Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Day 15: We Shop Till We Drop

Our last day in Taiwan and our agenda was simple: buy everything we had had our eye on but not actually bought yet, maybe revisit one or two places we had a soft spot for.

We started off in Datong, the traditional part of Taipei, where there was lots of local colour...

... and local produce to be bought.

Streets like Guide, Dihua and...

this one

had rows and rows of shops

like this dry goods store

or this one

which sold everything from...

seaweed (san hu cao)

instructions on how to prepare san hu cao

to the famous Hsinchu bee hoon which of course we bought for our fathers. Our favourite was this tea shop...

all kinds of tea, including "flower" teas

We also patronised a shop selling...

all kinds of seeds!

We hoped the seeds we bought would take root in our neighbourhood vegetable plot, run by our esteemed neighbour with the green thumbs, Mr Yip.

we didn't need any of this but the colours were lovely

After that, we decided to do lunch at Din Tai Fung. We're not big fans of the restaurant back home but how could we visit Taipei without giving it a shot? That's how we found ourselves back at...

Sogo Fuxing

It wasn't even lunchtime proper and there was a long queue.

people waiting

We took a number and then headed to the supermarket to grab a snack first.

onigiri and a handroll

look at the ikura!

Fortunately we got our table half an hour later.

good service

We had...

the standard cucumber with chilli oil

followed by...

xiao long bao, of course

noodles with prawns and veggies

glutinous rice dumplings

yam dumplings

these were to die for - the skin was so fine!

We rolled out, stuffed, and happy.

kudos to the Din Tai Fung chefs in Taipei, more skillful than their counterparts in Singapore

After lunch, we went to Ximending to look for a particular shop selling feng li bing, the Taiwanese pineapple pastry. Failing to find it, we consoled ourselves with tea at the Red House Theatre's cafe.

nanyang panna cotta (sic)

coffee panna cotta

milk tea


it was such a pretty space

Outside, in Ximending, it was all quite happening as usual.

a rapper doing his thang

hoards of shoppers

a promotional appearance, it seemed

We returned to the hotel to drop off the shopping before heading out again. Having bought most of the gifts we wanted, we were keen to check out the Dinghao Ming Pai Gou Wu Zhongxin properly. For HM it was for the trendy shops...

ballet slippers on sale

the latest in Japanese make-up

by popularity

... whereas, for me, it was nothing if not eclectic.

as far as I could tell, a shop selling charms

it was clearly frequented by celebrities, albeit newly minted ones like the cast of Cape No. 7

And, as elsewhere in Taipei, there was...

a cute dog

and a cute kid

When it was time for dinner, we wanted more local colour and wandered down a side lane round the corner. We found some roadside stalls...

these seemed pretty busy

and had...

lor neng, or braised eggs

noodles with sesame paste, which tasted, unsurprisingly, like tahini

deepfried tofu

more zheng jiao

All that came up to only NT$115 or SGD$5.75, and I was pleased to have tried more local food (especially the sesame paste noodles) on our last night in Taipei.

After that, we wandered around the Zhongxiao-Fuxing area a little bit more, taking in the sights and sounds of Taipei at night, especially with Christmas round the corner.

Christmas decor on sale

the Sogo girls saying good night at closing time

a Christian evangelist at work, on the big screen

taxis waiting for customers

people taking in the lights

a Watson's getting a new sign (or removing an old one)

Dr Wu is apparently big in Taiwan

and so is Sogo

there were many people determined to get a festive shot

of themselves, not matter how silly

When the three Sogos finally closed for the night, we did what many Taiwanese night owls do - head for the 24-hour Eslite bookstore. Outside, we discovered an impromptu night market of sorts. The vendors all looked like enterprising undergrads. At Eslite, we found some more DVDs to buy before catching the 2359 h train back to Xinyi, to begin packing.

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