Just a week back, I travelled with my good friends to Taiwan for a 6 day trip! It was a meaningful trip that created a lot of beautiful memories for us, and it also reconfirmed our friendship. I loved the idea of us staying together in the apartment, and able to take in all the sights as a group. We have never done this before, so it is really a step up for independence. It feels good to be independent, alone, free. 🙂
We purchased the Taipei EasyCard Pass for 200 NT. It is useful if you want to get around Taipei on your own. You can use it to take the bus and the train. You can purchase it at any train station counter or the 7 eleven stores.
For SIM cards, there is a booth at the arrival hall that supplies telecom services. You can purchase a 5 day SIM programme that allows you to access the 3G and cellular data. It is useful for the usage of Google Maps.
We stayed in an apartment that was a corner away from the Zhong Shan Elementary School Station. We had gotten a shuttle to pick us up from the Airport, and soon after we were ushered into a tall brown building, labelled O-Share. The agent was called Cassie, and she had shown us the building. It looked pretty small, and cramped when we wheeled in our luggages. However, after we had settled down and placed our luggages in the rooms, it looked better. The toilet was a little musty though, but still manageable. Booking apartments is cheaper and also quite convenient, since you can have a home-like environment to stay in.
Amanda & Eunice slept on the upper floor, Ya Fan took the basement, while Say Yian & I took to the room on the Ground Floor. The bed was hard, but the quilt was really comfortable!
The first stop we headed off to was Shilin Night Market. This Night Market is famous in Taiwan for its food and buys, so it is a good place to be. It is located at the Jian Tan station, a few stops away from home. When we arrived, it was still deserted since it was early. This night market gets busy around 6pm, so if you want to avoid the crowds, go around late afternoon.
There are many accessory shops around Shilin. They have clothes, that have good cheap buys, and necklaces, watches and earrings… Each shop has its own apparel, there is much to see. There are cheap affordable bags too, and shoes. My friends were thrilled with the prices, and the clothes looked decent in quality. We found a few good shops that sold nice clothes, and my friends immediately took to buying things.
The Night Market is mostly an alley of shops, where you walk and browse at your own leisure. The food alleys are situated deeper in the lanes. There is the Basement selling lots of food like noodles, omelette and fried seafood. We saw glimpses of prawns and crabs being fried to a crisp, and there were fruit stalls below. They sell fruit cups very often, which include things like Rock Melon, Custard Apple (a gooey white fruit) and papayas. Papaya Milk is also a common sight to see. The Taiwanese seem to like soup, noodles and innards. They often sell liver, and pig’s blood along with the noodles. We were not keen to try those kind of food, so we gave that a miss. Moreover, we had 2 vegetarian friends with us, so we didn’t think it was good to order such foods in front of them.
We saw interesting food around the place. There were grilled mushrooms, poached eggs, egg cake, prawn crackers from machines, and even potted ice cream. They made the ice cream in such a way that it looked like soil in a flower pot. Talk about creative!!
We tried Red Bean Pancake along the way. It was very filling, and they were generous with the red bean spread. It was nice to eat something like that during the cold weather. The crispy Shilin Chicken is here too, so if you don’t mind the queue, feel free to get one. Unlike in Singapore, they don’t cut the Chicken Cutlet up. They give it to you whole.
We ate our dinner here, and mostly, we ate street food. We would buy some food and walk around. That day the red bean pancake filled us up long enough to walk almost the whole of Shilin.
Another thing we tried was the Smelly Tofu (or Chou Tou Fu) at Shilin. This is one pungent meal in itself. The tofu is deep fried, and smothered with sauce and chilli, with a side of vegetables (I think it is cabbage along the side). The smell weaved in and out of the alleys, and it smelled like a garbage truck. Nevertheless, I decided to try it out. Managed to coax 2 of my friends to try it, and they all said it was crunchy and the smell lingered in their mouths. Strangely, what you smell is what you taste. The tofu’s stench remains in your mouth for a while, then fades away. I liked it for the crunchiness and all.
Smelly Tofu is a commodity here, so you would find it anywhere else in Taipei. Look out for the fried tofu, and the smell. Yes, if you whiff the smell of fried ‘garbage, you would know what you’re getting at.
The place is bustling with people, and the hawkers would shout orders and discounts… Shop owners would also try to attract your attention to let you enter the shop. There are even game booths at the roadside, that would guarantee some prizes to be won. They are simple local games, such as shooting pins at balloons to get a prize, similar to those Carnival like games that kids like to play.
The weather during our visit was fair, with a temperature around 19 to 22 degrees. It is perfect for walking, and there is not much humidity for you to feel the sweat.
Vendors started setting up their stalls along the roadside at around 6pm, so the crowd started streaming in. This the night life of Taipei, noisy, crowded and full of steaming food. It was nice to see the crowds come in, happily weaving in and out of the shops. For good purchases and reasonable food, come to Shilin!
The Night Market is open from 5pm-12am, so it’s readily available for night-goers. Check it out when you reach there, it is one of the iconic night markets to see!