Taiwan is for the Taiwanese : acting like a Chinese on the island

after two days and nonstop eating in Taipei I was well acclimated and wanted to have more.
first I was afraid that one week for Taiwan and all the amazing food will not be enough. well.. I’m sure you can spend here months traveling around the country, but for me the available 7 days to get a taste were perfect.

I was ready to visit the countryside (haha, it’s a strange word here) anyway it was funny when the locals asked my plans and I replied “leaving Taipei now but staying on the island for 5 more days”. almost everyone asked back “which island” or “Thailand”? :D okay, maybe it’s not the proper term to use here, but that’s the reality. just as locals look like Chinese. of course I have to be politically correct, but the case here with a little irony sounds like that with the Sicilian in Italy. I can totally understand that Taiwanese don’t like to be called Chinese (I hate it too when people try to find out where I am from and the first tips are always Russia or Romania :P), anyway dear people of Taiwan: sorry to say that, but your country is called the Republic of China, your foods are based on the Chinese cuisine, you speak some kind of Chinese.. and you live on an island. :) I respect nations so I didn’t call here anyone Chinese (if you don’t want to be rude do the same!) just enjoyed their Chineseness.

but back to my trip around Taiwan. first of all I have to state that I changed my mind so many times that even I had lost count. :) but exactly this made it more relaxing, without stress to follow a timetable and (except the limit of the days) I had all the freedom to do what I want. isn’t it beautiful to travel (live) without restrictions and the pressure to explain – even to yourself – why you don’t want to do what you have planned hours before?!..

No.1.

original plan: a one day trip to Jiufen-Shifen-Pingxi, to visit old towns and train station and beautiful waterfalls.. etc.
reality: few hours in Shifen

the full pack trip is highly recommended by aaall travel bloggers, but honestly.. it’s not a big deal. if you are a newbie traveler, haven’t seen any old towns in your life and you like to crawl in crowd then it can be a good #whatcanidoinmysparetime trip. but if your taste is similar to mine you can live happily ever after without visiting these places.
the reason why I changed my mind is that they are insanely mainstream. marketing works perfectly: by searching for each location you will find nice shots, but if you look at them closely you will recognize that there’s only an old tea house, some alleys with typical souvenirs, nice but #forbiddentoswim waterfalls and everything is really about tourism and money. moreover all pictures are taken from the same angle which means a lot of people waiting selfie-ready for their turn. if this is what you are searching for, then do it – for me it is only a mass destruction of the experience.

why I chose even Shifen? very simple: sky lantern on the train tracks + the waterfall looks cool in pictures (yess, wanted to have some water). I counted only few hours before heading to the South, so it was a good decision to see how local transportation works in the neighborhood of Taipei. no matter which old town you want to reach, the way is the same and by train is very simple (Google Maps can help to check the route and at the ticket counter you can ask for the timetable). take the East Line train to Ruefang – here you have to decide where to go (Jiufen or Shifen), but don’t panic everything is tourist-proof >> to Shifen change to Pingxi Branch Line >> get off at Shifen Railway Station – impossible to miss it:

the travel takes about one and a half hour and it’s chill and cheap. I’m sure that a full sunny Sunday is not the best time to visit this place, but as I was not in a rush just took it easy. first of all I waited about 15 minutes for people to leave the station via the narrow street. then checked the Jingan Suspension bridge and was walking on the tracks while people painted their lantern and let them fly. well, I have mixed feelings about this thing. first it looks awesome how those colorful lanterns take off, but what goes up must come down; higher trees and hidden parts of the woods are full with fallen lanterns (locals try to collect as much as they can, but still) so this mass tourism consuming is less eco friendly than wonderful. and of course it’s about the money too so tourists just paint the balloons in a hurry, have few seconds for the pictures and selfies, then let them go and walk away. is it really worth the experience? (my subjective answer is: no, and don’t want to imagine how this all looks like in festival season..)

from the old town street the waterfall is about 20 minutes walk and the way is pretty nice. during the walk I didn’t have that many people around but arriving to the waterfall.. well, it was hard to find a spot to take photo without people hanging in there. :D but I got my music in my ears, enjoyed the sunshine, the kids were fun (they didn’t really cared about where they were), so that short time I spent here walking around was okay.

of course you can find all kind of food in Shifen, but I was more interested to leave, go back to Taipei and get some exit soup in my favorite street, so I just tested the fried ice cream, which is pretty fun. best to eat right after you got it in your hands as it’s still hot outside and cold inside. I had all flavors (vanilla, strawberry, chocolate) and surprising my favorite was the strawberry (I’m basically a chocolate lover). :)

ohh yes, and this is what Shifen is famous for.. but if you ask my opinion the Maeklong Railway Market in Thailand is much much cooler!

the way back in town was okay too (if you don’t want to wait 20-30 minutes for the train check in advance the schedule) and I was so fast that had a lot of time. so I could enjoy a veggie dumpling soup (I love to see how ladies are sitting around a table and filling the dumplings so fast while chatting.. it always makes me smile), then a short walk around with my favorite bottled Chun Cui He latte, watching skateboarders in the business park and finally go to the station and just wait for the train.

No.2.

original plan: a night in Kaohsiung and next day to Kenting National Park to spend there 1,5 days
reality: stayed in Kaohsiung

the most interesting part of this trip was to obtain the train ticket. the best choice for long distance traveling is the High Speed Rail: it’s cheaper than a domestic flight, in gross time faster too, just more expensive than other TRA trains – but no question about what to select if you don’t have that much time to get from A to B. the hostel gave me 20% discount from the HSR price, the only problem was that I received a voucher and had to switch it to “real” ticket. I went to the Main Station the day before to find out the timetable etc. and it was the most annoying 40 minutes of my stay in Taiwan. it’s okay that you have to wait sometimes a bit longer in the queue, it’s okay that not everyone speaks English – bit strange on THE main station, at the main counter, but that’s life -, but how to call it when an agent asks you to come back in an hour as there are other people who want to travel now and as he’s the only person here who speaks (a bit of) English will help you to get your ticket. as I haven’t heard anything like this before I was pretty surprised.. but this is Taiwan. I asked at another counter if they can help me (no luck), so I went back when I saw the main counter was free, and funny that a girl without proper English could show me the timetable and after selecting the train could give me the ticket. what I can recommend in this country: patience, relax & smile. it’s good to be prepared for such situations (you will face that at least once for sure), but no worries you will be able to get what you need.. and I’m sure that freaking out or something here will not help you, as they will not understand it and it’s just an unnecessary stress for yourself. :)

