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 felt a bit weird/sad without hearing Nate waking up and calling our names. After an emotional night (for me), we woke up and got ready to go to Easter Mass at Holy Family Catholic Church. There is only one English Mass at 9:45am so we had to make sure we didn’t miss it! We power walked from the apartment and through Daan Park and got to church right on time.
The Mass was lead by Monseigneur Paul Russell, an American who has been in Taipei for the past 8 years working as a diplomatic representative for the Vatican. According to the announcements at church he has been very influential in trying to connect Catholicism to the Taiwanese population (Taiwanese Catholics only make up 1.5% of the population and Christianity as a whole is only 4.5%). It was announced last week that he was appointed by Pope Francis to become the Archbishop and nuncio (permanent diplomatic representative of the Holy See) in Turkey. The way members of the congregation spoke about him, showed he has made a significant impact on the church in Taipei and he will be greatly missed. We didn’t even know him and Tim got a bit teary eyed during his goodbye speech at the end (Tim: I get moved thinking about a person with no past ties to Taiwan, who can serve the people of Taiwan for 8 years of his life, and express a deep love for a country that I’m only tangentially able to connect with, even though I’m “Taiwanese”).
Our only plan for today was to meet with Austin (Tim’s cousin, in town for a wedding) for a late lunch. We finished Mass at 11am so we decided to take a walk to the Gongguan area, an area close to National Taiwan University (NTU). We planned on going to Gongguan earlier in the week with my sister but the gua bao (Taiwanese “pork burger”) place we wanted to try was closed on Mondays so we didn’t end up going.
Tim’s cousin, Karen, recommended two places in the area to try, the gua bao (Lan Jia Steamed Sandwich Shop) and a fresh milk with pearls (no tea) stand. It was easy to track the places down since they were across from each other and both had line ups. I stood in the pearl milk line while Tim went to the gua bao line. We took our drink and baos across the street to NTU and sat on the bench and ate.
After we walked around for a bit, we took the MRT to meet Austin at Zhongxiao Xinsheng station to go for beef noodles at a restaurant called 72 Beef Noodle (this was another Karen recommendation). The restaurant is called “72 Beef Noodle” because that’s how many hours it takes for them to make the soup.
After lunch, we were feeling pretty tired. We made our way back to the apartment and rested. For dinner we wanted to go somewhere casual and close by. We decided to just walk back to Tonghua St. and see if anything looked interesting. Nothing caught our attention so we decided to go back to Formosa Chang’s to have something small.
We walked back to the apartment through the night market and picked up some fruit on the way back from the quick fruit lady who Noel kept buying fruit from last week. We got one guava and an apple pear (one of my favourite fruits) for 75 NT = $3 CAD.
We’re back at the apartment now and going to start planning for our Japan leg of the trip. We’re planning on watching Batman vs. Superman tomorrow (or Tuesday) and then we’ll have dinner with Tim’s relatives. My family at home is having a big Easter dinner on Sunday (tomorrow morning for me), I’m sad I’ll be missing out on dinner. I always look forward to our big family gatherings and being surrounded by all my loved ones on Easter.
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).
So we did what we said we were going to do. We woke up at 4:15am (without an alarm), got ready and left the apartment around 5:30am. It was about a 30 minute walk to get to the base of Elephant Mountain (which has the best views of the city and Taipei 101). As we were walking to the base, some food vendors were prepping food for the day. We noted which vendors to go back to for breakfast. I guess it shouldn’t surprise me that a lot of people start their days at 5am, I’ve just never been one of them.
We got to the base of the mountain around 5:50am. We read online that if you’re in good shape can get to the top in 15 minutes. I think if you’re in good shape you could actually get to the top viewing point in 10 minutes or even less if you sprinted up. We got to the top in 15 minutes, which, shouldn’t be that impressive because a man that looked like he was in his 80s with a cane was inching up on me as I was huffing and puffing up the stairs (Clearly I’m out of shape). FYI, we beat him up the mountain.
After taking a bunch of pictures at the viewing point we walked around other trails. There are a few other trails around Elephant mountain, called the Four Beasts Mountains. We didn’t do any of them, we just walked around a few other trails and saw a lot of seniors working out. The majority of them were super fit. This guy in his 70-80s was consecutively doing curl ups while chatting up the ladies close by. Another interesting thing to note is that there were a lot of old men who would perch on viewing points and yell. Then other men from other viewing points would “call back”. I wanted to join in too. I just “roared” at a squirrel that got scared and ran away.
