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Travel & Food | Taipei, Taiwan

Hello friends! For the husband's and my third international travel this year (probably the last one for this year), we explored the foods and culture of Taiwan, particularly the capital city Taipei. I'm a little late on this post, since we returned from Taiwan about 1.5 months now.

Ever since watching Taiwanese dramas online as an undergraduate student at U.C. Berkeley, I have always wanted to travel and explore Taiwan and eat some of the goodies and snacks like my favorite actors and actresses. It's crazy that it's now about 10 years since my Taiwanese drama watching days (I now watch mainly Chinese dramas), but I still can't forget all of the different scenery and, of course, the foods!

We flew into Taoyuan International Airport from San Francisco International Airport via EVA airlines. Our trip began October 25th, and we returned on October 30th. We spent roughly five full days for this trip, including the time spent flying in and flying back. It was a short trip, to say the least, and we definitely didn't get to visit every single city of this country. But that just means we'll have to make another trip back here some time in the future!


What we did

  1. Gongguang Night Market.

    The hubs' and my first night market upon landing in Taiwan! The night market was already crowded when we arrived around 6pm local time, and continued to be busy as we walked the streets. As it was dinner time, the hubs and I had the famous Taiwanese pork belly buns (gua baos) at Lan Jia Gua Bao (藍家割包). We were a little confused with ordering, as we could read only a little Chinese. Luckily, someone posted the English menu online, so we just used that to help with navigating and ordering. The shop owner was very nice and curious where we were from (America) since we spoke really good English. Haha. The hubs and I were pleasantly surprised that he complimented our mandarin speaking too. The food was on point, made to order, and served fresh hot. The fluffiness of the freshly steamed bun, the flavorful pork belly, the pickled greens, and that peanut powder topping comes together perfectly in the form of this sandwich. It's no wonder the little shop was full of customers. There was no line going out the door as the hubs and I have seen posted on other blogs, but I would attribute it to good timing.
  2. Dalongdong Baoan Temple.

    One of the older temples in the city, where people come to pray for good health. There were quite a few people, locals and travelers, visiting the place. There are many temples to visit, but good health is always important to the hubs and me, so it wasn't difficult deciding that this would be one of the places we would check out.
  3. Taipei Confucius Temple.

    The quietest temple we visited (even compared to the ones in Japan). And by quietest, I mean that there weren't too many people around. Being at a quieter temple is not necessarily a bad thing. The hubs and I found it nice being able to take our time to walk around, look around, and take pictures without being in the way. It was a nice change of pace and was a breath of fresh air amidst all the other tourist-filled places.
  4. Chiang Kai Shek Memorial Hall.

    Quite a sight to see, especially with the changing of the guards that happens every hour. Although there were many people visiting the memorial hall, the area is so large that the place doesn't really feel crowded. That is, until it's time to watch the changing of the guards show. After looking around the grounds and making it up the stairs of the memorial hall, there were about 10 minutes left before the next changing of the guards. Since we only had such a short time left, we decided to look and walk through the museum (small) portion of the hall. We made it back to the main part of the hall, and the crowd was already starting to gather. Red barrier ropes were already in place to separate the crowd from the guards. The hubs and I timed everything just right. We didn't get a spot in the middle, but we were off to the side and we were pretty much in the front row! There are no seats or anything for the show (unless you sit on the floor), so if you're on the short side height-wise like me, I would suggest keeping track of the time to make sure you get a spot!
  5. Sun Yat Sen Memorial Hall.

    Similar idea to the Chiang Kai Shek Memorial Hall, but dedicated to Dr. Sun Yat Sen. Although it is also a memorial hall, you can expect that there is a little different feel to the hall, mainly due to decor. Like Chiang Kai Shek Memorial Hall, there is also a changing of the guard ceremony. The hubs and I skipped out on the changing of the guard ceremony since we already watched it while we were at the Chiang Kai Shek Memorial Hall. In terms of crowdedness, it was more crowded at the Chiang Kai Shek Memorial Hall. The hubs and I are not sure why that was, but if you have any ideas on this, feel free to leave a comment below and share!
  6. Raohe Night Market.

    The night market where we did the most eating (see points 3-5 in the "what we ate" section below). Although this was another night market we visited, it had a different feel to it than the Gongguang Night Market. The hubs and I felt that more of the shops/stalls were consolidated in one area with this night market, whereas the former one spanned a few streets. Our taxi driver gave us props for finding and going to this night market, since this is the place locals go mainly for their food (so the driver said). The food scene and choices here are pretty solid, so if your main goal is to get your grub on local-style, this is your night market!
  7. Rainbow Bridge.

