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Taipei Nightlife Comes of Age in the Da-An District

The clubs of Taipei's Da-An District offers an impressive blend of local energy and international sophistication.

by Jack Song

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Taipei Nightlife Comes of Age in the Da-An District

aipei nightlife has come a long way since the early 1990s when it was mostly ripoff hostess clubs set up to stroke the egoes of boorish businessmen and cramped little karaoke boxes in which young people drank themselves silly. In those days the island was emerging from several decades of Kuomongtang bivouac mentality, and new money was in desperate search of status and validation. Today the money isn't so new and it knows how to pay a fair price for a good time without overpaying for provincial pretention.

     Today a visitor has no trouble finding lively, well-appointed clubs and pubs in which free-spirited natives drink, dance and mingle pretty much the way they do in other international cities of five million prosperous people. Taipei isn't exactly a megalopolis on the order of Tokyo, Shanghai or Seoul, but it does have the critical mass to generate hormonal crowds with an eye for style and some folding money in its collective pockets. One big difference is that people in Taipei seem sincerely appreciative of foreign visitors, especially if they aren't elderly letches chasing vintage sexual fantasies.

     The Taipei area is divided into a half-dozen districts. Sure, like any visitor you will want to devote half an afternoon to checking out the historic entertainment area known as Ximending. It's where the Japanese colonists decided to sanction evening entertainment a century ago. Even today it has more movie houses per block than anywhere in the city. More recently, its inexpensive cafes and restaurants have become a hangout for local teens.




During the past two decades Taipei has made the costly transformation from a hardscrabble provincial encampment to a monumental and dynamic city worthy of international tourism. Night markets draw large evening crowds.


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     But at the end of the day, when you're ready for a real night out, the chic, upscale and internationalized Da-An district offers the town's liveliest, densest nightlife area that is both accessible and appealing to foreign visitors. The spacially oriented will want know that the best part of Da-An is the area around Da An Road bounded by Zhong Xiao Road to the north and Ren Ai Road to the South. To the west this dining, entertainment and shopping zone is bounded by Fu Xing Rd, and to the east by Dun Hwa Rd.

     If your tastes run toward a younger, more free-spirited crowd, venture a mile and a half in a southwesterly direction (diagonally across the large lush Daan Forest Park), toward the Shi-Da neighborhood (named after National Taiwan Normal University). That's where students, domestic and foreign, mingle with other casually-dressed local partiers. The area's nightlife is anchored by three clubs (Roxy99, Roxy Vibe and Jr. Cafe) owned and operated by a former DJ who claims credit for having pioneered the modern Taipei club scene in the late 1980s.

SOME DA-AN HOTSPOTS

TU
B1, 249 Fu Xing South Rd., Section 1

     TU's perennial popularity is explained partly by its location across the street from the eminent Howard Plaza Hotel. It offers jazz and hip hop to packed houses on weekends and its popular Wednesday ladies nights. The two biggest problems with TU are the lack of enough space even to be able to plant yourself with a drink without having to be jostled and way too much smoke. But then this is the place most partiers seem to head for when they find themselves in an empty club. Opens from 9 pm to 4 am daily.

Juliana
102 Civil Boulevard, Section 4

     Possibly because of its long run as a crowded hotspot for the terminally hip, or maybe because it's part of a global disco chain, Juliana is one of those clubs that everyone loves to scorn but ends up crowding into anyway. It boasts one of the city's biggest and most crowded dance floors, usually worked expertly by some top-flight DJs. The plush ambience comes with extra-plush prices for drinks and foods. It's a reliable party when you're tired of exploring the smaller, less popular spots.

Kiss (La Bocca) Disco
166 Dun Hua North Road (Magnolia Hotel)

     A high status quotient justifies the steep cover charge for entry into this most venerable and grandest of Taipei discos. That also explains the higher mix of somewhat older professionals and businessmen, and maybe even its rep as a gay/lesbian hotspot. Weekend nights, featuring live bands, pack in impossible crowds, as does Wednesday ladies nights. Fortunately, those sick of being jostled can retire to a plushly furnished lounge in the back and knock back expensive drinks while staring at big video screens. 8 pm - 3 am daily. PAGE 2

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“One big difference is that people in Taipei seem especially appreciative of foreign visitors, especially if they aren't elderly letches chasing vintage sexual fantasies.”



Roxy 99, located in the youthful Shi-Da area of the Da An District, is one of Taipei's oldest and most popular clubs, attracting a good cross-section of the city's partiers.



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