After we made our way down from the mountain, it was about 8am. We went back to a fairly busy area called Wu Xing. We walked past a “rice ball” breakfast stall that had a line up. We decided to try it out and were not disappointed! This was exactly what I was craving while huffing up the mountain.
After we finished eating, we walked down “Wu Xing Square” which was an open market full of everything: meat, poultry, seafood, produce, dumpling makers, clothing, pretty much anything you can think of. This was place was bustling for 8am!
We walked up and down the block and decided to have “oyster vermicelli” soup. The soup is a thick starchy broth with thin noodles, oysters and large intestine. I mostly just drank the soup with noodles and oysters, Tim ate the large intestine. I really enjoyed the soup, I could probably do without the large intestine.
After resting at the apartment for a few hours. We decided to check out “Lin Dong Fang”, a beef noodle restaurant that was suggested on CNN’s Taiwanese food list (also vouched by other friends). It did not disappoint! I don’t have the same nostalgic feelings towards beef noodle as Tim does, so usually I don’t order it; but I have to say this one lived up to the hype. The noodles were nice and chewy (which is the way I like) and the meat was very tender. I ordered just beef and Tim ordered beef and tendon.
We heard from Uncle Albert that there was a lantern festival going on in Taoyuan and he suggested we check it out as it was ending this weekend. We decided to make our way to Taoyuan tonight so after lunch we walked toward Taipei Main Station to catch the high speed rail train.
On our way to the train station, we came across a huge Disney Tsum Tsum statue in front of a complex called Huashan Creative Park. We decided to check it out and saw there was an exhibition going on. We were lucky to have been drawn in to check out the area because we had no idea what this “creative park” was. It was a pretty unique place with different exhibits and independent artist boutiques and hipster restaurants inside old buildings. The feel of the area reminded me a bit of the Distillery District in Toronto.
We made our way to the Taipei Main Station area and ventured around the area with the intent to get back to the station around 4pm to take the train to Taoyuan. We were craving shaved ice since we haven’t eaten that yet. We found free wifi at Shin Kong Mitsukoshi department store, so we stood there for a while seeing if there was anything close by. Tim found a highly rated place on trip advisor that was about a mile away. We walked there only to discover it was closed. It was pretty disappointing. We’ll save that place for another day!
We walked back to the train station slightly disappointed (first world problems) and bought our train tickets to Taoyuan. Taoyuan is where Taipei’s international airport is, which is about 45km from Taipei. We bought the high speed rail ticket which costed $6 for a round trip and would only take 20 minutes.
As soon as we stepped outside the train station in Taoyuan, we were surrounded by the Lantern Festival’s exhibits. It was about 4:30pm when we got there so it was still bright out. We went to the food areas to eat an earlier dinner so we didn’t have to fight the crowds when it got dark. I won’t go into too much detail about the food, I’m getting a bit nightmarketed out. We had Taiwanese sausage, some BBQ’ed pork belly, squid and this drink with two scoops of this slushy ice in it. The drink and BBQ pork were my favourite. We went back for one more drink at the end of the night! We spent 275 NT or $11 at the food stalls for dinner.
We were planning on staying at the festival until the fireworks at 8pm. As soon as the sun set, the lights all came on and the whole area came to life. I loved all the hanging lanterns and I’ll share some of the lantern displays I liked the most.
We were worried that there would be a mad rush to get back to the train right after the fireworks ended so we made sure to stay close to the exit. We estimated that there must have been over 50,000 people there (the grounds were massive). After looking at the majority of the lantern exhibits (we didn’t look at all of them, there were probably hundreds), we were feeling pretty drained. It was 8pm and no fireworks came on, Tim asked one of the security guards when the fireworks were starting and he said they were cancelled for tonight but would be on tomorrow. That was let down as we were waiting until 8pm for the fireworks! Every half hour the huge monkey in the middle of the festival “came to life” and lit up and did a slow 360 degree rotation to everyone’s excitement (except mine, the monkey creeped me out).
I wished the festival was on for another few weeks, I think Nate would have really like it! This was the first time that we saw so many kids and strollers.
After discovering there were no fireworks we left and feeling more drained than ever. Luckily leaving the festival was super organized because at that point I don’t think we could’ve handled it. This was the latest we’ve stayed up since being here and we didn’t really even have an afternoon break! We both fell asleep on the train ride back to Taipei. When then had to transfer and take the MRT back to the apartment. We both decided that tomorrow is going to be a chill out day and my post will likely be a lot shorter. I’m finding it hard to be able to just relax and adjust to the fact that we’ll be here for a month.
Tim checked our steps for today, and it’s an all time high 44, 500. No wonder we’re beat!
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.
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!
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.
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.
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.
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!