Thursday, December 29, 2011

Taiwan : Tamsui and Shida Night Market

The past 3 weeks had been pretty hectic. Just as I was getting familiar with one rotation, it was time to move on to the next rotation and it's like starting all over again. And sometimes in the midst of readjusting, coping, learning, fumbling, trying to impress, trying to prove your worthiness, trying to prove your capability, earning trust and balancing everything else in between, it's easy to lose who you really are if you dont watch your steps carefully.

So I had been welcoming newborns into our world as they greeted me with their cries, meconiums, blood, gush of their amniotic fluid, backache from repairing episiotomies and tears and whats not. Of course, there's more to OG than just conducting deliveries but I don't want to bore you with the details for now. For now, let's just wrap up my Taiwan travelogue.

I spent my last day in Taiwan back in Taipei. Just a recap on my entire route in Taiwan, I went from Taipei to Hualien (in the east) to Kenting (in the south) and at last, back to Taipei again. You can read my other Taiwan posts as below (in case you had missed it previously :p) :
Taipei - Beitou Hot Springs
Taipei - Ximending and Taipei 101
Taipei - Shihlin Night Market
Hualien City and Taroko Gorge
Kenting - Part 1
Kenting - Part 2 

So we spent the morning exploring around the place we lived, the main train station vicinity before moving on to Tamsui (aka as Danshui) and the Shida night market later at night. Seriously the newly renovated Taipei main station is one huge train station. You can really get lost in the train station if you had missed taking note of your entrance point initially. Besides having restaurants and a food court, they also have shops, boutiques and a departmental store which just opened in March/April this year. It is recommended in Lonely Planet and by our hostel owner that the food court in the train station is a good place for breakfast hence we headed there hoping much to try some local breakfast. However, the food court aka Breeze court is more like a high class international food court which occupies the entire second floor with different sections selling cuisines from all around the world. They have a Taiwan section alright, but I was hoping to try something local and cheap, something like our traditional nasi lemak and roti canai if you know what I mean.

Breeze court - the Taiwan section

My bowl of soup noodle with braised egg and prawn

Just around the corner outside the Taipei train station, we later discovered these wide array of shops that sells plenty of local food and yummy smelling breakfast all at prices at least half of what we had paid at Breeze court. We managed to squeeze in a little more food but too full to try the rest :(

A bubble tea shop! I know bubble tea is like the hallmark of Taiwan but I think due to the whole bubble tea controversy and scare this year, the number of bubble tea stalls and shops seemed to have markedly reduce with mushrooming of fruit juices stalls instead now

So, I had to try but just 1 cup of bubble tea at least right? I mean I can't possibly leave the land of origin of bubble tea without trying the bubble tea. It will be like going to Japan without eating ramen or going to South Korea without eating ginseng or going to USA without eating hamburgers

In Taiwan, they have black and also white bubbles! The best part is, their bubbles are larger, much more chewy and bouncy compared to our local ones. It's too bad they poses such health risk to us human
We also found this beancurd stall which sells like really awesome beancurds. Not only does this aunty sells hot beancurds, she also sells cold beancurds that was perfect for a hot day.

A secret hideout

The cold bean curd with barley. Tasted really refreshing and good

The 228 peace memorial park which is also near the Taipei main station

I really like this pic. Everybody happy natural laughter XD

After lazing at the park, I went on Tamsui (Danshui) to meet up with my friend from Taiwan. Tamsui district, located about 45 minutes from Taipei city by metro is conveniently accessible and is unique and rich with history and culture. It is a very walkable town, making it easy for us to explore the place on foot. Although located near to Taipei, it's much more relaxing to stroll along the riverside here while admiring their historical sites and tasting their local delights. And in case you didn't know previously (like me), Tamsui is also birth place and home to mega Taiwan superstar, Jay Chou and a large part of his movie, Secret was filmed in this popular town itself. 

