Our last morning in Kenting started like all the others, wake up and head down for breakfast, except this time no swimming after breakfast. I think three nights in Kenting was good enough, especially when the weather wasn’t that great. Without nice weather, there’s really not much to do there, so it was good we were heading back to Taipei.
Our bus from the hotel left at 11am and we arrived at Kaohsiung’s Zuoying station at 1:30pm. We had about an hour to kill before our train back to Taipei. There is a mall attached to the train station that has a Shin Kong Mitsukoshi, Uniqlo, Daiso, Muji and a food court. We walked around and my sister found some cute plastic plates for Nate at Daiso. The items there were only 39 NT = $1.58 (a bit cheaper than the Daiso at home).
The train we took back to Taipei took about two hours this time because we made about five stops along the way. We arrived back to a very wet and colder Taipei. It was about 13 degrees Celsius and raining quite hard. We didn’t have umbrellas so we walked as quickly as possible (Tim: It’s actually best to walk slower in rain to not get as wet, unless it’s windy) and under awnings as much as we could back to Tim’s uncle’s apartment. We dropped off our bags and headed out for dinner. We had our mind set on hot pot because of the weather and we wanted some vegetables.
We headed back to our favourite hot pot place and it was packed for 6:30pm. We were actually surprised it was so busy because most locals eat later than we do in North America. Luckily, there was a table for us and warmed we up with delicious shabu shabu. Nate enjoyed it as well and loved having some of the ice cream at the end.
After dinner we came back to the apartment and my sister and Noel started to pack and organize their luggage (it’s their last night here). Tim and I went through some of our stuff that we realize we don’t need so they could bring it back home for us – mostly Tim’s electronics.
Tomorrow, we’re going to stop by some of their favourite places before they head to the airport around 9pm. Noel wants to go back to Yong Kang Beef Noodle, Nate wants to go back to Daan Park (so we think), and my sister wants to go to Sunny Hills for pineapple cakes.
The forecast tomorrow is sun! Nate has been singing “Rain, rain, go away”, so now his wish will come true. If only the weather had been nice while they were here.
Since more than half the people in the apartment are jet lagged, I woke up at 6:30am too. Nate was in a good mood this morning but you can tell his internal clock is very confused. Hopefully he can adjust in the next couple of days so he will be in a better mood.
Once Tim woke up, he went with Noel to Yong He Soy Milk King to get breakfast. I think my sister and Noel learned early on that those egg wrapped rice rolls are really filling and that they should just be shared. My sister cooked Nate one of the organic eggs for breakfast – he loves his eggs!
When we looked out the window, it was raining and it didn’t look like it was going to let up any time soon. We wanted to try to keep most of our activities indoors since it was raining and it wasn’t that warm (around 15 degrees again today). As most of our planned Taipei activities are outdoors, we decided to do the one sightseeing activity that kept us the driest -that being the National Palace Museum.
The National Palace Museum is a museum that has mainly Chinese arts and artifacts – even more than what is at the Forbidden City in China. This is because during the Sino-Japanese Wars, the Nationalist Government in China decided to pack up all the most valuable artifacts in the Forbidden City and hide them in storage to keep them away from the Japanese. After World War II, as the Chinese Civil War resumed (and the nationalists were losing), Chiang-Ki Shek decided to move all the (already packed up) artifacts to Taiwan. Now, the museum houses around 700,000 ancient Chinese artifacts, of which approximately 1% is on display at any given time in 3 month exhibitions.
I had visited the museum in 2013, during my first time in Taiwan. I had seen the highlights of the museum – the jadeite cabbage and the stone that looks like a piece of pork (Tim: my favourite!), but I didn’t remember the rest of the museum too well (I was half asleep when I visited after a long flight) (Tim: Any it’s hard for things to look familiar when many of the exhibits are rotated out for new exhibits). I knew that the museum gets really busy with tour groups from China but I didn’t know how busy it would get.
We got to the museum around 10am, and were met with the hoards of tour groups and schools on field trips. As soon as we stepped inside, it was a gong show. General admission to the museum is 250 NT = $10 CAD (in 2013 it was only 160 NT = $6.50 CAD).