the HSR is really cool (of course with WiFi on board) and with 2 stops in between arrives in Kaohsiung in less than 2 hrs – you have to get off at the Zuoying station (just don’t be confused about the names) and from here the local MRT takes you everywhere.
all I knew about Kaohsiung that it’s called the most pleasant city of Taiwan and it has some great street art. my hostel was next to the train station which usually means dodgy and less clean areas, but not here. I stayed in the Pineapple Backpackers Hostel (what can I say, pineapple rulz :D) and I liked it: good location in a cute little back street, friendly owner (no reception), clean rooms (take off your shoes rule) and of course beds have curtains.
after checking in I didn’t leave the house, but had to find out what’s next: go to Kenting in the morning (how and how long is the trip etc.) or maybe just stay in the city as my very first impression was nice. well, it was a pretty fast decision: I couldn’t enjoy Kenting beach very well in a rush and after I realized that “Love” is the name of the river the cuteness was overloaded and won.

in the morning I woke up pretty lazy, so after checking the map just started a walk to find some food and discover the city. it was Monday and after the busy Taipei Kaohsiung felt empty: wide roads but without real traffic, big green areas, peaceful people, ohh.. and finally “white people” around. :) after 4 days the first time to see someone “similar” was funny. they are mostly students here and no one’s really interested in anyone else (not like in Taipei).

I grabbed some pork dumplings and sat down in a shady part by the canal. it was right before lunchtime just some old people chilled on benches and it was not the main business area, but really so silent and sunny that I had to check several times that I am where I think I am and didn’t mix the cities or slept for a day..
after my brunch :) I walked to the Love River, enjoyed the noisy birds and the sound of laughing men who played chess in the park, then climbed to the Shoushan Martyr Shrine. everyone rides a scooter but by walk is not that bad either and I saw this on the way.. when you think you have found a romantic place with a view :D (yess, that’s a scooter wreck)

on the hill the shrine is only the second main attraction.. the first one is the LOVE installation in the well-kept park. with the city view it looks awesome and on the platform you can see the word “love” in 32 different languages, including in Hungarian! ;)

it’s a relaxing place and thanks to the weekday it wasn’t full with people. I left the park in the direction of the harbor and really liked the atmosphere of this area: smaller buildings, wide streets, workers packing different things and of course local shops and the smell of food everywhere.

I spent the sunset at the Lotus Pond. as I mentioned earlier MRT (in Kaohsiung: KRT) is superb in Taiwan: I love to travel with locals, other hands I couldn’t feel big distances in the city so it was easy to jump from one end to another. at the lake you can visit many temples, there’s a wake park and you can run around or do whatever you want. the way from the metro to the lake was one of my favorite. the Chongde road leads there (from the station: Ecological District) what turns into a flyover: it’s actually a freeway for bikes over the Cuihua road, a nicely designed “bridge”.. at sunset as it flowed over the busy road, with the view, and the music, and coffee in my hands.. it felt sooo good. :)

it was fullfullfull with tourists but I went into the Dragon & Tiger Pagodas and I recommend not simple run in and out.. check the strange and weird and scary miniature stories on both sides – this kind of creativity and visuality amuse me always, they are really funny!

as I definitely wanted to see a Taiwanese beach (that would have been the main reason to go to Kenting too) and luckily Kaohsiung has one, I spent the next day on Cijin Island. the easiest way to go there is with the ferry from the Gushan Ferry Pier (it’s a very short travel) and from the Cijin pier you can go around the elongated island.

it’s full with food vendors, souvenirs, activities.. but for me the beach was the main attraction and as I arrived to this sight, it was priceless:

and now watch this gif while listening to my Kaohsiung song ;)
(yess, I have one for every location.. so stay tuned)

cijin

what else could I wish for.. in December.. on Tuesday? that was the first moment during my trip when I felt totally SMILE from head to toe. sunshine, salty air, blue sea, curly hair.. me alone on the empty beach. simply perfect. this is why I booked my flight, this is why I came here, this is what I miss so much. and the sugarcane juice.

actually I was disappointed a little about Taiwan. I haven’t got big expectations, just because of the good marketing I had the real #wanttogothere feeling. unfortunately the satisfaction didn’t come with the experience and this is always a bit sad. but after I tasted here the sugarcane juice with pineapple and tapioca and lot of other fruits my opinion was changed: nothing bad can happen as long as there is sugarcane and a place what got this awesomeness cannot be so bad. (sounds strange? well, I’m a tamagotchi: when I got food all good and I simply can measure things along it. other hands I’m in a deep relationship with sugarcane since 2013.)

btw the selection of food here is as good as everywhere else in Taiwan, I reached a matcha overdose too (I love it in every form, specially as ice cream and waffle.. on the same plate ;))
earlier I was a kind of tourist who traveled through the lens of the camera. actually this time I didn’t even take a camera with me, I only had my mobile (all photos I share were taken with my Shitsung and I think they are not that bad at all). I focused on the #righthererightnow and many times even forgot to take any pictures.. this is why I don’t remember all the food I ate and it’s okay. I don’t have any fix recommendation or signature dish here, just eat what you see and smell, it will be all good!

Kaohsiung is so different than the capital. people are more relaxed and slower, the city seems lighter and cleaner and of course it has the sea (that’s a big advantage). for me it’s like the Taiwanese Singapore – I have the same confusing feelings with SG compared to other Asian cities.. you know, the same same but different. :)
I wanted to visit the Fo Guang Shan Monastery too but totally forgot about it (this may happen when you are overrelaxed :D). I just realized it on the train but didn’t want to turn back.. so maybe next time. beside this you can sip cocktails in sky bars, visit the city zoo, hunt for cool street art, do some activities and many many more. Kaohsiung seems to me a livable city and it was a really good decision to stay here at least for 2 days.

