Deciding upon our travel destination for our year-end holiday wasn’t an easy feat for boyfriend wanted to go to Japan while I wanted Hong Kong. We even resorted to playing Scissors, Paper, Stone (our way of making decisions coz we’re too cool for coin flipping) but boyfriend backed out when I won because he didn’t want to go to a Cantonese-speaking country due to his inability to speak/understand that dialect -_- Smelly.
So we settled on Taiwan! It would be our second time there which I didn’t mind at all as I absolutely loved that place. In addition, we could also experience their winter season since it was summer when we went there 2 years before.
I know Taiwan isn’t the “official” land of smiles (that’d be Thailand) but I personally feel that the friendliness and kindness of the Taiwanese beat the Thai’s hands down. No offence to Thai people and their supporters 😦
However because we were both financially broke, we only booked our flight tickets and hotel two weeks before our trip when we had saved enough LOL! Talk about super last minute. So obviously the rates weren’t very attractive, maybe except for the hotel which was on discount on Expedia. We actually took DAYS to finalise our lodging plans because all the hotels available were either too expensive (FX Hotel S$1000+ per night wtf) or too lok-kok (rundown). I’m super particular about hygiene and cleanliness so I wouldn’t want to stay in places where there isn’t daily room make up. But looking at the choices we had then, we could only stay in serviced apartments so bo bian we booked for one. Then days later, I found a better deal in a legit hotel located at a shopping district some more. So 还想什么？TAKE!
We spent about S$1700 each for transport and accommodation for a 9-day-8-night trip. Not too bad la hor? *self-comforting*
We flew with Jetstar this time because it offered the lowest rate among all the budget airlines. SCOOT Y U NO HAVE CHEAP TICKETS IN DECEMBER!? As it was our second time flying with that airline, we knew how miserably small the legroom is so we paid more for extra legroom seats on our flight to Taiwan especially since we were on an early morning flight (at 7-ish am) and we wanted a more spacious seat to sleep on. Even after adding in the extra charges, Jetstar’s tickets were still the cheapest. 5 hours in the air flew by very quickly because we were dog-tired.
We arrived at Taoyuan Airport close to noon and spent the next hour queueing up at the immigration counter and getting our SIM card. We spent NT$1000 on taxi to get to our hotel at Xi Men Ding (coz once again 梁少爷 a.k.a the boyfriend is too lazy to take public transport).
I actually did a search on the hotel before the trip and found some undesirable pictures of the lobby LOL. They got me very worried because they made the hotel seem very shady. I mentally prepared myself and boyfriend (kept telling him that the hotel looks la sam) so that we wouldn’t get a rude shock there.
Go Sleep shares the same building with other facilities not owned by the hotel, such as night club, bowling alley and ice skating rink on the first few levels. Hotel rooms are all on the 7th, 8th and 9th floors which you’d need to scan your hotel room card in the lift to access. However one of the lifts (there are 2) had a faulty scanner so anyone could access these levels without the card. The hotel also provides rooms at hourly rates…… Thus, this hotel is probably shady. LOL but my stay there throughout the trip was rather pleasant. Never did I once feel my safety threatened so okay I deem this hotel safe to stay in!
Not bad, the room is very modern looking. It’s clean and well-maintained too!
Every room is designed differently. I had seen the interior of other rooms on my way out as well and I must say those with windows are damn gorgeous. They totally do not look like what you’d expect in a hotel with a dubious-looking lobby Hahaha!!
My hotel booking comes with daily breakfast but we only had it once there because we’re not morning people. There wasn’t much variety anyway so I didn’t feel like I missed out a lot. The only nice thing there was probably the DIY braised pork rice.
We didn’t have to worry about food at Ximending because there were food vendors at every corner of the street. At night, there would be a pushcart near our hotel lobby selling sausages cooked on the spot at just NT$30 per piece. We had that for almost every night! The smell was just too tempting and irresistible.
