Tuesday, September 27, 2016


Yes, we Taiwan-ed! Interestingly, Taiwan was never in my Want-To-Go list until my one day, my colleagues were planning to attend a conference there and how they convinced me that I will love that place because of the craft and design culture there. Something in me ignited! So, instead of the initial intention to go solo and join one of my colleague in a short all-girls getaway, I brought my precious family on a 5D4N trip. Here's the breakdown:

Where we stayed:

This was our first AirBnb experience. Hotels are quite expensive in Taipei, and I didn't know there were SO MANY affordable AirBnbs there! After an intensive research, I booked Jon Jenkin's apt because it was the only one that has an XBox and a little balcony for the husband to smoke.

Natural lighting... I like.

A rack filled with books, games and some of the host's personal items.

The host's friend was so nice! I told him that I will have 2 kids with me, and we found this little colouring treasure under the coffee table. Unopened!

 The smoking and laundry area at the balcony behind the kitchen.

The back bedroom, with windows. Cozy and just nice for the boys.

 The typical old toilet. Quite spacious shower area though.

The first bedroom, without windows. Very cozy as well.

The neighbourhood & street:

Our apt was nestled along Tonghua Street which was a very good choice! 

A lot of Taipei's old apartments are low-rise, up to 4 floors and look like their are facing back alleys.  So good luck if you own a few cars there. Most of them ride the motorcycle or take public transport.

Just steps away from our apt, is Tong Hua Street.

Delicious Ai Yu Grass Jelly with taro/yam/pearl balls.

A lot of bakeries...

...bubble teas...

 ...and coffee cafes.

Shops on Tong Hua Street.

I found a home decor and zakka household shop called Working House along Tong Hua Street.

Zakka home decor!

 And this is the Tong Hua Night Market. 

Day 1: Fu Hang, Huashan Creative Park, Taipei 101, Tong Hua Night Market
(Actually our Day 1 was travel day, we arrived at about 8pm, later than expected because of heavy rain and bad traffic, so we had dinner nearby and spent the rest of the night in the apt)
First thing in the morning, we battled the long queue to the famous Fu Hang Dou Jiang / Fu Hang Soya Milk stall in a sort of market building just outside Shandao Temple Station.

 I think it took 30 minutes to get to the second floor where the stall is. It is like a food court, with other stalls as well. But Fu Hang steals the show.

You can see them behind the scenes.

 OK guys... I have to say, I was disappointed. Maybe we ordered the wrong ones. We had the Yiu Tiao Shao Ping, which is humongous, and the salty soya bean curd ( Xian Dou Jiang). Mistake. I bet the normal soya bean curd would've tasted much better. OK, the yiu tiao shao ping is exactly like roti canai and yiu tiao together. That's all! But I'm glad we tried :)

Fu Hang is near Huashan Creative Park, and it was a good walking distance, just 5-10 minutes.
On the way, we passed by Ikea House. There is a restaurant on the upper floors. Some IKEA items are sold here I think.

I thought the lamp shades are very creatively made!

The side of the IKEA house.

Just steps after that, we arrive at Huashan 1914 Creative Park.
 This was a wine factory back in 1916. You can read about the history on wiki. This would be my favourite part, "And the end of 2005, Huashan 1914 Creative Park opened and offered artists a place to develop their creations and non-profit organizations a venue to hold activities. In November 2007, the CCA signed a contract with Taiwan Cultural-Creative Development Co., Ltd. to run the park. Since then, theater groups, painters, wood sculptors, writers, movie producers and directors from Taiwan and abroad have found in the park a timeless pace to showcase their creative talents."
Oh man, this is MY place!

First stop, Wooderful Life, the popular musical box brand in Taiwan.

At the entrance, there is a play table for kids to build and construct whatever they like using their wood pieces. The husband and our little boy spent most of their time here while Daniel and I ventured further in.

 Wooden display.

Their stationery and home decor collection.

This is where you choose your music box base and the pieces you want on it.
There are rows of confusion and indecisiveness! Haha.
I chose the simplest base, one that turns around. Then I chose the music at the collection section where you can hear each and every one on a machine. Then I selected the individual pieces for my music box.

After paying NTD1300 ( I think, I was so excited I didn't care how much it was!), we proceeded to the DIY tables provided at the back of the shop.

On each table, there is a toolbox like this, which has all the necessary screws, screwdrivers, glue, tape etc that you need to assemble your music box. Even the toolbox is cute!
A staff guided us all throughout the DIY session.

Daniel assembled the most important part ie. the musical movement onto the base body, while I glued all the decorative pieces on the rotating board.

 Ta-da! It is just so cute.

Next stop was the Upside Down House. I think they should call it the Upside Down IKEA House, because almost everything in there was furnished with IKEA.

