When in Taichung: Stroll around Yizhong Street

Taiwan’s unequivocal charm revolves around its night markets. Capping off our stay in Taichung was an evening stroll to Yizhong Street Night Market, a happening place in the northern district of the city, for a taste of a few local eats.

Hard to be believe that it’s already been a year since visiting the dreamland came to be true! Snippets of this trip often come across my mind and give me a sense of ease and calm that I need on schooldays of stress and no-sleep. I was never one to take note of dates of memorable days, but I can’t help but scour my planner and realize how this was all exactly a year ago. And this time, the wanderlust blues hitting me are like no other. Taiwan, I miss you the most.

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As we were still quite full from the milk tea and bread we had hours prior our trip to the night market, we only got to sample a bit of the night market’s many food choices.  With an endless array of dishes and drinks available, it can be overwhelming to know and decide what to choose from, especially when they all look and seem equally appetizing. But as they all say, eat where the locals eat! Or better yet, let’s put it this way—the long lines are worth it.

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Minus the mayonnaise and oyster sauce, I’d like to think that this is Taiwan’s version of takoyaki. We also shared a meal of crispy salty-spicy chicken strips drenched in vinegar. Cheap and fulfilling, because one can never go wrong with street food.

I have a confession to make: I never got to know what stinky tofu tastes (or worse, smells!) like, and yes, that’s a regret. What. It’s like going to Japan and not eating sashimi! Still punching myself in the gut for not being able to do so (hehe, see what I did there).

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Aside from the thriving food culture, the night market also has its fair share of clothing stalls. Many of the items sold are similar to what one can get at Divisoria or Greenhills, but even so, they’re heavily marked up, so you’re better off buying from the mentioned establishments instead. Perhaps, Taiwan isn’t exactly a shopping mecca when it comes to clothes, but really, I don’t mindthis country easily trumps others in many more significant aspects which I could make a list of, one of which is what else—food!

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Clearly not the best picture with that unflattering angle and all that grain, but here I am browsing through the racks of NET, a local brand that happens to be Taiwan’s H&M or something like that. I remember seeing nice pullovers and sweaters, but they still lean more towards the expensive side especially for a cheapskate like I am (never have I been labeled such word until college camein this relatively short time of being a university student, it has already immensely changed my life in many ways possible), haha.

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Many establishments offer quirky, unique finds so browsing through them should not be missed. And SNSD—are they even allowed to use that name? Well, even so, it definitely caught my attention, as you can see.

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This adorable pup paused our pace as we were passing through the alleys of the night market.

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And earned a few new friends, too!

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Oddly enough, we were always mistaken as Japanese tourists in Taiwan. It was quite hard to get by in Taichung (compared to Taipei) when conversing with others in English alone, so it was in this city where I had to squeeze all my linguistic Mandarin juices out (or lack thereof) to be able to get my message across! It was frustratingly fun ordering from this milk tea stall and it took us a good five minutes to be able to do so. The sellers immediately assumed we were Japanese, and kept on repeating the greeting of moshi moshi to us. They asked if I could speak Chinese, and did a hand sign signalling that I knew just a tiny bit. The only thing they understood from me was when I said, “一杯!“ to which they repeated in their delight. Ah, I actually said something right!, I cried. It’s like all the things I’ve known in these lazy years of learning just came to be, and wow, things never felt so real.

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As shallow this might be to a lot of people, it was in Yizhong where I had a taste of what to me is ultimately the best milk tea I’ve ever had in my entire lifetime of obsession with cha (and I thought nothing could surpass Dakasi’s charcoal roasted milk tea). Funny how many of the great things we come across are those we find in places so unexpectedin unassuming corners, hidden alleys, or hole-in-the-wall stalls.

I actually still don’t know what it was made of, but that sip was definitely life-changing! That milk tea that changed my life is called 大岛奶茶, and according to translation is Oshima milk tea—a hidden gem, indeed.

And with that, Z Tea, I’m coming back for thee.

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Awkward stand and sip. And what’s up with my bag being so low?

