Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Typhoon Chaser!

So good news for Taiwan, the typhoon left them today... Yay! Now that the typhoon left the Taipei Airport was open again so I was able to leave for Tokyo!

The bad news was that the typhoon's going to Tokyo. Doh! Oh well, can you do? So anyway I'm here in Tokyo now. I didn't do much besides get to my hostel and buy some curry and pork for dinner. It did rain a bit, but not too much.

First impressions of Tokyo... well right now it's not as humid. That makes me happy. I'll hit the town tomorrow and see. =)

The Original Din Tai Fung

I almost forgot... I had a chance to drop by the original Ding Tai Fung really quickly before I left Taiwan. They specialize in a type of bao called xiao long bao. Xiao long bao have a small amount of soup inside the bao so when you bite into it the soup juice squirts into your mouth. They're very yummy.

Din Tai Fung is famous because they supposedly used water with healing properties to make their baos. This is of course BS, but it's a selling point. Each bao is individualled wrapped a specific number of times so they all have the same number of folds.

How to eat the xiao long baos... I never knew this even after eating at their branch in the United States.

If you're too lazy to read the instructions above I tried to make a video on how to eat them.

The regular xiao long bao and I think the best dish they have.

Shrimp and Pork
Crab - I didn't like this one.

Making the xiao long baos

In my opinion the food is good, pretty darn good, but not that good to warrent the high prices. The prices in Taipei compared to the branch in Arcadia were about the same.

I don't think you have to go all the way to Taipei for Din Tai Fung. There's a branch in Arcadia (near Los Angeles) and they pretty much taste the same.

Taiwan Closing

Originally I intended just to visit Taipei and then leave for Japan. However I had such a great time in Taipei I decided I might as well circle the island. In my opinion it was well worth it.
Hard to see, but 101 at night.

The people of Taiwan are so friendly and helpful. I was totally blown away that so many people invited me to stay with them, a few of them being the couple from Taroko Gorge and Joe and Sarah from Tainan. I even met this dancer Lydia that gave me her phone numbers and said to call them when I was her city, she'd be willing to show me around. The lady that gve me a tour of Tainan went out of her way to show me a side of the city I would have missed; this isn't an isolcated case, I also met another American Charles that had the same experience in Taipei. Entire families have stopped what they were doing to take me to my destination when I was lost. The people here are just too kind. The night markets are a wonderful way to eat on a budget, everything looks, smells and tastes so good. The mass transit system in Taipei is top notch. There's plenty of hiking and beautiful scenery. Shopping of computers is not too bad either, but really, the prices are pretty close to those in the USA, so only buy if you find a great deal.

There are cons of course.... the weather is pretty much awful. It's hot and humid all the time, and while I was here I sat through three typhoons that altered my plans more than I'd like. I had to miss mountains, lakes, islands, and beaches because of them. There are stray dogs everywhere. People here love them though, they'll feed them and pet them. They just don't want to actually keep it, so they become like community pets. The problem is stray dogs can be dangerous and there's dog poo poo on the street. Joe from Taipei said the dogs are not a big deal because every Taiwanese kid knows how to fight against them: you just through rocks at them. I guess if that's what works.

If you do not speak any mandarin I would say it would be easier to stay in Taipei, but I know plenty of people that didn't know any mandarin that circled the island by themselves.

I think compared to Hong Kong, Taipei can't really compete when it comes to being a big city like the New Yorks of the world. The shopping and views from Hong Kong are better, things are open later and everyone is always shopping for electronics. Taipei has these things on a smaller scale, but it also has so much natural beauty to offer, a unique history, and some really nice people. Oh yeah.... be sure to bring meds for your stomach though.

I had a wonderful time in Taiwan (except for the typhoons) and look forward to my next visit.

Some more Food

Fried chicken with ham and cheese inside!

Some burnt corn thing... it doesn't look very good does it? It didn't taste all that good.

