Where am I? Taipei baby!
It is only 10pm, but my mom is already sleeping in the room fully clothed with extra jacket. I sneaked out to update the blog and share my first day in Taipei story with you.
I have always been fascinated with Eastern Asia. As I am keeping my work leave days for Korea next year, Taiwan seemed like a good choice for a short holiday. I have read so much interesting things about the night markets and food. I had to experience it myself.
This time, I managed to convince my mom to go with me. Our first mother-daughter-trip after 20 years. Yay !!
We reached Taoyuan International Airport at dawn and took an hour bus journey to Taipei City Station. Observing city view in the early morning, there are similarities between Taipei and Hong Kong but Taipei somehow looked old and dusty? As if its’ buildings stopped growing for some time already. I felt like I stepped into the 90s.
We reached our hotel, Inhouse, put our luggage, freshen up and headed out to explore the hotel’s neighbourhood, Ximending, the famous shopping district in Taipei.
The cold wind greeted us when we stepped out from the hotel. Taipei is chilly with dim sunlight at this time of the year, and I like it. It is almost like an Autumn morning.
Ximending was still sleeping when we walked around it in the morning, only a few shops were open, and we could see the mail and magazine left by the postman in front of closed shops. Mom asked me “Won’t someone steal it?” Well, I guess not.
Finding breakfast with no knowledge of Mandarin was not easy but mom managed to sign language the pushcart guy and got us some Taiwanese pancakes. It was a good street breakfast.
We continued walking and found a little shop that sold coffee beans. I paused there for a while, soaking the aroma and saw the seller noticed this annoying tourist and quickly walked pass by it.
Thankfully we found a brownstone Starbucks (pretty neat place). I ordered a latte, got a disapproving look from mom and sipped my Joe. Ahh caffeine, just what I needed after not touching the bed for 24 hours.
Other than Starbucks, Ximending has two stories KFC. Oh.. If you see a KFC in Ximending or anywhere in Taiwan, please try their egg tart. It is so delicious, second best from Hong Kong, the one which made me obsessed with it ever since. (Thanks to one Ms Dara for introducing me to it).
Egg tart makes my life happier.
After some time, more shops opened including a pachinko parlour (arcade store). A gambler by blood, my mom wanted to stop by and played. We spent a good hour there trying to get the metal hand to grip the dolls/phone charm/solar clock. We screamed, yelled, and cheered at each other.
A few people came and gathered around us to see what was happening. I guess two frustrated looking adult women in a gambling place was not a common morning sight around here. We left the shop empty handed and few hundred NT poorer.
By now Ximending started to look more lively. Nice.
One of the reasons I wanted to go to Taiwan is because it is the birthplace of bubble tea. It is the only drink that can sweeten my mood after a long draggy day at work. I made it our mission to find an authentic bubble tea today; when I told mom about it she asked, “What is bubble tea?” okay… After turning few blocks we found it. I screamed out of joy like some teenagers when they see that pale vampire guy. My first bubble tea on my first day in Taipei and it was smooth. Mom wasn’t interested with this pearly drink but instead went for the bitter gourd juice that seemed to be sold everywhere here. I must give her credit for trying new things. She offered me some, claiming that it tasted nice, no thank you.. it’s bitter gourd, even though it is many times bigger than usual here.
I also saw many dogs here, adorable ones. Taiwanese loves cute dogs. They even have a dog restaurant here called Ah Mao Risotto, they are selling Italian food, and I met the mascot, a huge golden retriever. He was sitting in front of the restaurant, chillaxing. If you are a dog lover, I think you would want to stop by here.
After lunch, we went to Chiufen village and only came back to Ximending in the evening. My oh my, it has totally transformed! It’s lively and buzzing. Filled with youngsters, colourful shops, pushcarts food, hats and street performers. It’s shopaholic and food lover heaven. I, then, understand where does Ximending get the nickname Shibuya of Taipei.
We went in and out of the shops. Bought matching scarf that can be also be used as hat even as a dress. We shopped at Nature Republic, the beloved Korean beauty product brand, which we can’t find back home. My mom was particularly excited about this shop. She bought knick-knacks including a face warmer, it is for post face wash and pre mask use (??). As for me, I stocked up my face mask sheets.
We tried various hats. They have this stuffed toy hats. CUTEY. Gosh I love hats.
We went into a huge 4 (or 5?) stories Uniqlo. I immediately got reminded of Vi who went crazy when she saw it in Japan.
We also indulged ourselves with street food. My favorites were liquid sugar coated strawberry and quail eggs both were YUMMY!
Mom joined a long que. “What are they selling?”, I asked her. She answered “I don’t know, but must be good, look how long the que is?”. I like the optimism Mom. The long que lead to the famous grilled mochi. We tried one each. Mine was with milk and she had the sugary one.
So delicious, perfect for a chilly night. Finally after all the snacking and shopping, we chose a local place (with English menu) for dinner. Here, I got to try the most raved local dish: oyster noodle. It came in a small bowl, and it didn’t look good, but it turned out to be delicious as well.
Ximending is an enormous shopping area and you can find almost anything here. From fashion to Sisha, from street performer to live concert. It has been a fun experience to explore it.
When you visit Taipei, stay at Ximending area, and you can choose the hotel we are staying in, the Inhouse Hotel. It has been the only hotel that comes close to perfect accommodation I have ever stayed in. I made a list why I like this hotel a lot and promise share it with you. Also, please try all the various street food. Have a grilled mochi on my behalf, will you?
Our day was complete. Time to go back to the hotel.
Now, I am going to sleep. I have to wake up very early. We are doing the highlight of our trip, Taroko Gorge, tomorrow.
Goodnight people. Btw, friends in Taipei, I might bump into you tomorrow although we will be strangers.