Tag Archives: Taipei

Bikes, Bubble Tea, and Dumplings

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After a short visit to Wulai in the morning, we made it back to Taipei around noon, which meant we had plenty of time to explore the city some more. We decided it would be fun to give our feet a bit of a break and explore on bikes for the afternoon. Taipei has a great Ubike rental system where you can rent a bike from any doc and return it to another one. We ended up using them for about 4 hours and it only cost $2! We were near the Taipei University, so we took a little ride through the campus which turned out to be quite nice. We stopped to sample their outside cafeteria, where we ordered a huge fried chicken sandwich for a whopping $2! As we were eating a group of students came up to us and asked if they could ask us a few questions for a school project and even asked if I could give them a “free” hug as they snapped a picture.  It was a funny little encounter.

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Our main mission was to bike to Liuzhangli Cemetery. We had read that it was a massive graveyard that incorporates Muslim, Christian, and Buddhist’s tombs. Turns out this place was pretty hard to find, and everyone we asked had never heard of it. But thanks 3 different tourist maps and Mike’s amazing skills we found! The ride was incredibly steep and with only 3 gears it was a sweaty workout. At the top of the hill stands the White Terror Memorial, which is dedicated to those who died during Marital Law.

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White Terror Memorial

I had never even heard of this before, so Mike filled me in with the sad details of how for 38 years Taiwan was suppressed because of Political corruption. As soon as we got to the memorial the sky opened up and it started raining. We took shelter underneath the shrine while we watched a funeral procession with Monks. Luckily the weather cleared up 15 minutes later so we could resume the bike ride.

 

 

 

 

 

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Mountain of Graves

Biking uphill meant we were able to get a closer look at Taipei 101 which was once the worlds tallest building from 2001-2004. The building was designed to look like a bamboo shoot. Do you see the resemblance?

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Getting a closer look at Taipei 101

We made a pit stop to try some Bubble Tea, which is a trendy drink in America where you pay up to $5 for a cup, while in Taiwan it is a staple of their country and a mere $1. You can get any variety of tea that you want, milk tea, green tea, black tea, etc…hot or cold. The highlight of the drink is the squishy tapioca balls that they put in it. SO REFRESHING!

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Bubble, bubble, bubble Tea, Bubble Tea!

Our timing couldn’t have been more perfect. As soon as we returned the bikes and headed into Taipei 101 to look around it started down pouring. I mean torrential typhoon like storm. We were so lucky that we made it inside right before the sky opened up! We decided to have a little meal at Din Tai Fung, which is a Michelin rated restaurant known for their famous dumplings. We were pretty satisfied with our dumpling selection and being that it was the first time I’d ever dined at a Michelin rated  restaurant I was pleased with our choice! They have a viewing area where you can watch teams of 8 cooks prepare the dumplings in an assembly like fashion. We were told by our waiter that they make 10,000 dumplings minimum on a slow night!!

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It was still raining cats and dogs so we needed to kill a couple of hours inside. AGAIN, luck was on our side because there was a movie theater inside Taipei 101, that even played ENGLISH movies! We easily walked right up to the ticket counter and bought 2 tickets to see the new Alice Through the Looking Glass movie and the movie started 15 minutes later! The only annoying part was half way through the movie I of course had to go to the bathroom and it turns out they lock the doors from the outside! I couldn’t figure out how to get out of the damn theater…so I just had to hold it till the end!

When the movie ended it was around 8pm and the rain had stopped, so we wandered over to the Shilin Night Market for some more street food and shopping. We weren’t totally thrilled with this market. It was very touristy, loud, and crowded. I did find some purple dragon fruit which is my all time favorite fruit, and impossible to find in the States, so that was deff. the highlight for me. Overall, our day was incredible and a bit spontaneous. 🙂

Taipei, Taiwan

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Taipei, Taiwan

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.

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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!

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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! IMG_4670

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!*IMG_4797

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.

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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. IMG_4675

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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!

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One of the many stores in Herb Alley

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.

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Taiwan’s signature beer

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.

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A restaurant with a huge snake staring down its dinner of rats in front.

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There’s little street food carts everywhere

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Chinese influenced street art

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Just a random picture of city architecture.

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

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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!!

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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.

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And thats a wrap of our first day in Taipei!