Pull up a, er, toilet seat, and dig in to the Modern Toilet Restaurant. (Photo: Alamy)
Every city has its quirks — those places that make you do a double take and scrap your itinerary to venture down a hidden alleyway or cross the threshold into an otherworldly shop.
Luckily, Taipei has an abundance of wacky locales that are truly unique to the city. How many places can lay claim to a museum dedicated to fish balls? Take a peek at five noteworthy sights that top the charts for weirdness.
Eating out of a toilet is not very high on most people’s to-do lists; however, the Modern Toilet Restaurant hopes to change that.
The Taipei-based chain of eateries started out as an ice-cream shop serving up swirls of soft-serve chocolate ice cream in containers shaped like toilets.
But in 2004 it shifted its focus to become a sit-down restaurant (meaning diners sit on toilets, not chairs) serving traditional Taiwanese fare like hot pot and seafood, along with more international dishes like spaghetti and chicken nuggets.
Naturally, all beverages come in urinal-shaped cups.
The tunnels beneath Lungshan Temple in the western portion of the city have long been a destination for anyone who wants their fortune read. And while there are many fortunetellers to choose from in this underground network of shopping stalls, perhaps the most unique are the fortunes read by birds (yes, you read that right).
Here’s how it works. A fortuneteller will have a stack of tarot cards and will have a bird (typically a sparrow) use its beak to peck out a single card. Gimmicky yes, but it makes good fodder for Instagram.
Houtong Cat Village
At one time, the residents of Houtong, a former mining village in Taipei’s Ruifang District, were crazy for coal, but nowadays they’ve shifted their focus to cats. Since the mines shuttered in the 1990s, the population drastically declined to the point where there were nearly more cats than humans.
Today Houtong is a feline hot spot teaming with boutiques and cafés focused on cats (think cat-themed socks and kitty-shaped pineapple cakes). The furry critters aren’t difficult to spot, sunning themselves on park benches or napping under the shade of a tree.
To help ensure a healthy feline population, a team of volunteers administers vaccinations and spays and neuters the cats on a regular basis. Houtong is accessible by train from Taipei Station, a major transport hub in the capital city.
What was once a ramshackle neighborhood outside the city has since become a colorful paradise all thanks to one man: Huang Yung-Fu.
Nicknamed “Grandpa Rainbow,” the nonagenarian and war veteran set out to add splashes of color to the community’s sidewalks, roadways and building rooftops as a way to save it from being demolished by the local government to make way for new construction.
His plan worked, and now Rainbow Village — originally build to house veterans and their families — is a popular tourist destination in Taiwan’s Nantun District, about 100 miles south of the capital. In fact, government officials say they plan to make the village a cultural landmark.
Teng Feng Fish Ball Museum
Like french fries in the United States, fish balls are the snack of choice for many Taiwanese. Still, it’s a bit of a surprise that there’s an entire museum dedicated to the deep-fried (or if you’re feeling healthy, steamed) delicacy.
The museum, located in the Tamsui District just outside the city, is part of Teng Feng, a company founded in the 1940s that also sells fish crisps and other snacks.
Over the years, the company has created a number of proprietary pieces of equipment used to produce its offerings before automation was a thing; many of these contraptions are on display.
Museum visitors will also learn about the history of fish balls, their place in pop culture and have the opportunity to get hands-on and roll their own fish balls.