I think Park Lane by CMP is a relatively new development. It’s a vibrant area with a cool museum, park and Eslite (just about the most popular hangout bookstore in Taiwan) and you just can’t miss it if you are in Taichung for the weekend.
If I had to voice out one grouse, it’s the lack of toilets in the mall. I went all the way from the first to the fourth level only to find long queues everywhere.
Getting to Fantasy Story
I decided to head to Fantasy Story first, which was next to the Park Lane by CMP. Positioned by many online as an hipster, artsy street, I was seriously expecting some cool cafes and fad interiors.
It’s too much a hassle to get to Fantasy Story from Fengjia by bus so do opt for a cab. If you are near a BRT bus stop, the nearest stop to alight at will be Zhongzheng Elementary (中正國小). I tried getting there by public transport and failed terribly: alighting at a Yingcai something stop and walking half an hour to locate the place. Not to mention a huge detour because I only realise that it was next to Park Lane by CMP after getting to Fantasy Story.
Fantasy Story consists of three short streets:
- Meicun Road Section 1 Lane 117, 美村路一段117巷
- Xiangshang North Road 向上北路
- Zhongxing 1st Lane 中兴一巷
I entered by Meicun Lane and was really disappointed to see about five shops which were, well, kind of hipster-ish, but they all seemed unwelcoming.
There was a seasonal cherry blossom flavour but I couldn’t imagine how it would taste like so I took the safe choice of a matcha icecream cone for NT100. It’s pretty pricey, considering that this is Taiwan.
The ice cream is pretty huge and they actually use tweezers to place the biscuits in the serve. Beats me why they do that though; using fingers is probably much easier.
So this was my huge ice cream cone.
The matcha was good, but not heavenly. I really enjoyed the biscuit though.
Armed with the ice cream cone, I set out to hunt down other shops in Fantasy Story but after passing the same building twice, I gave up. Yes, I’m that much of a direction idiot. Besides, other than the Desserts Forest （甜点森林), the rest of the shops listed in the map didn’t appeal to me.
Food, exhibits and weekend fair at Park Lane by CMP
So due to lack of real food in Fantasy Story, I was forced into the mall to satiate my hunger. After walking a couple of rounds in the food level, I ended up in Bellini Pasta Pasta again.
I really wanted to try their calamari yuzu mentaiko pasta, which was recommended by a couple of Taiwanese food bloggers, but I don’t take calamari and it felt too much a waste to order it (standard portion serves 2-4) and leave out the expensive bits.
I almost wound up with a boring choice of bolognese until the waiter pointed out a duo pasta combo. Thanks to him, I got to try the mentaiko pasta without feeling overly guilty.
It was awesome and I highly recommend it to anyone! The other one is pasta with milanese chicken. The chicken was well flavoured and tender but the sauce was mediocre.
It was about NT600 for the meal (plus drinks) and considering that spaghetti could have fed another person or two, I’d say this is 30 bucks well-spent.
After stuffing myself with as much pasta as possible, I headed to the museum just beside the mall to take a look at their outdoors (free!) exhibitions.
It felt a little like an old-school art and craft fair, the fundraising sort that schools like to organize.
And candy floss in all sorts of shapes.
And popular online swiss rolls from Sweetie Market. I didn’t buy them at the market since they were selling it by rolls but I eventually got to try a slice of the chocolate one at their Taipei store. The chocolate was rich and not overly sweet but it wasn’t exactly to die for.
You could see people walking their dogs, chilling with their family and there was even this couple who took their parrots out for a tan.
Exploring the place would probably take you an entire day if you decide to include the CMP museum into your itinerary. Having skipped the museum, I was pretty much done with the area by late afternoon so I decided to head to Miyahara, which was near the Taichung station.
Miyahara, not quite worth the time
The nearest bus stop to CMP was the BRT bus stop (中正國小) and it’s only a couple of stops from Taichung station. After you alight, just head along Zhongshan Road for a few minutes and you will see the iconic building on your right.
It’s not a big building; you can take in the whole area in one glance. Granted, it is pretty and very elegantly decorated to modern tastes but I was expecting more, considering all the raves on the internet.
Besides the decal on the ceiling, there really wasn’t much more that fascinated me. Maybe except the uniforms which I thought was really cute.
And then, the ice cream. My part-time travel companions had tried it earlier and they thought it was mediocre. It didn’t help that the queue was outdoors, really long and the winds were super strong and bitingly cold, enough to make me give up any thoughts I harboured.
So to conclude, this place is probably only worth the time if you are in area. I wouldn’t visit again unless someone convinces me that the ice cream is out-of-this-world.
Sun biscuits and milk candy
Just two junctions down is Ziyou Road (自由路), the famed stretch for Tai Yang Bing (太阳饼).
It’s scary how many TYB stores you will see in the area alone; almost every other store sold Tai Yang Bing and a huge majority will claim to be the original.
The original is supposedly at 23 Ziyou Rd but when you are actually there, it doesn’t seem like there is a 23. I got mine at 25, which my cousin recommended after sampling the biscuits at various shops.
Do get the Cai Tou Su 彩头酥 when you are there too! I absolutely love the yam flavoured one. Ask for it after you have ordered the sun biscuits and they will usually give it for free!
Once I got my biscuits, I headed back to Fengjia by cab because I feared that I would get lost again if I took the bus.
NT230 for that, totally worth it.
It was my last night in Taichung and Sugar & Spice was located conveniently near my homestay so it was perfect for some last-minute souvenir shopping at night.
Sugar & Spice sells lots of Taiwanese specialties (much like Miyahara but more affordable) and they make for great souvenirs with its well-designed packaging. They have branches all over Taiwan so fret not, if you are not heading to Taichung.
I got the Niu Ka Tang (牛轧糖) from them and really liked how soft and chewy they were compared to the usual nougats.