Last weekend, Jobe and I took a short weekend trip to Taipei during the Easter Holidays (traveling smart using public holidays).
Taipei is a great location for us to visit because we can check off all of our favorite prerequisites.
- Easy to access (short flight times for us in South East Asia)
- Taipei is really affordable
- Food, food, food
It was a no-brainer for us to choose Taipei as our travel destination.
So we made the appropriate reservations for flight and hotel and we were on our way!
Our flight departed from the Ninoy Aquino International Airport (NAIA) Terminal 1 in Manila. The flight to Taipei only takes 2 hours and 15 minutes, so it was a relatively peaceful flight on Philippine Airlines. After we got off the plane, we lined up for the immigration check. We got through with no problems at all (Both of us were visa-exempt because of our passport status. If you’re heading to Taiwan, make sure you check whether you need a visa first).
We headed out to the main bus area after getting our pieces of luggage. We looked for the bus that we would take directly from the airport to Taipei Main Station (In case you’re looking for this bus as well, it’s number 1819 by Kuo-Kuang Motor Transportation Company Ltd, here’s the link for the breakdown). There are a ton of different buses that heads to a variety of locations, so consider taking the bus for about NT$125 or so compared to an expensive taxi all the way to Taipei! The bus ride took around 45-55 minutes direct, so it wasn’t too long.
Once we arrived at Taipei Main Station, we grabbed our luggage and headed towards our hotel. We decided to stay at Hotel MEZI (click here to book through Hotel.com with up to 40% off). The hotel was designed with an Alice in Wonderland theme, and surprisingly, it was not what I expected.
While the accommodations were small (it was really affordable so I can’t fault them for it), the actual room was great. The amenities were updated and technologically advanced. The bed was a tad bit short for my taste (I’m 5’11). The bathroom and bedroom didn’t have any physical walls but it looked great, and the entire facility did not have any issues. The room was well ventilated, so even when we took showers, it wouldn’t get steamy in the room at all. It even had a bathtub, which I used both nights to pamper myself a little.
After dropping off our bags, the first thing we did was get a staple beverage within the Taiwanese culture.
Boba Milk Tea.
Jobe and I are huge fans of boba milk tea. I would say we’re borderline addicted to the beverage. We always get it in Hong Kong, but since the drink originated in Taiwan, we couldn’t let a chance like this slip by. Our plan was to visit a few different shops for their boba milk teas. We didn’t really have an idea of which ones we wanted to go to, so we ended up deciding that whenever we passed by one, we would buy a cup. (This was my vacation. I have the right to splurge a little).
We bought our first boba milk tea of the trip at this little store called Tea Plus. Surprisingly, I think this one cup of boba milk tea set the tone for the rest of the trip. While it didn’t look particularly special from any other brand of boba milk tea, it was without a doubt one of our favorite boba milk teas ever.
Everybody’s preference for taste is different, so take all of our advice with a grain of salt. We always order our drinks with Less Ice (25%) and Less Sugar (25%). The boba’s were golden and were sweet enough without overpowering the milk tea. With only 25% sugar, the milk tea still had a strong tea flavor and was very refreshing. Unsurprisingly, we finished it ridiculously quickly.
Our next destination after our quick boba milk tea pit stop was Ximending, the popular shopping area. We took the MRT on the Blue line to Ximen station. Since it was a Friday afternoon around 2, it was just about to start getting busy.
The streets weren’t crowded but they had just enough people to still give us a nice vibe of the area. There were street vendors already selling food and a ton of stores lined the street, selling things from clothes to phone accessories.
Ximending is a great shopping area that’s mixed with both name brands and off brands.
Since we were hungry (which is going to be an ongoing trend as you’ll notice within this post), we started looking at some of the small stalls and shops littered amongst the alleyways. One of them was a little cubed steak stall that cooks the steak on the spot for you, chops them into little cubes, and then douses them in whatever flavor you want.
The stall seems to be a popular franchise as we ended up seeing them quite often among the different food streets in Taipei, and for good reason. You can buy different box sizes of the cubed steaks. Once you’ve ordered it, the cook throws on a handful of the cubes and cooks them with a flamethrower.
