Aug 27, 2017

Vietnam Travelogue: Pho, Vietnamese Coffee, Bun Cha, Water Puppet - Checked! (28 Jan 2016)

Barely 3 months from Taiwan trip, tanner half and I were bound for Hanoi for a 7D6N vacation. We booked our flight and hotel on AirAsiaGo for RM800/pax 7 months ago in June 2015.

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Our Room @ Especen Hotel
We chose Especen Hotel (28 Tho Xuong street) due to its proximity to the city centre, spaciousness and decent interior. Airport transfer service was offered at VND350k or USD16 per way.

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Our Room Especen Hotel
Our room looked exactly as listed on AirAsiaGo. Room was clean and prepped, bed was comfortable, shower was piping hot, I was pleased.

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View from Room's Balcony @ Especen Hotel
Located at 4th floor, our room came with an open balcony, with plenty of natural light and fresh air. The only thing I disliked about the room was the long and narrow staircases leading in and out of our room.

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Half Done Beef @ Pho 10 Ly Quoc Su (VND45k)
Within 250m walking distance from Especen Hotel was Pho 10 Ly Quoc Su, where we had our piping hot Pho! Depending on the cuts, their Pho selection ranged from VND45k to VND100k.

I loved the intense beefiness and sourness of the soup. The doneness (medium rare) of the thinly sliced beef was perfect. Help yourself with more limes and chillies on the tables.

Total damage = VND115k

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Nem Cua Be @ Bun Cha Dac Kim (VND15k each)
Another 300m walk from Pho 10 Ly Quoc Su brought us to Bun Cha Dac Kim, where we stopped for some Nem Cua Be (spring rolls). Nem Cua Be looked appetising with its golden crackly skin that threatened to fall apart upon touch.

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Dipping Nem Cua Be and Local Vegetables @ Bun Cha Dac Kim
So it did and melded into the chunky and juicy fillings in it. Just take a piece of Nem Cua Be, dip it into the bowl of sour sweet concoction that served alongside with big plate of fresh local vegetables.

Total damage = VND60k (Nem Cua Be x 3 + Hanoi Beer)

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Ca Phe Rhum @ Cafe Nhan (VND45k)
For dessert, we made another 500m walk from Bun Cha Dac Kim to Cafe Nhan for some Vietnamese coffee. Instead of ordering Ca Phe Trung (hot egg coffee), which was inexistent in the menu, we opted for Ca Phe Rhum (coffee with rum).

I personally find Vietnamese coffee strong, even on its own. Therefore, combining rum and Vietnamese coffee was something I found unusually kicky. If you are a hardcore coffee and/or alcohol drinker, you might want to give this a try.

Total damage = VND90k

Remainder of our afternoon was spent exploring areas surrounding Hoan Kiem Lake, where Thang Long Water Puppet Theatre is located. Water puppetry shows were available at 4.10pm,  5.20pm, 6.30pm and 8pm. To avoid disappointment, we grabbed our 8pm water puppetry tickets while we were in the vicinity. Tickets were sold at VND100k per ticket.

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Banh Goi @ Thuc Donn 52 Ly Quoc Su
On our way back to Especen Hotel for an afternoon nap, we stumbled across Thuc Donn 52 Ly Quoc Su. Banh Goi is akin to fried dumpling filled with minced pork, onions, etc., which was served alongside bowls of sour sweet soup and fresh local vegetables. Crispy and juicy, it was great on its own. Dipping them into the soup accentuated the flavours more.

Total damage = VND50k (6-7 pieces of Banh Goi)

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Nha Tho Lon (St Joseph Cathedral) 
After 3 hours of nap, we began our hunt for dinner. On the way out, we took an alternate exit intentionally to pass by Nha Tho Lon (St Joseph Cathedral), which is located 75m away from Especen Hotel.

St Joseph Cathedral is neo-Gothic cathedral, featuring twin bell towers, elaborate altar and fine stained glass windows. Entrance via main gate was not permitted outside Mass times, however you may try to access the cathedral via the Diocese of Hanoi compound, which is located a block away at 40 P Nha Chung.