    Colorful, color-changing bridge that you can walk across or look at as you sit by the river side, enjoying your night market goodies from Raohe Night Market! If you're into eating and picture taking, this just might be your place to do so. It is located conveniently just a few blocks from the Raohe Night Market, so stock up on some of your street food goods and make your way to the bridge to enjoy! The hubs and I sat on one of the benches (words that spell out "love") and munched on our food while watching the bridge as the colors changed! The water sound from the river and the cool breeze added to our enjoyment! There was also a huge sign that spelled "LOVE," and you can place locks on the different letters. The hubs and I didn't know about this, so we didn't have any locks handy, but it was neat watching some couples place locks on the sign. Walk across the bridge and enjoy more "love" themed signs that you can capture pictures of and with! If you're lucky, you'll be able to catch a glimpse of the top part of the Taipei 101 Tower while on the bridge and while across!
  8. Taipei 101.

    Love observatories and taking photos? This is the place for you! Not only can you capture photos of the city of Taipei in the daytime as well as the night time, you can also capture pretty good photos by the windows (photo spots are marked). One cool thing about this observatory is that there is a wind damper, which is used to stabilize the tower against any heavy winds, that you can look at. There is an entry fee for this. It is located within a shopping mall, which was surprisingly quiet.
  9. Xiangshan Hike.

    The perfect place to catch a view of the sunset and the Taipei 101 observatory! The hubs and I did this hike at night and was able to get a great view of the Taipei 101 observatory! The hike is mostly known to locals, so you shouldn't run into too many tourists here. The only things to note are the bugs (mosquitoes??) and the steepness. The hike is mostly made of paved stairs. Some of the steps are shaky/loose, and the steps do ascend and descend very steeply. If you're afraid of heights, it probably isn't the best activity to do. The hubs and I witnessed a man with a DSLR camera falling forward as he was going down the stairs. Luckily, he didn't continue rolling forward and he seemed okay afterwards. The hike is well lit in some areas, but not all. There are also sharp turns, where the steps are very short and there may not be a handrail at some parts of the steps. Now, about the bugs, Despite applying a bug repelling lotion, I still got bit by some bug (maybe a mosquito).
  10. Wenchang Temple.

    A temple where people go to pray for luck in studies. Students can often be seen frequenting the temple to pray for good marks in school. The temple was relatively busy and was located among small street shops selling vegetables and other goods. The hubs and I made a pit stop to the temple to pray that my brother gets a residency this year.
  11. Tamsui.

    A waterfront town/city. There are many food stalls (seems like food is the theme in Taiwan, huh?) along the waterfront. The hubs and I rode on the boat that took us to Fisherman's Wharf side, where we were able to see and walk across the Lovers' Bridge. On the other side of the bridge, you'll be able to see a huge "love" sign (with the "o" in the shape of a heart). The hubs and I saw a couple taking their wedding/pre-wedding photos. The weather was clear/overcast, and the decor was just perfect! The hubs and I got a picture there afterwards! It's definitely a sight to see in addition to trying some of the food at the stalls. We recommend getting food/snacks from Tamsui Old Street area, as there is more foot traffic (so more people buying and eating the food).
  12. Dihua Old Street.

    Another street filled with shops selling various snacks and other goods. The hubs and I walked through several stores. We ended up sampling and buying some mini, individually wrapped pineapple cakes, local dried fruit snacks (kiwi), shredded squid snacks, and dried fish snacks. There were so many shops selling snacks, we hope we purchased snacks from one of the best ones there!
  13. Chia Te Bakery.

    The place to get Taiwan's #1 pineapple cake and other delicious baked goods/treats. When the hubs and I arrived to the bakery, a line was formed outside the door. The area to line up was demarcated on the sidewalk using colored tape and there was also a worker outside to guide people where to line up so as to not block the sidewalk. Another worker worked near the door and allowed small groups of people in at a time. The process was organized and the wait wasn't too long. The hubs and I purchased the pineapple cake (classic), cranberry cake, cherry cake, hami melon cake, plum cake, sun biscuit (tai yang bing), and old wife biscuit. All of their baked goods were delicious. Although we opted for the variety, we both agreed that we should have just stocked up on the O.G. pineapple cakes.
  14. Long Shan Temple.

