Our three nights in Taipei went by really quickly. We were flying out later in the afternoon and going to Singapore. We woke up pretty late and took our time packing up. Mom went to get us breakfast and made us some milk tea (which was really yummy). She had to go out for lunch with some old friends, so Tim and I were on our own.
Before we knew it, it was already 1pm! Originally we thought we’d go for beef noodle, but the places we had in mind weren’t that close to the apartment. We decided to go back to Tonghua Street to go for a quick lunch at Formosa Chang’s and grab bubble tea for later. We headed out without checking the weather, a jacket, or an umbrella (Tim: foreshadowing). While we were walking we felt a couple of heavy rain drops and knew it was going to be a huge down pour. We quickly got undercover and into Formosa Chang’s for lunch.
We walked really quickly back to the apartment to try to stay as dry as possible. Luckily we were both wearing clothes that would dry quickly since everything else was packed. We got back to the apartment and did the final pack up and waited for Mom to get back from lunch before heading down to meet Uncle Albert.
As mentioned in my last post, I’m a sentimental person so it was sad leaving Taipei. It has become the closest place we had to a home this trip. We have had a lot of good memories here with family and friends, so when we said bye, I obviously cried (but tried to hide it as best as possible…). Tim is touched that I showed so much emotion to his Motherland.
The drive out to Taoyuan Airport is around an hour from the city. It’s extremely kind of Uncle Albert to drive us back and forth from the airport so many times this trip. They are building an airport train line out from Taipei Main Station to the airport, but it’s completion has been delayed quite a bit. Hopefully the next time we visit it will be done.
We were flying Singapore Airlines (both for the first time) and we left out of Terminal 2 of the International Terminal. This was the first time we have been to this terminal and it’s really nice. They had a good selection of luxury brands, Taiwanese souvenirs, and duty free shops. Comparing the prices of Longchamps back at Taoyuan and Incheon, they are about the same. If the USD was stronger (like it was a few months back), than Taoyuan would be cheaper since their prices are in NT.
I was looking forward to flying with Singapore Airlines since I’ve always heard good things about it and it’s consistently ranked one of the best airlines in the world. After my first flight with them, I would have to agree, it’s probably the best airline I’ve flown. The flight attendants were all very friendly (and pretty), they gave you a hot towel when you sat down to wipe your hands/face (and we were in economy), they came around with drinks (great drink selection) more than 5 times on a 4 hour flight and their meals were good (you get Haagen Daaz ice cream).
The movie selection was also great – they had over 150 movies (those are just the Hollywood movies) to watch, including some really recent releases. I ended up watching “The Intern” with Anne Hathaway and Robert De Niro (I liked it!), 3 episodes of the “New Girl”, and Anthony Bourdain in Tanzania. There was no turbulence on this flight so it was more enjoyable than the flight a few days ago.
We finally landed at Singapore’s Changi Airport after what felt like a long flight. It was 10:20pm when we landed, we went through customs and headed for the SMRT to get us into the city. We packed an overnight day pack so we didn’t have to pick up our backpacks (they’re going straight to Melbourne) (Tim: fingers crossed).
We booked a hotel near the Chinatown SMRT stop through Expedia. It was $139 CAD a night and is in a relatively good location – about an 8 minute walk to a couple of the hawker food markets I wanted to go to. After a couple of transfers, it took us about 35 minutes to get to our hotel. We arrived at our hotel just before midnight. We checked in, washed up and relaxed. The hotel room is quite nice – clean, rainfall shower head, and a large bed.
Tomorrow we’ll have until about 7pm until we have to go back to Changi for our flight to Melbourne at 9:30pm.
This morning, we were woken up by Tim’s Taiwan cell phone ringing in the other room at 8:30am. It felt good not to have any set plans until later in the day. Taipei is 15 hours ahead of Vancouver, so when woke up, it was perfect timing to FaceTime with my family who were at Uncle Barry’s for Easter dinner.
It was nice to see everyone together and it felt like we were there too! They had finished eating dinner, but I saw all the plates of turkey leftovers and it made me really want a home cooked turkey dinner. We will have to have a turkey dinner in the summer when we’re back. There is a Canadian restaurant (Whalen’s) down the street from us that has a turkey dinner on their menu, but it’s quite expensive, so we’ll just wait.
We decided to go for breakfast and have a nice walk since it was sunny out today. It was about 20 degrees with a warm breeze (pretty ideal weather). We headed back to King Soy Milk and had the same meal we had the very first morning we were in Taipei. We shared a sao bing with egg, rice roll and a cold soy milk for 85 NT = $3.45 CAD.