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Store Front of Bun Cha Dac Kim
Tanner half was so impressed with Nem Cua Be that we ended up here at Bun Cha Dac Kim again for dinner.

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Bun Cha @ Bun Cha Dac Kim (VND60k)
Bun Cha and Nem Cua Be were priced at VND60k and VND15k respectively. We ordered the Combo 1: Bun Cha va Nem Cua Be (Bun Cha with 2 spring rolls) for VND 90k.

The Bun Cha came with 4-5 big pieces of grilled pork in soup and a plate of rice noodles. It did not look pretty but sure smelled and tasted lovely! Smoked and charred, the grilled pork had consistent chunkiness with balanced meat-to-fat ratio. Not only it was juicy, it was flavourful.

Take a bite of grilled pork with rice noodles dipped in soup, you would surely fall in love with Bun Cha.

Total damage = VND105k (Combo 1 + Hanoi Beer)

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Fancy Lighting @ Hoan Kiem Lake
By night time, weather became windy and chilly. Silly me packed most summer clothes to Hanoi, having only one warmer jacket to hold the cold for the 750m walk to Thang Long Water Puppet Theatre.

Plenty of street vendors buzzed around Hoan Kiem Lake at nights, selling all sorts of hot food and local souvenirs. Tanner half and I spent our free time before 8pm puppet show enjoying the lightworks and people watching.

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Thang Long Water Puppet Theatre
Traditional water puppet show featured 14 pieces selected from the repertoire of 400 items of the ancient Vietnamese puppetry. Our 8 pm show was preceded with a folk music composition using traditional musical instruments before showcasing the following:
  1. Prelude of clown Tễu
  2. Thang Long festival drumming
  3. Dragon's dance
  4. Buffalo-boy playing the flute
  5. Agricultural work (rice planting, soil ploughing, water scopping)
  6. Catching frogs
  7. Cashing the fox that tries to catch ducks
  8. Fishing
  9. Xa Thương (a melody in the collection of hymns dedicated to the cult of Holy Mothers, a folk belief of the Vietnamese people)
  10. Phoenix's dance
  11. Lê Lợi returning the sword (Lê Lợi was a national hero, leader of the resistance against foreign invasion in the 15th century. Legend has it that he was granted a sword by deities. After his victory over the invaders, Kim Quy (Golden) Tortoise God appeared to claim back the sword as he was boating on a lake in Hanoi. Hence the name of the lake, Hoan Kiem (Returned Sword))
  12. Unicorn's dance
  13. Eight fairies' dance
  14. Four sacred animals' dance (dragon, unicorn, tortoise, phoenix)
My personal favourites were #6 and #7.

For those who are weary about spending VND100k for a ticket, I would say, "Give it a try, it would be the best time you spent in Hanoi", if at all.

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Nem Em Thuy nearby Nha Tho Lon (St Joseph Cathedral) 
After our water puppet show, we made our way back to Especen Hotel. Luck must be on my side for we came across a random shop selling rejected branded goods, where I grabbed myself a heavily discounted Levi's jacket for VND174k.

We also chanced upon this busy alley nearby Nha Tho Lon (St Joseph Cathedral). Swarmed with local diners on tiny chairs devouring platters of skewers, dining in Hanoi could not be more authentic than this.

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Skewers and Fried Sweet Potatoes @ Nem Em Thuy
Despite the language barrier, tanner half managed to order some food for us. We had our fried sweet potatoes along with some fish skewers (I think). Imagine piping hot food in cold windy night, these skewers, though not great, was comforting.