Honestly this Taiwan trip is rather impromptu. Our half-past-six 9-day itinerary lacked proper research (planned to go Taipei Zoo at 2pm when it closes at 4.30pm HAHA WIN!) and we also didn’t follow it very closely. It was really an own-time-own-target trip, going to places as and when we liked. Dusk fell more rapidly duing cold weather and it would be already be dark by 5pm! Moreover the coldness outside made us very lazy and on certain days we’d just bum around in our hotel room until late afternoon to have dinner. This, ladies and gentlemen, is what I call a holiday LOL. Hence I’ll just cover places I hadn’t been to during my first Taiwan trip, sorted by day.
* * DAY 1 * *
Cafe Wakuwaku (Xi Men Ding)
It was an hour too early to check into our hotel so we left our luggages at the reception and proceeded to have our lunch elsewhere. We walked around the area and found this cafe which served mainly western food. We went up (it was on the second storey) despite wanting to eat something truly Taiwanese because we were starving!
Boyfriend had Mexican Style Chicken Risotto while I ate their signature fried rice. Both dishes came with a set meal which included soup of the day, a drink and dessert.
Soup of the day was pumpkin soup. Yumtums!
It was a great start to our trip because we enjoyed our food very much! They were pretty darn good! *kisses fingers* Each set comes in rather generous portions and most importantly, they are really affordable! Less than S$10 per set and you leave the cafe feeling like you ate at a buffet table. Hahaha! Free wifi (I believe it belongs to the building which houses a hotel called inHouse and apparently this cafe also belongs to the hotel) is also available.
I’m not sure what was for dessert but it has a little coconut taste so it could be coconut cake.
No. 107, Xining S. Rd.
Taipei City, Taiwan
Nearest MRT: Ximen
* * DAY 2 * *
Ah Zhong Mian Xian
To start off our 9-day authentic Taiwanese diet, we went hunting for Ah Zhong Mian Xian’s flagship store at Ximending which was just a stone’s throw away from our hotel. Boyfriend wanted to try it so badly so I just tagged along even though I wasn’t very eager to have it (I’m not even a mee sua fan at home.. they just smell and look so unappetising to me). With a vicinity map provided by our hotel, we managed to find the shop without breaking a sweat.
I had always thought that it would look like some traditional mee sua shop (it must be the “Ah Zhong”) with proper dining tables and chairs. But contrary to my assumption, the serving area and kitchen take up the entire unit. There are (very limited number of) chairs but no table so everyone either eat with the bowl in their hand standing up or sitting down.
A long queue had already formed when we arrived but it also moved very quickly. Our turn came within a few minutes of waiting and our mian xian was also ready for collection right after we ordered. So efficient man. There were also sauces (vinegar included) somewhere which you could add to your mian xian.
Boyfriend ordered a large bowl so that he could share it with me. I reluctantly took a spoonful and was surprised to find myself liking it as well. It tastes like some low-grade shark’s fin soup you find in pasar malams but better lah. But what spoilt the dish for me were the pig’s intestines. I’m not a fan of animal intestines as I think they taste as bad as they smell and their rubbery texture really gross me out.
Boyfriend loved it so much, he ate there four times throughout the trip. Dining in Ximending can be expensive so if you’re looking to satisfy your hunger pangs with something not-so-unhealthy (Hot Star is nearby also) yet filling, you should consider trying their mian xian! 🙂
No.8-1, Emei St.
Nearest MRT: Ximen, Exit 6
Some pictures of Ximending before we move on to the next destination:
Sun Yat-sen Memorial Hall
Prior to the trip, boyfriend kept reminding me not to plan a shopping itinerary and to include more sights and attractions so that we could stretch our dollars. Last Taiwan trip, we went near-broke on the third day of our seven-day trip because of my excessive shopping LOL. We had to rely on credit cards in the end. Hopefully history doesn’t repeat itself 😛 We’ll see..
So yup, we arrived at one of the well-known memorial halls in Taipei. The history of the memorial hall, which was built to honour the Republic of China’s National Father Dr Sun Yat-sen, can be seen all over in the building. If you’re a history junkie, this is the attraction for you. But I was too lazy to read so I surrendered after reading those few near the entrance.