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Two hours of incessant walking proved to be quite draining, so here we are masking our tired faces with pa-cute selfies, but what’s new, haha. Worry-free days like this I sorely miss.

I know how Fengjia Night Market gets much of the spotlight when it comes to Taichung’s evening places, but I do recommend taking a stroll around Yizhong Night Market—from my experience, it was way less crowded (considering the fact that Fengjia is located right next to a university of the same name), which really makes a ton of difference in the overall experience of shopping, nomming, and just simply getting by around! With it being easily accessible from Chung Yo Department Store, it’s not a very hard spot to miss.

Yizhong Street Night Market / 一中街夜市
Yizhong Street, North District, Taichung / 台中市北区一中街

Happy Birthday, Soulboy

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Last April, I went to Taiwan. I booked this trip last year, and literally days before our flight, I found out that my absolute favorite singer would have an autograph session there. Can’t believe how it fell right on our trip! Our stay was short, but I made my way to meet him. Maybe it was luck or fate, but it was a dream come true. Always remember this day. And today, he turns a year older! Happy Birthday, Khalil Fong!

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Happy Birthday, Khalil! Thank God you sing in English as well or else… haha. Still feels so surreal to have been in one frame with you. 方大同,你是最棒的。谢谢你的音乐。祝你幸福,永远爱你!同哥生日快乐!!

Sleep and leave: Backpacker’s Inn, Taipei

Tucked in the little corners of Zhongzheng district is this quaint and charming hostel located in central Taipei, which we called our home for the latter part of our trip.

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Others may prefer staying in hotels that have an amazing view of the city, or renting a little apartment in the heart of the capital. Hostels really are a unique and fun alternative to hotels. The fact that they come out (almost) always cheaper is the selling point, but then, they exude this certain vibe and charm that even a five-star hotel could not.

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We had arrived from Taichung early morning that day, and off we hopped on the Taipei MRT to be able to get to Backpacker’s Inn. It was a few minutes’ walk away from the nearest MRT station exit (NTU Hospital Exit 4, that is) and to be more precise, an eight-minute walk from Taipei Main Station. The nearest landmark would be the 228 Peace Memorial Park, and passing through this assures you that you are on the right track. We saw the hostel at a pretty far distance as it screamed bright blue walls. The place is very easy to find, I promise!

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I wasn’t able to take a few snaps of the entrance and reception desk (although I remember a few seconds of it on the vlog); however, the ground floor had free-flowing milk tea and coffee, two touch-screen desktops with Chinese and English interfaces, and space where luggage can be temporarily kept. And, plus points for the wifi available for every floor. So cool, I say!

The staff spoke English pretty well, and they were very much eager to help. With that, nothing else matters as much. Or so I think.

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That chicken-scrawl Hanyu handwriting with fail and ugly strokes you may spot is no one else’s but mine. Haha. Yes, I try too hard. But someone sort of responded (not using actual words, well… go figure!) to what I wrote so I guess that means quite a lot!

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It’s quite a norm for hostels to be artsy, contrary to hotels’ minimalist, elegant, and modern interiors. I like it very much. Such eye candy is a feast to the eye.

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We stayed in the mixed dormitory that probably hosted more or less 12 people. The rooms are very narrow and having a lot of luggage can be much of a hindrance, but then there’s a reason why it is called how it’s called—a backpacker’s inn. They offer lockers as well, but the noise it makes as it is activated with the card can be quite a disturbance. I feared waking up my fellow roommates because of that!

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I tried the lower bunk and I guess I was lucky to be assigned to that. As the room was pretty small, getting up the upper bunk was sort of a challenge. Even if it was a dormitory, a curtain cloth covering each bunk kept you secured. I didn’t expect the mattresses to be soft, but wow, the beds were surprisingly comfy! The bunks individually had a reading light and electrical outlets, which practically deemed to be so useful.

