Taipei artisanal wares, bag it!

IF YOU haven’t filled up your shopping bag with Taiwanese-made designer knickknacks at the boutique and souvenir shops of the Songshan Cultural & Creative Park, then head to the neighboring building in the same compound. I am pretty sure you’ll be toting an extra bag home.

It’s not hard to miss the curved, towering modern structure dwarfing the old tobacco warehouses in the park. The 14-storey building is Taipei New Horizon and was erected by the Eslite Group, the group that owns the very popular 24-hour bookstore.

What is an Eslite edifice without its bookstore? The new address within the historic site has an Eslite bookstore as well, but unlike its bigger sister, the operating hours are shorter. It joins the rest of the outlets on the directory that includes a cultural-creative shop, music store and dining outlets, all on the first four levels of the Japanese-designed building.

The upper floors house the recently opened Eslite Hotel. If you are a bookworm, then the chance of seeing the outside world is nil because not only are the room interiors sleek, but the social spaces are built with thousands of books as its greatest attraction. Think art plus architecture plus literature in every capsule.

Now, let’s fill in your shopping cart.

The Spectrum Song-yan Store is targeting the fashion market with its “modern cultural and creative factory” concept. By “creative factory,” it means that the shopper can actively participate in the creation of the desired item (think: DIY), or even have one customized, or just pick up what’s available on the shelf.

On the second level of the shopping center, independent merchants offer you to try your hands on a local art industry like jewelry making, leather goods accessory construction, turn your thumb green with Japanese style plant decorating, ceramic making or glass blowing, needlepoint and embroidery, any of which will require a couple of hours or more of your time. It’s always best to allot enough time in this place when visiting.

Whatever you come up with, keep it for yourself as a special memento of your Taipei visit or give it as “pasalubong.” The personal touch will make the gift more special.

If you’re not into DIY (Do It Yourself), the selections of knick-knacks, fashion and home accessories, garments and local delicacies will fill your shopping bag to the brim in no time.

The thing is, you must know what you want to buy otherwise the “this is so cute” and “I need this” moments will be endless and before you know it, you’ve spent more than your allotted time in this stop. Believe me, I can relate.

Listen, you still have the bookstore, the dining outlets that include a branch of world baking champion Wu Pao-chun’s bakery chain, and the first level shopping area to check out.

If you’re pressed for time, then perhaps planning another trip to Taipei is in order?

To get there: Take MRT Blue Line to the Sun Yat-sen Memorial Hall Memorial Hall Station, take Exit 5.

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