This post chronicles what I ate on a recent trip to Taiwan. Hang on as I share some low-quality photos and high-quality memories.
Moments after stepping the plane at approximately 5:34 a.m., we walked out to the curb where we were greeted by our driver in a white Mercedes van. After a 14-hour red-eye flight, we (I, my parents, two sisters and grandma) weren’t the perkiest version of ourselves. Sick of watery, tasteless airplane food, we craved something juicy and fresh.
We headed to an open-air fruit stand on the corner of a busy intersection. I could hear the blaring sound of traffic — bikes, mopeds, cars, and taxis.
Being on an island meant I got to try some fruits I’d never seen before because exotic fruits thrive in Taiwan’s tropical climate. One of them, cherimoya, tasted stringy and almost pungently sweet. We also ate wax apples a couple times, which, true to their name, are like a watered down version of apple — crisp but rather bland. We also tried mango, pineapple, and bananas, and the Taiwanese varieties proved to be sweeter (the mangoes and pineapple) and creamier (the bananas).
The first day, we headed into Taipei. As a highly populated city, Taipei boasts smoggy air, mad swarms of people riding mopeds, and lots of face mask-wearers. During our trip, we planned to get a survey of the island, starting from the northern part of the island, driving along the eastern coast to the southern tip and through the middle of the island back to Taipei’s in a week’s time. Therefore, every night we lived in a different hotel — the constant, on-the-g0 nature of our trip was exciting yet exhausting.
- A view of the city from the observation deck on the 89th floor of Taipei 101
Most of our hotel reservations included traditional Taiwanese breakfast buffets.
Ironically, the first night we stayed at a hotel in Taipei called First Hotel. That breakfast, though not particularly fancy, featured a nice spread of mostly savory fare.
Reminiscent of savory oatmeal, shi fan (rice porridge) is a breakfast staple. There’s always rou song (salty dried pork) and maybe some green onion for toppings. First Hotel also offered a red rice porridge and hot cooked veggie and meat dishes to add flavor to the porridge. The drink of choice was not coffee but hot soymilk. Hot drinks are the norm, presumably because they have been boiled to kill germs that might be lurking in the drinking water.
- The rice porridge buffet line
Each day, we were on the road by around 9:30 a.m., so that meant this wasn’t a sleeping-in type of vacation. For that reason, half-awake me forgot to photograph some of the other breakfasts.
We soon headed south, away from the city and into the mountains. As a resident of drought-laden California, I appreciated the abundance of green vegetation.
Apparently, this region is known for its natural hot spring and its “hot spring hotels.” At first, when my Taiwanese relatives kept telling me that “you can soak in the hot springs water in your hotel tub,” I didn’t understand what that meant.” I’ll admit that I was a bit disappointed when I found that that doesn’t mean that each hotel room has its own hot spring; rather, the hot springs water is piped into each room.
At one of the hotels we stayed in, we ventured to one of the food stalls and bought dan bing, a sort of savory egg tortilla, for breakfast. Flexitarian me ate one with corn.
And then we kept driving and stopping to site see along the way.
You probably won’t find this as funny as I did, but one of the areas at the southern tip of the island is known for its fried fish. In Mandarin Chinese, nei ge can be roughly translated to mean “that one.” It complicated things and made for some good chuckles when we bought some nei ge ru. Yes, the literal name of this food translates to “that fish.”
One of the highlights of the trip was tandem biking through the rice fields for two reasons: 1) It isn’t every day that you get to feel the wind on your face while biking through luscious green fields that seem to go on forever and 2) tandem biking is a lot more challenging than any of us expected. My two younger sisters rode a bike together while my dad and I teamed up on another. My sisters kept trying to race us and kept beating us — I like to say it’s because our bike only had one functioning gear. 🙂
After an hour or so of tandem biking, we ate little rice boxes for dinner at a quaint but popular establishment by the bike rental place. That meal felt well-earned, as any post-exercise meal does.
Thanks for reading! Stay tuned for installment #2 where I’ll write about our trek (via van) back to the northern part of Taiwan.