If you happen to be visiting Taipei, one unusual tour that I would suggest is to drop by a couple of famous gadget places. One’s a mini gadget district, while the other one’s a building dedicated to everything tech. These places cater to all types of tech consumer–from power users to common people (like me) who just wanted to ogle at the latest trends in technology.
Update: This mall no longer exists in Taipei. 🙁 Friends said it closed down due to profit reasons. But I’m still keeping the post here. Nova mall’s now an H&M store.
This IT mall, located in the heart of Taipei Main, is my go-to place if I need anything IT-related. All purchases have made me happy so far, and I usually discover new gadgets too via Nova Mall. So far, I’ve bought a Bluetooth keyboard (which I am now test-driving via this post), a RAM module for my Mac, a PlayStation 3, and my Xperia phone from here. All’s well and doing nicely.
Nova mall houses four floors of dedicated gadget goodness. Upon entry, you will immediately see a smattering of popular brands such as ASUS, Samsung, Sony, HP, Lenovo, and Acer, all in their respective booths/shops. There’s also an Apple reseller found on the first floor, and small shops in upper floors.
If you are from the Philippines, the interior of Nova mall would seem familiar. You might find yourself wondering if you are in one of those old-school air-conditioned stores in Carriedo or Baclaran. And you can also try to haggle on prices. I was able to pull down the price of my RAM module by NTD 200 and have also tried to haggle with my Xperia phone’s price. Emphasis on the word try though :P.
Inside Nova Mall, you will find shops dedicated to selling video games and consoles, PC peripherals (motherboards, CPU, fans, and everything that lets you build your own desktop PC), laptops, desktop PCs, speakers, smartphones, Apple products, and basically everything tech that you can think of.
To get to Nova mall, you can take the MRT going to Taipei Main Station. Soon as you get off the train, take the exit going to K underground mall and once you’re inside the mall, take a left at exit Z2. Climb upstairs until you reach the light of day or the dark of night. As you breathe fresh air again after what seemed like a few minutes, check out the horizon and spot NOVA mall in its LED lights and panaflex glory.
AS A BONUS, you might also wanna check out this 3C store beside NOVA mall for the cheapest USB/memory cards, routers, and lotsa GoPro accessories.
Guang Hua Digital Plaza
I heard about Guang Hua from colleagues who suggested it when I was looking for a cheap place to buy my phone. Back then, I was growing ashamed dissatisfied with my analog mobile phone and the boss told me it was about time I elevate myself up on the smartphones ladder.
Visiting Guang Hua happened just early this year and it wasn’t even because I needed to go there. Our friend decided to buy a ZenFone 5 shameless plugging and was scouring Taipei for the cheapest option. One of our local friends decided to help us out and took us to Guang Hua. Friend ended up buying the ZenFone 5 by a few hundred dollars off by haggling.
Actually, Guang Hua was supposed to be a beefed up version of NOVA mall. But I must admit that the latter would pale in comparison. NOVA mall is just a fourth of what Guang Hua can offer. Soon as you get off the MRT station, signs would point you to where Guang Hua is and the striking thing about the place is the immense number of IT shops you will find along the way.
Simply put, it’s a techie version of the Shilin night market. Geekdom is fashion. Nerdism is the language of the streets. I thought that if I were a computer engineer, I would probably want to live there forever. If not, at least buy something that has been in my dreams since I learned the essence of PCBs.
The IT mall in Guang Hua is bigger and more intimidating. You do not roam it on an empty stomach. And that seriousness is stated by the food court you can find on its ground floor.
I’ve been there thrice, but always find myself stopping at the 4th floor. If I’m not mistaken, it’s got a total of 8 floors and each aren’t specifically dedicated to certain IT products. Although some floors tend to be grouped into certain categories, I think the floor plan simply caters to any stall who would like to rent on any available shop inside. The entire place sells everything from computer accessories to devices and second-hand computers (even laptop batteries). Things you didn’t even imagine that could be sold in the realm of IT can be found here.
To get to Guang Hua Digital Plaza, take the MRT going to Zhongxiao Fuxing then take Exit 1. As you ascend from the escalator, go right, then straight, then left at the first corner street. You will find a sign leading you to Guang Hua Digital Plaza. Just walk straight into the alleyways and prepare to immerse yourself in IT Eden.
Going to either of these IT hubs is a good option for both tech and non-tech tourists who want to experience an underrated side of Taipei: its IT kingdoms. If you are planning to buy a new gadget or an accessory, and would coincidentally visit Taipei too, I suggest you hold off buying and do it here instead. Guang Hua and NOVA mall both offers an amazing range of choices for a much cheaper price, from the most popular and trusted IT brands. I was able to get my smartphone for about NTD 3,000 cheaper than its commercial mall price and saved myself about PHP 5,000 by deciding to get it here instead of the Philippines.
However, there’s a bit of a catch on both places though. For the vastness that they both possess, I still can’t get my head around the fact that I never saw an e-Reader in any of them. Not even a Kindle. No trace of any Kobo. Nothing, even when I scoured the streets of Guang Hua. When I ended up asking a store clerk about an e-Reader, he even proceeded to lecture me on it. “Why do you like no color?” He proceeded to make a sweeping generalization that nobody in Taipei likes to read black and white tablets. Oookaaay. I think he just wants me to purchase a Nexus or iPad without hardselling.
Still, I would encourage you to visit either places if you can. It’s always pretty fascinating to see just how many tech stuff and gadgets are actually available to us on a consumer, lifestyle level. Next to Japan, I think Taiwan is the best place to buy your gadgets from. And I’m talking about original branded gadgets that you can get for much much cheaper, if you got your haggling skills intact.