Taiwan 2011

After spending four amazing days in Hong Kong Serena and I flew to Taiwan on separate flights, because Serena had booked hers as a package while I booked mine individually since I traveled budget with Tiger Airways from my Singapore flights.

As mentioned before in my HK entry, I flew Eva Air and the flight was expensive for a short one way ride! I’m not sure if there’s a cheaper way, but I searched high and low and considered many alternatives before finally settling with the flight booked through ZUJI Hong Kong. It set me back HKD2251, which is almost US$300! ridiculous. but the flight was smooth, so I’m not going to complain further.

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Day 1 – Arriving in Taiwan, Hotpot at Taihoden and Shida Night Market

Serena and I landed in Taipei at around 2pm local time. Taipei was gloomy and cold throughout my trip, but I really enjoyed my stay the city. It made me fat and broke, but happy! You’ll see why in a moment! :D

From the airport, We took the shuttle bus to the city which costed us NT125 (very cheap! US$4). Then, from Taipei Main station, which is a HUGE station by itself, we traveled a few stations to the west and transferred to the brown line to Da’an MRT. all the while lugging our heavy baggage. It was very exhausting.

We stayed at W Hostel. I highly recommend because for a hostel, it was very clean, cozy and conveniently located. only one minute away from the MRT station! The owner was also very helpful and friendly. The only downside is communal bathroom and no wireless in our individual rooms, but that’s actually not too bad.

Immediately noticed a few things about Taipei: they aren’t as foreigner-friendly as Hong Kong. A lot of the names are very chinese (so took me some time to get the hang of), and aside of the public transport places, they don’t really provide english translations for things. Also locals don’t speak english, which makes it hard for me to communicate aside of hand gestures. Thankfully Serena speaks mandarin, or I would have died.

After setting down our stuff, showering and resting up for awhile, we walked down Xinyi rd towards Taipei 101 building since I needed to find a DBS atm to withdraw some cash.

Witnessed insane traffic on the way there. You think your city’s traffic is bad? think again. But to be fair, the traffic was only this bad that one night. The other night’s weren’t so bad but that’s probably also because we were there right before Chinese New Year.

We walked for a good 15 minutes before finally reaching Taipei 101 area.

So tall and much more prettier in real life. I wonder how tall it is? *too lazy to google*

Anyway, we found the ATM after asking for directions, and ended up at a Shin Kong Mitsukoshi shopping place.

We got in touch with Serena’s friend, Jessica, who conveniently works at Taipei 101. She took us to eat HOTPOT at this place nearby the area, also on Xinyi Rd, called Taihodien which I heard is pretty famous.

It was so yummy eating the spicy one since Taipei was freezing cold that weekend! I especially loved the beancurd skin and the tofu. Can you tell I’m a huge fan of tofu?

After dinner, being the amazing guide that she is, Jess took us to what possibly is heaven for girly shopping.. Shida night market.

This night market is INSANE! all of their stuff is super fashionable and really cute. The kind you expect to see in Japanese and Korean style, and definitely won’t be available anywhere. The best part is? you can bargain to your heart’s content. I find most of them to be friendly and welcomes negotiation, even if it’s just through the calculator app on my iphone due to language barrier.

I’m a huge accessories person, and Shida has a LOT of them to offer. There were little stalls like this throughout the place! and they’re cheap too. I didn’t pay more than NT300 each for my stuff.

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Day 2 – National Chiang Kai-shek Cultural Center, Din Tai Fung, Xinmeiding and Sparks 101

Determined to fit at least one cultural sight see while we’re in Taiwan, Serena and I headed off to National Chiang Kai-shek Cultural Center. Conveniently it houses two buildings – the national theatre and the Chiang Kai-Shek memorial hall. The architecture is just beautiful.

National Theater and Concert Hall. I’m wearing (one of) the new dress I got from Shida the night before!

in front of the gate!

Chiang Kai-shek Memorial Hall

The ceiling inside the memorial hall. So beautiful!

taken from Chiang Kai-shek Memorial Hall

After, we headed off to ZhongXiao Fuxing station to check out the SOGO department store, checking out Burberry store for stuff we cannot afford :'(

We ended up discovering HEAVENLY Din Tai Fung at the basement of the mall. You know how crazy I am for those little Xiao Long Baos… of course we had to go. They were extremely packed so we waited for about an hour for a seat while browsing around.

Found cute hello kitty pastries! we didn’t try though. They looked too perfect to be tasty…

We came back down to the basement after about 30 mins of browsing, and to our surprise we were seated right away despite our ticket numbers being 20-25 off the currently displayed number! Got seated, and ordered six dishes between us including two appetizers (not all pictured)

ohhh XLBs~! come inside my tummy!! I don’t know if i was just too excited or what, but they DO taste better than other Din Tai Fungs I’ve been to.

We should have ordered this without the spicy sauce things on the bottom. it was basically OIL. spicy oil.

loved that braised peanuts appetizers!

Full from lunch, we headed back home to rest up a bit, before heading back out to Ximending, yet another marvelous night market.

I got more accessories here! :)

Got that cute bracelet for NT300. The heart and fabric flower on the bottom is my uber cute necklace I got from Shida.

Came across a flurry of street food vendor on our way back to the MRT station. Of course I had to try! This one is a sort of pancake, but not the kind you get from IHOP. It’s made from (i think) rice flour, onion and scallions, and you can choose to have various toppings on it including eggs, cheese, ham, black pepper, curry powder, etc. This is another example where I would have died without Serena because everything was in chinese!