After breakfast we decided to walk towards Taipei 101 and watch the movie, “Batman v Superman”. There is a movie theatre in the mall right beside Taipei 101, called Vieshow Cinemas. The walk to Taipei 101 took about 20 minutes. The weather was very pleasant so it was good to walk off those carbs we just had for breakfast. When we got to the theatre, we saw that Batman V. Superman was playing pretty much every half an hour (they have a lot of theatres). At the ticket counter, they asked if we wanted popcorn and drinks. The cashier said that if we bought the package with the tickets it was cheaper. He told us the price and for some reason we had miscalculated the conversion in our heads and thought that for two tickets and a popcorn combo (two drinks and a popcorn) was $20 CAD, but after we paid we realized we divided it wrong and it was actually $37 CAD! Each ticket was 270 NT = $11 CAD and the combo was 369 NT = $15 CAD. It wasn’t outrageous, it was North American prices.
When we first went into the theatre, we sat there and thought we should’ve double checked that the movie was in English and subtitled in Chinese (i.e. not dubbed). Tim spoke Mandarin to the cashier so he never would have told us if it wasn’t in English (Tim: that’s a pretty big compliment to the quality of my Mandarin I guess). We had only thought about this after since a Canadian family behind us were told that the Zootopia time they wanted was dubbed and was in Mandarin. As soon as the movie started, we were relieved to hear English (Tim: Ben Affleck’s sweet voice) and see subtitles in Chinese (phew!).
The movie wasn’t the best, that’s all I’ll say. When we left the theatre at around 4pm, there was a huge ticket line up wrapped around the entrance, so we’re glad we decided to watch an earlier movie.
We headed back to the apartment and walked down Tonghua St. to look for something quick to eat for a very late lunch. Tim found some oyster vermicelli (soup) and decided to have that. I just had a few spoonfuls since I was still full from my healthy lunch of pop and popcorn from the movies.
Our bubble tea for the day was from Ten Ren, a Taiwanese store known for their tea. We had passed by so many locations but hadn’t tried it yet. We ordered pearl milk tea and it was 50 NT = $2 CAD.
We headed back to the apartment and rested for about two hours before dinner, which was at 7pm. Dinner tonight was with Tim’s relatives (Tim’s Dad’s cousin’s family) who I had met during our 2013 trip.
After a big dinner, we met Austin at the Raohe Night Market to walk around. It was Austin’s last night in Taipei before heading off to Hong Kong so it was great we got to see him again on his Asia trip. Raohe Night Market is located north of where we are staying but very close to the airport in the city, Songshan. It’s one of the more popular night market’s in Taipei after Shilin.
It was a great night being able to spend time with Tim’s family in Taipei and seeing Austin while. Obviously family is very important to both myself and Tim and we know we are very lucky to have such amazing people in our lives – we don’t take any of it for granted.
Tomorrow is our last full day in Taipei before our Korea and Japan portion of our trip. We’re planning on meeting another one of Tim’s second cousins for dinner and use the rest of the day to pack and prepare.
This morning started much like yesterday – early in the morning except this time I went back to bed after initially waking up at 6am. Everyone got ready to leave the apartment around 10:30am. Today’s weather was a bit better than yesterday’s – it was still overcast but at least it wasn’t really raining and if it was raining it was just a fine mist.
We decided to go to the Chiang Kai-Shek Memorial Hall – ticking off another Taipei attraction off the list for our visitors. Once we arrived, Nate immediately wanted to walk around the square himself. He was much happier today than yesterday. To be fair, I wasn’t too happy yesterday at the museum either so I understand his frustrations (Tim: always good to compare the state of your mood with a 1.5 year old). We took our time and walked around and up the stairs to the CKS statue. The Frozen exhibit was still set up and will run until April – it’s unfortunate that the exhibit is there as it’s a bit of an eye sore.
After we took our pictures, we headed towards Yong Kang Street in search of lunch. This street is about a 8-10 minute walk from the CKS Memorial. As we went up the street, we decided to try beef noodles at 品山西刀削麵之家 (Taiwan Yi Pin Ramen and Sliced Noodle) that was on CNN’s list of best Taiwan beef noodles and has won a bunch of beef noodle awards (which most restaurants have as well). This beef noodle specializes in their tomato beef broth, which is unique, but I prefer the beef noodles from Lin Dong Fang. We’ll have to take them there another day.
We also stopped to get another Taiyaki snack to share and a bubble tea to go. We’re averaging one and half a bubble tea per day.
