Lonely Planet review for Ximending
Like Tokyo's Ginza, Ximending is the ultraconsumerist heart of Taipei's mainstream youth culture. This eight-branched intersection dates from the Japanese era and is now chock-full of shops selling fashion, fast food, sneakers, sunglasses, scarves, Sanrio, Sony and spaghetti. If it's young and trendy, it's here. The pedestrian streets northwest of the main intersection (between Chengdu Rd and Wuchang St) is more or less the epicentre, but for the full Ximending experience you'll really want to explore the smaller alleys. It's here you'll find the edgier side of Taiwan's youth culture, the places they hang out and the stores in which they work and shop.
There are restaurants for all tastes in Ximending, from coffee shops and steakhouses to sushi bars both cheap and expensive, and plenty more. Though there are gift shops aplenty in Ximending, you may want to bring home something a bit more permanent to remember your Taiwan trip. Hanzhong Lane 50 is where you'll find your tattoo parlours and piercing joints. If it can be inked, pierced or otherwise modified, chances are good you can get it done in Ximending.
While it's busy most of the time, nights and weekends are prime time, especially Friday and Saturday nights. You might catch a musical act on a temporary stage set up on the streets and if you want to see a film, Wuchang St is home to many cinemas, as well as some fine examples of Japanese-period architecture, notably the Red Pavilion Theatre, one of Taipei's older buildings. The wooden, octagonal structure was originally a public market, then a theatre for Chinese opera as well as a second-run cinema. Since beginning life anew as a multipurpose centre for vocal and visual arts it has hosted a variety of performers and performances. The Red Pavilion Theatre is surrounded by excellent bars and restaurants, and has in recent years become something of a magnet for Taipei's gay and lesbian population.
Ximending is also home to the Tien-Ho temple. A narrow (though exceptionally ornate) storefront in the otherwise distinctly commercial district leads you into one of central Taipei's most beautiful Buddhist temples, complete with statues of Matsu, ancient Chinese generals, a bell tower and a small dragon-shaped pond filled with huge carp. The original temple was built during the mid-Qing period and demolished during the last years of Japanese rule to make way for a road. The current temple was built in 1948 and holds several ancient statues brought over from mainland China hundreds of years ago.