Tuesday 3 May
It’s been a long time since I took leave so I’m really excited for my next trip which begins with a visit to Taiwan. After catching the midnight flight I landed in Hong Kong before it was a quick dash to get to the next boarding gate for the transfer to Taiwan. Short 1hr flight and I’m there. Picked up a sim card opposite the tourist service center directly after you exit from customs and I’m all set. Grabbed the 705 UBUS (30NT) for the bus to the high speed rail (160NT) and after 2 stops I’m in Taipei City in less than half an hour.
I got to my hotel and then it’s time to explore. I took a walk around and came across some interesting bakeries. One of them I didn’t know what I ordered but I’ll find out later.
After that it was time for lunch so headed into the shopping mall and down to the basement where Din Tai Fung is located. They specialise in Taiwenese dumplings and there are several locations worldwide but you have to go to Taiwan for the real thing. This place is obviously popular with a 35 minutes wait time. You get given an order sheet and menu but a few items had sold out by the time I had my order taken.
The first set of dumplings, pork, are to be dipped into a ginger mixture with 1 part soy, 3 parts vinegar.
You then add it to the spoon, pierce the dumplings and allow the broth to ooze out before enjoying. Wow! What an amazing flavour. The dumpling is silky smooth in feel and texture, so light, yet it encompasses this delicious filling. Oh and the broth is so yum. Absolutely loved it!
I then was served pork and shrimp dumplings which were tasty too. Both are on the milder side in terms of flavour but the third dish was anything but.
Much larger pork and shrimp wantons with specialty house spicy sauce were swimming in a chilli sour sauce that carried a bit of bite but was just delicious and far from subtle. I’m also enjoying the Chinese tea which just helps it all go down and is refreshing as well as aiding digestion.
Time for dessert. I got the mini red bean which presented smooth red bean paste but it wasn’t too sweet allowing the red bean paste flavour to shine through. The restaurant is quite large and the service is impressive. They place a nice cloth over your bags so they don’t get any of your slurping on them. An excellent experience. You can also watch the chefs at work via the window.
Din Tai Fung Din Tai Fung (Shinkong Mitsukoshi) on TripAdvisor
Next it was off to do some shopping so I headed to Wufenpu Garment Wholesale Area – open daily 11:00 – 22:00.
Inexpensive quality clothing. Lots to see and managed to grab a few things. My hotel concierge said not many tourists go there. I guess if you’re fashion conscious you wouldn’t come here.
Wu Fen Pu (Wufenpu Garment Wholesale Area) on TripAdvisor
After this, I headed up the road to the Raohe Street Night Markets
It’s a long street to walk given the number of stalls present. Some sell food, others sell clothes and other things. There’s shops that line the streets too.
Came across some weird and interesting looking stuff.
Squid on a stick. Who would have thought?
Skewered meats and offal
Making the pepper sesame buns
The finished product
Had to get some stinky tofu. Stinky tofu finds you through that God awful smell, but it tastes quite interesting and different from just tofu, when deep fried. Rich but the pickled cabbage helps greatly. Another steal.
These grilled seafood in shells look interesting. It’s quite hot and I don’t seem to have much of an appetite so I’m downing fresh fruit juices instead.
After that, I took a sneak peak at Songshan Temple.
Headed back to the hotel for what had been a long day. Feeling peckish so tucked into the mystery item which is a very light flaky pastry encasing a pineapple mixture. Pretty tasty. Then I launched into the custard egg tart which was delicious.
Wednesday 4 May
Feeling hungry so time for breakfast which means a visit to FuHang Dou Jiang. Exit #5 from Shandao Temple MRT and join the query immediately on your right. I saw this place mentioned by a food blogger (http://hungryintaipei.blogspot.com.au/search/label/breakfast%2Fbrunch), opens 5:30am and expect long line / 30 minute wait – thick sesame flatbread, hot soy milk with fried bean curd.
Fu Hang Dou Jiang on TripAdvisor.
Yep, I got the soy milk with crunchy donut, the bing (egg pancake) and the sesame bun (I’ll save that for tomorrow).
The soy milk is interesting. It certainly doesn’t taste like soy nor is it milky. There’s a thick layer to break through and underneath is kind of like a broth. I like the crunchy deep fried savoury bean curd.
The bing is a thin and slightly chewy pancake encasing an omelette. It’s a little bland and could have done with some hot sauce but I think the locals scoffed the lot. It partners perfectly with the slightly rich soy milk.
I had to also have a taste of the sesame bun while it’s fresh. The sesame bun is like a Turkish flatbread, split open and filed with an omelette and more of that crunchy dough. Eating it all together makes for a tasty meal. Well worth the wait and that was only 118 NT.
Taipei Confucius Temple – Tuesdays to Sundays and national holidays from 8:30 to 21:00.
Free to enter, this is a peaceful place to wonder about and read the descriptions of all things Confucius. They also have short 15 minute movies to watch with 3D glasses.
Taipei Confucius Temple on TripaAdvisor
After that it was a quick taxi ride to National Revolutionary Martyrs’ Shrine. I managed to arrive before the hour where I got to see the changing of the guard (every hour).
There’s not too much to see here apart from having a walk around and seeing the shrine and pictures with descriptions. I’m not sure how those guards stand still for so long.
Daily 09:00 to 17:00, no fee, recommended time here ~ 1hr
Travel Taipei – National Revolutionary Martyrs’ Shrine
Taiwan Tourism – National Revolutionary Martyrs’ Shrine
National Revolutionary Martyrs’ Shrine on TripAdvisor
Time for lunch so it was time to head off to the financial district and get some beef noodle soup at Tao-Yuan-Street Beef Noodle Shop on TripAdvisor. This is a one of those must try Taiwanese meals so I made the trek especially to try it. It took me some time to find. The pictures on TripAdvisor had me at the right place but walk to the left of that and then down a side alley on your right and you’re there. I was taken upstairs as it was packed on the ground floor and pointed to the picture of the spicy beef noodle soup.
