Tag Archives: travel

Taipei Thing #15: Have a KGB Burger

31 May

KGB: Kiwi Gourmet Burgers

Michael Turton suggested that I have a KGB burger, which I had no problem with, since they’ve got two things I love (see below). And I was already scheduled to have dinner and language exchange in Shida with my friends Curis and Shelley, so it wasn’t a tough sell getting them to agree.

Thing I love about KGB #1:

Hunter's Gold

I seriously miss Woodchuck Dark & Dry (now called “802”), which I drank religiously at Gandalf’s, a mainstay of the artsy/musical/treehugger crowd in my hometown until it burned down the year I graduated from college. For that reason, cider is a bit nostalgic for me, and I never miss ordering it when it’s available.

Thing I love about KGB #2:

CC Heaven

I’m not sure I’ve ever ordered anything else at KGB. CC = cranberry & camembert cheese. On a burger! Try it. Trust me, you’ll love it. The one pictured is a “slim,” since I was stuffed from all the other food (and those fries all ended up on Curis’s plate, too), but I still finished every bite because that’s how much I love this burger.

A few more shots ought to do it for this post:

Enormous side salads



Mmmm. Just writing this post makes me want to go get another CC Heaven right now…


Taipei Thing #14: Eat 甜不辣

31 May

甜不辣 (tian2 bu2 la4)

Jesse sent me on yet another food mission: to eat 甜不辣, otherwise known as tempura.

Kaifu and I had been eating all day already: vegetarian food at 新卡莎, a sharwarma from Mohammed, and red bean & mochi ice from Tai Yi Milk King, not to mention the strawberry iced tea I sipped while people-watching in Yong Kang Park. Furthermore, I was on my way to meet friends for Thing #15 (another food task).

It was a day to make any hungry girl or inner fatty proud. But there was still tempura to be had, and we were able to find some off Shida Road, among all those food stands near the Wellcome grocery store. It really was delicious, though I think I’d be able to appreciate it better on a day when I hadn’t been stuffing my face for hours already.

And for those curious about the black piece on the left, that’s pig’s blood cake (豬血糕, zhu1 xie3 gao1). The video below will explain everything you need to know (and for those who can read Chinese, the subtitles offer some extra fun – check out 4:23):

Taipei Thing #13: Buy unfamiliar fruits

31 May

Helpful fruit stand guy

A comment from Melissa sent me on a mission to find unfamiliar fruits. She said to buy one of every fruit I couldn’t identify, and a ripe mango if I could find one. I actually stopped at a lot of fruit stands during the course of my travels, including a couple of traditional markets, but was surprised at my apparent knowledge of fruits available in Taiwan (vegetables would have been a different story!). Actually, I encountered more unfamiliar fruits during my dinner at Nonzero than I did at the fruit stands. Strange. Still, I did manage to find one I didn’t know, the melon below (with my ripe mango):

Mango and, um, I don't know what this is called...

I’ve been told that the melon is called 香瓜 (xiang1 gua1), but I have yet to find a proper English name for it. Do you know?

I think this adventure might have resulted in several more purchases 5 years ago when I first came to Taiwan, since I’ve already encountered so many fruits here that I’ve come to know and love, particularly lychees and dragonfruit. Still, I think this is a great way to experience new things, and I will definitely buy more curious fruits whenever I see them from now on!

Not on the list: People-watching in Yong Kang Park

31 May

Crazy kids

After our visit to the secondhand store, Kaifu and I picked up some drinks from a drink stand and took in some relaxing entertainment in Yong Kang Park in the form of people-watching. I guess there’s not much else to say about it, since most of the amusing parts are of the you-had-to-be-there variety, so here are some photos of all the fun.

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Taipei Thing #12: Visit the basement secondhand store on Yong Kang Street

31 May

永康地下階 - I absolutely love the design of the 下

Another of Jesse’s suggestions was visiting this very cool second-hand music-book-junk store on Yong Kang Street (across from Ice Monster). I had been there before, but not for at least a couple of years, so this was a good excuse to visit. The store is easy to identify because there are also CD’s and DVD’s outside at ground level, and they’re always playing something on the screen outside.

Descend the stairs, and you will find yourself in a bizarre little vault of random junk that no one wanted anymore.


You’ll see a few new CD’s near the entrance, but everything else is secondhand. You could literally spend hours in here checking out everything they’ve got because each of the sections is packed from floor to ceiling.

