The Night Market – Taiwan Day 7

If you are looking for nightlife in Taipei, you should not go try and find the fanciest club or the greatest bar, but instead, you should head to one of the many night markets, and participate in what the locals like to do for fun, eat street food. It is a great tradition here, and the food that you find at these markets is not just good, but it might be some of the best food that you can find in the city.

I went to the Raohe St. Night Market, and the city sections off the street to traffic so vendors can set up their stalls and cook their food. You know you are in the right place because you can smell the aroma of good coming at you from a few blocks away, and as soon as you enter, your stomach just yearns to be filled with some of the things that it is smelling. That is except for the stinky tofu. It is a fermented tofu that is a delicacy of Taiwan, and when you get close to a booth that sells it, you know why it now has that name. I did not try any partly because of the smell, but partly because I am not a big fan of tofu, but that does not mean that I couldn’t find other regional delicacies there.

One of my favorites was a steamed peppered pork bun. Basically it was peppered pork that was rolled up in a dough and then baked on the wall inside of a round oven. They would pull them out hot, put them in a wrapper and sell them to you. I knew it would be good because of the queue of people that lined up to get one.

That was the best way to find out which type of food was the best. Besides smelling something that would grab your attention, there were always those lines of people. If it wasn’t for one of those lines, I would have missed another one of the better dishes that the market had to offer.

There was a desert that could only be found in the market, and it was fun to watch the guy make each individual one. Basically it would start off with a crepe, that he would first fill up with the shavings from a block of a peanut brittle. He would then add in three scoops of a pineapple ice cream, and then add a little cilantro before wrapping it all up in a small little burrito.

It was the perfect treat to end the night with, and it was one of the more memorable experiences from going to Taipei. It is a stop that has to be made while visiting here, or it would be like you never learned what the place and people were actually like. It is the heart of the city, and it doesn’t matter which one you go to, you’ll always find a pulse there.

Advertisements

The Typhoon that Never Came – Taiwan Day 6

We were lucky on this trip to Taiwan. The whole time we were in Taipei, there were rumors rumbling around about a typhoon that was supposed to hit the island on Friday and Saturday. It was to bring with it heavy wind and rains, and most of our time looked like would be spent indoors as we tried to ride out the storm. It was to be a big one too. The first reports of the storm talked about it as being a category 5 typhoon. We even got an alert early on in the week to see if we wanted to change our plans to avoid the destruction that was soon to be unleashed on this tiny island in the Pacific Ocean.

But as the week progressed, the tale of the typhoon soon changed. The course it was going to take started to veer away from the island and took a more direct course towards Japan. The power behind it started to diminish as well and the typhoon turned into a category 3 storm. This did not mean that we were not supposed to get rain on the last days of our vacation, and we spent those days carrying around umbrellas in case we started to get hit with the downpour that was predicted to come.

But the rains never really came. Yes, we did get a few bursts of rain here and there, and we even got to use those umbrellas that we carried around with us all over the place, but for the most part, Taipei is used to the rain, and built its city accordingly. All of the streets have really wide sidewalks with at least half of the sidewalk covered with part of the building. It makes the city a great walking town, even in the rain. Yes, if you forget your umbrella, there are couple of moments you need to dash across the street so you do not get wet, but for the most part, if you play it right, you can stay pretty dry.

The city also knows that the rains can create some beautiful scenery. I have been to many other cities in the world that do not get this fact. They build their buildings and let the rain pound on the outside of them until they look like dirty representations of what their glory used to be. They could go out and clean those buildings or repaint them, but why do that? The rains are just going to come again and turn them into the dirty eyesore that they are destined to be. Taipei definitely takes this attitude as well, but they have also built some great parks with lots of trees and flowers that distract you from the ugliness of the buildings and give you a little reprieve from the bustle of the city.

One such location is Elephant Mountain, or as the locals know it, Xiangshan. It is the last stop on the red line of the subway and takes you out to the far reaches of the town. If you go there, you do need to walk through one of the more beautiful parks that the city has to offer, and find your way to the path that will take you up to one of the best viewing spots of the city. The hike is not that hard, but as soon as you hit the forest that covers the mountain, the humidity jumps up a couple of notches, and drenches you in sweat. It is also the perfect environment for mosquitoes, so if you do go, I would recommend bringing some bug spray with you because without it, you will be eaten alive. Or all of this might have been that we went to do this little hike when there was supposed to be a typhoon hitting the city of Taipei, and we were just getting the residual after effects of what it really could have been.

Despite these minor annoyances, the hike was worth it. The views were spectacular, and there is even a little platform that was built so people could see the perfect spot to watch the crazy fireworks that come whenever Tai Pei 101 decides to shoot them off. It is also really close to that building as well which would make for a great day if you start with the hike and finish with food and exploring that area of the city of Taipei.

Outside of the City – Taiwan Day 5

One of the nice things about Taiwan is that it is a small island, and it is not always focused on its biggest city, Taipei. In fact, the real heart of this country comes from getting outside of the city and connecting to the natural surroundings that can be found on the island. There are many beautiful hikes that are waiting to be explored, and there is a huge coastline with beaches, and other features that are worth your time. The best part of all of these features is that they are not that far away from the city. By bus, it only takes a little over an hour to get to Yehliu where you can explore a geopark there with many crazy rock structures.

The battering of the sea, and the unique geology of this place has created its own natural art gallery. Everywhere I turned I was able to see a new piece that would allow me to come up with my own interpretation of what it is. Some of them are a little more famous than others, such as the Fairy’s Shoe, and the Queen’s Head, but there are enough of them that did not have a sign telling me what other people have called them, so I was able to come up with my own names for those stone structures. These were also the ones that were not crowded with tourists, so it made it not as bad to stand there and look at them for awhile.

And yes, the tourists are here. Like any other natural structure in the world, people will flock to get their pictures with the sights. But once again, I was lucky. I went on a day that was promising to dump rain on the tiny island, and this kept many people indoors afraid of what would happen if they would out in the open when it started to rain. Luckily for me, it never rained. Instead, I was able to enjoy the sights with the cool ocean air blowing in, and I got the added bonus of being able to watch the waves crash into the shore, and watch as the slow chisel of time continued to create the sculptures.

There is also a path at this place that lead to the northern tip of the island and the lighthouse that is perched on the cliff there. For some reason, there were not many people on this path. It could have been that there was long stretch of stone steps that I needed to climb up in order to get to the top of the cliff, or it could have been that there just wasn’t that many people there to begin with, but either way, it was worth the hike. The views that were offered because of the extra effort were amazing, and it was nice to get away from what crowds were actually down by the rocks.

There were also some other structures that were a ways away from the other ones that nobody seemed to care about. They seemed to be ignored, but were some of the best ones out there, and only a couple of brave photographers made their way out to these structures to get the picture of them. The best part was, I do not think that any of them had been named yet. I could be wrong, but this one will always be called New Moon Rising in my mind. It is not important what the real name is because that is what it is now.

All in all, this little day trip from Taipei is worth the hike out, and if you are patient enough, and go on the right day that is a little overcast and threatens rain, you will be able to get a bunch of pictures that make it look like you had the whole beach to yourself. It helps to get you away from the crowds of the city for a little while, and find something new and interesting that is not one nature’s artistic eye can create.