May 29, 2016
This Taiwanese food-themed deck of playing cards is my favorite souvenir from Taiwan (plus here's a map and list of the foods in the deck)
I have a habit of alternating periods of eating food with periods of not eating food. During the fallow periods, I tend to think stuff like this:
I'm hungry for fried chicken bits, or fried dumplings, or bian dang, or sheng jiang bao, or scallion pancakes, or dou hua, or gua bao, or lu rou fan, or one of many other cheap foods easily found in Taiwan.
When I lived in Taipei, the situation played out like so:
[Roams around the neighborhood for a few minutes until desired food is found. Exchanges a pittance for food. Devours food because it is delicious. Takes convenience for granted. Sticks a little gold star next to "Feed Self" on my mental to-do list.]
Now that I live in Bergen, it goes a bit differently:
[Looks up recipes online. Whittles the recipes down to those that look feasible considering my low aptitude for cooking. Picks a scallion pancake recipe that looks promising and, more importantly, unambitious. Watches YouTube videos with tips and techniques on how to make scallion pancakes. Gains false confidence that five minutes of watching YouTube videos has magically imbued me with the skills of a decades-old street vendor. A few hours and eight scallion pancakes later, feels bloated with subpar scallion pancakes and disappointment. Gold stars shrivel up and die.]
In conclusion, trying is for suckers and there is no such thing as magic.
Thankfully, I bought this deck of Taiwanese food-themed playing cards from Miin Gift to get me through such trying times. The cards feature 52 photos of some of Taiwan's most famous xiǎo chī (小吃), snack-sized dishes including noodles, dumplings, soups, desserts, and more. Many of these dishes originally come from China, while some are distinctly Taiwanese and combine a variety of influences. If you don't know anything about Taiwanese food, the deck is a nice intro to some of Taiwan's most popular foods with the added bonus of being a deck of cards (or it's a deck of cards that happens to be covered in photos of food—either way, it's awesome). If you're already familiar with Taiwanese food, you might feel compelled to do what I do and flip through the deck when you're feeling nostalgic or hungry. Suddenly the warm memories of Taipei come flooding back, like eating tiers of soup dumplings with my friends at Golden Chicken Garden. Or chugging a tall cup of iced milk tea on a broiling summer day to replenish my continuously sweat-weeping body. Or passing through a stagnant fart-cloud of stinky tofu while walking through a night market. Cherished memories, every one.
Posted by roboppy at 2:04 AM |
April 18, 2016
A few of my friends are either currently on vacation in Taipei or planning on visiting Taipei soon. I'm have no such plans. But that's ok. Yeeeaah. [Curls up into fetal position on floor surrounded by an ever-expanding puddle of my own tears.]
Anyway, it got me thinking about what I'd want to do and where I'd want to bring my friends if I went back to Taipei for a week-ish-long vacation. The result is this list of 50-something places I'd want to go to eat, shop, and do other fun stuff. This isn't a list of "the best" places, nor stuff I would necessarily recommend to first-time tourists to Taipei. (I only mention a handful of museums and sites of historical significance because I've already visited most of the places I'm interested in.) My favorite places are mostly influenced by proximity to my former apartment in Da'an, nostalgia, reasonable prices, and the presence of cuteness. But maybe you and I share some of the same interests. I hope so, or else this post will have all been for nothing, and that aforementioned ever-expanding puddle of tears will turn into an ever-expanding flood.
For other resources about what to do in Taipei, check out A Hungry Girl's Guide to Taipei, The Thousandth Girl, Taiwan Explorer, and Guide to Taipei.com. There's also TripAdvisor's Taipei hub and a bajillion other sites with more recommendations and photos than I could ever give you. If you're planning to visit Taipei for the first time, also check out my post of random travel/living tips.
In my descriptions, I link each place's name to its corresponding tag on my Flickr page in case you want to browse my photos. If I have a photo of a place's menu, I'll link to it, but keep in mind it might not be up to date. I put most of these place on my accompanying map, aside from chains that have a bunch of locations. Some addresses below are written in Chinese because that's what Google gave me and I was too lazy to translate them.
Posted by roboppy at 2:47 AM |
March 26, 2016
UPDATE (5/12/16): A reminder about Shida Night Market and all night markets in general: YOU SHOULD VISIT NIGHT MARKETS AT NIGHT. Most night market businesses don't open until the late afternoon to night. Some are open for lunch. Very few places do business in the morning. To the best of my ability, I've included the opening hours of the businesses below so you're not met with a closed food stand or restaurant.
UPDATE (4/12/16): A few places have moved or left the night market since I was in Taiwan:
Moved: Ho Ho Mei, Hsu Ji Shen Jian Bao
Left: Yu Ban Bu Neng Salty Water Chicken
Closed: Niu Lao Da on Lane 105, Shida Rd
The map has been updated with the new locations.
