Free and easy Taipei

Jes , 0 Comments

Taiwan is a country well loved by all groups of people - teenagers, honeymooners, families, vegans, party animals and shopaholics. It is considered a fun-loving country with great food and cheap bargains and most importantly, very tourist oriented. English speaking people and signboards are all around to render assistance and relatively safe for young girls to travel on their own.

It is also one of the top choices once you are old enough to travel with your friends.
Friendly to the pocket, budget travel is easy to manage here. I have tried the cheapest Backpacker's inn (S$30/night) and Taipei Main Station Hostel (S$50/night) and for the price, I think it's rather value for money and don't mind staying there again. I love staying near Taipei Main Station because of the convenience to all locations but everything is just a subway stop away so I will definitely try other locations in the future. Once you reach the airport, look for the express buses and they will take you to other major destinations like Ximending.
Just check with the ticketing booth on which bus to take
Our home for these few days!
Ok, kind of sparse but we are going for budget stays!
Most of you would arrive in the afternoon so at night, it's time to hunt for food! We headed straight to Shilin Night Market by train which is at Jiantan (劍潭) station. There are so much food there you would be at a loss on what to eat. Take your pick on bubble tea, chicken cutlets, coffin bread (棺材板), sausage within sausauge (大肠包小肠NT50), zicha style food and many more. If you are greedy like me, buy one portion and share among everyone so that you can try more food!  My favourite is the charcoal grilled cutlet (炭烤鸡扒 NT50) and the popular food here is oyster omelette (蚵仔煎) .
Shilin market and the perpetual long queues
My favourite stall! You can also try the blue stall too.
The sausage within sausauge (大肠包小肠)
Rows and rows of food for all the hungry souls
We had to try food not found in Singapore...
Which is the duck's blood steamboat ( 鸭血麻辣火锅 NT60). It was pretty good I would say.

Day 1
Staying in a hostel means no breakfast but who cares, Taiwanese food is so cheap and good! My first stop is trying out the traditional and much raved about Tao Yuan Street beef noodle  (桃源街牛肉面) by the locals. 

As expected, you won't see it so high up on English reviews though. Doing it the budget way, I walked over from the train station and had to spend quite some time looking for this store because there was no signboard! Luckily, it was super worth my effort! Beef was tender, soup was sweet and strong, noodles were bouncy and additive. I will definitely head back to eat it the next time I am there.
The no signboard but popular stall
This means only one location and no other branches
Highly recommend the clear souperlicious broth version (清燉牛肉麵)
Next, shopping time... Ximending (西门町) is like Orchard Road of Singapore or Ginza of Tokyo but it looks more like Hong Kong streets with the large billboards everywhere that flood your every senses. Most franchises and popular shops are here for you to walk the whole afternoon. Just alight at Exit 6 of Ximen station and boom, shopping paradise! There are also many steamboat buffet places that you can feast here.  The 2 most popular should be Mala (马辣) and Tian Wai Tian (天外天). They cost around NT400 to 500+ per pax. 
Ximending in the day
And at night with the billboards blazing
You can enter this building to look at some exhibits or pay a visit to the area
behind this building for the largest LGBT district here
Ah Chung - the popular stall for oyster vermicelli (蚵仔麵線 NT45)
This was from Tian Wai Tian steamboat.. cheap and good definitely!
I am not sure why but we ended up finding a place to cut our hair. All of us agreed that it is quite cheap (NTD600) and went in to relax our legs. They have drinks and provided some massage too. Excellent service, typical of the Taiwanese culture.
Mentor hair stylist... go for the junior hair dresser to lower cost
Night beckons so we went on to Taipei 101. We weren't particularly interested in going up but more interested in capturing the signature tourist moves with it. You can drop at Taipei 101 station or a better way is to alight at Xiangshan station (象山). There is a trail up the Elephant Mountain and all the scenery is free for your viewing pleasure!
The iconic tall building in Taipei
We actually walked the whole way to find Mr J restaurant owned by the most famous Taiwanese - Jay Chou. Oh well, walk more then can eat more. None of us were exactly huge fans but just that it's a good idea to do so and hopefully to see him in the restaurant (fat hope!). The pumpkin soup and orange flavoured pasta were surprisingly good when we did not expected much. Overall, food was average and you are mostly paying to take pictures of the monuments and collectibles.

The place setting with the secret menu
The restaurant settling is high ceiling and inside the hospital area
The romantic piano setting with a white christmas tree
The surprisingly tasty pumpkin soup
Orange flavoured pasta was quite refreshing and light
Memorabilia that you can explore in the restaurant
Doing what youngsters do every night, of course we headed to another night market! Raohe (饒河夜市)  was not as near but we have to go there to try the famous Black pepper bun (胡椒饼 NT45). You have to get off at Songshan (松山) station, exit 5. The crowd was there but the service was fast and as usual, the food was good. Looking around, we also tried Pork ribs soup (排骨汤 NT60) and braised meat rice (卤肉饭 NT20).
The bright classic signboard
Long queue for this juicy, tasty bun
How the bun looks like... it's really good!
Day 2
Bright and early today, we went to grab our good breakfast at Yonghe Soy Milk King (永和豆漿大王) at Da'an district. Our typical Singaporean style of youtiao, soybean drink and prata.. something similar. The food was quite ok but it was not out of the world. I regretted going there because I would much prefer our third day's awesome breakfast!

