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This will be my second time traveling to Taipei, Taiwan. The first time, I was attending the wedding of my good friends from Seattle, Washington. This time around, I’m escorting my mom & her sister, who after immigrating to America some 35 plus years ago, have never returned to their hometown. This is going to be the first time since leaving the hot, sticky, wet island that my mom & her younger sister will be setting foot back on Taiwanese soil.

Now, to provide a little back story to my family, neither my mom nor her sister were actually born in Taiwan. My mom was born in Shanghai, & my aunt was born in Beijing. However, they both grew up since they were toddlers, along with their 3 younger brothers & single (twice divorced) mother in the city of Taipei. Once my mom graduated from university, she & my aunt both immigrated to America to find better jobs (& eventually start their own families). Since moving to America, neither of them have ever gone back to the place where they spent most of their youth. This will be their first experience after 35+ years or so (give or take a few years), & I’m sort of excited to be escorting them to the place they once lived & held many vivid memories.

These are just a few of the highlights I’m hoping to experience on my second trip to Taipei.

highlights of taiwan trip list

  1. Of course I’m planning on taking many photos, most of which will be for the ‘Gram (a.k.a. straight to Instagram). I’ll try to post my photos on this blog if I can remember, but the best way to stay up-to-date & follow me on my Taiwan adventures is to follow me on Instagram.
  2. Growing up, I had a lot of different Chinese food influences. Since my mom primarily identifies as Shanghainese, I learned to eat a lot of traditional Shanghainese food. However, since she actually grew up & lived in Taiwan for most of her life, my mom had a lot of Taiwanese influences in her cooking, so at home we also were introduced to many Taiwanese dishes as well. (Side note: most of my Asian friends are Cantonese, so through them I’ve learned a lot about traditional Cantonese cuisine & Hong Kong style Cantonese food.) When I go back to Taiwan, I can’t wait to eat all of the delicious foods I had growing up, eating all of my childhood comfort foods like plump sausages on a stick (香腸) with fresh garlic of course, stewed lion’s head meatballs (獅子頭), red roasted braised beef noodle soup (紅燒牛肉麵), & lots more!
  3. The first time Jian & I visited Taiwan, we had researched all kinds of cool restaurants, cafés & bars to try out. We found lots of cool, hipster bars with nightly live music, but we never got a chance to try them. We were too busy helping our friends set up props & decorations for their wedding. This time around, we are definitely planning to take time out of our schedule to try a few hipster bars in Taipei. Jian & I are both amateur cocktail connoiseurs, so we love trying new bars, lounges, & hole-in-the-wall drinking places wherever we travel to.
  4. Ok, this one isn’t exactly a highlight per sè, but it’s going to take up a major portion of our trip. I know my mom doesn’t really need a chaperone in Taiwan. I mean, for cuss sake, she can read, write & speak Mandarin fluently. She doesn’t need me to help her there, but she doesn’t like to travel alone, & it reassures here when I’m there to help her with the little details, like showing her how to use the subway system, or showing her where she can exchange her currency. Since this is my mom’s first time going back to Taiwan, she’s feeling a little insecure knowing that things have drastically changed since her days of living there. Also, with me being the type of person who relishes taking care of others, I myself, am relieved & happy that I get to accompany my mom (& my aunt) & take care of her in any way I can.
  5. On almost all of my trips abroad, I don’t give myself much time to properly enjoy & take advantage of the amazing hotel amenities. It was only on my trip to London where I fully took advantage of the hotel hospitality & amenities, & I enjoyed myself thoroughly. This time around, I plan on using more of the hotel facilities & really take the time to relax & let go of my anxieties. I want to losen up & not be so tightly wound up like a rubber band waiting to snap all of the time.
  6. Oh man, this is going to be a tough one. Every day leading up to our trip, Jian & I have been obsessively checking the weather forecast for Taiwan. As of right now, the weather forecast says that it’s super duper hot right now with a minimum of 60% chance of rain. Every. Single. Day. I have no idea whatsoever on how we’re going to avoid the heat, the sticky dampness, & the rain showers. I suggested to Jian that we spend lots of time inside shopping malls, but he quickly shot down that idea with a big fat NO. He then suggested that we take the subway or taxi everywhere we go, but I don’t know if that’s going to help much with the getting-soaked-in-the-hot-rain situation. I guess this would be the perfect time for us to check out all the amenities our hotel has to offer.

Well, I’m officially leaving for Taiwan tomorrow. I still have a few lose ends to tie up, & a few more items to throw in to (or, in my case, carefully & meticulously pack in) my suitcase. I’m signing off to get back to my suitcase organizing duties… Until then, cheers!

