Phew, finally I get to update my blog and share my trip to Taiwan not long ago (just returned last Friday) Tell you what, summer is definitely the worst time to visit Taiwan, or maybe Taipei only I don’t know.
The air is super humid, weather is like KL and it always drizzles without any warning. It’s like the whole city is trapped in a huge sauna lol. Just making a few steps out of your hotel and you would already sweat like hell! It feels damn miserable too to hold your camera on one hand, and use a umbrella on the other.
Weather aside, it was a nice trip overall with plenty of food eaten and interesting places visited. It’s impossible to share the summary of the trip in one single post so I have to break it down to daily basis.
Thanks to MAS for sponsoring the air tickets to Taipei, definitely my top choice of carrier in Malaysia. If you are interested to visit Taiwan, the best time is during October and November. Conveniently there’s a Deepavali holiday in October so you can plan a trip at that time. I just did a search for October’s flight and there’s plenty of options. The cheapest return ticket price including tax is only RM778 per pax. Do check it out.
It’s easy to pass time in the plane, as there’s plenty of things to do. You can take a nap (which I did), watch some latest movies like Red Cliff 2 or even play games!
Since our flight was at 9.40am and it takes 4.5 hours to reach Taipei, brunch was served. A choice of either chicken with potatoes, or..
Fish and rice. Do you notice the cup of red wine I requested?
Once we touched down Taiwan Taoyuan International Airport.. guess who’s the first to greet us. None other than the cute pig, Pukii! lol what a name, this pig will never have its name approved in Malaysia.
If you are between 15 and 30, the first thing you should do after reaching the airport is to apply for a Youth Travel Card at the Tourist Service Counter. Just provide your passport and fill in some forms and you will get it.
The card is very beneficial to tourists like us because it provides more than 500 special discounts on transportation, accommodations, restaurants and recreation. For the list of the 500 discounted things, a booklet is provided as reference.
Took a bus to Taipei Main Station for NT$80 (RM1 = NT$9) There’s plenty of express bus companies to choose from at the airport.
The accommodation we stayed for the first 3 nights in Taipei, Taipei Key Mall Traveler Hostel @ NT$1500 per night. I kinda regretted staying here for so long, as there’s many other nicer looking hotels with the same price in the area like CityInn.
Besides, the owner is a bit freaky and weird, and the worst thing is that they don’t accept credit card! Thanks to that I had to spend NT$4050 already on the first day, burning off 25% of the total cash we brought. And you know what, they even require a deposit of NT$300 for the bed sheets. I have learnt not to fully trust the positive reviews posted online now.
The only good thing about this hostel is its location. It’s located directly opposite the Taiwan Railway Station and is only 2 minutes away from the Taipei Main MRT station.
Since it was already evening when we reached our hostel, we decided to pay the night market a visit. And of course it gotta be Shihlin Night Market! Costs only NT$20 via MRT from Taipei station to JianTan station.
I have to say the MRT is what impressed me the most in Taipei. We never had to wait for more than 3 minutes for the train to arrive because the trains come so frequently. Our public transport is a joke if compared to theirs.
First thing that caught our eyes when we entered the night market, a lady selling sticks of candies 糖葫芦 made using huge strawberries. And I mean huge!
Some fruits that you must try in Taiwan are mango, lychee, guava and watermelon. Their watermelons are not round and longer in shape, not as juicy as ours and pack more crunch in the flesh.
This 生煎包 stall had lots of customers queuing up so we figured that it should be good. NT$12 for a meat bun and it was nice. Tasted like the ‘Dai Bao’ found in our dim sum restaurants, but with some vegetables inside. In our visits to the night markets, we chose the stall solely based on the number of people queuing for it.
A very famous drink in the night market is 粉圆, or the bubbles found in the Bubble Tea. It’s basically some transparent ball shaped jelly used to compliment drinks mostly.
In Taiwan they are also called 青蛙下蛋 eggs laid from the frog because of the similar look. This cup of Aiyu + Fenyuan drink cost NT$25 and to be honest it didn’t taste anything special to me.
Next to the Fenyuan stall was 郭记葱油饼, very brisk business indeed.
葱油饼 (Onion Flavored Biscuit) @ NT$23 with egg added. Crispy on the outside and much tastier when eaten together with the egg, which was fried to attach to the biscuit nicely.
And next to the Onion Flavored Biscuit stall was another stall with long queues, 蜜酥鸡排 (Crispy Honey Chicken Chop) We queued for it too.
It was so so so so so much nicer than those Chicken Chop sold by the Shihlin Taiwan Street Snacks franchise in Malaysia. The chili powder was not spicy at all and added much required kick to the chicken chop. It numbs your lips too. NT$50 only.
起司马铃薯 (Cheese Potato) is a very popular food in the night market as well after being featured in many Taiwan food TV shows. We didn’t try it because the portion looked big and we wanted to save space for other stuff.