Digital Plaza Revisited
Taipei - Digital Plaza - Some special day with booths and promotions.
Booth Babe and DVD-Rs
World of Warcraft
Handing out crap.

Typhoon #3

Stuck eating Burger King because everything else was closed from the typhoon. It sucks just as much as Burger King back home.

Underground Society around the Taipei Power Building. One of the few bars that features Rock music. I think this was a small local band. Not very crowded, small bar, but it was fun.

Sunday, September 28, 2008

Tainan Food

In addition to Tainan's rich history it is also well known for certain types of food, and yes, they were really good!

Shrimp Rolls
If you go to Tainan you must get some Shrimp Rolls. They are damn good! Nuff said. Chaou's is very well known for theirs. You can find them in the Anping section of Tainan.

Yes, I ordered three of them. The waiter asked.... "Are you sure you want so many?" Sooooo good.

Here's what Chaou's looks like from the outside.
I also ordered some rice and pork.

And some noodles.

Danzi Noodles
This type of noodle was started by fishermen who needed work during the off season. They would walk around with cries of noodles. When someone wanted them the fisherman would set his things down, cook the noodles, and let the person sit and eat there. Once finished the fisherman would pick up everything and continue looking for more customers. They no longer do this, but the style of noodles has stuck around.

Danzi Noodle Bowl

My Table.

Founder of this style of noodles.

Guang Chu Ban
Deep Fried outside... the bread's so good and sweet.
Inside is like a chicken pot pie but with chicken and some seafood.
Map to the restaurant - if you can't read Chinese just print it and ask people.

Oh man this stuff was so good I ordered two. I really miss it. It's pretty hard to find actually. You'll need to wander around an alley until you find a place with pictures of this outside. It was a little weird for me because all the other stores around this restaurant were for women's clothing. Also I'm pretty sure my Ping Ying of the name of this dish is incorrect, but it translates into something like coffin bread because they dig out the middle of the bread and fill it.

In my last blog I wrote about a lady that took me around Tainan on her scooter and took me to get some Tainan food. Here's the food we got.
This is a traditional fatty pork dish that the people in Tainan used to much more often eat in the old days when Taiwan was poor.
A type of fish soup, I forgot the name. The style here dictates that all the bones should be removed which is quite nice for eating. The bones are used in a different soup.
Pig Gut soup.... I got tricked into eat a few bites. I wasn't a fan of it really.
Shrimp Rolls.... Oh man I love these. I actually had these before the other shrimp rolls in the blog. It was love at first bite. I can't get enough of them.... I miss them already.

Yes Mom, she ordered veggies and made me eat them. Drat. I did too.

Other Foods
Ice Cream while at Koxinga's Temple... hey, it was hot that day!

Some bread thing that was really good.
A simple shrimp and rice dish.
Some really bad miso soup.
Mos Burger - a Japanese Chain

And last but not least, this restaurant Forbiding the pet enters.

I loved my time in Tainan, it was full of history, full of good food, had some fun electronics/computer shopping, and was pretty darn cheap. The only thing it's missing is good public transportation, like a subway system. Busing everywhere sucks.


Frustrated by the Typhoons in Taiwan I decided to run off to a city that wouldn't be hit by it. Tainan was the capital of Taiwan from 1661 until 1887. As such the city is rich with history. Tainan is also known for certain types of food from that region such as shrimp rolls, and danzi noodles.

No hostel listings online for Tainan either, however I have a Taiwan Youth Travel Card which also comes with a booklet full of discounts for hotels, hostels and museums. Luckily for me a dorm was listed in there for $320 NT - about $10 USD. It's called the Tainan City Labor Recreation Center, http://labor2.tncg.gov.tw/recreation/. However once I got there and showed them my Youth Travel Card they discounted the dorm to $260 NT a night - which is about $8 USD a night. Not only was it only $8 a night but it was also the cleanest dorm I have stayed in yet!

Ok, let's get on to some of the sites of Tainan.

