Taichung is a megalopolis and the third largest city on the island, after New Taipei and Kaohsiung.

Situated in the middle of the country, Taichung is regarded as the heart of Taiwan. The city is home to many manufacturers and in recent years has experienced a rapid growth in the diversity of its cultural offerings. Taichung’s history is more or less the same as the rest of Taiwan’s – inhabited by aborigines, conquered by the Chinese, then the Japanese.

Although Taichung is the third city in Taiwan, it don’t have any type of rapid transit systems. Which causes huge traffics in the city.

A very rare picture on the streets of taichung during the daytime.

Like any other big city, Taichung has big traffic congestion problems. On an average day the wide streets of the city are filled with traffic. There are no bus lanes to allow public transport priority access, so buses tend to be a slow way to get around. I was told that bus services are very limited and even routes going from the airport to the city centre only run one bus every two hours. I figured that getting around would be easier by scooter, so that’s what I did.

Woman on the bus.
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Bus decorated with stuffed cute shit.

Sights on the streets can be pretty surprising too.

Man in a light blue hospital robe with a nasal tube is walking across the road as if he’s just discharged himself from the hospital.

What’s also interesting is that drivers sometimes cross the road or turn down the road on a red light. It’s pretty common here. Initially I thought it was just unsafe driving, but was later told that stop lights and lane indicators are viewed more as suggestions rather than legally enforced traffic rules.

Man on a scooter crossing the street before the lights switch to green.
City canal.

If you haven’t heard, compared to its Han neighbor, Taiwan is facing some serious demographic issues, with an ageing population and extremely low birth rates. Fertility rates show that the average number of children that Taiwanese women give birth to during their lives is 0.9. This gives Taiwan one of the lowest birth rates in the world. One likely reason for this is the fact that more women now have access to a university education and full-time jobs, whilst childcare is expensive.

The government has introduced various campaigns to try and address the problem, one very bizarre method is handing out golden shovels. WTF, right? But it’s true, to help encourage couples to have children the government is giving out gold-painted shovels. The word for the shovel is “chan zi” which sounds the same as “giving birth to a son”, so the golden shovels are thought to help expedite the process.

Another method which helps to preserve children’s lives, and is pretty rare in taiwan, is putting a helmet on a child.

More successful than the attempts to encourage population growth, the city’s economic growth has gained momentum. Under the guidance of Chinese economic planning, Taichung became the centre of light industry. If the image of “Made in Taiwan” goods painted in your mind is of cheap toys, shoes and electrical goods, then you’re thinking of the old Taichung.

The new heart of the Taichung’s economy is formed of small businesses. However, Taichung is also an important centre for a number of key industries too, which successfully focus on precision machinery, from machine tools to bicycles, and has earned the nickname “Mechanical Kingdom.” For instance, Giant, a well known bicycle brand in the Netherlands, is established in Taichung. And you would think that international brands would have English speaking representatives in their rental stores? Not really, like the rest of Taiwan – people do not speak English, except for maybe students.

Boy on a board in a school playground.

I went around the city. Visually, overall, Taichung is the same as any other city in Taiwan. I stopped in an area with tall business buildings and parked my motorbike next to a school. Schools in Taiwan are always fenced off and have a security guard and cameras. The security guard nodded and beckoned me to “come in” and so I went in.

School corridor and lobby with pine tree in preparation for Christmas.
Boy in-flight trying to score two-points.

It was a hot day so I stopped to get some lunch and enjoy the air conditioned chill. But what I ordered was far from being even remotely cold.

Some restaurants offer hot food which is served on a paraffin cooker, to keep the food hot. It’s nice, but it also helped me to loose few litres of sweat. By the way, places like this only charge for the main dish, side salads, drinks and desserts come included.

Empty dishes on the paraffin cookers.Taichung is conveniently located to offer perfect access for exploring the local urban areas and hiking in the nearby hills. My next stop would be Sun Moon Lake the perfect place to spend a few days. But first I went to the sea and to check out some wind turbines.
Just a few kilometres away from the city locals grow crops and live in shabby-looking houses.

On my way to the wind farms I saw a dog lying at the side of the road and breathing heavily. The problem of stray dogs is pretty common across most Taiwanese cities. I poured some water from my bottle into my hand and stretched out my arm to offer it to the thirsty furry animal. Within seconds she was lapping it up, and when she had drunk enough, turned her head away to reveal her scars.

I felt sorry for the animal, but when I tried to stroke her, she bit my wrist. Luckily her fangs hit the metallic part of my wrist watch rather than my wrist directly. It became apparent that the dog didn’t need any sympathy, just water.

Furry beast with stained tongue that bites the hand that helps.

Leaving the scene of the attack I continued up the coast towards the wind turbines, until I reached a parking lot bustling with thousands of people. Within a few seconds my dream of being alone dissolved, as the wind turbines appeared to be yet another tourist site.

With its unique scenery of diverse plant and animal organisms, and wind power generators, Gaomei Wetland has turned into a tourist attraction.

While I was scratching my head and deciding whether I should stay or go, my mouth hung open in surprise, as I could not quite believe this idiocy, and how a wetland was an attraction for its wind turbines, crabs and mudskippers. In fact, I’m still confused as I write this post.

Hoards of people walking over the bridge, descending and tramping across the muddy slime looking for crabs.

Twenty years ago it was a beach, which was then closed due to sand accretion. After a few years, it became a wetland and now attracts various migratory birds and sad people who have nothing else to see.

Taiwan Power Company, which is responsible for the dumping of nuclear waste on Lanyu island, built 18 wind power turbines here. This location was chosen for its winter winds aka the Winds of September, which make these giants spin. Despite massive tourist gatherings to see fucking crabs and “windmills” this place has also became a site of protest for local residents. People are against the wind turbines being built too close to their homes and some even went on a hunger strike for 10 days, but had to stop after beginning to throw up blood.

So why do people come here, why the fuss? Because they believe that this place connects people with the environment and energy, perhaps. Maybe, but it definitely causes disconnect between locals and the government.