 No.3

original plan: sleep in Taichung, during daytime visit Lukang Mazu Temple and Nantou Mochi Museum
reality: 12 hours sleep and walkaround in Taichung

before leaving Taiwan I had a last day to explore. as I’m a huuuge mochi fan (really, it’s the best food invention on earth) and there’s a real mochi museum, of course I wanted to visit it.. just the online marketing was once again better than the reality.

the train from Kaohsiung arrived in the central district of Taichung, which is full with street food, typical “Chinese” shops, old small buildings, stinky streets.. you know, just all what comes with years and everyday life. actually even this is what I love so much in Asia, thus I always chose these areas.
I stayed in the Backpack 41 Youth Hostel and it was.. hm.. interesting. the hostel itself was okay (good location, clean conditions, big beds but without curtains), just the dorm was crazy. I’m not sure and I didn’t ask, but really got the strange feeling that few girls (women) were escorts (with nice words to say). the first night was really exhausting: non-stop moving, door closing and every kind of noise until the morning – as I had a very peaceful life till now, it was really frustrating.

after waking up I tried to find out the way to the Nantou Mochi Museum. it was funny that the girl at the desk first didn’t understand what I was talking about but after I showed here pictures about the food and the place she realized that she had been there before.. and she loves mochi too. I don’t have a strange accent and mochi is pronounced “mochi” :D, anyway after few minutes it turned out that this museum thing sounds better than what it is. other hands going there with public transport would have been bit long/complicated, so no matter how much I love mochi somehow I didn’t feel the motivation to go. (they have the same selection what you can find in Taipei Main Station, nothing extra or special.. maybe just the #doityourself, but for that at least 6 ppl are needed.) after this decision I skipped to visit the Lukang Temple too (which was in the opposite direction), so I went back to the dorm (it was finally empty and silent) and slept for few more hours. :)

I got up around 1PM and totally hungry. at the moment I stepped out into the street a delicious smell came from the other side.. there was a nice and pretty busy soup vendor. it’s typical that you have to put in “self service” everything you want in your bowl then give it to the lady who prepares/finishes it with soup and noodles, but the dried things look strange (except the vegetables) and without common language it’s hard to find out what they are. I was confused and too hungry to think clear and take the responsibility for my decisions. the most important mission was really to find something to eat and after a restart and deep breath I got it (pork belly with veggies, egg and noodle).. and then the cutest coffee as well.

with enough fuel I was ready to take the city. right after I found a hobby/game shop and bought my next Beargguy :) then walked to the Taichung Park, which has a nice lake and a strange goat statue. from here headed to the west district to see some civilization (it’s the business area). surprisingly Taichung reached the ultimate level of foreigners. really, I saw here all of nations and honestly don’t understand why. there’s nothing interesting in Taichung, even the most insignificant city ever. anyway it’s still not for foreigners: how much I like these subways.. you know exactly where you are and which exit to select.. :D

and I’m not a shopper type anymore, but here was the first time I went into a mall.. and it was weird:

what I really liked in this city was the afternoon time; when empty streets and closed shops opened and everything changed to a vivid bustle.. with a lot of pak-choi. it’s always cool to catch that moment when the vendors open their places, start to organize stuff and of course start to cook and the different but somehow perfectly harmonized smells fly on the streets. there’s a typical aroma with Chinese spices what I love so deeply.. sometimes with bit more chili or even with “stinky” fish. the evening started and people after work (on the way home) filled the streets and loudly enjoyed their meal on the plastic stools. there are several places where prepared BBQ sticks are waiting just for us. you collect which one (endless variations from meat to veggies) you want and then just wait till they grill it for you. I stopped at Gekiuka Yakitori and took a pork (daging babi), a chicken and a veggie-bacon stick.

regardless of Taichung was very neutral for me the last evening with good food and long walk back to the hostel was perfect. just like my very last Taiwanese food experience.
I had my flight from Taipei, so first had to reach the TPE airport from Taichung. I chose the United Bus company to get there (cheaper than the train, direct connection to the airport, WiFi on board, around 2 hrs travel time), and because Mercury Retrograde just started (without being too spiritual I really felt that things went more slowly or complicated) and I didn’t want to miss my flight, I have oversecured my arrive: it meant that I had to wake up just before sunrise. I left the hostel and walked on the empty main street to the bus station. I love this time: when the night is over but the day still hasn’t started yet. the moment right before nightpeople and daypeople change each other. the air is warm but somehow fresh, not heavy with breaths and exhaust fumes yet.
of course I got my survivor 7-Eleven kit :)..

.. but definitely wanted to have some real breakfast too. and then by the canal I saw a smiling old man next to a food cart. he had there exactly what I needed: noodles, fried eggs, meat, veggies and soup. a typical Chinese breakfast, actually with the best smell and feeling what we are expecting from a real Asian street food. the street lights were still on, only a garbage truck struck noise, we both looked tired but kept smiling. :) I took only noodle with eggs, pak-choi and soy sauce, but it was delicious in its way. :)

if you have read my previous Taipei post maybe it’s clear that I liked the Taiwanese countryside a bit more than the capital. the food is the same (good), but people are different, the vibe is different and because of this it can be more enjoyable.
and just an extra surprising thing, which is typical throughout Taiwan: no matter how dirty some streets, areas or subways look like, you can find everywhere “clean” and free!!! public toilets (they are regularly cleaned, always have paper and hand wash, no tips or fees). it was really new for me (you cannot find something like this in Europe) and till now I haven’t really cared, but if you’re a girl on period it’s good to know that you don’t have to hunt for and then find disgusting places when you need.

Just call me Lucy : destination TAIPEI

since I watched Anthony Bourdain’s The Layover, it was sure that I need all the incredible food and hair treatment what Taipei has to offer. Erwan Heussaff confirmed this feeling with his Overnight Guide, so when I booked my flights it was no question that my first stop would be Taiwan.

if you are first time traveler to Asia don’t choose Taiwan. the main reason being, Chinese people have a particular biosphere – call it public transport – and if you are not used to their mass rhythm, you can be easily shocked.
we can clearly state that they don’t have a sense of direction. :) everyone is on their phone, but most of them are not playing or texting: the truth is they are looking at maps and local PT apps. it’s okay that I was on GPS all the time, but I was surprised that we had this in common.
few times I asked for direction, but not even halfway through the question realised the irony. the good point that at least they try. Taiwanese people are mostly kind.. just they don’t really speak English. of course there are a few who do, but the majority got embarrassed when I just appeared (as tall white female in the crowd) and started talking to them. somehow it was sweet, especially after they realized that all I wanted was food. :)
btw white people are so rare, that if you see one you greet each other. during my stay in Taipei I only saw about 10 non Asians and it’s not much as I thought Taipei is more international. maybe it is and just I kept myself away from main areas, however locals are not really prepared for western tourists (needless to say that Chinese tourists are everywhere ;)).

the mustseemustdo is for me not a must. of course I had my bucketlist too – like relaxing in Beitou Hot Spring, drinking a coffee at the highest Starbucks in the world or watching the Zombie run – but this is why travelling alone is so great: I can change my mind anytime without frustration or commitment. honestly, this is still new for me and I’m loving it. on the other hand (and maybe it makes my trip more clear) I’m an introvert traveler. I don’t have the addiction or pressure to talk to people or feel bad to miss all the parties and stories and crazy common things. when I’m interested then let’s do it, but it feels so good to be on my own and just enjoy where I am.