Total damage = VND100k

IN SUMMARY,

My personal dining ranking (5 being the full score) based on following criteria are:
  • Ambiance
    • Pho 10 Ly Quoc Su - 4/5
    • Bun Cha Dac Kim - 3/5
    • Cafe Nhan - 4/5
    • Thuc Donn 52 Ly Quoc Su - 2/5
    • Nem Em Thuy - 1/5
  • Price
    • Pho 10 Ly Quoc Su - 3/5
    • Bun Cha Dac Kim - 3/5
    • Cafe Nhan - 2/5
    • Thuc Donn 52 Ly Quoc Su - 4/5
    • Nem Em Thuy - 2/5
  • Food
    • Pho 10 Ly Quoc Su - 5/5
    • Bun Cha Dac Kim - 5/5
    • Cafe Nhan - 3/5
    • Thuc Donn 52 Ly Quoc Su - 4/5
    • Nem Em Thuy - 3/5
  • Verdict
    • Pho 10 Ly Quoc Su - No Pho in Malaysia can beat that!
    • Bun Cha Dac Kim - Simply awesome Bun Cha. Where can I find it in KL?
    • Cafe Nhan - Not a big fan of liquor coffee myself. Give it a try if you are one
    • Thuc Donn 52 Ly Quoc Su - Totally worth the calories snacking on this
    • Nem Em Thuy - Comfort food in the middle of the chilly night
My personal hotel/attractions verdicts for:
  • Especen Hotel: Walking distance to Hoan Kiem Lake and local food. Spacious and comfortable room. It could use a fan for ventilation during winters. Do ask for lower floor rooms if you are not a fan of climbing narrow staircases
  • Hoan Kiem Lake: Big and tranquil lake where locals exercise in the mornings. Pretty lightworks in the nights. Good for dating or chilling.
  • Thang Long Water Puppet Theatre: Water puppet show was fantastic. Do not miss watching one of these water puppet shows!
  • St Joseph Cathedral: Pay a visit in the cathedral if you can. It looked gothically pretty in the sunsets.

DINING INFO:

Pho 10 Ly Quoc Su
10 Lý Quốc Sư, Hàng Trống, Hoàn Kiếm, Hà Nội, Vietnam
Operation Hours: 6am - 2pm, 5.30pm - 10pm
Tel: +84 4 3825 7338
Credit Card: N/A (We paid cash)

Bun Cha Dac Kim
67 Duong Thanh Street, Old Quarter, Hanoi, Vietnam
Operation Hours: 11am - 7pm
Tel: +84 4 3828 5022
Credit Card: N/A (We paid cash)

Cafe Nhan
39D Hàng Hành, Hoàn Kiếm, Hà Nội, Vietnam
Operation Hours: 6am - 11pm
Tel: +84 4 3826 9861
Credit Card: N/A (We paid cash)

Thuc Donn 52 Ly Quoc Su
52 Lý Quốc Sư, Hoàn Kiếm, Hà Nội, Vietnam
Operation Hours: 11am - 10pm (based on Foursquare)
Tel: +84 4 3828 5922
Credit Card: N/A (We paid cash)

Nem Em Thuy
10 Ấu Triệu, Hoàn Kiếm, Hà Nội, Vietnam
Operation Hours: 4pm - 11pm
Tel: N/A
Credit Card: N/A (We paid cash)

Jul 15, 2017

Taiwan Travelogue: Homeland Day (15 Nov 2015)

Alas, today was the day to head back to reality.

To start the day on a bad foot, we chose wrong for our last breakfast in Taipei with 水龍王魷魚焿. Not only the restaurant smelled afoul, it was literally empty. Silly us proceeded to order braised pork rice and braised minced pork rice with tofu anyway. The second we tried our first bite, we regretted it.

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Braised Pork Rice @ 水龍王魷魚焿
My mom's braised pork rice came with smelly bamboo shoot, overcooked braised pork with bland prospect.

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Minced Pork with Tofu Rice @ 水龍王魷魚焿
Mine was a mush of blended pork with barely balance in flavor and a heap of smelly bamboo shoot. Damn I hate bamboo shoot.

Total damage = TWD 180 (if only I could quantify the damage to  my soul...)

After our disappointing breakfast, we checked out from King Lei-Lei Hotel, lugged our luggages to Ximen Station and made our way to Taipei Main Station. Our initial plan was to grab bus tickets to Taiwan Taoyuan International Airport from the ticketing counter in Taipei Main Station but luck wasn't on our side when we saw a winding long queue outside the ticketing counter.

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Spicy Noodles with Pork Slices @ Homee Kitchen
A cab driver near the ticketing counter poached us to share a ride with other passengers to airport. Considering we did not have the luxury of time, we obliged at the price of TWD500 for two pax. Within an hour, we arrived at Taiwan Taoyuan International Airport and settled all the necessary procedures before having our quick lunch at Homee Kitchen in the departure lounge.

