25.11.16 Taipei – Whisky

Woken up at 6am-ish by Alison shaking the bed. She asked me what I was doing and we realised it was an earthquake. Once the bed stabilised we went back to sleep.

We walked to the local MTR (tube/subway/metro) through the back streets and turned a corner to see a man crossing the road with a dead chicken in his hands. He saw us and in English shouted “Good morning”. We smiled and replied and saw ahead of us a local street market. We slowed down and tried to take it all in, a riotous cacophony of sounds smells and sights. There was fruit, vegetables, fish, meat, tofu, hand made noodles, cooked meals, fried fish, fried chicken, breads, pastries, sweets, sesame paste, pulses, teas, oils, t-shirts, bags and monks. People smiled and said hello. We bought a spring onion bread fresh from a tandoor oven which was deliciously charred and crispy. There were so many colourful images that would have made so many great photos but this was a back street locals market and I wanted to enjoy it and not invade their privacy.

We exited the MRT at tourist info and registered for Taipei WiFi. We asked about where to buy a Sim card and for a bike lane map and then Alison released the genie from the bottle and asked where we could buy Taiwanese whisky. The lady replied that there was a shop on the second floor and before she had finished her sentence I was on the escalator.

Pub Quiz Question – Who won the WORLDS Best Single Malt Whisky 2015 according to the World Whisky Awards?

A Scotch? An Irish? 

No – A Taiwanese Whisky from Kavalan.

The shop had the whole range, aroma bottles for a sniff and a cafe. Al ordered a coffee and a sales lady asked if I wanted to try any samples. In the interest of the longevity of the trip I told her I’d be back shortly and sat with Al while she drank her coffee. We then tried a few samples before deciding on a case of 10 tasters which included the worlds best whisky 2015. The beautiful presentation case was shoved into the rucksack for the rest of the day.

We tried in vain to find the SIM card shop and had lunch in a busy underground food court at the main train station. Al had sushi and I had Taiwanese which consisted of pork mince on rice, braised greens and pork rib soup.

We then caught the MRT to Tamsui, a historic town to the north of Taipei on the banks of the Danshui river where it spills into the sea of China. It sounds romantic but in reality there is no break in buildings from Taipei and it seems part of the suburbs.

We visit the quiet Yinshan Temple built by Chinese immigrants to worship the Dingguang Buddha, the guardian of Dingzhou. The artwork is very different to other temples we have seen.

We wander along the developed riverside with other tourists and locals out for a stroll. Three blokes on air blades whizz past, one blaring out high tempo pop music. There are school kids enjoying the many snack stalls or trying their luck shooting balloons at fairground stalls. We try some imagawayaki, red bean paste and custard desserts which are hot and sweet.

There are also some very tall ice creams being poured.

I also can’t resist a pork pie covered in sesame seeds. Very different to the pork pies I love.

Feeling very relaxed we catch the MRT back into Taipei and get off at Raohe night market which some people claim is the best market. Unlike the rabbit warren of Shilin that we visited last night, Raohe is one straight street with vendors in the centre and on the sides.

Immediately there are tempting hujiao bing, or baked rolls with peppery pork mince and mustard greens, straight out of the tandoor. Crispy charred bottoms and succulent juicy pork await, but you need patience as they are searingly hot.

Next are steamed and fried dumplings, similar to gyoza.

Then, our hat-trick of pork snacks crescendos with xiaolingbao. They are very good with translucent pastry, showing the meaty broth inside.

We try a pancake with bacon and egg filling served with wasabi which we presume is Japanese. We don’t know exactly what it is but the queue is long, which is a good sign and it tastes great when we finally get it.

Prawn egg balls with honey mustard mayo.

We buy cake to take away and a spicy pork sausage with green veg inside.

Taiwanese night markets are a great way to eat. A busy, fun, vibrant atmosphere and an incredible variety of different foods to try. We are loving Taiwan.

Back to the airbnb flat and we chat to Fiona and a new couple in the room next door. He is a fireman and she is a law student and they are staying for a few days while flat hunting. Our Taiwanese / Chinese is terrible but their English is good and Fiona translates where necessary. We enjoy finding out about them and their country and have a lot of laughs. At 10.30pm they go out to a night market for their evening meal!

We finally open the whisky which is very smooth and tasty.

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