    Visited Long Shan Temple with our local tour guide from With Locals. She guided us through the prayer and fortune portion, and explained the different areas and architectural elements of the temple. It was interesting learning about the history of the temple and being able to participate. This temple was the busiest of all the temples the hubs and I visited, and was probably so due to it being a popular tourist attraction and the fact that there was a prayer ceremony going on. The temple also had the most number of people purchasing amulets that I have seen, possibly because people come to this temple to pray for various reasons -- good marriage, good health, etc.

Where we stayed

  1. Cosmos Hotel Taipei. For the first time in my short history of international traveling, the husband and I stayed at one hotel the entire stay! It was nice not having to lug our luggage around from hotel to hotel, and to make sure we check out on time and etc. Anyways, this hotel is very conveniently located near many major tourist attractions as well as the subway station. It made getting from place to place and maximizing our short time in Taiwan a lot easier. Breakfast was included with our stay and the breakfast consisted of different foods to cater all kinds of dietary needs. They had a salad bar with fresh greens or cooked greens, a station for porridge with toppings, a grill area for noodles and scallion pancakes, a dim sum area with a small variety of steamed goods, and a drink area. The drink area had various juices, milks, soymilk, and a probiotic drink. The elegant entryway of the hotel and the professionalism of the staff made it feel as if I were some rich millionaire (although I'm just plain ole' me). The room was clean and neat every day throughout our stay. The husband and I had enough space to get around the room too, granted there was only the two of us and the room was meant for three.

What we ate

  1. Kenting Egg Duai Milk.

    Our first boba stop in Taiwan. The hubs and I went for the original milk tea with boba, and it didn't disappoint! We enjoyed the unique flavor of the local milk used in the drink as well as the brown sugar used to cook the boba. The boba was warm, soft, and chewy. You could tell it was made fresh. With a line going around the corner of the store, you can expect to enjoy one of the best in town!
  2. Black Tea Drink House ( 紅茶屋生活飲品館 ).

    The place known for their black tea...and you can get a jumbo sized cup, at that! Love black tea? Want a drink that isn't sugary/too sweet? This is your place, people! The hubs and I were looking to try some local tea, and this was the perfect place. They had regular sized cups or "jumbo" sized cups. The hubs and I shared a jumbo sized cup, and we had no regrets with that (until we needed the bathroom). The tea flavor and quality is a must-try, although we'll leave the cup size decision to you!
  3. Wanhua Original Iced Grass Jelly.

    Little, hole-in-a-wall shop perfect for herbal grass jelly fans! The hubs and I ventured out to try this place because I'm a huge herbal grass jelly fan. The grass jelly is sold by the bowl or cup (if dining in) or by the cup (if taking out). The hubs and I enjoyed a bowl of grass jelly. The grass jelly were cut into strips (not chunks). The grass jelly had a light herbal taste (you can tell it's homemade and not from can), and the brown cane sugar made this a refreshing sweet treat. Don't let the quietness of the shop fool you! The hubs and I witnessed many locals getting their grass jelly treat to-go by the bag fulls. There was another family that stopped in to enjoy some grass jelly by the bowl. They finished rather quickly and were on their way again. The only "con" of this place is that the hubs and I didn't really have anything else to do near the area where the shop was located. Worth a visit for grass jelly fans, but may not be worth it if your trip is short!
  4. Fuzhou Black Pepper Buns.

    A must-try if you're a fan of juicy pork buns, but get there early because the line can get very long! The hubs and I lucked out upon arriving at the Raohe Night Market. This shop is located at one end (the starting point?) of the night market. Although it was early (maybe 4:30pm local time), I'm glad the hubs and I lined up because the line behind us only grew and grew. The bun shop is special because their buns are made fresh right in front of you and baked in a clay oven. I'm not talking about how pizza is baked in a clay oven like horizontally. What's pretty cool/neat is that the buns stick to the side of the clay oven, which is shaped like a pot! Of course, this phenomenon isn't enough to keep people coming back, the buns are also very delicious and juicy! Because the bottom of the buns are stuck to the clay oven, they develop a lightly crispy texture that the juices of the pork and the fluffiness of the top of the buns complement well. Be careful when biting into the buns though because the pork filling and the juices do get very hot (temp wise), and it would be a bummer to not be able to enjoy the other goodies the night market has to offer!
  5. Chen Dong Pork Ribs Medicinal Herbs Soup.

