Taipei (Day 3): Walkathon and Street Eats

March 3, 2016

We woke up this morning at 4:30am and by the time we got ready to go it was about 8:30am.  We decided we should try to take advantage of our jet lag and catch the sunrise from Elephant Mountain (which has good views of Taipei 101) at least once this trip.  So we’ll attempt to do that tomorrow! This whole waking up for the sunrise thing is a “Tim thing”.  Before him, I wouldn’t wake up to watch the sunrise and then when he visited me in Chicago on a work trip and made me wake up at 5:30am to watch the sunrise at “the bean” – which was actually pretty amazing! Anyways, the plan is to wake up early and hike up the mountain to watch the sunrise with Taipei 101 in the background. We’ll see if that happens tomorrow.

Ok back to today.  Tim was looking at CNN’s list of “40 Taiwanese foods we can’t live without” to see if there was anything close to our walking route for the day.  He wanted to try the recommended place for braised pork over rice (similar to what we ate on Day 2 at Formosa Chang).

We took the same route as we did yesterday, passing by the Airbnb apartment we’d be staying at when my sister and Noel arrive.  As we walked past the apartment, we stopped by a food stall (which looked like a husband and wife team) with a lady rolling out green onion pancake dough. Tim ordered one and we sat down to wait for it.  The husband gave us free warm soy milk while we waited – which was very nice of him (so far, everyone we’ve encountered in Taipei have been so friendly). We ate our green onion pancake and kept walking.

Lady making our green onion pancake
Lady making our green onion pancake
Green onion pancake and warm soy milk. 25 NT = $1 CAD
Green onion pancake and warm soy milk. (25 NT = $1 CAD)

I enjoy walking through all the small streets and alleys to see if there’s any restaurants or shops that look popular among locals (line ups are always a good sign!).

We came across this place in one of the alleys on our way to the Taiwan Democracy Memorial Park.  There were two old ladies making buns and Shaobing (燒餅) in a stand up oven (bin), sticking the dough to the sides of the bin similar to a tandoor.  There were several locals waiting there for the bread to finish so we stopped to give one a try; we ordered one with green onion in it.  As we were waiting for ours to finish cooking, the lady grabbed a wet mop and stuck it into the oven (to my horror).  I don’t know what she was doing with it as there was still buns in there! The mop looked pretty dirty.  Tim turned to me and was like, did you get a picture of that? I said no.  I guess I was a bit horrified at what was going on.  Two minutes later, she pulled our hot bun out of the oven and we continued our journey as we munched on it. I hope we don’t get sick tomorrow.  Whatever doesn’t kill you makes you stronger, right?

The "tandoor"
The “tandoor”
This was after she mopped the buns. The red stick in the background was the mop.
This was after she mopped the buns. The red stick in the background was the mop.
Tim with the piping hot green onion bun
Tim with the piping hot green onion bun (20 NT = $0.80 CAD)

We made it to the Taiwan Democracy Memorial Park, which I thought was pretty impressive. It was only about 10am when we got there so it wasn’t that crowded, just a few groups of Japanese school girls around.  We stood in the middle of the square taking pictures and selfies like everyone else under the beating sun.  It was only 10am and the sun felt a lot stronger than yesterday.  For some reason Disney has a Frozen exhibit in the middle of the square right in front of the actual Chiang Kai-Shek Memorial Hall.  It’s been there since Christmas and is there until mid-April.  It’s too bad that it’s set up right in the middle of everything, it’s a bit of an eye sore when taking pictures and each time we walked past it, we heard “Let it go” blaring inside.

Our first selfie stick picture
Our first selfie stick picture
Tim in front of the CKS Memorial Hall
Tim in front of the CKS Memorial Hall
See the Frozen exhibit?
See the Frozen exhibit?

We basically just went to the Chiang Kai-Shek Memorial Hall today on the way to eat braised pork on rice.  Tim doesn’t cook much Taiwanese food at home, but when he does, it’s usually this dish.  He’s made a few batches and they’ve all been really good (fatty but good).  We found the place, Jin Feng Minced Pork Rice , mostly due to the large amounts of people surrounding it.  We found an empty table in the back of the restaurant, sat down and stared at the order form for a bit.  Tim can speak Taiwanese and Mandarin but can’t read and I’m… useless.  Luckily Tim recognized some of the characters and we ordered one large rice to share (large in Asia is half of a side order in America).  It was good, the fat made the rice taste velvety (those were Tim’s words). (Tim: But they have mushrooms in their sauce, which I’m not a big fan of.)