If you think this is a museum of Sun Yat-sen, high five! That was what I thought too but .. it isn’t LOL. Bimbo moment. It is, somewhat like our Esplanade, a multi-purpose social, educational and cultural center for the public. We saw many youngsters having their dance practice near the entrance which revitalised the traditional-looking building.
The main highlight of our trip there was, however, to watch the change of guards. If you plan to visit any memorial hall, be sure to stay until you see the guards change shifts. They happen every hour (e.g. 1pm, 2pm, etc.) and we were lucky to be able to catch it the moment we stepped into the main hall (second level I think. When in doubt, just follow the crowd HAHA).
The other memorial hall I know is the National Chiang Kai-shek Memorial Hall which was on my itinerary but due to our laziness, we didn’t go in the end. LOL Maybe next time!
Raohe Night Market
In order to get to Raohe we had to cut through Wufenpu (what a perfect excuse to go there TEEHEE!!) so we spent some time rummaging the garment market for things to buy BUT because it’s the cold season there, majority of the stuff sold were not suitable for Singapore’s humid climate so we didn’t buy much. I accidentally bought a pair of army print flats at S$70 because I heard the price wrongly!!!! It’s pricey because the salesgirl claimed that it was imported from South Korea which brings me to my next question… (please ignore blockquote if you’re not in the mood to read my rant)
WHY ARE ITEMS IMPORTED FROM KOREA ALWAYS SO EXPENSIVE?
Etude House, The Face Shop, Laneige, Skinfood and the list goes on.. Things there are NEVER cheap outside of South Korea. It’s like shop owners capitalise on the k-craze and mark up the price of anything that comes from Korea. Please la, is Korea so dai sai (big whoop) until can be more expensive than European/American/Japanese products ah?! I’m sorry, NO! Having owned so many Korea-imported apparels in the past, I can vouch that the material is not as godly as people always claim to be lor please. Korean cosmetics are also not very fantastic leh!? I owned a Laneige palette, a Somang BB cream and used TFS face masks (which were ALL gifted to me thankfully) and I did not find anything so special about them that warrants the high price. Why are people so gaga over them when they’re so EXPENSIVE!?! Anyway, I swear that no matter how much I like a product, the moment the salesperson quotes me an exorbitant price and reasons it with “because it’s imported from Korea”, I’d leave the shop immediately. Period.
Whatever it is, that was my most regretful purchase from Taiwan. 😥
Ok back to Raohe, I mentioned about this place before on my previous Taiwan entry so I’m not gonna elaborate much on it. So allow me to indulge you with food pictures taken in Raohe. There were quite a number of new stalls there!
Ráohé St, Songshan District
Taipei City, Taiwan 10567
Nearest MRT: Houshanpi, Exit 1
Nearest Railway station: Songshan
* * DAY 3 * *
Zhen Pin Yang Shen Fang (珍品養生坊)
We were craving for some hot desserts to keep ourselves warm in that chilly weather. As our hotel was situated towards the back of Ximending, we would have to walk past several food stores to get to the train station and this dessert shop was one of them (Yong He Dou Jiang is just beside it). Feeling famished and cold, we got ourselves a table and ordered a bowl of mini colourful glutinous rice balls with no filling to temporarily satisfy our hunger. But it was sooo good (maybe coz we were skipped breakfast and lunch lah, hungry like mad) so we ordered another bowl of glutinous rice balls with black sesame paste filling. It totally kept us warm for the next few hours!
On other days, we would also take away one or two bowls back to our hotel. Definitely a must-have if you’re there during the cold season!
No. 46 Hankou Section 2
Taipei City, Taiwan 108
Nearest MRT: Ximen
I planned to visit this cafe after Taipei 101 on day 2 since they are in close proximity. However boyfriend chickened out once again (we wanted to go there on our first trip -_-) due to his fear for heights and so the entire itinerary was changed. We wanted to try their highly-acclaimed honey toasts anyway so we rescheduled this to day 3.
