When people mention traveling to Asia, they often consider the big threes: Japan, Korea, and China, but what about the small players? Taiwan is a small island in East Asia that is sometimes overlooked but shouldn't be. It's full of history, amazing sights and some of the best noodles I've ever had. Here is a compilation of my journey through the country, starting with my favorite spot, Jioufen.
Jioufen, also referred to as the "Santorini of Taiwan", is located in the Ruifang District. It's a train and bus ride away from Taipei, approximately 1.5 hours away, making it perfect for a day trip. I advise you to arrive in the afternoon so you can get a glimpse of the town at night.
Get off the train station and find lines of taxis ready to take you to Jioufen. The buses can fill up quickly so if you're willing to pay $6, take a cab and get to the village in 15 minutes.
I was concerned about the heavy rainfall during my visit, but I have to admit, it added a certain ambiance to the setting.
Tourists flock to Jioufen because it is the inspiration behind the Japanese movie, "Spirited Away".
Along with the food stands, I did notice that the village had quite a few dessert shops. You can even find boxed desserts like mochi and crackers to take home.
There is one shop in the entrance of the market that is wildly popular for their taro soup, but I opted for this dorayaki with taro ice cream...and had no regrets.
Sit and enjoy the view with a cup of tea in one of the shops to the left.
Once the night falls, the lights turn on and the city becomes alive. After you've seen every corner of Jioufen, head over to Keelung. Cabs can take you directly to the Keelung night market for about $15.
Unlike other night markets, this one is more concentrated on food stands than shops. Find a wide variety of dishes including curry, roasted pig, and seafood.
Although Keelung is the seaport district, I skipped all the seafood and went for the famous fried sandwiches. Yes, you heard me right, fried sandwiches! These sandwiches are so popular that on busy nights you have to have an assigned time to pick up your meal. Fortunately, I was able to snag a sandwich, gobble it down and come back for seconds!
The sandwich is just ham, tomato, cucumber, a boiled egg, and mayo, but there's something about it that makes it so comforting. The bread alone is delicious - soft, sweet, and a little crunchy from the breadcrumbs coating the outside. In my haste of trying to consume the sandwich as quickly as I could, I only have a blurry picture to leave you with.
*Update: turns out the ham is vegetarian ham! If you're hesitant about vegetarian meats (as any normal person would be), trust me, you won't be able to tell the difference.
If you do decide to try the fresh seafood, head on over to the port and eat at any of the restaurants. You won't regret it.
Next up, Beitou hot springs.
Check out the rest of "The Flavors of Taiwan" series
Part 3: Central Taipei
Part 4: Good Eats in Central Taipei
Part 5: The Borders of Taipei