When you think of Taiwan, what comes to your mind? For me images of food floods my mind…fried chicken cutlet, 豆浆油条 (beancurd drink and fried dough fritters), bubble tea, pineapple cakes and so on. This is my second time to Taiwan, after a decade, and what’s left in my mind from my last visit were vague memories. But thank God for the invention of camera and technology so I can always look back at photographs from my hard disk. Thankfully, language isn’t a problem here since we speak and understand Mandarin, except for a few terms difference, but reading for example food menus on the other hand took a little longer because of their widespread usage of Traditional mandarin characters. More than just a food lala land, Taiwan also boasts beautiful sightseeings across its land and I’m grateful to have a taste of both in my visit to Taipei, Taichung and Hualien with short stopovers in between at Nantou and Yilan.
Whenever it comes to travelling, I hesitate at the thought of lugging my dslr camera around the entire day throughout the trip because why, it is bulky and heavy, and it is the irony of me who always want to travel light. Should my iPhone 6 suffice? It could, but the nit pick in me doesn’t allow me to. In the end as always, my dslr goes with me even if it is just a short trip to Johor Bahru or Bangkok and to be honest, as much as I still dread it everytime, I never regretted it when I review the photographs taken. So anyway, in this trip, I have taken more than 700 photographs and a single blog post would not be able to accommodate what I have to share from these 7 days, so first up, Taipei.
The iconic sky high landmark of Taipei, as its name quite suggests has 101 storeys that houses luxury boutiques, high fashion stores and its 88th and 91st storey has been set aside as the observatory decks. Perhaps it was the wrong time of the day, but the way the observatory decks were designed, I felt wasn’t really worth the time and money to visit by evening to night time. I could hardly see anything except some lights from below.
Fujin street is one of the perfect place for a slow life. The quiet and chill street is tucked with pretty cafes, shops and even a ballet studio in corners of the street. I enjoyed sipping a cuppa warm coffee by the street in a rainy, cold weather letting time past and not having to rush around the busyness of life or think about all the unfinished work back in Singapore. Having just ended a round of hectic work schedule, and flying off the following day, the month of March was an extremely busy on for me. This slowness was timely and what I needed though it was only just for a short while.
Similar to Singapore’s Public Market, but at a smaller scale, simple market is a flea market platform for Taiwanese designers and crafts makers to sell their hand made products. It is open on Sundays only between 1 to 7pm. It may be a small market but since it’s just a 5 mins walk away from Taipei 101, you should visit if you are in that area. You might pick up something nice too.
HUASHAN 1914 CREATIVE PARK
Built in 1914, this place was once a factory among one of the largest’s wine producers in Taiwan and was later abandoned. Years later, it was found and revived again to stage small plays, and was eventually converted into a creative space for artists and craftsman. I love the old and new essence of this place. It seems busy on a Sunday afternoon, so I did not get to explore every area because of the crowd and cold.
Wearing : Uniqlo grey v-neck top, Uniqlo boyfriend jeans, Black jacket from Seoul, Celine trio bag
SUN YAT SEN MEMORIAL HALL | CHIANG KAI SHEK MEMORIAL HALL
If you’re into history and travelling means knowing more about the country’s history, then you should visit the Sun Yat Sen memorial hall and/or the Chiang Kai Shek memorial hall to know more about these 2 leaders and what they had contributed to Taiwan or even to Asia. If you’re visiting, do look out for the changing of guards ceremony available only at certain hours.
JIU FEN OLD STREET
Though it has been rather commercialized now as one of the “must visit” in Taipei for tourists, I still like the old street vibe located on the mountain in Keelung. This place sells mostly Taiwanese souvenirs and food. Just go for the food – look out for Yam balls dessert, milk dough sticks that looks like churros she and ice cream and peanut wraps.
SHI FEN TRAIN STATION | SHI FEN WATERFALL
Initially, I was quite excited to visit Shifen train station. What I expected of Shifen to be was a quaint train track to let go of lanterns into the sky, but instead what I was greeted by was an immense number of people overcrowding the track. It was more of a market selling lanterns than anything near quaint. The lantern stall holders kept trying to convince us to purchase the 4 coloured lantern as that supposedly brings more ‘luck’, but if anything I think it was just because it costs more than a single coloured lantern. We went ahead with the white lantern, because it is more visually appealing to us. If given a choice again, I would give this place a miss.
By far, one of my favourite pineapple cakes! SunnyHills sells only pineapple cakes, honey cake and oolong tea. They believe in making honest-to-goodness food and do not use any additives, hence its shorter life span. Some may find the pineapple cake’s crust too hard but I personally like the texture. Food aside, I like its minimalist interior concept, which also complements their product focused business strategy. Being in the store somewhat makes me feel like I am in Japan.
No Taiwan trip is complete without a visit to Taiwanese night markets. Taiwan being known for its food or xiao chi (“small eats” when directly translated from mandarin). Though you can find similar food in every night markets, every market is somehow different. In some markets, they sell only food, in some others you can also do some shopping or even play carnival like kind of games. Shilin, Raohe and Shida are 3 of the more common night markets I’ve visited in Taipei.
If you have other recommendations or questions on Taipei, feel free to drop a comment below!