2 days in Taipei are totally enough. you can spend here more time with shopping and with much more food, but the city seems pretty simple: there aren’t too many attractions, you can easily walk through the trendy areas and food is everywhere. there are several museums to learn about the culture, but I personally am more enthusiastic about street art and thanks to POW! WOW! Taiwan could catch also some awesome walls. anyway this time I was more lazy to hunt all the coolness, instead just enjoyed my time with my personal Taipei-music:

before arriving to a brandnu place I like to check the map and some essential info to localize what I need, so my base was in Zhongzheng district, close to Ximen. I stayed in the Space Inn hostel and can highly recommend it: perfect location, clean areas, comfy bathroom and most important they have privacy curtains in the dorms (up to 10 beds I can stay everywhere till I have my separate little world in my bed).

as Zhongzheng is in the central, many popular areas are in a walking distance. the Wanhua district with the Lungshan temple was about 15 minutes and good for a first day walk and acclimatization. the temple itself is really nice and active: I liked just to sit there and watch the school groups in their jogging uniforms, see people to pray with incenses and leave their offerings or how they ask for answer with Jiaobei blocks. Jiaobei is like the 8Ball for me – it works with yes-no questions – and looking at the number of people and the noise of the wooden blocks on the stone was interesting how much Taiwanese believe in it.

the Ximending with all the local shops and cafés and colorful-crowded-loud streets was just on the other side of the Zhonghua road. this is the real nightlife area where local young people spend their time too. it’s super-busy on the weekend, if you want to enjoy a bit more space visit it on weekdays before sunset.

little further to the north in Datong district is the Dihua street, the old market street with those awesome and #noideawhatallthisstuffis Chinese grocery shops. really, I love them with the stifling smell and weird looking things while imagining the ancient secret witchcraft behind what I want to learn too. of course in reality it’s just some sea cucumber or dried fish maw.. or better not to know (?). :)

the Songshan (hipster & fancy art) and Da’an (business & shopping) districts are bit more far from here, but the Taipei MRT is pretty cool and I used it a lot. btw to get to the city from the airport (Taoyuan Intl.) is easy by public transport too, don’t need to spend extra time and money on taxi (especially since they do not seem to be good drivers ;)). if you don’t know which bus to select the staff in the kiosk can help you, the buses stop at main metro stations (or the best at Taipei Main station) and from there everything is easily accessible (except if you booked your stay behind nowhere.. but in this case I guess you still can take a train).
when I’m abroad I like to use the local transport (it’s always fun to see the differences) and have to say that the subway in SEA is awesome: clean, fast (waiting times are just about 2-5 mins) and organized (yes, people adore to stand in line). it helps a lot if you know where you want to go and find the correct connections and exits, but every station is full with signs you need (luckily not only in Hanzi).. or there’s the GPS. actually I used the GPS most often on my phone and now I have an addiction to it. :) it works perfectly: I can pin all my interests and check routes, it locates me really fast and most importantly it works offline too. after this trip I agree that all you need on a travel is a reliable mobile with offline GPS – flashlight – good camera – extra memory card and your preparedness to download the necessary apps.

earlier I was a kind of checklist-tourist: I wanted to see and experience as much as I can, even with a time pressure and the sad feeling of missed attractions (and untaken photos). now I let all this go and focus on simple things, easy walks and don’t push myself into rush. of course I’ve scrolled through blogs and travel sites to get an idea about the possibilities, but in the end – after changing my way all the time – I just picked the highlights.

I dropped the Beitou Hot Spring (because it seemed pretty crowded and I didn’t feel the tiredness to put myself in hot water for hours) but I got the Taiwanese hair wash, because definitely wanted to try that fantastic hair treatment and head massage that everyone raves about. I chose the In% HAIR CAFE (it has good ratings and was really close) and spent there 2,5 hours. at start I had my first 3D latte art ever: an awesome cute panda with banana taste.. it was really hard to take the first sip :). then the head massage, shampooing and blow-drying was all nice – at the beginning bit slow because of the language barriers – but honestly, I haven’t got that WOW feeling. the result was really fresh and shiny and I liked it, but considering that it was my most expensive hair wash ever (total 1600TWD) I cannot say it was worth it – actually I have a really nice hair treatment with awesome massage every time in Budapest, so I don’t see why the Taiwanese version would be so special. and I missed the Zombie Run too: first because it was at the same time and in New Taipei (not even sure I could just stand there and watch :)), second because I was more hungry and if I have to decide, food is always the better choice.

Taipei’s no.1 tourist spot is definitely the Taipei IOI – I love architecture and specially skyscrapers so it was a musthave for me too. for the tower I would recommend to book your ticket online or as in my case, I got discount from the hostel so didn’t have to queue for an hour to buy a ticket – with my voucher it was only 10 mins (of course at the elevator is another queue but it goes pretty fast). the building, the view and all.. well.. it’s not so mesmerizing. I mean really nothing special and so trite – the Petronas are more impressive. I spent there about 15 mins then left due to lack of interest. Taipei IOI is more a checklist place than a cool experience. ohh and this Starbucks thing: the world highest Starbucks is on the 35th floor. before arriving I tried to find out where it is and how to go there but the blog posts are really confusing: most of them say that you have to make a reservation (usually for next day) then have max. 1,5 hours and min. 200TWD to spend here. as it seems for me even more rat race business than Starbucks in usual, I didn’t want to have it anymore. as I can see on pictures the view doesn’t really differ from the top and it’s still cheaper, so you can freely decide which one to choose (anyway not Starbucks, but there’s coffee on the top too ;)).