My retirement dream is to live by a Taiwanese night market where I can squeeze out my terminal breaths eating at cheap food stands and restaurants every day. (Quick message for my unborn children: If that dream doesn't pan out, my other retirement dream is to live near you, assuming you're cool and you like me yeah that'd be dope.) I know this is a solid retirement plan because I've already lived it, minus the part where I'm squeezing out my terminal breaths.
For ten months between 2014 and 2015, I lived down the street from Shida Night Market, or Shīdà yèshì (師大夜市). It was awesome, even if it's not particularly famous for food. Where other night markets are lined with food carts, the main drag of Shida Night Market, Longquan Street, is full of trendy clothing and accessories stores. (I've read that years ago the night market was considerably larger and had more food stands, but new rezoning laws pushed out many of the former food businesses.) If you're a tourist aiming to check off all the Taiwanese street food staples, you're better off checking out Shilin, Raohe, Tonghua, or Ningxia, among other night markets I have yet to try. Check out other recommendations here, here, and here. Shida Night Market may not be impressive compared to more famous night markets, but it has plenty of restaurants and food stalls scattered in between the non-food shops, as well as a few "blocks" dedicated to food stands. If you go to school or live near Shida, the night market is a great place to grab lunch or dinner on a regular basis.
Here are some of my favorite places to eat in Shida Night Market. Have other favorites? Leave your recommendations in the comments!
Posted by roboppy at 5:57 PM |
February 20, 2016
Taroko Gorge. Taipei 101. The National Palace Museum. Sun Moon Lake. Shilin Night Market. Jiufen These are a handful of Taiwan's most popular tourist attractions, exemplifying Taiwan's beautiful scenery, achievements in architectural engineering, preservation of historical Chinese artifacts, vibrant street food culture, and mo—
OMG OMG OMG!@#!^@%#! THERE'S A VILLAGE FULL OF CATS!!!!
[Violently shoves nature/museums/night markets out of the way, runs towards cats while flailing like an inflatable waving tube man and yelling like every goat combined.]
Before 2008, Houtong exemplified the decline of a once-prosperous coal mining village. Since 2008, it's exemplified how to resurrect a dying coal mining village: Just add cats. According to the Internet, in 2008 a local cat-lover organized volunteers to help take care of the village's stray cats. As photos of the cats circulated online, the village's new identity as a cat haven attracted enough tourists to turn it into an official cat-themed village with cat houses, cat sculptures, cat murals, cat-shaped food, a cat-themed walkway, and other cat things to take selfies with. All of this centered around a hundred-something real cats.
Houtong Cat Village may be one of Taiwan's less significant tourist attractions for people who prefer mountains and museums and temples and food and stuff, but according to the cat version of TripAdvisor, it's the #1 significant tourist attraction in Taiwan for cat lovers.
Posted by roboppy at 1:35 AM |
February 5, 2016
- Night bike ride with Xiangtai and Charlotte.
Do you like drinking? Dancing? Karaoke? Being smushed into dark, noisy enclosed spaces with strangers? Spending money doing the aforementioned activities? Did your face contort into a series of exponentially more horrified looks after you read each of the preceding questions? If so, then [smack] HIGH FIVE [/smack], we might be on the same page when it comes to favorite forms of nightlife entertainment. A page from the book, Cosmopolitan Living: How Not To.
Thankfully, Taipei has plenty of fun things to do at night for those averse to bars, KTVs, clubs, and spending more than NT$200 (that's about US$6) in one go. You can hang out in one of many cafes (well, one that's open late). You can walk around one one of many parks. You can go on a snack crawl through one of many night markets. And if all else fails, you can always rely on one of a million 7-Elevens. It's always open. Always watching.
But my favorite cheap thing to do in Taipei at night is to go bike riding with friends along Xindian River. The Greater Taipei Area has over 100 kilometers of riverside park paths reserved for bicyclists and pedestrians. (You can download maps at travel.taipei.) If you don't have a bike, it's easy and cheap to rent a YouBike for a night. I much prefer riding at night than during the day. The main problem with day is the sun. Day is when the sun comes out and melts brain cells. Because the sun is very hot. (I took an astronomy class once—I know what's up with the sun.) Night is a much better time to go out, when the air is cooler, the neighboring lights of New Taipei City dot the skyline and glimmer in the river, and there are waaaay fewer people to hear me belting out off-tune Disney songs, which is a thing you might want to do when you're bicycling maybe I dunno "WHOOOO IS THAT GIRL I SEEEEEE?".
My favorite place to enter the riverside park is from Hakka Cultural Park near the south end of Shida Road. There you'll find a YouBike station next to a bike path that takes you up over a small bridge with a scenic platform. Keep going down the ramp and it drops you into a wide open section of the park with little else besides grass, trees, and paved road. I have no problem living in cramped city quarters, but as soon as I cross the threshold between ramp and park, I feel a burst of blissful freedom that I didn't know I was missing. "Ohh, this is what nature smells like. Mmmmm. Chlorophyll. Lack of exhaust fumes."
Here are some sights along the bike path if you go west:
Posted by roboppy at 7:35 PM |