It was an unremarkable journey back to the Baiyun Airport in Guangzhou. We easily collected our stored bag and was in the air again for a quick 2-hour flight over to Taipei.
Onwards to Taipei
This was our first time in Taipei so we were both very excited. No visa is required to enter Taiwan with our Canadian passports. My ability to speak some Mandarin was once again handy here.
Now it’s time to decide what to do with our extra bag. We had researched baggage storage options (locker vs. stored for “bonded baggage”) and we felt the “bonded baggage” option made the most sense for us. This was the relatively economical and hassle-free option. The key is not to exit the luggage claim area.
- First, go to customs to ask for a form for bonded luggage.
- They will then scan the bag and complete the form.
- Bring the bag, the customs form and 200 TWD (~$8.60 CAD) to the bonded baggage counter by the carousels.
- We were then asked if we wanted to check in the luggage or carrying it on. I said check-in and they told me to give the tag to the agent at the check-in counter on our return flight and our bag will magically be delivered to our next flight!
We then head out of the customs area and purchased some “Easy Cards”, which are the equivalents to the Suica Cards of Tokyo or Yangchengtong cards of Guangzhou. It costs 500 TWD (~$20) per card. 100 TWD (~$4) is for the deposit and the rest is credit towards your public transportation. This can be used on the MRT from the Taoyuan Airport to Taipei as well as on the metro system and buses in Taipei. The train ride from the airport to Taipei Main Station is only 36 minutes. The MRT is pretty nice with plenty of space of luggage storage. From the Taipei Main Station, we took a bus to our hotel.
Taipei Bus Fun
The buses here are interesting. You could board from the front or back doors. There is a sign to say whether you pay when you board or when you get off the bus. The announcements are in Mandarin, 2 other dialects which I later found out were Taiwanese Hokkien and Hakka, as well as English. Neat! There are buttons you can press when your stop is coming up, which we did as we entered the heart of Ximending.
Cho Hotel: a Cute Boutique Hotel in the heart of Ximending
We got off and drag our luggages through the busy streets of Ximending as our senses are bombarded with people, merchandise, and delicious food. I could not wait to explore Taipei! We were surprised that they had multidirectional intersections just like Tokyo (e.g. Shibuya Crossing). We located our hotel, Cho Hotel, quite easily. As we were checking-in, it occurred to me that I really enjoy these cute boutique hotels. The service was very friendly and the staff communicated perfectly in English. The personal touches to this hotel is adorable. We were given a welcome package, which included our key card, a few printed coupons to the Cho Cafe next door as well as another nearby Shabu Shabu restaurant, a blank puzzle piece for us to draw on so they could display it around the hotel along with artwork from other guests, a bookmark and the case itself can be used as postcards, which they can mail out for you for free! Our hotel room was in the building next door with excellent security, requiring key cards for everything. We were upgraded to a room with some privacy located at the very end of the hall where there appears to be a resident cat on the porch. One of the reasons we were attracted to this hotel was because there was a resident shiba inu who sometimes hang around the hotel. If we were lucky, we would be able to meet him this time. (Spoiler alert: We didn’t 😢.) After a quick shower, we checked out the 2nd floor social lounge where they had various drinks and snacks (including instant noodles) and a large sitting area. Cool!
We were getting hungry, so it was time to get some food! Aaron wanted to get some beef noodles but many of the places he wanted to go to are closed by now. (Maybe this is more of a lunch thing?). We did walk by a mom and pops restaurant called 三代肉羹滷肉饭, which appeared really busy and full of locals. I always took this to be a good sign, so we agreed to stop here for our first meal. I ordered two bowls of 滷肉飯 (Lu Rou Fan or braised pork on rice) and wanted to call it a day but she asked if I wanted some soup too, so I said why not. In no time, we were presented with two bowls of rice with meat on top as well as bowl of a thick stew. The sauce was really good but I wish there was more meat! My favourite part of the meal was stew. It was so comforting, warm, fully-loaded with meat and fish and lots of umami.
After that lovely simple meal, we walked around the streets of Ximendeng, checking out that various stores and food stalls. We stopped at 50嵐 for our first bubble tea in Taiwan (the birthplace of bubble tea). I just had the original bubble milk tea and Aaron had the oolong tea ice cream float. I was in love with the taste of the boba/tapioca/bubbles. I usually forgo the bubbles in Canada but this is too good not to include in my milk tea drink. Aaron’s ice-cream float was also good but I preferred my simple drink more.
Drinks @ Mikkeller
We then decided to grab a few drinks at Mikkeller Bar, a Danish brewery with a location in Taipei. The decor is very hipster with its signature cartoon characters found throughout. The prices here are not cheap but it had quite a nice ambience and a good beer selection. We tried a few before deciding on some local brews: their Taiwanese Dream, a pilsner and their White Dew New Taiwan IPA. Aaron also had their Spontanyuzu which is a sour.
Night Market Time!
After that pit stop, it was night market time! Our night market of choice tonight was Ningxia Night Market. This a smaller night market but apparently one that food-focused, so that’s right down our alley. It was around 8pm by the time we arrived and it was very busy. The single lane of food stalls was crowded. We inched our way through the crowd wide-eyed as we browsed through all the various street food options. We started off with the deep fried quail eggs, which were little balls of goodness. Can’t go wrong with deep fried anything. These were much better than those sad cold eggs we had in Thailand.
Next, we sat down for the popular vermicelli rolls. These rolls had vermicelli, egg, beansprouts and mushrooms all encased in a crepe-like casing. It was so freshly fried and hot off the pan. It was also nice that this stall had tables sit down to eat compared to most of the other stalls where you would just have to stand off to the side and eat.
Then, we lined up for the famous taro balls – one original one and one with the egg yolk. There was a long line but it moved quickly. While in line, Aaron had purchased some fried chicken pieces, which was the probably some of the most tasty fried chicken I’ve ever had. The taro balls were definitely worth the wait as I’ve never had anything like it. They were definitely fresh – crispy on the outside and creamy on the inside. We both prefer the original one more over the egg yolk version.
For dessert, we ended with the peanut ice-cream rolls. We were offered cilantro but politely declined as the idea seemed strange. Apparently that’s how it should’ve been eaten but I don’t know… I’m just not a fan of cilantro, especially not in my dessert. The ice-cream roll itself was amazing as it is. The soft crepe with the crunchy ground peanuts along with ice-cream is the perfect way to end our night.