Got one with cheese! in retrospect, I should have gotten eggs too since it was SO GOOD!! and all this for NT35-50.

We headed back home to get ready for our night out at Sparks in Taipei 101. Jess hooked us up with some friends so we got in for free. Also met up with Serena’s friend from Berkeley, Ally, who joined us for the night.

Not sure if the girls would want me to post clubbing pics of them on my blog, so here are some light shots instead =P

We took a few shots that night, but I was surprisingly not drunk! Funny story, the tequila shots were served with lemons and Serena thought it was ORANGES. My wife is so innocent~

I was wearing my ZARA boots that night, and I forgot to put on paddings on the heels so my feet were absolutely killing me ;(

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Day 3 – Dazzling Cafe and Shopping at ZhongXiao Dunhua

Jess had told us about a super famous cafe that serves amazing dessert, called Dazzling Cafe so that was in our agenda today. We knew the place would be insanely busy, so we headed out around 11am to put our name down for reservation. We were quite horrified when told that the next available slot would at 4PM!!

So we met up with Ally. For lunch, we randomly picked this hole-in-the-wall type of place.

The menu was again in full chinese. The girls were nice enough to translate for me!

Yummy dumplings

Got ham fried rice. Quite pleasant for the price, and for something randomly picked.

Serena’s curry soup/rice thing. It was comforting to eat in a cold weather.

After that we got hot bubble tea. Bubble teas in Taiwan are MUCH better than anywhere else. I’m not an expert at bubble tea or anything, but over there they are just much more milky and creamier than usual. I don’t like boba, so I usually get them with pudding.

Shopped around ZhongXiao rd for awhile, and finally got a call from Dazzling informing us that we’re ready to be seated! We immediately headed over, got our orders in and waited excitedly for our dessert.

When the desserts came out, they pretty much exceeded my expectation in every aspect!

Ya, ONLY food can put a huge smile on my face. and ya, i DID eat all that.

I got Strawberry Lovers. Initially, I wanted to get Mont Blanc but they ran out of the ingredients which was imported from France :(

This is how it looks like inside. it was MASSIVE! and very good. The loaf of bread isnt just regular white bread. I could taste a hint of honey and extra butter/eggs in it.

Yea i’m a pig. Here’s proof that I did gobble down every thing, minus the “walls”. I was so stuffed after that we didn’t eat dinner that day.

Here’s a group shot of our desserts! Serena got “Party in your mouth” and Ally got banana chocolate. Here’s the kicker: We later found out from Jess that it was supposed to be SHARED, but as you can see we each got one to ourselves. No wonder we got really weird stares from everyone ~_~. Fat americans loves to eat their desserts.

The cafe has this pretty black and white decor. I loved it!

After, we headed back to Shida for some more shopping. I was feeling a bit tired though so I didn’t really get anything :T

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Day 4 – Hot spring at Jiaosi

Serena’s friend (yes this girl has a lot of friends), Yichern, hooked us up for a day at Evergreen hotel in Jiaosi. So very kind of her! :D We woke up early for our standard, and headed over to take the bus to Jiaosi which is about an hour out of Taipei. Yichern’s family owns the place (or a share of it, I don’t really know) so when we got there we were basically treated very well… like VIPs! :D

Got an upgraded room as well for our hot spring bath~

Enjoyed 1.5 hours soaking in this baby, then headed off to our complimentary lunch buffet.

I missed this since i was busy getting more food, but Serena told me Yichern’s family assistant personally came to greet us while I was gone! Such nice service :)

The dessert was especially good. I liked every single thing I got here!

After pigging out and abusing the wireless for 2 hours, we were told the buffet will be closing and that we should head up to the roof for more things to do before our next appointment (yeah they even know we had an appointment after lunch :O)

The view there is so nice!! too bad we didnt bring swimsuits, so we could only try the fish spa.

After that, we went to get our “Stone Spa”. To put it simply, in this spa you are basically being “grilled” on top of a hot stone inside a sauna. It sounds ridiculous but we were told it basically simulates the physical reaction you get if you ran 10 miles. I’m not sure how true this is, but when I got out of the spa I totally did feel like I just ran a marathon :P plus we all sweated a lot so that must be good for our blood circulation, right?

Anyway, after that we showered and took the bus back to Taipei, and had lunch at SOGO again since serena was craving their fruit yogurt drink thing she got when we had Din Tai Fung the other day.

I got myself Cheese Omelette Curry. Interesting combination, and definitely not a bad one!

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Day 5 – Leaving Taiwan :(

I was basically broke by the end of the trip, so I spent this day just walking around while Serena was getting her hair done. I did get one more skirt, and ate a ton of salmon onigiri from 7/11. I can’t believe their 7/11 stocks up onigiri! I would so get them everyday if they’re available in Singapore.

Then at 5pm, i had to get ready to leave Taiwan. Serena and Ally helped me take my luggage to ZhingXiao Fuxing station and catch the airport shuttle from there. It was a LONG ride (more than an hour) and I made it into the airport just in time with maybe 15-20 mins to spare from boarding time.

Last pic taken in Taiwan inside Tiger Air. I must say I’m quite pleased with Tiger in this trip. My flight to HK and from TW was both very smooth without any delays/cancellation!

I got back to Singapore around 1am that day, and flew out to Jakarta for Chinese New Year at 10am the next day…

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