Today’s song of the day:

“Up All Night” by BECK


 

My husband & I were so excited to visit Taipei for the first time, we definitely were planning on going nuts with our camera & take tons of photos.  Here are some of the best highlights of our photo album.

Yes, graffiti is everywhere.  It’s not really a shocking thing in most countries, but we were still excited to see street art throughout the city.  This type of art really amazes us, & these big murals are so cool.

Like I’ve mentioned before, my female friend who got married is from Taipei.  She was showing our big group of friends around town, & as we were walking to the subway station, we passed by this small shop selling funny t-shirts.  All of us thought these two shirts in particular was very fitting for the occasion.  The first shirt on the left says “My husband is the greatest”.  The second shirt on the right says “My wife is never wrong”.  Our group thought it would be funny to buy these shirts for our friends who were getting married that weekend, so they could wear them on their wedding day.  Alas, they begged us not to get them, so we didn’t end up buying them.  It would have been a funny story if we did get those shirts!

It was very interesting to see new/modern buildings mixed in with the older/traditional buildings.  The city itself is quite clean & orderly, however, the older buildings feel a little run-down & worn-out.  This is quite a dramatic contrast against the vibrant background of the bustling cityscape.

During our stay in Taipei, we stayed at the AMBA Hotel.  It’s a really hip, urban & minimalist hotel located in the very popular 西門町 (Ximending) neighborhood on the west side of the city.  For me, this hotel was the best in terms of amenities, service, location, proximity to public transportation, etc.  I love being smack-dab in the heart of the bustling downtown area of any city, so this hotel was perfect for my taste.  One might think that the hotel may be quite noisy, since it is in the middle of such a busy neighborhood, but to be honest, I couldn’t really hear much outside noise from my hotel room on the 9th floor.  I was planning on taking a ton of pictures of the hotel (& my room) while I was staying at AMBA, but I got so busy with my friends & kept pushing it aside until the last day.   Then on the last day, I just happened to catch a bug of some sort & got really sick.  Luckily the illness only cost me one and a half days of vacation time.  These are the few pictures we took of the hotel…

  1. When you walk into the lobby on the 5th floor, as soon as you exit the elevators you are greeted by a large Tofu-Oyako mural hand-painted by the DevilRobots team.
  2. On the other side of the lobby, facing opposite of the front desk reception booth is the dining area & cafe complete with a hip coffee bar.
  3. Also in the middle of the lobby, under the atrium skylight is the community seats where you can eat your meal from the dining cafe.
  4. Near the elevators is another hand-painted mural of the Ximending skyline.
  5. Next to the Tofu-Oyako mural was this big “5” sculpture, which I assume is for the 5-year anniversary of the hotel (?).
  6. I completely forgot to take pictures of our room, so I borrowed one of my friend’s photos to show a sample of the sleeping area.  The rooms are quite compact, but still highly functional.
  7. There is always a valet at the ground floor elevators to escort you to the lobby on the 5th floor or to help you with directions.
  8. Also on the ground floor was a bakery with outdoor bench seats & patio tables.
  9. The bakery served lots of sweet treats (such as cupcakes, New York style cheesecake, etc.).
  10. In the morning, we would always converge with our friends at the bakery.
  11. There was a really cool 3D moving art piece in the lobby, right next to the lounge.
  12. Speaking of the lounge (Legacy), my husband & I had a few drinks there one night.
  13. The lounge had a swanky, modern, urban vibe.  The lounge often hosted many live performances on the stage.  The backdrop of the stage was covered in denim fabric.
  14. There were many types of hip sofa seats & plush couches scattered about the lounge.
  15. One of the walls were covered in stereo speakers & amplifiers.  This was one of the coolest art installations I’ve ever seen.
  16. Finishing off the night with a “Whisky Old Fashioned” cocktail.

Since I didn’t get to take any pictures of our hotel room, I made a little mock-up drawing of our room layout:

Please excuse my poor drawing skills.

Please excuse my poor drawing skills.

I had so much fun on my trip.  I don’t even know where to begin.  I started my vacation with the intention of blogging photos of each day, but *pffffft*, that obviously DID NOT happen.  Every day was like a whirlwind, & by the time I had gotten back to my hotel room, it was extremely late & I was exhausted.  My two friends who got married had a beautiful wedding (with a few very minor glitches).  I have never experienced a half traditional Taiwanese , half Western mixed wedding before, & my friends pulled it off wonderfully.