We made our way back to the apartment so Nate and Noel (think he caught something) could rest this afternoon. My sister and I headed back out to buy groceries at Jason’s (a Singaporean based grocery store). They had a good selection of local and international items. We mainly picked up groceries for Nate’s lunches and dinners.
After Nate went down for the night, my sister, Tim, and I went to a restaurant close by, called Ya Meile. It was a place we got take out from yesterday for Noel. The lady recognized us and was probably wondering why Tim was always bringing his non-Taiwanese friends (as she called us) to this place. We ordered 2 bowls of meat sauce dried noodles, pot-stickers, pan-fried dumplings, boiled dumplings, green onion pancake with egg inside, and a congee (for Noel). All this food came out to $10 CAD.
After dinner we went to 50 Lan to grab some bubble tea to bring back to the apartment. We spent the rest of the night watching Netflix and relaxing.
We’re planning on going to the Taipei Zoo tomorrow since the weather is supposed to be sunny – we haven’t seen sun in Taiwan for over a week!
It was another early morning as my sister, Noel, and Nate arrived in Taipei this morning at 5:30am from Vancouver. Tim and I set our alarms and waited for their arrival. They got to the apartment with Uncle Albert around 7am. They dropped off their bags and we headed straight to our favourite breakfast place – Yong He Soy Milk King! We were excited to share our love for this place with our Vancouver visitors.
After breakfast we went back to the apartment and the travellers took a nap before we headed out for the day. Since the weather today is a bit cold (around 15 degrees) and gloomy, we decided to go to Taipei 101 to check out the mall and eat at Din Tai Fung. But before we went to Taipei 101, we went to Daan Park to stop by the children’s playground for Nate to play. He seemed a bit scared about where he was so we wanted to bring him to the park to cheer him up; it worked!
Once we got to Taipei 101, we could see the hoards of people waiting in front of Din Tai Fung. The wait was around 50 minutes (this was at 1pm). The wait actually went quicker than we thought it would be and we only had to wait about 30 minutes. Since we told them we needed a high chair, when we got to table they had the high chair set up with a Din Tai Fung plastic dish set (how nice). The dish set was really cute and we asked if they were for sale. Our waitress said they are but they are all sold out at the moment – the set (bowl, plate, utensils, cup) is 350 NT ($14 CAD). So now we’re on the hunt for these.
With my sister and Noel here, we were able to try a variety of dishes. We were also really hungry when we ordered since we hadn’t eaten since 7am. Nate was polishing off the noodles and loving the food. It actually slipped my mind to take pictures of a few of the dishes because I was too hungry to think about it. The dish I really enjoyed that isn’t pictured is the DTF house special appetizer dish. It’s a cold dish of sliced bean curd, (organic) bean sprouts, julienned seaweed tossed in a slightly spicy sesame sauce. (This dish was 70 NT = $2.80 CAD)
After lunch we walked around to the neighbouring malls and ended up at the 24 hour Eslite Bookstore (Xinyi location). We started on the top floor and worked our way down. Nate walked around the children’s floor and enjoyed looking around and touching everything. He even made some Taiwanese friends in the book department.
It was fun to watch Nate interact and observe other kids and their parents in the bookstore. A Dad was reading his son a book in Mandarin and Nate sat really close and kept inching closer hoping to listen. As he inched closer and closer you can tell from the look on his face that he didn’t understand anything that was being said. Pretty sure Nate knows he’s in a foreign land.
Eslite has floors of books as well as boutique shops within the bookstore – we took our time going through each floor since Nate fell asleep in his stroller.
After spending an hour or so at Eslite we made our way back to the apartment area (we decided to just walk there instead of taking the MRT two stops). We stopped by a 7-Eleven for pudding (to eat later) and bubble tea from “50 Lan”. We’ve seen this bubble tea place everywhere and have been meaning to try it out (there’s one located just down the street from our Airbnb). We ordered pearl milk tea with mini pearls – the tea was good, but I think I still like the bigger pearls (or a mix of both like the Panda bubble tea in Taitung).
After we got our bubble tea, we headed to MOS Burger for dinner. We decided to have a low key/casual dinner because everyone was getting tired. My sister and Noel were doing well staying awake considering they’ve been up for over 24 hours with minimal amount of sleep on the plane. MOS Burger is a Japanese fast food restaurant with multiple branches in Taiwan. I was waiting for them to come so I could try it out. We decided to just eat in since Nate was still sound asleep. I ordered the shrimp patty burger and Tim ordered an “Australian Wagyu Beef” burger. He ordered one combo which came with a drink and a side of chicken nuggets (default option instead of just fries). My sister and Noel tried their more famous burgers – ones that use rice instead of buns. I had a bite of my sister’s sukiyaki burger and it pretty much tasted like you were eating a donburi (rice bowl) in your hands.