I couldn't be more blessed to have a bowl of decent noodles, despite the airport standard price tag and pitiful amount of meat.

Total damage for 2 pax = TWD 410

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Meal served on the way to KLIA
Not long after our lunch, our flight departed. This meal served on the way from Taiwan Taoyuan International Airport to KLIA marked the end of our "adventurous and eventful" Taiwan trip.

For the first time in our lives, we experienced overbooking with MAS, taking buses which did not run on consistent schedule in Jiufen, and looking for King Lei-Lei Hotel in rain. Bad experience aside, we did have our fair share of enjoyment in JiufenKeelungYehliuXimending, Beitou, Shilin etc.

Will I come back to Taiwan? Probably not Taipei again :)

Jun 14, 2017

Taiwan Travelogue: Munching & Shopping Away in Ximending (14 Nov 2015)

A week had gone by. 1.5 days was what was left for us to shop away in the city of Taipei.

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Ya Rou Bian 鴨肉扁・土鵝專賣店 @ Ximending
To kickstart our shopping day, we decided to splurge a little at Ya Rou Bian 鴨肉扁・土鵝專賣店, which is located 500m away from King Lei-Lei Hotel.

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Interior @ Ya Rou Bian 鴨肉扁・土鵝專賣店
Ya Rou Bian 鴨肉扁・土鵝專賣店 was bustling with activities at lunch time. We waited for 5 minutes or so before we were seated.

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Braised Duck @ Ya Rou Bian 鴨肉扁・土鵝專賣店
The highlight of Ya Rou Bian 鴨肉扁・土鵝專賣店 was none other than this plate of braised duck leg, selling at TWD 300. Despite its expensive price tag, there was no regret. The duck flesh was silky smooth and perfectly balanced in flavours.

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Braised Tofu @ Ya Rou Bian 鴨肉扁・土鵝專賣店
Braised tofu, on the other hand, was less spectacular but considerably better than most.

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Braised Tang Hun @ Ya Rou Bian 鴨肉扁・土鵝專賣店
My mom opted for a bowl of braised tang hun with wantan and some shredded chicken to go with braised duck.

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Clear Soup Noodle @ Ya Rou Bian 鴨肉扁・土鵝專賣店
I opted for the clear soup noodles with pork ball, which was mildly flavoured so as to accentuate the flavour profile of braised duck. Even on its own, this bowl of clear soup noodle was great, especially fitting on rainy day or feeling blue from sickness.

Total damage for 2 pax = TWD 460

After our satisfying breakfast, we went about the day exploring the malls and flea markets around Ximending. There were simply so much to see in this little city of Ximending. Oh, not forgetting the plethora of food here too!

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Bubble Milk Tea (TWD 45) @ COCO 都可茶飲
Yes, bubble milk tea was one of it. I must say the consistency of Taiwanese milk tea was prevalent - both Ochado's bubble milk tea and COCO 都可茶飲's bubble milk tea shared similar taste and texture that if I were blind folded, chances were I couldn't tell the difference!

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Shilin Hot-Star Large Fried Chicken 豪大大雞扒  @ Ximending
6 hours went by burying our faces shopping the day away. Our tummies growled in retaliation. We headed out to the street, hunting for dinners. Looking at the grand crowd outside Shilin Hot-Star Large Fried Chicken 豪大大雞扒, we were swayed. After all, this was the first fried chicken we had in Taiwan.

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Shilin Hot-Star Large Fried Chicken 豪大大雞扒 (TWD 70) @ Ximending
I joined the queue to order my Shilin Hot-Star large fried chicken 豪大大雞扒. Luckily it was not a long wait to place my order. Few minutes later, a large piece of piping hot fried chicken was handed to me. Crispy on the outside, juicy on the inside, caution must be taken when devouring this chunky piece of fried chicken. Dashes of chili powder on the outside did help with the spicy experience.

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休閒小棧 Bubble Tea House
Few doors away from Shilin Hot-Star large fried chicken 豪大大雞扒 was this 休閒小棧 Bubble Tea House, beckoning us while we were enjoying our fried chicken on a nearby bench.