First, this is the strictest museum I have ever been to and I’ve been to a lot. You’re not allowed to bring any food or drink inside (which is understandable but this includes water bottles that are inside your bag). Traveling with a toddler, this isn’t ideal as you never know when they really need something to drink and they won’t take no for an answer. There are signs that say no backpacks are allowed and that you have to check it in. I’ve been carrying a small Longchamps backpack as my purse during this trip and as soon as we got into line to get into the museum, they singled me out and told me to check it in. I get why you can’t bring huge backpacks in, but mine was smaller than most purses and that made no sense to me. I even took everything out of it and was folding it up (it’s a foldable bag that can fold into a small square) and they told me I needed to check it in. At this point I was getting really irritated and annoyed with the security people (Tim: who were just doing their job) at the museum. They weren’t very courteous and it was a bad start to the morning. We put everything into a locker (for 10 NT, which is refundable), including Nate’s lunch bag and water (which he later cried for).
We finally got into the museum and were greeted with even more Chinese tour groups. I was already on edge with security that this whole scene made me want to leave. Being pushed around and cut in front of it not a great way to start your morning. In addition to the pushing, the tour groups were so loud. I felt bad for the museum workers inside that were holding signs that said “Please be quiet”, as their jobs seemed really hopeless and a bunch of them looked so defeated. Even when Nate woke up from his stroller to see where he was, his crying didn’t even matter since the tour groups drowned him out (this was the only upside to the noise). I know this is bad, but I learned to start walking with my hands on my hips when I wanted to get out of crowds because I didn’t want to get pushed around anymore. I don’t remember the museum being so busy when we were here in 2013. Not only did the price go up 90 NT, but it was not nearly as enjoyable. This was probably my least favourite place in all of Taiwan – inside the museum, which is such a shame because they have a lot of interesting things to see. But personally, I wouldn’t want to go back again (Tim: a statement that could probably apply to all museums for Kaitlyn :P).
After we escaped the museum, we headed to the Miramar Entertainment Park. This is a mall that is known for their large Ferris wheel on the roof, that has nice views of Taipei. Due to the weather, no one was on the Ferris wheel. Once we got to the mall, we went down to the food court for lunch. We were feeling a bit cold and wet – although it was 15 degrees, it didn’t feel like it when it was damp. We did a quick loop around the food court and all decided on Pepper Lunch (a Japanese casual/fast food place). I knew we could get this in Richmond, but we hadn’t tried it yet. We shared two lunch specials between the four of us, which each came with an appetizer and a drink.
The mall food courts in Taipei are all really good – great food selections, clean and ideal for eating with children. They have very clean high chairs to sit on and cleaning stations for people to wash their hands right in the middle of the food court. Since Nate is here, we’re eating more in food courts because it’s easier than what we have been used to. It’s nice and comfortable compared to eating on the street.
We walked around the mall and went to Muji and Uniqlo to look around. My sister and Noel bought a couple of items from Uniqlo. I notice that their prices are a bit more expensive than what they are in New York and in Hong Kong. There was also a Carrefour (French grocery store) across the street from Miramar, so we went to check it out. Our Grandma (Paw Paw) really likes the cookies my sister brought back for her from Paris’ Carrefour so we went to see if we could find them. Unfortunately, there didn’t have much Carrefour branded items so we couldn’t find the French cookies she wanted. (Ah zut!)
The rain continued to come down so we decided to go back to the apartment for the day- it was about 3pm. Nate was in and out of napping, poor guy, his days and nights are mixed up. Once we got back he was pretty happy playing around with the bubble tea cups – he likes to play with the straw and poke holes in the top of the thin plastic lids. Nate went down for a nap and then eventually so did everyone else (including me) except for Tim. I feel like since my sister has been here, I’ve reverted to having jet lag again. Nate and I woke up from our naps around 7:30pm – except Nate eventually went back to sleep and has been sleeping since (it’s midnight right now). Noel fell asleep and has been sleeping since as well.
My sister, Tim and I went for dinner without them, hot pot as originally planned. We went to the same place we’ve been twice before. Tim and I now have a stamp card (10 meals and one is free). My sister enjoyed her first individual shabu shabu experience and had some much needed vegetables. We picked up some soup noodles from a popular food stall down the street for Noel – but he hasn’t woken up to eat it so we put it in the fridge.
Once we came back to the apartment, we started to watch the finale of the Bachelor (3 hour finale). Warning! Spoiler alert!