after a little disappointing observatory visit I made a really cool switch. first planned to see a sunset from Maokong, but I changed this for Xiangshan – better known as the Elephant Mountain. a hiking trail leads up to the big rocks from where you can have an amazing view. of course you have to climb some stairs but it totally worth it (awesome booty and legs rulz ;)). the best time to go is late afternoon to enjoy the full sunset. I was a bit late and arrived already in the evening, but it’s no issue as the trail is lit and the neon city looks really cool. (additional info: if you are confused where to start from the Xiangshan station, just follow the people straight ahead. ;))

and finally let’s talk about the most exciting part of Taipei: the food.
before visiting a new country it is totally worth to follow local foodies (start searching with simple hashtags like here: #taiwanfood #taipeifoodie #taipeieats ;)), because they know well the secret places and the real taste of the current city. for me it was a nice push to know what I want and where to find it – like the significant dishes -, but this is just an extra help, as I always follow the smell and decide by intuition (till now I can state it works perfectly). in Asia I avoid to visit restaurants; Taipei has from street food to Michelin restaurants everything, but who want to try oversophisticated cuisine when they have the best dirty pork on the street?

after arriving and check-in to the hostel of course I needed something to eat. luckily the cross streets in my district were full with local food vendors but had to learn right away that after 9PM is hard to find anything open.. or not dumpling. unsurprisingly they only accept cash and if you don’t speak Chinese (sorry, Taiwanese Hokkien) and no idea what they offer to eat (not all of them has pictures or written menu) a smile can help a lot and just eat what they set before you – I promise it will be delicious. so happened with me on the first night when I could find a soup place right before closing: without common language they were really kind, tried to understand me some parameters, then presented a huge hot beef noodle soup.. with mushrooms and clams. well, these 2 things are generally on my banlist, anyway I was not freaking out, in the last time I’m pretty okay with some mushrooms (no, still no clam) so had a very tasty welcome to Taipei dinner. extra info: usually the soups are basic, but they have a bunch of chili and other stuff to upgrade it according to your taste. use them!

one of my favourite meal during my stay was the first breakfast. the Taoyuan was the closest food street to my hostel and there’s really everything: from soups and noodles to sweets and coffee.. I got here a matcha latte and an egg pancake (dan bing) for take away. some smaller vendors don’t have chairs to sit down and eat there your meal, but as I saw many people just come and run with bags so I picked up mine too and searched for a bench on the main street to enjoy the sunshine and the view of the Friday rush. the pancake was made with spring onion and lot of cheese and of course soy sauce besides. it’s a very typical Taiwanese breakfast and so simple and delicious. I remember exactly the feeling while opening my cute little box and see the smiling slices, then the smile on my face while eating them. after this the matcha latte was the crone of perfection. btw matcha is used here in everything and I love it so tried to eat and drink that much as I can. :)

with this very good and strong first impression about everyday food I wanted to have more.. and I was eating really nonstop. if not a main course, then small things while walking. after a point I even couldn’t stop eating, but who cares. :) other hands I’m a huge fan of 7Eleven in Asia. unfortunately not all the countries have that crazy selection of drinks and snacks, but luckily Taiwan has.. so shops made sure that I got always something in my hand.

the top 3 significant dishes in Taipei are: dumplings, braised beef noodle soup and minced pork rice. each of them is very common, can be found everywhere, served pretty fast and really tasteful. of course there are differences in quality and prices, but to find the best places just follow the one simple rule: where’s queue, it must be good.

dumplings are like the matcha: everywhere and in every form. and even when all food vendors are closed you still can be sure to find an open place with dumplings. :) I tried to taste them all and my absolutely favourite is the simple pork dumpling, preferably on the street. it was a funny feeling just stop and stand in the line, without knowing what are you waiting for: the list was in Chinese only and it was so crowded around the lady who packed the food that I didn’t want to intrude to check. so I waited patiently for my turn then a costumer before me helped to order (as the vendor didn’t even understand the word “pork”) and finally got the juicy-spicy dumplings. my only shame that I bought only 2 pieces, till everyone else left with 12-30. this vendor is located on the Fuxing South Road (at the SOGO) and it’s a real afterwork-stop for locals. stop here too if you’re around!

the braised beef noodle soup (niu rou mian) is here a real hit. I had the best one in Wanhua district (the exact address to find it: No. 69, Luoyang St, Wanhua District) where the lady asked only one thing: “small, medium or large?” I guess this vendor is always crowded but you can find anytime a free place. they are specialized for the beef noodle soup and make it very well. I took a medium one and this picture tells everything – it’s full with meat and noodle, perfectly flavored (if you want you can add extra chili, in this case I didn’t need it), smells and tastes heavenly:

the minced pork rice (lu rou fan) is one of the most simple dishes, but the flavor of the meat and sauce is awesome and perfect with the sticky rice. the Jin Feng (address: No. 10-1, Sec. 1, Roosevelt Rd., Zhongzheng District) is pretty famous and it was my favourite too. you can ask small or large and they have a sort of other dishes too (all looks and tastes delicious). they don’t really speak English but according to my experience in Taipei there’s always someone who helps you. :) maybe this meal shows the most clear quality differences: many places serve mostly fat and oil, but the minced pork rice is best when it’s more meaty. at Jin Feng it is, so let’s try it!

in Taipei you can find a bunch of different sweet things too. my absolutely favourites are: mochi & pineapple cake.
well, with mochi I already have a long-term relationship as it is the best food invention ever. mochis in Taipei are extremely delicious, just not to easy to find; at main stations and food points you can grab them, but of course I want to have my daily mochi even while walking in hidden neighborhoods. anyway if you haven’t tried mochi yet – or are addicted like me – Taipei is a perfect place for that.

SunnyHills pineapple cake is mentioned everywhere to try, so it was a mandatory round. this cake is very common and usually brought as gift, totally mainstream-hipster-fancy, but damn.. tastes so good. everyone can have a taster (one set cake and tea) for free then buy a box of cakes if liked it. the small box has 10 pieces of the soft buttery cake filled with sweet and tangy  pineapple and as it has a best before date, for me was not an option to take it home as souvenir – I had to eat all.. and I think it’s started here. I haven’t been a huge fan of pineapple, mainly as it’s not a local fruit in my country. first time I really enjoyed it was in Thailand on a boat trip and since that I appreciated it more and more. now, after I got a pineapple cake every morning (later pineapple juice and so on), I became an addict. comeooon, I get a tattoo too :) I never would have thought that a fruit will mean so much for me, but if I should draw my trip with only one thing, it would be a pineapple.