Getting there is relatively easy as it’s just about 5 minutes walk away from its nearest metro station, Zhongxiao Dunhua. Hidden from the area with high human traffic, it’s tucked beside a rather narrow road. You’ll need to go behind the main shopping buildings to locate it. (When in doubt, use GPS) Once you’re there, you should be able to spot its huge sign display stand.
Like any other themed cafes in Taiwan, you’d need to make reservation prior to your visit because they are very popular with the locals and foreigners. Silly me didn’t do so so we had to wait for a few minutes (which was pretty fast actually) before we could get a table.
We shared one Dazzling Classic Honey Toast because we also read that a portion is able to feed 2! Very true indeed. One is just nice for our stomachs and we were probably one of those few who managed to clear our plate. Other patrons who ordered for each individual gave up after a few mouthfuls. On top of that, we also got ourselves each a drink as we also read about their one-drink-per-customer policy online. However when we were there, we weren’t advised so by the waitress so they probably changed it.
After the honey toast is placed on your table, the waitress would give you time to take pictures of it before they proceed to cut down the “walls” for you. YAY INSTAGRAM TIME!! (no wifi there by the way *boo* so I had to tether internet from SIM card)
The honey toast was really good in my opinion but overrated to boyfriend. Thus I conclude that it’s nice only to those who are suckers for sweet stuff HAHAHA. I thought the inner toast were really soft and they go really well with the ice cream! The “walls” are partly coated with sugar and I poured maple syrup over it. YUMMMMEH thinking about it makes me want to go back and try other flavours!
Honestly I think my appetite grew bigger since I arrived in Taiwan because I wasn’t very full after having the toast. I even wanted to order another one but I knew I wouldn’t be able to finish everything all on my own so I dropped the idea and got myself macarons instead!
They are not on the menu so you gotta go to the front counter to see their flavours! Too bad they ran out of lemon flavoured ones 😦 Macarons were nice and sweet but they crumbled really easily and messily unlike those I had at our Antoinette! Worth a try though if you’re dying to have something to chew on after eating so much bread.
No. 11, Alley 7, Lane 205, Section 4
Zhōngxiào East Rd, Daan District
Taipei City, Taiwan 106
Nearest MRT: Zhongxiao Dunhua, Exit 3
For reservation, call +886 02-8773-9229 or e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org
After our carbo-loading meal, we took a cab to a mall to catch a movie. Thereafter, we went to Shilin Night Market to have our late dinner/supper.
Shilin Night Market
Another repeated destination so I’m not going to explain much about it. However I must add that Shilin recently got another makeover (not sure if it’s another one or a continuation of what I saw 2 years ago) and it’s now pretty organised and clean! Ok enough said, let the food pictures do the talking:
Jīhé Rd, Shilin District
Taipei City, Taiwan 111
Nearest MRT: Jiantan
* * DAY 4 * *
Hello Kitty Cafe
I know I had blogged about this before already but I.. just cannot exclude my second time there on this entry hehe. Hello Kitty cafe is probably the most popular themed cafe in Taiwan and you can almost never get a table if you haven’t made prior reservation. I did through e-mail about one week before the scheduled date and I received a confirmation from them within the next hour. SO EFFICIENT!
Anyway, the reservation was voided because I overslept (disadvantage of a free-and-easy trip lol). They had already given my table to another walk-in customer by the time I arrived (about 20 minutes later) 😦 But luckily they were kind enough to offer me a table albeit only available an hour later. In the meantime, boyfriend and I went to SOGO just across the street to get some Beard Papa snacks.
SOGO in Taiwan kinda reminds me of our Takashimaya (many departments, usually for branded stuff, and a mega mart) but they have many branches across the country.