Outside of the restaurant
Outside Jin Feng
Inside the restaurant. The view from the back (VIP seats)
Inside the restaurant. The view from the back (VIP seats)
Our braised pork on rice (50 NT = $2 CAD) with our order form
Our braised pork on rice with two slices of pickled daikon (50 NT = $2 CAD) and our order form

At this point, the sun was feeling a lot hotter and I kept thinking about drinking bubble tea or having shaved ice.  I actually was craving a slurpee from 7-Eleven multiple times during our walk.  But there are no slurpees at 7-Eleven in Taiwan! (I know, I sound like an ignorant foreigner)

Finally, we made it to Ximending.  This area according to Tim is a trendy area and popular with “young people” – which makes us sound super old when we refer to others as “young people”.  I guess we’re not that young anymore.

Tim in Ximending
Tim in Ximending

This area is full of food vendors, chain restaurants, branded shops and nightmarket-esque stalls.  I enjoyed walking up and down the busy and flashy streets.  There were multiple bubble tea shops on each street, which made me really happy. We saw there was a “Hot Star Chicken”, which is a Taiwanese chain specializing in deep fried chicken cutlets, and this location also served bubble tea.  We ordered a passion fruit drink with aloe and coconut jelly (95 NT = $3.80 CAD, Tim got up sold on adding aloe AND coconut jelly) then walked around Ximending before deciding we wanted to try the chicken.  When we ordered the chicken, the guy gave us a coupon for 5 NT off our drink purchase. (Tim: We should have bought the chicken before we got a drink). We then looked at the sign and it said “Buy meals get drinks with discount.”  Apparently we can’t read English either.

Tim and the large chicken cutlet (70 NT = $2.80 CAD)
Tim and the large chicken cutlet (70 NT = $2.80 CAD).  It was super moist and delicious!

At this point, we were both pretty exhausted from the sun and walking (we’re weak sauce).  We decided to take the MRT back to the apartment and rest.  We had plans to hike up Elephant Mountain this afternoon that’s not happening.

At about 6:30pm, we were still feeling sleepy and knew that we had to get out of the apartment or else we’d both fall asleep and probably end up waking up at 3am.  We got changed and went out to the closest nightmarket to us, Tonghua/Linjiang Nightmarket, which was about a 5 minute walk.

Tonghua Nightmarket
Tonghua Nightmarket

The Tonghua Nightmarket has a good mixture of clothing and food vendors.  We started off by having an oyster omelet.  It was my first time having it.  The flavours were all really good, but I wasn’t too crazy about the chewy starch part.

Oyster omelet (55 NT = $2.25 CAD)

Oyster omelet (55 NT = $2.25 CAD)

The next item on the menu was a deep fried green onion pancake with an egg.  This was actually really good, especially when you got to the yolk part.

Frying the pancake and egg
Frying the pancake and egg. The two sauces were spread before being served.  They were really tasty!
That yolk...
The best bite. (40 NT = $1.63 CAD)

For dessert, I ordered a “UFO disc” with creme brûlée custard inside. This was like eating a warm egg tart.

UFO dessert stuffed with creme brulee custard (12 NT = $0.48 CAD)
UFO dessert stuffed with creme brulee custard (12 NT = $0.48 CAD)

Tim’s choice for dessert was “Masa’s delicious spring roll” which was made up of cilantro (yeah, it was weird), ground up peanut brittle, 3 scoops of ice cream (pineapple, taro and red bean) wrapped up like a spring roll.  I was the first to take a bite, it was interesting.  I think the cilantro threw me off as I was expecting something savoury but just tasted ice cream.  I can see how it could be refreshing on a hot summer day.  Tim really enjoyed it!

"Masa Delicious Spring Roll" (40 NT = $1.63)
“Masa Delicious Spring Roll” (40 NT = $1.63)

Now we’re back at the apartment washed up and ready for bed, at 8:30pm… stupid jet lag.

Steps for the day: 24,800

Taipei (Day 2): Let’s eat!

March 2, 2016

After our day of travel, we woke up at 6:30am, feeling refreshed and excited to explore! The first thing that came to our minds was, Taiwanese breakfast.  We’re staying around the Daan and Xinye Anhe MRT stations so we decided to pick something close by.  I googled “The best Taiwanese breakfast in Taipei” (I know, my google skills are top notch).

永和豆漿大王 (English translation is “King of Soy Milk”) came up as one of the top picks that was only about a 10 minute walk from us.  We left the apartment around 8am, and made our way to the breakfast place.  From the looks of it and the amount of locals inside, it looked promising.