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Bubble Milk Tea with Yam Balls (TWD 45) @ 休閒小棧 Bubble Tea House
We gave in, as expected. What we did not expect was 休閒小棧 Bubble Tea House did offer the option to change the usual bubbles to homemade yam balls. We were delighted, just by the prospect of yam balls. One thing to note was the texture of yam balls was a little too soft to my liking, to the extent it might threaten its very existence in this cup of bubble milk tea.

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Sweet Pancake (TWD 25) @ Random Street Stall in Ximending
Night scene in Ximending was equally dotted with push cart style vendors selling street foods. We grabbed ourselves some of these street foods on our way back to King Lei-Lei Hotel, namely this piece of sweet pancake with black sesame. Compared to Malaysian's pancake, Taiwanese pancake was chewier and sweeter along with the lack of crunchy peanut and corns.

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Onion Biscuits (TWD 30) @ Random Street Stall in Ximending

We also grabbed a few pieces of onion biscuits to try. These bite-size onion biscuits akin to fried banana balls, except it was loaded with chunks of minced onion.

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Close up of  Onion Biscuits
Excuse the oily fingers, I loved the minced onion and the thin layer of flour surrounding it. It was a delightful snack on its own.

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Extra Spicy Taiwanese Sausage @ Random Street Stall in Ximending

Apart from onion biscuits, we also grabbed this extra spicy Taiwanese sausage to share. Despite the familiarity to spiciness, this spiciness was not a joke. That aside, the chunky texture and the flavorful profile did make Taiwanese sausage irresistible.

IN SUMMARY,

My personal dining ranking (5 being the full score) based on following criteria are:
  • Ambiance
    • Ya Rou Bian 鴨肉扁・土鵝專賣店 - 4/5
    • COCO 都可茶飲 -  5/5
    • Shilin Hot-Star Large Fried Chicken 豪大大雞扒 - 4/5
    • 休閒小棧 Bubble Tea House - 4/5
    • Random Sweet Pancake Stall - 3/5
    • Random Onion Biscuit Stall - 3/5
    • Random Spicy Taiwanese Sausage Stall - 3/5 
  • Price
    • Ya Rou Bian 鴨肉扁・土鵝專賣店 - 3/5
    • COCO 都可茶飲 -  4/5
    • Shilin Hot-Star Large Fried Chicken 豪大大雞扒 - 4/5
    • 休閒小棧 Bubble Tea House - 4/5
    • Random Sweet Pancake Stall - 5/5
    • Random Onion Biscuit Stall - 4/5
    • Random Spicy Taiwanese Sausage Stall - 4/5 
  • Food
    • Ya Rou Bian 鴨肉扁・土鵝專賣店 - 5/5
    • COCO 都可茶飲 -  5/5
    • Shilin Hot-Star Large Fried Chicken 豪大大雞扒 - 5/5
    • 休閒小棧 Bubble Tea House - 4/5
    • Random Sweet Pancake Stall - 3/5
    • Random Onion Biscuit Stall - 5/5
    • Random Spicy Taiwanese Sausage Stall - 4/5 
  • Verdict
    • Ya Rou Bian 鴨肉扁・土鵝專賣店 - Premium but delicious, try it if you are fan of duck/goose
    • COCO 都可茶飲 -  Not a big fan of bubble but milk tea was great
    • Shilin Hot-Star Large Fried Chicken 豪大大雞扒 - Nailed it on the texture and flavor, I could eat as a meal
    • 休閒小棧 Bubble Tea House - Milk tea with yam balls was interesting. You can opt for other types of homemade balls too!
    • Random Sweet Pancake Stall - Plain gooey sweet and chewy, I still like Malaysian's style better
    • Random Onion Biscuit Stall - Oily but delicious snacks on the go
    • Random Spicy Taiwanese Sausage Stall - Always yes to Taiwanese sausage!

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. We did contribute our fair share of consumer spending here too!

