Day 1 in Taiwan was all about slow and easy, to let our body wake up slowly to the rhythm and pulse of the Taipei city. We needed that slowmo motion because of our ungodly hour flight, leaving BangkokDon Mueang at 00:20 and landing into Taoyuan International Airport at 05:10. That NokScoot flight delivered thousands of sleep-deprived zombies from the Land of Smiles, to another Land of Smiles. But why is the Taiwan Immigration Officer so grouchy? I was greeted with a not-so-pleasant Immigration Officer during Immigration clearance. The memories of nice Taiwaneses from my maiden visit 8 years ago, gone with the grouchy-wind.
Our day was spent (eating) mostly at Ximending, the “Harajuku of Taipei” since that’s where we stay. But, we did make our way to the Taipei Main Station to familiarize ourselves with the big, bad Taipei Main Station maze.
Bangkok Don Mueang International Airport (by NokScoot) → Taipei Taoyuan International Airport → Ximending (by CitiAir Bus 1960) → Taipei Main Station / HSR Station → Ximending
At Taoyuan International Airport
After we collected our baggage, we excitedly went to check the “hidden” complimentary shower room. Yeah, a free shower room is located close to Baggage Reclaim Area 3 at Terminal 1. Shower gel and shampoo are provided, just need to bring your own towel.
Getting to Ximending
As I have arranged for early check-in with Kashiwa, our Airbnb host, off we go to Ximending, our accommodation for the night. Read more about our superb accommodation here.
I was planning to take Kuo Kuong (國光客運) bus #1819 to Taipei Main Station, and continue via MRT to Ximen (西門) station. Kashiwa said, “Try not to take buses to “Taipei main station” of Taipei city. It’s big and complicated, like a maze, for real. Even people who live in Taipei will get lost easily in Taipei main station. Well we won’t stop your adventure in Taipei main station, and you will find your way out of it some day anyway. But just maybe not on the first day you arrive with all the heavy luggage.”
So, the alternative options are approximately 30 minutes bus journey to MRT Zhongxiao Fuxing (忠孝復興) via:
- Bus 1960 of “CitiAir Bus” (NT$145): frequency every 30 minutes – ticketing counter #3, pick up point Pillar #10
- Bus 5502 of “FreeGo Bus” (NT$140): frequency every 1 hour – ticketing counter #4, pick up point Pillar #9
We ended up taking Bus 1960 of “CitiAir Bus” (NT$145) since it is the bus with the quickest departure time.
At MRT Zhongxiao Fuxing, bf got EasyCard for us – NT$ 100 deposit, and an initial NT$ 400 value for each of us. The full value of this deposit will be refunded minus a handling charge of NT$ 20 . This charge will be waived if the card has been used five times or more and has been held for more than three months. The EasyCard gives us 20% discount on each trip on the Metro. There is also a Transfer discount – passengers using an Adult EasyCard to transfer from metro to bus or vice versa within one hour will receive an NT$ 8 discount.
From there, we got the blue line, aka the Bannan Line heading to Dingpu (頂埔) destination station, and Ximen is just 3 stations away from Zhongxiao Fuxing station. The MRT ride took approx. 8 minutes, NT$ 16 with EasyCard vs. NT$ 20 single-journey ticket.
Ximending in the morning, in the afternoon, and in the evening – taking it all in sans a plan.
After catching up on our much-needed sleep, we woke up without any plan in hand. So, we decided to walk around Ximending, our neighborhood.
And that continued in the evening, after we collected our tickets at Taipei HSR Station. The energy and vibes at Ximending change in the evening – more lively and definitely more crowded.
Blow torch beef cubes – NT$ 200. A must-eat in bf’s list, and that was our first purchase. While the beef itself is pretty good, we didn’t like the chili powder much. This stall only has one size, but we found some stalls have a smaller NT$ 100 portion, and also NT$300 portion.
