Wanderlust: Taiwan

Feng Jia Night Market, Taichung, Taiwan

22:53


Heads up, geography lesson here.

So Taiwan has Taipei, which is where the international airport is located at. Taipei literally means North Taiwan. Then there's Taichung in the middle, which means Middle Taiwan. There is also a Tainan, which means... Southern Taiwan.

After a few days in Taipei, three of us bid our Taipei hosts goodbye, and headed to the bus terminal next to Taipei Main Station. We were going to train it down to Taichung, but according to our hosts taking the bus was much cheaper.

We got on a Guo Guang bus in less than half an hour after arriving at the station. Keiko was right about the pricing - we paid about 140 TWD (RM15) or so to get ourselves to Taichung.

However, the drive there was quite scary. What with bumps and sudden swerves, I am actually quite amazed I fell asleep at one point from tiredness. I would have been clutching my armrest otherwise.

Once we got to Taichung though, we had to rely on taxis to get us about, because Taichung did not have the MRT system that Taipei has. We were planning to stay for the night, before heading back to Taipei the next day.

We stayed at a place called No Parking Taichung Guesthouse, Taiwan, booked via Hostelworld. To find this place, it is best to get a local number and take down the phone number listed in Hostelworld. It is not advertised in any way that it is a guesthouse.

In fact, after handing my phone to the taxi driver so that he could talk to the owner about its whereabouts, the taxi driver remarked that the guesthouse was probably not registered legally. Hence, he added, the lack of advertisement.

This really made me feel better, thanks taxi driver.

I was wondering what I'd do if we got kidnapped or sold, when the mildest looking man showed up at the nearby ABC Mart and proceeded to bring us to the guesthouse. Our room was on the third floor of an unassuming apartment, so thankfully there was a lift.

That was also the only time I talked to the mild-looking man. First he gave us the pass code for the main door to get into the apartment. Then he gave us the pass code to get into our room (you got into the room via pressing numbers on the door). Then he took payment in cash, and also said that we could stay up until twelve the next day.

Then we never saw him again.

I think that No Parking Taichung Guesthouse would probably elicit the worst feelings in the jittery, especially those concerned with safety. I mean, if the pass code remained the same all the time, would it not be easy for someone to barge into our room suddenly?

It was located in a rather dingy apartment, too. While it was practical to stay in it for one night, due to our main reason for wanting to be in Taichung, I would not have wanted to stay another night any longer.

When it came to convenience, however, the guesthouse was hard to beat! Its location was about three minutes away from this place.

































Tadah, the one, the only, the colourful, the noisy, and the tasty Feng Jia Night Market of Taichung.
































Look at the bustling activity. I adore night markets.

Between the guesthouse and the night market, tons of boutique shops were open as well. These shops probably capitalized well on the popularity of the night market. In fact, together with Aeryn and Poh Nee, we spent about forty or so minutes looking at and trying on clothes in the boutiques before actually making any headway towards the night market pictured above.
































Poh Nee and Aeryn, respectively. Also a bunch of clothes. Poh Nee very intelligently took along a huge economy bag as well, in preparation for all future shopping. This came in helpful tons of times later on.

Thank you Poh Nee. :3

On our way there we passed a pet shop, and we stopped outside to coo at the little puppies for a while. I still could not help shake that feeling of sadness, though, mingled in with my feelings of love for how cute the puppies were.

This is why.



About six or so of the cutest little fur babies, obviously of good pedigree, were locked up in cages barely larger than they were. They had space that were maybe three times the size of their bodies or so to roam in.

I also could not help but notice that they were all just babies, perhaps three or four months old. I did find myself wondering constantly in Taiwan what happened to the cute puppies that were not sold in the pet stores. Like, when they got too old to be sold on the cute puppy factor. Do they go back to the breeding mill? Get neutered and loved by the pet shop owners? Or...

Perish the thought. Maybe they'll take them to dog shelters. Yeah.

We finally got to the night market, and one of the first things we tried was this!
































Behold, the stall for... SMELLY/STINKY TOFU.

This version of stinky tofu is the deep fried one, along with vegetables and sauce to dip in.