The children's section

For people learning Chinese, the children’s section is a great place to get resources. They’ve got language books elsewhere, but if you’re looking for great native-language books to practice your reading, you’ll be able to get your fill here.

Looking for vinyl?

There is also an enormous vinyl section, particularly cool for people who are looking for classic Taiwanese music. Was so tempted to get this one, if only I had any way to play it:

Take me home

Admittedly, the store is mostly filled with things no one will ever want, but there are a lot of cool finds if you have the patience and an eye for coolness. Some of the things I’d have taken home if I had either the cash on hand or the space in my packed apartment included some old Japanese books (would make excellent craft materials) and this gorgeous photo book:

Gorgeous shots of Taiwan

I’m not quite sure when it was published, but I believe it was 15-20 years old, and was filled with photos of the life and scenery you’ll find in Taiwan. Alas, I hadn’t stopped at the ATM after lunch, so I didn’t get it. If fate has anything to say about it, I’ll pick it up the next time I visit, if it’s still there.

Incidentally, the atmosphere of the store itself is rather cool. There aren’t a lot of places in Taipei where you’ll find so many dark corners in which to discover things, but this store has plenty of them.

In the back

Oh, and I did buy something.

A steal for $9 NT.

This CD case caught my eye on the shelf of random (read: so random that they’re marked down to $9 NT) CDs, and I was delighted when I opened it up. Needless to say, I bought it mostly for what was hidden inside:

Someone else's cat! With a stylish border! Eureka!

If you’re at all curious as to what’s on the CD, check out this video, which I dug up after I got home. Cute.

Side note: The Ice Monster Returneth

27 May

It's coming...

I had been told that Ice Monster will reopen in June, and that seems to be the case, if this apparent facelift is any indication. I can’t say I particularly care, since I didn’t actually go to Ice Monster very often, except that it will be nice to have a Taipei institution on the map again. There had been news reports this spring that business has gone down for other shops on Yong Kang Street since the closing of Ice Monster, so hopefully its return will bring back the tourists and the shoppers. I’m also interested to see what changes are being made behind those temporary walls. We’ll find out soon.

Taipei Thing #11: Visit Japanese-era housing

27 May

Hidden gems.

Xiao Bih suggested that I check out the military dependent’s villages around town (you can read more about these here). I had actually been to one of these before (四四南村), and in fact used it as a performance space for VDAY Taipei in 2008. However, at the time, it was mostly a work space, so I didn’t spend much time looking around. I didn’t really understand the history of the place, and there were, and still are, limited English resources on places like it.

I was told that there was another one of these villages near Jin Hua Street, so Kaifu and I headed there after finishing all that ice. Of course, I was ill-prepared, and had no idea how to find it. I was ready to give up and come back after doing more research, so we started to head down Yong Kang Street to the next destination. Fortunately, I came across a familiar face as we were passing California Grill – a face with information. Extra, one of the friendly folks that runs the restaurant (whose original branch is on Yong Kang), told us that there were some old houses across the street and down an alley, and she guessed we’d find them if we wandered a bit. A short walk later, and we found ourselves on a quiet street off Heping and Jinshan, which looked like it could be what we were searching for.

The lane is made up of very old homes, though all were hidden by walls. It seemed, though, that the places were occupied and well-kept, which I found unusual. It wasn’t clear where we were until I later wandered into the park next to the lane and spotted this plaque:

Jin-an Japanese Colonial Houses

So, it seems, we hadn’t found exactly what we were looking for, but we did find something just as interesting. Another cool part of the lane is the information on natural resources:

Catching the rain.

About the area.

I would like to have been able to see the insides of the houses, but, as I mentioned, they were occupied, and furthermore, there were security cameras and barbed wire. I’m not sure if they were just trying to protect the place from vandals or what, but the cameras certainly seemed out of place.

What’s kind of funny to me about this experience is that, as with many things on my list, this is something I’d passed before and never noticed. I used to work right around the corner from the place, and had to drive down this lane, and yet I didn’t realize there was anything special about it. I’d be happy to hear if anyone else has information on this street (off Li Shui Street), since it’s still a bit of a mystery to me, even with the plaque in the park. We didn’t see exactly what we came for, but this place seems to have a special history of its own.

Quiet and peaceful.

Scooter moment: Umbrella

27 May

You can stand under my umbrella-ella-ella

Taipei Thing #3: More about those pigs (vegetarians, beware)

27 May

A closer look.

