Apr 4, 2017

Taiwan Travelogue: A Visit to Huashan 1914 & Chiang Kai-Shek Memorial Hall (12 Nov 2015)

Our breakfast for the day was simple and did not involve any walking. Literally breakfast in bed but nothing fancy, such as this bowl of instant noodle, which we bought the night before after dinner at Xiong Ben Ramen 熊本拉面 - 佐野拉面武昌店.

Breakfast in Bed - Instant Noodle
The noodle texture was thick, chewy and more delightful than the usual instant noodle we have in Malaysia. Soup was normal but hey, it was pork based!

Thick and Chewy Instant Noodles

After our breakfast-in-bed, we took a train from Ximen Station to Shandao Temple Station, before continued another 500m on foot to Huashan 1914 Creative Park.

Huashan 1914 Creative Park
Huashan 1914 Creative Park is a remodelled early 20th-century wine factory which now houses live music performances, fancy souvenir shops, stylish restaurants, hipster cafes and bars.

Exterior of Wine Factory @ Huashan 1914 Creative Park

Theatre @ Huashan 1914 Creative Park

One of the Fancy Souvenir Shops Huashan 1914 Creative Park
While dining in hipster cafe and bars was not in our agenda, we spent our time exploring the souvenir shops. Should you want to grab some souvenirs that aren't too mainstream, visit one of the souvenir shops in Huashan 1914 as they have eclectic local-designed products where one couldn't find elsewhere.

Porcupines @ One of the Fancy Souvenir Shops

Elevated "Tree" House @ Huashan 1914

The ambiance of whole Huashan 1914 was perfect for photoshoot, be it industrialised shots, creative shots etc. In fact, we came across some photographers taking model shoot during our leisure visit.

Tall Chimney of Remodelled Wine Factory @ Huashan  1914
After an hour or so, we took a train from Shandao Temple Station to Zhongxiao Dunhua Station in hope to squeeze in a lunch session in Solo Pasta but luck wasn't on our side. We ended up in a nearby Hong Kong style cafe named 真好味茶餐廳.

Cheese Baked Rice @ 真好味茶餐廳
It was an utter disappointment. To begin with, the "cheese" was too powdery, a sign of too much flour in a mixture. Fried rice under the coat of baked cheese was terrible, so much so that an amateur me could do better than 真好味茶餐廳.

Pork Bone Soup
This free pork bone soup was no better. So diluted it was that it tasted like water with a hint of pork. I barely remembered what my mom ordered.

Total damage for 2 pax = TWD290

Our next stop was Chiang Kai-Shek Memorial Hall, which is located about 2km away from 真好味茶餐廳. Initial plan was to take a train from Zhongxiao Dunhua Station to Zhongxiao Xinsheng Station. However, the adventurous us decided to rent 2 YouBikes from a YouBike rental station along Taipei-Keelung main road.

Payment was relatively straight forward: tap your EasyCard on the card reader, select which bike you are taking, and off you go! For the first 30minute, it was TWD5 per bike.

Chiang Kai-Shek Memorial Hall
I must say it was an enjoyable experience to take a leisure 1.5km ride along with local cyclists on a chilly autumn weather. After we parked our bikes back to YouBike station opposite Chiang Kai-Shek Memorial Hall, we began our touristy visit with Chiang Kai-Shek Chinese garden in the 25-hectares Chiang Kai-Shek Memorial Park.

Filled with various species of plants and flowers, the garden was a welcoming change to the cityscape. At different seasons of the year, one can witness the beauty of plum blossoms, cherry blossoms, and osmanthus bloom. Locals were seen spending their leisure afternoon in the garden, strolling and chatting the day away.

Chiang Kai-Shek Memorial Hall
The giant structure with while walls, blue tiles roofed corridors and pavilions, decorated with Chinese-style latticed windows featuring 26 different motifs, were the definitive characteristics of Chiang Kai-Shek Memorial Hall. Standing tall and proud, it was beautiful.

We did not visit the interior of Chiang Kai-Shek. Instead, we sat at the Liberty Square, enjoying the cold breeze and admiring the beautiful architecture and weather. If you are interested for a visit, you can arrange for a guided tour.

Smoked Duck Spaghetti @ Solo Pasta
Another 1.5km ride and 400m walk brought us back to Solo Pasta. Since my mom is a big fan of carbonara. and today was her birthday, I made Solo Pasta my choice for celebration. I opted for Spaghetti with Smoked Duck Breast in Balsamic Cream Sauce. That tender slices of duck breast was perfect, so was the balsamic cream sauce that enhanced the diversity of flavour. Even my mom sang praises of it.

Carbonara @ Solo Pasta
As expected, my mom opted for Spaghetti Carbonara with Bacon, Egg, Grated Padano and Pecorino. The ingredient list sounded fantastic but its taste was pale in comparison. Despite being creamy and cheesy, the taste profile was flat and boring. A little dash of vinegar would have helped to spice things up.