One part that really amazed me was that my male friend was asked to sing a song during the wedding reception.  According to my female friend (who is Taiwanese), it is part of a newer type of wedding tradition where the groom is required to prepare & choreograph a special song (of one’s own choice) & sing to the new bride.  I was so happily surprised to see my male friend, who is usually quite shy, get up to sing in front of the entire wedding party.  He chose to sing a popular/well-known Chinese pop song, & he sang the lyrics in Mandarin…which was a feat by itself, since my male friend mainly speaks Cantonese & English & was not very familiar with the Mandarin language until he met his new bride.  He was really great with the choreography too!

Overall, all of us as a group had a really awesome & memorable experience in Taiwan.  For some of us, it was a first-time experience.  For others, it was like visiting familiar territory.  I didn’t go as crazy with the food eating as I had initially thought I would.  However, I DID go a little buck wild with the shopping.  I really wasn’t expecting to do that much shopping in Taiwan.  I gave myself a budget (I did stick to it) & had planned to spend a majority of my shopping budget in Japan…but I could not resist all of the cute stationery popping up around every corner!  I ended up purchasing quite a bit of postcards, greeting cards & sticker sets.  (Yes, I was a bit of a naughty girl.)

I have a special use for all these things, I promise!

I have a special use for all these things, I promise!

Here’s a quick rundown of all the things that happened on the Taiwan leg of our Asia tour…

A glimpse at the food we ate:


01. Won Ton soup noodles
02. Ramen Kagetsu Arashi (花月嵐拉麵) – tonkotsu ramen with onsen egg
03. Japanese beef curry with rice
04. Lion Head meatball (獅子頭 – shi zhi tou)
05. Locally farmed organic chicken with sliced green onions
06. Mini soup dumplings (小籠包 – xiao long bao)
07. Rao He night market – a very popular fried bun filled with minced pork & veggies
08. Fong Da cafe latte – this place is very famous & has been open since 1956!
09. Ice Monster red bean shave ice with ice cream & condensed milk
10. Ice Monster (very popular) mango shave ice with mango sorbet
11. All-you-can-eat hot pot – side A = spicy broth, side B = mild broth
12. You can choose up to 3 types of broth for your hot pot!
13. We celebrated our dear friend’s birthday with a tiramisu Mille Crêpe cake!
14. Believe it or not, Taipei is known for some really good Japanese sushi spots. We topped off our sushi extravaganza with some Negi Toro hand rolls.
15. We visited a 50+ year old beef noodle soup shop to have 紅燒牛肉麵 (hong shao niu rou mian – red roasted beef noodles).
16. Yes, we also tried Shanghainese food in Taiwan. This was some good slow cooked beef with some veggies in a delicious broth.
17. Didn’t get enough veggies yet, so we ordered a steamed cabbage dish
18. Shredded chicken noodle soup
19. Shredded bean curd served cold
20. Small river shrimp with a special vinegar sauce for dipping
21. The best thin rice noodles I’ve ever had at the 阿宗麵線 (Ah Zong Mian Xian – Ah Zong Noodle Line) food stall. No tables, no seats. Everybody just stands around the shop & eats on the sidewalk. You can add your own fresh mince garlic or special hot chili sauce.
22. A plate of duck with a bowl of soup noodles at 鸭肉扁 (Ya Rou Bian – Duck Meat Slice). I found out recently that the meat is actually wild goose, not really duck.

 

MORE PHOTOS AND INFO TO COME…

Image

Photos courtesy of: http://www.walllbase.cc

The time has finally arrived!  Tomorrow, I am jetting off to Taipei, Taiwan.  I am incredibly thrilled to attend my friends’ wedding. (We are close friends with both the bride & groom.)  Also, being able to visit a place I’ve heard so much about since my early childhood is exciting.  I am so ready for this trip… I can’t wait to post photos soon!!  Cheers.

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Beards are awesome, and they tell no lies.
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#BarCrawl #cocktail #HappyHour #GinAndTonic #Tanqueray #gin #FeverTree #tonic #lemon #ClearIce #IceCube #WaShu #TPE #TW #DrinksOfInstagram #travel #adventure #vacation #thirsty #family @tanqueraygin @fevertree_uk Christmas themed Halloween decorations. WTF, Taipei?! 🎄🎃 👻
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#decorations #decor #theme #banner #Christmas #Xmas #Halloween #spooky #holiday #holidays #WTF #random #weird #fun #funny #WrongHoliday #LouisaCoffee #CoffeeShop #travel #vacation #adventure #family #TPE #TW #CityLink #IWantThis Capping the night off with delicious libations at one sweet spot. 🍹
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