Taipei takes some getting used to but once you’re comfortable it’s hard to leave. In fact, it’s dangerously known for sucking you into a black hole on Friday and spitting you out sometime the following week. But because it’s Taipei, usually you still manage to leave with your dignity and your wallet, because the people there are too damn nice to steal your stuff.
The unassuming party city is also on the up and up in terms of just about everything – food, music, film, fashion and art. And like every city, it has these small pockets of music culture that are totally unique to it and make Taipei an unforgettable experience. But sometimes these pockets are hard to find unless you dig deep, so we’ve asked a bunch of local and international DJs, producers and promoters to put forth their recommendations and we’ve designed a guide to spend three perfect days in Taipei for the discerning Mixmag Asia reader. Just ignore the not so perfect weather.
DRINK | 操場 FUCKING PLACE
Every city has its staple dive bar that is the best party ever without even trying and while Taipei doesn’t have many of these, it may have the best one of all and should also be in the running for bar with the coolest name too. Fucking Place is the kind of bar where if for whatever reason you need to get a drink on a Monday at 3am, you can bet there will be other people at Fucking Place with the same idea. Friday and Saturday nights get busy, loud and smoky but it’s packed with a mesh of hipster meets punk rock artsy Asians. which makes it kind of worth smelling like a chimney the next day. The music can range from 90s to punk to trip hop to hip-hop to electronic, depending on the mood of the DJ who is obviously very well versed in local and international music dating back to way before you were born. Bring stickers.
Spotted: The Basement Jaxx, 2 Many DJs, Drop the Lime and Nick Monaco have all been seen getting inebriated there.
DRINK | OUNCE
Speakeasies are the best thing that happened to cocktailing since the old fashioned died out. While the concept has become somewhat hackneyed in the west, in Asia they are the only sure bet to a premium drink and western bar staff. While there are a few clandestine drinking dens in Taipei, Ounce wins out because of originality and vibe. It tries hard without trying at all in that it’s clean, elegant and atmospheric with little to no deco besides a small bar and a few barrels for infusing. There is also no menu at Ounce, instead you relay your likes and dislikes to imported bartenders and they come back with an innovative concoction that was probably named after an ex-girlfriend. Enter through Relax cafe by pressing a button in a picture frame on the back wall. If there’s a wait, then wait. It’s worth it if only to try a Thaitini.
Spotted: DJ Sasha, Nick Monaco
RAVE | KORNER
Korner is literally the corner entrance to the legendary live music venue The Wall. Feeding off the success that indie dance music promoters had throwing parties in the somewhat oversized venue, it transformed its winding entrance into a weekly jam. Two years later it’s the only spot in the city to regularly hear underground music and it’s also where all the music aficionados in black hang out. For their two year anniversary, the hosted Ben Klock, Nina Kraviz and Marcel Dettmann in three consecutive weekends if that gives you an idea of their programming. Korner is very dark, it can be at times obscure, but most of the time it’s where you will find the discerning Mixmag reader on any given weekend. Expect to stumble out into daylight but Korner manages to keep it classy despite being literally underground, you don’t see any of that grime that usually comes with these kinds of places.
Spotted: Ben Klock, Nina Kraviz, Marcell Dettmann, Move D, Breakbot, Scuba, DVS1, Adam Freeland, Evil Nine and French Kiwi Juice.
EAT | 品鱻熱炒
These types of restaurants are scattered all over Taipei but this particular spot stands out and is one of the more popular ones. Although it doesn’t have an English name, it’s one of the few that has an English menu (full of comical spelling mistakes, of course). Nearly every dish on the menu is NT$100 (US$3) and the beer is local and cheap so it’s best to go with a big group of people and order a lot. Because of its extensive menu and inexpensive prices, this is a great place to try a variety of local dishes in a short amount of time and not break the bank, making it great choice if you’re passing through Taipei and only have one night. Expect full immersion into a local atmosphere, as it’s always bright, lively and loud. No reservations needed, but you may need to grab a Taiwan beer from 711 while you wait.
Try: Gong bao chicken (宫保雞丁), stir fried cabbage (炒高麗菜蒜頭) and miso fish (考味噌魚).
