Six Days of Taipei

I went to Taiwan expecting to like it, but I was surprised how much I loved it.

Taipei: Busy and overwhelming.  The weather warm, the people warm too. Life on the streets, a new culture with new things to try, and new things to eat.

January 2018: The plane brought us into Taipei and away from the deep-freeze of Korean winter. I was ready. Primed and prepared with an expansive list of vegetarian friendly waypoints plotted into google and backed up in my own mental map of a city I had never visited. My traveling companion came ready with two cameras, a roll of film, and a calm that came from an understanding of what lay ahead: we were going to vacation hard and balance it with the kind of vegetarian street food indulgences that don’t come easy on the peninsula. 2018: Year of fitness, year of balance, year of Fi.

The following entries and the photos from my phone chronicle the high and low points of healthy eating in Taipei. It’s an honest and unflinching look at the struggle of one girl verses her impulse control. A tale of joy, triumph, and shame.

DAY 1: Ningxia Night Market

Night market mushrooms.

Night market mushrooms.

We arrived in Taipei at approximately 9PM, local time. Ningxia night market presented a tempting target of opportunity. My pre-trip google scouting showed it as smaller and ideally situated near our accommodations. An ideal spot to test the waters.

HIGH

Mushrooms: Grilled all the way and covered in white pepper and powered wasabi. The stuff dreams are made of.

LOW

In walks trouble. Scallion pancake, deep fried with only an egg to keep her delicate veneer of nutritional decency. This greasy carb-load blurred the line between want and need. I wanted to share one to keep things reasonable, but my travel buddy wanted his own and was having none of it. C’est la Vie.


Day 2: Taipei at Large

Never turn down a good Bao

Never turn down a good Bao

Weather: Ideal, the threat of rain blew over during the morning’s sightseeing leaving us with a nice soft and warming sunshine for eating outdoors. The morning’s sightseeing had placed us conveniently near to an all vegetarian buffet option I had mentally (and digitally and physically) noted earlier.

HIGH:

Pay by the Weight Vegetarian Take Away + hike. Jackpot!

Everything being vegetarian meant chomping down on dim sum without playing Russian roulette with surprise meat.  Beautiful. Added Bonus: Veggie Bao, the rockstar of sandwiches. We hiked Elephant Mountain as a post lunch activity. Steep steps and tourists all the way to the top, made up for by the view of the city  and watching the lights come on as night set in.

You deserve a visual explanation.

You deserve a visual explanation.

LOW:

Titty Beer: I’m a reasonable gal.  I like a drink or two, but I normally try to keep alcohol consumption moderate. Having said that, there is just something about a happy hour sign, a friendly bartender and taps sprouting out of some strange places on a mannequin... c’mon, who wouldn’t want that?

Day 3: Hotpot

Hotpot hot-spot.

Hotpot hot-spot.

Set out at night looking for a vegetarian hotpot.  Had a place in mind, but only a rough location and no idea if it was still in bussiness.  My partner pointed out a vegetarian pasta place on the way as a backup plan.  Hotpot or carbs, the stakes couldn't be higher.

HIGH:

Veggie Hotpot:  Nourishing soup, a nutritional winner- hotpot just hits the spot.

All veggie again. Unlimited veggies in fact. Delicious fake meats I don’t even know the names for. More dim sum, noodles, spicy and savory broth.

Atmosphere: Quiet, but overall friendly. A much needed and welcome dinner.

LOW

Bubble Tea: Bubble Tea should under any normal circumstances rank as HIGH. Today I was a dope and forgot to ask for low sugar.  Sent pure unadulterated body-tingling sweetness racing through my veins like a runaway train. Didn’t care for the sugar hangover an hour later either.

HOT TIP: ALWAYS ask for low or no sugar to avoid running into a cranky angry, crashing version of yourself later on.

 

Day 4 Jiufen-ed Away

Jiufen...

Jiufen...

Yeah, there’s crowds, claustrophobia, and the shuffling lockstep of  being part of the greater sightseeing mob.  But there’s also the main street lined with food, brightly lit shops, and the textured green,s browns and brilliant reds of an old city built onto the hillside. Pure magic. Jiufen is i known for being the inspiration behind the film Spirited Away, but even if that never came out people would still be coming here.

HIGH

EVERYTHING.  The lot.  The whole damned thing.  THIS TOWN IS PERFECT.

LOW

Fried Squid:  This is where that shame and impulse control comes into play. My only seafood of the trip  (I dabble in sea creatures but prefer to eat veggie when possible). These squid guys were professionals (said so on their sign).  I don't think I would want to buy squid from anyone else. So I didn’t. Just bought from them. More than once.



Day 5: The Regal Lotus

Vegetarian.  All of it.  This isn't even all of it.

Vegetarian.  All of it.  This isn't even all of it.

“Well, we can either take the metro to dinner which will take a half an hour, or we can walk which will take about an hour and fifteen minutes.”

Up for the challenge we power walked through the streets of Taipei on our last night. The pay off? The Ultimate 200 dish all vegetarian buffet of my dreams- The Regal Lotus

HIGH

The walk to dinner...And then eating dinner.

The walk was long. It started  to rain, the wind blew it in our faces. We had a great time chatting and really getting the feel of the streets.

I worried about dinner and not being able to get a table but this place was huge, taking up the entire basement of a massive skyscraper. They managed to fit us in.

There was everything one could want from pizza to a personal hot pot station. They even served Hagen-Dazs.

 

LOW

The walk to dinner may have been fueled Baileys coffee and Strongbow ciders.

 

Day 6: Goodbye.

All good things come to an end, but we woke up early before our flight to get one more sight in and put off the inevitable.

HIGH

Liberty Square yoga:  Doing some Yoga in such a great place. This square is impressive and easy on the eyes. People had come out to meet up with each other, enjoy the morning and practice performances. I saw at least one color guard and drum line, and fit right in taking a few yoga photos.

Out on a high note.                                                                                          (Photo: Julian Stout)

Out on a high note.                                                                                          (Photo: Julian Stout)

LOW

Pizza night on our return.

We even took a cab direct to the place around the corner from our flat.


 

Fiona Van Tyne