My dog went a bit crazy this evening when I got home. He could smell the pig blood on my shoes.

After noticing the pig truck for the first time on Saturday, I happened to be passing the same place at the same hour tonight. This time, after watching a bit from afar, I decided to ask the workers if they’d mind my taking some photos. Not only did they not mind, they also invited me into the truck for a better look. As you can see above, the view from the inside is quite different. A few more:

I was surprisingly not disgusted by this.

More pieces.


I expect some people will be rather disgusted by these photos, and if that’s the case for you, I’d advise you not to watch the video below.

As for me, I was fascinated rather than disgusted. After all, if I can’t stomach seeing where the pork I eat comes from, I probably shouldn’t be eating pork in the first place. The only thing that was slightly gross was standing to the side in the truck as they carried off two pigs, and seeing what was presumably fat slide down one of the carcasses as it passed no more than a foot away from me. Of course, that may have been more terror than disgust – terror at the possibility of that fat sliding off and hitting me. Ick.

And actually, it was the people that I found the most interesting. This particular truck had two men working – one was middle-aged, while the other appeared to be perhaps a few years younger than me. Both were very friendly. The older man seemed almost proud of his work, happy to have someone take an interest in his job. The younger man asked if I was going to put my photos and video on a blog, or possibly Facebook (you can hear him say “妳要放在部落格?” at the end). When I said I’d probably do both, he told me he thought Americans didn’t use Facebook, and that I looked Australian – something about the shape of my face? We had a nice chat, and I got the impression that I was a welcome distraction from what is normally tedious work.

In any case, if you’re still reading, and haven’t been bothered so far by the photos above, here’s the older man in action. Watch how smoothly he works, not even looking when he hangs the meat hooks:

If you’re interested in seeing the process for yourself, the market is located on Xi Ning South Rd., about a block south of Zhong Xiao West Rd. According to the workers, there are many trucks in and out of the market all night (I saw 3 come and go while I was there), so there will be plenty to see. Be a bit careful if you get close, though. The pavement will be covered in blood.

PS: Lest anyone feel the need to use the comments to discuss the horrors of meat-eating and the cruelty of pig slaughter, let me forewarn you that any such comments will be deleted. This blog is meant to be an exploration of urban life in Taipei, not a platform for promoting an agenda – unless, of course, that agenda is to share with others how great Taipei is.

Taipei Thing #10: Have red bean & mochi ice at Tai Yi Milk King

26 May

Tai Yi Milk King. Go in the daytime to avoid lines.

Continuing with Monday’s food tour, here’s another suggestion for good eats, this one from Joan, the world-famous hungry girl. I never really took advantage 臺一牛奶大王 when I lived only 2 blocks away, so I was happy to oblige on this task! We went in the early afternoon, so the place wasn’t too busy. Normally, there are lines on summer evenings, especially on the weekend, but we didn’t have to wait at all.

First, check out all the choices:

Kaifu with Tai Yi's large selection.

Of course, it’s all in Chinese, which is probably the reason I didn’t go there much when I arrived in Taipei. Here are some more special items you can get at Tai Yi:

You can pick up an order of tang yuan (湯圓) to take home.

Tai Yi is pretty well known among locals, but it doesn’t get the tourists like the overrated Ice Monster used to (and will again soon), so I think it offers a more “authentic” Taipei shaved ice experience. The menus and no-frills environment are good evidence of that.

Joan’s suggestion was to try the red bean and mochi ball ice (紅豆湯圓牛奶冰). I’m not a fan of red bean, but I live for 湯圓, so I gave it a try. Kaifu went with the pudding ice, which cracks me up every time I see it. (There’s a place on Yong Kang that even serves it with sprinkles!) Here are our ice masterpieces:

Red bean & mochi ball ice & pudding ice

I have to admit that I wasn’t able to finish all the beans in mine, though I did of course finish all the 湯圓. Just look at how many beans they piled on there!

Red bean overload

We had just eaten our vegetarian meal and a shawarma, too, so I was really full by the end of the ice. I’d consider getting it again, but perhaps asking them to tweak the bean/mochi proportions, or else sharing with someone else. In any case, it was good to get out of my usual habit of getting mango or strawberry ice. Thanks, hungry girl!

PS: As a self-appointed expert on public restrooms, I advise you not to use the bathroom at Tai Yi before you finish your ice. In fact, the bathroom smells so bad that you may want to just head to McDonald’s a block away to use their relatively clean facilities!