Taipei clearly offers a lot more: stinky tofu, bubble tea, all kind of seafood and it’s a leader in night markets too.. it would be a pity to miss them. for my part I’m not a huge fan of those markets, simple because I always feel the rush there or the abundance of food makes me crazy. food markets are the best when I stay for longer in the city and have the time to explore everything. now I had time only for a preview, but Taiwanese cuisine totally convinced me.

in summary it’s tricky but I’m not deeply impressed by Taipei. the city is okay, I could walk around like locals, but excluding the food it’s nothing special. I was prepared for the Lucy experience and wanted to have it too, and I can imagine to come back once and sure will have a good and tasty time, but it haven’t caught my soul. (and if after reading this you don’t feel to book your ticket immediately to Taipei don’t be surprised, it means only that you have understood my feelings and impression about the city.)

THE prologue

dear all in the air!

after a long long time I’m baaack.. and in English. new experiences, new thinGs to share and a very next level. without a plan I just let this flow and see where will land at the end.. simple have some fun. :)

as my last trip was pretty special compared to the past, some pre information is needed to interpret the subjective elements.

all began last NYE when I promised myself not to start the next year freezing in the cold again. I said Fiji, but as the travel plan evolved the location changed too, however I kept my promise.
since Brasil I travel alone and this time I raised the stakes to leave home for a whole month. 2016 was the year of overcoming fears, stepping out of the comfort zone and extend my limits. after all, this travel was more than unequivocal for me. of course I had the adrenaline push at the start, panic what the hell am I doing and why do I have so few clothes and stuff in my bag, but.. “you must do the thing you think you cannot do” and I totally agree with this sentence.

only few people knew the plan, even fewer the destinations so after an exit Random Trip (which was the best session ever!) I said goodbye to my family and checked in at BUD airport to start my big journey.

in the next posts I show you all the #throughmyeyes experiences, location-specific details and complex feelings about them, so stay tuned.. with a background music what I listened to while packing. ;)

breaking news * Ter Marsch & Co. *

már a Rioba tartó buszon kitaláltam magamnak, hogy névnapomkor Amsterdamba utazom, mert csak. na az biztos, hogy többet nem ragaszkodom ilyen tervekhez, mert 1 hónap alatt is sokat változik az érzés, viszont a hosszú hétvégének hála leruccantam Rotterdamba, ahova legutóbb nem jutottam el. nos, ha épp arra jártok és unjátok az ízetlen holland konyhát (bocs, nekem valahogy mindig hiányérzetem van fűszertéren), akkor mindenképp üljetek be a “Netherlands Best Burger 2015” helyére.

Ter Marsch & Co. feelingben nekem pont olyan, mint SP-ben a Holy Burger volt és a burger + sültkrumpli kombó a helyi viszonyokat tekintve tényleg nagyon ott van (de persze itthon jól vagyunk tartva és egy Zinget akkor sem cserélnék le). rendesen be lehet lakni és kifejezetten örültem, hogy az elfogyasztott több liter Chocomel után valami szilárd ételnek is igazán jó íze van. péntek ebédidőben nem volt nagy pörgés, így lehetett szuszogni kicsit a szénhidrátbomba után és ha meg akarjuk tartani magunkat a kellemes élményben, egyetlen dolgot nem szabad csak: a végösszeget átszámolni!

#BR #♥SP #SheGoesRio #timeofmylife

az egész úgy kezdődött, hogy már Ázsia után tudtam, valahova le kell lépnem a télen pihenni.. ilyen 2 hétre azonban álmomban sem gondoltam volna.. vagyis mint kiderült de igen,  és ettől csak még durvább.
az első utam teljesen egyedül. az első, ahol sokkal több érzést és élményt gyűjtöttem, mint valaha. az első, ahol nem is számított, hogy fotózok-e vagy sem. az első Dél-Amerika. az első Brazília. az első, ami után egy ideig nem utazom mással. :)

0.nap (hajnal 4-es indulás előtti éjszaka)
totál pánik. mégis mi a fenét művelek? mit képzeltem hova megyek? sehova, mert mindjárt lemondom. “neked is csak az kell, hogy érezd nem vagy egyedül.” elengedési parák, néma sikolyok, 3 óra alvás, első flashback: kb. 2 éve álmodtam, hogy a Copacabana-n sétálok és tetoválva van a kezem (bal kezemre most szeptemberben került fel a tetkó).

​chikibim chikibom 1.nap
ha menni kell, hát menni kell. 14 óra repülés. levakarom a burkolatot. “I’m glad that you are small.” majd egy igazán szeretik egymást brazil házaspár.. ezért én is hálás vagyok (kösz karma).
havas esőből a 70%-os páratartalomba bele. SAO PAULO. első névtábla és privát kocsi. no traffic.. itt az ilyen ritka (szívesen karma). check in. zuhany. 11 óra alvás.

2.nap
belassult életfunkciók. lenyom a pára. különben is hova siessek. informatív társalgások (itt mindenki “turista”). kell egy kávé. mára elég lesz csak a hipster-környék.
Coffee Lab (isteni, őrület, felejtsd el az angolt, hosteltől 3 sarokra.. nincsenek véletlenek). végigfestett város. Beco do Batman. akiket Instagramon követek évek óta, most itt vannak előttem (végtelen boldogság, hogy látom).

fülledt meleg. klíma-hajam 1:0. kell egy flip flop. 1 óra Havaianas. 4 pár papucs meg jó fej dumcsi. szakadó eső. pao de queijo (függőség). első tömegközlekedés (erre aztán rászoktam). nem lapos a város és nem akarok több hegyet mászni. Pirajá. escondidinho (muito muito). caipirinha (az első és innentől napi három). bejönnek bizonyos brazil pasik.. főleg akik inni adnak.

