A short trip to Taiwan’s “Windy City”

Standing in front of an old library in Hsinchu, where modern art is nowadays exhibited

After a chaotic business meeting in Taoyuan and a very enjoyable visit to a foreign friend in Zhubei, on the evening of October 28th, 2022, I once again arrived in Hsinchu, nicknamed “The Windy City”.

Located in Northern Taiwan, since 1980 it’s home to the Hsinchu Science Park (HSP), which currently houses more than 400 high-tech companies involved mostly in the semiconductor, computer, telecommunication and optoelectronics industries.

Although I didn’t remember it being so obvious from my last trip a couple of years ago, this time I immediately realized where this place got its denomination from: I had to take off my cap to avoid having it blown away.

Hsinchu shares its unofficial title not only with Baku, the capital of Azerbaijan, whose modern name derives from the ancient Persian term Bādkube, literally «pounding winds», but also Chicago, the United States’ third biggest city and capital of the State of Illinois.

Two old friends, a Taiwanese couple married for almost 25 years, invited me for dinner. They both met in Berlin while learning German, where I also got to know them through a language exchange. I had just returned from my first trip to Asia and wanted to keep my level of Chinese.

We have kept in touch for the last 33 years and I deeply appreciate their friendliness, willingness to help and generosity. While he’s an engineer, she gives piano lessons at their home.

To avoid not getting a parking lot, we went to Costco early next morning to buy some Mexican tortillas, which I had forgotten to purchase in Taipei. For a foodie like me, that doesn’t sound like an insane idea.

Afterwards we did a little sightseeing, starting at a former library from the Japanese colonial period (1895-1945). It was donated back to the city by the Shin Kong Group, one of Taiwan’s largest enterprises, whose founder Wu Ho-su (1919-1986) was born in Hsinchu.

It’s now an art venue, open only for exhibitions. We had the doubtful pleasure to see Tube-from anywhere to anywhere, which consisted only of disfiguring a simple old building which an ugly green metal tube, both in- and outside.

I have never been a big fan of modern art and when I first spotted that atrocity in front of the entrance, my heart sank. It was a big relieve to know that this pretentious junk would be removed the very next day!

Then we headed to a school principal’s former residence, also built by the former colonial masters, which had been abandoned in 1985 when the last official willing to live there passed away.

It fell into total decay and half on the structure eventually collapsed. Luckily, thanks to the efforts of dedicated Hsinchu residents, this remnant of the past wasn’t torn down, but almost completely restored.

We were lucky to meet an honorary guide, who had just arrived. However, he started to show us around at once, telling us interesting details about how the original design of this traditional house had changed over the years.

To finish off our Nippon experience, for lunch we had Katsudon, a bowl of rice with a deep-fried breaded pork cutlet, vegetables and condiments. The two salad sauces for the shredded cabbage were extremely tasty.

I still had time for a little nap before we left for Chungli, where my hosts for one night were attending a relative’s birthday. Due to slow-moving traffic on the highway, it took us almost twice the estimated time to get there. Nevertheless, that didn’t spoil a very pleasant experience!