Tuesday, 28 April 2015

Asia 2014: Taiwan - Day 2

 You can find our first day in Taiwan here.

 On our second day, Kin took me to Taiwan's first underground shopping centre - Taipei City Mall!

There were so many cute pictures on the walls; some even had props so you could get a decent photo!

 I wasn't in a very good mood that morning, but this cheered me up a little... hahaha. So fitting.

There are 187 shops within the Taipei City Mall, and roughly 50 of them are eateries! We settled for an extremely pink Taiwanese cafe for lunch, since most of the other restaurants were cramped or cuisines that we could easily find in the UK.

Kin had a deliciously crispy and succulent chicken dish that came with rice, vegetables, a fried egg, and tofu. I happily helped with the munching of the chicken and tofu. It was so good! I would definitely recommend this restaurant if you end up in the shopping mall at any point during your trip!

I had a dumpling dish that came with a side of fish balls in soup. The meat inside the dumplings were a little pink, so I sent it back to make sure they were fully cooked. The staff assured me it was due to the marinating that occurred prior to making the dumplings. I was a little skeptical, but I ate it all and I lived...! Woohoo!

The restaurant also had an area to grab your own soup, courtesy of the kitchen! We weren't too sure of what it was, so passed after taking a photo :P

We ended up shopping for quite a few hours - I purchased several pieces of clothing, a pair of sandals, and two bags :D

Next, we made our way through Taipei Station where we stopped for a Starbucks (legs were way too tired), before stopping off at a Yamazaki bakery! I still remember the famous pineapple and chocolate chip bun that they used to sell at the Colindale store. Unfortunately, I couldn't find any, but I did manage to get some other scrummy delights!

Classy restaurant, anyone?

After snacking on these funky breads, we headed to Taipei's famous camera street (Hankou Street) and searched for a camera filter for Kin, and a camera strap for my new camera :) We also stopped at the post office, which was really big and actually pretty cool, as well as stepping into Mirada; a store which felt like a department store, but mainly sold cosmetics, toiletries, hair accessories, and food.

For dinner, we headed to Shida Night Market. We managed to scoff down some choose-your-own hot pot type food that we'd seen the previous evening at Raohe Street, before the drizzle slowly turned to torrential downpour.

We ended up abandoning our yummy dinner plans; even our newly purchased umbrella couldn't protect us from the elements! We stopped off at a convenience store where we bought some pot noodles and bottled water, before scarpering through the rain to catch the train back to the hotel.

Our evening in the streets of Taipei came to an end, but we continued the fun by watching more Breaking Bad and chomping on our pot noodles :P it's always nice to find time to wind down on holiday, no matter how much you cram in to see!

Disclaimer: The amazingly beautiful and professional shots featured in this blog post are not my own. They have been used with kind permission from Kin :) A few belonging to myself appear, but the majority do not belong to me.

Sunday, 26 April 2015

Asia 2014: Taiwan - Day 1

For the second part of our Asia trip, we stopped over in Taiwan!

Our luxurious hotel was perfectly situated in Xinmending (西門町), just a short walk from the metro station.

Our sleek bathroom featured a Japanese self-cleaning toilet with in-built toilet seat heating and extractor fan functions. The hotel also replaced the complimentary L'Occitane toiletries daily, without fail!

 I can provide more information on the hotel - just let me know!

As we arrived at our hotel late in the evening, dinner consisted of a McDonald's meal with a side helping of Breaking Bad using the hotel's amazing Bose speakers!

We had a foodie-packed day ahead of us :)

One of the famous local eateries was a noodle store that sold flour-rice noodles with a thick, delicious soup base. As the store itself is very small, there is no seating area - just two plastic stools and a stand for you to collect your napkins and plastic soup spoons.

I highly recommend Ay-Chung Flour-Rice Noodle! It was great value for money as a quick, on-the-go, tea-time meal!

We then set off to search for the Songshan Ciyou Temple.

Unfortunately we got a little lost and ended up at a completely different temple named Songshan Feng-Tian temple... We didn't even realise until later in the evening, long after we had left the temple and paid respects by burning incense sticks for all the gods!

The statues and walls inscriptions were pretty impressive!


The amount of detail and colour was pretty incredible.

After we had paid our respects and burnt incense sticks for the gods, we wandered around the exterior of the temple and discovered a stone staircase on the side of a mountain.