After an eventful afternoon/early evening, we headed back to the apartment. Everyone washed up and now are fast asleep. Tim and I are still awake working on our blog posts. We expect them to wake up really early like how we did during our first week here.
I hope tomorrow will be a good day after they get their much needed rest. Even though we are far from being locals, the fact that they came to visit us here, I feel like we’re responsible for getting them to like Taipei and enjoy it as much as we have. I hope the weather improves – we were blessed with such great weather our first week here but now it’s so cold.
Traveling around the city with a 20 month old is challenging and also enlightening to see how child friendly Taipei is. I noticed that it was really easy to get around with a stroller – especially in the MRT stations, which is something not to be taken for granted (ahem, NYC subways). Also, in each MRT station they have super clean bathrooms and “breastfeeding rooms” (which are also family rooms used to change diapers).
I’m really happy my sister, Noel, and Nate are here to visit us. I just hope that (even travelling with a toddler), they will be able to experience as much as we have so far during their time in Taipei.
Our steps for today are: 18,000 steps (I was surprised we walked so much with Nate – it was mostly because we walked back from Taipei 101 instead of taking the MRT).
Today was our first full day in Taitung. The weather didn’t really improve much from yesterday, it was still overcast with no sun in sight (Tim’s going to say, “stop complaining about it being overcast!”). The reason why I wished the sun would come out is because I know that Taitung would be amazingly beautiful with the lush green mountains and ocean on either side of the city. But with an overcast sky, the city wasn’t able to really shine through. I suppose I had high hopes for Taitung because it is Tim’s favourite Taiwanese city. I wanted to love it here like he did, but I didn’t. I would like to come back when the weather is nicer (which is usually 90% of the time), to experience the city the way it should be.
We started off our day with a nice and hearty breakfast… at McDonald’s. We like to try different McDonald’s around the world because they always have unique menu items and Taiwan was no exception to that. We ordered a chicken and egg breakfast sandwich meal (which is like a McChicken with an egg in a muffin (Tim: and without lettuce)) and an extra sausage and egg McMuffin. The meal came with a hash brown and instead of coffee we ordered corn soup. I enjoyed everything in the breakfast – especially the corn soup (Tim: I love how corn soup is a substitute beverage choice).
After our breakfast we picked up bikes from the apartment and started a trail that wrapped around the city. We headed towards the mountains and the bike path was pretty clear. It felt good to ride and feel the breeze – it was refreshing and freeing! (Tim: It wouldn’t be as refreshing if it was sunny and hot… Thankfully it was overcast). After we passed the 2km mark, the bike trail emptied and we were the only ones on it. It was nice that was it just us, fresh air, (away from all the scooter exhaust) and some small low flying birds.
Tim has fond memories of the time he spent in Taitung in 2009. He likes to recount how while biking along this same trail, a stray puppy rode along side him for a couple of kilometres until he got to a larger street intersection that he needed to cross. The puppy was too scared to the cross the street and Tim never saw it again. When he thinks about it, he gets a bit sad. (I think he regrets not keeping the puppy). I make it worse when I tell him that the puppy chose him (just like how elephants choose their mahouts (owners) in Thailand) and he just left him. Later on at the beach, a stray dog was attracted to Tim and followed him around while he took pictures. I thought it would make for a pretty epic story if that dog turned out to be the same dog from 7 years ago (too bad this dog was brown and not black).
When we reached a split in the trail we decided to head back so we could go back towards the beach. We ended up walking to the beach instead because I was too scared to ride on the street alongside all the scooters and cars. I get a bit anxious when I’m on a bike or scooter in traffic and I feel like in Asia it’s even more chaotic (although, it’s likely more of an organized chaos).
After dropping our bikes off, we stopped to get bubble tea a “Presotea” which advertised a “Panda” bubble (black and white pearls!). We also attempted to Facetime my family for my Mom’s birthday. Taitung County has free wifi (TT-Free) throughout the city if you register your phone number. Unfortunately, my family was only able to hear us, but we were able to hear and see them.
We walked to the beach area that we visited shortly yesterday. This time we walked down to the actual beach and watched the waves crash on to shore for a while. The east coast of Taiwan is very beautiful. In the summer, Taitung has a hot air balloon festival that looks awesome, maybe next time we’ll come for that. Although, I’m sure then I’ll probably wished the weather were like how it was now- mild rather than really hot.
