Taiwan 臺灣

By isabelle

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We washed up a bit after checking into our airbnb. Then we went out for food. We were going to go to 阜杭豆漿 but saw no line in front of Din Tai Feng, so we went there. It was yummy and so much better than the one in Arcadia. Happy to finally have tried it after having walked by it so many times while growing up. It was good timing too because there was a line by the time we came out.

We got:
Crab rose and pork xiao long bao*
Shrimp shumai
Spicy vegetable and pork dumpling
Truffle and pork xiao long bao*
Steamed fish vegetable*
Vegetable and pork buns

*favorites

Star 9

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We got savory soy milk with egg, iced sweet soy milk, egg wrapped rice ball, egg pancake, and Taiwanese deep fried donut (鹹豆漿加蛋,冰甜豆漿,蛋夾飯糰,燒餅夾蛋,油條).

AMAZING. Super nice staff too.

Taste of childhood - Remembered that my mom used to get the pancake and rice balls for us. It is close by where we used to live, but as a kid I didn't realize how famous 永和豆漿大王 was.

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The other soy milk place I want to go to isn't open on Monday. By the time we finished all the errands, it was almost lunch time. We decided to eat at Yongkang Beef Noodle in the area. I got the lighter style (清燉) and J got the spicy one. So delicious and actually not so heavy! We also got two small side dishes and a steamed spareribs. We got lucky again because by the time we finished, there was a line and wait.

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We took the red line to go to Danshui. We strolled around Old Street and got various street snacks (潤餅, green onion pancake, chives dumplings). It felt intense walking through a traditional market - the majority of the vendors sell freshly-caught seafood, and there were a lot of people. Motorcycles also tried to squeeze through the already-narrow lane.

We walked along the golden coast and shared a grilled squid. On the way back we got some iron eggs and bought ginseng Oolong tea (loose leaves). It was a windy day, but nothing we aren't used to from SF.

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Shilin was on the way back. Since we still have a couple of hours before meeting Caleb, we decided to go around Shilin night market.

First stop, some hot tea right off the train station. I got a Tieguanyin tea latte (觀音拿鐵) and J got a ginger milk tea. Their menu includes many types of premium tea that I have only heard of but never tried. It's just amazing that boba stands provide such high quality tea everywhere in Taipei (not just sugary syrup added into one or two types of tea). I'm going to miss this for sure.

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The underground food court was new to me. It was kind of odd walking through it - it was as if one guy owned the whole court and all the different vendors. Everyone sold the same menu and felt very touristy. We didn't get anything and went back up to the street.

Upstairs, we got some fruits because I wanted to eat 蓮霧. J and I had some miscommunication so we both thought the other person wanted to try more fruits. We ended up getting way too much pineapples, mangoes, shijia 釋迦, and lianwu 蓮霧. Oh well. Good to eat some fruits since our diet has been mainly consisted of carbs and meat here.

We walked around the streets and learned to eat duck tongues. J also got a meat bun and are some 螺 (snails). I like this night market the best so far.

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The red line took us to Taipei 101. We were 30 minutes early so we walked around the ground floor of Taipei 101.

Caleb was aready waiting by the time we came out at 7pm. He took us to the Shanghainese restaurant. It was so good catching with Xinhui and Caleb's parents.

We had a lot of food but namely:
東坡肉 with buns
Seafood soup
Tofu stew
Drunken chicken

Everything was delicious and light. The 東坡肉 and drunken chicken were the best we have had.

Star 3

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Auntie Pang took us on a U-bike tour all around Taipei. We hit so many sights. It was fun seeing the city on a bike. The weather was awesome too - we were lucky (it was raining the day before and the day after).

Itinerary:
Starting at DaAn Park on Xinyi Road
Taipei 101
World Trade Center
Shopping district in Xinyi district
City hall
Sun yat sen memorial hall
Songshan Cultural and Creative Park

<<行程之一>>信義路往東走/朝101大樓的方向[大安森林公園~世貿展館~101大樓~信義商圈,近十家百貨公司~台北市政府~國父紀念館~松山菸廠文創區(下車逛一下園區)~<午餐>:頂好商圈/正宗港式”老友記”,還車之後午餐.

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Continued on with the bike tour after finding another bike station since the first kiosk didn't work.

Itinerary:
Chiang Kai-shek memorial hall
President hall
228 park
Taipei main station
National Taiwan University
Riverside park

<<行程之二>>午餐後,往信義路的西邊走[中正紀念堂~總統府~二二八公園~台北火車站~<再往東走>台灣大學~從水源園區進入河濱腳踏車步道.

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We drove to Yangmingshan National Park and started at 小油坑, where it's famous for the hot air coming out of ground and the vocalno part of the park. It was really windy. Auntie A-Feng and Wendy decided to stay in the car while J and I hiked to Qixing Peak.

There were a lot of stairs but with beautiful views. Our route was to get to the main peak, hike to east peak, then down to 夢幻湖/冷水坑. Auntie A-Feng and Wendy would meet us at 冷水坑. We ended up skipping 夢幻湖 due to time restraint. I loved the scenery and the hike.

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By the time we got down to 冷水坑, it was already close to 2! I couldn't believe that it took us about 3 hours. We did take quite a bit of stops for photos however. On average it should only take maybe 2 hours.

