Did you know that some Taiwanese call themselves the 'children of the Sweet Potato'? Taiwan is shaped like one. I would personally love to be the child of a sweet potato. I guess that's why I found myself in Taiwan.
When planning my trip, Taiwan was one of the original countries it was planned around. Not a well-known country, but all my friends who'd ever visited praised it no end - my friend Patricia describing it as the best of Vietnam added to the best of a more developed country. So, I booked a nice four-full-days-stint at the highly acclaimed Meander Hostel, Taipei. (I warmly recommend it, btw, pleasant and sociable and has everything you need, and very easy to meet other travellers at their breakfast!)
|Photo shoot in the old streets|
So, what is Taiwan known for? Stunning scenery, good food and friendly people was what I was expecting. Also a fair level of development, as it experienced a post-war 'miraculous' growth in the second half of the 20th century and is today one of the prominent 'Four Asian Tigers' (concerning rapid industrialisation) in the company of Singapore, Hong Kong and South Korea.
Despite still having a high population of mopeds and scooters, Taipei, the capital, has one of the most efficient metro systems in the world, which you can navigate with the easy-to-use local public transport card, Easycard (I was slightly disappointed it wasn't called 'Squid' or 'Pufferfish', since it seemed that sea creatures was the go-to-theme when metro card people considered names for them – there's the Oyster Card in London, obviously, and in Hong Kong it was the Octopus Card.).
|#squadgoals in Taipei metro|
One of my favourite things in Taiwan, however, was all its culinary delights. Firstly, it is home to My True Love, bubble milk tea.
Secondly, Taiwan also has an amazing street food business going on, to be seen notably in its numerous night markets.
In my travel journal I made a special two pages about Taiwanese food (largely thanks to the awesome stickers I found of them).
I love markets, and in Taiwan most of my meals constituted of random bits and pieces bought from various stalls, night markets and elsewise.
Significant Taiwanese foods include (and their ratings in 1-5 stars)...
- Sausages filled with sticky rice. Rating: ****
- Stinky tofu, the famous Taiwanese fermented tofu whose smell is best described as one you would imagine coming from a potion made out of strongly scented old socks. (Also, my brother's nickname is Tofu... Providing me with a new handy batch of witty comments. :) ) I was gonna try it... But I didn't. My friend said it was really good though. Rating: N/A
- Seafood on sticks. I wasn't gonna try, and I didn't. But for seafood-lovers it was pretty good. Rating: N/A
- Sweet little gems with sweet stuff (usually red bean mush or green tea mush) inside. Rating: ***
- Steamed sweet buns with a sweet interior. You could choose a pig, a chick or a something else. They were so cute that I had to ask T to halve the sad pig face for me so that I didn't have to perform the killing act myself. Rating: *****
- Steamed pork buns. Same as above, but savoury with a pork filling. Rating: ******* (aka AMAZING)
- Un-steamed pork buns. The best ones we waited for for about ten minutes when the members of this family-run stall made them in front of you. Rating: ****** (aka AMAZING)
|Dunno why I have no pic of the bun itself!! But here is the family preparing them|
- Pineapple cake (traditional Taiwan style). I was well impressed with this one - pineapple in any other form except fresh is not usually my favourite thing to eat... But this was good. Each (numerous) sample I had. Rating: ****½
- I don't even remember what these are... Reddy sugary coated somethings. Looked about 130% too sweet for me. And I am not one to shy away from sugar. Make for a good photo though. Rating: N/A
- Fruit tasters. Especially at Shillin night market, the most famous and most touristy, we were recommended not to buy fruit coz it was exorbitantly priced, but luckily the keen seller ladies were very eager to give out generously sized tasters on sticks. I refound my love for custard apples, most definitely... (Tho, interestingly, white-insided dragon fruit doesn't seem to be a thing in Taiwan! They only had the more photogenic, but substantially less scrumptious dark pink version...) Rating: ***** (custard apples)
- Tea-marinated eggs. Yes. I was sort of reassured to hear what they were after a few days of mentally slightly gagging every time I passed them at various corners or convenience stores - I was imagining a Taiwanese equivalent of Vietnamese hot vit lon (fertilised duck egg) swimming in, er, I dunno? Womb juice?? Ok, sorry. But it wasn't anything (seriously) dodgy, just a few harmless boiled eggs swimming in tea, basically the staples of a British breakfast rolled into one, right? Anyways, my half-Chinese friend L managed to persuade me to try one, and, well, it wasn't bad. Not sure it was the best thing in the world either, though. Rating: ***½
|Nothing wrong with a bit of tea|
- The “Best Breakfast Ever” (BBE) (not strictly speaking a food stall, but part of a food court... but Taiwanese food anyways) This is a general label for it, not my personal opinion. All I know is that the queue had epic proportions - we were told it'd be an hour, but it ended up only twenty minutes. L ordered all their 'most popular foods' for us. Well, it ended up being nice, but nothing crazy impressive, imho. But, well, clearly a cultural experience! Rating: ***
|Ordering the soya soupy stuff with breadie things|
|It came along with fried bread things filled with omelette, and various filled buns|
|The food area was crowded|
Our night market highlight, however, was my first ever celebrity selfie! :D No idea what this Taiwanese dude's name was, but he arrived, with a charismatic girl, escorted by numerous video cameras and surrounded by giggly teenagers and curious families. Later we saw him on some foody advert and on TV, so we guessed he was a celeb chef or something. He was very confused when we requested a selfie, but was a good sport about it!
|Photo taker is our famous pal - others are my awesome hostel friends T & J|
So that was the introductionary and esculent (new word of the day, 'fit to be eaten') bit of Taiwan.
Some tasters of future Taiwan entries...
|The sights of Jiufen|
|My bamboo-munching pal|