Restaurant store front 永和豆漿大王
Restaurant store front 永和豆漿大王
Pancake with egg, Rice roll with pork floss, pickled veg with Chinese doughnut Soy millk and Chinese doughnut
Pancake with egg,
Rice roll with pork floss, pickled veg with Chinese doughnut
Cold soy milk and Chinese doughnut (This was all 95 NT = $3.86 CAD)

















Everything hit the spot.  The Chinese doughnut was super light and just out of the fryer which made it super delicious.  I can see us going here multiple times during our time in Taipei. I have to keep telling myself that we’re here for a while, so we don’t have to eat everything in the next two days.

After breakfast we went to Daan Park (Taipei’s “Central Park”) and walked around and checked out the children’s playground area.  My sister, brother-in-law, and nephew (20 months) will be visiting us in Taiwan in two weeks so I wanted to check out to see if it was “Nate friendly”, and it was!

Entrance of Daan Park

Look Natey! You can play here :)
Look Natey! You can play here. There’s a huge sand pit too!

I always love to visit parks in the middle of the city, to escape the hustle and bustle.  Although Taipei is a pretty laid back city, there wasn’t that much crazy hustle and bustle to get away from, but it’s always nice to have that option. Tim and I said we could go running around the park together, we’ll see if that actually happens…

We continued our walk to Taipei 101.  Last time I was in Taipei, we went at night so we didn’t really get any good views or were able to go inside. When we got to Taipei 101, they had just opened the doors to the mall at 11:00am, it was like we were waiting for it to open like the several groups of Chinese tourists.  The mall is filled with multiple floors of luxury brands and free wifi!

Din Tai Fung also has a location at Taipei 101, so we decided to just go and have some xiao long baos.  We know we’d go again (likely to the original location) with my sister and Noel.  We didn’t have to wait for a table, which was good but when we left the line ups looked outrageous (Tim: Actually, the sign said 5 minute wait).

We ended up ordering 10 XLBs (200 NT), Green beans with minced pork (110 NT), and Beef Noodle (230 NT) = 540 NT + 10% Service Charge = 594 NT = $24 CAD (Tim: Current “priciest meal” champ). Everything was good and the service was excellent – my tea cup was never empty.

Din Tai Fung Xiao Long Baos
Din Tai Fung Xiao Long Baos
Gotta take pictures of the food!
Gotta take pictures of the food!

After our early lunch we walked around to the neighbouring malls and checked out Eslite 24 hour bookstore (8 levels) which was also filled with so many cool boutiques and restaurants within the store.  If this wasn’t a backpacking trip for us, I would probably buy a lot from here.

On our way back to the apartment, we passed by the Dr. Sun Yat-sen Memorial Hall and decided to check it out.  It was filled with Chinese tourists – which was reminiscent of some of the temples we saw in Bangkok with all the tour groups being dumped there at once. Inside, they had the changing of guards in front of a huge statue of Dr. Sun Yat-sen.

Dr. Sun Yet Sun Memorial Hall
Dr. Sun Yat-sen Memorial Hall
Inside the memorial hall
Inside the memorial hall

At this point in the afternoon, it was about 25 degrees celsius and we were both wearing t-shirts and jeans.  With the sun beating down on us, we were warm (Tim was obvs sweating)! It was funny because we passed by so many people wearing parkas, wool jackets and 80% of people had scarves (it is winter I guess..). Even when we got back to the apartment, a lady talking to the doorman looked at us and said “they hardly have any clothes on, it makes me feel like I’m wearing too much” (this was Tim’s English translation for me). Maybe we’ll start to acclimate soon.

It was nice to relax in the afternoon – I started this blog and Tim caught up on the Walking Dead.  We started to get a bit sleepy but we had to get ready for dinner with Uncle Albert.

Uncle Albert picked us up at around 6pm and we headed to the Ningxia Nightmarket for dinner.  I was pretty excited for this because last time we were here, I was only able to eat one thing (stinky tofu) at the Shilin Nightmarket because we had a huge dinner beforehand.  We ended up starting off at a Taiwanese chain restaurant called “Formosa Chang” for their stewed pork on rice and a couple of other sides. We ventured back out to the stalls and Uncle Albert ordered us a bunch of things to share – BBQ steak bites, bacon wrapped chives and a shrimp paste patty wrapped in a spring roll but presented like a pancake. We also ordered a chicken thigh that was fried, grilled and glazed (delish!) and I got my favourite ai-yu jelly drink.

