Thursday, August 30, 2012

Taipei 2012 - Eslite Bookshop

If you are looking for the design mecca in Taipei, you should definitely head to Eslite Bookshop. They have many branches around the city, but the flagship store is at Dunnan District. By International standards this may not a very big store, but it is difinitely worth a visit.

More then just a bookshop, Eslite has evolved into a lifestyle store that sells all kinds of modern must-haves such as carefully curated clothes, bags, luggages, all kinds of Ipod accessories, stationeries and of course books. Their range of journals and sketch books are truly stylish and drool-worthy.

Besides the books, clothing and stationery sections, there are also mini-galleries and pop-up stores within a store which are all very interesting. There are also cafes for coffee and light snacks. I can imagine spending a very nice Sunday afternoon here. Hope they open one in Malaysia soon !

Monday, August 27, 2012

Taipei 2012 - L'Architecte Cafe

If you are visiting the Taipei Film House, I would suggest that you skip the cafes there and instead head to L'Architecte Cafe which is just across across a small lane from the film centre. This cafe serves amazing French desserts which look delectable and tastes divine.

There are lots of choices and you may need some time to make up your mind.

I finally settled on the irresistibly named l'Addiction - a chocolate gateaux with layers of wild berry mousse and pistachio nuts. It was easily one of the best desserts I have tasted.

Friday, August 24, 2012

Taipei 2012 - SPOT Taipei Film House

Zhongshan District is one of the most popular districts in Taipei, especially with the locals. There are lots of interesting things to explore here, and one of them is the SPOT Taipei Film House. Taiwan has produced quite a few world recognized auteurs, and it is no surprise that film culture is a big part of life here.

The Taipei Film House is in a two-storey Colonial style building which used to be the residence of the American Ambassador. Today it houses a small cinema which shows mostly arthouse movies, seminar rooms, a multi-media conference room, cafes and a shop which sells design and film-related merchandise from around the world. 

For the cafe lovers there are 2 cafes on the venue - on the ground floor is Cafe Lumiere.

And on the first floor is La Ballon Rouge - a more upmarket establishment. Both serve great coffee and snacks - pricey by Taipei standards.

The shop on the ground floor sells well-curated design and film related merchandise from Taiwan and overseas.

If you are a film-lover, you will find the Film House interesting. If not, you can still enjoy the quaint old building and visit the nice cafes for a relaxing break.

Tuesday, August 21, 2012

Taipei 2012 - Star Hostel Taipei

If you are looking for affordable accommodation in Taipei with class, you should check out Star Hostel. This is quite a new establishment, but they have already built up quite a reputation among discerning flashpackers.

Located in the Zhongshan area which is one of the poshest shopping and business neigbourhoods in Taipei, this is of course not your typical B&B. It is instead a B&B for people who want comfort and style, and are willing to pay a little bit more.

The hostel is above a fashion shop along Zhongshan North Road Section 1. The reception and lounge is on the 1st floor, and rooms are above. There is no lift so you will need to lug your luggage to whatever floor your are on. Luckily it is only 4-storeys, but its best to travel light if you are plan to stay here.

The simple yet stylish reception/ lounge on the 1st floor.

There is a small kitchenette for you to make hot drinks and prepare a simple meal.

The common bathrooms are also very chic and spotless.

Besides the usual dormitory rooms, there are also several ensuite rooms for couples. The dormitories are air-conditioned and very clean with comfortable double-bunker beds, and a large locker for every guest. The only caveat is that the dormitories are unisex and some may not be so comfortable with this idea.

The reception staff all speak very good English, and it is not unusual to see one of the owners at the counter. They provide great travel tips, and even helped me to arrange a very reasonably priced transfer to the airport. I can't recommend Star Hostel highly enough, and it is no wonder that they have a 4 1/2 star rating on Trip Advisor.

Saturday, August 18, 2012

Taipei 2012 - Local Market in Wanhua District

While wondering around the Longshan Temple in Wanhua District, I came across this small local wet market full of local shoppers. I always love visiting local markets as you get to see what the locals actually eat. This one is no different and is a treasure trove of fresh ingredients and cooked items - all looked delectable except the copious amounts of pig's innards. I know what you are thinking - innards are good, but I prefer them in small doses.

Plenty of cooked food for you to bring home and start a feast.

Pork is without a doubt the preferred meat in Taipei.

We finally get to the greens and fruits section, which is outside the main market.

I visited a couple of other markets in Taipei and they are all fascinating. You may even find some delicious morsels hidden in some dark corner of the bazaar.

Wednesday, August 15, 2012

Taipei 2012 - Jiufen Food Street

Besides its rustic and scenic charm, Jiufen is also popular for its local street food, and you can find it all at the Food Street. Like all the other food streets in Taipei, the variety of street food on offer is quite dazzling. However there are a few items which are must-trys here.

First is the famous fish ball shop. Everyone orders the fishballs here, but it is actually the tofu filled with minced meat that is the gem. Very soft, fluffy and full of flavour, the tofu is definitely the star here. The fishballs are a bit bland to my taste - and lack the required springiness.

They also have a version served with glass noodles. This is also quite tasty.

Another must-try item is the taro balls sweet soup. This is a popular Asian dessert, but here they have made it colourful and look really enticing. It is a simple yet satisfying treat.

One surprise discovery was this shop which sells grilled sea snails. They are simply slow-cooked over charcoal and served with a spicy chili sauce. The sea snails are springy and crunchy, sweet and with a fresh taste of the ocean. Really yummy.

With a charming hill town to explore and great street food, you won't regret a visit to Jiufen. In fact for my next visit I would definitely stay overnight in order to soak up the atmosphere. There are some interesting accommodation options that are cropping up here just for that purpose.