Friday, January 3, 2014

Taipei City in 5 days [2013]

Happy New Year!! In a blink of eye, it's 2014 already!!

My family & I went to Taiwan for 5 days 4 nights, and then to Hong Kong for another 4 days 3 nights.
My flight was on the 21/12 and I remembered it was quite early...but we reached Taipei around evening because we had to transit at Hong Kong.

Anyways, since it was December (no, there was no snow but it rained alot!) was really cold!! For the 5 days I was in Taiwan, it rained for the whole 5 days =_= ruined my entire trip! I have really low cold tolerance, and with the help of the wind, I was lucky enough not to catch any cold.

Day 1: Yuan Shao (原烧)

When we arrived at Taipei, my uncle brought us to this famous barbeque restaurant, Yuan Shao (原烧). They have a lot of branches and they're all under a company, Wowprime (王品) who is one of the "龙头大哥" (aka big boss) in the food industry in Taiwan. They have a lot of restaurant chains, which include steak, hot pot, Japanese cuisines, etc...

Coincidentally, Mel went to try out Tokiya/Tao Ban Wu (陶板屋) with her friends on her last day in Taiwan and she was very very impressed with their service. So was I with Yuan Shao's. I guess they set a really high standard for their employees. 

My uncle booked the restaurant 2 weeks in advance, or else we wouldn't even have the chance to try it! They were still customers coming in at 10pm for dinner! D:

There were a few set menus to choose from and we decided on this:
* Menu taken from their website

It costs about BND $82. The food came according the the order...which is weird because the drinks are the last to be served. We get to choose 3 desserts and 3 beverages of our choice.

For dessert, we chose the 1) ice cream (heard it's the bomb, and it really is!)

With cinnamon sticks and cinnamon powder coated on the vanilla ice nice! I would actually go for another round of this.

2) Panna cotta with brown sugar

The panna cotta's texture is really good..but I find it a little too sweet for my liking.

3) Red Bean soup

The drinks we ordered were: Tangerine Tea, Fresh vegetable & Fruit Juice and Matcha Latte (the best!!) but I actually ordered the juice, which was not too bad either.
And there were free flow of malt tea.

Apparently, all the restaurants under Wowprime provide a free cake and a free photo if it's your birthday. The photo was taken and instantly printed (nope, not polaroid).

Happy Belated birthday to me! (laugh)

Every 20 minutes or so, the waitress/waiter will come by and ask if we need anything and helped us to grill the food. Their service and food are excellent! Now I get why they're always fully booked! Will definitely try out their other types of cuisines under wowprime. 

Service    : 
Food       : 
Price       : 

Day 2: Dan Shui (淡水) & Shilin Night Market (士林夜市)

On the second day, we went to Dan Shui's old streets (淡水老街)..
Upon reaching Dan Shui via the MRT, we were so lost as there wasn't any proper signage directing us to the old we just followed the crowd. 
We managed to buy a Taiwan sim card so yayyyyy~ unlimited 3G! ^^
[Just so you know, if you want to buy a sim card in Taiwan, please bring along your Identity card and passport with you. They need these documents in order for records].

Dan shui reminds me of Hong Kong's Fa Yuen Street. The stalls, selling a wide variety of goods, were just on the side of the road..

Finally get to try the 大肠包小肠!! idea what it's called in English..(small sausage rolled in large sausage? LOL) 

Nomnomnomnom! I really like the small sausage! It tasted exactly like those sold in Miri's hawker stalls x) but they only sell the small sausage (chopped into pieces) in Miri. It's really yummy!! Mum dislike it though, because there's a lot of other ingredients in it (like cucumber and spring onions - which she hates). The chilli definitely added an extra spicy taste but blends well with the sausages!

Guess what is it? ^
Initially, I thought it was some sort of fish balls..turns out to be fried milk o_______o
They fried milk and mold them into balls. You can actually skip this, I don't find it nice..

We bought a lot of other Taiwan delicacies as well, the cripsy pork (must try!!), handmade nougat, Taiwanese milk tea, etc..

There's one thing good about Taiwan: THEY GIVE AWAY FREE FOOD. Almost every stalls give away food samples for you to try. You can choose NOT to buy and they will still thank you for trying. Smiling all the way and greeting you...makes you feel extra guilty T____T
We bought most of the food we tried on anyways...

