I’m only around a month or so late, but I thought I would start posting about my travels to Taiwan and Thailand at the start of this year. I know it seems like all I ever do is travel. Trust me when I say I certainly wish this was the case! Instead here I am working all the time and slacking off at home when I should be doing more productive things.
Rather than write really in depth posts I’m just going to be focusing on the highlights. Hopefully it will be easy for you to read and easy for me to write up before my next big adventure! There will be links at the end of each day. Some of these places only have Chinese web pages or no web pages at all so I’ve linked to the English page that I find the most helpful.
Taipei Day 1
This was a super tragic day. We learnt last minute that one of our friends wouldn’t be able to make it to Taiwan due to a work emergency. We mourned him with fast food at Malaysia airport.
A short flight later, we landed in Taipei Taoyuan. It was easy to buy prepaid sim cards at the airport, and after a long wait at immigration but a super speedy car ride, we were settling down into our airbnb apartment. I was pretty happy to be staying close to Songjiang Nanjing station as it’s an area I’m pretty familiar with.
After picking up another friend who had arrived in Taipei a few days earlier we went off to dinner. Before we arrived my mum had recommended that we go to the Din Tai Fung located in the Shing Kong Mitsukoshi near Zhongshan station because it was new and less crowded than the other branches. Lo and behold, she was right. After a short 20 minute wait we were inside and ready to eat.
The Din Tai Fung in Taiwan has a bigger menu than the Australian one. The dumplings were a bit better than what we usually have in Melbourne. What I really appreciated were the Taiwan only dishes that I love such as the stir fired cabbage and fish dumplings. Service was also a lot better at the Taiwanese branch, although at times a little confused as different wait staff alternated between English and Chinese.
After dinner I went out on a bit of a journey to buy some egg tarts from a not so near KFC before settling in for some well deserved sleep.
Mitsukoshi (We went to Nanxi store number 1)
Taipei Day 2
Despite not having the best nights sleep I still managed to somehow wake up nice and early for a light breakfast. We thought that we would have a nice pleasant walk to the café which is located next to a near by park. However, the weather was ridiculously stuffy and humid so that walk was super short lived.
Fika Fika café is surprisingly spacious for Taipei standards. Like newer Melbourne cafes the décor was very much in line with the light and airy Scandinavian theme that has been popular recently. We shared a breakfast Panini and had some coffees. The brown sugar latte is one of their signature drinks and very different from anything that I’m used to having back home. It was sweet and almost caramelised. That being said, coffees from cafes and cake stores are incredibly expensive in Taipei! Just the latte cost over 5 dollars Australian which is practically unheard of in Melbourne.
After breakfast I wanted to walk around and do some shopping, but Taipei is a pretty late rising city so sadly nothing was actually open. I didn’t mind too much as it wasn’t too long before we were due to eat again! My grandma had very generously offered to treat us to lunch at one of my favourite Peking duck restaurants Long Du. We over ordered and there was an almost comical amount of food on the table. Sadly, everyone forgot to take their cameras so we have no photos of the duck and all the delicious dim sum tid bits.
A word of warning, if you want to go to Long Du, you need to book before hand in Chinese for a Peking Duck. If you can get a table, getting the congee made with the remainder of the duck bones and meat is a must!
I actually can’t recall what we did that afternoon. I think we all spent it in a food coma induced haze. Even though we were all still stuffed from lunch we still made an effort to go out and get dinner, because in my opinion Taipei is the land of good food and to skip a meal is just a down-right shame.
Taipei is pretty famous for its night markets full of good food and bargains. Raohe night market is one of the more manageable night markets for people who have never been before. This is because it’s mostly just one straight line that you walk down with the majority of food vendors in the middle. We shared some fried milk (weird I know), and ice cream wraps with coriander (weirder still, I know). It was my first time having both and they were delicious.
When you go to Raohe the most famous thing is the hot pepper buns. They are cooked in a tandoor like device and are all sorts of fragrant and juicy. Happily, the store is at the front of the night market and despite the long lines it is incredibly efficient and within 20 or so minutes you will be munching into flaky pastry, juicy beef and spring onions.
Taipei Day 3
Despite the recent American food trend that has gripped Melbourne, we have a real lack of American style pizza, and by American style pizza I mean Chicago deep dish pizza. The first time I saw deep dish pizza on a travel show I was immediately entranced by the pie like creation. So when I heard that Taipei had a deep dish pizza restaurant I knew we had to try it.
Luckily Big Boyz Pizza was not only located within walking distance, but also accepted reservations in English via facebook! It takes around 40 minutes to fully cook a single deep dish pizza, so if you don’t want to wait for too long it’s important to reserve a table and some pizza before hand. Despite how decadent the deep dish pizza looked it was also really satisfying to eat and everything tasted really fresh.
After lunch, it was time for another landmark: Taipei 101. When I last visited many years ago it was the tallest building in the world, but it has now been elapsed by a few other impressive sky scrapers in other parts of the world. At the bottom of Taipei 101 is a rather ritzy department store, but there wasn’t much there for us apart from the food courts so off we went to the observatory tower. The weather for the whole time that we were in Taipei was a bit dreary. It was either foggy or slightly rainy almost every day. Consequently, the view we had wasn’t really the best. Personally, I didn’t mind that much because I have an intense fear of heights, but I think my friends would have liked to see more than rolling expanses of fog!
The thing that really impressed me in Taipei 101 was the giant circular thing? In the middle that helps stabilise the building against wind and also earth quakes. Watching videos of it moving around to minimise shaking was really surreal and amazing.
From the top of Taipei 101 my friends had spotted Sun Yet San memorial hall and were keen to check it out. We opted for a bit of a walk instead of taking a train because there were a few transfers from 101 to the memorial hall.
We arrived just as the guards had finished changing, but we were content to just wander around the various exhibitions for a while. In no time at all, another hour had passed and the change of the guards was on again for the final time that day! We watched it from a bit of a distance and admired just how in sync they were!
Looking back, we packed a fair bit into this day. As it was getting dark we decided to head up to Elephant mountain, otherwise known as xiang shan to soak in the night scape of Taipei 101. None of us were prepared for what turned out to be a rather steep climb up to the viewing platform, as we had been told that it was an easy little jaunt. Nevertheless, the views were beautiful and well worth the walk.
I realise, we forgot to take photos of dinner! It was another Taiwanese speciality dish, spicy hot pot. I struggled a lot with ordering because everything was in Chinese and there were no pictures, but somehow we managed to have a pretty satisfying meal.
Stay tuned for more posts, which I will hopefully put out quickly!