After the beach we headed back to the apartment to grab our bags that we left there. We were moving to another place to stay because the apartment was booked for tonight. We walked down the street and checked into our hotel, “Traveller’s Hotel”. We read good reviews about it for being a clean and friendly hotel. The room is very basic and clean (the only important thing), which works for us! The only “bad” thing is that the internet is a bit slow.
Once we checked in, we headed to grab a late lunch and walked to the Taitung Forest Park to wander around. We thought that on our way to the park we would pass by a lot of food options, but that didn’t happen. I think we underestimated the effects of a small town/city. I kept thinking, there’s got to be a lot of places surrounding the park or even a snack stand inside the park. We were wrong, there’s no vendors inside the park. It was about 3:30pm and we were both pretty hungry (Tim: Kaitlyn was pretty hungry). We walked around the park for like 15 minutes and then left to find something to eat.
We decided to walk down a different street on our way back. There were a few bento lunch options and we decided on “Woo Ricebox”. We’ve seen a bunch of these types of Taiwanese fast food restaurants around, mainly at train stations. The wooden bentos are filled with rice, pickled vegetables, cabbage, sausage, chopped bok choy and a meat of your choice. I had a pork chop and Tim got pork belly. They were a good lunch option and I can see why people would order them to take with them on a train.
After lunch we headed back to the hotel to settle in and get ourselves organized for tomorrow. We booked our train tickets from Taitung to Hualien (we’re heading north on the east coast). This was our first time booking the train ticket online – we didn’t want to risk the train we wanted to be sold out. We also booked our hotel for two nights in Hualien – “East Town 26”. The hotel has really good reviews on Trip Advisor so I’m looking forward to it (hopefully I won’t be disappointed).
Tonight for dinner, we met with Tim’s relatives at “Showtime Plaza”. This mall was built a few years ago and is one of the newer building complexes in the city. It has a movie theatre, a couple of clothing stores (Uniqlo and Nike) and a few restaurants. Tim’s relatives made reservations at a Japanese Tonkatsu restaurant (I couldn’t find the translated English name). It’s always nice to meet with family and friends while traveling. It’s a nice familiarity and comfort knowing that loved ones are close by. The tonkatsu set meal and was delicious – it was my first time having tonkatsu where you have to crush the sesame seeds with a mortar to make the sauce. (Tim says now we don’t have to go to one in Japan…). Tim’s relatives are in the middle of moving so we caught them at a hectic time. They were very hospitable to us despite this and I’m glad I had the opportunity to meet them on this trip.
After dinner, Tim and I decided to check out the night market, which was down the street from where we were staying. The night market here is only opened from Thursday-Sunday (the majority of night markets in Taiwan are 7 days a week). Tonight it started to rain, and apparently when it rains no one in Taitung goes out. This was evident in passing by the night market. This was the saddest night market we had seen so far. Many of the vendors were closing down and some didn’t even set up. There were no crowds at all. See? This is what happens when the weather isn’t good in Taitung.
Now we’re back at the hotel, getting ready for tomorrow. Tim’s aunt is going to pick us up tomorrow morning to drive us to the train station at 8:30am, our train to Hualien leaves at 9:39am.
There’s still a lot more of Taitung that we haven’t seen, but we know we’ll be back one day.
The beds at CityInn were really comfy which felt good after our long night. Today, we planned to head south to Kaohsiung, Taiwan’s second largest city and the largest port city. It’s about 200km away from Taichung, and about a 2.5 train ride on the regular Taiwan rail.
Before heading out, we wanted to go back to Miyahara to have ice cream and browse around to buy something for family at home. The store is a couple blocks away from the Taichung Train Station (not the high speed rail stop) which makes it really convenient if you just want to go to Taichung to visit the store from Taipei. Miyahara is actually a former eye hospital built by a Japanese optometrist (Dr. Miyahara) while Taiwan was under Japanese rule. After WWII, the building was turned over to the government then eventually sold to a businessman and became a ice cream/tea/fancy treat store (pretty random). Taichung’s famous pineapple cake brand (actually they’re originally known for their cheesecake) is called “Dawn Cake”, which has made Miyahara their flagship location.
When we were there yesterday, the ice cream parlour had a crazy long line up so today when they opened at 10am, we decided to try their famous sundae before we left Taichung. When we got there, there were only a few people ahead of us.
For the sundae, you pick 3 ice cream flavours and get to pick 4 toppings. There are 54 different flavours of ice cream (18 of them are just chocolate) and they all looked really good. If we stayed in Taichung longer, I would probably go back for a scoop of ice cream each day.
