Taipei: A Quick Visit

Officially the Republic of China (ROC), Taiwan is an island of unexpected beauty with each corner of the isle blessed with its own unique scenery. The capital, Taipei is one of Asia’s most beautiful futuristic cities with Taipei 101, most notable for its feats of engineering, towers majestically on its skyline.

Taipei-101

Eating in Taiwan comes close to Japan or Seoul. It has an incredible food culture with a vast array of Chinese food and local delicacies on offer. Traveling around the island is relatively straightforward albeit the lack of English can be a challenge sometimes.

My recent trip back to Taipei after 8 years was easy-going as I had my parents in tow.   We took things slow and spent most of our time in the capital with only a day trip to nearby Keelung. Here’s sharing with you the highlights of our trip.

Food

Family friends, who are Taiwanese locals, hosted our best meal. Robin’s Teppanyaki at the Regent Hotel in Taipei is, by far, the best meal we had during this trip.

Robin's-Teppanyaki

We were served perfectly grilled fresh lobsters, tiger prawns, and steak. The other best meal we had was not as elaborate and in fact a simple Taiwanese meal. Also recommended by the same friends, Du Hsiao Yueh was an excellent representation of traditional Taiwanese cuisine.

Du-Hsiao-Yueh.jpg

A staple in Taipei well known for its Dan Zai noodles and other conventional everyday dishes. The minced pork used in the noodles also goes well as rice topping as the secret is in the minced pork recipe. Another dish worth mentioning is the fried oysters. More of our Taipei food experience here.

Day Trip

Yehliu-collage

Just an hour away from Taipei, Yehliu Geopark is a pleasant day trip to make especially if your visit is short.

Yehliu-panorama

A park of natural wonders where rocks carved by years and years of wave cutting and weathering forms a stunning geological landscape.

Yehliu-hoodoo-stones

The park is home to some unique formations which were named according to how they look or resemble like the iconic “Queen Head,” Fairy Shoe, Ginger Rock, to name a few.

Queen's-Head

The cape stretches out to Yehliu Village of Wanli District.

After the leisurely walk, we headed to Jiufen for lunch.

Jiufen.jpg

The decommissioned gold mining mountain town initially built by the Japanese is now a maze of lanes and alleyways that run up and down the slope of the hill filled with food stalls and tea houses.

Jiufen-Eats

This Taiwanese village near Keelung has become a food destination known for its Yuyuan (taro balls) dumplings, Fishball soup, and other Taiwanese favorites.

Museums

Not to miss is the National Palace Museum. This award-winning museum has over 700,000 ancient Chinese Imperial artifacts and artworks making it one of the largest of its type in the world. Most of the collections are high-quality prices collected by China emperors. The excellent selection of China art makes it an essential stop to those interested in history and arts. Many of the exhibits were once displayed in Beijing’s Forbidden City and subsequently moved to Taiwan during the Chinese Civil War in 1933.

MOCA

Another fascinating museum one might consider while in the city is the Museum of Contemporary Art. MOCA is housed in a historical building and is home to some captivating modern art. The building was built during the Japanese rule in 1921 for what later became Jianching Elementary School. At the time of our visit, we caught Steve McCurry’s solo exhibit curated by Leo Chanjen Chen, ‘S Wonderful/Making Pictures.

Steve-McCurry-Exhibit

Useful Information:

Robin’s Teppanyaki – No. 41號2樓, Section 2, Zhongshan N Rd, Zhongshan District, Taipei City

Du Hsiao Yueh – No. 12_, Alley 8, Lane 216, Section 4, Zhongxiao East Road, Daan District, Taipei City, +886 2 2773 1244

The National Palace Museum – No. 221 Sec 2, Zishan Rd., Shilin Market, Taipei City

Museum of Contemporary Art – 39 Changian West Road, Datong District, Taipei City

How to get to Yehliu and Juifen: Click here or here or book a day tour here.

“Why Taiwan?”

Most would ask when I tell them a trip to our northern neighbor was brewing.  “Why not?”  Truth is, Taiwan was never really on my radar until Fun Taiwan, a travel show featuring fun things to do in… you guess it… Taiwan.  So yeah, these shows can entice.   As an aside… can someone please produce a more quality shows about the Philippines?

Taiwan, I discovered, has marvelous natural landscapes and that is why we found ourselves one day

walking around Yong Kang Street, absorbing the sights and smells of this interesting, trendy street

where snack stands of all kinds, coffee shops, restaurants, boutiques

and even a park share space and voice.

The best Xiao Long Bao — in my opinion.  On the right a new dish: Shrimp and Pork Pot sticker.

It is also where the first Din Tai Fung outlet is still found and to this day, lines are long so being there early is wise.   (We had an early dinner there on our last night in Taipei so we would not have to wait for a table — more on why this is a top choice here).

Dandy Hotel — uses simple lines, white walls and bleached furnitures giving an uncluttered feel to a small space.

Just a short walk from our trendy boutique hotel at the Da’an district, we set out to Yong Kang for some happy hour and dinner after.  After a full day, we deserved it to unwind and to finally savor our first day in Taiwan.

Taken from Baskin and Robbins on the 2nd floor of the station where an array of restaurants and shops are found.

At the Taipei Train Station earlier that day, we got by with the simple mandarin tucked away in my brain somewhere and managed to buy train tickets for our journey east the following day.  We decided to explore the station first to find our way around before tomorrow’s journey.  It’s a huge station, getting lost or worst, getting on the wrong platform or train is a possibility… especially since many still speak very little English.  So our game plan was to always be one step ahead.

With that out of the way, we headed to the second floor and devoured our first meal in Taipei – Beef Noodle Soup at the food court.

A glimpse of what was to come (food-wise) in the next few days… actually in the next few hours.

Wonderful staff helping us find our way around.  That’s our map that they were trying to figure out for us.

Walking around Yong Kang, we entered a bar thirsty for some cold beer.  We made friends with the servers while downing our Asahi and a side dish of shiitake mushrooms.

About an hour later, we walked the street again looking for a place to dine.  When it started to pour, we entered the first restaurant we fancied.  In a small alley off Yong Kang Street is Sit-Fun. The photos at the entrance and the glassed-in kitchen screamed, “Come in!”

Clockwise: a succulent Pork braised in Brown Sugar; tender, crispy Fried Squid with Garlic; a very tasty Fried Oyster with Soy Sauce; interior.

Our default restaurant turned out a winner of a choice.  By no time, the place was full and all the food we ordered were excellent.

Famous not only in Yong Kang but also all over Taipei is this shaved iced dessert (like Ice Monster) and the sweet tooth in me just couldn’t resist.

Before calling it a night, we stopped by Smoothie House and I convinced A to share this huge bowl of shaved ice filled with strawberries, condensed milk and topped Panna cotta with me.

So what say you?  I say a perfect end to a long fruitful day.   🙂

Useful Info:

Dandy Hotel
No. 33 Sec. 3, Xinyi Rd., Da’an District
Taipei City 106
Tel: +886-2-2707-6899
Fax: +886-2-2706-5777
 
Sit-Fun Shih Tang
5, Lane 8, Yong Kang Street 
Tel: +886-2-2322-2632
 
Din Tai Fung
194 Sec 2, Xinyi Rd., Da’an District