Oh what an arrival we had. We got in late and once we checked into our Airbnb, we stepped into the bathroom and saw so much mold. We stayed up trying to figure out if we could get out of there for the rest of our Taipei stay.
We woke up to a refund for the remainder of days and cancelled the booking. We immediately booked a new hotel – Comma Boutique Hotel and packed our stuff and moved there. Unfortunately we couldn’t do early check-in. They do have a lounge and laundry room so we did our laundry and hung out in the lounge for a few hours. Our friend who is originally from Taiwan later on told us that you shouldn’t cheap out on accommodations in Taiwan as the humidity creates lots of mold so the cheaper accommodations will definitely have some.
This put a damper into the days plans. While we were waiting for our laundry to finish and also return the keys to the Airbnb host, we grabbed breakfast at 西門町麥亨堡早餐店 – preserved egg congee (S) 45TWD, hot soy milk (L) 25 TWD & toast w/coconut naisu sauce 25 TWD. Down the street from a man and his cart, we also grabbed a green onion pancake w/egg 45TWD.
Once laundry was done around 1PM, that’s when we could start our day’s plan.
Walked by the Bopiliao Historical Block and into the park that houses the Nishi Honganji Relics. This is a well preserved area from when the Japanese occupied.
Took a quick gander at the Presidential Office Building and really wanted Beef Noodles but we were in-between serving hours so ate at Zhao Kee Wonton King Cornish 趙記菜肉餛飩大王. We shared vegetable & pork dumpling soup and a sesame oil noodle 180TWD.
The next stop was a unique ice cream experience at Snow King Ice Cream 雪王冰淇淋. They have been around since 1974 and have made ice cream versions of so many things. We both got 2 scoops (which they serve you one at a time so it doesn’t melt too quickly). I got the Pork Floss & the Dark Plum 235TWD. Bev got the Custard Apple & Taro.
We passed by the Former Site of Taipei West Gate before making our way to Ximending Shopping Street. Bev went shopping. The little food carts started to come out and a line grew quickly for this Mochi sesame, peanut, red bean cart and we knew we needed to try it too 40 TWD.
We also grabbed some freshly steamed buns at 包子M老麵手工饅頭 西門店. I got the Logan bun 29TWD. We finally were able to check into out hotel room and super relieved there was no mold and we felt more comfortable.
For dinner, we grabbed Beef Noodles (S) 100TWD at Fuhong Beef Noodles 富宏牛肉麵.
Yehliu, Juifen, Shifen, Taipei, Taiwan
We made our way to Taipei Main Station to meet for our day tour of Yehliu Geopark, Jiufen Old Street & Shifen Old Street. We booked via Klook – MyProGuide Taiwan and our tour guide was Jady.
Our first stop was Yehliu Geopark. This park’s mineral composition is 70% similar to the surface of Mars. The rock layer contains limestone and has created water-eroded holes as well as numerous rocks in the shape of mushrooms, candle, chessboard pieces. The most famous structure is the Queen’s Head.
Our second stop was Jiufen Old Street. Jiufen use the be an old gold mine town during the Japanese occupation era but emptied as the gold diminished. In more recent years, the popularity picked up as Jiufen Old Street played the inspiration role for Studio Ghibli’s Spirited Away.
It takes about 300 steps to get up top. Famous foods we tried – fried white radish stuffed sticky rice 20TWD (also got a red bean version), Taro Balls +mix w/ice 50TWD from 賴阿婆芋圓 Lai Ah Po Taro Balls, small sausage with sticky rice bun 80TWD, & rolled peanut ice cream with coriander 50TWD from A-Jou Peanut Ice Cream Roll.
Our 3rd stop was Shifen Old Street. This place is famous for releasing paper sky lanterns on an operating train track. Flying a paper lantern costs 200TWD and the colour pink is for happiness.We also got to try sticky rice stuffed chicken wings (steamed then Grilled) here 75TWD.
Our final stop was Shifen Waterfall. Here is where Bev befriended the guy sitting in front of us. We had thought he only spoke mandarin so we didn’t interact earlier. We made a new friend – Matthew. Originally born in Taiwan, raised/living in New Zealand & Australia.
After we returned to the city, we checked out Badass Cake Cafe 造糕的人 – we shared the banana caramel sponge cake 180TWD & this grape pastry 150TWD.
Went back to the hotel to recharge before meeting up with Matthew at Linjiang St Night Market. This market was one of the smaller ones in Taipei and it seemed quiet (mind you it was also a Tuesday night). I got the seaweed chicken at Monga 90TWD. Matt & Bev both got shaved ice bowls.
Tidbits and information about Taiwan:
-Carry napkins /toilet paper as public toilets and some restaurants don’t have.
-Cash is still key but you also use credit card, easy card, Wechat and whatnot to pay for items.
-Don’t throw away receipts. The bureau of Taiwan puts codes on the receipts which put you into a lottery to potentially win up to 10 million TWD. You do need a Taiwanese resident to claim it. At the airport, there is a box that you can drop your receipts at for donations and if it happens to win, it will go to local charities to give back to the community. Taiwanese have an app to match the numbers. Old days, grocery stores tried to avoid paying tax to government. But putting the lottery on the receipts, encouraged customers to ask stores for receipts thus pressuring store owners to pay taxes.
