I first wrote about Rainbow Village two years ago for a travel magazine. I tagged it as one of the must-visit places in Taiwan. It’s not just because it’s a great photography subject, but also because there’s an inspiring story behind it. Back then, the videos showed Rainbow Village as an uncrowded place that was just gaining traction in social media.
My, my, how things can quickly change! I finally laid eyes on this place when I visited Taiwan for the first time in October. We went on a Thursday afternoon, and the crowd was heavy. This diligent Instagrammer could hardly have a wall to herself to take that “IG is laaaaayf!” photo because there were dozens of other Instagrammers trying to do the same thing in such a cramped space. When I tried to find less populated corners, I found… Instagram boyfriends directing their girlfriends. It felt like I was in the quarter-finals of the Instagram Olympics without enough training.
I did manage a few decent snaps, including photos with Grandpa Rainbow himself, the true star of Rainbow Village. I reminded myself of the reason I was drawn to this spot in the first place: the story.
Located in Taichung’s Nantun District, Rainbow Village used to be a veteran’s village made of simple, low-quality materials. The most loyal resident is former soldier, Huang Yung-Fu, who is now in his ’90s. Several years ago, the village residents started fleeting and the place was bound for demolition, as with most of the veteran’s housing in Taiwan. The government would give the land to corporations, and in exchange, they provide new and decent apartments to the surviving veterans and their families.
But Mr. Huang refused to leave. Determined to bring life back to the village, he started painting everything—from the walls to the doors and alleys—with rainbow colors and happy characters like animals and dolls.
The students of the nearby Ling Tung University saw the painted village and helped Mr. Huang spread the word. Protests began in an attempt to save Rainbow Village. When it became a famous tourist attraction in Taichung, the government decided to suspend the demolition and let Mr. Huang, a.k.a. Grandpa Rainbow, have his village. [Source: Taichung Guide]
Expectation vs. Reality
A few tips for those who have Rainbow Village on their bucket list:
1. It’s not in Taipei, the capital of Taiwan. It’s in Taichung, not to be confused with Taitung. Via taxi, bus, or car, Taichung is a two-hour drive from Taipei. Some people take a train or motorbike ride, but that entails a longer commute. I suggest booking a Taichung Day Tour through Klook , where Rainbow Village is just one of the many places you’ll see.
2. The village is tiny. It’s not an amusement park that takes hours to explore. It’s just a small, compressed village that takes less than 30 minutes to see—sans the souvenir shop browsing.
3. Expect Instagram Olympics. Thanks to social media fame, buses upon buses of tourists visit the place daily. It might be a challenge to get a photobomber-free Instagram shot because you will find dozens of other Instagrammers doing the same.
4. There’s no entrance fee, but please make a donation or purchase something from the shop. Rainbow Village was made with love by a soldier-turned-artist nonagenarian, so the least you could do is support his welfare.
5. Grandpa Rainbow still lives there. If you’re lucky, you’ll catch him sitting in one of the souvenir shops while people watching. If he sees you dropping a tip in the box, he’ll give you a printout of his artworks.
Olympic struggles aside, I managed to take videos and edit this vlog: