It is not enough to place colors, however beautiful, one beside the other; colors must also react on one another.
– Henri Matisse
Before departing Taichung, I had one final destination on my list to visit (though the expensive dessert shop became the real final stop). My companion and I took a bus out to the Rainbow Village (彩虹眷村).
The first mistake of the day was getting a late start — we arrived at the Rainbow Village at lunchtime and it was packed with tourists. It was not, however, packed with food vendors.
As we stepped off the bus we were ambushed by a rush of hot, humid air and then beaten into submission by the midday sun. I may have still been suffering from the previous day’s heatstroke as I felt awful for the entire afternoon outside.
Back to the village. The Rainbow Village began as homes for military families in the early days of the Kuomintang’s flight from China. They were provisional homes for soldiers and their families. The small single-story houses were built close together and included common courtyards.
Like much of the development in the 1950s, these were not meant to be permanent. As the Kuomintang remained in Taiwan, so did the communities. That is, until modern urban development arrived. Many of the more dilapidated military family communities were razed in favor of more modern structures.
This particular village is the creation of Huang Yong-fu, also known as Rainbow Grandfather, who helped save this small portion of the original military village from demolition. He was the only remaining resident when he began painting the walls and walkways in 2010 at the age of 88. Nearby residents took notice and the government allowed the remaining 11 structures to live on as a colorful tourist destination.
The Rainbow Village is quite small, much smaller than I expected. The artwork is lively and fun, and some of it reminds me of some traditional South American styles. It’s impressive that a elderly man with no artistic training could manage to paint it all.
For a rather long bus ride from the center of Taichung, the Rainbow Village doesn’t take much time to see. Even in the crowd, it only took about 20 minutes before we were finished seeing everything.
There is a little souvenir shop in the center of the village with postcards and trinkets that have designs from the village. Mr. Huang was also there to greet visitors to his creation.
A few of the empty homes are open for tourists to wander through. There is little of interest inside the homes other than the fact that they are compact (watch your head!). As it is a newer tourist attraction in Taiwan, I wouldn’t be surprised if some businesses open up nearby to serve the crowds — as it is, buses to and from the village are infrequent.
After wandering through the colorful alleys, we bought some rainbow ice cream from a roadside vendor. It was refreshing and not too sweet. It was so hot even sitting in the shade that I was tempted to buy another cone.
We waited for the next bus to take us back into the center of Taichung to collect our luggage and return to Taipei. By a great coincidence, the same bus driver picked us up for the return trip. I also realized that most bus trips within Taichung are free when using an EasyCard.
If I had to do it again, I would wake up a lot earlier to get to the Rainbow Village before the tour buses. By midday it’s almost impossible to get a photo of anything in the village without other people in the frame, but somehow I managed to get a few.