Next to a cinema is Shock Tea that sold 珍珠奶茶 (Bubble Tea). I had pretty high hopes but the taste was a let down.. basically just some teh ais we could get anywhere, added with bubbles. So, no it didn’t shock me or syok me at all, NT$25.
Stalls selling fruit juice were everywhere. And one of the specialties is the honey bitter gourd juice, see the white color fruit?
Quite surprised to know the night market also sells Bak Kut Teh and Hainan Chicken Rice lol. And they claim it’s from Sentosa, Singapore too.
Although it’s a popular food in Taiwan, Stinky Tofu (臭豆腐) is one thing I couldn’t stand. The taste, the smell, everything about it. Besides being barbecued, you will also find them being cooked in 麻辣 (Ma Lat) style and hot pots.
Luckily Taiwan’s stinky tofu smell is not as strong compared to the KL ones.
I think I will never ever be able to like Stinky Tofu. I just couldn’t tolerate the stench it emits.. and it felt like eating garbage while munching it in your mouth. Sorry to those Stinky Tofu lovers out there. This is my fourth time eating Stinky Tofu and I swear it will be my last. NT$25.
Barbecued bird eggs @ NT$20 a stick. Nothing special here, just like normal fried eggs.
The Spring Rolls had ingredients and preparation methods closely resembling our poppiah.
I was surprised to find 阿宗面线 (Ah Chung Flour-Rice Noodles) at Shihlin because from what I knew, it was only available in Xi Men Ding.
Didn’t waste the chance and grabbed a small bowl immediately @ NT$40. Wow it was nice, especially the soft and tender 大肠 (intestines) Put in some vinegar and hot sauce for the extra kick that will give your throat a burning sensation.
The good thing about Shihlin’s Ah Zong Mian Xian is that you get to sit and eat with tissues provided. Compared to the main branch at Xi Men Ding, you have to stand beside the road.
Due to the huge crowd, people are forced to walk near the main road. If you are not careful you might get hit by the incoming cars, scooters and worse still, buses! See the bus number 616 in the background? It was only inches away from the pedestrians.
Besides food, shops selling clothes, either branded or non-branded are widely available at the night market. I noticed that Taiwanese like to shop at night markets more than at shopping malls. Totally different from Malaysia.
The huge pot of jelly is called 爱玉 Aiyu Jelly, usually displayed with halved lemons on it. They do not melt easily even at high temperature.
Taiwan is blessed with lots of seafood, and barbecued giant squids like these were around almost every corner. Due to the huge size again, we did not try it.
Opposite the JianTan station, diagonally opposite the Shihlin night market is the old Shihlin Market – a food court like building. Some of Shihlin’s best food can be found here like 豪大大鸡排 (Hao Da Big Chicken Chop) and Oyster Omelettes.
Shaved ice desserts is the other attraction here, which you can only enjoy while seated.
After surveying around, we found 阿忠冰店 (Ah Zhong Ice Shop) had the most customers.
Our first shaved ice in Taiwan, 草莓芒果冰 (Strawberry and Mango Shaved Ice) @ NT$80. The way the desserts were prepared was very straightforward – just place the fruits on the shaved ice then pour the evaporated milk, syrups and condensed milk over it.
The thing that made it so special was the shaved ice, made with milk and had the softest and finest (软绵绵) texture ever. They don’t melt easily too.
There were many stalls selling 蚵仔煎 Oyster Omelette so we were kinda torn on which stall we should try. Since 大头龙 (Da Tou Long – Big Head Dragon) was featured in many Taiwanese shows as depicted at their stall front, we chose them.
Costing NT$50 a plate, it comes with some medium sized oysters and was topped with a sweet tasting sauce. Taste wise, I am glad to say our version of oyster omelette is MUCH better than theirs.
My observation revealed that our hawkers are more skillful in cooking a delicious oyster omelette. The way they cook the oyster omelette is so simple that anyone can master it in a few minutes. Fry some oyster first, add starch, then beat an egg on top of everything. Wait a while for it to fry and flip over, that’s all.
Now, compare that with our hawker’s skill.
We had some barbecued chicken and lamb flavored with black pepper @ NT$80 (not impressive) before we called it a day and headed back to our hostel. The next day, it’s all walking, walking, walking and more walking lol.
Now, for some random photos from Day 1
The Shihlin Old Market (not the night market), where I had the oyster omelette and shaved ice. Once you get down from JianTan MRT you will see this on your left.
Some sights on the way to Shihlin Night Market
At the main entrance of the night market
A shop selling Taiwan’s popular pastries. The 凤梨酥 (Pineapple Biscuits) are MUST BUYS, great as gifts.
The frog laying egg thingy I mentioned earlier. WOW Frog Eggs! Do you still have the appetite to try it? lol
Some exotic stuff to me that I never bothered wanting to try.. Ma Lat Chicken Blood wtf.
A bubble tea stall
This stall is selling something like our Ipoh’s Salted Chicken, 盐酥鸡. A funny thing in Taiwan is that they like to use the letter G to represent the Chinese word for Chicken, 鸡, since they sound similar. (To be continued)