landis taipei lobby
REVIEW – Landis Taipei
August 25, 2016
tpe infinity lounge
REVIEW – EVA Air Business Class Lounges Taipei (The Infinity, The Star)
August 25, 2016
landis taipei lobby
REVIEW – Landis Taipei
August 25, 2016
tpe infinity lounge
REVIEW – EVA Air Business Class Lounges Taipei (The Infinity, The Star)
August 25, 2016

We arranged to meet our Taiwanese friend Sammi at our hotel, shortly after arriving. It was a Friday night and we were hoping that the street food markets would still be in full swing.

It transpires however that most of the stalls shut at around midnight, this meant that we had to rush around like crazy in order to get our hands on all of the street food that the Taiwanese capital is famous for.

The first place we stopped at was a stall selling every single part of a duck.

Sammi did her best to convince me that eating a duck’s face would be delicious.

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One duck face, coming up

Let me tell you, biting through the cold, deep fried beak of duck is everything you think it would be. I soon erased that horrorshow happening in my mouth with a gigantic piece of deep fried chicken. The line was pretty long, even though it was nearly closing time. Always a good sign.

taipei fried pork - Taipei in 24 hoursOur final stop of the night was the only place open long after the others shut. A catch your own shrimp stand. You get given a bucket of tiny rods with flimsy string tying the hooks on. The idea being that the shrimp freak out and snap the string, leaving you empty handed. The price was around $3 USD for 10 rods. I managed to land a shrimp with each of my first five rods, must have been beginners’ luck! After that I managed two more.

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taipei shrimp fishing - Taipei in 24 hours

I handed the bucket of live shrimp to the guy running the stand and he grilled them up for me.To round the night off we went for some custard filled, deep fried taro balls.

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Which was, naturally, followed by a nightcap of Taiwanese bubble tea.

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The next day we went to the Chiang Kai-Shek memorial hall. The hall is located at the far end of a square which contains numerous other imposing buildings as well as a a very impressive, five arched gate.
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The CKS Memorial Hall
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Somewhat inspired by the Lincoln memorial…

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After our sightseeing we headed off for some food.

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That’s a hell of a name.

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When you’re travelling, if in doubt about where to eat and drink, look for the longest line and join it. This place made the best bubble tea I’ve ever tasted, they use fresh milk instead of powder and the tapioca pearls are freshly made with brown sugar.
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You think Momofuku invented the Gua Bao? This right here is the O.G.DSC 0753 - Taipei in 24 hours

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Whenever I’m in Asia I do whatever I can to track down a Bee Cheng Hiang. If you’ve ever tasted their grilled, sweet BBQ Ba-kwa pork you’ll know why. They even have a location airside at SIN T2, if you’re airside in T3 then a place called Fragrance can do a decent approximation, just by the B gates.

We waited until the evening to check out the Taipei 101 as we were sure it would look better illuminated against the night sky.

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Or decision was also somewhat influenced by the fact that we wanted to check out Din Tai Fung for dinner, a branch of which is conveniently located at the base of the 101.

Unfortunately for us, the line for dinner was utterly outrageous. Seriously it was like Woodstock down there.

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Luckily we were able to grab a ticket and hop in a cab to the W Taipei for a couple of drinks whilst we waited.

The W definitely seems to be the place to be on a Saturday night. There was a steady flow of high end cars dropping well dressed people off as we approached.

We settled down by the pool area and enjoyed a couple of cocktails, soaking in the warm evening air one last time before facing the inevitable return to late Autumn in London the next day.

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taipei - Taipei in 24 hours
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Digging the decor in the poolside bathroom

After our drinks we made our way back to Din Tai Fung at the 101. We got a table right by the glass fronted open kitchen. The machine-like precision with which the staff were cranking out the dumplings was a sight to behold.

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My personal technique for Xiao Long Bao is slightly different. I scoop a little vinegar into the spoon; place the dumpling on top; bite a corner so the soup mixes into the vinegar; eat the whole thing in one.

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K poses for a photo whilst Sammi capitalises on the situation and acquires her next target

Given the time and effort required to get these dumplings, the inevitable question is, “was it worth it?”. In a word, no. I’ve eaten plenty of similar and quite often better examples of the Xiao Long Bao elsewhere. The third floor sub-restaurant at Chenghuang Miao in Shanghai being closely tied for top spot with the very different Yang’s chain joining it.

Still after the eery quiet of the city in general, it was good to see some hustle and bustle. Speaking of which, the night was still young and we had one more place to visit before heading back to the hotel.

sappho - Taipei in 24 hoursSappho bar is an underground jazz/ rock bar with an amazing atmosphere and some of the most original and eclectic musicians playing there. The mix of people was completely bizarre too. Heavily tattooed punks, computer programmers, pensioners, guys wearing enormous FUBU clothes, western students on placement years in Taipei…

My guess is that the counterculture in Taipei is so small, relatively speaking, that the various groups haven’t split off from each other, none of the usual “oh man Norwegian black-metal sucks, I only hang out with people that listen to Swedish Death metal”. This actually makes for a very cool scene with a relaxed feel to it and some really good music.

We headed home at around 2am and the party was still in full swing. If it wasn’t for the fact we needed to be up at 6am for our flight, we would have stayed longer.

What’s interesting is that Taipei has this huge reputation as a place to eat great food. Maybe we were unlucky but honestly I’ve had better street food experiences in Bangkok, Penang and Tokyo (if you count the various tiny stores under railway arches etc.). What has always been notable about Taipei is how eclectic the styles are, coriander added to otherwise Southern Chinese dishes for example. Of course as cuisine becomes more internationalised you begin to see amazing pan-Asian dishes being made not only in Taipei and Singapore but also in London and New York.

What Taipei has going for it is that it is very quiet and low-rise compared to its peer cities in this region of the world. This means that the energy that flows through the metropolis cities is not present here. Our friend Sammi often takes trips out into the surrounding countryside, where a number of outdoor pursuits are very well catered for. In a region of the world where pollution and chaos can be rife, Taipei makes for some respite. However, given the opportunity to return I’d skip the city and head straight to the countryside (Sun Moon lake looks beautiful). Unless a city is truly mind blowing, for me, the great outdoors will always win.

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