A year ago, SK, KH, Lifebook and I bought AirAsia X tickets to Taipei for a week-long holiday. As usual, we bought it with no concrete plans on whether we would be able to fly or not. Unfortunately, Lifebook pulled out at the very last minute due to critical work problems. Since all the lodging and local tour had been arranged, he had to pay the sum of nearly MYR1000 anyway. But then, Lifebook had jst recently come back from a Taiwan holiday with his family in January! Haha. So I guess not so bad and SK got to have the whole room to herself. Logistics were mostly handled by SK, who liased with the local tour guide. The uncle only understood Chinese, and he seemed to like dealing with SK, whom he loved to refer to as 美女 or 辣妹. Changed the itinerary several times based on preference and some feedback from MoonlightPiggy. Our flight was at 10:00am. Arrived early and had breakfast at Coffee Bean and Tea Leaf. At the boarding gate, I bumped into a colleague of It was a 4 hour 25 minutes flight. Since KH did not purchase any inflight meal for me (he even nearly forgot about my luggage!), I ordered the chicken siew mai, a CNY special. The siew mai skin was obviously infused with the appetite-inducing tartrazine (sunset yellow), but the taste was surprisingly good and quite a big portion. It even came with a hot cup of green tea. Didn't sleep much during the flight, talked with KH and watched Simpsons on my phone. Some eye candy on the same flight, but they were too far away.
Nothing much happened on the flight. The pilot was a fantastic mumbler and we arrived on time. Upon arrival, SK bought a local SIM card and we contacted the tour guide. Based on the weather forecast, Taipei was supposed to be 16 - 25 degrees celcius. However, when we walked out of the airport, it was freezing! I did not expect such weather. Our tour guide / driver was called Lewis and he came in a Volkswagen Caravelle that can seat nine! Needless to say, it was a spatious ride. Our first stop was Athena Ming Shu at Ximending. Ming shu loosely translates to bed and breakfast joints. It was actually a kind of serviced apartment at KunMing Road that did NOT provide any breakfast. LOL. The receptionist brought us to our rooms on the 8th floor going through several layers of security. The whole building was lit with ambient light, fitted with European style fixtures and the hallways had recesses which contained little knick knacks and decorations of all sorts. Weird. The room was a studio apartment with kitchen, washing machine, living area and bedroom. In need of renovation, but it was sufficient for our purposes. After settling down, we explored XiMenDing at about 5:00pm.
As it was a Saturday, the place was crawling with young people and tourists. The first thing we did was line up for bubble tea. Signage at Ching Shin was in Chinese, so KH and I had to rely on SK to translate (check out Taipei Celebrity Ching Shin Chad!). Quite a hassle. Next up, we tried the famous Ay Chung Rice Flour Noodles. As with all famous places, there was a long line and you had to stand around to eat. Reminded me of the Asam Laksa place in Penang. Not really impressed with that bowl of mee suah. Without the chili oil, I think it would have been even more ho-hum. The next place was Ya Rou Bian, an eatery recommended by Lewis. Though the name suggests duck, their specialty is actually goose! When the meat came, we gobbled it all up with a bowl of soup noodles. A bit oily and salty, but the meat texture and taste was quite special. Thumbs up. Earlier on I had contacted Grey based on Gratitude's suggestion. I knew him from the blogosphere but we had never met. So ironic for us to meet in Taipei.
While waiting for him to arrive, we explored the place more, exploring their vast beauty shops (with cute but aggressive promoters, check out Taipei Celebrity BB Brent), underground stationery shops that sell all sorts of knick knacks and had a very sour carambola pickle drink near the XiMen Metro. Also enjoyed ourselves watching a cute busker perform out in the cold (check out Taipei Celebrity the Busker Brothers!). When Grey arrived, KH and SK were busy in the beauty department, so I chatted with him. He was telling me that XiMenDing was the gay area and lo and behold the guy standing beside us fiddling with his phone had a whole FB timeline filled with semi-naked men. LOL. Since we weren't keen to brave the crowds at ShihLin, we requeted that Grey bring us to RaoHe Street Night Market instead. Alighted at the SongShan station. Noticed that the Taipei Metro was very much like Singapore's MRT (and also a hotbed for eye candy, check out Taipei Celebrity Metro Mark!).
The market was easy to navigate, just a street 600m long. Like a gauntlet, we walked and ate from one end to the other. Grey would remark, "This is good! This is famous!", and we would order a portion. Just halfway through and we were already very full. Had my first taste of stinky tofu there. I must say that I did not find it fantastic. Blegh. Also tried pig blood cake with an assortment of kelp, chicken gizzard and pig's ears. The cake was basically blackened glutinous rice, but I really couldn't taste any blood. The grilled king mushrooms were delish too! So large and juicy with great texture!
To wash the food down, we also drank fresh cranberry juice and continued with Taiwanese sausages. They seem to love their sausages. Some debone the chicken, process the meat and wrap the final product with skin, like a reconstruction process. Another version had the sausage wrapped in glutionous rice. Pulut, another recurring theme in the Taiwanese diet. Then we had green tea shaved ice with yam and some peanut dessert with milky puff pastry. To quote Bangsar Babe, the peanuts had a fantastic peanut aroma! And of course we had the big fried chicken and luckily they cut it for us. Heard the famous stall in ShihLin refuses to cut. Due to some unknown food allergy, SK's lips were swollen near to the level of Angelina Jolie. She thought it was the spices that they so like to
At the other end of the night market was Ciyou Temple, one of the many temples dedicated to Mazu. Quite an impressive temple, but it facade seemed to be undergoing renovation at the time. We stopped for a while at the 7-11 to use the loo and Grey explained to us Taiwan's 7-11 culture. Seven, as the locals affectionately call it, is all over the place. Need to buy something? Hungry? Thirsty? Need to relieve yourself? Want a place to sit? Seven's the answer. And Grey described their pre-packed meal as cheap and yummy. Before taking the cab to Wufenpu, we raided another bubble tea stall. Surprisingly, Wufenpu was very quiet for a wholesale garment market. Stuff were really quite cheap. KH bought a sweater for just NTD300 and I bought a shirt for NTD200. And since it was freaking cold and started drizzling, he also picked up a big knitted scarf. At the end of the night, Grey sent us to the nearest Metro and we camwhored outside a Cosmed. Though cold, it was a great first night! Goes without saying that it was great cuddling against KH on bed. Been missing his warmth and the cold weather made it all the more 'sizzling' (or maybe it was the Taiwan beer :P).