The ice cream sundae was very over the top but we both really enjoyed having it (for our breakfast and lunch). My favourite ice cream was the mango. The chocolate was really good too, especially when eaten with the cheesecake. But I always gravitate towards fruity ice creams/sorbets because they’re more refreshing.
We bought tickets for the 12:17pm train to Kaohsiung and this time Tim and I were able to sit together. The train ride was about 2.5 hours long. This train wasn’t as nice as the last one we were on to Taichung, but it was comfortable enough.
We arrived in Kaohsiung around 3pm and walked to our hotel, which was about 10 minutes away. We booked the “Cloud Hotel” on Expedia ($55 CAD/night), because of the decent reviews on Trip Advisor and mainly because it was a 3 minute walk from the Formosa Boulevard KMRT stop (which connects the two KMRT lines).
Today, we wanted to catch the sunset from the British Consulate Residences (which is on a hill overlooking the ocean) and go to out Cijin Island for seafood for dinner (I read that Cijin has better seafood than Keelung. I haven’t been to Keelung so I have nothing to compare it to) While taking the KMRT, we noticed how quiet the train stations were. It was a bit odd, we have a few pictures of how empty the stations and train cars are.
Kaohsiung is definitely a lot more laid back than Taipei and Taichung. There are way more locals wearing shorts and flip flops and you can feel how easy going things are. I like it!
On our walk, we grabbed pearl milk tea from “Gong Cha”. It was a fairly busy location with a large seating area. We noticed afterwards that they have locations all around the world, even in Canada (Markham). When we got back to the hotel, Tim looked at his expenses and saw we went to one in NYC this summer. I guess I drink too much bubble tea to remember. On a related note, Gong Cha is originally from Kaohsiung.
While walking down the same street as Gong Cha, we came across a place filled with locals eating noodles at 4:45pm. We looked inside and decided to share something since we didn’t have lunch yet. Tim ordered pork hock with noodles and a Sarsaparilla (sort of like Taiwanese root beer). I got some pickled garlic cucumbers as a side. Everything was very tasty and the noodles were perfectly cooked. And in true Taiwanese fashion, they had a container of fresh minced garlic to add to your meal – which Tim did of course.
Here are pictures of some of the interesting places we past by on the way to the viewing point.
After our pit stops, the sun was starting to set (you can see it on its way down while we were at the park) and we didn’t know if we would make it up to the top of the mountain. We found steps up to the British Consulate Residence (which is the recommended viewing point for sunsets) and basically went up as fast as we could. It was a good short work out. But unfortunately, by the time we got up the sun had gone below the horizon.
After walking along the pier and trying to get ahead of the masses of Mainland Chinese tourists (there were over 20 tour busses at the park), we headed to catch a ferry to Cijin Island. Cijin Island is a small island five minutes from Kaohsiung Harbour, known for their seafood and beaches.
The ferry ride there was 25 NT = $1 CAD and the ride was a short one. There were three ferries operating at the same time to and from the island.
Once we got to Cijin Island, we did a quick walk up and down the seafood restaurant row and just picked one. They were all fairly busy so it was a coin toss to see which one we would go to. I did read some reviews on Trip Advisor about one that was top rated by mostly Japanese tourists but I had forgotten the name. (Tim: the one we ended up at was only so-so).
We picked clams, snapper and shrimp at 100 NT per dish. My favourite was the stir-fried clams, they used a lot of garlic and basil. The deep fried shrimp was a bit underwhelming. If we had more people to eat with, we could’ve tried a lot more.
We decided to call it an earlier night and head back to the hotel. We took the KMRT back and again noticed there aren’t that many people using it. Kind of weird, right? Also, the train makes its transfer point announcement in Mandarin, Taiwanese, Hakka, English and Japanese.
Tomorrow we’re planning on taking a day trip to Tainan to visit the National Museum of Taiwan History and Tim has some other specific food he wants to try there.
Today we walked 21,000 steps. It helps being close to an MRT (or even having one)
I’m glad we’re spending another night in Kaohsiung, I really like the city so far. I like being close to an ocean and having the mountains close by too (reminds me of home). When we saw the ocean (Tim: straight) for the first time from the view point, it made me really happy. I guess because we’ve been in two land locked cities with a lot of scooter exhaust in the air for the past week; it made me really appreciate being close to water (I’m a spoiled Vancouverite). When we were walking along the waterfront, we sat and just listened to the small waves wash up against the shore. It was nice.
