Afternoon in Tamsui

A weekend activity for Taipei residents may include a trip to Tamsui, a river town north of the city. Out here you’re free of the city congestion and given a view of the river that cuts through the city. And during late evening, you’re presented with a beautiful view of the sunset. I figure that’s what most of the locals are here for, in addition to the eating. That’s not to say this wasn’t a touristy town. It was and you’ll be able to pick them out from the crowds. Though I think less than the Shilin night market crowd. But you’ll get over that exploring.

The first road we got pulled into was Gongming Street. A street lined with food vendors and where the large crowds congregated. I was like the main artery starting at the MRT. Once we got enough of our fill of squeezing by people we made out way to the river bank. About the same amount of people but more room. There were vendors along this side, but it was mainly small stores and restaurants. We walked all the way up to a small inlet where an artist was painting for his spectators. Almost seemed like a regular occurrence on a Saturday afternoon. That was, performers within busy areas. It’s like moths to a light. They come out in groves.

Anyways, we made our way toward the city where there were less people. The streets here were less crowded and we found a nice church and museum to discover. Within a few hours we ended our trip with a nice (an cheap!) foot massage before getting back on the MRT.

There were several things we missed on this visit, mainly the Fisherman’s Wharf. It was further up and a hike we weren’t in the mood to make. I’ll have to visit it another time.


Qimin’s Organic Hotpot

There doesn’t seem to be that much information about this place, in English that is. But this place boasts both a grocer and a hot pot restaurant. It’s niche organic offering expanded to Shanghai where they source ingredients from their local farm. As you can imagine, this place won’t be your global chain. They’ll focus on quality, which so happens to drive the price higher. I don’t mind when it’s about good eating. It’s a good thing in this town where there’s a hot pot joint around every corner. The taste stood out from them all.

Once we got there, it wasn’t too busy. We had reservations but there were a couple of free tables available. We got the end which was great. I had a few bags that fit great in the corner. Staff was friendly and responsive. Even helping us out when we ordered way too much. When we ran out of room on the table they held off on items until we were ready. And they seem to know how long it would take until the broth ran low. Before I knew it, refilled. Now that’s service for a hot pot place that usually has the wait staff running around refilling and restocking tables.

The place itself was clean and modern. Plenty of tables for large parties as well as counter seating. And most notable, was the fact that this place served individual pots. One for every person. And with all the steaming pots in this place, it felt very comfortable. The air conditioning wasn’t blasting and I didn’t walk out smelling like food. lol. My worse nightmare would be that Seinfeld episode where Elaine gets followed around by a pack of dogs. Glad this place had it locked down.

Qimin Market
No. 158, Section 2, Xinyi Road (台北市信義路二段158號2樓)
Da’an District, Taipei, Taiwan
+886 02-2772-5123

Verdict: I highly recommend it for good hot pot and I myself will be back here. Probably within the month.


Seven Sushi

I had another long layover in Taiwan. This time it wasn’t overnight, it was from 5pm to 11:30pm. Yeah, you guessed it. I went into Taipei for dinner. Don’t worry, there was plenty of time even though I hit traffic. For those of you who don’t want to do the airport’s free tour of Taipei, I recommend making your own personalized layover. Here’s all you need to do to pull it off…

P1160853After leaving immigration, we looked for the ‘Bus to city’ sign. It’s in the same place as the ones to the High Speed Rail. We decided not to take the rail because we’d have to travel by MRT to get to SOGO. The bus would take us there.


We chose the Evergreen Bus. There were several stops before getting to my destination, but all in all in would take about 45 minutes, barring any traffic. Round-trip tickets cost NT$230.


Once we got our tickets it was off to the bus stop. There’s other buses there so make sure you get on the right one. Ours was pretty easy. Green and white, same colors as Eva Airlines and wouldn’t you know it, their parent company.


The seats weren’t the most comfortable. But after trekking around Vietnam, these didn’t feel so bad. I actually got in a quick nap.


The drop off was right in front of SOGO as well as the pick up. You can check the schedule for all the buses that go this route. Be sure to check when the last bus leaves for the airport. Vital information to know.

After shopping around for gifts, it was time to eat!

Enter Seven Sushi. This was the second time I came to this restaurant and it’s fast becoming my favorite sushi place in Taiwan. You have to make reservations here and it’s strictly omakase. There are various price ranges, $1200NTD, $1500NTD, $2000NTD, and $2500NTD. We chose $2500NTD and boy did we get a meal. The servers were really attentive. There were about four servers in this little shop which looked as though it could hold about fifteen people tops. Yeah, it’s pretty small. There are a couple of tables, but we sat at the bar. The chef explained every dish to us and I tried to jot everything down. There were, however, some local fish that didn’t have a direct English translation.

