Not on the list: Drinks in Ximending

24 May

A margarita

I’ve decided I’ll also be posting some things that, while they aren’t on the list, are still Taipei experiences worth having. Anything can happen in the course of the day!

This particular experience came about because my good friend 阿水 called me shortly after midnight to let me know he was in the neighborhood, on a weekend break from his military service down south, and was hoping to see me. Although I’d been hoping to get to bed early in preparation for a long Sunday crossing tasks off my list, it was nice to catch up with my friend and to relax at one of the many outdoor bars behind the Red House Theater (紅樓) on a warm evening.

For those who’ve never spent much time in Ximending (西門町), or have only been to the better-known area at Exit 6, the area behind the theater may be a bit surprising. Away from the bright lights and crowds of teenagers in search of the latest trends, there is a completely different world made up of bars and underwear stores catering to gay men.

It’s probably nothing like what you’re imagining in terms of gay bars, and many people don’t even realize what they’ve stumbled upon until they’ve been seated at one of the hundreds of outdoor tables and had a good look at the clientele. That’s because, although the bars (and a few restaurants) are most definitely gay-oriented, you won’t find what is typically visualized as a gay bar scene: lots of men in tight pants dancing furiously to the latest Lady Gaga remix, with couples making out in corners. Instead, you’ll mostly see friends hanging out on a Saturday night in a hip place with good drinks, plenty of breathing room, and – ok – the latest Lady Gaga remix playing the background. There’s no escaping Lady Gaga.

In short, if you’re looking for a place to spend a chill evening with friends, but aren’t interested in clubs or smoky bars, Ximending probably has something for you. Just leave your bigotry at home and you’ll be just fine.

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