Yeah, just terbalik the IKEa catalogue.

One of the factory building.

One of the shops in Huashan carrying goods from many different designers and makers. There are a lot of Japanese names there especially fabric and ceramics.

Yep, I just had to get this. A little bathtub dish the size of my palm.

Paper goods, check! Washi tapes, check! STAMP, CHECK!
My shopping is complete..hehe.

 I saw this bowl from Taobao before but hesitated a lot. So when I saw this at Huashan, I was like "Might as well!" Haha... there was a lot of might-as-well buys, like this snake-skin-textured- metallic teaspoon...

... and pretty little notepads.

Two canvas handmade totes, from a shop next to the previous one. Am. So. Happy.
So that is sort of my major shopping loot from Taiwan.

Next stop, the Taipei 101 building.
 Cloudy day though.

Since we came all the way, might as well go up. It took about 30 seconds to reach the 88th floor, and I didn't feel A THING.

 The view.

The world's largest and heaviest visible damper, suspended from the 92nd to the 87th floor, the pendulum sways to offset movements in the building caused by typhoon and earthquakes.

The boys had a bit of fun too at a small Virtual Reality station up there.

At night, we finally got to visit Tong Hua Night Market.

Mushroom fritters.

Fried meat buns.

Pinball games.

Toy. It spits balls. For fun.

Day 2: Jin Feng, Eslite Xinyi, Eslite Spectrum, Songyan Park, Shin Kong Mitukoshi

We started the day with the must-eat Lu Rou Fan (Braised Pork with Rice). I googled "best lu rou fan in Taipei" and the first few matches say Jin Feng. So off we went!
Good thing about Taipei is that cabs are easily available with reasonable fares.
We got there just before noon, before the crowd I guess. We got a table in less than 5 minutes, ordered using their English menu and got our food in also less than 5 minutes!

We couldn't judge because this was our first Lu Rou Fan experience in Taiwan. It was good and cheap!

Next stop, Eslite Xinyi. It took me 10 minutes going through one floor before deciding this is not the place for me. Sure, they have nice pretty things but I felt like I was in Takashimaya.

I checked out BEAMS, a Japanese clothing brand, but didn't quite find anything I really like.

After Eslite Xinyi, we went to Eslite Spectrum next to Songyan/Songshan Creative Park. My my, a lot of creative parks in Taipei. We hung out at the park before going into the mall.

At the park, there is a clearing next to a lake.

The husband needed his caffeine, so we went into a cafe there. I kinda regret when we stepped in, it looked very atas and expensive. There were some Japanese tai-tais having their coffee and dessert. Before I could say "Let's go to ano...",the boys made themselves comfortable on the fancy chairs and the waiter poured water into our glasses already. Ah, might as well... We ordered a cup of coffee and a Pokeball chocolate dessert. But guess what, the staff told us we have to order one item per person. Whaaaaa???? I regretted more... but what to do, might as well enjoy the ambience.

Something different here...Instead of sugar, you stir this honey lollipop in your coffee to sweeten it. This is made in-house by them only.

Look at the fancy lights, our fancy table and their fancy Pokeball chocolate dessert, reduced to a mess. 

After forcing myself to eat the last bite of a quiche (not very nice), we cabut to Eslite Sepctrum mall.
I took a look at the floor directory and immediately knew where I want to be. Heheh.

We literally just spent a couple of good hours browsing ONE floor. Yes, you guessed right, the 2F Crafts & Creations Floor. Oh my, so many workshops for newbies to try their hands on various crafts!

This is a leather workshop where you can make your own wallet, purse, passport cover, keychain etc.

Shortest session is 3 hours. Nope, can't do.

 A concrete crafter's showcase. 

 A carpentry workshop.

 A clay workshop. I would very much like to join this next time.

 A glass-blowing workshop.

After what seemed like a crafting overload, we finally stepped out of the mall.
We strolled through a small market at the park. Nothing much..

Then we remembered our driver telling us that there is a popular bakery called Wu Pao Chun Bakery at the basement 2 of the mall, owned by one of the world best baker. I went back in but gave the idea up as the queue was quite long.

Then later that night, we got treated to a nice restaurant in Shin Kong Mitsukoshi, a cluster of trendy modern malls in Xinyi. If you ever go to Shin Yeh Restaurant, that serves local Taiwanese cuisine, please please try their deep-fried oysters! SO.GOOD.
After dinner we walked down in the basement, can't remember if it's the same building or another one, to this place that is the original of the original bubble tea. 

It is very good actually. The pearls are somewhat different. Or maybe the mind is playing tricks..

We spent some time outside the malls where there was a couple of street performances. You can donate if you wish.

Chinese yoyo performance.
So that pretty much wrapped up our day!

