Taiwan has been one of the countries I've always wanted to visit. A few years back, while I didn't know about its lush nature and other visit-worthy sights, one thing I've always known is how it's a must-visit place for foodies. And being one, Food is enough reason to make me want to visit the country. Although after visiting Taiwan (mostly Taipei), I found out that there are more reasons to love this island.
I planned this trip late last year as an anniversary getaway for the boyf and I. It was our very first time to travel to Taiwan. And as much as we're excited, we were also quite nervous since it was the first time we applied for a visa. But after all the nerve-wracking steps were done -- booking our plane tickets and accommodation and hoping we successfully secure our Taiwan tourist visa, it was just a matter of time and April finally came!
Flying with EVA Air
It might not be the most cost-efficient decision, but I decided to book EVA Air for our Taiwan trip for a change. Since it's our (belated) anniversary trip, I figured it won't hurt to indulge a little.
|The boyf is shy (*´ω｀*)|
We arrived at NAIA Terminal 1 before 12 midnight, and our flight wasn't until 4:00AM. And let me tell you, we were both in autopilot zombie mode this whole day as we didn't get even a wink of sleep! It also didn't help that not one cafe was open at the Terminal 1 departure area (only the convenient-type stores were open). Guess this is one of the woes of flying in the wee hours. ヾ(´▽｀;)ゝ
I booked Economy tickets for our flight. But I guess with our energy draining, our luck oozes -- we got an upgrade to Royal Laurel (Business) Class! Ah yeaaaaah! o(*^▽^*)o
The flight was only 2 hours though -- too short for enjoying business class. Haha! The pilot was already announcing that we'll be landing shortly and I was still not finished with my food. Didn't even get to finish the movie I was watching! *sigh*
Arrival and Getting to Taipei Main Station
When we got to Taoyuan International Airport Terminal 2, we first headed to the basement food court after clearing immigration and getting our luggage. I was supposed to pick up the pocket wi-fi I pre-booked via Wi-Fi Taiwan from the 7-Eleven there. But sadly, the package didn't arrive on time, so no pocket wi-fi for me. (I initially thought to just give up on the pocket wi-fi entirely than going back to the airport the next day. But it got sorted out; you'll find out at the end of Day 1.)
We then headed to exchange some PHP to NTD. Actually, it was only I who had to buy NTD. Haha!
|Got a rate of PHP 1.763 = NTD 1 at the airport.|
A little higher than the rate used if you exchange money in Manila, but there's not that big of a difference either.
Then off we went to buy bus tickets for Kuo-Kuang Bus 1819 (NTD 125 each) bound for Taipei Main Station.
Since we were in our own world inside Taoyuan International Airport, we were surprised to find that it's raining heavily when we went outside to wait for our bus. Good thing I was wearing a long-sleeved coat, albeit a pretty thin one.
We each bought an EasyCard (NTD 100 as deposit) upon arriving at the Taipei Main Station. Then off we rode the MRT to Ximen using the blue Bannan Line.
We arrived at Ximending about 9AM, too early to check-in to our hotel. So we first left our luggage at VIA Hotel, then explored the area a little. It wasn't fun exploring XMD this early though as almost all the shops were still closed. It was also pouring, so we didn't see street food push carts.
|Obligatory haggard OOTD!|
This spot (just below our hotel) is where I shot most of my OOTDs in Taiwan.
Without anything else left to do in the place, we boarded the MRT again and headed to Taipei Main Station.
Exploring Taipei Main Station & the Underground Mall
Truth be told, it was still a little too early to be exploring the Underground Mall at Taipei Main Station. However, there were quite a few shops already open. Restaurants were all accepting diners too! So after a quick stroll, it's brunch time!
We weren't really hungry, but the boyf and I both wanted some place to sit. And since it was still pouring, Taiwanese noodles and xiaolongbao sounded perfect!
|Three Treasure Beef Noodle with Tendon, Meat and Tripe (NTD 250)|
This was my choice of noodles. Beefy, hearty and filling!
|Beef-Soup Noodle with Fried Beancurd (NTD 95)|
The boyf's order. The soup was as beefy and hearty, the noodles as QQ-chewy. Of course I shared my beef toppings with him since I had a lot. Nabbed some of his fried beancurd too! ｡(*^▽^*)ゞ
|Xiaolongbao (NTD 90)|
We enjoyed our Taiwanese noodle orders. And the xiaolongbao, though not the best -- especially with a thicker wrapper, was miles better than other restaurants offering xiaolongbao in Manila. Actually, if the wrapper were thinner, I'd say Lao Dong's xiaolongbao would already be excellent!
Anyhow, it was a little weird for us that they didn't carry water, even bottled water for sale. Even asking the auntie service staff, they really don't have 水 or water for drinking. So even though we're not too big on sodas, we opted to go for fizzy drinks this time around. No hot tea for us since we really wanted something cold to drink.