Around 5pm, we took the MRT and headed to Shilin Night Market (士林夜市) at Jian Tan (剑潭)~
I think 5-6pm is the best time to go to night markets because it is less crowded & you can actually take your time to think, look around and decide what to eat. There is just too many food to try!

1) Oyster Omelette (蚵仔煎) or better known as 'O-ah-jian' in Taiwan

2) Beef Noodles

Taiwan's famous beef noodles! My dad always go to chinese restaurants and orders this.. finally get to eat authentic Taiwan beef noodles after his last visit, which was about 25 years back!

Around 7-ish..the crowd started flocking was so packed and difficult to buy food as people are squashing each other and the queue was sooooooooooooo long.

3) Fried Dumplings (锅贴) - didn't have a picture of this but it was really good! We were too hungry and ate them all before I could take pictures :(

4) Crispy Chicken Steak (炸鸡排)

People who know me well should know that I don't eat chicken (because they have this weird blood taste). 
Wait, I do eat chicken..ok, let me rephrase: I don't eat chicken with bones; or chicken with weird taste.
But I always watch those TV food programs introducing how Taiwan snacks and I wanted to try!! 
So I tried the crispy chicken...all I could taste was the saltiness and crispiness of the chicken! Yummy~
However, I do think that it is rather large (and quite cheap for its size; NTD $55, BND $2.40). Even sharing it with my parents, we couldn't really finish it.. and to start off with the dumplings, noodles and other stuff that we've ate earlier on. 

There were too many snacks that I wanted to try but I honestly couldn't fit anything more into my stomach. I'll leave them to other days. Food stalls are everywhere in Taiwan o___o although Shilin is famous/specialise in their food. 

When we went back to Ban qiao around 10pm, there was a pre-Christmas concert at the field just opposite to the apartment that I stayed in. Apparently, Show Luo was performing the grand finale. It was so crowded that I couldn't go back to the apartment :( so we sat on the benches a street away. Free live concert. 

After he left, I saw a lot of girls surrounding his car and screamed and trying to chase after his car *serious fangirling*

I heard Jolin Tsai's performance was a day before his..and JJ Lin's was the week before. If it was JJ Lin's, I would actually go and squeeze myself in the crowd..haha 

Just a block from where I stayed, there's this porridge shop, renowned for its crab porridge & abalone porridge. I don't usually eat after 9pm (health purposes) but dad insisted on trying, so we ordered the crab porridge. 
The minimum serving is 2 pax. For 2 person, the portion is unreasonably large o____o It's like a big bucket of porridge. 

Costs about NTD $500, which is about BND $22. I consider it as quite expensive, for a porridge..but then given its portion and generous amount of crab meat & meal + squid balls (?), it was worth it. 
However, to finish this off at 11pm was nightmare. We were really full already but still stuffing ourselves with late night suppers (practically everyday!)...gosh, I've definitely gained weight..

(We tried the abalone porridge on the last day because dad couldn't resist the temptation.)

Day 3: Taipei 101 & Xi Men Ding (西门町)

Before heading to Taipei 101, my parents & I went to Din Tai Fung (鼎泰丰) for brunch (errr...because we always woke up late T_T).. 
Initially, we weren't going to dine in Din Tai Fung since we've tried it for several times already in Singapore, Hong Kong and even Thailand's branch..However, Din Tai Fung originates from Taiwan and my uncle insisted that it's different from other countries' (you know what they say - the original is always the best).
Yummy! I think they tasted similar with other branches'..we did realise that they serve the 'xiao long bao' in the quantity of 10, while in HK and Thailand, they usually serve in 6 pieces per portion. 

Taipei 101:
We didn't go up to the highest no pictures :(
Most of the goods are branded here and it's pretty similar like other big department stores that sell branded goods. We did buy a lot of Taiwanese delicacies here though! The pineapple tarts, the beef floss! Mad love!

Next stop: Xi Men Ding (西门町)!

It's a place in Xi Men where a wide variety of goods and services are found. It consists of several streets and is known as "the paradise for youngsters", which is pretty much like Hong Kong's Mongkok.

