Taipei (Day 5): Just relax

March 5, 2016

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.

Rice ball with green onion egg wrapped around (45 NT = $1.85 CAD)
Rice ball with green onion egg wrapped around (45 NT = $1.85 CAD)
Lo bak go (15 NT = $0.60 CAD)
Lo bak go (15 NT = $0.60 CAD)
They're not known for their XLBs but we gave it a try. They weren't nearly as delicate as DTF but they were still pretty good (10 dumplings for 80 NT = $3.25)
They’re not known for their XLBs but we gave it a try. They weren’t nearly as delicate as DTF but they were still pretty good (10 dumplings for 80 NT = $3.25)

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!

Mango shaved ice, a panna cotta-ish custard, mango sorbet and a side of strawberries (250 NT = $10 .25 CAD)
Mango shaved ice, a panna cotta-ish custard, mango sorbet and a side of strawberries (250 NT = $10 .25 CAD)

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.

Vegetables and assorted items. I forgot to take a picture before taking out some of the cabbage
Vegetables and assorted items. I forgot to take a picture before taking out some of the cabbage
Taro and mango ice cream. Ice cream was also self-serve. I wasn’t a very good ice cream scooper

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.