Continued from Day 1 of my Taiwan trip. We decided to skip the free breakfast provided by our hostel because I have made it a point to try the Taiwanese traditional breakfast.
I guess because it’s a different culture, most Taiwanese do not have their breakfast in the food shops. Instead, they take away the prepacked sandwiches and pan fried pancakes. That would explain why the shops in Taiwan are so small compared to our local kopitiam. This is just my personal observation so please do not take it as a fact.
Lucky for us there were rows of food shops within walking distance to our hostel. But we still walked around looking for shops that sell soy bean milk, especially Yong He (永和豆浆) Actually it was pretty stupid of us to do that since almost all food shops sell soya bean milk, just that they don’t display it on their signboards.
Unable to find any Yong He Soya Bean Milk, we just settled down for the shop which looked the busiest. Just for your information we did manage to try Yong He on the fourth day, it was near Shilin MRT station.
We had a turkey ham sandwich (not shown) and Scallion Pancake (葱油饼, or was it 葱抓饼 I can’t remember lol）, two cups of soy milk for NT$80. I think you have probably guessed it, the Scallion Pancake not only looks like a roti canai, in fact it tasted quite similar too. Quite recommended.
After that we took a MRT ride to Chiang Kai-Shek Memorial Hall (國立中正紀念堂), NT$20 from Taipei Main Station. Do expect some walking before you reach the place.
Shown here is the Ceremonial Gateway (自由广场) at the entrance to the memorial. You won’t walk through it if you are here via MRT though. Entrance is free.
The memorial is surrounded by a park and is flanked by the National Theater and National Concert Hall on the south. This is the National Concert Hall. Thanks to the hot and humid (hazy like) + drizzling + overcast weather all the photos appeared dull. At that time our mood was quite depressed because the miserable weather affected us a lot.
The National Theater Hall.
I don’t know whether you know it or not but I am gonna say it anyway just for the sake of increasing this post’s word count lol. This memorial was built to commemorate Chiang Kei-Shek (obviously), former President of the Republic of China.
As a former president I would think that he is well liked by the people but I might be wrong. I overheard some tourist guides talking bad about him, so I don’t know what’s up with that. Again, just an observation ok.
Going up the stairs is a must for a magnificent view of the memorial, and getting to see the statue of the President himself.
Two soldiers in white uniform guard the premise.
From here there are lifts that go to three floors within the monument – each exhibiting a different attraction. Among items being displayed are the chairs the former President used to sit on. Interestiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiing.
Also one of the last sedan cars he used to own as the official vehicle.
And a replica of his office, with the President himself included too. There’s actually much more things to see here like collection of his calligraphy, uniforms, medals, battle histories and many more but I am not going to elaborate on that. If you are dead serious on looking at each and every item displayed in this monument it would take hours.
My plan was to take the MRT to GongGuan station for Tai Yi Niu Nai Da Wang (台一牛奶大王), one of the highly recommended places to go for shaved ice. It is always patronized by the students of National Taiwan University, located just across the road.
In Taipei, some MRT stations are those with bicycle access and GongGuan is one of them. With the university being a stone’s throw away, no wonder the station is fully parked with bicycles.
I only knew the shop is located near GongGuan MRT, so I had to ask for directions before reaching Tai Yi.
Tai Yi is famous for their desserts during summer and hot glutinous rice balls during the winter. It doesn’t matter the season, their glutinous rice balls are always available even though it’s summer.
We ordered two bowls of shaved ice desserts totaling NT$180.
One being the Fresh Strawberry Ice Milk (新鲜草莓牛奶冰) @ NT$120. The strawberries were actually sour but the amount of condensed milk poured made everything tasted sweet lol.
Red Bean Ice Milk (红豆牛奶冰) @ NT$60, nothing special about it. I just finished the red beans and discarded the remaining ice. If you ask me whether I liked the shaved ice.. not really because you are basically eating fruits on ice drenched in condensed milk. To be honest our ice kacang or cendol are much better hehe.
