LGBT BARS AND PARTIES
The hot new monthly LGBT event is the Create Ur Magic (Club PIPE, 1 Siyuan St. www.travelgayasia.com/venue/cum-party-taipei) party. Yes, everyone calls it the “CUM” party for short. “The unfortunately named CUM party is excellent,” my friend Philip Brossard jokes. Philip is an ex-pat from Vancouver Island who has lived in Taipei since 2013. He, and many of my gay male friends living in Taipei in their 20s and 30s are CUM-party regulars. It’s intimate enough to get to know people over time, and just big enough that people come from all over Asia for it. The main CUM event is held at the Pipe near the Gongguan MRT, but they have recently been hosting side events, including a party with RuPaul’s Drag Race runner-up Kim Chi.
According to Toto, one of the founders, the idea to create the CUM party came up over drinks at the Red House a few years ago. “We wanted to break out of the framework of the generic gay party and create something more innovative,” says Toto. “We wanted a mix of good music, drag queens, Go-go dancers, stunts, dance troupes, and social charity.”
The other monthly partly that’s taken off in popularity is called “Werk!” (www.facebook.com/werktaipei), Werk! brands itself as the “original and best underground gay party.” Werk! isn’t your typical circuit party. In their words, it’s “coquettish and savvy.” Admission is $10 before midnight and $19 after midnight. Details about the time, date, location, DJ lineup, and drag performers for the next Werk! party can be found on their Facebook page.
There’s also a new gay bar at the Red House called Secret Garden (2F, 31-33 Chengdu Rd, Ln 10. Tel: +886-2-2375-2675. www.travelgayasia.com/venue/the-secret-garden). The Red House is a former theater and the square behind the main building is home to Taipei’s largest LGBT district with dozens of LGBT bars and shops. Hugo Wu on the Secret Garden management team says they designed the Secret Garden to “create opportunities for guests to interact with each other.” The bar is in a small space on the second floor of the Red House complex. It’s one of those places you can go to alone and be pretty confident that even if you don’t leave with new friends, you’ll find a real conversation. It’s also one of the best places for a cocktail in Red House.”
A couple of streets down from the Red House is a new men’s leather/sex shop called Century Fashion (2, No. 234, Kunming Street. Tel: +886-2-2382-0107. www.ct4gay.com). According to Ken, an employee, “Western leather shops had sizes that were too tall and wide for us, so we make our own.” Century Fashion sells everything from lube to harnesses, and also hosts parties from time to time like a “camouflage underwear night,” with a $1.62 discounted tickets for “big cock members.”
Outside the Red House area, you will discover L Bar and Bacio (No. 143, Wenchang Street. www.facebook.com/linleebar). Both are low-key, simple, dimly lit bars where you can order a cocktail and hang out in a more sophisticated queer space without dancing, karaoke, or excessive rowdiness.
On this small island that’s similar in size to the state of Maryland, fads travel quickly. A new fad is lobster pho. It’s exactly what you think it is. Vietnamese noodle soup with a whole lobster dunked in a giant bowl. First popularized in Las Vegas, District One (No. 21, Alley 7, Lane 181, Section 4, Zhongxiao East Road. Tel: +886-2-2731-0506) opened its first shop in Taipei in 2017. They do a good job at getting consistently good quality fresh lobsters, and an even better job at making Instagrammable servings.
An ongoing fad is steamed salty chicken. The chicken is first marinated with salt and star anise, then boiled in a ginger and scallion stew. Once a popular night market street food, more and more steamed salty chicken street stands have been opening up in different parts of the city, and they are open at earlier hours. My favorite of these is Yu Ba Bu Neng Yan Shui Ji, a street stand with a line that wraps around the block. The shop is named after an idiom that means “to be unable to stop even though one wants to.” The husband and wife team has had these aspirations come true. With an endless flow of clients, the husband frantically chops up the chicken while the wife somehow packages, seasons, and takes customer orders at the same time.
Also popular right now is Miyazaki beef. Miyazaki beef is 100% purebred Japanese Wagyu, also known as “Japanese black.” Miyazaki Wagyu has won the National Wagyu Award (given every five years) for two consecutive terms (beating Kobe both times). The Regent Hotel gets first dibs on Miyazaki Wagyu shipments from Japan via the Kanpai Group. I recommend getting your Miyazaki Wagyu at Lan Ting Taipei in the Regent Hotel (No. 3, Lane 39, Section 2, Zhongshan North Road. Tel: +886-2-2523-8000. www.regenthotels.com). The $162 prix fixe for two people includes excellent ribeye cuts of Miyazaki Wagyu.
Independent cafés continue to sprout up across the city, a continuing trend of the past decade. My favorite new café is FUJI Flower Café (No. 49-1, Alley 22, Lane 553, Section 4, Zhongxiao East Road. Tel: +886-2-2764-8655. www.fujiflower.com). Housed inside a flower shop, every seat is surrounded 360 degrees by flowers. The café provides an escape from the hustle and bustle of mopeds and cars on the busy streets of Taipei, to a little forest of color and aromatherapy. Like many of the city’s new themed cafés, food and beverage take a backseat to the focus on creating a unique setting. Order a tea and enjoy the flowers.
PUBLIC ART VENUES
My friend Michael Robinson is from Massachusetts and based in Bangkok. He visits Taipei regularly because “as always, Taipei is finding new ways to stay ahead of the curve and cementing its status as Asia’s hip/chill lifestyle capital.” Right now, art and photography are particularly in vogue. The government has recently put more resources into public art programs at venues like the Songshan Creative Park and the Huashan 1914 Creative Park. These two “Creative Parks” are no longer just spaces for shops and events, but are actually spaces that foster artistic creativity and spark new social connections.
Designated the “Creative Hub of Taipei” in 2011, Songshan Creative Park (No. 133, Guangfu South Road. Tel: +886-2-2765-1388. www.songshanculturalpark.org) has only recently started to live up to that designation. Walk by 24/7 and there may be some art exhibition, photography workshop, or concert. There’s generally more happening in the evenings than in the middle of the day. Past exhibitions have included Kishin Shinoyama’s portrait series of John Lennon and Yoko Ono, Entrance is ($9/person). Check their website to see what’s on exhibition that week.
Huashan 1914 Creative Park (Huashan 1914 Creative Park No. 1, Section 1, Bade Road) was once a rice winery. Closed in 1987, the government eventually renovated the warehouses to become spaces for artists and non-profit organizations. Keep an eye out for pan-Asian dance groups like The Century Contemporary Dance Company as they come through Huashan’s Umay Theater. Huashan puts out public calls for proposals for art performances, and announces performance schedules a couple months in advance. Check their website a month or two before you go to see what performances are on.