My sister hadn’t watched any of the season so she was rolling her eyes the whole time (and same with Tim). I knew he would pick Lauren B, but I liked Jo Jo more. We were joking around that out of the final three girls, he got rid of the ethnic ones (half Persian and half Filipino) and picked the blonde girl (typical).
Now everyone is sound asleep and Tim is watching the Walking Dead. Apparently my typing is too distracting, so he went into the bedroom to watch it while I type away outside in the living room.
Tomorrow it’s supposed to be mainly cloudy so hopefully it will be a better day!
We set our alarms today at 5am to get ready to pack up and catch our train back to Taipei at 6:07am (Tim: One snooze later…). We checked out of our hotel and caught a cab to the train station. Unfortunately the hotel free shuttle to the train station doesn’t run so early in the morning (Tim: Neither does their breakfast, which was pretty good). This was the first cab ride we’ve taken this trip, generally we try not to take cabs but since time was an issue this morning we had to. The cab fare to the train was 140 NT = $5.70 CAD for a 3km ride.
Once we arrived at the Hualien train station, the place was packed for 5:45am! The only store that was open was 7-Eleven and they had two long line ups to pay. We passed on grabbing anything for breakfast as we planned on just sleeping on the ride back to Taipei. The train ride was 3 and a half hours, it was the only train that wasn’t full (local train). The ride didn’t feel that long because we both slept for the first two hours. The scenery along this route was quite nice, the ocean and high mountains lined the east coast. As we got closer to Taipei the scenery changed back to older run down buildings and high rises. I was looking forward to getting back to Taipei. Although I enjoyed seeing the rest of Taiwan, Taipei is probably my favourite city in terms of accessibility and variety.
We arrived at the Taipei Main Station at 9:38am. We decided to buy our tickets to Kaohsiung for next week – when we’d be going down to Kenting (a beach resort area at the southern tip of Taiwan) with my sister, Noel, and Nate. We didn’t want to get burned with not being able to pick a good train time with them. Since we bought the tickets early, they were 20% off. The high speed rail tickets are about double the price of the regular Taiwan railways tickets (which we took around the island this past week). But to save time (especially traveling with a toddler), the high speed rail was a no brainer. It would take less than two hours to get to Kaohsiung (the trains go at 300km/hour) from Taipei, versus around 5 hours on the regular train.
We headed back to Tim’s uncle’s apartment to drop off our bags before finding something to eat. The whole train ride I was craving shabu shabu hot pot again. We went back to the same place we had dinner last Saturday. It totally hit the spot and I was on a hot pot high. I noticed there were a lot of children (around 5-8 years old) with their parents there – about half the tables had children at them. We will probably take my sister, Noel, and Nate here when they visit. It’s a block down from where we’ll be staying, it’s kid friendly, good value ($20 CAD total for both of us) and delicious.
We planned on walking to Daan Park after our lunch but it started to rain and Tim didn’t bring his rain jacket, so we went back to the apartment. I repacked my bag and organized items that we had left here last week. Also, I forgot to mention that as soon as we got back to Taipei, I saw two miniature red poodles.
We met up with the Airbnb host in front of the apartment at 3pm. Her name is Violet, an English speaking local, who showed us up to the apartment. The apartment looked like how it did on Airbnb for the most part. The walls are a bit weathered but that’s not really a big deal as the apartment is clean and stocked with all the necessary amenities. It has 2 bedrooms (3 beds), 1 bathroom and a large kitchen. The location is really good- close to two MRT to lines (Daan and the Technology Building stations) and lots of restaurants. One of the perks of this place is that it has a washer and dryer (Yay! We can finally do laundry) (Tim: The dryer just basically spin dries the clothes…).
After settling in and finishing up our laundry, we headed out to buy some groceries for my nephew, Nate. My sister will be cooking for him while he’s here. We went down to the Technology Building station and went to PX Mart to buy a 6L jug of water, some fruit and chicken. Across from the street from the apartment, there are a couple of organic grocery stores. We bought organic milk and eggs from the market – Nate is a lucky boy!
Around 6:30pm, Uncle Albert stopped by and we went for dinner down the street on S. Fuxing Road. Tim and I have walked down this street every morning we went to the King Soy breakfast place but since it was always the morning we never realized the street was filled with lots of busy restaurants. Uncle Albert said that S.Fuxing Road used to be full of all the same restaurants for people looking for late night eats, but now there are only a few left. We headed to his favourite one down the block, basically two doors away from our favourite breakfast joint.