The Tamsui MRT station. So vintage in brick red

The street in front of the famous Gongming Street (fondly known as the Old Street as well)

The variety of sausages. I was intrigued by the black ones and learnt that they are actually squid sausages. Tried that and it tasted not too bad honestly

My friend said the shop with the yellow arrow pointing sells the best pastries and cookies in Tamsui but I personally don't quite like the pastries and cookies there (they gave me samples to try)

Tamsui Gongming Street - certainly not for the agoraphobia.The pedestrian street with shops lining both side of the street selling mainly local Tamsui specialties like the iron eggs, A-Gei and super tall ice creams, arcades, traditional handicrafts and even the Taiwan version of Ripley's Believe It Or Not. The street was super crowded with pedestrians granted it was also a weekend that day

This is known as A-Gei, it's a Tamsui specialty. It's basically deep fried tofu that has been stuffed with crystal noodles sealed with fish paste and served with moderately hot spicy sauce. I do like the taste of it and I think it's certainly worth a try in Tamsui

The super tall ice cream. Mine is a combo of honeydew and corn flavor. Well, the ice cream itself is nothing too extraordinary but it's a touristy thing to just try it since we don't usually see super long ice creams anywhere else

Aside from super huge fruits, they have super huge peanuts too! Seriously those peanuts are for real

Another of Taiwan hallmark and Tamsui specialty - the Taiwan iron eggs. However, just like the bubbles, the Taiwan iron eggs are under much controversy now and all the shops were trying very hard to sell off their eggs by claiming that their eggs are produced with so and so ingredients etc not posing health risks and such

The pink guavas. Notice how huge the guavas are too? Sorry I couldn't help it. All the fruits are so huge in Taiwan I can't help exclaiming how huge they are

Another fruit juice stall with their wide selection of juices

 Fresh, steam seafood like squids and ikan bilis that you can eat as snacks

After exploring and eating along Gongming Street, it was time to do a little walking tour around Tamsui to burn off those extra calories. We walked up this narrow steep street and came to our first stop, the Red Castle.

The Red Castle is in fact a very beautiful Victorian style restaurant overlooking the township below. Surely a nice place dine in while enjoying the live band and view at night

The statue of Dr. Mackay, one of the crucial person playing role in the development of Tamsui in the early days establishing schools, churches and hospitals practicing Western biomedicine

Their church - I really like how Victorian style their buildings are

The home of Dr. George Leslie Mackay

Walking further up the road, we passed these walls decorated by paintings from the locals

The view of Tamsui town

The former British consular residence which is like a very popular place for wedding photography. There's easily like 6 couples doing their wedding photoshoot there at the same time that day

For die hard Jay Chou fans, some of you might be able to recognize the building below for their appearance in the movie Secret. Yes, the movie was shot in Jay Chou's former high school itself, the Tamkang High School.

Honestly their school is so gorgeous you can hardly believe it's just a high school

Remember these corridors from the movie? hehe

The finale scene where the building went dramatically crashing down while Jay was playing the piano furiously

The Alethia University

Another popular historical architecture in Tamsui - the Fort San Domingo

Concluding our walking tour at the Fort (where we enjoyed some pretty nice view from the hill), we took a bus to the Fisherman's Wharf in order to catch the sunset, rumoured to be one of the best place to watch sunset in Taipei.

The Lovers Bridge at Fisherman's Wharf. It is one hot spot to watch the sunset

Seafood restaurants along the Wharf

At the Fisherman's Wharf

After admiring the sunset at the Fisherman's Wharf, we took a ferry back to the riverside near the Dan Shui train station

 At night, Dan Shui town is equally bustling with food stalls and pedestrians along Gongming Street and the riverside.

However, we decided to head back to Taipei downtown and visit another popular night market in Taiwan, which some deem the queen of night markets dotting Taiwan; the Shida night market. With such limited time in Taiwan, I figured we could at least visit both the king (Shihlin) and queen (Shida) of night markets since we couldn't possibly visit all of them.

