A Travellerspoint blog

Last Day in Taipei

Chiang Kai-Shek Memorial Hall, Shida Night Market

Thought of the day: if I haven't had anymore new bug bites, does that mean I ate the creature biting me?!??!

Today was the last full day in Taipei and per usual fashion, it was super hot and super humid. (I gave up on jeans when I thought 70s would be ok.) We headed to Chiang Kai-Shek Memorial Hall. This metro station is really huge and well decorated! We headed to the main plaza and I have to say it was really gorgeous and I could definitely see why so many natives were outdoors enjoying the scenery. The only thing damper to the scenery was this huge Frozen abominable tent in the middle!!!! Way to ruin my pictures, Frozen! Sheesh. Anyways, locals were dancing, practicing martial arts, and enjoying the outdoors. We got lucky and happened to time our arrival 15 min prior to the changing of the guard which is every hour. We got our spots right in front which if you want to watch be sure to stand on the outside of the red ribbons!! I have no idea how they stand there for an hour straight...There is also an expansive art gallery to view and lots about Taiwanese history.
Look at the monstrosity in the middle!
We left the memorial in search of braised pork rice....we went to Jinfeng Braised Pork, which is literally a 5 minute walk away.
It was pretty crowded but the line moved quickly. I got a medium bowl and Julia got a small bowl. We also got some sautéed veggies, fried tofu, tea eggs, and Julia had chicken herbal soup. All of it was really delicious. I think next time I'd want to try the braised pork rice cause the ground rice was super tasty but not super meaty. Such a simple dish with a punch of flavor. I think we spent 200NT total. We then went to this random market right next store and Julia picked up some Chinese preserved fruits and whatnots.
We still had a lot of shopping to do for family and friends so we headed back to Taipei Main Station. I was thirsty and so we stopped by 50 Lan and had some boba. The tapioca was perfect consistency and the milk tea wasn't too overpowering but they give you a lot.
We bought most things at Breeze but there is the K underground mall which is Eslite based (like Asian Barnes and noble), there is Zhongshan and Taipei Main Mall which are like night markets but with less cool things, and then there is Breeze which is basically a food mecca. I highly recommend going to the second floor and finding Popcorn Planet to try and buy their super delicious Kimchi Popcorn!!! We gathered our goodies and headed home to clean up and pack before our last night market!
Cool. Craving. Content.
We decided to go to Shida Night Market because it was highly recommended and although I really wanted to see Shilin again, we felt like we should see more. So like I said before, the night markets all have different flavors and for the most part sell similar things BUT Shida is the exception! Shida is very popular among the university crowd because of all the shopping (mostly clothes and accessories) you can do here and because of that population base, everything is super cheap (jewelry for 100NT and clothes for 100-500NT). If you were looking to stock your closet or get new accessories including sunglasses, Shida is the one to visit!! First thing we did off the MRT was eating fresh and hot Mantou (plain buns) from Yong Fung Sheng. I had a brown sugar one and it was delicious and super hot! We also went to IJY Sheng bakery and acquired buns for the airplane ride back to the states. There was also this cool middle area of the night market lit up with blue lights that had local vendors selling their crafts and Julia bought a reusable metal straw! We then stumbled upon this massive stationary store next to the crepes place and blue lights. This place was AMAZING. Literally, any kind of writing utensil you could want. My favorite are the frixion pens that erase with friction! All the pens are super cheap too!!! We got multicolored pens for less that $1 USD! I high to recommend stocking up on school supplies or craft goods here.
This night market is known for the 2 lantern choose your food and they'll cook it stand. We decided to each get our own but wow it was a lot of food! Don't do that if you are going to brave this place cause it's too much food. It was 200 NT. It was pretty tasty for essentially hot pot but the chicken heart I had tasted funny and I felt not well for the rest of the night. I washed it down with the fresh watermelon juice I ordered (if you want to sit down, you each have to order a drink). We took one last look around the shops and headed home.
IJY Sheng Bakery
The 2 red lanterns place
Just a ridiculous amount of food. looks good if your stomach can handle it.
Not enough pens.
Taoyuan International Airport is ginormous and well stocked. If you didn't get enough shopping done, you can shop some more as you wait for your flight. There is a Sunny Hills store here but it is OUTSIDE OF SECURITY. I am super sad I didn't get to try it. Maybe next time. My last meal of the trip was a ton of food!!! The main chicken was alright but all the side dishes were delicious and kept me happily full for my United flight of gross airplane food.