The entrance to the National Taiwan University. Apparently there was a convocation going on when we went there.
Our next destination was Longshan Temple, reachable via the MRT Bannan Line. Just alight at Longshan Temple station. Another thing I learnt about taking MRT in Taiwan is that all the stations whether they belong to Danshui, Xindian, Zhonghe or Bannan line, they are considered under the same system.
So if you are travelling to a different line like I did from GongGuan (Xindian line) to Longshan Temple (Bannan line), you don’t have to buy two tokens even though you have to switch lines at Taipei Main Station later. Just look at the map for the required amount to travel to your destination and purchase the token accordingly.
It’s not like KL where LRT, Monorail and KTM meet at the same station but require different tickets to work.
Once you reach LongShan Temple MRT station, there’s a short underground tunnel that you need to go through before reaching the temple. Along the tunnel were some shops offering fortune telling and traditional facial hair removal services.
There are actually five temples in Taiwan named Longshan Temple 龍山寺. It serves as a place of worship for the locals but for me, it’s a place to admire Taiwanese classical architecture.
Offerings by the devotees.
There were many shops to eat around the temple. We didn’t eat there because we already planned to have our lunch at Yong Kang Street.
Across the road from Longshan Temple is Meng Chia Park, some plaza-like place with hawkers and old folks hanging around chit chatting. It’s pretty scary here due to the homeless people lurking around so we didn’t stay long.
Then it’s back to MRT station again. Since we traveled on MRT the most I figured that it should make an appearance too.
Instead of tickets, their MRT station accepts token with the fare programmed into it. The gates are fitted with a scanner that scans the amount stored in the token, faster and more straightforward compared to using tickets. And when you’re exiting, just insert the token into the slot.
From Longshan Temple, we traveled to Daan station for Yong Kang Street (永康街). Yong Kang Street is a concentration of some of the most famous restaurants in Taipei, which was the only reason we came here.
Although many guides suggest that Yong Kang street is reachable by foot from Daan station (15 minutes), I highly suggest you not to attempt that unless you’re familiar with the streets. Because even with a map in hand, we had difficulty looking for it and ended up taking a taxi for NT$100. We felt it was definitely the correct decision after realizing the crazy distance we had to walk if not by taxi!
Lao Zhang Beef Noodles Shop (老张牛肉面店) was our first stop for lunch, located just next to Yong Kang street.
The beef noodle here is available in three different soups – clear, tomato or spicy. I was reserved about the latter two’s taste so we ordered the clear one just to be safe.
Besides the soup, you can also specify the kind of meat you want. It could be all meat, all tendon or half meat and half tendon. We took the half meat half tendon to have a taste of both sides.
The beef noodle was not bad, not so heavy tasting if compared to ours. But the beef was damn nice, tender and flavorful.
We also tried their Dan Dan Mian, quite tasty too. Altogether both noodles cost NT$280.
Then we walked to Din Tai Fung (鼎泰丰), known as one of the best restaurants to bring your foreign friends to in Taiwan aka tourist trap. The long queue is not entirely due to its popularity but also because of the restaurant’s small size.
This branch we went is the first and original branch, located on Xinyi Road. Founded in 1958, Din Tai Fung has since grown to becoming one of the world’s top 10 restaurants in 1993. They have restaurants located all around the world including Malaysia at The Gardens, Mid Valley too.
Tell you what, I never dined at The Gardens’ one before lol. We ordered the mandatory Steamed Pork Dumplings (小笼包 Xiao Long Bao), ten for NT$170.
Well, I think the taste is the same as those we would get in Malaysia.
We also had the Shrimp Wanton @ NT$150. After this meal we felt really tired and our feet was damn sore. So we took a short rest in our hostel, took a bath to refresh ourselves before going to Taipei 101.
