We went to the Palace Museum and explored almost all the floors. They keep your bags for free if they deem it too large to enter. If you’re still a student, you should bring your student ID to get 50% off. :D (I think I got in for 60 NWT instead of 120.) But! Beware of the tour groups from mainland China. One of them smashed into me on the way to cutting in front of me to get a better look at an exhibit and had the audacity to tsk tsk me. Fun stuff. I think the hierarchy of possessing manners goes something like this: Taiwan > Hong Kong > Mainland China.
I’m really going to miss the 7-11’s here. They are freaking awesome. You can recharge phone cards and easycards (speaking of which, I reallyyyy wish the U.S.’s public transportation system was as awesome as the one in HK or Taiwan)…and best of all (to me), they have some pretty awesome (and super cheap) food. Tea leaf eggs,cold noodles, apple milk, strawberry milk… food is going to seem so expensive when I get back home. :[
Flo, Jun and I once scoured 3 different Asian markets in the bay area in an attempt to find these animal crackers. :O They’re 50 cents a box over here. The awesome bottle sitting next to it is peach mango milk. :]!
I will also wildly miss the street food and all the snacks.
We went sorta hiking up 陽明山. I say sorta because my mom and I have rather different vacationing styles. I’m all about exploring, hiking, trekking into the wilderness and wouldn’t mind having to rough it to save some monies. My mom leads an exceedingly stressful life at home and thus prefers rest and relaxation, and as little crazy physical activity as possible. We took the MRT to Beitou and took a bus (260?) up to 陽明山. Since it was a hell of a lot cheaper to go to the hot springs up on the mountain than in xinbeitou, we found a place next to the bus stop ( it’s across the street from the 7-11 and the Starbucks).
~$33 USD for 2 people–3 hours! :D
We also went to 鼎泰豐 (Din Tai Fung)! It’s apparently super easy to get to from Taipei Main Station. You take the 板南线 (Bannan–it’s blue) to the 忠孝敦化 (zhong xiao dun hua) stop, take the third exit, walk straight and take a right at the light. Walk for ~5 minutes and it’ll be on your left! You might not understand my excitement about this, but let me just put it out there that I’ve never been able to eat a 小龍包 (xiaolongbao, or soup dumpling) because they are always, always, always made of pork. My 2006 Project Dumpling roadtrip to Arcadia with a couple friends was pretty cool, but I didn’t get to eat them famous soup dumplings. :[ However, this one had chicken ones! We ordered 3 steamers of them, along with sesame noodles and a steamed cake dessert. :]
We also explored a couple malls and bookstores, the Red House, 西門厅, and another section of the underground mall since it was raining. I got two pairs of shoes for ~$6.50. :D And a couple shirts. And socks. …etc. We also came across the cutest cards ever at a Christian bookstore near 鼎泰豐 and kinda couldn’t resist picking up some of those too. :X I was also inspired by the drink I’ve been having lately (mango yogurt drink, bitter melon juice, apple + 山藥 [“common yam” Melanie made me one of these smoothies once], apple celery pineapple, apple carrot pineapple…), I got a recipe book for awesome fruit blends that tells you the nutrients and benefits of each fruit/ ingredient. :D Hopefully, I’ll be able to improve my Chinese reading ability while sharing some more new recipes soon? :D
My uncle flew over to Taiwan to hang out with us for the day and treated us to dinner at a really awesome restaurant. I’d strongly recommend this place above any other sit-down restaurant. It’s an amazing deal, particularly if you can consume copious amounts of food, because yest indeed, it is a buffet (hot pot!). :O It’s called 馬辣. I think there are 4 different branches and it’d be best if you called to reserve a spot in advance because they get crowded/booked pretty quickly. For around $15 USD, you get all the meat you want, including all kinds of beef (my favorite was the Angus; it practically melts in your mouth), lamb, chicken…there’s also seafood and pork, neither of which I eat, but it’s there and probably would make this an even better deal. :O There are also all kinds of veggies, a ton of different types of tea, fruit, desserts, freshly squeezed fruit juice, 16 different kinds of ice cream (8 of which are Häagen Dazs :O ).
I probably ate around 10 trays of meat. + veggies, 2 cups of juice (orange, watermelon), 2 cups of chrysanthemum tea and I tried all 16 flavors of ice cream. :X
This was the first time I ever actually hung out with this uncle (dad’s sister’s husband). He is rather awesome though. :O He has to fly around a ton for business trips and such so he gets all kinds of perks now, so when we were flying back to HK (to get to Macau), he took us to the VIP lounge where we ate the world. He also gave me his business class spot and sat in the back with my mom. ._.
Space for my feets! Big Bang! Holy crud, if I could have this on the trip back to the US, it’d be heaven for my spine. But for the price of one ticket, I think you could take a family of 5-6 to and from HK from the US. sigh. Twas an awesome experience though. :O
My hotel room happens to have wireless, so I figured I’d share some of my adventures over here. I’ll be hanging out in Taiwan/Hong Kong for another 1.5 weeks or so. Since I have limited time on the internets (endless food/shopping/sightseeing options are calling), they’ll probably be segmented posts with a lot of stuff missing that I’ll fill in later when I have time/the pictures from my mom’s camera. :O If I’m feeling super ambitious/have an awesome enough memory, I might even post the Chinese names. :O (A tall order.)
Our flight to Taiwan was delayed by 2 hours, so we didn’t make it to our hotel until around 5 p.m., so we decided to explore the underground mall (I called it an underground market when I was telling my friend about it and he asked if I could buy kidneys there :X ). Somewhere along the way, we made it to a restaurant that hadn’t closed yet.
牛肉面 (beef noodles) for only something around $1.5 USD. :D!
For our first full day in Taiwan, it was a really nice day (aka not blazing hot and humid), so we decided to take the 貓空 (Maokong) gondola up to look around. For breakfast, we found a couple food stands and decided to try some of each.
This had sesame paste in it. My mom got one with red bean. :O
I also got lamb/egg/veggies stuffed in pancake-ish awesomeness.
We took one of the crystal cabins (fancy schmancy talk for glass-bottomed gondola :O ) up with a guy who was traveling alone and ended up going together to the Tea Promotion Center, where we got 铁观音茶.
We also passed by this really intense-looking guy along the way. I couldn’t help taking a picture. :X
After we took the gondola back down and after my mom and I got eaten alive by mosquitoes, we split ways. My mom and I went to 深圳 (Shenkeng) Tofu Street because I was super intrigued by the promise of tofu ice cream. (It was indeed awesome and really did kinda taste like tofu.) It was only around $1 USD, so that made it even better. I also got suckered into buying some pretty amazing ginger tea there. The vendors were really generous with their samples. :O
We took a bus back and ended up at Taipei 101, so we looked around the first 6 floors (heh heh heh) and made our way to 士林夜市 (Shilin Night Market). It was pretty difficult to resist buying stuff. :[ Fact of the matter is, we did not resist, but I think we got some pretty awesome deals. ;_; We had dinner underground.
Stinky tofu! (I finally caved and tried this for the first time. It definitely does not taste as terrible as it smells. In terms of “stinky” foods though, durian would definitely win every time.)