3.nap
minden reggel brazil kávé. rohadtjó karmám van, csak eddig sz@rul éltem. walking tour. lehet, hogy a japán vezetőnk brazil, de úgy közlekedik, mint egy ázsiai. az utcán mindenki énekel. az egész város múzeum. Feijoada da Lana (mesés, mosolygós, soulfood.. kösz Bourdain). Parque Trianon. korán bezár a Liberdade (csak a meccsnézés marad 6 után), de ne menj a Centro-ba.. meghalsz. fotóim nincsenek, viszont tracklistem van:

4.nap
na nézzük azt a tűzfalat (O.bra). közben kinyírom magam kajával. I wanna marry sugarcane.  Holy Burger (fekete buci, szaftos, isteni, végem van). downtown. második flashback: valaki szórakozik az agyammal, vagy hol láttam már pontosan ugyanezt?

most vagy soha Mercado Municipal. zsibvásár craziness. Hocca pastel. belepusztulok is megeszem az egészet. SP metro rulz. legközelebb szerezz helyi ismerőst kocsival (van az a séta, ami kilátástalan). este 7 és már #nemmozdulok (nem bírok).
napom háttérzene – nem tudom szavakkal kifejezni mit jelent nekem és hogyan köti a lelkemet SP-hez (és függetlenül attól, amiről valójában szól, nekem nagyon pozitív érzést ad):

5.nap
gyümölcsnap (nem). láthatatlan brazil barátok. Afro Brasil.  csak a zaba. parkban chill. harmadik flashback: júniusban volt egy újabb álmom – park, madarak, én fűben, SP.. pontosan ugyanígy. leégés. Acai Original (+banán+magvak=imádás). japán szájából elhangzó “brazilian technology”. hova lehet még enni. de most komolyan. El Guaton (fogalmam sem volt mit rendelek, de bife a cavalo lett belőle.. meg caipirinha). szabadlábon éjszaka. gyönyörű minden kutya. karácsonyi dekor.

6.nap
mennék és maradnék. goodbye SP. ♥♥♥♥♥ luxi busz. nem bírom abbahagyni az evést. mély és magas. felhőbe burkolt bambuszerdő. alattunk az oceán. 360° dzsungel. magasabb rezgések. hazaküldött érzések. megőrülsz.
PARATY party. argentinok mindenhol. sok mélybarna szempár. ez itt a mediterrán. steak vacsora és Jorge Amado (hello my love). #powerfriday #fucktheworldbackgroundmusic (azóta is ez az ébresztőm):

7.nap
sunshine morning. sok maracuja caipirinha. őrült argentinok. dráma angolok. BBQ yeah. és az egyik legkomolyabb élmény: vacsi után a parton sétáltam és két bárral arrébb élő zene volt meg úgy 20 fő. pár percig csak álltam és hallgattam, mert nagyon kellemes volt, aztán megszólalt ez:

az emberek elkezdtek együtt énekelni és táncolni, egy pillanat alatt olyan vibe keletkezett, hogy kitágult pupillákkal és széles mosollyal élveztem amit látok (és nem érdekelt, hogy miért nincs nálam legalább a telefonom, hogy felvegyem mindezt).

8.nap
meg tudom szokni a semmit nem tevést. csak evés legyen. acai reggeli fulladásig. legjobb barátom a csapos (már előre tudja mit kérek). legjobb kaja a sültkrumpli-olvasztott sajt-bacon (csakis 2 személyes verzióban). pici eső. óriás hőség. a nap amikor véletlenül pina coladat (is) ittam. Paraty hétvége hivatalos háttérzenéje pedig:

9.nap
bírom én a buszozást. jesszus RIO. szakadó eső. lehúzni a lehúzós taxist priceless. biztonságos favela. nagyon nem érzem a várost. lehet nem is akarom. legdrágább-legrosszabb ebéd és caipirinha. de ezt a tévedést be kellett áldozni, hogy helyére billenjen az egyensúly. rohadtfinom fagyi. Havaianas (innentől minden nap). mi mindenre jó az olasz tudásom. fehér vagyok, de nem para. alakul a Rio-érzés.

10.nap
december. napsütés. végem van. teraszon fejem felett nektárt szürcsölő kolibrik és kíváncsian közeledő kismajmok. ♥♥♥♥♥ Sugarloaf. leégés. végtelen komfortzóna. juice juice overdose. üres Copacabana (offseason rulz). Bar do Davi. végre az első istenijó kaja Rioban. serious Sam. itt és most.

11.nap
life in the jungle. éjszakai majmok. hajnali madarak. reggeli favela life. ennél relaxáltabb állapot nincs, teraszon függőágyban hallgatni ezt:

felhőbe burkolózó son of a bitch (Redentor). Copacabana sokkolódás (végignézni pár méterről turisták vs. helyi srácok sikertelen birkózását 2 táskáért nem vicces). real brazilian attitude. túl sok caipirinha. még annál is több eső. Uber rulz. nincs olyan, hogy nyelvi korlát.. főleg ha van google translate. Vidigal. mototaxi. két táska nem akadály és nem gondolsz bele, hogy meghalsz a motoron. kell még egy kör. ennyire felhőben még sosem voltam. csend van. hiányzol. köszönöM, hogy velem voltál.

12.nap
dohos penész rosszullét. Rionak nem tesz jót a túlzott eső. életemet egy páraelszívóért. Ipanema rulz. lázas kóma. esti shopping. banándiéta. brazil kávé meggyógyít.

13.nap
miért nem bookoltam át a repjegyet és léptem le Rioból? utálom a nem tudok mit csinálni indulásra várakozó utolsó órákat. de nem is akarok csinálni semmit. hosszú reggeli. még hosszabb beachlife.  hostelben olvasás. indulás. Uber. városnézés. úgy lavíroznak a mindentárusok az autók között, mintha táncolnának. hiába, a samba a vérükben van.. és minden autóban bossanova szól. de fog ez hiányozni.

hazaérkezés. 30-ból a 3 fokba. papucsban. 24 óra fürdőszobába zárkózás (egyetlen párás meleg hely a házban). deep post travel depression és ez:

muito obrigado.

