After a 5 hour flight to Taipei and a slow, 1 & half hour journey into the city by coach, we see that oh so famous structure , sticking out of the landscape like a phallic monolith..
Taiwan is an island located off the coast of southeastern China, southwest of Okinawa and north of the Philippines. The island is governed by the Republic of China. Shaped roughly like a sweet potato, the nation is home to more than 23 million people and is the most densely populated places in the world! Besides its crowded cities, Taiwan is also known for steep mountains and lush forests.
We see our hotel and boy are we glad to get showered and get dinner.
I like this hotel.
This hotel is nice.
SHOWER .. fast, fast!
Dinner was at a Taiwanese Restaurant near Taipei 101, i.e. heart of the city center. Do not ask me the name of the restaurant – I am a ‘banana’ and therefore cannot read nor write chinese. I pointed at the restaurant with the oiliest, hottest looking hotpot and said “THIS ONE!”
So here we are, the Hotpot restaurant. The Chinese call it the Szechuan Hotpot. The Taiwanese call it the Taiwanese Hotpot. Different countries have their own version of what they stick into this hotpot but it is essentially the same thing.
Well, not unlike the Chili Crab you know? Many South East Asian countries have it, but we all know its Malaysian 😛 (joking only ar.. don’t go throwing a hissy fit ar.. )
In Taiwan it is now more common to see “mini hot pot” restaurants, where each diner has his or her own pot, rather than the more traditional family-style hot pots, where the group shares one hot pot.
Well, this one I picked..? it was a traditional family styled hot pot.
As I was traveling with a big group, we also had the mammoth task of finding halal food as there were Muslims in our group.. Finding halal food in Taipei is like trying to find a virgin in Wales. Literally impossible.
So clever me, settled for the next best thing… seafood. One table – all the pork and forbidden bits you can find on God’s good earth. The other table – plain seafood.
That settled that. Everyone was happy.
The first photo was sliced beef. The second photo was a slurry of prawn and flavoured dough. You roll em into balls (with your bare hands… yarks) and then you chuck em in the boiling soup.. and up floats a prawn ball. Ingenious.
Incidentally, I found the beef so much tastier here than the pork. While the pork was gamy and a little too strong tasting, the beef was exquisite. Not quite wagyu, but with a close enough, melt in your mouth texture. Extremely satisfying.
There are often disagreements between different styles of hot pot enthusiasts. Some like to place items into the hot pot at a relaxed, leisurely pace, enjoying the cooking process… i.e. slow pokes…
whilst others prefer to throw everything in at once and wait for the hotpot to return to a boil.. i.e. impatient hungry ghosts.. like the kid at our table who kept chucking in the spare-parts till his father had to remove the tongs from his tiny, chubby grasp. So funny.
Anyway, this photo above .. this is the ying and the yang hotpot.
If you think the oil in this hotpot is gross, check out the hunks of blood that lurk beneath the surface of the soup. Duck blood. I was told that ducks bleed a hell of a lot. Yup. Like a tap.
Also, duck tongue. I got acquainted with duck tongue. Smellier, and somewhat like a poor man’s version of Ox tongue, I think I ate too much of this.
Also the blood. I ate way too much of the blood. Duck’s blood is smoother, silkier, sweeter and more addictive than regular pigs blood. (This is where my readers will start to think they don’t want to have anything to do with Ciki anymore.. including my husband.. but then he already knew my strange eating habits when he married me.. so .. no excuse! haha)
Spicy, numbing and bloody are words to describe this wonder pot.
Anyway, when partaking in the hotpot, a few things should be kept in mind to prevent E. coli or Salmonella poisoning. After handling raw meat with chopsticks is most likely that you will get the chopsticks contaminated, if you forget to dip the chopsticks in the boiling broth after you pick up raw food, to kill any remaining microbes. It is important to note that these are just preventative measures and there is always a risk of food poisoning when handling or eating around raw food… not to mention the cathartic factor that is the CHILI OIL!
