Thursday, May 17, 2012

A meander through Taipei - March 2012 Part 1

In March I took, what I thought would be, a quick trip with a friend to Taipei to check out the local cuisine and culture. After two, terrifying, aborted landing attempts into a foggy Taipei airport we were redirected to Khaosiung in southern Taiwan. After landing we spent 2 frustrated hours on the aircraft then a further 2 hours in the airport with no communication from the airline and next to no connection to the outside world  - finally they took us to a hotel and the following morning we took a 5 hour road trip (quite literally a road and not much else to see) back to our original destination....  Highlights of our view below..
Basically we lost a day and an evening and about 10 years off my life. I was fairly certain I was living my last moments on that aircraft but fortunately I live to tell the tale.  

We knew we had to make the most of our remaining two days and I think we managed to pack quite a lot in. It was around 30C which was about 20C higher than what we had left so it was a bit of a shock to the system but a rather pleasant one all the same.

Completely drained from the journey we walked just a few minutes to the famous 101 building close by and ate dinner at the first place we found - the DinTaiFung dumpling restaurant- I know, I know they are all around the world  - but it was a no brainer and we were desperate. As we were in DTF's  birthplace we mistakingly thought it might be "better" than its franchised sisters - which by all accounts aren't too bad at all.  It was pretty inconsistent -  but sadly it ended up being one of the better meals of the trip.  After dinner we strolled around what turned out to be a rather colourful (literally not metaphorically) city - then ended up having an underwhelming massage in a joint nearby our hotel. (btw I do recommend the HOME hotel  - great location and comfortable rooms - the included breakfast is rather average but it puts something in your body before you head out into the day - and its cheap enough to fill up elsewhere if you need to.

I do like this whole "city" bike idea! Even if its been years since I have ridden one - although I am on a challenge from friend Ricky to get my butt on one sometime soon so I can experience true freedom in Kyoto! Dinner below for those who are interested. 
the towering 101 building below
 A happy ending to our massage - cookies and ginger tea - cheers!
First stop the following day was the National Palace Museum teahouse..

After a long morning roaming the exhibitions of the museum (which I highly recommend - but be prepared for the hoards) and sipping and dining in the fabulous tea house on the roof we stopped for a much needed foot massage - boy did they work our poor, tired feet. No pain no glory as they say. It was fabulous and about $10AUD for half an hour.

 We floated away refreshed and headed for the Shilin Market past some stunning architecture - old and new. There was something about this building below that seemed so out of place, but so right. 
The Shilin market (below) is reportedly the most touristy of all the night markets and I'd have to say I agree and wouldn't bother to return - the smaller markets are far more interesting - however the bustling food hall under the market is well worth visit.
Here's the highlights from the aboveground market

OK -  .forget that above ground stuff - underground was where the "goods" were waiting...

spicy stinky tofu.... that it was
I thought these were fat, porky sausages... until they split them open and started filling them with relish and real pork sausage goodness... Sticky rice in sausage casings - acting as bun for your "dog"! fantastic!
Cheese on a stick... no really.
on the way out we stopped for "bubble tea" as you do in pretty much any asian country you can think of these days... apart from almost choking on "small bubble" it was very refreshing in the humidity of the fading day. 
which way did you say?
We stumbled across this gorgeous temple on the way home and were welcomed to come in and take we did.
The sign says it all.. I thought it was funny enough that Blue Nun still existed but I have only just now realised we were being invited to enjoy a Blue Nun's buttle!  
Then on to find a local arts and culture festival - however it wasn't quite ready for us - the colourful temple area was worth a look anyway.

Strolling into the evening we came apon a tea shop - and proceeded to spend about an hour indulging the tea master and his pet pooch - it was actually nice to stop and rest for a while and he was very nice - so was the dog.... they certainly had a routine up their sleeves
won't you buy some tea????

 What about if I entertain you with a little dancing  - human style..??? eh?? eh??
Grand finale ... whaddya think? wanna buy some tea??

How bout I drink some with you??
just one more pose and my job is done.. this one will clinch that sale for sure...
This is where we got lost....after walking miles in the wrong direction....

We tried this joint for dinner... again not bad - but didn't rock our world 
Mushrooms in rice paper
Layered tofu and black egg with pork floss and sweet soy sauce
crisp pork belly n hot mustard  and stuffed lotus
pan-fried taro cakes with preserved meat
The local drop - not bad at all

Stay tuned for part two where I feature some particularly ..ahem.."earthy" food markets... I'll try not to make it too graphic - even though I know some of you can't get enough blood and guts!

**Obscure tip... Taipei has wonderful bookstores with large english language sections - Japan could take a leaf out of their, oh... well you know.