I am not a fan of stinky tofu, by the way. I smelled it in Hong Kong once, and questioned endlessly why anyone would actually want to put something that taste like literal crap into their mouths. However, I was surprised this time around that I could tolerate smelling it. I was absolutely astonished when I found that I could consume it without my gag reflex activating.

I guess my body has gotten so used to me putting so much crap in it, then food that does taste like crap does not make much of a difference after all.

Heh.
































I think the reason I can tolerate this round of stinky tofu was that it was deep-fried, rather than the steamed version I once saw in Hong Kong and dreaded. I have no idea what sauce that is in the middle of the box, and I think I'm better off not asking.

Wikipedia says that

'Stinky tofu is usually served deep fried (often served drizzled with sauce and topped with sour pickled vegetables), grilled, or added to a Sichuan mala soup base (with solid goose blood, pickled mustard greens, and pork intestines.)'

Yeah okay I REALLY don't want to know what it was now.

I guess this dish was not too bad for someone who used to hate the smell of stinky tofu. I loved the crispiness of the dish, complete with the crunch-crunch sound effect. It did taste fairly a whiff of ... well, garbage, but I could ignore that and focus on the tofu taste, instead.

I HAVE LEVELED UP. YES.

Rating: 7/10

After that I went to get dessert.

I had a potted plant for dessert, by the way.
































Isn't it adorable? So tasty, too. The crumbly taste of the top, mixed with the base of the pot... such a lovely dessert.
































It's basically Oreo cookie crumbs on top of ice-cream flavouring. I had vanilla ice-cream, but there were other flavours too like Swiss chocolate and mango.

I did not actually eat the leaf, though. I am not too sure if it's edible or not.

Also the pot was cute and all, but I felt it probably contributed to a lot of wastage. I certainly was not going to bring a plastic pot home. Should have gone back and given it to the stall owners, haha.

It tasted exactly like Oreo cookie crumbs mixed with vanilla ice-cream. I'm sure this does not require explanation.

Rating: 8/10 (points deducted for environmental purposes)

We wandered about the street quite a bit, before hitting a dead end. It was surprising to us, because Feng Jia had been touted as the biggest night market in Taiwan. There were more streets to explore in Shilin than here, if this was the end of the night market.

Luckily we just had to come back out through the way we went in, and then walk towards the left from the entrance. There, yet another street filled with stalls and clothing shops existed.
































Just a note of interest. Taiwan night markets are big on fruit juices, so you will see plenty of stalls selling these in night markets. Let's just say that if you are... having a certain ailment common to people who are on trips and therefore drink less water, the fruit juices will be a big help for your... bowel movements. That is all.

I drank a lot of papaya milk juice in that country.

A lot.

It helped.

Ahem.

Moving on.
































More clothing stores to hang out in. I love this place already.

It is also in Feng Jia Night Market that I finally try the one thing I've really wanted to try since planning this trip.

BEHOLD.
































THIS IS BAKED POTATO WITH CHEESE AND BACON.

 I REPEAT.

BAKED POTATO.

CHEESE.

BACON.

Let us take a moment of silence to appreciate the beauty of this wonderful creation.

Ohm.

We had one to share among the three of us, and I was super stuffed at the end of this. Piping hot steam rose from the potato as we walked along, eating it. The perfect combination of baked hot potato, with the cheese melded in, and the overabundance of bacon in the dish made me wonder why we make life so hard for ourselves. Why can't we just eat meals like cheese baked potato with bacon every day, and fill our lives with wonder and joy all the time?

... Don't worry. They didn't put drugs in the potato. I think. It was just really good.

Rating: 10/10. 'Nuff said.
































Not adventurous enough to eat this.
































Too full to continue eating after the potato, but hey, the potato was worth it.

I know it sounds insane that we went to Taichung just purely for the night market (and that potato thing can be found in Shilin, anyway), but it was a good experience. There were sights to see, dingy rooms to experience, and even better, great clothes to buy that I did not see in Taipei.


























Physical haul of our Feng Jia night, and you know what? I'm glad we took a trip down to Taichung. Perhaps it will be better to stay more  nights if you want to explore more of Taichung, though.

