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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