Posted by E.M.N 02:19 Archived in Taiwan Tagged chiang kai-shek shida Comments (0)

Beitou, Tonghua Night Market, Ounce

Boiling in hot weather? Sign us up!

Pro tip: Taipei Main Station has a million malls adjacent to it. Literally any direction you take will lead you to a mall.
Observation of the day: For some reason, a lot of Taiwanese people wear shoes that are way too big for them leaving this huge gap by their heels. Also, found out today that there was an in n out pop up yesterday in Taipei! How weird it would've been to have in n out in Taipei!

Today, we started out breakfast with some tea eggs. (Pro tip: get one cracked because then it's saltier).
Look at the K underground mall!
We then headed on the Red Line straight for Beitou. You have to take the train to Xinbeitou when you get there. We went to the Hot Springs Museum which you have to wear their slippers and it was informative and very interesting. I learned a lot about the hot springs and the huge Japanese influence. The Taipei Main Library there was also really pretty and I wish we had had more time to visit.
The OG public hot spring at the museum
The things actresses have to go through.....
I wish I could study at this library!
We then went to the Millennium Hot Springs (public hot springs NT40) to experience all the hullabaloo. Let me tell you....the public one is all old timers enjoying the hot water and yelling at us tourist for being dumb and doing dumb things like not tying my hair high enough. There are 3 hot pools with the least hot at the bottom. It goes 30C-35C, 40-43C, 43-45C. We went sequentially up the mountain. The lowest one was luke warm and pretty tolerable but you start to get light headed so be sure to drink water and bring some! the seoncd was bearable and I did 2 dips in it but my head started to sweat from the heat. We then went to a cooling pool which the water is frigid! Then we decided to finish with trying the hottest pool. If you don't move, the heat isn't that bad but the second, someone shifts the water the more you feel the heat!!! You aren't allowed to take pictures but i snuck some in.
After we boiled off our dead skin cells, my skin actually did feel smoother and I did feel more refreshed but mostly I felt dehydrated and a little light headed....whoops. We headed to the Thermal Valley which is really close by and it reminded me of Yellowstone only a lot less grand. It was also a lot less stinky surprisingly despite also having sulfur bubbling through the water. Mm mm rotten eggs!
We then headed back home to shower, but not before making a pit stop for the number 1 priority: food again. We stopped at Taipei Main Station and Julia wanted specifically a lunch in a paper box so we went to Breeze Station. It's a lot like Grand Central Station in NYC only with a TON more food!!! I highly recommend exploring it! We went to TRA No. 1 Bento Boxes at West 3 entrance and I highly recommend getting your bento meal here for your next future train ride. It was only NT60 for a porkchop, bean curd, egg, preserved veggies, and rice!!! (There were more expensive options but I'm not sure why they were more expensive). It was pretty delicious for $2 USD. I devoured it and was on to my next mission of finding better boba.
I got a milk tea tapioca at Chatime. And it was a much better experience than Orange Tea. The tapioca was the perfect chewy consistency! And I got less sugar and it was perfect for washing down my porkchop.
Julia really wanted to try this Uncle Tetsu's Cheesecake that had a huge line and it was a deliciously fluffy cake!
We left Breeze station and headed home to rinse off all the minerals. After getting so fresh and so clean, we headed to eat more at FUDA Shandong!!! This place is a tiny hole in the wall and I love it not only for the food but because they write your order on POST ITS! Haha anyways, we got the house made steamed dumplings (NT85) and hot and sour soup (NT35). Dumplings were full of soup and you get to dip them in hot sauce! Yummmm. The hot and sour soup was also delicious and could give my Dad's soup a run for its money (don't tell him that though.) A successful $4 USD meal!
We left and headed to Tonghua Night Market which is a lot smaller than most of the other night markets and less crowded so if you wanted a small example of Taiwanese night markets, I'd recommend starting here off of Xinyi Anhe station. It's funny because every night market has a different flavor to it even though for the most part they are all selling the same things. Julia tried a red bean cake and she said it was just alright but it sure was freshly made! I also picked up some sunglasses for next week festivities. :)
We left and headed straight for Ounce or rather Relax Cafe....Ounce is a speakeasy based off of another speakeasy in NYC. Both places you need to figure out how to get in but Ounce doesn't require reservations just a log waiting list because they don't limit your time inside. I recommend starting at the left wall and figuring it out! The "bouncer" will eventually open the door. We waited for about 1.25 hours in the cafe and headed inside to share a table with some Seattle strangers. The best thing about Ounce is they have no menu and tailor drinks based on whatever tastes you like!!! So I asked for sour, spicy kick, and gin and got a not tasty sounding drink: el guapo - cucumber, lime, sriracha, Worcestershire, and gin. It was frigging delicious and spicy all the way down. I slurped it up. My second drink I asked for a fruity whiskey sour - I got a passion fruit whiskey sour with honey. Also equally tasty. I could sit there and drink cocktails all day! But it was late and the pours are pretty heavy so we headed to the MRT with a little jolt in my step and to home for a deep deep sleep.