Temple of the 5 Concubines
The Crown Prince of the Ming Dynasty was in Taiwan when the Ming Dynasty fell to the Manchurians. Knowing he would be hunted down he decided he would commit suicide. He told his Concubines that they could go on with their lives, becoming wives of other men, or nuns, or whatever they wished. However upon learning the Prince's desire to commit suicide all five Concubines committed suicide in a show of fidelity to the Prince. Two of the Prince's Eunuch's also committed suicide in a demonstration of loyalty as well. Their story is now honored at this temple where the Concubines are buried.

The actual burial site is located behind the temple.
Shrine to the two eunuchs that also commited suicide.

South Gate
One of the few remaining city gates from the old Tainan City Walls. It was build in 1736, originally 14 such gates existed.

Koxinga Temple

Koxinga was a General for the Ming Army. When the Ming Dynasty lost to the Manchurians he took his army to Taiwan in hopes of returning to China and defeating the Manchus. During this period the Dutch had already established fortification in Taiwan. Koxinga, now a pirate-warrior with the defeat of the Ming, took back control of Taiwan. He defeat the Dutch,

Shrine to Koxinga
Inside the shrine.

This plumb tree was planted by Koxinga making over 300 years old. It still blooms but not very often. The tree was moved to the temple from it's original site.

Confucius Temple

Chinkan Tower

Chinkan Tower used to be the Dutch Fort Provinta. The pirate-warrior Koxinga defeated this fort quickly though and torn down all but the foundation laid in by the Dutch. The fort was then rebuilt into the Chinkan Towers.

Chinkan Tower

A pond at the tower.
Statue honoring Koxinga's victory over the Dutch.

Bastion Ruins of Fort Provinta - This section of the fort is part of the original Fort Provinta. It's part of the few sections left intact by Koxinga.

Another pond at the Tower.

Feeding Koi at the Tower ponds.

Monkey Tree
If you look closely at the bumps they supposedly resemble monkey heads. There is an old popular Chinese folk story about the Monkey King. If people wish to honor the Monkey King they do so at this tree.

Fort Anping
Originally a Dutch fort known as Fort Zeelandia built from 1624-1623, this fort was sieged by the pirate-warrior Koxinga. After nine months the dutch were defeated and left Taiwan. The fort was renamed to Fort Anping. Back when this fort was being used it was right on the water's edge. Today it is not that close to the sea.
Entrance to the fort.

Artifacts have been found here.

Eternal Golden Fort
During the Qing Dynasty this fort was built as protection against Japan. It was the first western style fort built by the Chinese in Taiwan.

Electronics in Tainan
Of course I had to go check out the electronics/computer shopping in Tainan. If you wish to do so you'll need to head to Beimen Road, just a few blocks south of the Train Station. Look for the section of the road with the blue ink on the side of it in the map below. That's where you want to go.


While walking around the shops I ran into an older lady. We started talking about the computer she was looking at. When she found out I was American she asked if I wanted to hop on the back of her scooter and get a tour of the city. Not seeing the harm, and being on a bit of an adventure anyway I decided why not? So I got on the back of the scooter. She took me to eat some traditional Tainan food, and talked about their history. She also took me to some temples not listed on the Tourist maps. We also dropped by an embroidery shop where the owner gave me a first hand look at his goods and talked about how he made them. I offered to put his website on my blog for his generous tour. If you like his stuff, check out his website for better pictures and to purchase:

There are a bunch of old Temples in Tainan that are still in use today. You can see them on the tourist maps provided by the city on signs along the street. Here are a couple temple tips I wish I had known before being I had gone:
Always walk into the temple through the right door; NEVER through the center or left door.
Always exist the temple through the left.

Leaving Tainan on the High Speed Train.
Taiwan has a High Speed Train which uses Japan's Shinkansen technology for it's core. It reaches speeds of up to 217 MPH.
Taiwan High Speed Rail - THSR

Map of Tainan Attractions - note Anping attractions not shown here.