-Taichi – the motions – Hands up, full moon, cut in half, half for you (to the right) half for me (pull towards self) push it down
-The Dutch, Spanish, Ming Qing dynasty & Japanese occupied Taiwan at one point in time. Japan occupied until end of WW2.
-Natural resources – Camphor oil – Camphor tree – white gun powder. Sugar cane and tea (high mountain oolong tea) are high resources of Taiwan.
-Mistakes I made for Taiwan – walking is nice but taking the bus /taxi is faster and more efficient. Especially on hot days. Bus/taxi is much cheaper than Uber but if you convert to CAD/USD it’s still rather cheap until it isn’t.
Taipei – Taichung, Taiwan. 23500 steps. 22-24°C
Took the High Speed Rail (HSR) from Taipei to Taichung. I booked all my HSR tickets in advanced. Grabbed 2 onigiris from FamilyMart for breakfast – 80TWD. 45mins at 204KM/H. Smooth ride but then slight confusion trying to take the other public transit systems. Transferred to the MRT then onto the TRA but finally made it to our next hotel – Mini Hotels Taichung Station Branch. We should’ve only been the TRA and not the MRT.
Dropped our bags off and went to Brunch – Daddy Fly. We unknowingly splurged on breakfast. Garden salad 300TWD+dressing 30TWD, chicken nuggets 50TWD and French toast w/scrambled egg w/ salad 280TWD. Both meals included tea.
Our next stop was the infamous Miyahara for ice cream. The red bricked building use to house the largest Ophthalmology clinic in Taichung during the Japanese Colonial period in the 1920s. Now, it houses Dawn Cake in a Harry Potter-esque vibe and Miyahara for their signature waffle cups and ice cream flavours. We shared the Songboling Green Tea (#12) & Tieh Kwan Ying oolong tea (#15) in a waffle cone w/native pineapple cake and earl grey shortbread stick on top 200TWD.
Having had tried a pineapple cake, we cut out visiting 2 bakeries where you can do tastings and that sell them to bring home as gifts. Instead, we walked the town. Briefly checked out the second market.
Walking at 11AM, the streets were bare and so quiet. Funny enough, the open places open early are all the Tea shops which open at 9AM. Stopped at this 冰酷黑砂糖冰飲店 and got grass jelly with evaporated milk 35TWD. We walked our way to Taichung Central Park basically from Taichung Station. We walked from the most southern point of the park to about midway and it was very lacklustre. I wondered why I put this on the itinerary but as I researched it more after (forgot to put a description in my notes), the architecture and sculptural work is more so in the northern section of the park which we didn’t make it to. It is also easier and faster to take the train.
Our next stop was a beautifully designed Pharmacy called Molecule. Across from this store was the highlight of the day – National Taichung Theater. Beautiful Opera building designed by Toyo Ito. It also features a large gift shop with loads of local artists.
Our original plan was to hit up Feng Chia Nightmarket but after all that walking we called it a night by having dinner at Shin Kong Mitsukoshi mall. I got Haikee – Gailan (Chinese broccoli) 70TWD + Chicken & Char Siew with rice 190TWD.
We hopped on a bus to head back to the hotel and realized we basically had walked that entire route earlier in the day.
Taichung – Tainan, Taiwan
Started the morning with a complimentary breakfast at the hotel.
Strolled over to Taichung Cultural Heritage Park. Bigger than I thought but also no map to show where everything is located so couldn’t maximize our time there. It’s an old military base turned art hub.
Since we are in Taiwan, we had to goto Chun Shui Tang Siwei – The OG creator of bubble tea. We went to the OG store. The back room smelt like mold unfortunately & the middle section smelt like poop since it is right by the washrooms. We ended up sitting outside. We ordered the sesame oil handmade noodles 100TWD, Taro with egg custard balls 95TWD, sui mai duet with pork & shrimp 170TWD & of course my first bubble tea of the trip – Pearl milk tea w/medium tapioca 170TWD but 15% discount on M sized drinks on weekdays.
Walked over to the Painted animation lane. There are some intricate murals of Haikyu, One Piece, Yugioh, Gundam Wing & so much more. We ended up meeting some fellow travellers – Charlotte & Hélène from France who had been travelling for 2 months so far but about 6 months in total. We bonded over a Dragonball Z mural. Perfect fusion moment.
We had planned to goto the National Taiwan Museum of Fine Arts but Hélène mentioned they are currently between exhibits so there is only one small section to view so we skipped.
With limited time before we had to catch our trains, we went to Yizhong Street Market & made it into one of the stores on the outside of Chungyo Department Store.
Hopped on the TRA and made our way to Xinwuri Station to catch our HSR to Tainan. Roughly an hour (296KM/H) to get to Tainan HSR & another 45 min to get into the city via TRA & a bus. We stayed at H& Tainan Weshare Hotel.
Tainan is the birthplace of Taiwan and Taiwan’s oldest city circa 1887 – the Qing Dynasty.
Bev called it a night. I went on to Blueprint Culture & Creative Park and finished my night off going to Shennong Street. Shennong street use to be the main entrance for the river ports during the Qing dynasty and now features cute shops and restaurants. I went to Muromachi Eel Don Three Eats 室町鰻丼三吃. I ordered the Grilled eel kabayaki style on Don rice 1350TWD.
So many options for bubble tea at any time of day that it can be overwhelming. I ended my night w/a Golden Oolong Tea from 50 Lan.