    Something herbal, healthy, and perfect for a cool day! This shop at the Raohe Night Market was probably the largest one that the hubs and I visited. Largest because of the cooking and seating area relative to other food stalls. The hubs and I each got a lamb herbs soup, and it was delicious as expected. The soup was fresh hot, so we were extra careful to not drink the soup too quickly. The soup had an herbal taste to it, but wasn't too overly bitter, which we both appreciated. The lamb had bone-in, so we had to use our hands to ensure that we got all the lamb meat there was to offer. The meat was tender and absorbed the herbal taste of the soup (probably because the meat was boiled in the soup). Because it was a rainy day when the hubs and I visited this night market, the stall was quick to fill up. Our suggestion is to head here immediately after visiting the Fuzhou Black Pepper Buns shop to ensure that you get a seat. For this stall, expect to pay for your meal once your order is served (what my hubs and I observed other locals doing).
  6. Ma Shu Bao Bao.

    The perfect, soft, and chewy mochi for the mochi lovers craving their mochi fix while in Taiwan! The hubs and I found this place because via the Michelin Guide, and the place is worth a stop if you love mochi! This shop is not really a shop. It is more a cart where the owner makes coin-shaped mochi by hand, fresh daily. You have the option of getting the mochi already mixed with the powder or getting it "to go, to be eaten later," in which the owner will separate the powder from the mochi (so you dunk the mochi coins into the powder when you're ready to eat). The hubs and I accidentally ordered the latter and were stuck dipping/mixing the mochi with the powder ourselves. The mochi is soft and chewy. You can tell it was made fresh. The powder -- sesame or peanut ?? -- was the perfect complement for this simple sweet treat!
  7. A Cheng Goose.

    Curious what goose meat tastes like? Well, this is your place to try it! Be ready to order by the quarter, half, and etc! And if you can't read too much Chinese, there is an English menu available! The hubs and I wanted to try some goose meat, so we found A Cheng Goose. This shop seems like a local favorite, and there are two locations, both on the same street (just opposite sides, diagonally). One location looks more formal, whereas the other location looks more bar-style. The more formal looking one looked very busy, with a full waiting area, so the hubs and I went across the street to the bar style one. There was no wait, and we were seated immediately. The hubs and I wanted to order the half goose, but the waiter suggested that we order the quarter goose (since that is portioned for 2 people). We saw the table of four next to us and their half goose order, and the hubs and I agreed that we could have finished that ourselves (that is...being the meat eaters that we are). The goose meat was delicious, fatty, and was served on a bed of young ginger. We would recommend this place to anyone looking to get their fill/taste of goose meat and/or those who like to order small dishes.

Travel Pro Tip: Don't know which restaurant(s) to try while in Taiwan? Be sure to consult the Michelin Guide for ideas!

Specialty Taiwanese Snacks to Bring Home/Try

When traveling to different countries, it's always nice to be able to take home some of the countries' specialty snacks. For my husband and I, it's almost as if we're still traveling in the country (even if it's just for minutes as we enjoy the snacks). Plus, for us, it's a great way to spend a little time together and reflect on our trip.

Here are some of the Taiwanese specialty snacks we have tried ourselves and recommend for you to bring home from your trip:

  • Chia Te Pineapple Cakes
  • Sunny Hills Pineapple Cakes
  • Kuai Che Pork Paper*
  • Sun Biscuit (aka Tai Yang Bing)
  • Sugar & Spice Nougat
  • Imei Puffs
  • A-Po Iron Eggs*
  • Dried Fruit
  • Mochi
  • Amo Cakes Taiwanese Honey Layer Cake
  • Taiwanese Jelly Pudding
  • Little Prince Noodles
  • Milk Teas/Coffees (Bottled) by Chun Cui He

Do note that the snacks with the asterisk (*) are things that you might not be able to bring back to your home country because it is meat/produce. For a more detailed review on each and every snack, you can check out my saved (for a limited time) Instagram stories @nextwithnicole.

This post covered pretty much all of the activities we did, the food we ate during our trip, and our Taiwanese specialty snack recommendations. Of course, if we had more time, there were still many things on our list that we would have liked to do too! But, that's life for you -- after working hard and enjoying this rest break, it's time to work again!

Hope you've enjoyed following along and reading about our trip! Have you been to Taiwan? If so, what activities did you do?

- Nicole G.

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