Hello Taiwan! Back then I had the good fortune of flying Singapore Airlines, so I met the rest who flew Jetstar at Chiang Kai Shek airport in Taoyuan (SIA lands at T1, Jetstar at T2, the landing time is pretty close, 6pm+) and the hostel people picked us up and brought us back to our hostel in Taipei City. It’s about an hour’s ride from Taoyuan airport into the main Taipei city, as you move from scenic mountainous views to building clusters.
We stayed in Taiwanmex, which has a great location near ZhongShan MTR Station as well as being in walking distance to the Taipei Main Railway Station. There are 2 locations for Taiwanmex – we were in the 9th story one. I ended up staying in the same room that I did last year (albeit with a few upgrades – an extra bed and a TV) and the same resident cat Mimi still roams the building. You can see the layout above in the feature picture.
Taiwanmex feels like you’re bunking over in a local’s house – the rooms are pretty basic, and the toilets are shared, though our 6 bunk room had it’s own porta-shower out on the rooftop balcony plus a sink only accessible by us. It was really cheap too, like S$15/300NT pax per night and there’s a shared computer in the main living room and free wifi. One downside? Those mattresses are hard as rocks, and it’s a pretty small room.
Taipei is pretty easy to get around – most of the time we took the MTR and you can take buses if you know where you’re going. It’s also quite cheap to take cab if you have others to share with.
We headed out to Shilin ?? Night Market (you get off at Jian Tan ?? station on the red line, not Shilin station) to settle our Taiwan street food craving. Over the course of the first few days, the others would profess to only want to eat street food and cup noodles for the rest of the trip. Thankfully they would change their minds later on about the latter, but street food? Bring it on! Gimme my fried mushrooms!
We had the famous Chicken (?? – top right pic) which is as big as your face and sooo delish. There’s this thing called Guan Cai ?? (That translates into Coffin- top left pic), ours had prawn in it and was good stuff despite the morbid name. Other highlights include a fabulous sizzling black pepper steak topped with a runny egg and sitting amidst a gigantic plate of pasta, as well as the ice shaving desserts, which are milky ice-cream like shavings that melt really quickly and are topped with yummy fruit or sauce. Definitely a place to come prepared with an empty stomach! One thing to watch out for though – Smelly Toufu (???) – I know it’s a delicacy, but hell it smells awful and doesn’t taste any better to me~
Shihlin is not just a place to gorge on food – avid shoppers can head next door to City Jungle (a building filled with a warren of shops as well as an entire fortune telling section) or to the outdoor night market for some cheap buys and to work off all those calories. The shopping is pretty good, but if you’re headed to the wholesale area (Wu Fen Pu ???) later on in the trip, you might find the same stuff there cheaper. We would come back here again on our return leg – no point shopping now and lugging our spoils all around Taiwan with us! Backpacks are no joke…
We headed back earlier to walk around the Zhongshan area, and ended up at a little traditional looking tea house where we sat and chilled out and planned the rest of our trip’s itinerary. Can’t remember the name of the place, unfortunately, just that there was lots of stone and it looked like a Japanese garden inside. Here’s where we took our first group pic:
After that, we headed back to the hostel early. It was a pretty restless night – first we ran into a huge ass cockroach that came in through the balcony (which I killed, thank you very much – I suspect that’s why my friends like me around). By the time we were settled and showered it was close to 2am.
Slow start to our Taiwan journey as we’re just settling in post-flight. We’d be exploring a little more of Taipei the next day… Here are my original diary entries which I’ll include at the end of each post, just for kicks. It’s funny to look back and see just what I was thinking back then – that’s the beauty of journals, they’re like a snapshot of the past.