We all went to bed with satisfied tummies that night. Taiwanese night markets are doing it right. Feng Jia has my seal of approval.

Wanderlust: Taiwan

Taipei 101 and Huashan 1914 Creative Park, Taiwan

22:41



































During my Taiwan trip, I turned exactly a year older on 21st April 2014, a Monday. Being someone who is approaching her mid-20s, you would think that I have gotten over making a big deal of my birthdays.

Nope.

Every year, in some form or way, I will make a big deal out of my birthdays. I will also make other people make a big deal out of my birthdays. Some of whom I love very much will tolerate me, others will think I am insane. Sometimes they are the same people.

Even this trip to Taiwan was undertaken purely because I did not want to spend my birthday in a certain other place which we shall not name.

On my birthday this year, it was a much more low-key and relaxed melding into the day compared to last year. I had Taiwan fruit beer in the minutes after midnight, and then I went to sleep.

Yay.

The next day we woke up bright and early, had breakfast, and then we set off the visit perhaps the most iconic building in Taipei - the Taipei 101.

Once we were walking towards there, we found a good spot and started taking pictures of the building, trying to squeeze both ourselves and all of the building into the picture.

It was also windy.

Here is picture #1 of our attempts.
































Well, I do think I look pretty cool like that, but perhaps it's not my most flattering look (then again, I've had way worse pictures). "I whip my hair back and forth I whip my hair back and forth..." ahem I shall stop now. Really love how the purple ombre hair I did last year is still working for me now.

Here's a slightly better hair picture!
































At least I don't have crazy hair in this, haha. That's Aeryn behind me on the phone, while Poh Nee takes my picture. These pictures are taken in front of Taipei City Hall.

Here is a behind-the-scenes look on how to achieve these sort of pictures.
































1. Squat on the floor and put the camera as low as possible to capture a higher angle.
2. Sometimes lying on the floor is also a good option.
3. Ignore all stares others may give you as you go for the perfect shot.

That is all.

We got into the Taipei 101 mall, and immediately I was overwhelmed by all the branded stores. Yves Saint Laurent, Chanel, Tiffany, Cartier, Dolce & Gabbana, and etcetera... you name a brand, they were probably there.

Since the three of us had no intention to buy branded goods (because, like, we can TOTALLY afford branded goods... ahem), we headed straight to lunch on the bottommost floor.

We passed by a few stalls selling facial masks - look at this cute mask on my skirt!

It was a sample for a facial mask, and they made it tiny enough to put on your hand to try. So cute! It looks like a mini cousin of No-Face.
































We went to a restaurant so popular, there was a 20 - 40 minute wait for the larger groups. Luckily there were only three of us, so we got into the restaurant about 20 minutes later.

They had already taken our orders, by giving us order slips which we filled in ourselves and handed to the waitresses. By the time we sat down, it was just a matter of waiting for our food to arrive.

I was actually quite impressed with how management and staff executed the whole thing. From the order booth outside, to the numbered queue system for different group sizes, to wait staff assigned different sections, plus trainee interns walking around with hot tea ready to refill yours (free tea!), to the food appearing quickly, the place ran like a well-oiled machine.
































We were at Din Tai Fung Taipei 101, by the way. I love that the Din Tai Fung in Taiwan has TWO Mascots. One is a dumpling head, and the other is a dim sum plate(?) head. They are both pretty cute. Even two Japanese men, who looked like businessmen, took pictures with the larger mascot outside of the restaurant.

The other Din Tai Fungs I have seen in Taiwan often have a long queue outside as well, hence the need for the number queue system.

I've never actually been to Din Tai Fung in Malaysia (have been to the one in Marina Bay Sands, Singapore, though), though we have branches here. I must try one one day and see how it compares.

Anyway, let the food pictures commence! We ordered the signature Xiao Long Bao (Shanghai dumplings), as well as a plate of fried rice, and a bowl of noodles similar to jajangmyeon in Korea.
