Day 3: Jiufen, Jinguashi, Shifen, Raohe Night Market

Frankly speaking, by the 3rd day, I had quite enough of the city, so it was a good choice to book a private driver for a day out of Taipei. There are many such tour packages that you can find online or even when you are in Taipei. I booked the driver 2 weeks before our trip and briefly discussed about where I want him to bring us. So simple!

We started our ride to Jiufen at 9.30am. It took about 45 minutes to get there. Before Jiufen, we stopped by a couple of tourist attractions, like Nanya Peculiar Rock Formation.
Quite a sight I must say! 

 There was a couple taking their per-wedding photo shoot on the cliff. 
Very dramatic background. 

Golden Waterfall. You can't really hike up there. All you do is admire the scenery and take pictures.
We were here for 10 minutes.

This is the iconic Jiu Fen Old Street which is the background setting for the Oscar award winning Japanese animation, Spirited Away. Yep, those red lanterns are the signature!

It was a Monday, and rizzling, so there weren't any big crowds which was good! We had a lot of space to walk through the shops, and the breeze was cool.

We stopped by this Chinese brush stall and got one for Daniel. Apparently she is very familiar with the requirement for kids from different countries. She told us Singaporean and Malaysian students will use a different kind of brush thickness or something. 
 Daniel's Chinese name was carved on the brush holder right there and then. So cool!

This is a must-eat in Jiufen! It's smooth taro ice cream sprinkled with shave peanuts, wrapped in popiah skin. We went for seconds, and queue wasn't very long that day.

 This is the first shop we stopped by for souvenir-shopping and wooden toys like hand-drums, spinning tops, retro design notebooks which I resisted and wood postcards.

I got these from that shop.

 Grilled snails. Very simple cooking method, grilled with minimal seasoning so you can really taste the snail. 

Bought a pack of freeze-dried seasoned mushrooms to try. Very nice! You probably can get this snack anywhere in Taipei as well. The Taiwanese folks seem to be fans of mushrooms.

It didn't take very long to reach the peak where most people linger here to view the landscape and take photos.

The heavy clouds seemed to be moving towards the land. Not a very good day to get the best photos here.

We wandered a bit and a got a little lost.

A we walked down another set of stairs not knowing where it would lead us to, we passed by a couple of ceramic artist's shop. Not quiet the kind I like.

We landed somewhere unfamiliar, and called our driver to pick us up. 
Our next stop was Shifen. I had wanted to do the lantern-raising activity there but when we reached, it was raining, not rizzling anymore. And it looked like the rain was there to stay for a while, so we left. What a pity!
We decided to go back to the city. The rain really dampened our mood :(
Before going back to the apt, we dropped by Lin Dong Fang Beef Noodle for a late lunch. My colleague had highly recommended this place for beef noodles. And boy was she right!

This was the main 'reception', and I thought we had to wait for a table as the seating area was very cramped and full. Turned out, we were led to another dining area, just 2 doors away, which was more comfortable.

You can choose any side dishes from a refrigerator in the restaurant. I particularly like the peanut and ikan bilis side dish.

After that hearty meal, the husband and the boys headed back to the apt while I made a little shopping trip, back to Huashan Creative Park! I felt I hadn't fully explored the place so this is something I had to do. 

Back in Huashan...

A friend told me Ice Monster's Mango Ice Shaving is awesome, but when I saw the smallest serving bowl ( it was HUGE), I gulped... I wished my boys were there to share with me! So I walked away...

Since I was alone, and our apt's train station isn't very far, I took the MRT to Xinyi Anhe, just a few stops away, and probably faster.

I got back safely, oh I must mention that Taiwan is one of the safest countries for ladies to travel alone! Brownie points there.
After a well-rested evening, we ventured to Raohe Night Market.
This night market has more unique food than Tong Hua I think.

 The must-try, sausage wrapped in glutinuous rice. 

Fired grilled beef cubes.

Mango ice.  Not impressed.

Games and toy shop.

This was some omelette thingy which the husband tried and said it just so-so.

Arcade game shop with a lot of claw toy machines.

Bought packs and packs of these crispy seaweed snacks back. 

On the way out, we spotted a unique cake booth and bought one to try. It is very good! Light, soft and not overly sweet.

So that was our last night in Taipei!

The next morning, we had a simple brunch at one of the eatery nearby, at Tong Hua Street.

 Pork rib soup, mee suah, and lu rou fan. The mee suah was the best I've ever tasted! Oh why didn't tried this on the first day itself! I would've eaten this every day, haha!

 So that was our short getaway in Taipei. Our last stop was actually 7-11, which was quite a good place to get soya milk drinks, cultured milk drinks...

... and instant noodles!

 All in all, it was a wonderful holiday. I fulfilled my craft-design-shopping lust, the husband filled his stomach and the boys, well, got to play with XBox for the first time. Ha!