DINING INFO:

Ya Rou Bian 鴨肉扁・土鵝專賣店
108, Taiwan, Taipei City, Wanhua District, 中華路一段98之2號
Operation Hours: 10am - 10pm
Tel: +886 2 2371 3918
Credit Card: N/A (We paid cash)

COCO 都可茶飲
No. 4, Section 2, Wuchang St, Wanhua District, Taipei City, Taiwan 108
Operation Hours: 11am - 11pm
Tel: +886 2 2312 3789
Credit Card: N/A (We paid cash)

Shilin Hot-Star Large Fried Chicken 豪大大雞扒
108, Taiwan, Taipei City, Wanhua District, 漢中街36號
Operation Hours: N/A
Tel: N/A
Credit Card: N/A (We paid cash)

May 1, 2017

Taiwan Travelogue: Steaming in Beitou Hot Spring & Snacking in Shilin Night Market (13 Nov 2015)

Rise and shine! After a day filled with touristy attractions, today should be the day to wind back and enjoy some hot bath and street food.

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天天利美食坊 @ Ximending
As to where to find some great street food, look no further than 天天利美食坊 in Ximending, which is located 500m away from our hotel, King Lei Lei Hotel.

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Braised Pork Rice (Small for TWD25) @ 天天利美食坊
If you are undecided on what to go for, order a bowl of braised pork rice. You just couldn't go wrong with a bowl of braised pork rice. So far, none suck in my case but I do appreciate more minced pork and more braised sauce to go with the rice.

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Fried Carrot Cake (TWD 50) @ 天天利美食坊
To go with braised pork rice, we ordered a plate of fried carrot cake. Texture was a telltale of too much flour in the mixture. Flavour was too bland and flat to Malaysian's taste bud.

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Oyster Pancake (TWD 60) @ 天天利美食坊
Being a big fan of oyster pancake, my mom insisted on ordering one. Despite my dislike to oysters, the omelette was fluffy and moist. Chilli sauce was spot on too.

Total damage for 2 pax = TWD165

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You Tiao and Soy Bean @ Yong He Dou Jiang 永和豆漿
We were bloated after we were done in 天天利美食坊 but we just had to try this Taiwanese breakfast combo, i.e. soy bean and you tiao. We had ours at Yong He Dou Jiang 永和豆漿, which is located less than 100m from 天天利美食坊. Soy bean was a delight, so was the you tiao. Pancake was unusual though thick and tasteless.

Total damage = TWD95

From Ximen Station, we took a train to Taipei Main Station, before switching train to Beitou Station. For convenience, we did another switch of train from Beitou Station to Xinbeitou Station as it is closer to Beitou Hot Spring Museum 北投溫泉博物館.

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Memory of Beitou @ Beitou Hot Spring Museum 北投溫泉博物館
Built in 1913 under Japanese ruling, it was initially built to be Beitou Public Bathhouse, the biggest bathhouse in East Asia at the time. Occupying more than 2,300 sq m over two floors, the museum is a Japanese-influenced Victorian building, designed by Moriyama Matsunosuke. No entrance fee is charged in this community-ran museum Grade 3 historical monument.

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Levitation @ Beitou Hot Spring Museum 北投溫泉博物館
The first floor features the large bath (6m in width, 9m in length) which was decorated with the remnants of the bathhouse. Surrounding the large bath are arch hallway, lined pillars and the arched stained glass windows built at 6:4 ratio.

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Moon Guitar and 800kg Hokutolite @ Beitou Hot Spring Museum
Apart from the large bath, the first floor also features some of the museum's collection, such as the moon guitar and 800kg Hokutolite. Among more than 4000 minerals in the world, the only toponym named after a Taiwanese place is Hokutolite, which is produced when the green sulfur hot spring water from Hell Valley passes over lands of the Beitou Creek. It takes about 125-130 years for a single centimeter of Hokulite to crystalize. Imagine the time required to produce this 800kg Hokutolite!

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Antique Clock @ Beitou Hot Spring Museum 北投溫泉博物館
The second floor features a large Tatami lobby where bathhouse guests used to relax after hot bath and a lookout balcony where one could enjoy the scenery surrounding the museum.

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Thermal Valley 地熱谷 @ Beitou
From Beitou Hot Spring Museum, a short 500m walk east would bring you to Thermal Valley 地熱谷, a volcanic crater filled with steaming natural sulfuric hot spring water. The temperatures of the waters could reach up to 100°C (212°F), making them unsuitable for bathing.