We walked around the area after getting a quick bite and found our homegrown brand, Bee Cheng Hiang! Judging from the small crowd in the shop, I reckon that 肉干 (dried pork jerky charqui) or BCH is quite popular with the Taiwanese. Here in Singapore, you can hardly see anybody in the Bee Cheng Hiang stores here unless it’s the lunar new year, right!? Boyfriend wanted to see if the taste of the charqui differed in another country so he bought 100g of it to try.
Conclusion: no difference at all. Hahaha!
We headed back to Hello Kitty Cafe and was given the same table as our first visit. The interior and menu seemed to have changed quite a bit. They removed smoked salmon from their appetizer menu but that’s fine with me because I could have it at Ikea any time. Hehe.
Anyway, we remembered going crazy over their smoked duck breast so we ordered 2 plates of it a la carte (at NT$100 each) and also opted for it for our appetisers as part of our set meal. Thus we had 4 plates in total! Actually it wasn’t a lot at all cos they only gave us 2-3 miserably thin slices of it 😦
I vividly remembered Boyfriend savouring his cheese bacon beef burger during our first visit so I wanted to try it this time! Boyfriend ordered Kitty Boston Steak Burger.
Boyfriend didn’t enjoy his meal at all because the steak was strangely served COLD! We feedback about this to the waitress but she gave us the lamest excuse that it turned cold while on its way to our table. Like whutttttt… I normally have no complaints about customer service in Taiwan but it’s rather obvious how poor theirs is from this encounter. The cafe looked understaffed and the service crew was running around frantically attending to customers and it took quite awhile for them to take our orders.
Their food was their saving grace.
I felt my bowel movements (lol) once I was done with my food so I went to the ladies! No one was in there so I had the entire toilet to myself to camwhore LOL. The toilet is so pink and pretty! I felt bad smearing their toilet bowl with my faeces. HEHEHE JUST KIDDING.
The bill came up to NT$1529 which is equivalent to about S$65 (probably more than that since I paid by card and you know, the exchange rates offered by banks are crazy). Not very reasonable considering that they served cold boston steak. Pfftttt. Most likely won’t be returning again
No. 90, Section 1
Da’an Road, Da’an District
Taipei City, Taiwan 106
Nearest MRT: Zhongxiao Fuxing, Exit 3
For reservation, call +886 2 2711 1132 or e-mail email@example.com
Zhu Ji Beef Steak Wonton (朱記牛排餛飩專賣)
At night, boyfriend was already on the hunt for another beef steak to make up for the awful cold one he had at Hello Kitty cafe. I searched online for recommendations in Ximending but they were all rather expensive and we wanted to preserve our funds for the next few remaining days in Taiwan. Then boyfriend recalled seeing an eating place beside our hotel building which served all kinds of steak! Fish steak, chicken steak, beef steak.. you name it, they have it. Hahaha!
The place was rather vacant when we went there. Being a Singaporean who associates queues/crowd with popularity for eateries, I have to admit that I was quite sceptical about the taste of their food at first. Boyfriend and I ordered beef steaks on hot plate. We expected them to just serve us just that because there wasn’t any indication on the order chit that it came with something else. Furthermore the price was also very reasonable for an a la carte menu.
Then the food came…
We were pleasantly surprised! Placed on top of the soup bowl was what we’d call the Taiwanese roti prata. The meal also came with a cup of plum drink and the beef portion was huge for a meal which costed only S$6!?! OMG MAN. If you’re broke and hungry in Ximending, I’d totally recommend this place for its very value-for-money food!
No. 54-14, Section 2
Hankou St, Wanhua District
Taipei City, Taiwan 108
Nearest MRT: Ximen, Exit 3 or 6
* * *
GoSleep Hotel (Hankou)
No. 54, Section 2
Hankou Street, Wanhua District,
Taipei City, Taiwan 108
Nearest MRT: Ximen
* * *
That’s all for days 1-4! I’ve decided to split the entire trip into 2 parts because there are just too many pictures to blog about! Stay tuned for the next instalment 🙂
Read part 2 of “Revisiting Taiwan, the Land of Smiles” here.
Taiwan, the Heart of Asia 2012