Taiwan (May 2016)
“Why Taiwan?” – this was a question we heard several times over the course of our two week stay there. Taiwan gets a lot of business visitors, but it’s not on many people’s radar as a tourist destination, especially for Westerners. Kevin went there with a friend for ten days in 2014, and enjoyed it so much that he wanted to go back during our trip. It’s a small, modern state with good food, night markets, and a surprising amount of nature – half of the country is made up of mountains and forest. After spending over three months in Southeast Asia, things were getting a little too hot for us, so it was time to head north.
We started out in Kaohsiung, a port city at the south end of the high speed rail that runs the length of the island. Kaohsiung is off the beaten path as far as tourists are concerned. This was evident by the lack of Westerners we encountered – we could count them all on one hand, and we saw nearly all of them on one visit to a TGI Fridays (we were in a jam and needed a quick lunch…worst decision ever). Kaohsiung is a pretty laid back town with not much to see, but the people were very friendly and we found plenty to do to occupy our time. We rode one gear bikes around the city one day, eventually boarding a ferry to go to Cijin Island for fresh seafood and watermelon juice. We went on an all-day quest to find a head shaver for Kevin. We went to the local night market and tried lots of food. We then burned off those calories by hiking monkey mountain, where we inevitably encountered a few monkeys. Then we hightailed it back up to Taipei for a little more excitement.
Taipei is the biggest city in Taiwan, and there’s enough to see, do, and eat to keep you busy for weeks. The weather conditions were all over the place, so we just went with the flow and did whatever made the most sense each day. The first few days were sunny and spring-like. We took advantage of this and headed out to the countryside to do some hiking. To do this we had to navigate the train system, which was no easy feat – most of the information was in Chinese. The hikes ended up being our favorite activity in Taiwan. They weren’t the highest or most challenging, but they were beautiful, and there was something special about that area. We also met some awesome Taiwanese people along the way.
The other days in Taipei were cool and rainy, which we happily embraced! We spent some time throwing ideas around for the final stops of our trip. In between planning, we’d take a break to traverse the MRT to a random neighborhood across the city just to try some local foods. Every trip was an experience in that we’d get to see a different part of Taipei. Our favorite discovery was the Addiction Aquatic Development seafood market. If you ever wanted to walk into a room, point at a living crab or lobster and say “that one” – this is the place!
A trip to Taipei wouldn’t be complete without a visit to Din Tai Fung, a Michelin star restaurant known for Xiaolongbao. What the heck is that? It’s a small dumpling, usually stuffed with meat and some gelatinous stock that when steamed turns into a yummy, soupy broth. It can also be described as heaven stuffed in a little round ball of dough. We only made it to this restaurant twice – we say only because on our second visit, we wondered why we even bothered to eat anywhere else.
And it wouldn’t be right for us to eat so many dumplings without attempting to make some ourselves. We spent our last day in Taipei in a cooking class, learning how to make dumplings. The whole process was much easier than we ever would have imagined. Get ready for dumpling dinner parties!
Some time in Taiwan was just what we needed. First-world comforts combined with food, relaxation, and nature has us refreshed and recharged for what lies ahead. Here are a few of our favorite pictures. Enjoy!