The view from there wasn't bad; you could see Taipei 101 clearly towering everything else. Unfortunately, I stayed still for too long and the mosquitoes kindly bit me over 30 times...

We ended up scarpering and stopping off at the closest 7/11 for some mosquito cream. We were looking for Mopiko or Mopidick to ease the itch, but as neither of these were available, I ended up with a bottle of White Flower Embrocation (白花油)... unkindly described as an oil with a pungent granny smell...

That grimace whilst being bitten...
The smell was so strong, I ended up stinking away a few of the customers who were sat in the fast food area... I personally don't mind the smell too much, but in such large doses, even I couldn't wait to get back and wash it off.

Our next stop was Raohe Street Night Market (饒河街觀光夜市), except we weren't entirely sure of how to get there. Luckily, we stopped at a cute bakery where the staff were extremely helpful and explained clearly how to get there. One of them even took us to the bus stop and made sure we boarded the correct bus!

As we were getting peckish and I was curious to find out what one of their adorable smiley buns tasted like, we also made a small purchase before we left the shop with the helpful sales assistant.

How cute does that look?!

After the bus had navigated its way through the crazy Taiwanese traffic, we made our way towards Wufenpu Garment Market, a seemingly never-ending wholesale garment market that is the largest of its kind in Taipei!

No matter where you walked...

There were clothes...

It was a shame that the stores were wholesale purchases only, as some of their clothes were actually quite appealing, and I may have made a purchase!

Eventually, we stumbled out of the garment market and found what we had spent all afternoon searching for - The Songshan Ciyou Temple (松山慈祐宮).

I have to admit it was pretty stunning. I like to think that our mistake earlier that day meant that we got to see the temple in its best form - lit up in the dark in all its grand demeanor.

We had a quick wander inside the temple before heading for the food market which was directly next to it!

At 600 metres long, we decided to walk the length of the market to scout out the most popular and yummiest looking stalls. We already had a list of must-try foods, including the famous pepper pork bun!

The smell of food was making us so hungry, we quickly decided to try a popular stall selling sushi hand-rolls. After selecting our ingredients, our freshly made handroll was ready for photographing (and eating!)

These candied fruits (糖葫蘆) looked delicious, but as I'm not the biggest fan of fruit, we opted to skip and leave room for other delectable delights :P

After asking to try the grass jelly at the stall above, Kin eventually went on to purchase a refreshing grass jelly drink at this store. The store owner was good-humoured and incredibly patient with us. 

There were also plenty of these 'pick your own hotpot' type stalls throughout the markets we visited on our trip. It's actually pretty good!

As a hardcore tofu lover, I couldn't walk past this stinky tofu store without buying some!! Kin didn't enjoy it too much, but I happily devoured as many pieces of tofu that my stomach could fit!

Next on the list for dinner were 'chicken leg rolls', a direct translation from it's Chinese name. 

The meat is taken off the bone before being re-wrapped in chicken skin and grilled. You can then season to your own taste using the shakers provided. Flavours included original, spicy, and Indian curry flavour amongst others. I'd recommend trying this out. It's not bad!!

This next one seemed pretty popular - there was a big queue for this and it looked pretty interesting! It was an enlarged okonomiyaki containing a floury paste alongside bacon and eggs, topped with mayonnaise, takoyaki sauce and the typical bonito flakes that move as if they have a life of their own. I recommend trying this one out! It's a bit different, but not so much that you don't know what you're eating.

The last part of our main dinner was the famous pepper pork bun! The queue was long but completely justifiable.

The ingredients were perfectly balanced - no overpowering pepper, and super juicy pork! I also really liked how the bun itself wasn't really thick and stodgy. I highly recommend this and will be eating a couple more of these the next time I'm near their chain of stalls!

After a quick browsing at a few of the clothes stalls that did sell single items, I bought items for as cheap as £2(!!!) before heading back to Ximending for dessert.

My evening finished with a delicious serving of Cold Stone Creamery ice cream... and revising how to say 'spoon' in Mandarin (after being asked several times that day if I wanted a spoon and being completed confused!)

It was a tiring, but thoroughly enjoyable first full day in Taiwan. It sucked a little that Taiwan welcomed me with countless mosquito bites, but my stomach was happy, and that made me happy :)

Disclaimer: The amazingly beautiful and professional shots featured in this blog post are not my own. They have been used with kind permission from Kin :) A few belonging to myself appear, but the majority do not belong to me.
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