Tiramisu @ Solo Pasta
Since my mom isn't a big fan of tartness, we did not have any wine but little did she know her Tiramisu Mascarpone was infused with Marsala wine! Despite its "magnitude" in size, it was great in flavour. Though I personally prefer stronger liquor, this was more suited to my mom's taste bud.

Montebianco @ Solo Pasta

Limited by the choices of dessert, I went for Montebianco. Mont Blanc chestnut puree topped with whipped cream was an unusual delight, especially the subtle nutty profile of the puree. Again, my mom stamped her approval on Montebianco.

Total damage for 2 pax = TWD836

Scary Transparent Flooring @ Taipei 101
Post dinner, I brought the birthday lady to Taipei 101. We walked 750m to Xinyi Anhe Station, rode 1.2km to Taipei 101/World Trade Centre Station and headed up to Taipei 101 for Taipei's night view. The ticket to Taipei 101 Observatory costed TWD500.

Truth be told, I would have spent the TWD500 for drinks at rooftop bar with a view of Taipei 101. The night view was not spectacular. Moreover, we had to queue in line for half an hour for the ticket, another half an hour or so for our turn to board the fastest lift to Observatory and forced to tour around the jewellery counters. The only consolation was we did check off "Visit Taipei 101 Observatory" in the list of to-do.

Signing Off from Hitomi & The Birthday Lady


My personal dining ranking (5 being the full score) based on following criteria are:
  • Ambiance
    • 真好味茶餐廳 - 1/5
    • Solo Pasta - 5/5
  • Price
    • 真好味茶餐廳 - 1/5
    • Solo Pasta - 3/5
  • Food
    • 真好味茶餐廳 - 1/5
    • Solo Pasta - 5/5
  • Verdict
    • 真好味茶餐廳 - It was a mistake
    • Solo Pasta - They do have some interesting dishes that warrant your visit

My personal hotel/attractions verdicts for:
  • King Lei-Lei Hotel - Strategic location, spacious room but looked draped and aged
  • Huashan 1914 Creative Park - Hipster place for the like-minded 
  • Chiang Kai-Shek Memorial Hall - Beautiful architecture that was filled with histories 
  • Taipei 101 Observatory - Save your TWD500 and spend on dinners/drinks overlooking Taipei 101


No. 29, Lane 170, Section 4, Zhongxiao E Rd, Da’an District, Taipei City, Taiwan 106
Operation Hours: N/A
Tel: +886 2 2752 3909
Credit Card: N/A (We paid cash)

Solo Pasta
No. 29-1, Section 1, Anhe Rd, Da’an District, Taipei City, Taiwan 106
Operation Hours: 11.30am to 3pm, 5pm to 10pm (Mon to Thurs); 11.30am to 10pm (Fri to Sun)
Tel: +886 2 2775 3645
Credit Card: Yes

Mar 22, 2017

Taiwan Travelogue: Ximending, Here I Come (11 Nov 2015)

After two days in Keelung, we had pretty much eat all that we can. My mom simply couldn't wait to move on to our next destination. A quick shower, a final shove of luggages, and a simple hotel breakfast ploughed our way to Ximen. From TRA Keelung Station, we took a train to MRT Taipei Main Station, before switching to MRT Ximen Station.

By the time we arrived at Ximen Station, it was drizzling. My mom and I were lugging our luggage around while looking for King Lei-Lei Hotel, which some of the locals were clueless where it was. To look for King Lei-Lei Hotel in Chinese among the sea of Chinese billboards was the first challenge. To look for a store front (which is inexistent) was another. What we should have looked at was an entrance to lift/reception, a lift to the 5th floor of the building.

King Lei-Lei Hotel's homely operator was quick to respond upon our arrival and even kind enough to show us a few rooms for us to choose. The room we had was poorly lit (by way of design), the bed was decent, the TV was the ancient 24-inch box, the fridge was barely functioning but toilet was freshly renovated with bathtub.

Ay-Chung Mee Sua 阿宗豬腸麵線 @ Ximending
On the good side, within few hundred metre walking distance, we would immediately find ourselves in the hustle bustle of Ximending. Better still, found the famous Ay-Chung mee sua 阿宗豬腸麵線 for lunch!

Ay-Chung Mee Sua 阿宗豬腸麵線 @ Ximending
Fine threads of noodles swam in the smooth golden concoction hinted a little more vinegar than we used to and maybe a dash of Chinese wine - the moment we passed by, we knew we had to try. This bowl of mee sua was the second best thing we had in Taiwan. The mee sua was so smooth and silky that you could easily slurped it down if it were not of heat. The soup was well balanced so you could go without any condiment if you should choose not to.

Condiments to add @ Ay-Chung Mee Sua 阿宗豬腸麵線
For us, we went on a little with chilli and garlic. Best thing about chilli and hot soup, it accentuated both flavours to the next level which both of us found extra intoxicating.

Total damage = TWD65

Bubble Milk Tea @ Ochado Bubble Tea
It was not until Day 5 we had a proper bubble milk tea in Taiwan, which we so happened to grab from Ochado Bubble Tea while walking around looking for more good food. Flavour and texture were similar to Chatime in Malaysia, so we did not loose much back home.