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Smoldering Hot Steam @ Thermal Valley 地熱谷
Thermal Valley 地熱谷 is also known as Hell Valley and Jade Springs Valley due to these eerie sulphuric steam that dances with the wind and translucent green waters.

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Skewers @ Nearby Convenient Store in Beitou
On the way down from Thermal Valley, we made a pit stop at one of the convenient stores and grabbed some skewers to fill our tummies. Truth be told, these skewers were not bad, though it was a mass produced product with minimal protein content.

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Japanese-Inspired Pathway in Beitou
To commemorate our visit in Beitou, we decided to try their traditional hot spring bath. There were plenty of bathhouses, be it indoor private bath or scenic outdoor bath, at various price tags. We ended up in Takinoyu 瀧乃湯.

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Takinoyu 瀧乃湯 @ Beitou
Featuring traditional Japanese architecture and nature-embracing setting, Takinoyu 瀧乃湯 is one of the longest standing bathhouse in Beitou with history dated back to 1900s. Bathing fee was TWD100 per pax, with separate bath for men and women. I was horrified when I was told the water temperature was 42 celcius but there was no turning back.

Every ripple in the bath would send torrent of heat to your bare skin. You just feel like cursing whenever someone moves in the bath. That aside, the mineral properties in Beitou hot spring is said to be naturally healing. Therefore all female bathers in Takinoyu 瀧乃湯 were mainly locals whom frequent this bathhouse.

Total damage for 2 pax = TWD200

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Smelly Tofu Shop @ Shilin Night Market 士林夜市
After we were done with 瀧乃湯 Takinoyu, we took a train from Xinbeitou Station to Beitou Station, before switching to another train to Shilin Station for Shilin Night Market 士林夜市. Our first stop was this smelly tofu shop, for its smelly tofu of course!

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Smelly Tofu (TWD50) @ Shilin Night Market 士林夜市
The smelly tofu was not as smelly as I would like it to be, likewise for the plain sour pickles. These aside, it had wonderful contrast in texture.

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Yam Puff Stall @ Shilin Night Market 士林夜市
Our second stop was this yam puff stall, which claimed itself to be the famous one from Miaokou Night Market.

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Yam Puffs (TWD 50) @ Shilin Night Market 士林夜市
For TWD50, we got ourselves 3 small yam puffs to share. Despite its tough look, who could have thought the inside was filled with soft and fluffy yam fillings?

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QQ Ball Stall and Fried Milk Ball Stall @ Shilin Night Market 士林夜市
Talking about interesting finds, the awards no doubt went to QQ Ball Stall and Fried Milk Ball Stall.

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Fried Milk Balls (TWD 20) @ Shilin Night Market 士林夜市
Damn, these fried milk balls sure looked good. One bite was all you need to devour the semi-molten milk fillings encased in crispy gold skin. Despite a little too sweet to my liking, it was great.

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Fried QQ Balls (TWD 50) @ Shilin Night Market 士林夜市
Likewise for these sweet potatoes balls, which was equally lovely. Taiwanese sure knows how to fry their balls right!

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碗中圆 @ Shilin Night Market 士林夜市
Up to this point, we still had not have a proper meal but we dived straight to desserts anyway!

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Tang Yuan in Black Sesame Dessert (TWD 50) @ 碗中圆
Being a big fan of black sesame dessert and tang yuan, it was a quick decision to make when we spotted this on the menu. Tang yuan was lovely, so was many glutinous flour based produce in Taiwan. Black sesame dessert, on the other hand, was too diluted to my liking.

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Mee Sua Stall @ Shilin Night Market 士林夜市
For our main course, we decided to go for some piping hot mee suah.

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Mee Sua (TWD 40) @ Shilin Night Market 士林夜市
To be safe, we ordered one to share. This stall was generous with corianders, which I personally found it delightful especially after soaking it in the thick broth. Mee sua was lovely, so was the broth.

