So I was finally able to go to Taipei! When people learned that I would be going there just for the weekend, they were like – just two days, including travel time? I’d joke that I would only go there for the food trip and shopping, which was partly true. Haha!
We left Manila Friday night (13 March) and arrived at Taoyuan International Airport at past 12 midnight (14 March, Saturday). Including immigration time, we were out by 1am. Converted US$200 for NT6208 at the bank outside. I was surprised by the airport officers in Taiwan – they were fairly nice as compared to when I went to mainland China. Actually, in general, the Taiwanese are very polite, friendly (they would try to speak English even if they know so little and even go out of their way to help us out) and are courteous. No pushing in the MRT or super rude behavior. No spits or trash on the sidewalk. A few beggars and homeless people but not as much as Manila. Basically, a really nice experience as compared to again, my mainland China experience. I guess Taiwan is much more used to tourists than the China province I visited last time.
Anyway, travel to Taipei from the airport was easy breezy. We arrived at Taipei Walker Guesthouse at a little past 3am. Slept and before we knew it, woke up at 8am to start our day. First on our list was the Chiang Kai Shek (CKS) Memorial Hall (via MRT station with the same name, Exit 5, NT30). Before going out, we had some coffee and bread at a nearby cafe (NT65). CKS is so convenient because it’s immediately outside the station, though you’ll have to walk to see the man’s big, main statue, like the seated Lincoln in the US.
Next, since we had more time than planned in the initial IT, we went to Longsham Temple (via MRT with the same name, NT20) today instead of tomorrow. Again, when you go out the station, just walk farther down and you’ll see the huge temple!
After walking around the temple and being solemn, we saw this small variety store right beside it and decided to check it out. It’s pretty nice, lots of trinkets for cheap. Bought these cute ear muffs for only NT18 (discounted from NT20) since I’ll be having more winter trips in the future. San ka pa! Eh sa Saizen P88. Haha! Should have bought two.
Next was Taipei 101 (via MRT with the same name, Exit 4, NT25). We passed by the famous Din Tai Fung (at 11am, there were already so many people!) on the way to the Taipei 101 counter. NT500 tickets are sold at the 5th floor (elevators are on the right side facing the Taipei 101 Group counter). We were blessed enough that the line to the top was not too long so we went up! For me, the NT500 fee was worth it because I was amazed that we got to the top – that’s 101 floors, duh! – in only 37 seconds! There’s this counter screen inside the elevator which shows which floor you already are in and it was fast! Plus, the lights turn low, there are little stars in the roof and trans-like music in the background. Haha! It’s as if you’re on your way to heaven. The fee let’s you in floors 88, 89 and 91. You’ll get off on floor 89 then go down to the basement or shopping area on floor 88. Floor 89 is the main floor and shows the 360 degree view of the city and is where the souvenir shop is located. Floor 91 houses the outdoor observatory where you can watch a short audio-visual presentation, and floor 88 shows their damper technology and a coral jewelry shop.
Back in the basement, we went to Din Tai Fung. Waiting time was approximately 30 minutes. Go to the counter, tell them how many people will be seated and get your number. There’s a separate counter for take-out orders. We used that time to check their menu and fill out the form of our orders. They flash the number being served so you’ll easily see if it’s your turn. There were shops near the resto so we looked around. The famous pineapple cakes, beef jerky and other pastries were being sold there. Finally, our number was called. We submitted our order form and went inside. The resto was huge! They also have clear glass windows to show how the famous Xiao Long Bao is being made.
We ordered the Pork Xiao Long Bao (NT100 for 5pcs), Crab Xiao Long Bao (NT100 for 5pcs), Truffle Xiao Long Bao (NT500 for 5pcs), Spicy Peanut Noodle (NT180), Taiwanese Lettuce (NT180) and the Beef Noodle Soup (NT180) and my friends had Coke and iced tea (NT40 each). For the Truffle Xiao Long Bao, they even instruct you on how to eat it. I hope I got the prices right but for the 3 of us, we shelled out about NT438 each. Super cheap for something so good. I really enjoyed the Pork Xiao Long Bao.
Having full stomachs, we walked around the Taipei 101 mall which houses high end brands, from LV to Prada to Versace. There’s also a grocery store behind Din Tai Fung called Jasons Market Place though it sells mostly imported items. Next on our list and nearing 5pm, we headed towards Raohe Night Market (via Songshan MRT, NT25). You won’t get lost as there are signs in the station. Walk a few minutes forward once you get out of the station and you’ll see this huge, gorgeous, intricate temple. It was so beautiful both at day and night.
Raohe, compared to Ximending and Shilin Night Market, is smaller in terms of width but pretty long. With so many people, you’ll be packed and walking slowly along the streets. Food stalls are located in the middle while clothes, bags, shoes and other trinkets are located on each side. Be prepared to occasionally get a whiff of the notorious stinky tofu and be inconvenienced by slow moving hundreds of people. But this is the place for affordable clothes!
During our visit, the place was teeming with winter clothes! Bought a navy blue coat (on sale for NT299 from NT599), long, tan coat (on sale for NT399 from NT699) and these super amazing deep maroon wool lined winter shoes (NT199)!
Also found a red tartan skirt for the office (on 70% sale for NT174 from NT580) and a cute magnet for my collection (NT100). I so love my finds!
For our food trip, we tried the flame torched beef with salt and pepper (NT100) and big gyoza-like balls with cabbage (NT12 each).
At around 9pm, we headed to Ximending Night Market (via Ximen MRT station, Exit 6, NT25). Ximending actually reminds me of Times Square. Haha! The market is huge since the walk ways are much more big, and there are more alleys and shops to go to.
The stuff are also a bit more expensive than Raohe but the quality is better as well. Winter coats start at NT1000 and can go up to NT2500 for the more stylish ones. But, the shopper in me was still able to get a great find! The forest green coat was from this NT100 store we saw, though it cost me NT199. The red velvety midi skirt from the same store was NT100.
Our food trip in this market consisted of the really tasty grilled sausage (NT35, add NT25 for glutinous rice which also looked like a sausage), the super huge Hot Star large fried chicken (NT70) and of course good ol’ Matcha Milk Tea (NT25). Our tired feet could no longer take it so we went home via cab (NT205).