Ay-Chung Mian Xian (阿宗面线) – NT$ 65, large
No. 8~1 Emei St., Taipei (East XMD Pedestrian Area) 台北市峨嵋街8號之1 (Xi Men Ding)
Mon-Thurs 11AM-10:30PM, Fri-Sun 11AM-11PM
This has gotta be one of the most-mentioned mian xian shops … but it was just alright for me. Perhaps I am too used to the taste of Shihlin mian xian in Malaysia.
Jumbo Ice Cream – NT$ 30, small.
Fong Da Coffee (蜂大咖啡) – Iced Coffee NT$ 85, Espresso Macchiato NT$ 80, Americano NT$ 85
No. 42, Chéngdū Road, Wanhua District Taipei City, Taiwan 108 台北市萬華區成都路42號
Mon-Thurs 11AM-10:30PM, Fri-Sun 11AM-11PM
Looking for a coffee place, we found Fong Da Coffee, an old Taipei institution – they do serve good coffee indeed. We also found that the coffee shop located right next to them to be equally packed.
Niou Dien Beef Noodles (牛店牛肉) – NT$ 180, Small
No. 91, Kunming Street, Wanhua District, Taipei City, Taiwan 108
Tue-Sun 11:30AM–2PM, 4:30–8:30PM
We were spoiled for “beef noodle” choices in Taipei. We chose Niou Dien because it is the closest to our accommodation, and oh my, it was a brilliant decision. Write down your name on a board just outside the restaurant, for that’s the queue system here. Helpful staff but I had to use my broken Mandarin. We ordered a bowl of dry and soup beef noodle – and both of us prefer the dry version. The medium-spicy level was not spicy at all.
Chengdu Starfruit Juice Shop (成都楊桃冰) – NT$ 30 Starfruit juice, NT$40 pineapple slice
No. 3, Chengdu Rd., Wanhua District, Ximending, Taipei city
Only Chinese menu is available, and I had to ask locals for help …I was told that pineapple is pronounced as “fang ley” … not “wang ley”? Using my broken Mandarin, I ended up with pineapple slices instead of pineapple juice .. The starfruit juice is plum-ish, and got our thumbs up.
Spring onion pancake – NT$25?
We were lucky that we managed to get our spring onion pancake. Not long after that, the street peddlers were all moving away. There were some customers still waiting for their pancakes … what else lah? Police ..
There are other popular places which we didn’t try:
Tian Tian Li (天天利美食坊)
No. 4, Hanzhong St., Wan-Hua District (Ximending), Taipei City
Famous for Braised pork rice / Lu Rou Fan (魯肉飯) and Meatball Soup at Tian Tian Li (天天利美食坊).
Snow King Ice Cream (雪王冰淇淋)
No. 65 Wuchang St, Section 1, Zhongzheng District, Taipei, Taiwan
Daily 12PM – 8PM
Snow King has interesting flavors like pork floss and pork knuckles!
Ximending Historical Sites
As Ximending has few historical sites, we also visited them … can’t be eating the whole day, right?
Mazu Temple – built during Japanese rule, located across from Fong Da Coffee.
Red House Theatre, originally opened as a market, is another prominent building from the Japanese era.
Nishi Hongaji Square / Eighty-Eightea Rinbansyo (八拾捌茶輪番所 Rinbansyo)
As though we are in Japan, instead of Taiwan. They are located just across from our Airbnb apartment.
Taipei Main Station – HSR Station
We were warned that Taipei Main Station is huge, like a maze … We’ve earlier booked our ticket to Taichung online here, to take advantage of Early Bird Discount: NT$ 630 reserved seat after 10% discount As we’ll leave early on the very next day, we decided to collect our ticket and familiarize ourselves with Taipei Main Station. Well, if you have been to Hong Kong – it’s akin to Hong Kong’s Central Station; don’t sweat it. Directional signage is clear, not that difficult.
We were asked to provide the (local) telephone number used for booking. Yes, a local telephone number is prerequisite … So, I sort of cheated by using our Taipei Airbnb host’ phone number. Oops. Alternatively, give the passport number used for verification purpose. We were asked to double check on booking details on screen … but it’s all in Chinese! I sheepishly told the staff that we can’t read Chinese.
Stay tuned for Day 2 …