Today we planned on heading south to Taichung in the early afternoon. We still woke up really early at 5:30am (I’m always the first to get up) so we started to pack up our things and clean up the apartment before we left for the week.
It was early and we wanted breakfast, guess where we went? Back to 永和豆漿大王 (King of Soy Milk). We’ve been there three times on this trip so far but it’s been both of our favourite meals of the day and it’s within a 10 minute walk from the apartment! I know there’s supposedly a better place for breakfast in Taipei called, Fu Hang Dou Jiang, but it’s farther away and would require riding the MRT or walking 55 minutes (it wouldn’t have the same neighbourhood feel to it) (Tim: I’m also not convinced Fu Hang Dou Jiang could possibly be so much better that it justifies taking transit and lining up for it. I think sometimes people are just obsessed with having whatever is “the best” without concern for what marginal difference the best is actually better by, and at what additional cost you incur to have “the best”… I fall victim to this sometimes too). We’ll try it out eventually but for now, we’re feeling like the King of Soy Milk is our go to breakfast joint while staying in the area. We can’t wait for my sister and Noel to come, it’s 24 hours and their flight from Vancouver arrives at 5:30am, so we know where we’ll be going.
I was going to post a picture of what we ate, but I realize I didn’t take any pictures today. I guess we are transitioning into becoming more like locals. But I guess that’s wishful thinking, we both scream tourist when you look at us. Tim has a Vancouver Canucks t-shirt on and I’m wearing yoga/gym wear with a backpack 90% of the time.
We made our way to Taipei Main Station to catch our train to Taichung, which is about 175km south of Taipei. We took the regular (express) train versus the high speed “bullet” train to save some money and the location of the regular train stations are usually right in the city and the high speed train stations are usually at the edge of town. The tickets were 375 NT = $15.50 per person and the train ride was just under two hours.
When we bought our tickets from the machine, we were assigned seats and the only ones left weren’t together, but were close to each other on aisles. I was seated next to a 50-60 year old man and Tim was sitting next to a 20 something year old girl. My row mate fell asleep as soon as he sat down and was snoring the whole way. I decided to join him (I don’t know if was snoring, but if I was he was probably overshadowing me).
We arrived at Taichung Main Station and immediately saw our hotel from the platform, which made it easy to find. We’re staying at the “CityInn Hotel Plus Taichung Station Branch” for the night. The location is perfect for us since we’ll be leaving tomorrow for Kaohsiung. The room is small but clean, staff is friendly, they provide free bottled water and snacks in the room and even have free laundry machines to use downstairs. If Tim didn’t already do some laundry yesterday, this would be perfect for us!
After checking in, we walked down the block around the hotel and saw there were a lot of food and bubble tea options. We decided to have ramen at this place that translates to “One Heart Ramen”. It was a recommendation in Taipei by our Airbnb host but we saw it here so we decided to give it a try. Tim loves ramen (Tim: Sort of… I love noodle soup, and I love pork fat, so ramen is often a good fit… But in the world of noodle soup, it’s top 5, maybe top 3… “love” might be too strong a word) so this was a good late lunch option. The ramen was good but not amazing, Tim drank both all our soups still.
We got our bearings and narrowed down what we wanted to do here. We decided to check out Miyahara (Daniel’s suggestion) and Fengjia Night Market, which got glowing reviews on Trip Advisor. When we googled where the night market was in relation to our hotel, it was 7.5 km away or an hour and a half walk. Taichung doesn’t have a very good transit system – there’s no MRT here, just local buses. We decided to just walk to the night market and just see the city on the way there.
The streets outside the front of the train station (our hotel is at the back of it) was crazy busy. The sidewalks were congested and there were people sprawled all over the open spaces loitering. It felt like we were in SE Asia, which was a very different vibe from Taipei. But as we got further and further from the train station, the streets were much quieter, sometimes a bit eerily quiet.
Our first stop was the store, Miyahara. This store was recommended to us by our friend, Daniel. It’s such a nice looking store with lots of yummy things to buy (pineapple cake, cheesecake, chocolate, jellies, tea). We’ll likely go back tomorrow morning to buy a few things to try and to send back home. I love all the packaging, it’s so pretty! The busiest part of the store was their ice cream parlour. They’re known for making crazy sundaes, maybe we’ll try one tomorrow. They had like eight different chocolate ice creams – based on cocoa percentages.
After Miyahara, we walked in the direction of the night market. Taichung has a different feel from Taipei, a bit older and more rough around the edges. I was more scared for my life while crossing the street than I was in Taipei. We even saw our first scooter and car collision (well, the aftermath).
