Taiwan has joined Japan in our most loved Asian countries. We love Taiwan for the incredibly friendly local folks. We love that the Taiwanese respect queues, that our random masseur recommends the best location to view the 2014 countdown fireworks while avoiding the crowds, that our public bus driver helps us with our luggages without being asked, that random Taipei folks we meet in wintry He Huan Mountain takes a polaroid of us with their camera to give us as a souvenir without asking anything in return, that food vendors offer to throw the rubbish in our hands for us from previous stores because we look like we are carrying so many items, that their service is warm and sincere. The kind acts of many Taiwanese we met really warm our hearts and make us want to return to Taiwan more often!
We spent ~7 days in Taiwan including travel time:
- Day 1-2: Taipei
- Day 3-4: Alishan
- Day 5: Sun Moon Lake, Cing Jing, He Huan Mountain, Taroko National Park
- Day 6: Taroko National Park
- Day 7: Taipei to go home
I will cover Taipei in this post and the rest of the locations will have their individual posts. Tips for pre-travel prep:
- Tip: Buy the Taiwan Mobile (台灣大哥) local SIM card with unlimited data and local call at the airport. It was ~NTD650 (SGD28) for unlimited data for 1 week, and comes with 30 minutes to call Taiwan numbers, which is very useful for liaising with the local drivers or calling the hotels. The coverage was good with data access even in the mountaineous areas.
- Tip: Instead of taking the usual bus from Airport to Taipei Hotels (~45 to 60 minutes depending on traffic), we highly recommend taking the Airport Bus to Taoyuan (10-15 minutes), and then the High Speed Rail (HSR) from Taoyuan to Taipei Main Station (20-25 minutes) which saves on travel time. The waiting time for both the bus and HSR is short.
Because we landed in Taipei in mid afternoon, and we were staying at affordable Hope Hotel in Taipei Main Station, we decided to explore Wu Fen Pu (五分埔)and Rao He Night Market (饒河街觀光夜市), which are both relatively near the Taipei Main Station compared to Shi Lin Night Market and keep Shi Lin Night Market for another day.
Wu Fen Pu (五分埔) is the largest wholesale shopping market in Taipei focused on fashion – clothes, bags, accessories and shoes. We visited in December so there are lots of winter clothes, styled after Japan and Korea street fashion. Other than the mass produced fashion which is similar to what one would find in China or Thailand markets, (Tip: I enjoyed the pockets of shops that are slightly pricier but of better quality. Usually, these fashion items are made in Taiwan and the local shop owners would be very proud that their items are made in Taiwan. N bought a pair of PU shoes made in Korea, while I picked up a very high quality PU bag made in Taiwan 🙂 (Tip: Visit the store called Bench Bags – I regret not buying more!), both for around SGD$50 each, but we believe they can last us for a few years with the good quality.
There are surprisingly yum street food finds were along the peripheral of Wufenpu (五分埔). For a usually non-squid person, the grilled squid was juicy, chewy and flavorful with every bite, unlike squids that might usually take bland at some parts.
From Wufenpu, Rao He Night Market (饒河街觀光夜市) is a short 10 to 15 minutes walk. From one end of the Rao He Night Market Street, which is only about 600m long, you will be welcomed by the queue for famous Hu Jiao Bing (胡椒餅; Crispy Pepper Spring Onion Bun). This bun, filled with meat marinated with sugar, soy sauce, black pepper and spring onions, is cooked in traditional clay oven, so it is piping hot with pepper goodness spread through the whole filling of the bun. The queue moves pretty fast so don’t be put off by the queue.
Rao He Night Market is also known for its Lu Rou Fan (滷肉飯; Braised Pork Rice). There are 3 stalls selling the same Lu Rou Fan and the locals said they were all equally good so we tried this stall’s Lu Rou Fan and Herbal Pork Ribs Soup (Bak Kut Teh). I loved the sweetness of the Lu Rou Fan but the Herbal Bak Kut Teh Ribs were too much for me, though I must admit the herbal soup dish is very good for warming up the stomach in winter. I also like how they serve the rice in a recyclable paper bowl which is clean and green.
No trip to Taiwan is complete without eating Chou Tofu (臭豆腐; Stinky Tofu) so we also shared the Spicy Ma La Chou To Fu and Duck Blood, which a lot of locals were eating. Regular fried Chou Tofu is already not for the faint hearted, and the Spicy one is definitely even more lethal!
We also shared the fish maw soup and tang hoon (vermicelli) from this store. The way the food was sold was extremely appealing but if you have limited stomach capacity and want to try so many other food, I recommend to prioritize other dishes.
I highly recommend the juicy freshly grilled mushrooms! The sauce is so highly infused, the sauce oozes with every bite!
By the end of the evening, we walked >7km and our feet were aching so we decided to check out this random massage place (足浴養生館). We tried the 45 minutes foot soak and massage for 499NTD (~SGD$20) each, which provided much needed relief for our aching feet. As this massage parlour is <1 year old, it is clean, comes with big cushy armchairs to lean back to enjoy the massage, as well as a huge TV screen playing random Japanese channels. The friendly masseurs are clearly experienced professionals, showing no mercy to our hurting feet, and proudly showing off their knowledge of how a certain hurting part of the foot reflects certain weak parts of our body. But I must say my masseur was pretty skillful because by the second time she was pressing on most of the sole of my foot, the original pain and ache I felt had changed into a relaxed relieved feeling. The massage also helped us rest well to walk even more the next day. Highly recommended if you need a quick foot rub in the area.
Full sets of posts that might be useful for your Taipei planning:
- Wu Fen Pu (五分埔) Shopping and Rao He Night Market (饒河街觀光夜市)
- Xi Men Ding (西門町)
- Shi Lin Night Market (士林夜市)
- Taipei 101, Christmas Illuminations, 大佳河濱公園 Park for 2014 Countdown
- Restaurant – L’Atelier de Joel Robuchon Restaurant (侯布雄法式餐廳)
- Hotel– Hope Hotel (全家歡商務旅店 ) and Cosmos Hotel (天成大飯店)
For locations outside of Taipei:
- Taiwan: Alishan (阿里山) – Fen Qi Hu (奮起湖) and 53.1 Homestay Min Su (民宿)
- Taiwan: Alishan Main Attraction – Alishan National Scenic Area (阿里山國家風景區)
- Taiwan: Alishan 阿里山, Sun Moon Lake 日月潭 , Cing Jing 清境, Taroko National Park 太魯閣國家公園
- Taiwan: Taroko National Park 太魯閣國家公園
- Taiwan: Taroko National Park 太魯閣國家公園 Lodging/Hotel – Silks Place 太鲁阁晶英酒店
- Taiwan: Taroko National Park 太魯閣國家公園 Lodging/Hotel – Leader Village 立德布洛灣山月村
Rao He Night Market (饒河街觀光夜市)
|Location||Raohe St. and Sec. 4, Bade Rd and Fuyuan St|
|Transportation||PUBLIC TRANSPORT: MRT Station：MRT Houshanpi Station (~10 min on foot)
Above information courtesy of TaipeiTravel.Net