I wish I had come to Taipei sooner. I love high-energy cities and street food culture, so this destination was perfect for me. I went to Taiwan on Jan 16-23 with Josh and my friend Jimmy. Jimmy is from Taiwan and I cannot tell you how invaluable travelling with a local is.
We flew with Hong Kong Airlines. They were very hospitable. Josh and I ordered vegan meals for our flights because I’ve had terrible experiences being food poisoned with other airlines and decided no dairy and no meat was probably a very good option for myself. They were always checking in with our meals and making sure we received what we ordered. Just as a disclaimer – I love travelling but have a weak stomach, a terrible immune system and bugs do me in. Those things come into play into later on my trip but have nothing to do with the locale besides the fact if you’re like me, beware!
It was a very long flight to Hong Kong. We stopped in the HK Airport and enjoyed their massive food court. McDonalds had strawberry themed everything and there was free pour Asahi at another stall. If I wasn’t so jet lagged and somewhat traveller sick, I would have ate myself under the table at this airport. I’m in awe at how big this airport is.
We got on our connection flight to Taipei. The flight was only under two hours and we found ourselves in the simple Taiwan airport. Our Airbnb host Rory set up a transport for us so we went to our accommodations no problem. The private shuttle cost around $1000NT. (~$42.20 CAD).
We wandered the streets for a bit before we hit the sack. Everything was still open and lively, though we didn’t have much energy. People were friendly and the streets were packed. It amazes me coming from Vancouver with places open past 10pm that aren’t clubs. I was pleased to do some shopping and able to get some supplies at a Family Mart last minute in the middle of the night.
I’d have to say one thing kept us up – two drunk people fighting in our alley. I was able to sleep through it, but according to the boys the two kept fighting and starting the fight over. Our neighbours also put a nice little sign up to tell us BnBs are illegal and if we’re not quiet they’d call the cops – I suspect that the last guests were loud. The good part is we were explorers and eaters so that wouldn’t affect us.
The next day we woke up extra early. I searched on a google for a place that was open at 6am for breakfast. The only thing open were tiny breakfast places run by families, and honestly that is the best choice. We went to Family Mart first and got supplies like water, boxed tea and snacks for the road. I also picked up strawberry beer. Did you know you can drink this on the streets?
We went across the street and enjoyed breakfast. They had brown sugar steamed buns, noodles with eggs and congee with taro. Jimmy recommended the hot pumpkin soy milk.
The brown sugar steamed bun fresh is the best thing ever. Soft and light, it fills you up without being too dense and isn’t super sweet. It’s a very hearty, moist and a hint of the brown sugar. The noodles with eggs is also perfect as it’s not seasoned too much and is also light – the egg is also marinated with soy sauce, so it’s ultra delicious. The congee with taro is also just like eating oatmeal but with a semi-sweet root-like topping. I really enjoyed how nothing had meat – I was still feeling a little sick from the journey, so this dose of salt and light fare was great.
We went out to the temple. We picked up some Hakka mochi. It was dusted in peanuts and so good – they had red bean, matcha, taro, sesame and other fillings.
After we had visited the temple, Jimmy met up his mom. We went for a vegetarian meal. The appetizers were eggplant and beans, soup dumplings with goji berries and leafy greens (the other had pumpkin), sliced tofu, seaweed and some sort of root (don’t have the translation). I was telling my trainer I was worried for all the deep fried food I’d be eating before I left for my trip, but I forget how much vegetarian cuisine exists in Asian culture – after all, there is a big Buddhist population.
We walked around the neighbourhood after. As we were ordering bubble tea at Comebuy, we noticed a vendor across the street after a heart-attack inducing BANG! He pops about everything and he just popped some rice.
Our bubble tea was ready after admiring this man’s stall. Josh got a mix of sweet potato and taro bubbles. The sweet potato is SO good – it’s a thicker bubble that is surprisingly sweeter and heartier. You know what’s awesome? They have something like a Compass card there and you can use it to purchase food at stalls. We used it to purchase our bubble tea.
Also – I didn’t get to have many bakery products, but they are amazing.
I can say I sampled everything here. We headed to the Taipei Expo Park after. There was a beautiful little area (原⺠民⽣生活美學館) to sit and eat here as well. I saw a wedding photographer take engagement photos of a couple here and I can see why. Not only is this cafe area cute, but also the surrounding area has unique structures.
The above structure is made out of all recycled bottles.
We passed by the Fine Arts Park and visited a Hakka Gallery, and they were showing us Quinoa Beer and other products made from grains. I admired all the face tattoos the elder generation had. It’s sad because one of the few Hakka women had passed away according to a news report.
We walked to the Taipei Fine Arts Museum and enjoyed two structures made out of bamboo. It is an exhibit called ‘Sanctuary’. Wang Wen-Chihis the artist behind the display. He also creates sculptures in the mountains, according to Jimmy. His installations create a space for physical and psychological meditation. In the first bamboo hut, it was a nice little spot to rest and take off your shoes and gaze at the sky.
But…for the second bamboo structure – If you’re afraid of heights, I would not recommend this! I was shitting my pants and I’m not that scared. But the bamboo is very secure once you can get over crawling in the structure. The Arts Museum is also closed for renovation, so we were only able to enjoy these two structures.
We walked back to the Expo and saw a My Little Pony mascot. I cannot say how much anime / video game advertising is everywhere in this city – especially for Kingdom Hearts!
Went to Tamsui Old Street, by the river. They were just starting up their night market. It was a very peaceful area. They even had the stall where you can eat and have tiny fish eat your dead skin on your feet. We were a little sketched out by it only because there wasn’t as many fish. We enjoyed looking at the wares. The meat eater in me really wanted that deep fried squid, but my weak stomach told me no! There was also a bubble tea buffet, which I will always regret not having!
You can buy beer at the stalls and walk around and drink it. Josh even got a swirly straw!
We enjoyed the University area, which had some funny branding. We wanted to go to Fort St. Domingo because it’s a lovely castle, but we just missed it as it closed.
Can I get a hands up for how beautiful Taipei is?
Our final stop in Taipei was Formosa Chang, which is a restaurant the locals grew up with. Everything was cooked in lard. I only had half the bowl depicted and was so full. If you like some greasy home cooked food, this is the spot for you.
There was a night market right outside. I enjoyed some barley, sesame and yellow flower mix. Jimmy’s sister enjoyed sweet potato balls.
We were heading to Taichung the next day and I didn’t want to leave. I felt like there was so much in Taipei I wanted to see, so I wasn’t ready to leave. Alas, we went to sleep to get ready for the next day!