The 2012 Taipei Boot Camp was successfully held over a 5-day period last month. Led by Taipei veteran/guru (Fish) and supported by peripheral research through Jloo, Google and nightly Taiwan variety shows, we (Lq and I) were made to walk from dawn to dusk under the scorching sun and through 99.9% humidity. Our metabolism rate and lactic acid production (calve muscles-ouch) were forcefully cranked to an all-time high. Notwithstanding the endless physical toil, this has gotta be one of the best vacation (big city style – no trekking shoes & poles involved) I have ever had.
So, a couple of you have asked me for the itinerary after my massive photo-whoring session on fbook. Here it is! (Not a narrative for sure, engineer/chef style – in point form! Lazy to think and phrase in Brit English)
- Waited 1.5 hours at 台北车站 for the 2 older ones to grab me. (yes, still very sore) Had a good solo time checking out Q Square though. Awfully Chocolate sighted – surprise surprise!
- Dropped off my barangs at Tango – Linsen , nice boutique hotel near the train station. Great service staff and an interesting breakfast buffet spread each morning.
- Headed to 鼎泰丰 ‘s original outlet and ordered enough to feed a family of 10. Try the beef brisket 拉面 and 熏鱼。The 担担面 has more kick than the one in Singapore.
- Shopped at Taipei City mall – an underground 825 m long mall selling all kinds of things imaginable. The shoes are really a bargain. starting from 200 元 (SGD 8) per pair. I only recommend the flats (less obiang and uber comfy), the heels look like they have been there since the 1980s. The 2 girls went mad there while I snapped pictures of them being mad.
- Walked through 师大夜市 at night. Apparently one of the better night markets around with more updated apparels. Great food too! Please look out for 灯笼卤味 on one of the side alleyways. Nice braised food/noodles (your choice from a dozen selection) for dinner perhaps? Both the girls were smitten by the Taiwanese Waffles 麥格問 格のQ Taiwanese waffles have this weird mochi texture to it.We had bad 鸡排s there though.And the 大肠包小肠 was kinda interesting.
- Took the train to 瑞芳 and continued on to 九份。Gorged ourselves silly over there. Nice ancient street that took us about 2-3 hours (with many pit-stops along the way) to get through.
- Food to look out for in 九份：肉干纸 , dried beancurd, 赖阿婆芋圆 (yam balls in sweet iced syrup – like a hybrid of ice kachang + bobo chacha), 红烧肉圆 (looks dubious, but is actually kinda nice!), 鱼丸汤(at a shop near to the yam balls place with a million Taiwanese celebrity photos lining the walls – you can’t miss it), 黄妈妈 jellies, 黄金花枝烧 Deep-sea squid (this can be easily found in other places though) and Ice-cream popiah
- From 九份, we took another train to 十分. ( i know, whats up with the names right?). Pretty place where you can spend an hour taking silly chimpanzee-like shots on the bridge (静安桥) with your travel partners. And then pay 100 元 to write your uncensored wishes/hopes/curses on the sides of huge paper lanterns (孔明灯) , light the wick and pray that the lantern doesn’t burst into flames as it make its way up to the heavens. Made popular by the show 那些年，我们一起追的女孩。。
- Took the hour + journey back to Taipei and headed straight to 士林夜市, the most famous night market in the city. By now, we realised that all the clothes/shoes are mostly of the same design. I am not much of a shopper but I noticed there were pretty cheap accessories, socks and brollies on sale there. Of course, there is the famous food market too (take note: they have moved underground – literally, look out for signs).
- Visited 金峰卤肉饭 stall after some inspiration from a Taiwanese variety show the night before.
- Took a cab to Taipei 101 (without going in, which irked Fish alot). Spent 2 hours at the multi-storey Eslite bookstore trying to find 机米 stationery and interesting books. They ran out of stationery though but NLQ found a great make-up tips self-help book 🙂 We then spent another 2 hours at…-drum rolls- ZARA (Taipei 101 Mall). You can’t blame us if the sales put some of the clothes at about 40% of the price we find here in Singland.
- Trained to 淡水 where we walked through another crowded street (淡水老街）filled with food/clothes/shoes/sweaty people.
- Bussed to the Fisherman’s Wharf (淡水渔人码头）for a great sunset and more chimpanzee-like photo taking.
- Headed back to the train station and walked along the waterfront all the way till the end where we had a meal of 卤肉米粉 with 阿给 (toufu stuffed with tang hoon and minced pork). Really yummy and cheap meal. Other interesting snacks to look out for: 铁蛋 and 淡水鱼酥 (fish crackers – i LOVE this, chomping on it as i type this)
- Came back to Taipei and had 3 bowls of shaved ice (these girls do not know the concept of sharing) at ICE MONSTER. Try their Bubble Tea shaved ice, milk tea shaved ice with bubbles served at the side. Queued for half an hour for it. Geez.
- Last day for NLQ. We had breakfast (ok, I am lying, this was our 2nd brekkie) at 民乐旗鱼米粉汤. Nice beehoon broth with fried goodness – oysters, pork, toufu, prawns, cuttlefish.
- Cabbed to 台北犁記餅店 for the famous 太阳饼。Fish swears by the maltose pastry sold at this store. It tasted like the softer version of our 马蹄饼. I like it!
- Took a train to 五分埔 (a wholesale garment market) for some cheap clothes shopping. Basic tops for SGD 5 anyone? And again, the 2 of them blew their dough over 21237232 pairs of shoes here.
- Had lunch at 胡须张 , 卤肉饭 again.
- Time for NLQ to head home. After dropping her at the bus station, Fish & I combed the Taipei City Mall again and drank more bubble tea, found a shop selling 机米 jigsaws (loves!) and wasted 100 元 on some fortune-telling uncle who told both of us that we will suck in our career and love life (UNLESS we pay him a fee and change our name-__-). Unless you are desperate to find a stool to rest your weary legs from all the shopping, i suggest you avoid that cluster of fortune tellers and save the misery.
- After much effort in dolling me up (to no avail), we headed to W TAIPEI. I am a uber big fan of the quirky W hotel chain. No bucks to stay in it, so we had to be contented with sipping mojitos and chomping on mini burgers at Bar at Wet. After prancing around the hotel lobby and restaurant like excited kids, we left
- Shopped at Breeze Center for awhile and bought our last dose of 50 嵐 (bubble tea) + Mister Donuts.
- Fish hopped on the Hello Kitty airplane to Seoul. Nuff’ said.
Things that you should do and I missed out on: 阿宗面线, 西门町 and Hao Da Da Ji Pai at 士林夜市