Ningxia Nightmarket is located right outside an elementary school
Ningxia Nightmarket – which is basically right outside an elementary school.  This nightmarket was a lot more local feeling than what I remembered Shilin was like.
Formosa Chang – stewed pork on rice 30 NT ($1.20)
at Formosa Chang
at Formosa Chang
Fried glazed chicken thigh stand
Fried glazed chicken thigh stand (70 NT = $2.80)
It was sliced and put in a bag
It was sliced and put in a bag. It was piping hot and delicious!
The ai-yu lady with her coins on top of her cart
The Ai-yu lady with her coins on top of her cart
Ai-yu jelly drink 35 NT ($3.40 CAD)
Ai-yu jelly drink 35 NT ($1.40 CAD).  It’s a lemony flavoured drink with jelly and tapioca in it.

After our non-stop eating, Tim and I were fading.  It was 8pm and we both fell asleep in the car ride back.  We washed up and Tim tried to finish watching the end of Survivor and we fell asleep at 9pm.

I got woken up by a phone call and couldn’t go back to sleep – it was 4:30am.  I started to write this blog post and catch up on what happened on the Bachelor on Monday (I knew Ben didn’t love Caila… poor girl)

To offset everything we ate, we walked 24,761 steps yesterday. Yay!


YVR>SFO>TPE (Day 1): In Transit

February 29 & March 1, 2016

The day has finally arrived! After talking about this trip for a few months now, it is finally happening!  The last two weeks since being off work were quite hectic/stressful; moving out of our apartment and trying to prepare  for our trip.  We spent our last few nights in my parent’s basement – which is where we stored everything (thanks Mom & Dad!).  We woke up early this morning (mostly due to nerves) to last minute pack and have breakfast with my parents.  They drove us to the airport and we said our goodbyes. My Mom always makes me tear up when she says goodbye at the airport.

Travel days are always the most tiring, especially when your flight isn’t a direct one.  As we were flying on Aeroplan points, our only option to get to Taipei was to fly through San Francisco.  This increased our travel time by a few hours – both layover time and overall flight time.

We left YVR at 12:40pm and had about a 1.5 hour layover at SFO. This was enough time to get a bowl of Boudin’s clam chowder (my childhood fave when we visited our SF relatives) and check out the EVA Air lounge. Since we got to the lounge with only about 10 minutes until boarding, there wasn’t much (rather any) food left. We grabbed a pineapple juice and a bag of chips and went to our gate.

It was my first time flying EVA (Tim doesn’t remember if he did as a kid). I had no complaints, the flight attendants were attentive and friendly. They were, however, a bit stingy with the amount of juice they poured into your cup (they barely filled half). But I did appreciate that they had more “exotic” choices like guava juice and Calpis.   The food on the flight was comparable to Cathay’s. I had the fish on rice and Tim had the western option of roasted chicken and potatoes. I think mine was better as Tim didn’t finish his.  (I was right, Tim confirmed it was just “okay”)

The inflight entertainment movie selection was good – it had a lot of the Oscar nominated movies like, Brooklyn, Carol, The Big Short; and it even had Star Wars, The Force Wakens! I watched The Big Short, but fell asleep before it ended (a typical Kaitlyn move). We both ended up sleeping close to 8 hours which made the flight seem a lot shorter. I woke up as we were flying over Japan with only a couple hours left to go.

We arrived at Taoyuan Airport in Taipei at around 9:45pm. The customs line up for non-citizens was pretty long. We waited about 20 minutes but it didn’t seem so bad because there’s free wifi at the airport (I don’t take free wifi for granted at airports)! While waiting in the customs line, I thought the guy in front of us smelled (like a homeless type of smell), but after further investigation I discovered it was me. It was my Band-Aid I put on in the morning that was damp from washing my hands throughout the day…so gross.

By the time we got through customs our bags were already out. Tim’s Uncle Albert was waiting for us as we walked out. He drove us into the city and brought us to the apartment that we are staying at. Last time we were here in 2013, there was no wifi, so we were happy to discover that they now have wifi! (yay!) It’s around 1:30am right now and both of us are wide awake. Tim hooked us his chrome cast to the TV and was scrolling through Taiwanese Netflix, he was pretty pumped that they have “Better Call Saul”, which we don’t have apparently.

Looking forward to taking it easy tomorrow and exploring our surroundings in Taipei.

My bags (Pacsafe Venturesafe 65L and MEC day pack) on the left and Tim's on the right (MEC 40L Fast-Track Duffle and day pack)
My bags (Pacsafe Venturesafe 65L and MEC day pack) on the left and Tim’s on the right (MEC 40L Fast-Track Duffle and MEC day pack)
Us at YVR, facing the sun. Which is why my eyes are closed
Us at YVR, facing the sun. Which is why our eyes are closed, making this picture even more unflattering.
EVA Air's lounge at SFO, a bit ghetto looking compared to other airlines
EVA Air’s lounge at SFO, a bit older looking compared to other airlines