J and I wanted to go to 竹子湖 to eat the local vegetables (炒青菜), which was a tradition on every Sunday for my family while growing up. My parents, siblings and I would hike and then get lunch from local restaurants in the mountain.

Auntie A-Feng took us to one that she recently visited. We started with hot vermicelli soup. It immediately warmed us up from the cold wind. We ordered 3 vegetables dishes (only native to Yangmingshan), mountain chicken, stir-fried octopus and squid with basil, and mushrooms. We ended the meal with hot sweet potato soup (sweet and ginger-y). SO good!

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We had a free afternoon and no luck in coordinating to meet with mom's friend. J and I went to Guang Hua Digital Plaza to do some shopping. It's funny because most girls we saw there were accompanying their boyfriends or spouses... Not really looking around for themselves. J and I, two nerds, had a lot of fun looking at gadgets and getting new toys. Of course I got the Asian selfie stick that everyone uses here, and 3-in-1 combo lens for my phone.

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I turned around and asked J, "Where did we put Jessie's documents?" and I panicked when he froze. "It was still hidden behind the TV!" Luckily the Airbnb host was super responsive and we went straight back to the apartment to pick it up. So thankful that the documents were still there and we were able to get it in time. Ahh.

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Our first stop was Jiufen. I had some fond memories here when mom took me on a trip with her friends. I remember the beautiful fog that rolled into the mountain at dusk while we enjoyed traditional tea on a tatami. I had looked forward to visiting Jiufen again with J.

This time, Jiufen was packed with tourists from Hong Kong and China. We took a shuttle into the mountain and squeezed through the crowded and narrow alleys. Jason pointed out his recommended street food stands and took us to the tea house that we would later have tea at. We dropped off our luggage and went off to enjoy street food on our own.

Firs stop, Taiwanese meat ball soup (gong wan) - 貢丸湯. Then we went to have Ai-Yu 愛玉 (jelly drink with lemon/passion fruit), vermicelli, fish ball soup, and stuffed tofu. We then ate a Taiwanese crepe with peanut powder and ice cream, and finished off the eating with sweet bean soup with taro mochi 芋圓.

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The staff taught us to make tea with their loose tea leaves and tea sets. First we warmed the cups and the pots with hot water, poured the water out, and then made the tea. Each steep only took 20 seconds with a 5 second increment with each steep after. We had tea plums and tea cheesecake to go with the Oolong tea. Yummy.

All the tea sets were made by the owner. They are quite lovely. We didn't have time to browse around the gallery on the way out. If we had more time, I would have liked to check out the the handmade tea set collections.

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There was a concert hosted by the hotel on the roof top. We were given blankets as we entered. The singer sat by the bond fire and sang contemporary aboriginal tribal music. We sipped on the ginger tea while listening to the music, watching the fire flickering, and being embraced by the Mother Nature. There were just the river and high mountains next to us. It was REALLY nice.

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The chefs are retired teachers who want to promote their tribal culture and food. They grow everything they serve.

The mountains and vegetation looked wild around us.

One of the best dishes was the fish soup. It was cooked in the traditional A-Mei way. First you put raw fish filet into the hallow bamboo with water, then you put hot stones (which have been burning on the stove for the last 3-4 hours) into the bamboo. The fish soup boils and vegetables were added in. Not a lot of seasoning was required, and the soup was cooked with the minerals and infused with the bamboo. It was so good. We also had a lot of vegetables that I have never seen. The chef joked that since A-Mei tribe was known to grow and eat mainly vegetables (rather than a hunting tribe), when in a natural disaster, you will never be hungry if you follow an A-Mei.

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We visited Lugang temple, a traditional home, and the Folk Art Museum. It was interesting to see the architecture of an old home and different artifacts. Did you know that dragons have 7 sons? We saw an art piece explaining the characteristics of the dragon sons and where they usually appear in artifacts. (My favorite was the one who likes to eat and is seen on big pots.)

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We stopped by the old pedestrian mall to shop and try street foods. Jason recommended us the local beverage/snack - peanut powder, sugar, and flour dough are mixed with hot water and half mixed up. The texture is very doughy. We also tried local pastries - like 牛舌餅 (which literally mean beef tongue pastry - don't worry, the only resemblance to a beef tongue is the shape of it).

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Unfortunately, the sunrise hike to 合歡山 (he-huan mountain) was cancelled due to the heavy fog. J and I enjoyed the breakfast and walked around the hills a bit before the group gathered up and headed to the sheep farm.

We had some amazing sheep milk that left us wonder why sheep milk wasn't more widely seen in stores... (it turns out, most sheep farms are in wool business, not diary business, and you're likely to find more goat milk than sheep milk). It was fun to tour around the farm.

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We arrived at Sun Moon Lake just a little after lunch. Originally, we were scheduled to go on a short cruise around the lake, but due to the fog, the pier was closed temporarily. It opened up eventually, so we were able to cruise around the lake and see different sides. Sadly there was not much visibility so we couldn't see much.

We returned to our hotel, and had tea on the roof top. The view was gorgeous. It seemed that the colors of the lake and sky changed every minute.

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For the last day in Taipei, we visited the president hall, 228 park, Chiang Kai-Shek memorial hall (where J got interviewed by a few high school girls for a cultural/sociology project), had delicious beef noodles, and enjoyed hot spring in Villa 32. Then we bid farewells to our new friends and headed to the airport for Beijing.

So sad to leave, but I know we will be back soon enough.

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