Posted by E.M.N 17:09 Archived in Taiwan Tagged night springs market hot breeze ounce beitou tonghua Comments (0)

National Palace Museum, Shrimping, and Shilin Night Market

Getting all the things done......

Some thoughts about Taiwan: how do they keep their metro so clean?! Well, one reason is no eating or drinking. Can we implement that JB the states? I may also have broken that rule.....apparently no gum is allowed either.

We started out today very hungry and headed straight for breakfast at the 24 hour Fuhong Beef Noodle. I ordered the thick beef noodles (small NT80)and it was really flavorful and had some spicy kick. The best part was the they give you condiments to fill up your bowl. My favorite was the preserved vegetable but the orange and black stuff is tallow. The noodles were super chewy and fresh. large_IMG_4606.jpg
With our bellies full, we headed towards the National Palace Museum. Took the MRT to Shilin and took a bus from there. This bus ride was the most uncomfortable, packed, and unsafe feeling ride ever. They pack you in like sardines and because it's so hot, it's so uncomfortable to be next to so many people. Once we got to the museum (NT250), you have to leave your backpack, drinks, and camera in a locker. NT10 deposit that you get back. There are no photos allowed inside the museum but you can take one of the gorgeous exterior. The best part of the museum I thought was this piece of jade that is cut to look exactly like a delicious and fatty piece of meat!!!
After being blasted by the AC (pro tip: bring an extra layer for inside the museum), we headed back to the heat and to Zhishan Garden (which is right outside and the entrance is to the right if you are facing the main museum and entrance is included with your museum admission). It was a nice place to enjoy tranquility and shade. I bought some koi food pellets and we had fun feeding the voracious koi. They open their mouths so big, you could almost throw it in.
There are plenty of places to sit down and not many tourists know about it. Next time, I would bring in some snacks and a ice cold drink and have a mini picnic.
We then headed to finish an important task of buying pineapple cakes at the one and only Chia Te which is right off the green MRT line on Sonjiang Sanmin. This place is a bakery selling machine!!! You can buy all sorts of flavors but the pineapple cakes (NT30) are what they are known for and have a 40 day shelf life. We bought a bunch and they boxed it up nicely for us. We also tried the egg custard tart because people were going crazy for them. The custard was pretty good but I'm a fan of the flaky crust and this crust was basically a hard cookie, so depending on the crust you like, you may like it more than I did.
We dropped off the goods and headed to mark another place off our list. We went to Ya Rou Bian in Ximen for a snack since we were hungry. They sell really delicious goose with vermicelli noodles but it is on the expensive side due to their popularity. They have this really delicious chili garlic sauce that I drowned everything in. MMMM. I gotta make that sauce at home.
Delicious and fatty goose.
We then trekked to this Shrimp fishing place: 新豪釣蝦 (No. 91, Minzu E Rd, Zhongshan District. Taipei City, 104). The closest MRT is pretty far away so I'd recommend taxi or uber to this place. IT was worth the long sweaty walk though to experience it. Basically, you put small dried shrimp onto 2 hooks on a fishing pole and you grab a beer and wait. The buoy subtly dips into the pool and that's how you know you've gotten one! I only caught 2 and I lost one back to the pool, but that one shrimp cut my fingers up pretty well. Don't be an idiot like me. When you grab the shrimp, be sure to hold down its pincers before trying to remove the hook. It was NT350 for an hour. I wanted to grill the one shrimp but was intimidated by the contraption so I gave it to the couple next to us. This other couple was grilling and it looked pretty tasty topped with a ton of rock salt.
With the free wifi, I hailed an UberX to Shilin Night Market. IT WAS SUCH A CHEAP RIDE (NT125) and you get to see Taipei at night on the streets. We got a super clean and nice BMW too. Shilin Night Market is thus far my most favorite of the night markets. It is HUGE to the point that the crowd doesn't seem quite as crowded. It had the perfect mix of food and shopping as well. It was easy just to travel around and get lost wandering. (Also, if you need the bathroom, go to the main pavilion and go to the basement B2 - it's cleaner).
The fruit is super fresh and they let you try it. I tried the "sugar apple" which was delicious and reminded me of a large loquat. I bought that small green apple looking thing which apparently is "Miza?". It was refreshing but pretty bland and lightly sweet.
I finally got my hands on a Hot Star large fried chicken!! SOOOO HOT AND SOOO GOOD. mmmmm. Come to the states, please.