Well, we all know Pearl Milk Tea/Bubble Tea originates from, when you're in must drink pearl milk tea.
The very first creator, is either Hanlin tea room (翰林茶馆) or Chun Shui Tang tea house (春水堂).There are 2 versions of the story and they both claimed to be the inventor of bubble tea. Their case was even brought to court (but I have no idea who won though).

Anyways, we saw Hanlin tea house at Xi Men Ding and omg, their cup is SO BIG. Even my dad can't finish his drink! I ordered Mango Iced Tea & mum tried their Pearl Milk Tea. The pearls are so addictive and bouncy!!

Was bloated by the mango tea already, but still couldn't resist trying the cheese potato!!! We saw this at Shilin but was too full the other day..
There were a few options to go along with the potato:- German sausages, corn, pineapples, etc..
I chose the German sausage as my potato's topping ^^

*drooling* Savoury cheese potato! Can't get enough~

We saw Ah Zhong Mian Xian (阿宗面线) as well!! Saw a few food programs introduce it...and people who went to Taiwan, generally, would recommend this as well. You can see that it's very popular among the locals and tourists...


People eat in front and beside the shop or even across the street, standing. If you couldn't find the shop, just spot a large crowd, with green or grey bowls, standing while eating.
 It's actually a good time to eat the 'mee sua' in December because it's really cold and a bowl of Ah Zong Mee Sua can definitely warms you up!
The texture of the mee sua is different from the ones I usually eat..I felt that it's more gluey and soft..the sauce is the key and I love the taste with a pinch of chilli (which was provided there; self-service :p).

We went back to Ban qiao and bought the bread from Hogan bakery (again). In fact, everytime we're in Ban qiao train station, we would go into Hogan Bakery...

They won World's BEST bread?!?! 
Louis Lesaffre Cup 2008 Silver Medalist & Taipei International Bakery Show Champion - Taiwan Longan with Red Wine Bread
Les Masters De La Boulangerie 2010 champion - Millet Wine with Dried Lychee & Rose Petal Bread

They're out only after 3:30pm, for a limited time. The timing was not right for the first few days. On the last day, we actually saw both champion bread..but WE DIDN'T BUY THEM?!

Mum said they were too freaking big. They were sold in a loaf :( so I DIDN'T GET TO TRY!! 
The other bread are very good as well..we tried the caramel bread, the blueberry buns, the scones, chocolate croissant, ham & chesse bread, etc etc etc.......
What a joke! We did not try ANY of their "highly recommended" bread because mum didn't like them..
I guess different people have different taste...

For dinner, we wanted to try Kiki Restaurant, a Sichuan cuisine but we didn't get to because we had to wait for another 30 minutes. Instead, we ate in Chun Shui Tang! The bubble tea rivals both on the same day! 

Personally, I like Hanlin's pearl milk tea better because their pearls are more chewy and bigger..Chun Shui Tang's pearls are mini sized and tend to be swallowed easily, rather than being masticated. I like Chun Shui Tang's snacks though, and their matcha latte!!! The thick green tea taste with the hot latte...perfect! The sweetness is just right! I'm a sucker for green tea :3 

Day 4: Wu Fen Pu (五分埔)

We planned to go to Jiu Fen (九份) & Wu Fen Pu (五分埔) on the 4th day...but as usual, we woke up late!!!! Dad complained that we only get to visit a few places because we spent too much time preparing...

Jiu Fen is actually quite far (having to use MRT and the bus again), so we went to Wu Fen Pu only. Took the MRT train to HouShanPi station > Exit 1 > Walk north along Jhongpo N. Road & Yong Ji Road...then you'll reach Wu Fen Pu, where 1000 of shops selling different types of clothes, accessories and garments. It's an wholesale place so be sure NOT to go on Monday as Monday is only reserved for wholesalers. Also, they start their businesses pretty late, about 12 noon..

Before that, we had our lunch at Formosa Chang (胡须张) that is famous for their braised pork rice (卤肉饭)..

I don't really eat braised pork as the meat is very 'fat' and oily..I don't like the taste at all..BUT I am able to finish the whole BOWL by myself (although it's relative small bowl hahah)!!
The pork is cut into very fine slices and melts in your mouth! Goes well with the fragrant rice as well! 