Anyway after partaking in this lovely, oily, animal innard laden meal, yours truly was the poor victim, on this occasion, off..
24hours of diarrhoea and vomiting!
CHUNDER baby chunder..!
photo from here
Someone asked me.. erm.. ARE YOU NOT SCARED OF INGESTING that blood?
I said NO! , and shoved one huge chunk of glistening, coagulated blood into my mouth for good measure.
That’s why I said that pride comes before a fall.
But that, my friends, is another story all together.. so I will not bore you with tales and photos of me romancing the throne.
Back to Taipei.
After the dinner .. we traipsed along to 101… to see the world famous structure that beat the Twin Towers flat by just a couple of floors. Honestly , it’s just a couple of floors. I mean, if the earth moved or anything and 101 just sank by a bit? ..then.. who knows?
Anyway, as of Sept 2008, standing at 2684 ft, Burj Dubai has officially become the tallest man-made thing ever.
(read about that here)
So bloody expensive! For 20 persons I had to spend RM740 bucks ok?
In the words of LL or FBB,
“Chis! The view better be worth it.”
Isn’t that great? After dinner, you can just stroll over to the building and see the city lights from the top of the world. Smashing.
The scary thing about this tower is that it could be subjected to earthquakes, typhoons and fierce wind all posing as major threats to the rigidity of the building. The remedy for these potential seismic and atmospheric assaults is this 730-ton tuned mass damper (TMD).
It acts like a giant pendulum to counteract the building’s movement–reducing sway due to wind by 30 to 40 percent! Constructed by specialty engineering firm, the damper was too heavy to be lifted by crane and had to be assembled on-site. Eight steel cables form a sling to support the ball, while eight viscous dampers act like shock absorbers when the sphere shifts. T Taipei TMD is the world’s largest and heaviest and it looks like a giant golden ball/egg! This golden orb is suspended between the 88th and 92nd floor. A bumper ring prevents the ball from swaying too far, should that much swaying ever need to occur.
Here is the damper is its full, golden glory.
By the time we got back to the lovely Shang and hit the sack it was well past midnight.
Tomorrow is another day.
Yells our tour guide Daniel, in a grating American accent.
Yawn.. g’morn.. we mumble back.
Lovely. Just what I prayed for.
The total area of the cape is about 4 to 5 km wide, whose tall abrasion caves and platforms and other eroded landforms are clearly in sight on the cape’s hanging cliff. With an elevation of about 120m, the famous Bitou Cape Lighthouse is at the end of the trial along which there are endless scenes from the ocean and eroded landforms. Standing in the lighthouse, waves from the East China Sea and the Pacific are crashing up against each other.
Incidentally.. another corny joke ala FBB.. what did one ocean say to the other?
Nothing. They just waved.
Can you see the nose? can you? huh.. can you?
(yea, if I used my imagination any more, I’d probably see Mona Lisa)
Well, our group being predominantly Chinese and all, turned our attention away from the red faced Daniel, and were more taken with the Mat Salleh nose just further along the cliff.
Nicer and more esthetically pleasing to the eye, don’t you think?
Taiwanese are obsessed with fishing. You find them on every cliff. Do not let the still photo fool you. The wind is howling and approaching gale like proportions, but still, they fish.
Here it is!
The patterned stone topography of Nanya, unique in Taiwan, was formed through the weathering of the sandstone that lines the shore. The oxidation of iron ore within the striations of the stone has given it a beautiful striped pattern.
Daniel says this one is called the ‘Ice Cream’. We are convinced that Daniel is mad.
All of a sudden, the weather prediction comes true and we all RUN to the coach.. and shelter from the rain and gale.
This place is so bizarre. From the bus, it looks like autumn in London , but the wind outside is HOT like the wind you get from the back-draft of the LRT tunnel. Horrible!
Before the roads on land were built, all materials were transported via ships. Thus a habit was formed that nine pieces of same object were purchased at one time for reservation. Hence, the place was called Jioufen. Jioufen used to the center of gold mining.