When you walk into the restaurant, there is a long counter full of dishes to choose from. You simply point to what you want and then they prepare it for you. Most items are already prepared (except the fish dishes) so they plate the food in a metal bowl over top a flame (similar to how hot pot is served at Boiling Point in Vancouver). Uncle Albert treated us to dinner (again! Tim is not good at fighting for the bill) so we don’t know how much each dish was, but from what we can see on the wall they range from 60 NT to 150 NT ($2.45 to $6 CAD). It was nice to have congee on a rainy Taipei night and all the dishes were more homestyle cooking which was nice and comforting.
When got back to the apartment, we took the clothes out of the “dryer” and they were still damp. Asian wash/dryers don’t actually use heat to dry clothes, they just spin it, so we had to hang dry everything. I washed the bulk of my clothes so hopefully they dry on the balcony for tomorrow!
Now we’re washing up and going to sleep early because my sister, Noel and Nate will be here tomorrow at around 6am. Uncle Albert kindly offered to pick them up from the airport at 5:30am. We’re very lucky to have Tim’s family here – they’ve always been so kind and hospitable to us.
Another random thing to note about Taiwanese buildings and high rises, most are made of concrete- something we’re not used to as most buildings and homes in Vancouver are made with lumber. I first noticed because when I walk down the halls at home, I usually like to tap the walls with my knuckles and hear back a hollow sound. But here, I do the same thing and there’s no sound at all and it hurts my knuckles. That being said, Nate isn’t allowed to run around apartments here. The walls are too dangerous.
We ended up going to bed around 11:30 last night, which is late compared to our regular 8:30 nights. We were excited when we both woke up and looked outside and saw it wasn’t dark (it was 6:45am).
After our long day yesterday, we said we were just going to take it easy and that’s exactly what we did! What’s taking it easy in Taipei? Eating.
Other than a few sights in the city, doing as the locals do is basically just eating. Tim keeps referring to the CNN’s list of 40 Taiwanese food items you can’t live without and I don’t think we’ve even cracked 10 yet.
We walked to our new favourite breakfast place (I love that it’s so close, even closer when we move to the Airbnb) and saw it was a lot busier today and then realized it was because it was the weekend. The line up went really quickly and we ordered a couple of things to share: rice ball wrapped in a green onion egg, pan fried lo bak go (turnip cake), XLBs and a cold soy milk. Tim made me order this time because he thought it would amusing since I can’t speak Mandarin. I just took the pictured menu and pointed to things, it was pretty anti-climatic.
After lunch we walked to Zhongxiao Fuxing area and walked through SOGO- it’s basically like a Japanese Bloomingdales. We went to every floor walking around and taking advantage of their free wifi like hobos. We gawked at the prices of some of the items, like their Barbour jackets. My Barbour jacket was 22,000 NT, which is like $900 CAD!
Oh right, I forgot to mention that when we walked into SOGO, being that we were part of the first wave of customers to shop/browse this morning we were greeted by 10 people standing in a row (expressionless) bowing to us. Before we walked into the store I saw them and thought they were mannequins for a second. The girls were wearing Japanese school girl like outfits (Tim: not really) and the fact that they were expressionless made me think that they belonged in a Japanese horror movie. Tim and I will probably go back another day right when SOGO opens to record it.
After browsing through SOGO, we walked along Zhongxiao Road towards a shaved ice place that was recommended by a few people. The place is called “Ice Monster”. I think it’s in all the Taipei guidebooks because most people we saw there were Japanese or Korean tourists and they had their guidebooks turned to a page where all I could see were pictures of shaved ice. We got there around noon (just in time for lunch…), and ordered the mango shaved ice with strawberries. Mango isn’t in season right now in Taiwan so no fresh mangos, a bit disappointing (I know, more first world problems). Tim and I shared one order since we knew it would be quite big. As we looked around it seemed like everyone was ordering their own, it was lunch time after all.
The shaved ice was good, but it was pretty expensive for what it is. But I guess Ice Monster is in all the guide books and they are clearly milking it!
After our “lunch” we ventured back into the sun and made our way back to the apartment. We wanted to spend some time planning our next week, as we want to go around the island and visit other cities before my sister and Noel get to Taipei.
