If we could sum up our trip to Taiwan in two words, they would be: Food and Rain.
This was our first taste of Taiwan and as we only had a few days there, we kept it simple and focused on one very important aspect of visiting a new country - Food.
We visited 3 of the most popular and well-known night markets in the City; Raohe, Shilin and Keelung. These markets are famous for offering lots of delicious, and also some weird and infamous foods (that stinky tofu really lives up to it’s name). We also managed a day trip to Jiufen - a historic, hillside town with markets, tea houses and stunning views.
We also managed to try some other Taiwanese delicacies, such as Xiaolongbao soup dumplings from Din Tai Fung, Baobing (shaved ice dessert) and the surprisingly delightful Pineapple cake.
Being the wet season there, it was raining almost the entire trip - lucky we still had our wet and cold weather gear from Canada with us. The tropical climate means it isn’t cold rain, however when it rains, it pours! If you are planning to go there in the rainy season, be warned. An umbrella just won’t cut it - you might want to consider a rain jacket/poncho, waterproof shoes and clothes that are easy-to-dry.
We tasted lots of interesting things; some incredibly delicious, some a little strange, but we just couldn’t quite bring ourselves to try the notorious ‘Stinky Tofu’ - maybe next time.
Here’s what we discovered, tasted and enjoyed in Taiwan.
Feast your eyes and fill your belly with the many weird and wonderful things on offer
We visited 3 night markets in Taipei; Raohe, Shilin and Keelung. Although we enjoyed exploring each of them, we found the first two the easiest to navigate and best suited to foreigners like ourselves. Keelung was a little further out of the main city, and it also seemed to cater to a more local crowd, with more sit-down food stalls. Raohe and Shilin markets had more food options that you could buy and then eat while standing or walking around the market, and we felt they were more tourist friendly. Based on our experience, we would recommend Raohe and Shilin markets, however if you speak the local language, or want a more off-the-beaten-track experience, then Keelung might be a good fit for you.
Whichever markets you decide to visit, the night market experience is something you don’t want to miss out on. The atmosphere is unbeatable, and it’s such an exciting way to experience the local culture and tastes. Even in the pouring rain, the lights, smells, sights and sounds were captivating.
Here are some pictures of what we tasted.
A charming, historic mining town with market streets and tea houses with stunning views
The quaint, hill-side town of Jiufen makes for an excellent day trip out of Taipei. As you climb up the cobbled market streets, you get glimpses of the beautiful scenery of the surrounding mountains and sea below. The markets have lots on offer; street food and snacks, souvenirs, clothing, tea and sweets. There are also restaurants and cafes, as well as a number of tea houses which offer stunning views and special local tea. The windy streets in and out of the town can make for a gruelling bus ride (this might depend on the driver), but it’s worth it to get out of the city and experience a more rural part of Taiwan. Jiufen is perhaps most well-known due to claims it is the “setting” of the Studio Ghibli film Spirited Away, however Mr. Miyazaki has since stated that the likeness between the scenery of the town and that in the film is a mere coincidence and not the actual inspiration for the film. Yet the town is still beautiful in it’s own right and has an interesting mining history. Although it is out of the busy city of Taipei, it is still a very popular tourist spot, so be prepared to face the crowds, particularly at certain times of the year and day.
Din Tai Fung
Legendary soup dumpling restaurant
While in Taiwan, we had to try the famous restaurant Din Tai Fung, near Taipei 101 building. Din Tai Fung specializes in Xiaolongbao (soup dumplings) - a bite-sized, steamed dumpling which is filled with pork and soup.
Along with Xiaolongbao, there were a range of other dishes on the menu to try and you could also see the chefs at work through a large observation window.
Featuring The Normal coffee shop
As we only had a short amount of time in Taiwan we didn’t get to explore the coffee scene much, but we did manage to visit 2 coffee shops; the one mentioned earlier (in Jiufen) and The Normal which was back in Taipei.
The Normal was a modern specialty coffee bar with a variety of different drinks to choose from, all using beans roasted by their own shop. The staff member was friendly and knowledgeable, but the drinks did take a while to be made as it was a little busy. It was a cool place to visit, and we found it interesting to see the various brewing methods they had. The coffee was good, but seating is limited, so you can expect more of a coffee bar experience, rather than a sit down cafe.
Other local delicacies you don’t want to miss…
So many different flavours and options to choose from
A fresh and fruity sweet treat - perfect for sharing!
We didn’t actually try this, but we saw a lot of places selling various kinds
We decided to visit Taiwan as an extended lay-over on our way back to New Zealand from Canada. Rather than just stay in the airport for a few hours as part of a long series of flights, we made it into a short trip and got to explore a new country as part of our journey home.
We didn’t really know what to expect, but we really enjoyed our time there and would love to go back to see more of Taiwan.
Next time you’re heading away on a long distance trip, look at your different flight options and see if one of the countries you pass through on your way to or from your main destination might be a good place to visit for a few days - it can break up a long-haul journey into smaller, more manageable stretches and it’s also a good way to discover somewhere new.
Have you visited Taiwan? If so, let us know how you found it! We’d love to hear more about the country, and we’re also happy to try answer any questions you have about it.