Thursday, 9 October 2014

Taipei Day 1

Hello~ So on my last post I finished blabbering on about Tianjin and now I can finally move on to Taipei.. It's a LONG story I have to split out into different posts.

I been meaning to post but I am always tired after work. So I am giving myself  a challenge to do at least one blog post per week. It's Canadian Thanksgiving this weekend so yay~~~ Long weekend and maybe more time to finally finish blogging about my vacation.

Alright, back to my main point.. And I would like to apologize for my crappy formatting ahead of time. I definitely was not thinking about how the pictures would look like on a blog when I was taking them.

Back in August, after I said goodbye to my friend and her family. I went from Beijing to Taipei. My cousins went from Shenzhen to Hong Kong and continued onto Taipei. I arrived an hour before them but ended up waiting three hours due to delays at the Hong Kong airport. It was wonderful to see my cousins as I barely seen them since I was 11.

The first thing we did was lined up and picked up some temporary SIM cards for our cellphones. It was easy since the stands were right next to the arrival gate. I have to say.. I love how cheap and convenient their cell service is. If I remember correctly, I paid $500NTD for unlimited data and 30 minutes of phone minutes for 5 days. That translates to less than $15 CAD. It is not bad for a traveling package. It came in handy when the three of us got separated.

People camping out at the main station

After getting our phone, we proceeded to taking the bus to Taipei city and got off at the main train station. It was more than I expected. It supports multiple train lines in the basement and it has a mall upstairs. Let's just say we were very impressed.

We proceeded to buy a metro pass that can be filled up and took the metro to Ximending, where our hostel is at. This is where the traveler's SIM card comes in handy as we had to call the caretaker to get the keys to the place. It was located in a pretty decent area, across from Show Luo's Stage store *Eye roll* (I don't like him but that's a whole another story) and a few blocks away from Jay Chou's gym. Though the hostel was pretty eeeek.. The front door has an electronic lock, but it is clearly an apartment that was converted into a hostel. As I found out on the night I stayed behind by myself,  the bedroom door pops open every time someone slams the door. Yeesh... Oh well at least there was a mini fridge to block the door.

After dropping off our luggage, we decided to explore our area as it was dinner time. We just walked around and tried out some of the food.. Let me just say.. It was WONDERFUL.. I was so happy to be able to eat all these yummy food and  spending time with my cousins.

 We first visited this little chicken place near exit 6 of the Ximen metro station. They offered different flavoured fried chicken but we got the original salt & pepper fried chicken with fried mushrooms. It was so good! The outside was crispy and full of flavour, perhaps a tad on the salty side. The chicken was juicy. Though in Taipei, it seems like they leave some of the bones in so be careful when you are eating them.

The deep fried mushrooms are essentially small pieces of king oyster mushrooms. It is actually made fresh upon order whereas the chicken is fried in batches and sit under a heating lamp. It seems to be dipped in the same batter as the chicken so it was crunchy on the outside and soft on the inside. These mushroom tend to get soggy easily so these two guys at the store knows what they are doing. 

We also tried starfruit juice and pineapple store from a store just a few steps away. It was apparently established in 1966 and very popular as the line was quite long a few minutes after we got our order. I absolutely love the juice, I went back again before we left. It was cheap as it was $35 NTD (~$1.25 CAD), if I remembered the price correctly. You don't get this much drink for such a low price. The juice is not like something you get in a bottle. Those are so full of sugar you can barely taste anything else.. I am not sure how the store does the juice. but it seems like they marinate the starfruit slices in a syrup of  some kind, and then adds water and ice to make the drink.

The juice has so many tastes, it's salty, sour and sweet. I couldn't stop drinking it.. *drool* I can't stop thinking about it. Too bad I can't find it here in Cow town. The pineapple juice on the other hand was not as good. It was incredibly sweet, though it may have been because of the tartness of the starfruit juice causing it to taste extra sweet..