It seems that the prosperous old streets, buildings, mines and the glamorous gold digging days are now a thing of the past. Now, the popular thing about this place is the unique teahouses in Jioufen. Many tourists and locals like to linger and spend time at the tea-houses.
Also, there is the beautiful ocean view of the Keelung outer sea.
Apparently, if one is backpacking, Jioufen has many places of accommodation, provided by local residents. If you are a solitary backpacker, you will be happy that the prices are reasonable & that you can pick a nice inn and stay for the night, with relative ease.
The most prosperous shopping district here is Jinshan Street. It goes through most of the village and this is where we stopped to look for some food.
Anyway Jioufen is full of fun and delights. .sights and smells. Look at the poor little one .. That reaction you see on her cute, chubby face, is due to the legendary CHOW TAUFU! (Smelly beancurd).
The pong can bring a grown man to his knees.
The smelly beancurd. I wonder if this woman goes home to her man every night, smelling as she does. I wonder if they share the Toufu for dinner every night.
Don’t look too closely though, because you will notice people DOUBLE spearing their food.
As in, ‘pick up food – shove in mouth – pick up food (same tooth pick)-shove in mouth.‘
You can sing the same tune substituting balls for the word Blood, Innards or “Weird unidentifiable objects”..
A lot of food on sticks, to be sure.
Anyway being really kiasu and all, I asked Daniel if he could drop us off at the Shilin Night market on the way home, rather than go straight back to the Shang… because well, because we just had to maximize the day, and no Taipei trip would be complete without seeing the largest night market in Taipei!
So here we are. The Shilin Night market.
Part flea market, part carnival, part food court, part Petaling Street (yes, illegal branded stuff is floating around too) , this is THE place for night vendors to set up their booths along a street and sell from about 4:30 PM until about 1 AM. All Taiwanese towns and cities have night markets and like I said, the most famous and largest is Taipei’s Shilin Night Market.
OMG! what is that smell.. again?
The smell of the smelly toufu just keeps following you around. There is no shaking it. Also you can buy anything here to eat from exotic aphrodisiacs to stinky squids and black sausages that remind me of the Scottish Haggis. Really bizarre and really rather gross.
Anyway cheaper does not always mean better and we found the clothes to be of lower quality than some stuff you can get at Sungai Wang. As such, we did not spend any money here.. except for the food on sticks. The non-stinky ones.
After walking around and not buying anything, and feeling hungry, someone(posh) suggested we go back to the 101 for dinner.
They spotted some nice restaurants there.
OK, good idea.. said me.. because I was also getting tired of the packed, congested and smelly market.
We pack into a cab… and flea the flea market;)
Page One, a big bookstore which has the largest number of English-language titles in Taiwan, is where we hung-out a lot. Jason’s Market Place is famous for premium beef, international grocery items, and premium wines. We ended up buying a couple of French wines for group consumption!
This restaurant’s slogan is “We have food and liquor, but you need to bring your own women!” Apparently the food is pretty decent and includes 18 cold dish appetizers, great pastas, plus steak and lamb chops that come with a choice of eight different sauces!
We ate tons for dinner but I will only highlight the impressionable ones we had.
Oxtail … with all the fat and cartilage intact.
The smoothness of the fat and the chewiness of the cartilage was exquisite.
Wow, they really went ballistic with their truffle. All that black stuff on top was crushed truffle.. and the steak was swimming in a cream truffle based sauce.
Finally a seafood lobster pasta which I did not get a photo of, priced at RM200! (yikes.. the most expensive pasta I have had to date). Also delicious and well worth mentioning.
All in all, a lovely, memorable dinner.
That concludes my Taipei trip. I know its not a regular Taiwan post that some might have been expecting but considering the number of people I had in tow, I think I did pretty well as faux ‘tour guide!’.
Next time I come to Taipei, it will be backpacker style, for sure;)
Live by this rule – “Do not double spear your food!”