When did we go: July 2016 How many days: 5 Where did we stay: Chaiin Hotel Tzung Tung Fu How did we get there: China Airways direct from Incheon
Disclaimer: We actually went for 5 days but 5 didn’t rhyme as well. Sorry for the lies.
Lies aside, the 5 days we had in Taipei were great!
First things first. Chris had 2 things to tick off the priority list for our trip:
- Eat everything at Din Tai Fung; and
- See Star Trek: Beyond (not released in Korea yet).
We had both of these ticked off within the first 12 hours in Taipei! For those that care ST: Beyond was great, the ugly new Enterprise was destroyed and the movie itself was a damn good Star Trek movie.
Now onto things people may actually care about…
Din Tai Fung is an international foodgasm of dumpling goodness, and it was so delicious. So delicious we went twice in the 5 days. DTF specialises in xiaolongbao, a form of soup dumpling usually associated with the Shanghai region of China. I could go on about dumplings for a few paragraphs, but I did say we would write about what people actually care about
In short, they wrap a spoonful of meat (usually pork) and a small amount of stock, that has been turned into jelly, in a thin dough. They make it look pretty and then steam them to perfection. Amazingly, they then share this with other people…fools!!! So we thanked them for their stupidity by being giant fatties and shoveling all of them into our mouths. This is usually followed by happy crying – then sad crying, because all the dumplings are gone.
The first time we went to their original store in Taipei and luckily managed to score a table almost straight away, as there was only two of us and we were willing to share a table. Going with a smaller group is definitely a plus, so leave your aunties at home.
After polishing off 5 or so plates of dumplings, a couple side dishes and having the mandatory ‘white person coke’ with our yum cha, we rolled down the stairs and back into the oppressive heat. The damage was about 1,000 TWD, or about $40AUD.
The hype is much deserved, even for somewhere so commercial and popular it seems to retain a good element of authenticity. The prices are definitely more than you will pay at a lot of places in Taiwan, but still quite reasonable considering the quality. One thing is to always check your bill, both times we had a wrong item marked down. Also, they have restaurants in Sydney and Melbourne, so check it out if you are over east.
First night out in Taipei we went wandering around Ximen-ding, a popular pedestrian shopping area near our hotel. This place was buzzing, with lots of young people, shops, and plenty of places to eat. We headed out for some street food or similar. But we ended up eating at a risotto place. Now one does not think of risotto when thoughts of Taiwanese food come to mind. Just check out the photos below and you’ll instantly understand why Sarah demanded we eat there…. Plus – the risotto actually wasn’t that bad!
Chiang Kai-shek Memorial Hall
We were staying in the Zhongzheng District of Taipei, which happens to be home to lots of important places and buildings. One which was just down the road is probably one of the most important buildings in Taiwan.
The monument is in honour of the founder of Taiwan, Chiang Kai-shek; a man known for authoritarian anti-democratic views, losing the Chinese Civil War and the massacre of thousands in Shanghai in the 20’s. I mean he also established Taiwan , which is kind of a country, so that’s something.
The Monument itself sits at the eastern end of Liberty Square and is surrounded by a lovely park. The Square is flanked on the north and south sides by two spectacular cultural buildings. The Monument is white, reflecting the death heat of the sun on the day we were there. White, I assume as it ties in with the 38 years of martial law that Chiang oversaw, commonly referred to as the ‘White Terror’… OK, perhaps that’s not why its white. Anywho here’s some lovely photos.
One of our last stops on the trip was up Taipei 101. This building, which used to be the tallest in the world, sits over in all its post-modern glory on top of the Xinyi District; the financial and cosmopolitan heart of Taipei.
We arrived late morning, somehow at the exact time the DTF below Taipei 101 opened its doors. Afraid that by the time we descended the tower that lines would be present, we treated ourselves to a quick serve or 5 of dumplings… Look, we needed the energy to climb the tower, it’s very tall.
We were lucky to be treated to a gloriously clear day and could see the entire city from the top. The pictures barely do it justice.
Besides the view, of particular interest was the 660-tonne ‘tuned mass damper’ that sits in the middle of the building. This giant pendulum, suspended between the 87th and 92nd floors, sways to offset movement in the building during extreme wind events. Seriously, how good is science!
Lungshan temple of Manka
A short walk and quick subway ride from our hotel was the Lungshan temple. We somewhat foolhardily decided to walk there. Sweating aside we were treated to an interesting walk through what appeared to be the textile district and a slightly seedy ‘massage’ street. I guess the full height windows just help attract clientele with bad backs. On our walk, we also stumbled upon an area called ‘Bopiliao Ancient Street’, this area filled with reconstructed Japanese colonial buildings, seemed to provide much-needed art and performance space in an otherwise run-down area. Definitely worth having a look if you are in the area.
Lungshan itself was incredibly busy, with tourists and locals alike offering their prayers to Chinese folk Gods I’ve never heard of before. Our little visit was cut short when the many parishioners attempted to kill Sarah, with incense.
We always welcome suggestions from friends on things to do in new cities. So when someone gave us a very comprehensive list without solicitation we were wrapped. On said list was a recommendation to climb Elephant Mountain, with high praise for the view.
They were right, the view was spectacular. Sweeping views of Taipei and amazing ‘Insta’ quality pics abound. Unfortunately what was left out of the recommendation was the steepness of the stairs; now this climb would be a breeze in any season bar Summer. Unfortunately, it is Summer, and in short we nearly drowned in sweat.
Taipei Zoo & Gondola
We love the enslavement of animals for our enjoyment and gondola rides. Taipei combines these loves in one easy location.
Food FOOd FOOOOOOOOOD!
On the bucket list for next time: Hot springs!