There are a lot of things that you can think about when the country Taiwan is mentioned but most of the people who have been there will agree with me when I say that “food” is the first thing that comes to mind. The next thing that comes to mind will be night markets. What do we do when we explore night markets? We shop. That’s what we basically did during our trip to Taipei, Taiwan.
It was my first time to go out of the country with just friends therefore I was very excited. It was originally supposed to be me, Janine, Sharlene, Karenina and Katriziah. However, a month before the trip, Karenina had to cancel on us because she had work commitments to attend to.
Our flight took of in the middle of the night and arrived during the wee hours in the morning. We had to take the only bus left which was the bus from the airport to Taipei Main Station. A tickets costed 126 NTD but we booked it anyway because it was cheaper than taking a taxi. Upon buying our bus tickets, there were a few men who approached us, asking if we were looking for a taxi that goes to the city. They quoted 1,000 NTD for one taxi ride to Taipei. Knowing that these might be the typical scams that will cost you a lot of money, we declined the offer despite the very long line to board the bus. We waited for around 2 hours before we were able to board the bus. It was very cold and we were very hungry but we endured it because we were sure that it was safer to board the bus rather than ride the extremely expensive taxi.
When we got to Taipei Main Stations, there were a lot of taxis waiting so we didn’t have a problem looking for a method of transportation to our hostel. For the first night, we booked individual beds at an all-girls’ dorm room in IPlay Inn, Ximending. We didn’t book a hotel since we will only be sleeping there. Details of our stay will be in another post.
The next day, we moved to Ximen Hotel which was about 10 mins walk from the station. The reason why we chose to stay in the Ximending District was because we knew that the area was commercialized and there were a lot of places to visit along the area, especially the night market.
Speaking of night markets, let me enumerate the night markets that we were able to visit and compare them.
SHILIN NIGHT MARKET
The station for Shilin Night Market is not Shilin Station but Jiantan Station. We made a mistake for this one since none of us did prior research. We had to walk one station away in order to get to Shilin Night Market but it was okay since the weather was cold and it was nice to get some fresh air. It gets very overwhelming at night markets, we all know that. In Shilin Night Market, you really have to look for the store with the best price. I came upon a store that sells nanoblocks of different design (not the Nanoblock brand from Japan but a China brand). I was overwhelmed by the many characters they had and it took me about 20 whole minutes before I finally decided what to buy. Contrary to the usual nanoblock size, they have big-sized nanoblocks available. The store personnel gave me a price quote of 1000 NTD for 2 big nanoblocks. There were so many different characters that I wanted to buy but I had to buy only 2 since I was on a budget. I was crying inside because I really, really wanted everything but my wallet says otherwise. With the advantage of speaking the Chinese language, I haggled that the store personnel give me 2 big nanoblocks along with a small one for free. They agreed and I got it! After leaving the store, I saw yet another store from the same street (this store is near the main road) and asked the price of the big nanoblock. When the store personnel told me that one big nanoblock was 400 NTD, I felt blood drain from my face. If I just looked around more, maybe I would have been able to buy more than 2 designs. Oh, regrets.
We encountered a lot of fruit stands within the market. Word of advice: don’t buy fruits there. I bought atis and the fruit stand owner gave me a lot. When I asked her to lessen the slices, she removed 2 slices and was charging me for the rest. Even though I was arguing with her in Mandarin, she didn’t let it go because she knew I wasn’t a local. One of the stall owners told me to buy fruits at Carrefour instead after seeing me walking around while eating my atis slices. Aside from fruit stands, you’d see a lot of food stalls around especially on the sidewalks. The queues you see are the must-eats. I especially liked 王子起司馬鈴薯 or Price Cheese Potato. They offer potatoes covered in melted cheese and your choice of toppings. They are not stingy with the amount of cheese they put in each order, which I took to delight. Your container will be oozing with cheese when it’s handed to you. Caution, though. It’s quite hot.
XIMENDING NIGHT MARKET
Since we stayed in the Ximending district, it was quite easy to go to the Ximending night market. However, we found the shops there quite expensive. There are still good finds but mostly food. Around the area, you’d find a lot of milk tea places. Since milk tea was cheaper in Taiwan, we had one every day just to make the most out of it. We ate lunch at Mala Hotpot which is in the district. Everything was really good. They offer a wide selection and even have unlimited Häagen-Dazs as dessert. For I believe two hours, we kept ordering different slices of beef. We didn’t let the time constraint stop us from enjoying every bite. They even have cheese balls, which I ate a lot of.
Just a few blocks away from Houshanpi Station, Wufenpu is a shopping paradise for individuals who are looking for garments. We went on a weekend and to our surprise, it wasn’t that crowded. There were stretches and stretches full of clothes stores. It won’t be a surprise if you get lost because it literally is a garment maze.
Low and behold, Sharlene got lost along the way. What we do was we looked at stores that we are interested in but we always manage to catch up with one another because we walk in a straight line and make sure that we don’t stray too far. Sharlene, on the other hand, looked for the bathroom in the middle of our shopping spree. She got lost on her way back because believe me, all the stores look the same. Some are even selling the same apparel. If you’re looking for cheaper clothes, this is the place to go.
RAOHE STREET NIGHT MARKET
This market is actually walk-able from Wufenpu. The station nearest to the market is Songshan Station. We just followed the crowd from the station to see a temple. Beside it is the entrance to Raohe Street Night Market. The place can trigger claustrophobia because it is extremely crowded. There are shops left and right but also small stalls in the middle part. I found a lot of cute stuff here. They even sell the Disney puzzles that I usually buy from SOGO for a relatively cheaper price. If it wasn’t raining and that crowded, I would have bought a lot. There are not many apparel here but there are a lot of interesting and cute toys or display items.
That’s it! All the night markets we’ve been to and probably our agenda for the whole trip. Due to weather conditions, we weren’t able to go to the sightseeing places which is a pity. I really wanted to hike up Elephant Mountain to see the sunrise. We also weren’t able to go to Pingxi for the lanterns. I guess this calls for another trip!