:awesome movies weekend:

BURNT

már a trailernél nyilvánvaló volt, hogy meg fogom nézni.. moziban. (ez van, gasztrofilmbuzi vagyok.)

a magyar cím kicsit erőltetett, Bradley Cooper egyre jobb (és/vagy egyre jobb szerepekbe nyúl bele), volt egy kis Lecsó érzésem, ami biztos csak a sok franciázásnak köszönhető, de a teljes mozit nagyon jól összerakták: adja a feelinget, nincs túlmagyarázva és persze rohadtéhes is lettem.

pont az a film, amit nézni kell, nem szövegelni róla. tetszeni fog és kész.

epilógus:
este még kimaxoltam a gasztroérzést és megnéztem végre a Guerilla Köche-t is.
bár Ázsia mindenképp aduász téma, elég felejthető dokufilmre sikeredett. nem is értem hogy gondolták, hogy 8 hónapnyi utazást belesűrítenek másfél órába: biztos le voltak korlátozva, hogy mit vehetnek fel és mit nem, viszont így kicsit félkész, elpazarolt, felszínes.

THE AGE OF ADALINE

szeretem azokat a filmeket, melyeknek van stílusa. bár a jelenben játszódik, de olyan gyönyörűen átvezették a látványvilágot egészen a XX. század elejéről, hogy azt hihetnénk kosztümös filmmel van dolgunk.. pedig csak a saját ruhatárunk nem stimmel. számomra az év egyik legjobb filmje (nem is értem mi tartott idáig, hogy végre megnézzem).. a színek, a hangulatok, az átszűrődő intellektus, az atmoszféra, az elegancia.. minden az utolsó részletig, teljesen magával ragadott.

a nyilvánvaló sztori mellett bennem az idő aspektusában is igencsak betalált: mihez kezdesz az időddel? mihez kezdenél, ha végtelen időd lenne? ugyanúgy elpazarolnád.. belefásulnál.. véget vetnél neki? vagy a rombolás és pusztulás helyett inkább építenéd magad?

idén nálam az idő lett a központi kérdés, így egy ilyen film is rengeteg gondolatot indít el.. megmozgat, inspirál és cselekvésre ösztönöz.

ez a másik pont az a film, amiről lehet beszélni, de inkább meg kell nézni!. akinek tetszett Benjamin Button, annak Adaline is szeretnivaló lesz.

BreAkfasTa

új kedvenc reggelizős, kávé-elhozós helyeim.. mert imádom, ha reggeli napsütésben sétálva az urbánus betonkörnyezetben tele van a kezem lélekmelegítő finomságokkal, melyektől (lényegtelen, hogy akár hétfő van) mosolyog a fejem. :)

BUTTER BROTHERS

egyáltalán nem új, már régóta szemeztem is vele, de annyira nem esett útba sehogy, hogy egy esős-szakítós-pakolós szombat délelőtt kellett hozzá: ha már előre tudom, hogy sz*r napom van, megendegem magamnak, hogy azt egyek, amit csak akarok.

a napom legjobb döntése volt betérni ide, mert a tojásos-húsos-zöldséges quiche, a tojásos-sonkás töltött hajtogatás (igen, van sok tojás, de szuperjók), a sonkás perec és a naponta változó sütik – überkedvenc a puha, rétegelt kókuszkocka! – mind mennyei.

kevés helyek egyike, ahol cukor nélkül iszom a kávét (mert úgy jó ahogy van), egy smoothie-t majd még izzítanom kell és mióta megtapasztaltam a kutyások életét, baromira értékelem, hogy dogfriendy a hely.

a kistestvére (?) Bean Busters szintén nem rossz, de feelingben nekem az eredeti BB adja leginkább. :)

PAZAR CAFÉ

a szembesarokra járok edzeni és mivel folyamatos náluk a pörgés, csak idő kérdése volt, hogy átugorjak egy kávéra. azóta ez rutinná vált, amiben nagy szerepe van a diós-szilvás rugelachnak, meg a finom kávénak. ár-értékben (tekintve, hogy ötker) teljesen rendben van, és komolyan őrület, hogyan tudnak a nap bármely szakában széles mosollyal és totálkedvesen fogadni mindenkit. remélem iszom én is abból, amiből ők és rám is ragad ebből a nagyon pozitív attitűdből.

mai naptól a péntek reggeli fix pontot látom bennük, mert a hétvégének is meg kell adni a módját. ;)

Elysée Bistro & Kávéház

Parlament. diplomata felvonulás. büdös franciák. na jó nem (de).. ennél azért sokkal jobb az Elysée.

mivel minden nap előtte megyek el, már igencsak kíváncsi voltam, hogy a szépen fotózott ételhangulatok és a tetszetős enteriőr mit mutat valójában. spontán szabadnapom pedig pont alkalmas volt egy ebédre.. és háromból kettő, na meg rendelni tudni kell.. ;)

nagyon tetszik a design, még ha a lámpaburákat leszámítva nincs is benne semmi formabontó-egyedi-wow (egyedül csak az a lila sok nekem kicsit). elsőre azt mondanám, hogy megvan a pesti Déryné, de nem akarok hirtelen összehasonlításokat tenni.
kifejezetten örültem, hogy ebédidőben nem volt tele.. és hogy nem szakadt az eső, bár annak is lehet egy végtelenül szentimentális hangulata (na majd egyszer).

a limonádémat nem én választottam, de a bazsalikomos-málnás verziót ajánlom.

mivel talán az utolsó nap erejéig még nyár van és meleg, ilyenkor pedig nem csúszik a három fogás, de a kettőt kevésnek éreztem, ezért leves-előétel-desszert lett a menü.

kezdésnek BORSÓKRÉMLEVES, KECSKESAJTOS TORTELLINI. na ez nagyon betalált. kellemes, friss, imádom a roppanós borsószárakat és a pont eléggé intenzív kecskesajttal együtt tökéletes.. talán csak pár plusz töltött tészta hiányzott belőle.

erős kezdés után az előétel kategóriából választott LECSÓ, MALACCSÁSZÁR csalódás. se nem lecsó, se nem császár malac, a krumplit sem teljesen értettem, a kis hagymakarikák meg ugyan intenzívek, de ütötték az összképet.

a desszertnél bevállalós voltam.. kockáztattam és nyertem, ugyanis a kávét csak folyékony állapotban szeretem, enni nemigazán, viszont az “ELYSÉE POHÁR” MÁLNA, KÁVÉ, FEHÉRCSOKOLÁDÉ szuperfinom. a pont megfelelő állagú krém, a szivacsszerű kávés piskóta ragacsossága, valamint a pohár alján elterülő málna együttese mosolygóssá tette a befejezést.

éppen csak túl a tesztüzemen(?) és biztos lesz ez még jobb is, de ha variálják és bővítik kicsit az étlapot, akkor tuti szerethető lesz.