We’re planning on heading down the west coast to Taichung, Tainan and Kaohsiung and come up the east coast to Taitung and Hualien. We won’t have as much time as we had hoped to go around the island since our time in Taiwan is split up as to when we need to be back in Taipei.
I was feeling a bit frustrated this afternoon about not having had planned things out better and “wasting time” in Taipei when we could be seeing other cities since we have plenty of time here later. But I know I have to keep reminding myself that it’s okay if we aren’t going to see everything and that “seeing everything” isn’t the point of this trip. Those of you who know me well know that I love to plan things out – especially trips and figuring out the logistics of everything. So to wing something like this is a bit foreign to me. I know it will take some time to adjust and maybe at the end of it I’ll be a different type of traveler.
On that note, I’m looking forward to seeing the rest of Taiwan even if it’s just for a day or two in each city we visit. We plan on leaving for Taichung tomorrow morning and will be back in Taipei next Sunday.
After a bit of planning and hotel research for Taichung, we booked a place on Expedia. It was the #1 rated hotel on Tripadvisor, close to the Taichung train station, and it was only $68 CAD! I booked using Expedia for TD, since it gives me 9 times the points on my visa. Basically this was the only thing we booked for the week, I was looking at other accommodations for the other cities but decided to hold off just in case plans change (see, I’m learning!).
So after a couple of days of not having any greens besides cilantro and green onion garnishes, we vowed to have some vegetables in our dinner. My favourite type of hot pot is Japanese/Taiwanese shabu shabu individual style, like Pearl Hot Pot in Burnaby. Basically they give you a big bowl of vegetables and assorted items like fish cakes, tofu, meat balls (it varies) then you pick your meat. Usually they give you an iced tea and a dessert all included in your meal.
There are a ton of shabu shabu restaurants in Taipei, but English material online for them is limited. There are only so many shabu shabu places that the “Hungry girl in Taipei” (food blogger) can go to and the majority of them don’t have English names which makes it hard to find online. We found one that was fairly close to our apartment, but when we got there the menu was pretty expensive and it looked too fancy for us. We decided to just continue down the street and see what else we could find. A few blocks down we found a restaurant with exactly what we were looking for! The restaurant’s name is 佶田日式涮涮鍋, which means, “Something… Japanese Style Shabu Shabu” (Tim: Ji Tian Japanese Shabu Shabu).
I was really excited because I had been craving hot pot and it had vegetables! We sat down and looked at the menu, the prices were less than half of the expensive shabu shabu place and also similar in price to our shaved ice from earlier. Tim asked the waitress if they had an English menu, she kind of giggled and politely said no. Tim told her we wanted beef and she pointed to the section on the menu that had beef (Tim: I know how to read beef in Mandarin… I pointed to the beef section and she and the waitress helped us pick out 2 different cuts of beef), we picked two different types (we still don’t know which one was which).
The drinks, sauce and dessert (ice cream) were all self-serve which was great. We made our sauces and Tim went crazy on the garlic. Taiwanese people love raw garlic on a lot of things. My mouth actually tastes like garlic at the moment…gross.
After dinner we walked back to the apartment. We both felt super full. Despite all the food that I’ve been posting on our blog, volume wise we haven’t eaten as much as you may think since we share one portion of everything. But today was our first high volume meal that we had to ourselves. It was the first time we felt uncomfortably full since being here. But it did feel good to eat some veggies…
Now it’s time to pack up and get ready for our journey down to Taichung tomorrow. Our friend, Daniel, is originally from Taichung, was just there last week (we missed him by a day) and gave us some ideas on where to go. We’ll definitely check out his suggestions, the Miyahara store looks really neat.
One random note, I’ve decided that the most popular dog in Taipei is a miniature red poodle (I’ll take a picture next time I see one). I think I’ve seen over 20 different ones in the past couple of days. I’m going to start a count on them starting next week when we’re back in Taipei. Also, on another dog note, people in Taipei don’t like to let their dogs (mostly white dogs) walk. Most of them are held and others have their own doggy stroller. Even the stray dogs that we see are extremely clean for strays. Dogs are living the good life here!
And our step count for today is only 18,600. Our chill out day meant we didn’t even reach half of what we walked yesterday.