Posted by E.M.N 16:26 Archived in Taiwan Tagged night market palace museum national te shilin taipei cakes pineapple chia Comments (0)

Spirited Away to Jiufen and Shifen

Shifen and Jiufen

Today, we went for a day trip to the popular Shifen and Jiufen!

We ate a tea egg from 7-11 (10NT and delciious!) and a hot dog cheese bun from Yamazaki (soft, buttery, and filling) at Taipei Main Station for breakfast. From there, we took the TRA to Riufang. (I think most of the trains stop there? It was really confusing and the security guard basically told us to get on the train). From Riufang, you take the Pingxi line (there's specific waiting area labeled) to Shifen. This is when we realized you can use your MRT card to scan in and out of these places (there is a standalone blue sensor thing at the entrances and exits).
It was really nice to see the countryside. A lot of tall deteriorating buildings and a lot of bridges.
When we got to Shifen, our priority was the waterfall but not before taking some pictures of people sending some sky lanterns aflame. We have no idea how these things don't start a house or forest fire. Also, all you see along the river and waterfall are the remnants of these lanterns which is why we didn't opt in for one. But they are pretty cool to watch.
The train.
An awesome hand drawn map of Shifen.
Some good luck bamboo
People sending their wishes into the sky.
Look at that HUGE ball of fire. Smokey the Bear would not approve.
Cool locals walking ahead of us.
It was about a 20 minute walk to Shifen Waterfall and if you are smart and want a shorter hike, take that very first bridge you see on the left, because it takes you directly to the waterfall. Most people go the other way because they are following the signs. It was super hot today and I got pretty dehydrated. There is a water fountain at the end and lots of cafes as well if you need to replenish. The waterfalls itself are pretty cool but really sad that so much garbage was in it. There was also like a picnic ground near the falls and they had these awesome swinging benches that we took a small rest in for the fun and for the shade.
We headed back after to spend more time in Old Shifen and I got the most delicious chicken leg stuffed with fried rice (Thanks, Er!) And because it was so hot, we went to a cafe and I knocked back a nice cold Taiwan Beer. It was actually pretty tasty.
After this, we hopped on the train back to Riufang. At Riufang, there is a bus station (there are signs and it is next to the police station) that has many buses headed up the mountain to Jiufen. We hopped on one and wow.....these bus drivers can drive. I don't know how they manage to get these huge buses up and down that curvy narrow mountain road every day. Thank goodness I survived. When you arrive, you will see a temple at the station and then Guanlin Pavilion. Walk past this and you will see 7-11 which is to the left of the Jishan Old Street Entrance. The reason so many people visit Jiufen and one of the main reasons we wanted to come was because this inspired a lot of Spirted Away by Hayao Miyazaki!!!
The lantern lined streets with tons of people. Even people with luggages to their B&B's I presume.
So many foods to choose from. No wonder the parents become pigs in Spirited Away!
We had these curry fish balls! Kind of on the chewy side. I'd recommend trying something else.
Stacks on Stacks of buildings. I wish it wasn't so foggy because usually there is a view of the Pacific Ocean.
The Mask Museum. The owner has dreams of these faces and makes these terrifying masks!
This dog is basically a honeybadger. Look at him manning those stairs.
So the main reason I wanted to come here was to have tea at the famous Ah Mei Tea House which inspired the Spirited Away Bathhouse. We could not find it for the life of us. Luckily, there is the free taiwan internet here (iTaiwan) and we googled mapped it. Basically, you take Jishan St up until there is a crooked stair case. Mainly you notice the one going up which will lead to the mask museum and an elementary school but you really want to go down the crooked stairs and you'll see the radiant lanterns of Ah Mei on the right.
We stayed until the lanterns came on, but it was still light out so it's hard to see. We also didn't want to miss our bus and weren't 100% sure when the last one out was.
Tea Ceremony (700NT). Pretty delicious oolong tea but wow was it fresh and strong. I was very hopped up on caffeine for the majority of coming back to Taipei and it made me feel pretty crummy.
We drank the tea upstairs and due to the fog, it felt like being in the movie and in the sky.
There was this cool cave next to the tea house that you can walk through.
We headed back. The bus station sits up the mountain from where you get off so you walk past 7-11 to another bus station. Once back, we ended the night wandering around Q Square which is connected to Taipei Main Station. A lot of food to choose from too! We had Lao Dong Beef Noodle (spicy version). It was delicious and a perfect way to end the night.