After brunch, off we went to further explore the Underground Mall!
|There's a few shops selling anime-themed goods, and there were plenty of Studio Ghibli merch!|
|We bought a lot from the friendly auntie at 微風 or Breeze Center in the underground area.|
|The shop is 軒記台灣肉乾王. They had really good crispy pork paper and almond nougat.|
I thought I already bought a lot, but I should've bought even more!
Although it was only Day 1, we already blew quite a lot of money at 軒記台灣肉乾王 in Breeze Center underground MRT level. The aunty there was really friendly and I enjoyed practicing my Chinese with her. I bought 3 kinds of crispy meat paper -- Original Pork Paper with Almond, Spicy Pork and Lamb. She also gave me some matcha and strawberry nougat samples (which I only got to try when we were already back at the hotel), so I thought I'd also get a pack of the Almond Nougat.
It was a different story for the boyf though, as he went way further with spending at 軒記. He bought more of the jerky, 肉干 or bakkwa-type of delicacies at the shop. It's good, but personally, the Pork Paper is waaaaaaay more special! The latter is also unique to Taiwan, so it's a better buy!
Checking-in at VIA Hotel Ximen
To stop us from overspending just on the first day, we headed back to Ximending. It was still an hour early before our check-in time at VIA Hotel though... And with aching feet and a heavy body from being awake for more than 36 hours already, we decided to spend our waiting time at the nearest cafe from our hotel.
By the way, Ximending in the afternoon is lively and definitely has a lot going for it than when we arrived earlier in the morning. Too bad though our energy level was already very low...
|The biggest Starbucks I've been into to date, and the most expensive Starbucks drink I've had to date!|
We spent about an hour or so at Starbucks, and until now I'm still fascinated by its size. It's comprised of 4 floors! I got myself the new Iced Matcha & Espresso Fusion from the Teavana line, and it was NTD 145 or about P256 for a tall cup. For this price, I could've already gone venti (and get some change) back home! The boyf only ordered a tall drink for himself too. Haha! But oh well, we really needed a place to sit.
A few minutes past 3PM and we were all ready to finally check-in!
Check out my full review on VIA Hotel Ximen here.
|Our home in Taipei ♡|
|With clean and spacious toilet and bath ♡|
We freshened up and used the fast and reliable wi-fi to check in with family and friends. I took this time as well to send an email to Wi-Fi Taiwan to sort out what to do with the pocket wi-fi unit that didn't arrive on time at the airport during our arrival earlier that day. And of course, how could we forget to take our well-deserved power nap?!
After a few hours of catching up on our much-needed Zs, it was time to get back to exploring!
Rainy Day at Shilin Night Market
We rode the MRT from Ximen Station to Zhongshan (Songshan-Xindian Line) then (a transfer to Tamsui-Xinyi Line) to Jiantan Station. We made a not-so-big mistake of using the Exit 2, so we had to walk further from the station going to Shilin Night Market.
To get to Shilin faster, it's better to use Jiantan Station Exit 1.
Just walking into the night market was already a feast for the senses! There were a lot of street food, clothing, shoes and other knick-knacks. The sights, smells and noise all made the overall feel of Shilin fun and vibrant. Although the place is quite touristy, I still say it's worth visiting for the experience!
|Shilin Night Market is a big area comprised of many streets and alleys.|
We wanted to scout the area first before deciding what to try, so we passed by a lot of trinkets and food stalls -- grilled seafood, fried foods, stinky tofu, aiyu jelly, beef cubes, grilled tomatoes, cheesy potatoes, etc.
|Kumamon is popular even in Taiwan!|
|There's also no shortage of No Face merch from the movie Spirited Away.|
|Almost gave in to buy a pair of these cute fluffy character bedroom slippers!|
They were pretty expensive if I remember correctly...
|Carbon Barbecue which our friend Berylle recommended us to try.|
We sadly didn't get to try it though since there was quite a long line...
|Pancake-ish treat with sweet toppings~ Looks good, doesn't it?|
|Taiwanese pork sausages|
|My first time seeing takoyaki cooked with a blow-torch!|
And just when I've finally decided to start buying foodstuff that will catch our attention, the rain poured. And not just moderate pouring, mind you. It was heavy rainfall! (╬ ꒪Д꒪)ノ
Although we had an umbrella to share, we were still getting rained on. It didn't help that our clothes weren't made for the weather too! To escape the downpour, we found our way into the covered area of the night market where it houses the Shilin Underground Food Court!