The Shida night market is near the National Taiwan Normal University (wonders why they name their university normal? Is there like abnormal ones? ^.^) hence it is filled with more young people. I personally like this night market more than Shihlin simply because there are more boutiques and apparel shops that have better and nicer selections. Which explains why I ended up shopping more than eating at Shida! :) Of course, they have many Taiwanese street food/ xiochi (snacks) stalls as well but if you are looking for the deep fried breaded chicken, then Shihlin is the place.
The Taiwanese basically loves their food cook in 3 main styles - fried, grilled and 'lu wei' which explains why one can see abundant of their street food either fried, grilled or cooked in the 'lu wei' style. I can't exactly find the right translation for 'lu wei' but it's similar to our lok lok. 

You can choose from a huge array of choices (ranging from pig blood to innards to tofu to vegetables) all on sticks. After taking your picks, you passed it to them and they will cook your selections in a special black stewed sauce for a few minutes and voila, you are ready to dig into your lu wei!
Their special stewed black sauce which smells super good

My lu wei. It is said that among the 3 styles, the lu wei is the healthiest and less fattening. Well, I suppose so. Seriously, the lu wei is really good. The sauce has a tinge of sweetness and saltiness and each mouthful makes you craves for more

Lastly, time for some dessert. Time for some shave ice!
The wide selection of toppings for the shave ice, from slices of fruits to red beans to taro balls to jellies to nata de cocoas and even Yakult
My selection of mango and taro balls shave ice. Honestly, super refreshing and yummy. The mangoes are really fresh and combine with the chewy taro balls, it was perfect to turn on the taste buds. Craving for one right now. :p
It was a pretty eventful night as I went home happy with the my shopping loot, in fact the most shopping I had done during my entire 7 days stay in Taiwan. XD Of course, with so much delicious food, it is literally enough to keep one happy too. After all, a hungry man is an angry man so a full man is a happy one. 

I left Taiwan early the next morning with a heavy heart. There's so much more of Taiwan that I have yet to explore and experience and 7 days was simply not enough. With it's bustling city, sublime countryside and friendly people, Taiwan is indeed a unique country worth visiting. It was also wonderful to be able to meet up with my friends in Taiwan and having them to host me was more than I could ask for. I certainly can't wait to go back to Taiwan again, to explore the other towns and cities next. :)

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Thanks for the great write-up Allison.

I always wonder with those open markets with so much food out in the open, what the turn-over is like? (Is any of the food old -- or do they sell everything really quickly so that it stays fresh?)

Also, your comment that, "'s easy to lose who you really are if you dont watch your steps carefully." -- kind-of jumped out at me. I'm curious if you feel like you're losing your individually due to such a complex and busy job?

To fit in and perform the job properly, do you feel like you need to conform and can't express yourself?

Sorry for the long comment and questions -- just glad to see a post from you in a long time. :-)


Dead cockroach : It's not exactly braised. It's more like 'boiling' the sticks in their special black stewed sauce for 1-2 minutes and it's ready for consumption. :)

Mike : The ones I tried are all fresh because their business is so good they will sell out everything at the end of the day.

Regarding your question, no it's not that I couldn't express myself. But with so much going on everyday, we need to check back and make sure we remain who we are. Hope that answers you. :)

wow the black sausages look not so tempting to me, but when i know that it is squid sausages, i start scrolling up to see the picture again. i think it really worths a try! how i'd wish malaysia has this too!

Latest: Black is The New Trend

Fish : Hehe! Ya it's really unique and taste quite good. Maybe Malaysia will have it soon, who knows right hehe :)

Is the cold bean curd actually taufufa? :P

glorious street food. yummeh.

Hilda : yup just that It's chilled with barley and yellow beans :)

Anne : Yum :)

Oh...BTW....Happy NY Allison....or wait a bit and then Happy CNY! :-)