Earlier this month we took a few days to sneak off to Taiwan, which is a small island country southwest of Japan and in between Japan and China.
Before our trip my knowledge of Taiwan was nonexistent so we were using our time not only for pleasure but for educational purposes too! We heard Taiwan was much cheaper than Japan and with our budget we figured we could get more bang for our buck in the neighboring country, so hey why not!? We booked our tickets through V-AIR , which is a budget airline out of Nagoya. For $150 RT per person we got nonstop airline tickets between Nagoya and Taipei.Taking a bullet train from Nagoya to Tokyo RT costs $200 so already this was proving to be cheaper!
During the flight the attendant came around with their V bear mascot and offered to let passengers take picture with it…you just got to love the weirdness of Asia!
We arrived to Taipei 3 hours later, and with the time change we gained an hour..yes! You can either take an 1.5 hour bus or a 35 minute taxi into the center of Taipei so for $30 be opted for the convenience of the Taxi. For the first 2 nights we booked ourselves a hostel at Sleepbox, which was in the Zhongzheng district. Upon arriving at customs the agent asked us questioningly “sleepbox? Is that a hotel”…being my smart ass self I had to stop myself from replying “No, it’s a box we are going to sleep in”! Now, I have to say our hostel was pretty cheap! For 2 nights for a private 2 bed AC’d room we only paid $60 total! The hostel itself was lacking in any sort of community or fun environment but we didn’t mind too much since we had each other to have fun with! * Note for 5 days I managed to pack everything in that small backpack!*
By this point it was around 3pm, so we headed out for the rest of the day to see what we could find in Taipei. Outside of our hostel was a pretty big bustling city.
We made our way to to Longshan Temple , which is one of Taiwan’s top religious centers. It’s a Buddhist temple that was founded in 1738 but due to natural disasters has had to be rebuilt a few times. When we arrived it was a pretty lively site, to see. There were many people there praying, chanting and worshiping. Due to the overcast day, you can’t see the magnificent colors and details of the temple in this picture, but it was one of the most intricately designed temples I’ve ever seen. This was also my first experience in seeing a temple with obvious Chinese influence. So much more colorful then the Japanese shrines.
Outside of the temple is a street known as “Herb Alley” which is full of Chinese medicinal herbs dried and fresh. If I had have a clue on what I was looking at maybe I would have bought something for some alignment down the line…but nevertheless it was cool to observe!
Next up we headed to Huashan 1914 Creative Park which is a total Taipei hipster hangout. Go figure, it’s an old wine factory/warehouse that has been refurbished into new funky restaurants, shops, and art galleries. It was cool to see what Taipei’s entrepreneurs came up with. This could easily have been found in Denver.
By this point we were pretty thirsty for a beer so we found ourselves at Taipei Brewery, which is another old warehouse built in 1919 and was Taiwan’s first brewery.
We found ourselves walking through some really bizarre markets, and streets. Being the capital of Taiwan with 2.6 million people in the city as of 2010 , it was definitely an interesting place. Some parts were progressive and new, and some were really old and dirty. I guess like any city. It definitely lacked the cleanliness and order that any city in Japan has though.
As you can see up to this point we had done a whole lot of walking and not a lot of eating. But lucky for us Taiwan is famous for their night markets, which was a major attraction for us. WE LOVE NIGHT MARKETS! As you will see we spent 5 nights in Taiwan and we visited a different market every night! First up was the Raohe St. Night Market
The exchange rate from Yen to Taiwan Dollar was in our favor. Basically 117 yen or $1 US dollar = 35 Taiwan Dollars. All the food at the night market was about 25-60 NTD which means we could feast on anything we wanted for under $2! SCORE!
Things we tried on our first night, was fried fish paste, fried shrimp balls, stinky tofu which is infamous and a must try even though it seriously smells so bad. And for dessert we had a treat that I am now forever addicted to! It’s a spring roll with shaved peanut brittle, sherbet ice cream, and cilantro all rolled up into a wrap! AMAZING!
In the market we came across a Wan-Lien stand, which is something I’ve always wanted try..it’s a threading technique that removes unwanted face hair. In the states it would set you back around $60-100 and here it only cost $7!!
Somehow I managed to talk Mike into it to…it was like a cat was ferociously licking our face and pulling our hair off. It was not a comfortable feeling…but now our faces are nice and smooth!
Right outside the market was a beautiful temple so we took a peak in since it was quite enchanting looking.
And thats a wrap of our first day in Taipei!