The ground level was filled with shops selling clothes, toys and trinkets. There were even some fun activities to do, like shrimping (shrimp-catching), balloon darts, and other games where you can win prizes.
|This is shrimping. You pay a fee to catch a shrimp. And when you do catch some, they'll grill it for you.|
But our agenda for visiting Shilin is the food, so off we went to B1 Food Court!
|The best part of the covered Shilin Night Market area!|
|Just one of the many eateries at the Underground Food Court|
There were a lot of small eateries and stalls here selling different Taiwanese 小吃 or small eats. And one which caught our attention was the 大腸包小腸 or small sausage wrapped in big sausage.
|大腸包小腸 (NTD 60) at Shilin Underground Food Court|
Taiwanese pork sausage atop a sticky rice sausage bun with garlic, cucumbers, pickled greens, cilantro and peanut powder~
This one was cut in half as the boyf and I shared one serving.
Many of the eateries in the food court were selling more or less the same set of items though, so it will depend on you where you want to order, sit and eat. Our choice was at this particular eatery.
|Eating at any of the eateries in Shilin Night Market is definitely cheaper and offers more variety than at most of the restaurants in the Taipei Underground Mall!|
Since we didn't get to buy anything from the street-sides of Shilin, we went ahead and ordered a few items here. This also served as our dinner already.
|Tripe Noodles (NTD 90)|
Pretty good, beefy-tasting noodle soup with QQ-chewy noodles which the boyf and I shared.
|Xiaolongbao (NTD 100)|
We liked the xiaolongbao we had for brunch better, but this is passable.
|Shrimp Balls with Pineapple (NTD 100)|
Fried shrimps with sliced pineapples. This was quite delicious, though I had to take out all the candy sprinkles.
What's up with that anyway?! (๑Ő д Ő๑)
|Stinky Tofu (NTD 50)|
Fried stinky tofu served with fermented vegetables. Added in some hot sauce, and this was the bomb!
I was initially worried that I wouldn't like stinky tofu, but it's now a favorite of ours. We even wished this were stinkier!
|Oyster Omelet (NTD 60)|
We shouldn't have ordered this! The oysters were too slimy and fishy-tasting for our liking. The ketchup-y sauce didn't help either.
The boyf and I shared all the food we ordered. And to down them better, we also each got a drink from one of the beverage stands, which seller lady actually went to our table to offer us drinks to order. I think the friendly English-speaking 哥哥 who assisted us and recommended us dishes to order was the one who called the beverage vendor lady.
|Honey Bitter Gourd Juice (NTD 60)|
While the boyf got himself a fruit-infused Yakult drink, I thought I'd be more adventurous and opt for the bitter gourd juice. Yes, people! It really is bitter gourd or a type of ampalaya! At first sip, it was quite sweet and refreshing... Then after a few seconds, the bitterness kicked in! It took a while before the bitter aftertaste left my mouth. We finished our meal and the ampalaya juice was still half full! ｡･ﾟ(ﾟ⊃ω⊂ﾟ)ﾟ･｡
As much as I hate wasting food and drinks, I needed to throw away the juice since I really can't force myself to finish it. The boyf won't dare touch it either! We just bought bottled water from this beverage stand.
|Aiyu Jelly Drink (NTD 40)|
Yummy and refreshing!
To mask the bitter aftertaste left from the ampalaya juice and the fact that I had to dispose of it, I just bought myself an 愛玉冰 or Aiyu Jelly Drink -- a refreshing citrus-based drink with jelly made from the gel of a variety of fig seeds. You'll see a lot of these in the night markets. Some stalls would have "Frog Eggs" written on their sign, but don't fret as there really isn't real frog eggs in the drink. It's just named as such since the tapioca pearls used in the drink is similar to frog eggs. And yup, mine didn't have pearls.
After our meal at the underground food court, we checked out some of the shops on the ground level albeit most were already closing, as it was already past 11PM. I did mostly window shopping, while the boyf did actual shopping while we walked from the covered Shilin Night Market to Jiantan Station.
We arrived at our hotel a little past 12AM already. Before resting, we hung out at the hotel lounge while I reply to an email from Wi-Fi Taiwan. I was surprised since it was almost 12:30AM but Wi-Fi Taiwan promptly replied! They were to send out a pocket wi-fi unit straight to our hotel, and will even give a refund for the days we didn't get to use the pocket wi-fi. What a service! (๑♡⌓♡๑)
|Late night snacking at the hotel lounge even after a food-filled evening~|
And this wraps up our Day 1 in Taiwan! Although we had a pretty long day coming from work the previous day and flying even before dawn, it was eventful and fun. (Un)regretfully, this was also the day we spent a lot of our pocket money for souvenirs and trinkets. Haha!
Join us on our Taiwan 2017 adventures. Day 2 travel log of our trip is coming very soon! ♥ ⃛ヾ(๑❛ ▿ ◠๑ )
Taiwan Tourist Visa for Filipinos: My DIY Experience
VIA Hotel Ximending (丰居旅店-西門町) Review