Oh man, this was so good. I am drooling on the inside just thinking about it. We ordered two plates of Xiao Long Bao, which came up to twenty dumplings. Each dumpling costs about RM2+, which is REALLY expensive, but they were so good it was easy to forget that inconvenient little fact. 

The warm soup inside the dumpling, permeating into the meat and making it juicy and tender, that sensation of drinking delectable pork-flavoured soup before ingesting the meat along with the thin yet firm texture of the dough...

:Q______
































It is hard to find fault with Din Tai Fung's food, to be honest, at least within Taipei 101. The fried rice was not overdone or underdone, and the taste was such a nice marriage of egg, meat, spring onion, salt, oil and so forth.

Then again, it should be pretty hard for a restaurant of Din Tai Fung's calibre to mess up a dish like fried rice, when they have already mastered the art of Shanghai dumplings (infinitely a harder task, what with the kneading and all).
































No major faults to be found with the noodles, either. However, would recommend just eating the Shanghai dumplings next time until you're full. While other restaurants may be good at fried rice and noodles, most restaurants (in Malaysia, at least) cannot master the art of Shanghai dumplings. They usually come out too dry, too soft, too chewy, or too something. The ones at Din Tai Fung Taiwan are definitely the most perfect ones I have had so far.

Although, I was informed by a local that the dumplings at Din Tai Fung were not the best dumplings that places in Taiwan have to offer. They described the dumplings at Din Tai Fung as "perfectly mastered and cannot be faulted, but lacking in soul/ je ne sais quoi".

Well, I guess it is up to your tastebuds. I definitely did not find fault with it.

I shouldn't, anyway. Lunch at Din Tai Fung was my birthday present from Poh Nee and Aeryn! I'm glad to say I loved it.

We explored the rest of the mall by going up more and more floors (without stepping into the stores), in an attempt to burn off the calories. We did not even debate going into the observatory. At 500TWD a person, that is a view with too steep a price for us Malaysian wage workers.

This is what the parts of the mall looked like on the topmost floor we could reach,  by the way.

































It was pretty shiny there in the mall. I'd say it sparkles on the same level as Marina Bay Sands in Singapore.

Also, here's an 'artistic' shot of Poh Nee on a mall bench. :P
































On the floor of that level, there were some black tiles showcasing names of the popular cities around the world. We found Kuala Lumpur on it too, yay!


































The capital city of the country where we hail from. It is noisy and under construction and always growing and prone to crime and heat, but it is... our city. We are the only ones who get to complain about it.

Later on we went all the way back down to the bottommost section of the mall again, this time to...


































The Agnes B. cafe! We have Agnes B. in Malaysia, but sadly no cafe equivalent. That's a pity, because the drinks were good. My chocolate was a bit too rich for me after Din Tai Fung, though. >_<


































Tadah, our cakes. Mine is the pyramid one. It was sinfully rich with chocolate, and the heavy lunch of stuffing my face with Shanghai dumplings did not help.

Just call me glutton.

All in all, Taipei 101 was a nice place to chill mainly for the ambiance and the food. As for the shops, however, it MAY take a couple or more so of years before I will actually want to buy anything from there. Ahem.

In the evening we went off to Huashan 1914 Creative Park. According to Keiko, it was a place where many people bring their dogs to to walk. Her boyfriend said more cynically that it was a place where uncles brought cute dogs to hit on girls.

...Haha.

It was a lovely park to visit, though, with vintage cafes and bookstores. I am sorry to say, however, that these buildings in the park were completely overshadowed...

BY ALL THE CUTE DOGS.
































LOVE!
































The main purpose of this picture are the two DOGS behind me. Oh, and the lawn is pretty nice, I guess.
































This was probably after someone said "Be careful that you are not standing on dog poo."

Thanks.

I also made friends with an overly enthusiastic big golden retriever. Behold, pictures of our one-minute friendship!

Or rather, the one-minute friendship where Shadow (I can call you Shadow right? Right) keeps trying to bite my Kumamon pouch.
































He notices Kumamon.
































He is irritated that I am keeping Kumamon out of reach, hence the glaring at me.
































 "I'll get it even if you keep it out of reach!"