While walking along Taiwan Boulevard (for an hour), we noticed there were a ton of pineapple cake shops and wedding shops. Actually, the wedding stores dominated. They weren’t just all clustered together (although some were), but they were throughout the whole city. I guess the wedding industry is hot in Taichung! I’ll just share some pictures of what we saw along the way.
After passing by these monkeys we were more than half way to the night market. Thank goodness!
The first thing we wanted was something to drink. We had finished all the water in our backpacks on the way there (Tim: actually we had 1.5 full bottles still, Kaitlyn just wanted a fancier drink). We saw a whole street full of bubble tea shops in a row. So many choices! I read that Taichung was the birth place of bubble tea, which is also why I like Taichung. The prices for food and beverages are a bit cheaper than Taipei. We decided to get a passion fruit “QQ” drink (it had pearls, coconut jelly as well as passion fruit seeds). It was super refreshing, we sat down for the first time and it felt good.
After we rested for a few minutes and devoured the bubble tea, we headed out into the crowds. The Fengjia night market is right beside Feng Chia University, so the crowds were definitely very young. At first glance while walking through rows and rows of food stalls, we noticed there was more selection and more appetizing looking food than what we saw in the last few night markets we’ve been to. Basically anywhere with a long line up we wanted to try (Tim: Kaitlyn wanted to try. I prefer no lineups). But going to a night market with just the two of us isn’t ideal because we could only eat so much. We saw a long line up for this chicken place and decided to try it out. Not only did it have a long line up, but they had a TV screen blaring footage of the stand from local channels and testimonials from customers.
We didn’t know exactly how they were preparing it, but it looked good and the university students seemed to love it. We ordered the cheaper of the two options, not sure what the 85 NT option was. Tim said he would figure it out when we got back to the hotel when he google translated.
When we got the chicken, it wasn’t deep fried, which was actually surprising (Tim: Actually it was deep fried, just not battered). It wasn’t what we had thought it would be but when we tasted it was pretty darn good. Both of us don’t like white meat, but this was different. It’s hard to describe and the picture doesn’t do it any justice – actually the picture makes it look not that appetizing. The stall owner was a very nice chubbier man, he asked if we were from Hong Kong and then we told him we were from Canada. He thanked us coming to try his chicken.
After eating the chicken, we both looked at each other and we were full. Night market fail, we only got to try one thing! Behind the chicken stall was a gua bao (Taiwanese “burger”) stall, which is Tim’s favourite. The stall didn’t have any line up but Tim wanted to try one any way. Having no line up at a night market has been pretty accurate so far in terms of if the food is good or not. The gua bao wasn’t bad, but it wasn’t good mostly due to the fact that the fatty pork belly in it, wasn’t pork belly at all, it was just slices of pork (Okay, so maybe short lines > no lines > long lines).
We walked around some more and I finally got to try the candied fruit on a skewer. The stall for this at this night market looked legit. It, along with most of the popular stalls had pictures of happy customers, write ups in newspapers, and TV appearances. This one also had a long line, so I decided if I’m going to have it, may as well be from here.
We didn’t really try any other food because we were full from that chicken. I really wanted something refreshing and we past by a watermelon juice stall. Watermelon is my favourite fruit so this was a perfect way to end the night.
At this point we were fading and our legs hurt. We found a bus that would go back to the train station. The bus was packed with university students and it took about 45 minutes. We stood the whole way which was a bit painful for me and we realized how much we walked. We finally got off the train and couldn’t wait to wash up and get back to the hotel.
Our total steps today were 25,500. This wasn’t close to the 44,000 from the other day, but considering we weren’t doing too much walking until later afternoon, it definitely felt worse.
Tomorrow we’re going to pack up, make a stop at Miyahara before getting back on to the train and heading down to Kaohsiung. We booked a hotel last night for $55 CAD on Expedia, good location and decent reviews. We were debating between staying one or two nights there because we were waiting to hear if Tim’s relatives would be in Taitung and Hualien (where we planned to visit later in the week). It turns out no one will be in Hualien for us to visit, so we may go to Tainan for a night. Tainan has a lot of sights Tim’s Mom suggested us to visit. Tainan is also where they recently had the 6.4 magnitude earth quake a month ago.
Any how, looking forward to seeing different cities in Taiwan. So far Taichung and Taipei feel same same, but different.
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.
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?
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.
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.)
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
For dessert, I ordered a “UFO disc” with creme brûlée custard inside. This was like eating a warm egg tart.
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!
Now we’re back at the apartment washed up and ready for bed, at 8:30pm… stupid jet lag.