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Raohe's Famous Peppercake Stall @ Shilin Night Market 士林夜市
If you were in Shilin Night Market 士林夜市, you would surely notice this Raohe's famous peppercake stall, noticeably swarmed with a long queue of customers waiting for their peppercakes. On the way home, the queue was somewhat subsided so we decided to take away some for supper.

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Peppercake in the Making @ Shilin Night Market 士林夜市
Loaded with minced pork and spring onions, their big peppercake was a wholesome meal on its own. If I remembered correctly, we paid TWD 50 for 3 of these peppercakes.

IN SUMMARY,

My personal dining ranking (5 being the full score) based on following criteria are:
  • Ambiance
    • 天天利美食坊 - 4/5
    • Yong He Dou Jiang 永和豆漿 - 4/5
    • Convenience Store in Beitou - 4/5
    • Smelly Tofu Shop - 2/5
    • Yam Puff Stall - 3/5
    • QQ Ball Stall - 3/5
    • Fried Milk Ball Stall - 3/5
    • 碗中圆 - 4/5
    • Mee Sua Stall - 3/5
    • Raohe's Famous Peppercake Stall - 3/5
  • Price
    • 天天利美食坊 - 4/5
    • Yong He Dou Jiang 永和豆漿 - 4/5
    • Convenience Store in Beitou - 4/5
    • Smelly Tofu Shop - 3/5
    • Yam Puff Stall - 3/5
    • QQ Ball Stall - 4/5
    • Fried Milk Ball Stall - 3/5
    • 碗中圆 - 4/5
    • Mee Sua Stall - 5/5
    • Raohe's Famous Peppercake Stall - 5/5
  • Food
    • 天天利美食坊 - 4/5
    • Yong He Dou Jiang 永和豆漿 - 3/5
    • Convenience Store in Beitou - 3/5
    • Smelly Tofu Shop - 3/5
    • Yam Puff Stall - 5/5
    • QQ Ball Stall - 5/5
    • Fried Milk Ball Stall - 4/5
    • 碗中圆 - 3/5
    • Mee Sua Stall - 4/5
    • Raohe's Famous Peppercake Stall - 5/5
  • Verdict
    • 天天利美食坊 - Affordable Taiwanese food under one roof
    • Yong He Dou Jiang 永和豆漿 - Not the cheapest but worth a try
    • Convenience Store in Beitou - Snacking on the go makes easier 
    • Smelly Tofu Shop - Could be better but I did not see another smelly tofu stall in Shilin Night Market 士林夜市
    • Yam Puff Stall - So good that you can almost taste the texture of shredded yam in it
    • QQ Ball Stall - Lovely crispy hollow balls, so good I could finish all of it on my own
    • Fried Milk Ball Stall - Pure gimmick but good for sweet tooths
    • 碗中圆 - Can surely give a try when you are tired and in need of some sweets
    • Mee Sua Stall - Hearty meal on a chilly evening
    • Raohe's Famous Peppercake Stall - Try it, you will love it


My personal hotel/attractions verdicts for:
  • King Lei-Lei Hotel - Strategic location, spacious room but looked draped and aged
  • Beitou Hot Spring Museum 北投溫泉博物館 - Quick overview on the history of Beitou in a brief tour. Why not?
  • Thermal Valley 地熱谷 - Been there, done that. Just something you have to see when you rae in Beitou
  • Takinoyu 瀧乃湯 - Not for the faint hearted
  • Shilin Night Market 士林夜市 - Great varieties and awesome food for hunters like me

DINING INFO:

天天利美食坊
108, Taiwan, Taipei City, Wanhua District, 漢中街32巷1號
Operation Hours: 9.30am - 10.30pm (Tues to Sun)
Tel: +886 2 2375 6299
Credit Card: N/A (We paid cash)

Yong He Dou Jiang 永和豆漿
108, Taiwan, Taipei City, Wanhua District, 台北市中正區漢口街二段30號
Operation Hours: 5.30am - 2pm
Tel: +886 2 2375 7007
Credit Card: N/A (We paid cash)

Shilin Night Market 士林夜市
Lane 101, Wenlin Road, Shilin District, Taipei City, Taiwan 111
Operation Hours: 6pm - 12am
Tel: +886 2 2881 5557
Credit Card: Cash

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