18th to 21st OctoberHaving a Friday off work for the Chung Yeung Festival Naomi and I packed our bags and headed across the Taiwan Strait for a weekend in Taipei. Highlights from our time exploring Taiwan's fun capital included: climbing Taipei 101 the World's tallest building, a long run along the Keelung River, an afternoon walking around the Yangmingshan National Park, the spectacular art in the National Palace Museum and of course some great food.
Anyone who has travelled anywhere with me will know that acquiring a decent coffee is very much a priority early on any day's schedule. Taiwan's coffee scene initially appeared to be dominated by the usual ugly international franchises, but after a bit of early site seeing we stumbled into the Wanhua District where we found a proliferation of small independent cafes and coffee roasters. Mika Coffee was more than up to scratch with their excellent coffee, good cakes and super service from the friendly bloke who was very busy charming the World.
When I discussed our trip to Taipei with mates they all said "night markets ... you'll love the night markets ... blah blah blah night markets blah blah". It didn't take long to concede that the night markets were definitely worth the hype.
Shilin Night Market
This huge area in the Shilin District, north of the city, is superb and we ended up here several times. A large covered area bursting with semi-permanent food stalls acts as the culinary centre of Shilin Market; elbowing your way through the surrounding streets there are numerous hawkers, tiny fashion shops, carnival sideshows and of course more food stalls. We had several meals here including: a feast were dinners sat around and ate off a huge communal grill, tasty noodles and fried rice for a breakfast, great fresh shakes and bubble teas, a peanut flavoured crushed ice dessert and a seriously delicious, gigantic slab of fried chicken. Shilin Night Market is alive; a vibrant, exciting place packed with locals it is definitely worth a visit.
Situated near the Longshan Temple is the famous Snake Alley night market. In contrast to the bustling activity of the Shilin Night Market this place was devoid of locals and the domain of lost looking, straggling tourists. Snake Alley's main attraction is the snake restaurants, but personally seeing pythons stuffed into to tiny cages and snakes being publicly butchered isn't really my idea of fun. Everything about place is dodgy; terrible stalls, average food and nothing of interest make Snake Alley a tourist trap that is definitely worth avoiding.
Shuangcheng Food Street
We stumbled upon this little area returning to our hotel on Saturday night. Despite being stuffed we were tempted by the prospect of more tasty snacks; a large sugar cane juice and a serve of dumplings were a perfect late night snack. The dumplings were superb and were freshly made in front of us. Shuangcheng Food Street had a great local atmosphere; the people around us gossiped and snacked on their way home from work.
Taipei was great fun as both a holiday destination place to snack. Perhaps my only hesitation was that we were constantly tempted by the snack food and as a result we never actually sat down to experience a restaurant meal, oh well next time ...