Day 1: Central Taipei
After a wonderful business class flight with EVA Air, I landed in Taipei. I waited for my parents in the arrivals hall as their flight landed about 15mins after mine. We took the Taoyuan Airport MRT to Taipei Station then transferred to the local metro before arriving at Taipei Garden Hotel. Unfortunately, we were way too early to check in so we dropped off our bags and headed out. We called an Uber for our first destination which was the original Din Tai Fung location on Xinyi Road. We arrived just before opening at 9am, so we didn’t have to wait in line. About 10mins later, the restaurant was full so it was a good thing we were early.
The original location has a small footprint but spans several floors. The first thing that struck me was how cheap all the items were compared to the Din Tai Fung in Seattle. Almost everything was around half the price, so we ordered pretty liberally. The menu was similar to the US version, but had a few more additions. The waitress also came around with several appetizers, including these spicy green beans. While it was a cold dish, it was delicious and even better than the green beans we normally order in the US. We also got the classics like Pork XLB, Spicy Shrimp Wontons, Pork Chop Fried Rice, and Beef Noodle Soup. Overall the taste was similar, if slightly better since it was a bit less salty than the US version.
After breakfast, we walked over to the nearby Chiang Kai Shek Memorial Hall. It was a large complex of parks, squares, and historic buildings commemorating the founder of Taiwan. The outer parks were very nice to walk through and the memorial hall itself was very impressive. We went to the museum on the first floor which gave a brief history of CKS, China, and Taiwan. Then at 11am, we went up to the fourth floor where the signature changing of the guard ceremony was taking place. The two guards were standing like statues and the ceremony was executed with military precision. Coming out of the memorial hall, we walked through the main square and then headed down to the subway.
My dad wanted to see the presidential offices so we took the train a couple stops to Ximen Station. It was a short walk through the government district to the presidential office. While it was closed, it had a heavy security presence as it was preparing for a concert that was taking place later in the week. Next, we went to the Ximending district for lunch. This was a lively shopping and dining area, with lots of young people and a nice atmosphere from the Jay Chou music playing from the speakers.
We ate lunch at this local joint with a long line, which meant it had to be good. We ordered some Taiwan classics like braised pork rice, oyster omelette, wonton soup, and some veggies. The food was very tasty and cheap but it was very crowded and not the best in terms of hygiene. For dessert, they were handing out free popsicles in the shopping area which was pretty nice. As we continued walking, we saw a bunch of people eating the famous giant fried chicken steak. We couldn’t resist so we got in line. It was huge for the $2 price tag and we loved it.
At this point it was around our check-in time, so we walked back to our hotel. The room was nice, with one king bed and one twin bed – designed for 3 people. This configuration was pretty unique and one of the main reasons I didn’t book the usual Marriott or Hilton chain hotel.
We rested for a few hours after a long red eye flight and day of exploring. By around 7pm, we got up and headed out to our last stop of the day: Raohe Night Market. There was a direct subway link from our hotel so it was very convenient. Raohe is one of the largest and most famous night markets in Taipei. There was an endless array of food stands which all looked really good. We had some stinky tofu (in both fried and soup form), sea snail skewers, fried sweet potato balls, peanut ice cream wraps, black pepper pork pancake, and fried pork buns. My favourite item was the sausage wrapped in sausage. This was a classic Taiwanese sausage wrapped with garlic and sauce in sticky rice. All in all, the food was delicious and a great way to wrap up our first day in Taiwan.