We arrived in Taiwan at noon on Thursday ready to hit the pavement and soak up as much of Taipei as we could in four days’ time.
But first, let me backtrack – there are three points I want to hit regarding our travel.
- Transport to the Airport – we booked 7am flights out of Singy so we could land early and make the most of our day in Taiwan. Such an early flight meant an even earlier departure and we severely misjudged how long it would take to get a cab. As we hadn’t yet flown out of Changi, we didn’t know how close to the departure time we could cut it and our pulses started to rise as the minutes ticked away. We finally snagged one but will definitely remember for next time to BOOK AHEAD OF TIME or at least allot a bit more time to the actual finding of a car.
- Changi Airport has consistently been rated the #1 airport in the world and it was easy to see why. Everything was a breeze. Carpeted terminal, smiling concierges ready to help you with any questions you might have, lounge pods and nooks specifically for sleeping and whiling away your layover hours, and ample 24hr food and shopping. Probably the most interesting thing was that you didn’t go through security until you arrived at your gate so instead of waiting in a 200 person swarmed line to go through mass security, you walk leisurely to your gate where you and your carry-ons go through the scanner with only the rest of the people on your flight. It definitely cut time and stress out of the process!
- This was our first experience flying JetStar, a budget airline here in Asia and we were so surprised (and thrilled!) at the experience. The stewards were friendly. The chairs were not that uncomfortable by budget standards and we both slept really well. We landed in Taiwan ready to go and absolutely did not feel like we had been on a plane for four hours. First experience – def recommend!
Hang Zhou Xiao Long Bao – a small, restaurant on the corner of a busy road with open walls facing the street and an open kitchen so you could see all of the delicious goodies being made right in front of you.
You take a number and a menu when you arrive so you are ready with your order when your number is called. There was a crowd of maybe 20 people outside, some with suitcases like us. Obviously a very popular place (and with good reason!). Our number was called and we took a seat at one of the communal tables to wait for our food.
Pork and Chive Soup Dumpling
Pork and Vegetable Dumpling – the best one!
Shrimp and Crab Shumai
I’m just going to warn you right now – these Taiwan posts are going to be very food heavy. So perhaps read them when you’re not hungry…or have a good snack waiting 🙂
Our next stop was Tian Jin, a tiny scallion pancake shop with a line down the road. We lined up with our suitcases to try it out.
Hot, flaky, buttery, scalliony – amazing. This particular shop had a really cool device that blew air into the dough before frying it, adding some extra layers of flaky goodness to the pancake. It came wrapped in a little packet and we gobbled it up on the street corner, licking oily fingers and debating whether to get back in line for another.
Right across the street is Smoothie House – touted for their monstrous shaved ice concoctions – the most famous being the Mango.
A towering bowl of mango shaved ice, mango sorbet, fresh mango, condensed milk. The shaved ice keeps it a bit lighter than an actual bowl of ice cream. If you’ve ever tried Snowdays in NYC, it’s the same sort of thing.
We opted to walk the 50 minutes cross town to our Airbnb. Our bags weren’t heavy, it was a nice day, and we could use the exercise to work off those scallion pancakes! Plus, what better way to see the city than to walk, on our way passing through Chiang Kai-shek Memorial Hall.
Chiang Kai-shek Memorial Hall is one of the most prominent historical landmarks in Taiwan. It was erected in honor and memory of Generalissimo Chiang Kai-shek, the former President of the Republic of China.
After dropping our stuff we headed out into the night stopping first at Ounce, a hidden speakeasy behind a non-descript meatball sub stall, for a pre-dinner cocktail. Ounce does not have a menu. Instead, you tell the waitress what you like – sour or sweet? herbal or fruity? and tell them a your liquor preferences. The bartender then whips up a bespoke cocktail and hands it over. Mine was magnificent – mezcal, lemon, honey, ginger, and lavender served in a rocks glass. Top 5 cocktails I’ve ever had. I can’t wait to try and recreate it! Ounce was a fun little bar, perfect for a date. It was dark and inviting and reminded us so much of NYC which makes sense since they apparently have an NYC outpost!
Finishing our drinks, we continued on to Tong Hua/ Lin Jiang Night Market for dinner. Taipei is known for its night markets. Every single person we told about our upcoming Taiwan trip drooled over the night markets and their sheer scale, variety, and cheapness! Needless to say, we were eager to get stuck in.
The Night Market encompassed a long stretch of road which was (mostly) blocked off from cars and lined with stall after stall after stall of street food. Dumplings, fish balls, sweets, and assorted satays waved out from under the stall canopies.
Pork buns which were fried on the bottom but steamed on top – served in a plastic bag with sauce!
Stinky Tofu – an extremely popular dish in Taiwan and extremely true to its name. Stinky Tofu is probably the worst smelling food I have ever smelled in my life. The stench enveloped the entire stretch of road and we literally asked each other what smelled so awful multiple times before realizing it was food. It is a fermented tofu that is fried up into perfect golden squares. Everything we read said the smell did not penetrate the taste and if you could get over the foul aroma, the meal was actually quite good. In the name of research, we tried it and they were right! It did not at all taste like it smelled and oddly enough, as we were eating it, we couldn’t even really smell it anymore. But BOY is it PUNGENT! I read it’s mostly sold in night markets and not in actual restaurants because the smell is too strong!
Fried chicken. They love fried chicken here, guys. More on that later.
And a decadent tart for dessert – we picked the double chocolate one!
We headed back to our Air BnB exhausted and full and slept like rocks the whole night through.