Posted by E.M.N 05:15 Archived in Taiwan Tagged waterfall taipei teahouse jiufen mei ah shifen jishan Comments (0)


Recovery Day

Today was a slow start and a slow ending but I think the rest will be much appreciated for the next few days.....All those intern hours racking up.

We headed to Daan today to go eat at the famous Yong he Soy Milk King (Yong He Dou Jiang Da Wang). There was a little bit of a line but the line moves quickly and they even have AC if you eat there! We ordered a chinese donut (you tiao), egg crepe with pork floss (pork foo), glutinous rice roll with chinese donut, preserved vegetable, and pork foo, and 2 cold soy milks. Delicious across the board. My favorite was the chinese donut itself. It was the most airy and light chinese donut I have ever had and it was fresh out of the oil. People were eating a hot salty version of the soy milk but i was scared away from pictures online.
I don't know how they work in such a small space.
Freshly made. Looks like mini churros.
The egg crepe. Look at how flossy that pork floss is!
That glutinous rice! And look at how yummy that chinese donut is.
On our walk back, there was a colorful blue bike path and this pretty flower. A reminder to stop and enjoy the scenery.
We then beelined it for the Longshan Temple (built in 1738) which apparently is a temple for many gods (mostly Buddhist but Taoist ones were added later) but the main god is the Buddhist Goddess of Mercy (Quan Yin) and she survived an American bombing raid during WWII so I think that deity wins. People were buying flowers and food as offerings and lighting incense at the numerous locations. Many locals and tourists visiting alike and it sits right in the middle of the city. There is no entrance fee but feel free to buy some offerings for the deities. The other huge thing to do here is to have your fortune told by the Kau Cim practice, which apparently involves choosing a fortune stick from the brass holders, throwing 2 crescent wooden blocks down 3 times, if they are the same pattern 3 times, the fortune stick is confirmed, and you bring the stick to be read by the temple workers. We had no idea that's what they were doing when we were watching people throw these blocks down....
We are still baffled by how much energy and water the temple must be using for this waterfall, but still looks pretty amazing.
NEON KOI! Some of these koi are probably double my age. Look at the size!
We headed to Ximen MRT station to walk around what is known as the Harajuku of Taipei. First stop was the Red House. It was built in 1908 and was Taiwan's first public market! Now it serves as a place for artists and vendors to showcase their culture and artwork as well as sell it.
This is the huge brick exterior.
Inside the main hall, where you can shop for hipster-y things at hipster prices.
We then walked around Ximending Shopping Area. Lots of shops ranging from (what we think) were genuine brand name stores to numerous knockoffs. We pretty much just wandered around and looked at all the random goods and foods. Fatigue started to set in so we headed to KFC to get the well known Portugese Egg Tart. I can't lie. KFC is not messing around with this egg tart. (Not golden gate bakery status but delicious nonetheless!! It was 28NT.)
We then burned some more calories so that we could be at least slightly hungry enough for Ay Chung Flour-Rice Noodles (small NT50, Large NT65) on Emei St. They serve Oyster Mee Sua, which is basically pig intestine and oyster vermicelli noodle soup. This was soooo tasty and the chili that you throw in with the condiments (located across from where you order and pay) makes it super spicy. The intestine was chewy and tasty too but I couldn't get over imagining pig intestine while I was eating it.
We then capped off our window shopping with desserts. Julia wanted this matcha frozen ice (it looked like soft serve). The LARGE was super tall. This is the small.
And I had my first Taiwan boba. "Mango Olay" at Orange Tea. There were smaller tapiocas but mango-y. I still want to find a better boba place. This was kinda to sweet and not that great.
We then made one last pit stop at J&G 1973 Fried Chicken to of course get Taiwanese Popcorn chicken (NT75). Couldn't say no to the smell. We got a fresh and hot batch. It was delicious and seasoned a plenty with MSG and some light spicy powder.

We then stopped by an 85 degree bakery but it was mainly a cafe so I will need to buy buns to try at some point. There was one we stopped by at Longshan but I didn't want to carry buns with me all day. It's definitely cheaper here though.

Our feet were pretty done at this point and I was super full so we headed home for naps that we never really woke up from, so MORE FOODS tomorrow. We have a long day planned ahead.

Posted by E.M.N 08:15 Archived in Taiwan Tagged temple house red taipei taiwan longshan ximen ximending Comments (0)

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