We decided to try and explore downtown Taipei a little bit so we hopped on the metro and headed down to Taipei 101. We reached there just as it was closing so we didn't have a chance to go up at all.
In our failed journey to try and explore 101, we found Din Tai Fung at the basement of Taipei 101. According to my cousin, it is quite famous. I just find its mascot super adorable. It's a little xiao long bao! It's apparently what the store is famous for.

Doraemon approves.
There was a 15minute wait to sit down in the restaurant so we decided to order take out instead. While waiting for our order. I noticed they have a stamp with the mascots! Of course I had to get one!

A little side note, Taiwan is pretty into the whole stamping at different sites. Think of it checking in on a notebook instead of on Facebook. I adore their designs and bought a notebook specifically for it, so of course this has to be the first in my book!! So CUTE!

They also have a variety of merchandises at the counter, ranging from cellphone charms to mooncakes. I bought a little cell phone charm for my friend as she loves xiao long baos. It was only $100NTD (~$3 CAD).

After a short wait, our order came. The take out bag is pretty. It looks like bag from a clothing store instead of takeout. Especially since we usually get the white Styrofoam containers and flimsy white bags for takeouts.

We took it out to the ground floor of Taipei 101 where there are patio tables and chairs. Unfortunately there was not much lights on so we were essentially eating in the dark.

We ordered original and crab xiao long bao. Everything on the menu looked appetizing but it was quite expensive so we could only order two to say we tried it. The order came with ginger and vinegar. I tried the ginger out of curiosity and man it had no taste. The vinegar had a very strong smell that permeated from the packet so we didn't bother opening it.

I love how they put a little cut out of a crab to identify which one is the crab and which is original. That is pretty much the best point about these xiao long baos. I was not impressed by these. I found them to be more oily than juicy. Especially the crab one, it had a strange oily taste to it I just could not bring myself to eat another one.

After we finished the take out and could not stand the smoke constantly drifting over from the smokers, we decided to take a walk and find this 24 hour bookstore.

Just as we are walking away from Taipei 101, I noticed there was a group of people lining up outside a door. Then I  realized.. They were lining up for the anime festival!! AH!!! If I didn't already have plans the next day I would totally go see it.. So sad.. :(

Ok, back on topic. It was a short walk but we found the store. It was really pretty with the different lights on each floor and the big "read" statue out front. The brand is called Eslite and it's quite big in Taipei. It is basically a big department store but I guess it started as a bookstore and this is their flagship store.

It has different departments on each floor, and we took the elevator to each floor thinking all of it was open. Boy were we wrong. Every floor was dark and locked up, except for the bookstore level. Though the elevator was pretty impressive. It is a glass elevator and it faces the Taipei 101 so at least we had a nice view going down.

At first I was not impressed with the bookstore, it seemed like a Chapters store. But then I hit the manga section and I was in heaven... There are walls and shelves of mangas, there are so many series, new ones and old ones. Some of the popular ones, such as Meitantei Conan (My favourite, as mentioned before) and Kindaichi has their own little bookcase. Man I was so giddy in the section I almost squealed. My cousins had to wait patiently for me to finish buying my mangas. I stocked up on my Conan volumes, except they didn't have volume 80 so I had to order that off the web and pay expensive shipping. I also picked up the new Kindaichi and a few new mangas to read.

By the time I am done, it was close to midnight and we had to head back as the metro was going to stop soon. On our way back to the hostel, we picked up a late night snack called sugar apple. We got it from a grandma who was closing up her stand for the night. If I remember correctly, it cost $100NTD and she kindly cut it up for us. We hurried back to the hostel and couldn't wait to try it as my cousin's coworker raved about it. Man, it was good!  You pick it up by the green skin, only eat the white flesh and spit out the large seed. Its taste is very interesting and hard to describe. It is slightly grainy but very juicy. It is a cross between lychee, apple, pear and these breadfruit juice that are sold in stores. It is sweet but also slightly tart. Though I got sick of it after a few bites. It also deteriorates pretty fast. In the 15 minutes we were eating it, the fruit went from firm to falling apart in our hands. So eat it fast! But it was definitely a good end to our first day in Taipei. :)


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