Taiwan in July. Who thought that would be a good idea with the heat and humidity?! After almost 24 hours of travel (ATL – PDX – NRT – TPE!), we landed in Taipei and we were off to our hotel, Hotel Eclat in the Da’an district. Listen people, this was one of THE best hotels I’ve ever stayed in (thanks Hotels.com for the hookup) because to the amazing art (that you can buy), Aesop products, smart Toto toilets that open and flush automatically, Nespresso in-room and the FREE mini-bar. Can you say obsessed?
First things first, no matter when you land in Asia you head IMMEDIATELY towards a 7-11. I really wish the U.S. would start making 7-11s trendy again. On a side note, why are there no 7-11s in Georgia again? What you need to buy:
- Milk tea (seriously, why is milk tea not readily available at convenient stores in America yet?)
- Snacks. Each time you go in, buy a new kind.
- School Supplies (omg these are the best pens EVER!)
- Tea eggs. It looks like someone scooped up sewage and put eggs in it but these really are the most delicious things ever. I wish my grandma was still making these on the daily. And soy milk. Homemade soy milk. Yummmmm.
Things to do in Taipei:
- Visit Taipei 101. As touristy as it is, this is a must do for epic views (and we all know how much I love epic views). To avoid the crowds, and partially because of jetlag, we got there at 8:50 am. They opened at 9 and it was not crowded at all. Score!
- Eat at Din Tai Fung – at the ORIGINAL which is located right outside the Dongmen MRT station. They opened at 10 AM, and we arrived at about 10:15 and were seated immediately. When we left around 11:30, there were swarms of people waiting outside! What do you order here? As Anthony Bourdain says, the xiao long baos are “pillows of happiness” and just pound 50 of these and you’ll be good.
3. Take the MRT places. It’s easy, cheap and air conditioned (looking at you London Tube). Make sure you have carry change around, pop in the amount requested (there’s a map on the kiosk that will tell you how much a one way costs, and then out comes a token that is registered with the amount you paid! Reusable tickets without having to pay extra for a card – GENIUS!
4. Visit Liberty Square. It’s actually right next the original Din Tai Fung. Quick 10 minute stroll, but feels like a day when it’s 95+ degrees. Lots of history as this place was name Chiang Kai-shek Memorial until 2007, when it was renamed Liberty Square.
I sent this photo to my mom and she asked how early we had to get there since nobody was in the background. It was actually in the middle of the day, the heat probably kept people away.
5. Night markets. Tonghua Night Market: rolled ice cream, scallion pancakes, oyster omelettes, chicken butts, stinky tofu (I just couldn’t…) and stalls and stalls of random accessories, just like any other Asian market in the world.
Shilin Market: the mothership of Asian nightmarkets
6. Between walking and eating at Din Tai Fung everyday, we decided it would be a good idea to take a day trip to Jiufen, the inspiration for the Studio Ghibli movie Spirited Away. Having (been forced to) watched a few of these before, I can safely say Spirited Away was the most insane. However, the first quarter of the movie which takes place in JiuFen was awesome, and I actually remember thinking “this place would be phenomenal in real life.”
And phenomenal it was. We took an Uber. Remember Mexico and Teotihuacan? Yes I’m lazy but this time I managed to negotiate with the Uber drive to wait for us and take us back into town. See mom, I can still speak Chinese. When we got near the top of the JiuFen old street, I was like… did we just take a 30 minute drive from Taipei to HAWAII?
Oh no, definitely still Asia!
The views were insane. We then turned onto the narrow Old Street (entrance is right next to a 7-11 … what else would you expect?!) and made our way through the little vendors who sold everything from snacks to tea to coal chocolate (JiuFen was a mining town).
People, this place was Spirited Away to a T!!! We even stopped at the famous JiuFen tea house where they schooled us on proper tea making techniques (good lord who knew there were this many steps?!). Delicious Oolong.
Do NOT skip JiuFen! Definitely Jiu Fen out of 10 hahaha.
7. Avoid typhoons. Two days before we were meant to leave we happened upon some news that Super Typhoon Nepartak was coming to Taipei. Better safe than sorry, so we peaced out a day earlier to Narita. After having been through that airport at least 10 times, I’m so pleased we chose this trip to actually explore! More next time.