EAT | DIN TAI FUNG
Everyone needs to eat at Din Tai Fung at least once in their life. Next to Taipei 101, it is possibly the second biggest tourist attraction in Taiwan, which means there is usually always a lengthy wait but worth every bite of the succulent soup dumplings, called xiaolongbao or 小笼包 in Chinese. Accept no imitations, the dumplings at Din Tai Fung are special and worthy of their one Michelin star status, and even Tom Cruise would agree with you since he spent time there learning how to make them. The dumplings are stuffed with a juicy pork filling and wrapped with exactly 18 folds, and even come with an instruction guide on how to properly eat them. Din Tai Fung is a also a favorite for local promoters to take international DJs.
Spotted: Ben Klock, Drop the Lime, Sasha
CAFFEINATE | 路上撿到一隻貓 LE CHAT
While not an official cat café per say, there are plenty of cats and coffee at this ultra indie student style café. Its name also adorably translates to On Our Way To Pick Up A Cat. Located next door to National Taiwan University (NTU), Le Chat shares an alley with a plethora of eclectic and atmospheric coffee shops and while nothing about its façade is particularly inviting, the vibe inside is unique to Asia. The furniture is vintage, the posters are old and the bookshelves are overcrowded with manga, and young artists-to-be set up camp on their laptops for hours while the music carries the vibe anywhere from the 1980s in America to the 90s in Japan. The café is open late and there is free WIFI.
Try: Banana latte
CAFFEINATE | CAFÉ COSTUMICE
Tucked quietly away on a residential lane in the heart of the bustling Dong Qu (東區) shopping Mecca lies idyllic looking Café Costumice. It’s oozing with aesthetic appeal thanks to its rustic countryside deco and the music selection is spot on, creating a moody and elegant ambience. It’s not the quietest of cafés because patrons seem to be largely made up of Taipei’s creative elite who set up portable offices inside and on its spacious and charming terrace, which in itself is a rare find in Taipei. Costumice serves coffee, tea, light food and wine and has a coffee table style bookstore downstairs. The café is the perfect backdrop for meetings, interviews and collaboration projects.
Spotted: Ben Klock
Address: Lane 161, No 65, Dun Hua South Road, Section 1, Taipei
Phone: +886 2 2771 9251
LISTEN | SPECIES RECORDS
Don’t come expecting Tower Records but Species Records is one of the only records shops in town and it’s been around since 2004 so it has acquired somewhat of a legend status among the local dance music community. Besides, you never know what you might find because Asia has a particular and borderline obsessive knack for digging far deeper into the pockets of dance music than their fellow western counterparts. They carry vinyl, CDs, DVDs and a variety of industry related apparel and merchandise. You can usually buy tickets here for most underground music parties happening in the city and they also offer music lessons for budding young musicians.
Spotted: DJ Bone, Marco Bailey, DJ Icy Ice, Move D, Deetron, Technasia, Josh Wink, and Milton Bradley
LISTEN | [email protected] BOUTIQUE
[email protected] Boutique has been open for 18 years so supporting this business is essential for any supporter of the music industry and its dying mediums. It’s a small shop but the fashion forward owner, who speaks perfect English and has been DJing for far longer than his shop has been open, has a sophisticated taste in music but knows everything there is to know about pop culture in music so it’s well stocked. Especially with things from Japan. You can buy records, CDs, merch, stickers, toys and more at [email protected] It’s also one of the only places in Taipei where you can pick up an actual Mixmag magazine.
Spotted: Boys Noize, Dieselboy
Address: 4F-3, No 112, Zhongxiao East Road, Section 4, Taipei
Phone: +886 2 8771 5688
SHOP | REMIX TAIPEI
Remix is a Taiwanese clothing brand that has emerged as a lot more than that, especially since collaborating with brands like Casio and Vans. It’s now thought of as more of lifestyle brand after creating a culture that fuses fashion, music, art and sport and is a platform for all these niches to come together on this one big thing , that thing being Remix. The name has become synonymous with quality, whether it be fashion, music events or a sports, and they pride themselves on having no rules and restrictions but in a classy way. Pick up a Remix Taipei or OIT Taiwan t-shirt as souvenir and you are almost guaranteed nods when sporting them in other Asian cities.
SEE | ELEPHANT MOUNTAIN
For that quintessential Instagram worthy shot of Taipei’s skyline, head up Elephant Mountain if you’ve got some stamina. Not an easy hike by any means because of the copious amount of stairs, but also not difficult. Shouldn’t take you more than 30 minutes but we warned it can get crowded on weekends, especially with photographers on the same mission as you. Nonetheless, the breathtaking view of 101 is better than the one from 101, if you had to make a choice.