That’s right, a flamethrower.
The guy holds a nozzle in one hand and tongs on the other, and he goes flipping the cubes around as he blasts it with hot flames. He cooks the cubes for a minute or so under the nozzle. He then throws them into a box and adds whatever flavor you like to it.
There are flavors like sea salt, garlic, pepper, etc. We chose to go with sea salt and did not regret it one bit (the steak does get a little too salty though, so make sure you buy a bottle of water). The steak is tender and hot, and it really melts in your mouth. We suggest not buying too much though because when you’re in Taipei, you have to pace yourself. You don’t want to lose track of what you’re eating and become too full to buy something else. As it stands, we definitely weren’t expecting such a “tasty” start to our trip.
After we grabbed some food to eat, we started walking around Ximending. We bought a little bit of everything as we walked around. Some phone accessories (both of us bought new phone cases), some beauty products (face masks), and some odds & ends.
We also decided to get a strawberry crepe with vanilla ice cream to finish up at Ximending. The crepe was oddly crispy and flaky, which was surprising. It was decent, but I prefer it when it’s a little softer and a bit more delicate. The ice cream inside was also pretty underwhelming, but with the weather being so warm, the crepe and the ice cream inside really helped cool us off.
Off to Raohe Night Market!
Since it was starting to get dark by the time we finished walking around, we decided to drop off all of our goodies and head to Raohe Night Market!
To get to Raohe Night Market, you need to take the Brown Line all the way to Songshan. Once you exit the station, the night market will be just a few steps away.
If you’re going to Taipei, you definitely need to visit one of their many night markets. Stores and food stalls line the street as the sun sets. People walk along the street and buy food as they go.
A lot of the stalls also have seats for you to rest and eat at the same time. Night markets in Taipei are great for sampling a lot of different foods you can find in Taiwan.Food ranges from hot dogs, pork buns, fish balls, stinky tofu, shaved ice, chicken skewers, and more. One of my favorite things to get at these Night Markets are the skewers. The stalls display a wide variety of skewers with different things on them.
You can get chicken heart, duck tongue, fish cakes, rice cakes, and all sorts of other things. You choose the ones you want, and the store owner throws them all into a bag. She then puts a bit of sauce (and sometimes even some veggies) into it, shakes it up, and gives it to you to eat. All you have to do after that is poke what you want. This is the ultimate Taiwanese comfort food, in my opinion. I could eat these all day and still have room for seconds.
Stinky tofu tastes better than it smells.
We also sat down to eat some stinky tofu and a small bowl of minced pork rice. A small bowl of minced pork rice only costs about $0.75 USD. It’s packed with some great flavor and is totally worth chipping out a dollar for. The stinky tofu is a unique kind of beast. If you can get over the smell, you won’t regret the great taste it contains. The smell is a repugnant odor that’s similar to garbage or dirty socks. Now don’t judge me too quickly, but the smell DOES get better with time. It’s almost enjoyable after a while. The flavor, on the other hand, is extraordinary. It tastes like fried tofu with a bit of chili sauce. It had an almost nutty flavor, though that really depends on the stall’s choice of garnish.
There are also a ton of toy stores and arcades among the food stalls. We had a try at the crane machine games, only to lose all of the money without winning every one doll. (Caution: the claws are VERY weak. They aren’t strong enough to hold anything up. The secret is to make sure the claw is swinging and to grab the doll you want at the right angle so that the claw “tosses” it. It’s REALLY hard to get it right, but we saw someone do it ridiculously well).
Shaved ice was the last thing on the menu. We entered a little store on the side of the street that was brightly lit by yellow lights. The shaved ice bar was right in the front of the store. We ordered a block of shaved ice with mango and jelly. It was both refreshing and sweet, but it wasn’t what we expected. (Find out where to get amazing shaved ice in Part 2!).
Considering how much we ate throughout the day, we decided to end our food adventure for the day and we headed back to Hotel MEZI to recuperate for the night!
Part 2 coming soon!
This was just the details of our first day. Stay tuned to our Part 2 blog, which will be about our 2nd and 3rd days! If you liked the blog, make sure to follow us on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram, and subscribe to our email newsletter!