Tuesday, August 7, 2012

Taiwan: Going beyond Taipei

“My favourite night market in all of Taiwan isn’t in Taipei actually,” says my guide and friend, Paul Chen with the seriousness of a Taiwanese foodie.  “My favourite is in Taichung... Feng Jia night market (逢甲夜市) has such great atmosphere; it’s well organised, reasonably priced and the food is so yummy.”  Jessica, another Taiwanese friend agrees, “Although the food seems similar to any other night market, I think night markets like Shilin are getting more expensive and the food stall owners just don’t put heart into their craft anymore."

Like most countries with multiple seasons, there is something special about springtime in Taiwan.  In central Taiwan, the parks of Taichung are laden with flowers blossoming everywhere. It is here in Taichung where you will also find Chun Shui Tang (春水堂 http://chunshuitang.com.tw), the place where bubble tea was invented.

Catch a bus towards Monster Village (妖怪村, next to http://www.mingshan.com.tw) just outside the Sitou Forest Recreation. As the legend goes, during the early years of the Japanese occupation, a Chinese man in charge of Sitou’s forest production was victim to a landslide.  Saved by two animals, a black bear and clouded leopard, the man affectionately named them his “little monsters.”  He vowed to build a village next to the forest to honour his guardian angels.

Monster Village is quaintly decorated with statues of cartoonish looking creatures, whilst the structures have obvious Japanese influence.  Here you can snack on fresh fruits, baked sweet potato, tea eggs and savour the charm of the forest.

Neighboring Taichung is the mountainous Nantou County--the only province in Taiwan that isn’t by the water.  Through the windy paths, there is a certain tranquility in the farms and plantations in the misty mountain tops.  Nantou, famous for its Oolong and green tea plantations (a bottle of iced tea is cheaper than mineral water), is also home to major tourist attraction, Sun Moon Lake.  You’ll see numerous street side stalls selling tea eggs here--and given the county’s famed tea, the dark boiled eggs are a favourite snack.

Along your trip, you’ll cross Pu Li Restaurant (No. 236 Xinyi Road, Puli Township, Nantou County 545, Taiwan www.puli-eating.com.tw Tel: 049-2995-096), one of the most well known in the county.  The President of Taiwan has been known to dine here.

When you need a break, spend an evening at one Taiwan’s numerous hot springs.  Different types of springs are found, ranging from cold springs, hot springs, turbid springs and seawater springs.  Enjoy the therapeutic effects of the springs in the Taichung suburbs.  While it won’t help you slim down from your gluttonous trip, you’ll depart from the springs with a certain rejuvenation.


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