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The bathroom is shared for both female and male, and it can be a downside, depending on how you look at it. Honestly, that really wasn’t much of a concern to me but it was more of the space and limited number of stalls. I never experienced lining up for a shower/toilet stall (as seen on the picture below, they come in one!), but when using the sink in order to brush my teeth or to simply wash my hands, I had to wait in line for that. Amenities-wise, there wasn’t really much to complain about. There were shampoo and soap dispensers available, abundant tissue supply, hot and cold water, and free baskets and blow dryers for everyone’s use.

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I might have to emphasize the very narrow design of the dormitory-type rooms; this corridor is where we did our luggage-packing the day we checked out. It’s clearly not a place for claustrophobic people, and people who lug around a lot of stuff, and that includes us. Haha. Well, we managed, so it was all good.

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I was very pleased with our stay in Backpacker’s Inn, but one thing I missed out on the hostel experience is the actual social part of having to get to talk and know your fellow hostelmates. Part of the fun in traveling is getting to meet strangers who momentarily share the same road with you. It was, well, the main reason why I was eager to stay in a hostel, and I guess that this hostel just wasn’t the place for it—it wasn’t much of a social place, to be exact. But it may have just been me and my situation, because we only spent two days and one night in the place and would leave right after we’d get dressed in the morning. Although from what I know, there is a floor where people could socialize and hang around but it was something I didn’t see, unfortunately, as it was a few floors higher. Well, I did get to exchange smiles with the people in my room, and a few sorry’s and bu hao yi si’s were thrown here and there because of the unintentional squeaks and bumps we caused. Haha.

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For first-time hostel users like us, this hostel was the perfect choice that suited just what we needed! Its reviews online would reveal that it isn’t anything extraordinary or even close to an exceptional one, but with it being a decent hostel at a very convenient location, a stay here solely meant for sleep and shower would do you well. I like giving some feedback, so I posted a positive review online and gave it four stars. And I repeat; if there’s that one remarkable trait of this hostel, then it would be its location. It’s a five-minute walk to the nearest MRT station, and a good ten-minute walk to the bus station that has fifteen-minute intervals of departure to Taoyuan Airport. As this hostel leans toward the average side, there may be better options that offer a more meaningful hostel experience, but it’s really the location of this hostel that would make me want to stay here again. If you’re the type that doesn’t sweat the small stuff, then this hostel’s a perfect match. And for less than a thousand yuan per night, that’s certainly a great deal.

Call it adventurous, unconventional, or pretty weird, but being able to experience staying in a youth hostel has always been something waiting to be ticked off my bucket list!  Not only was that goal fulfilled without having to shell out much, it turned into a reality in my dream destination! I definitely love the idea of bunk beds, sharing dormitories with fellow travelers and tourists who hail from places around the globe, and a simple sleep-and-leave approach—all that fun that comes with a price tag you can never get from spending an evening or two elsewhere.

Backpacker's Inn (formerly Packer's Inn) // 贝壳窝青年旅舍 
No. 84, Huaining St. Zhongzheng District, Taipei // 台北市中正区怀宁街84号

Alight at NTU Hospital Station Exit 4, red line >> Pass through 228 Peace Memorial Park >> Turn right to Huaining St.

When in Taichung: Get lost in IKEA

One of my favorite stops in Taichung definitely needs an appreciation post. Well, that favorite is no other than IKEA!

It wasn’t actually part of the written itinerary, so a good 40-minute walk to the establishment was quite unprepared for—sleep-deprived and all! But for a wonderful place like this, hey, no complaints. 

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I literally squealed like a kid when I saw this scene! Taiwan and Sweden flags in one frame… well, what more can you ask for. My dreamland and another! I have occasionally blurted out my appreciation for Sweden (and Scandinavia in general) on quite a few posts. For a region 5,000 miles and two connecting flights away, this is the closest I can get to the place.

I came across an article stating that IKEA is soon to hit our shores soon. I hope that’s real. It feels weird to know that all your neighboring countries have a branch or two.

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Taiwan! Jag älskar och saknar diggggg! Again, I am weird that I occasionally throw a few Swedish words and phrases here and there. Yep, my love for the nation prompted me to download the first 25 lessons of Basic Swedish on Memrise for offline reading. Apparently I know more Swedish than even five characters of Katakana. Whaaat. Such a nerd. I hope all these weird pastimes of mine contribute to the betterment of myself as a person. Hahaha.