I don't usually eat chicken as well (like I said, no chicken with bones)..Sorry, I'm just very picky >_<
The sliced chicken is seasoned with pepper and Wu Xiang Fen 五香粉 (literally, Chinese Five spiced powder). They salty taste was just right & the meat was tender. yummy yummy!!

They offer a few choices of soups and tonic soups, but oddly, no beverages will be served in the be sure to bring your own mineral water in case you get thirsty after all the strong flavours~

Shopped shopped shopped and then went back to Ban Qiao to see another Christmas concert that was ongoing at that time.

Went to queue for the stinky tofu (臭豆腐)! Had to say I was quite disappointed..I tried this once in Hong Kong and the bean curds were deep-fried till they were golden-brown and crispy. The one that I ate here in Taiwan were boiled :( hence, even when I ate the tofu, the pungent smell did not go away and the taste was lingering in my mouth for the whole night, as opposed to the fried one; which the taste would be rather pleasant (I think) after the first bite. Nevertheless, I managed to finish it. The cabbages were REALLY good! Crunchy and sweet.

For dinner, we managed to book Kiki Restaurant! yayyyy
Didn't get to eat it the day before since it was fully booked and we had to wait for another 30 minutes. Then, my uncle said we should have waited because this restaurant is owned by Pauline Lan (蓝心湄), a Taiwanese celebrity. My uncle had to queue for about 2 hours for a table! o__o booked it early on the following day after we knew :3

This is the best dish of the night! The tofu is really soft and smooth, along with the sesame oil, just perfect! Can't get enough of it!!

Service    : 
Food       : 
Price        : 

Saw Cold Stone Creamery ice cream wherever we we could no longer resist the temptation (even though it was really cold!)..
Tried the Tie Guan Yin (铁观音) Chinese tea flavoured ice cream with pumpkin seeds and raisins. SO SO GOOD! Love the combination!!! At first, I was like.."who the heck put pumpkin seeds inside the ice cream?!" but it turns out really nice! The raisins as well. This is a MUST TRY flavour!

Merry Christmas!!! Pretty lighting around Taiwan~

Day 5: Yi Lan (宜兰), Yeh Liu (野柳) & Yang Ming Shan (阳明山)

Uncle brought us to Yilan (宜兰) today! The journey to yilan took about an hour..and we went there just to eat o___o
For brunch, we went to try the Weng Yao Roast chicken.

So, it's famous for its chicken which are roasted in longan tree wood...crisped to perfection..

After that, we stopped by at Yeh Liu (野柳) for the Geopark, to witness the amazing sceneries and rocks of the park. The best known rock is the "Queen's Head", which is an iconic image in Taiwan.
However, it rained cats and dogs on that's umbrella nearly flew off!!!
Risking my camera, I managed to take a few pictures only.

Ughhhh, the water droplets on the camera lens! D<

Soaking, wet! Luckily, there were lots of people selling raincoats..we even bought the plastic protection for our shoes.. We don't want those expensive boots to get wet, do we?

After the chilly, crappy weather, we went for hot spring at Yang Ming Shan (阳明山)! Perfect~
Yang Ming Shan is famous for its hot spring resorts & spas.

Outdoor hot spring - clear moutain spring water..
Unfortunately, we didn't get to experience the outdoor one..because dad forgot to bring our swimsuits!! We actually packed it into a bag, which he left it in the apartment! :( :(
So, we were left with no choice, but to swim in the indoor one, where we have to go naked.
It's my first's kinda weird...and embarrassing for me to walk around naked, along with other women...*shy*

Dinner at this restaurant in Ban Qiao, where their prawns, crabs and snails (If i'm not mistaken) are famous for.

Dinner was practically prawns...and prawns..and prawns. We ordered black pepper prawns, butter prawns, chili pepper prawns, pepper salt prawns and lemon prawns. o__________o
It was just too much!!

Dad went for the abalone congee on the last night in Taiwan..he just couldn't resist.


Went to Cold stone again..and tried their 'hot air balloon' ice cream & american espresso. yummy..!!
Merry Christmas xx

That's pretty much it! I felt like we could have done more, because we skipped most of the main attractions in Taipei City like the museums and stuff and opted for more of a food tour/night markets tour around Taipei.

Would definitely be back again to explore the rest of Taiwan! 

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