The cheapest way to reach Taipei 101 is to alight at Taipei City Hall (市政府) MRT station and take a 10-15 minutes walk. There’s a mall under Taipei 101, looking all grand and impressive but it was pretty deserted even on a weekend night.
Although many other taller buildings are being constructed in Dubai and Shanghai, Taipei 101 will remain as the world’s tallest building until any of them are actually completed. With a height of 508 meters, it also housing the world’s biggest passive wind damper, with a diameter of 5.5 meters and weighing 660 metric tons(!)
The entrance to Taipei 101 Observatory is NT$400 per person (NT$350 if Youth Travel Card presented) Visitors will get to travel to the observatory located at the 89th floor via the World’s Fastest Elevator, able to travel at a top speed of 1,010 meters per minute. It takes only 37 seconds to go from the 5th floor to the 89th floor.
This is the night view as seen at the indoor observatory. The photo is blurry but not too bad considering I shot it without using a tripod. I think everyone would agree that KL has a much more beautiful nightview.
One of the cartoon characters in the indoor observatory, created based on the damper.
Behind the guy is the Super Big Wind Damper, which sways to offset movements in the building caused by short blasts of wind.
Each visitor is entitled to a discount coupon usable at the Sky Cafe.
Xin Dong Yang (新东阳), a popular shop selling Taiwan local delicacies can be found here too.
Jewelry most made of coral gemstones and souvenirs are available at the boutique located before the exit. Really expensive stuff here.
Back to walking again, all the way back to Taipei City Hall MRT station, where we traveled to HouShanPi station. The reason we went there was to visit RaoHe Street Night Market, another famous night market in Taipei. Seen here is Shin Kong Matsushita, a rather popular department-store.
RaoHe Street Night Market is reachable on foot from the MRT station but again I don’t recommend it because the distance is freaking far. Better take a taxi and it only cost NT$115 for the journey.
The first stall we saw at the night market was already full of queing customers. It sold Pepper Biscuit (胡椒饼), a traditional street food in Taiwan.
Minced meat is stuffed into a bun, then baked in a oven that looked similar those used to bake naan. The buns were baked by sticking them to the wall of the oven above the flames, like how naan is cooked too.
NT$45 a piece and it’s HOT! Slightly burnt on some parts but it didn’t really matter.
As you can see the dough is pretty thick and it takes a few bites before you could taste the meat filling. The meat was sweet and peppery, quite a unique taste. Be prepared to drink lots of water after eating one of these biscuits because they are really really heaty.
RaoHe Street Night Market is not as big as Shilin’s and the customers are notably less too. Good thing is that it’s easier to walk around without bumping into strangers so often, but this also meant there’s much lesser things to see and try.
Even so, I didn’t notice this type of sausage stall in Shilin. It was called 原住民山猪肉香肠 (Indigenous People Wild Boar Sausage) that sold sausages made using wild boar’s meat.
I am not sure if wild boar’s meat was used to make the sausage but it tasted pretty awesome. Juicy, tender and full of flavor. It was well worth the wait we endured. Throughout my entire Taiwan trip, I found this stall’s sausage to be the tastiest, and also one of the best street food I had.
So do drop by this stall if you happen to visit RaoHe Street Night Market. I highly recommend this.
The last stall we went before heading back to our hostel was 小明冰品 (Xiao Ming Shaved Ice) We felt the number of customers eating there should be an indication that it was good.
And we were right! The 芒果牛奶冰 (Mango Shaved Ice with Milk) @ NT$70 was niceeeee. Among all the mango desserts we had in Taiwan, Xiao Ming’s was the sweetest without having to resort to using lots of condensend milk.
They have this clever way of wrapping the plates with plastic (not too environmental friendly though) so that the plates won’t have to be washed later. In overall we were quite happy having visited RaoHe Street Night Market because we had two of our ‘bests’ here.
The next day we went on tours to Yehliu and Jioufen, will blog about that later.