The two chefs were very personable as our courses came out. It was a steady stream of tastes that grew in portion size. Plan for at least an hour and a half eating here. We were glad to have some time in between the courses, as you’ll see from all the pictures below.

Tonight’s meal involved seafood from Hokkaido. Most Japanese restaurants seem to be showcasing this region. Great idea. And at Seven Sushi, they had a good variety of fish to try. I loved it. And even though I didn’t get all the names of the fish, I’m pretty sure the courses will change. The chef keeps his menu fluid, changing it constantly. As long as this quality continues, I’m game. Till next my next visit!

Seven Sushi (七道.鮨.新食.料理 )
No. 40 Yanji Street
Songshan District
Taipei, Taiwan
+886 02-2570-1080

Google maps, doesn’t pinpoint the place precisely, so I pinned it here:

Verdict: Find this place and make yourself a reservation. A very good experience.


Handling A Late Night Layover in Taiwan

I had an 8 hour layover in Taiwan. The dreadful thought of lying around in those uncomfortable seats anchored to a power source drew me to the internet. What did I find? Well, you can get a half day tour of Taipei, complete with transportation, for free (more details here). Awesome. But the problem was, I get in at 11pm and fly out at 930am.

What to do?

Let’s eat and sleep the only way a lazy old ox can. That was, a visit to the Xinming Night Market and a night at a love hotel. Yeah, a love hotel because it’s cheap and gives you everything you need, like a toothbrush, toothpaste, etc. My toiletry bag was with my luggage which stayed at the airport. I brought only my backpack. Passed through late night immigrations and on to a taxi to the night market. You should let the curbside attendants know you’re heading someone other than Taipei. Most taxi’s there are heading specifically there. Our driver powered through to our destination within 15 minutes. So I’m not sure how long it’ll normally take.

Even being close to closing, midnight, there were still people about and stands more than willing to serve you up a late night treat. We sampled several before heading off to get a foot massage. Oh I highly recommend getting pampered. Especially after a twelve hour flight and stuffing your face. By the time we were finished, it was time to hit up the motel and get a short nap before my next leg.

Verdict: The night market was pretty small compared to the others. There was only one thing I liked here. So sorry Xinming, I’d rather hit the Taipei ones next time. But if you need something to do overnight, this may be an option.


Au Revoir Taipei

It was the last day at Sun Moon Lake. The rain hadn’t let up, so probably good to leave since there was basically nothing to do but laze around the hotel room. Not a bad thing since I was leaving Taiwan altogether.

On the way back to the train station we stopped by the Sun Moon Lake Antique Assam Tea Farm. It was an old black tea factory that you can look around. This place had all the makings of a large production tea factory. However, most of the machinery was no longer used. Tea was still farmed there but probably milled at another location on the farm. The part you get to visit was the old part as well as the shop to try and purchase tea. I haven’t been a real big fan of drinking tea. But after this trip I think I am becoming better at tasting the differences and learning to enjoy it. Black tea was more bitter compared to green tea yet more refined. The flavor was more full than others. Note that I only know green, jasmine, oolong, and chrysanthemum teas. I can definitely see myself drinking this more and more. Maybe it’s the age. Older I get the more my palette changes. Whatever happened to just liking Sunny D?

Well, soon enough, it was off to the train station. Had a quick bite at Mos Burger, because you know, I’m crazy about rice. And a burger made of rice was one step closer to my own Willy Wonka story. Once we boarded the train, within an hour we were back in Taipei.

Nothing much to do but wait for my flight. I packed and had dinner at home with Vicky and her mom. Dessert was provided by a brief stroll to the markets next to National Taiwan Normal University. Gotta love the goofy English direct translation of things. Anyways, the area is full of shops to eat, drink, and hang out. People generally hang out outside in the small grassy area next to Shida Road. Mainly students but there are some older people playing chess there. Makes for the perfect setting to snapshot in my mind. Taipei isn’t all hectic. There are areas of peace and calm. A place that will stay dear to my heart. It’s how I first met Taipei and now where I’m saying goodbye. You’ve filled my belly like I never imagined you would and shown me sites I never thought I’d see.

Don’t ever change Taipei. Let’s record the last of 2012 into the books and prepare for the future. Happy New Year and goodbye.

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