalls. It caters for all.
It takes a lot of willpower if you’re not a keen shopper to muster the energy to visit Wufenpu, but it is definitely worth the browse. Poor Luke succumbs quite quickly to the need for a peanut-butter and banana crepe and a sit on the edge of the hub in the little corner park and adjoining temple.
This was our second visit, on which we only purchased incense, but got a more thorough look around compared to the first time we came. On our first trip however, Luke managed to buy a few t-shirts with some crazy-stupid Chinglish sprawled on them, and I bought a pair of hippy pants (that you can see in a photo on our Meihua Lake post) as I’m still unsatisfactorily optimistic that it might get hot and humid in Taiwan.
After crawling around Wufenpu, we jumped back on the Bannan line and headed towards Ximen, the stop up from Taipei Main Station. Having read in the guidebooks that Ximending is the “heart of Taipei’s mainstream youth culture,” and the place to be if you are “young and trendy,” I thought it would be worth checking out. I forgot, of course, that Luke and I aren’t trendy, nor do we enjoy mainstream youth culture. We got off of the MRT and the place was teeming with hoards of young people, and just more people upon people. I hastily suggested we exit over towards the less crowded area by the Red Pavilion Theatre, which turned out to be a really awesome little place. There were a few stalls selling their own arty wares, and then inside the theatre a little boutique alley of similarly arty shops with quirky bits and bobs.
When we crossed back over the road into the main ribcage of the district, I immediately hated it and wanted to get out. I’d seen some cool blogs on the internet about the street graffiti in Ximending, and its Japanese history and sushi selling – but none of this was obvious. All I could see were stacks of McDonalds, snakes of people queueing to see Iron Man 3, more bubble teas that your gut could digest, and sunglasses, handbags and people everywhere. Though you’d certainly enjoy it if you were into your high-street shopping and meaty fast food, we errrr- are not.
All it did for me was make me crave the rolling emerald mountains and the blue crashing waves along the north coast, or at least the comfortable township we live in. After a power-hug from Luke we ran back onto the MRT and took the bus home to feast on homemade noodles in daylily soup and to finish watching Oliver Stone’s new film, Savages. I was so happy to be away from the savagery of bright white lit shopping districts – but at least we can say we’ve done it and it’s not for us!
How to get there
For Wufenpu – from Taipei Main MRT Station, take the blue line east to Houshanpi. Take the exit from ‘Wufenpu Commerical District’ and cross the road, the market will be pretty obvious on your left-hand side. If you get lost, just follow anyone who walks out of the MRT station – it’s where everyone seems to be going.
For Ximending District and the Red Pavilion Theatre – from Taipei Main MRT Station, take the blue line one stop west and get off at Ximen Station. Take Exit 6, when you come up to street level, the Pavilion Theatre will be on your left and the core of the shopping district on your right.