There are many similar signboards so look carefully!
A simple breakfast similar to ours
No excuse to laze around after breakfast, we headed to Taipei Zoo. Most people don't like zoos and I do understand but I headed there to see the pandas which was before Singapore has any. Moreover, you can see them up close and walking around in a big enclosure so it is quite worthwhile.
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Say hi to Tuan Tuan 团团 or Yuan Yuan 圆圆.. not sure which is which 
What was so fun about this zoo is the nocturnal place they have inside. I still remember the owls in the sanctuary because this was the only zoo I have been that has so many different types of owls! And the owls will stare at you and follow your movement with their eyes. Super creepy yet quite memorable... haha.
This board challenges you to find the nocturnal creatures in the dark...
Scary looking owl that we had fun escaping from its stares
Porcupines look so cute like that
Of course, you can bring some chubby bears home!
At night, it was time to visit yet another night market. This time at Tamshui old street (淡水老街) with the Fisherman's wharf (渔人码头) as our end point.
Potato cheese snacks which you can see everywhere
It looks like this... sinfully delicious!
Grilled squid that tastes nice!
As usual, we went in search of traditional tastes like this Ke kou (可口) fishball soup. Seriously, how good can fishball taste? It was bouncy, cheap and tasty but as you guessed it, can't really be that out of this world. 
The 40 years old store
Some snacks for the night.. 
I came here in the day for the previous trip and thought that the night would be more happening. I could not be more wrong. There was really nothing much here and would definitely give it a miss next time. I guess maybe this place is just too far off as a 30 minute bus ride is still needed from the train station.
How it looked in the day
More mysterious allure at night
Cute signage and an indoor bazaar
The lover's bridge that connects to the wharf
Colourful lights that changes frequently
Day 3
This breakfast place was an unexpected find at the second floor of the building. You just only have to look at the queue to see how popular it is. I would eat this everyday for breakfast if I could next time, not kidding at all. Don't ask me why Fu hang soy milk (阜杭豆漿) ranks so low on Tripadvisor, I can only say that most reviewing are not Chinese and will not know of such local stall.
Ranging from NT10 to 38 dollars only
The many workers hard at work
The long queue that goes one round of the room
The insufficient food that we bought... haha
As we needed some exercise, we went on to buy some pineapple tarts (鳳梨酥 NT27), wife cakes (老婆鉼) and sun cakes (太陽鉼) from the famous Chia Te (佳德) Bakery. It's the number 1 souvenir for your friends and family back home so be sure to bring more money to buy them.
Crunchy on the outside, refreshing on the inside
We brought the snacks back to the hostel before heading out for lunch again. Yes, yes, again for food. Lunch time! Yong Kang beef noodle (永康牛肉麺館was another beef noodle we had to try. At NT80 a bowl, it was worth the calories. 
红烧牛肉面 一级棒.. (Great braised beef noodle)
Love the free flow preserved vegetables
Careful not to overorder and share first!
We saw Dong Men Jiao Zi Guan (東門饺子館) beside the beef noodle stall and I am not sure why my friends were still hungry, we just had to try the fried dumpling 锅贴 and steamed dumpling 饺子. The fried one tasted much nicer than the steamed one so as you can see, going food hunt with a big group means you can always keep eating.
The dumplings store just next door
Fried and steamed version available
The National Palace Museum (故宫博物院) used to be free on Saturday nights for everyone so as a budget traveller, of course I jumped on it. Too bad the promotion now is for citizens only. It's a pretty impressive museum with the well known copy of China's Mona Lisa. The Qing Ming Shang He Tu (清明上河图) is the famous scroll that is too long to take a picture. 5.25m..... oh my.
Brilliant light display on classic architecture
Night at the palace museum
My Taiwanese friend was raving about this coffee that is cooked at exactly 85C.
I don't take coffee but you can try if you pass by.
Oh yes! Another night market... hehe. Shi Da Night Market (師大夜市) is well known for trendy fashion and I really like shopping at this market with nice earrings and clothes. For food, they are well known for hotpot steaks that cost only around NT100 if I am not wrong. Definitely worth a walk around.
I can't find the sign for Shi Da Night market so this will have to do...
How the night market looks like
If you have one more day to spare, you could head to Yangming mountain (阳明山) which we missed out. I also did not get to try Lin Dong Fang beef noodles (林東芳牛肉麵) which came highly recommended. Previously, I have been to Beitou hot springs where you can wear your swimming suits to soak in the public hot springs and also Sun Yat Sen Memorial Halls which is not that interesting. We also stupidly went to queue for Din Tai Fung original location. As usual, Singaporeans really love long queues. 2 hours standing there doing nothing... no joke. I would much rather save the time and eat it in Singapore, so never again.
There were many levels of tables but you still have got to wait
Oops... missing some because the mouth move faster
I would not recommend Modern Toilet restaurant for the food but more for some fun experience. They have a branch near Shilin market and another near Ximending. It's a camera worthy moment but not really that awkward to make you lose appetite. 

The cute poo decorations
All the seats are toilet bowls!
A nice cup of tea or ...?
The urinal ice cream... nothing special to shout about
Our itinerary went like this:
Day 1: Shi Lin night market
Day 2: Tao Yuan Beef noodle - Ximending - Elephant Mountain - Taipei 101 - Mr J - Raohe night market
Day 3: Yonghe soy milk king - Taipei Zoo - Tamshui old street - Ke kou Fish ball - Fisherman's wharf
Day 4: Fu hang soy milk - Chia Te Bakery - Yong Kang beef noodle - National Palace Museum - Shi Da night market

As you can see, our priority was food so you may want to alter your schedule based on your preferences.
What I would recommend for a 3D2N first time itinerary: 
Day 1: Tao Yuan Beef noodle - Elephant Mountain - Taipei 101 - Ximending steamboat
Day 2: Yonghe soy milk king - Taipei Zoo - Chia Te Bakery - National Palace Museum - Shi Lin night market
Day 3: Fu hang soy milk - Yang Ming Shan - Beitou hot spring - Raohe night market

I know we will still go back to Taipei in the future anyway. So, off to Jiu fen (九份), a nice relaxing and very cold place.


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