"Stupid human, stop moving and let me at that thing!"

I still love you, Shadow.

Points for whoever gets why I am calling the golden retriever Shadow.

After walking around the park and cooing over other dogs (and yes, talking to a middle-aged man about HIS dog...), we went off to have dinner.
































Which was shabu-shabu. Oh man I could not eat much, after Din Tai Fung and Agnes b. We tried out best to eat anyway, because this was our last dinner with our hosts before we moved on to Taichung from Taipei.

Thank you both for hosting us!


Healthy food for the night.

All in all, it was a pretty relaxing birthday. At least no one ended up blaming each other for something, or myself getting pissed at people for making my birthday worse when I worked so hard to plan it.

That's a long story, so I won't bore you with it. ^_^

Not a bad way to spend a birthday, but I've already thought of what I'll do next year to mark the occasion.

Next year, I'm going Frozen-themed ballroom birthday.

Or maybe a masquerade ball.

OR A TRIP TO DISNEYLAND.

Nope. Not growing out of this.

Wanderlust: Taiwan

Shilin Night Market, Taiwan

16:25


Disclaimer: lots of food pictures ahead. You have been warned.

When it comes to Taiwan, perhaps the first and foremost thing that comes to mind are the night markets.

I luuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuurve Taiwan's night markets.

In Malaysia, the night markets usually come around once a week in most places. The stalls move around night markets, and it is likely that in the night markets close to your homes, you will see the same vendors.

"Oh. Hi."

 In Taiwan, the night markets are opened every night, with different vendors at every location. Come 6PM, daily the stalls are there, almost until midnight for all the night markets.

The most hyped of all the night markets in Taipei is most likely Shilin Night Market. Guess how many times I went to Shilin Night Market.

...

...

...

...

FOUR. (no, not like in Divergent, I wish)

I went to Shilin Night Market FOUR times. Twice with my ViVi ladies, and twice with my best friend. In fact, I honestly do think you need to go to Shilin Night Market a few times, if only because your stomach is not bottomless (unless it is) and you need a few nights to digest the food there.

To get to Shilin Night Market, one merely needs to get on the MRT towards Jiantan station on the Tamsui line (red line).

Upon alighting at Jiantan station, there are numerous signboards depicting where the exit to Shilin Night Market is.

Honestly, though, all you need to do is to follow the crowds, and you'll find yourself in Shilin Night Market in under two minutes. Three minutes, tops, unless you are a slow walker.

































This is one of the stalls in Shilin Night Market - it is one of the first stalls you might see once you reach the night market. This one sells a certain Taiwanese delicacy known as '大肠包小肠', literally translated as 'Big intestines wrapping small intestines'. Sounds appetizing, no?

Don't worry, it's not exactly intestines. It's more of glutinous rice wrapped around Taiwanese sausages. Pretty yummy, though not exactly my thing. My thing is fried potato, preferably with cheese.

And so, I got fried potato. A fancy one, too.
































This is the line to my fancy fried potato. The name can be literally translated as "Tornado potato tower".

Hey, I don't come up with the names.
































This is the man dipping my potato in batter, I think.  As you can see, some stalls are a bit more particular about cleanliness, so you'll see face masks here. There are also bins for you to throw your street snack food away.

































Tadah! My fancy potato. This is half sea salt, and half curry topping.

Honestly.

GO WITH SEA SALT ALL THE WAY. The curry topping was okay, but tasted meh after my salty goodness on top.

































We also had oyster mee sua in the market. This stall is located somewhere near the temple. There aren't any proper directions I can give you to go to any stall in particular, sorry! You just have to wander around and get lost a bit in Shilin to discover the good stuff.

Just remember where the MRT is located, though.
































This is oyster mee sua, which is basically vermicelli noodles with oyster and coriander. You also get to dictate how much chili sauce you want to put into it.

Just one serving on its own can serve as dinner, to be honest.  You see now the need to return to this place several times.

Must try rating - 9/10
































Some sweet snack at the night market. I think these are strawberries drizzled with... something sweet. I don't know, didn't try it. I do know that they have chocolate-covered strawberries, too!
