In a jiffy a big bowl of soup was presented. Really delicious broth full of flavour, really tender beef and lots of it, and slightly chewy egg noodles that were delicious. I was thirsty and hot but it’s kind of refreshing. Certainly not spicy, easily tolerable. Satisfied.
Tao-Yuan-Street Beef Noodle Shop – daily 10am – 9pm – No.15 Taoyuan Street, Zhongzheng District, Taipei, Taiwan
Next, it was back on the MRT to Shilin before taking a quick taxi ride to National Palace Museum. I also had plenty of time to sign up for the free English guided tour at 3pm. I had to cloak my backpack for a small fee which is refunded and unfortunately no photography is allowed.
The guided tour is supposed to be an hour but our tour went much longer and we got a detailed commentary on several sections of the impressive museum. The very last section was viewing a detailed 11m painting which took 5 painters and numerous time to complete, detailing a snapshot of life in China. It’s absolutely unbelievable. Each section you have to look closely to see everything that is happening. A lovely place to be indoors away from the sun and see an era of history.
National Palace Museum on TripAdvisor
After a quick a taxi ride, it’s back to Shilin before going one stop to Jiantan on the MRT to visit the Shiliin Night Markets. Taiwan has several night markets (~20) about so I’m going to one each night I’m here. The weather is quite hot so appetite levels are not as large as usual which is a real shame as I know I’m missing out on some delicious food.
This place is a sensory overload. More consisting of shops with food stalls on the outter and spotted about in the middle, it is packed full of people and managed to get some more shopping done. The picture above is like that through all the streets in this large sprawled out area.
It’s quite humid so I was glad to see a fruit juice stand selling a mixture of orange and lime juice. It’s just what I needed and was really refreshing.
After walking around for ages, I decided to pick up a few eats, the first being Taiwanese sausage. It’s soft, moist and a tad sweet. Not heavy, it disappeared off the stick in no time.
Saw a queue when I entered for fried chicken which the Taiwanese are mad for so I went to see what the fuss is about. It’s twice fried chicken cutlet, which can be cut into strips, covered with a honey and soy glaze, and then a sprinkling of some spice and chilli. Yes please! So tucked into the tender juicy succulent chicken. The glaze is subtle adding flavour but it’s not too sweet and the chilli is a must.
Really full and I’ve barely scratched the surface. Maybe I should skip lunch tomorrow so I can pack plenty in, like blow fired beef cubes.
Thursday 5 May
Pretty lazy day with a sleep in and then I polished off the sesame bun with deep fried dough and omelette which I bought yesterday.
I headed to Taipei 101, Taiwan’s tallest building. I wasn’t interested in going to the observation deck so I went to the attached mall instead. Problem is I’m too early as shops only open at 11am.
Had a good look around and then walked to the next mall. From this point on, it appears each mall is connected by overhead bridges traversing the busy roads. I believe this is Taiwan Tourism – Shinkong Mitsukoshi Mall (Xinyi Place). Lots to see being 4 separate malls and plenty of construction about opening more malls and office towers.
I purposely skipped lunch since breakfast kept me full but I needed something small and I came across a street vendor. Not sure what he was selling, something steamed, so I took the plunge. Vegetable filled dumplings thrown into a bag with soy sauce, vinegar, and hot sauce. Simple and yet delicious.
I went for more shopping and clearly have a problem now as there’s no spare room in the suitcase! Fortunately there’s a post office nearby and someone speaks English! A big box is now on it’s way home.
It’s now time for my final visit to a night market and I have an appetite so I’m glad. I’m off to the Huaxi Street Night Market which is a stone’s throw away from Longshan Temple.
It’s been raining for quite a lot of the day so I’m not sure if it’s quiet because of the rain or it’s normally like this, though it did get busier as the night wore on. The area is large and very spread out. Unlike the two prior night markets I’ve visited, this one is less defined as there’s a splattering of food stalls here and there, and then in other areas there’s a continuous clump.
There’s additional roads that run off here and the actual Huaxi market is in an arcade with lots of seafood restaurants and foot massage parlours.
I was pleased to see a few different stalls which I hadn’t seen previously, one being all things pig. I got some pig’s trotters which were so delicious and also some fish which was yum and I also was given a lovely bowl of broth.
I keep seeing these at each night market so I picked one up. They’re like a waffle encasing a filing. I got the red bean which is soft and smooth and barely sweet. All about the red bean. Yum.
Walked around heaps in pursuit of something more but I found this night market much more limited on its offerings. Some stalls are in English but for the most part you have to take the plunge.
Daily 16:00 – 24:00
Huaxi Street Night Market on TripAdvisor
Stopped by the basement of the department store on my way back for ice cream which was delicious and melting fast.
I stayed at Dandy Hotel which was really clean and comfortable with friendly and helpful staff. I like the location as it’s near a transfer MRT station which will get you around the city easily. Din Tai Fung, department stores, post office, bakeries, 7-11 and also banks (Bank of Taiwan good for changing FX even if small amounts). Breakfast was also included which I had on the last day. A few cereals, scrambled eggs, and bread are the typical Western dishes. The rest are what one would eat for lunch or dinner – vegetable dishes, chicken and mushroom, macaroni in a cheese sauce etc. More of an Asian slant but just a bit unusual eating that kind of food for breakfast. Tasty.
Dandy Hotel Tianjin Branch Taipei on TripAdvisor