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Taiwan Tales Day 1 – Visiting Taipei’s famous Shilin Night Market

My graduation trip back in the day was 3 weeks in Taiwan with some of my best friends from University – this was my first proper backpacking experience and boy what a journey it was. When you are young and just out to have fun, travelling with your friends can be such a treat.

I kept pretty detailed journal entries for this trip with lots of sketches that I slowly archived online at the beginning of this blog’s journey. I’m not sure I’ll continue to update (we reached Day 10, about halfway through out trip) as I don’t quite blog in that format anymore, but I’ve been back to Taiwan many times since so I’m happy to try and help you out if you have questions.

But here we go, this is me as a fresh graduate in my early 20s, and it’s kinda funny looking at how I used to journal then versus what I do now :)

Hello Taipei! I actually flew up separately from my friends (perks of a pilot Dad) though our flights arrived around the same time, I met them at the airport and we had our hostel pick us up so we could properly start our journey.


Taipei Taiwanmex Entrance

First morning, all ready to go

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 building. I ended up staying in the same room that I did the year before (albeit with a few upgrades – an extra bed and a TV) and the same resident cat Mimi still roams the building.

Taiwan Tales Taiwanmex Roach

Sketch of the room we were in – I’m bottom bunk all the way

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. For the first few days, my friends swore that they could eat street food and cup noodles for the rest of the trip. Thankfully they changed their minds later on about the cup noodles, but Taiwanese street food? Bring it on! Gimme my fried mushrooms!

Taipei Shilin Shaved Ice

Mango shaved ice mmh, The ice is not the same as Singapore’s ice desserts, it’s much softer and milkier

We had the famous Fried Chicken which is as big as your face and sooo delish. There’s this thing called Guan Cai Ban – that translates to Coffin board and is a little bread cube filled with gravy and seafood or meat – 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.

Taipei Taiwanmex Packing

This is a terrible photo but that’s me unpacking for bed. Pre cockroach scare.

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.

This way to Day 2 – where we tackle some of Taipei’s natural wonders including an errant snake >>

See all Taiwan Tales posts from this particular trip, or the rest of my articles on Taiwan

Andrew Darwitan

Saturday 18th of October 2014

Ahhh... the food!!! The main reason why we all go to Taiwan. While Shilin is interesting, I personally prefer Raohe and Jiufen more. Shilin's a little too crowded for my taste.

Jaclynn Seah

Sunday 19th of October 2014

I've heard that Shilin's a bit more commercialized and that other night markets provide a better experience, something to explore in future if I return! I can be a creature of habit though, I like going back to places that I enjoyed previously...