The day was Monday, 8th December 2008. Had finished packing our bags last night, took me 2 hours to stuff everything into 2 suitcases. I also manage to pack an extra hand luggage into one of the check in luggages just in case we buy extra souvenirs from Taiwan.
We woke up to the sound of heavy rain lashing at our room window. The time was 5:30 am. The travel agency was supposed to pick us up at 6:10 am. Checked that everything was in order and I got a call from the tour guide. He will pick us up at 6:15 am. We lugged our baggages out of the house and waited for the van to arrive.
The tour guide, Mr. Te helped to carry our luggages to the van and we took off to Chiu Travel at Jalan Rahmat to board to tour bus which will take us to Changi Airport, Singapore. The bus was supposed to depart at 6:30 am but due to some latecomers we only got moving at 7:15 am. The rain was relentless, I was worried that Taiwan would also be raining and spoil my trip there.
My wife nudged me and told me about our bus seating numbers. Actually we just sat randomly in the bus and coincidentally the bus number we sat was 13 & 14 respectively. In chinese numerology 1314 means eternity (forever).
Our 'Eternity' Seats
We arrived safely at Changi Airport at around 10 plus, and had a quick breakfast at the cafeteria and then proceeded to the check-in our luggages counter at 11:00 am. While walking towards to the boarding rooms, we passed by several Disney decorations adorning the duty free section of the airport. I asked my wife to pose in front of a Mickey Mouse Pirate Ship.
Pirate Mickey's Ship
As we reached the waiting room to board the plane, we saw our plane parked outside and my wife was all smiles because this was her first time flying on a plane. This was my 2nd time, my first was 2 years ago when I went to Guangzhou/Hong Kong. This is the photo of the plane we were about to board.
EVA Air BR 226 Flight
Minutes before boarding, I got a written message from our tour guide, Mr. Te. It seems that my parents, sister and aunties were at the airport too to see me off as a surprise. But I was already at the waiting room, there was no way for me to see them. I was a bit sad at that. I manage to call my sister from another fellow passenger handphone as my phone has no roaming facilities. We said our farewells from the phone as well as from sms messages and boarded the plane at 1:00 pm. Before that, my wife just had to take a picture with the plane.
We will be taking the same airlines back from Taiwan as well. After reading so much about EVA Air, I wanted to see why they were awarded the “Best Premium Economy Class” award in Skytrax annual World Airline Awards. We went straight to the Economy Class section which was at the tail end of the plane. Quite spacious if you asked me. We can watch movies, listen to songs and play games in our seats. My wife got her window seat which was pre-arranged when we booked the holidays earlier. We took a photo before the call came for us to switch off all electronic gadgets, I assume my digital camera is one so to be on the safe side I turned it off the entire trip.
Last photo before flying to Taiwan
Nothing much to write about the flight except that we hit a severe turbulence when we were nearing Taipei. It was so bad that I saw a few elderly aunties praying. Luckily we arrived at Taipei Taoyuan International Airport at around 6:20 pm. After getting our passports done and the necessary check-out procedures we proceeded to the airport entrance when we were greeted with a chinese guy holding a sign “Chiu Travel”. This guy would be our Taiwan tour guide for the entire 6 days, his name is Benny Lee. He showed us to our bus and while waiting for the bus driver to finish putting our baggages in the bus, I decided to take a picture of my wife putting our passports in her bag.
Busy keeping the precious documents
It was only 7:00 pm and the whole of Taipei was as dark as night. It’s the winter season in Taiwan now, and the sun sets at 5:00 pm daily. So without much ado our bus moved to our itinerary of the day which is Shilin Night Market. While the bus was moving to its destination, our tour guide explained to us what Taiwan is all about, the places of interest we were about to visit in days to come, the food we are expected to eat including the infamous “Stinky Tofu” or “Chou Dou Fu” in Mandarin, the indigenious tribes of the country as well as the history and geology of the whole island.
I could not remember what time we reached Shilin Night Market as our stomachs were already growling by then. It was a cool 20 degrees celcius in Taipei and the wind was very cooling. A brief introduction of Shilin Night Market, this night market is one of the more famous markets in Taipei, making it a long-time favourite among its residents and tourists alike. Located at the Shi Lin area, it surrounds Yang Ming Theatre extending in all directions as far as Wen Lin, Ji He, Da Dong and Da Nan roads.
Since it’s such a huge market, almost any product imaginable, not to mention any kind of food can be found there. The products are of good quality and quite inexpensive, so that you’re sure to get your money’s worth. In fact, the deals are so good that they draw large crowds even on weekdays.
One of the signboards showing what kind of food being sold in the night market. Due to my poor command of Mandarin, I can only make out the word “Dou Hwa” which means soy milk in English.
What's on the menu today
A photo of us taken at the entrance of the Night Market, showing the bustling crowd behind us. This is where all the food are being sold. Benny gave us about an hour to fill our stomach before going to our hotel for a night stay.
One of the many stalls in the night market, this one sells Taiwan Sausages. I did not know there were so many varieties to it, and it comes in many sizes too. There were BBQ flavour, Wasabi flavour, sweet sauce flavour and etc. Being hungry I chose the biggest one being sold. It has a skin tone to it and its filled with glutinous rice. It was rather filling, wife only had a bite of it just to try out.
NT50 for a sausage
We had other food too but I forgot to take the photos. One unique snack of Shilin Night Market is called ‘little roll wrapped in big roll’. This little rolls comes in two types, sweet and salty. The sweet rolls are wrapped in peanuts, taro or jujube paste, while the salty rolls are stuffed with curry and spicy filling. These are pan fried until crispy, then crushed and wrapped in a spring roll wrapper, and then in a softer wrapper creating a softer texture. I bought 3 of these, peanut, curry and original flavour, total cost NT100 which translates to slightly more than RM10.00.
The other not to be missed food here is the stinky tofu or “Chou Dou Fu”. Its also the unofficial national snack food of Taiwan. To the locals, the stinkier it is, the better it’s taste is. My wife couldn’t stand the smell and sat quite a distance away while i enjoyed this snack alone. Its usually served fried and goes well with chilli sauce and marinated veggies.
Fragrant Stinky Tofu
Other notable eating stalls in the night market would be the Hao Da Chicken Steak, which is very popular by the looks of the long queue there. We did not try this because of the sizable crowd although we regret it much later. The chicken chop or steak is about twice as large as those served in other eateries. It costs about NT40 per piece. However we had a can of Coca-Cola to wash our food down, wife said I had to take this photo showing the chinese letters of “Ke Kou Ke Le” which is the direct translation of Coca-Cola.
Cold drink to wash the smell of stinky tofu
After everyone has filled their stomachs, we walk back to our bus and check-in to our hotel of the night, Kirin Hotel. Nothing beats having a warm shower and lying on the bed waiting in anticipation of what tomorrow might bring. More to come in Day 2.