Total damage = TWD45

Taiwanese Sausage Stall @ Ximending
Half way through Ximending, my mom pointed to me this Taiwanese sausage stall. Immediately I saw what made her so excited - her favorite Big Sausage Wrap Small Sausage 大腸包小腸

Big Sausage Wrap Small Sausage 大腸包小腸
If you read about my previous post about big sausage wrap small sausage adventure in Jiufen, you would have understood the happiness of finding your number one Taiwanese delicacies. Personally I still think the mobile truck at Golden Waterfall served the best but this came close second. The only improvement I would have made was the ripeness of the pickles as this was too raw to provide the complex flavour it needed.

Total damage = TWD65

Onion Cake 抓葱饼 Stall @ Ximending
Around Ximending area, you would see plenty of these push cart style vendors selling street foods. We ordered an onion cake 抓葱饼 from this stall for takeaway. Half way cooking, polices came ambushing. All these vendors (apparently they did not have proper operating licenses) fled all over the places but the moment polices went to chase others, this stall lady continued her cooking at another corner of the street. That was how our onion cake 抓葱饼 was saved.

Onion Cake 抓葱饼
Though named the onion cake 抓葱饼, the only onion part was the leaves used in this dish. The texture of the bread was akin to roti canai in Malaysia but thicker and dense.

Total damage = TWD45

Ximen Red House Taipei
Around Ximending, you would surely come across this signature two storey high building laid with red bricks called Red House Taipei. This front facade you are seeing were based on octagonal structure, which was joined with a cruciform building. Concerts, theatre, creative events could all be found here in Red House Taipei.

Skyline of Ximending

Night View at Ximending

Xiong Ben Ramen 熊本拉面 - 佐野拉面武昌店 @ Ximending
Come night time, my mom and I headed out to look for food. Plenty of options were available but nothing strike the fancy of my mom than this Xiong Ben Ramen 熊本拉面 - 佐野拉面武昌店. Yes, she loves her ramen.

Ramen @ Xiong Ben Ramen 熊本拉面 - 佐野拉面武昌店
I barely remembered what I ordered or how it tasted like. All I knew it did not suck big time. I would have gone other places given any chance.

Total damage for 2 pax = TWD220

Beihui Papaya Milk 北回木瓜牛奶
To compensate the lack of my dinner, I ordered one of this unusual Beihui papaya milk 北回木瓜牛奶 to try. I was skeptical at first but it was really out of the world. Given another chance, I would surely order again!

Total damage = TWD65


My personal dining ranking (5 being the full score) based on following criteria are:
  • Ambiance
    • Ay-Chung Mee Sua 阿宗豬腸麵線 - 5/5
    • Ochado Bubble Milk Tea - 5/5
    • Taiwanese Sausage Stall - 4/5
    • Onion Cake 抓葱饼 Stall - 3/5
    • Xiong Ben Ramen 熊本拉面 - 佐野拉面武昌店 - 4/5
    • Beihui papaya milk 北回木瓜牛奶 - 5/5
  • Price
    • Ay-Chung Mee Sua 阿宗豬腸麵線 - 5/5
    • Ochado Bubble Milk Tea - 3/5
    • Taiwanese Sausage Stall - 4/5
    • Onion Cake 抓葱饼 Stall - 4/5
    • Xiong Ben Ramen 熊本拉面 - 佐野拉面武昌店 - 2/5
    • Beihui papaya milk 北回木瓜牛奶 - 3/5
  • Food
    • Ay-Chung Mee Sua 阿宗豬腸麵線 - 5/5
    • Ochado Bubble Milk Tea - 4/5
    • Taiwanese Sausage Stall - 4/5
    • Onion Cake 抓葱饼 Stall - 2/5
    • Xiong Ben Ramen 熊本拉面 - 佐野拉面武昌店 - 2/5
    • Beihui papaya milk 北回木瓜牛奶 - 5/5
  • Verdict
    • Ay-Chung Mee Sua 阿宗豬腸麵線 - Best mee sua I had in Taiwan!
    • Ochado Bubble Milk Tea - Not a big fan of bubble but milk tea was great
    • Taiwanese Sausage Stall - Could be better but considered one of the better ones
    • Onion Cake 抓葱饼 Stall - Not too bad for first timer
    • Xiong Ben Ramen 熊本拉面 - 佐野拉面武昌店 - Definitely not something I would have picked for the price
    • Beihui papaya milk 北回木瓜牛奶 - So awesome that I wanted to have more!

My personal hotel/attractions verdicts for:
  • King Lei-Lei Hotel: Strategic location, spacious room but looked draped and aged
  • Ximending: Happening place where food and shopping are interchangeable
  • Red House Taipei: Signature building that you just couldn't miss


Ay-Chung Mee Sua 阿宗豬腸麵線
No. 8-1號, Emei St, Wanhua District, Taipei City, Taiwan 108
Operation Hours: 9am - 10.30pm (Mon to Thurs), 9am - 11pm (Fri to Sun)
Tel: +886 2 2388 8808
Credit Card: N/A (We paid cash)

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