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Their grocery had a very wide selection of Scandinavian loot. Surprisingly, a lot of things were actually pretty affordable! For some reason, in my current trips, things come out much cheaper than what I would expect them to be; at the same time, things are actually more expensive than what I would expect them to be.

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There are lockers where purchases can be deposited. To activate it, you need to put a coin on the slot. But when it’s time to get your stuff and leave, you get your coin back! I wouldn’t know if this is supposed to be a normal thing in many countries, but I was genuinely amazed. I haven’t seen anything like it in our country, but that’s probably because I haven’t gone to a lot of modern establishments here either. Anyhow, we need to adapt this scheme!

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I love how I’ve never spotted a thank you for not sitting here sign anywhere here! Now it makes me think—does that only exist in the department stores of our country?

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I’m not quite sure if these are stools or tables (it’d be cool if they function as both!), but they are so pretty I want to cry. You Scandinavians are design geniuses. Minimalism everywhere.

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There was quite a handful of room design inspirations and just like this, you can buy this whole room set for a fixed price. There were nicer sets, but this was something I would totally adapt for a dream home!

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The person who loves to take selfies with me (a twofie, I suppose?) but hates taking my pictures when asked. I’m in the dreamland and why no pictures of myself??? Haha. I’ve yet to have a travel companion who doesn’t mind having the occasional stops for a great photo op. Let’s travel the world together.

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This picture looks so uncannily similar to my current profile picture it makes me laugh. Both pictures of us abroad seated on chairs. I don’t get my choices either. If people have #tumblingshots to add to their travel collection, I’m really considering sofa shots for mine. Hahaha. Sorry, I sound so annoying.

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My travel buddies, my kuya and ate throughout our trip. They are the nicest people ever, and never did I encounter a dull moment with them. I laughed to my heart’s content every second. Love and miss them to bits!

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Ååååååååh!

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In hindsight, I should have bought this for my youngest brother. I didn’t know until that day that he has this inexplainable admiration for Peter Pan the movie. Sometimes my relationships with my siblings make me doubt myself… lol.

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Awkward angles and poses, and obviously contrived, yes, but broccoli. How can you not love IKEA?

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To cap off our visit to IKEA, we had a quick stop at the restaurant located on one of the upper floors. Had waffles and juice made of this variant of fruit that I forgot. I really can’t remember for the life of me what it was, but it tasted great!

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Here’s what could be seen through the building windows. Not the nicest picture, but definitely the nicest view of the district.

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Just before I end, let me say that the title of this post is quite apt. IKEA is so huge that even when on the same floor, you’d be endlessly scouring the stalls and hallways for amazing interiors and quirky house finds. So many times did I say out loud, “I don’t remember passing by here!” just when we were about to walk to the next floor. Spending the afternoon in IKEA and getting lost in its little corners are a seemingly never-ending maze after all!

IKEA台中店 
Xiangshang Road, Nantun District, Taichung / 台中市南屯区向上路

Travel Tales: Taiwan

 

P.S. Taiwan is mah turf. You know, just casually walking around the night markets with Wanting Qu, Da Mouth, and Jay Chou songs playing, and passing by stalls with posters of Rainie Yang and Mayday is like inhaling and exhaling… hehehehehe. I LOVE TAIWAN!!!

These were the last sentences of the e-mail I sent to my dad after my first day in Taiwan has passed. As of this moment, it’s been three days since I’ve bid the place goodbye, and I’m having a terrible case of wanderlust withdrawals. Four days in the dreamland of three years is not enough.

If not for this place, I wouldn’t have had the chance to physically hold music albums of the songs I call familiar, been a ruler away from my ultimate idol, felt the genuine kindness of Taiwanese people… but those are just the little bits and pieces that make up the picture.

Taiwan, you have done me well. And as “goodbye” in Chinese literally means see you again, well, yes, we will. I’ll see you again, 再见! 🙂