Scallops stall! Didn't try this though, was too full at the end of the night.

The other thing I liked about Shilin is the amount of dogs everywhere, and I do mean EVERYWHERE. As a dog lover, Taipei drives me insane with the amount of cute dogs it has in it. The Taiwanese treat their dogs like actual tiny humans, and sell lots of accessories and clothes for the little tykes.

Exhibit A:
































Stall selling accessories for dogs.

Exhibit B:
































Yes, people. They put their tiny dogs in tiny prams and wheel them around. I can't.
































Aeryn bought a cotton candy duck at 80TWD. It deflated after the  first bite and we christened it the 'Pedo-duck', because it looked weird as heck.

At least we got some laughs out of it.

Here is a loot picture of some of my purchases from both Wufenpu and Shilin. The DRINK SPRITE clothes set and the Parental Advisory top are both from Wufenpu. The rest are from Shilin.

1. The first half...



Purchases from Shilin:

1. 2 pairs of Disney princess socks from Shilin at about RM6 a pair - that's less than USD2!

2. A Kumamon pouch at 100TWD - so about RM11.

































3. Mickey mouse denim shirt for 390TWD/ RM40ish.

4. My best purchase of the night, however, are my phone cases from Taiwan. Both My Melody phone case (plus plug charm!) and the Disney Minnie case sold together for... 500 TWD. So it's about RM26 - RM27 per phone case.

Considering how much phone cases can go for here, from RM30 to Rm60, I think I made a pretty good deal.

The other thing I like about night markets in Taiwan is how even the shops open as part of the night market. Most of the night markets in Malaysia are sort of stalls-only affairs, as far as I know.

This shop name caught my eye. xD
































AZN PRIDE YO.

It was also with Asian pride that I brought my Australian best friend K to the night market, and proceeded to torture, um, introduce him to the delights of Taiwanese street food fare.

Poor K absolutely could not stand the smell of smelly tofu, which unfortunately for him was almost everywhere. He would warn me to warn him whenever I saw a smelly tofu stall so he could hold his breath before he passed it, but unfortunately he would usually smell it before I saw it.

His reaction was akin to someone planting him in a landfill filled with rotting food and NO WAY OUT.

Oops.



































We started off with some mild stuff the first night in Shilin. There was the 'Tornado Potato Tower', obviously, though this is kind of cheating considering you can get that in Australia too.
































K also approves of Ah Chong Oyster Mee Sua, available inside Shilin. The coriander was not a favourite, though.

The second time we came around to Shilin Night Market, we got down to 'srz bzn'. It was time to consume other Asian street food.
































Cow tongue, anyone?

Nah, kidding. It's the name of the snack, but it's really a harmless malt paste in some fried doughy thing. It's quite good, too! (Especially for people like me, who likes grilled/ fried most things).

(This is why I'm fat)

(Oh well love of food is important too)



































Other snack food Taiwan is famous for is this. Chicken cutlet, marinated and deep-fried and about twice the size of your face.

So. Good.

It's definitely oily. Definitely fattening. This is not treating your body like a temple. This is treating your body like a waste disposal basket.

My body approves of this, though.

Ugh I want to eat this now. ;_;

K deeply approves of this snack dish, as his face might suggest.

K does not approve of the next dish, though.
































He did it. The man ate smelly tofu.

Well, technically he took two bites before looking like he was about to die, but he ate that thing and swallowed parts of it.

*stands up and slow-claps*

We all got a video out of it that cracks me up every time I see it. Ah, fun times.

Great. Even I'm hungry after writing up this post.

In short? I love Shilin Night Market. Thank you very much.

P.S.

Even though I love Shilin Night Market, there are aspects to it I REALLY don't understand. Like this.
































Care to guess what they are?

No, they are not freaking selling dildos in the middle of the night market, for crying out loud. Then again, the actual thing this is is not any better.

This is cream bread. Like, you eat it. You eat a penis-shaped bread thing, that has cream in it. You can make cream bread in ANY shape you want, and you make it phallic-shaped.

Ok.jpg.

Well, I'll fly away now.

Bye.