Wednesday, May 22, 2019

Cafes of Taipei

Last time I was in Taipei, I was overwhelmed by the sheer number of cafes present on every street corner, I didn't even attempt to make a cafe list. 

This time, traveling while six months pregnant, but having regained my taste in coffee, I was determined to try as many cafes as possible. 

Unfortunately, for a city as large as Taipei, with as many cafes as there are, and with the two full weeks I got to spend there, I really didn't go to many cafes...only eight. I blame this on the weather, which was incredibly hot and humid with an occasional burst of a storm, and on being six months pregnant, which left me slow and sluggish. Also, on the fact that I spent all day every day with my family, so I couldn't well drag them all over town on a cafe safari. 

I'm still pleased with the cafes I got to visit, which gave me a good sampling of what the city has to offer. In order of favorite:

Mountain Kids
Mountain Kids boasts amazing drinks, donuts, and probably the best view of Beimen in the city. The cafe definitely feels inspired by the likes of %Arabica and other Japanese cafes. I I really enjoyed reading and writing here with a great view. 

Boven is a magazine library, were for a yearly fee it's members can work from its comfortable space as many times as they want and read selections from its impressively huge magazine library. Most of the magazines are Japanese or European. One floor above is the cafe, where the public can enjoy a small selection of the magazines it had to offer...and some damn good coffee. 

The Jen Library
A gorgeous cafe and library located  in a pristine office building. One of their special tea features a dried lemon soaked in salt, which was absolutely amazing. The cakes and pastries are also good, but expensive. This is a great place for working and also socializing.

Notch Café
Notch Cafe is clearly the hang out spot for college students to come, order one drink, and spend hours studying. Three levels with eclectic seating arrangements and they are almost always full every hour of the day. I really enjoyed this vibe, which reminded me of Too Fast Too Sleep in Bangkok.

Café Costumice
Costumice is a place people come to take instagram photos, and indeed I probably saw three photoshoots within the hour I was sitting there. A very hip Melrose-esque cafe with vinegar soda served in a wine glass and good lattes.

Green Steps
Green Steps is a quint little cafe in a Secret-Garden space in Dongmen. Their Puer latte is unique to the cafe and worth a try. Loved the vibe. 

Best Coffee
Best Coffee is a tiny cafe in a house located near where I live in Xindian. It's really a place to come if you are a coffee enthusiast as they have beans from all over the world. 

Louisa is a coffee chain native to Taipei. I was pleased with my latte but the atmosphere did feel a bit small and generic. This is more of a grab-and-go place. 

Saturday, May 18, 2019

What did I buy in Taipei?

The purchases from my 2018 trip could not be more different that my 2012 trip. My tastes have changed a lot since I aged and my needs are quite different. 

This time I didn't bring back any food (my strict pregnancy diet doesn't let me indulge in most sweets). I also didn't go to any night markets and most of my shopping was actually Japanese brands. 

Here's a look at what I brought back with me this time:

Used Fudge Magazines (Japanese) from Molly Used Books in Gongguan. 
Leuchtturm1917 Hardcover Diary for 2019 from Eslite Bookstore
Uniqlo onesie for a newborn baby
Tote bag from the Taipei MOCA
Monocle Magazine (British) from Molly Used Books and Kingtown Books 

Uniqlo (Japanese brand)  Maternity dress (for my third trimester of pregnancy)
Two skirts from Niko And... (Japanese brand) for after I give birth

Tuesday, May 14, 2019

Goth in the third trimester

I was just at 9 months pregnant when I made what might be the last goth outing of my pregnancy. 

My shirt came from a band whose concert in Seattle I saw back when I was only 4 months pregnant. I can't believe I thought I had a bump back then...

Since then, of course, I've grown steadily larger. and now the only thing that continues to fit is this dress from American Apparel, which I've worn in every trimester now (1st, and 2nd). 

Shirt: Tinariwen
Dress: American Apparel

Friday, May 10, 2019

McDonalds Taiwan Black Sesame McFlurry

I was not planning to go to McDonald's in Taipei. My interest in trying the local offerings faded years ago and was replaced with an intense interest in the real food to be found on the streets. 
However, when my family passed by a McDonald's while running an errand, my mother-in-law wanted to try the black-sesame ice cream. 

This yea in Taiwan, the seasonal flavor was...America. The sandwiches looked completely decadent and were not worth the calories, but did enjoy the black sesame ice cream.

There were two ways to order it, in a McFlurry or in soft serve ice cream. I told her to get the McFlurry because it would be more delicious. 

I was surprised by how tiny the McFlurry was! Maybe 1/4 of the size of one in the US. And they served it to us with a spoon, not like a drink with a straw in America. 

I thought this McFlurry was delicious, but my mother in law was disappointed that it was vanilla ice cream with black sesame syrup. 

Monday, May 6, 2019

Letters from Taipei

I prefer Taipei in the rain, even typhoon rain. Even rain that shakes your windows at night and floods your dreams. Taipei in the sun is unrecognizable to me. I can’t look up. I can’t be outside. Everything shines so brightly I’m appalled by it.. Like too many diamond rings on one hand. The heat Is bad enough but it is the sun that is positively oppressive.
Today I began reading The Magus on an old wooden stool sitting in front of a fan in the corner of my bedroom. It is not how I envisioned reading here. I’m not sure why I imagined a quiet house, lying son a comfortable couch, the sound of rain outside. Instead the furniture is miserably hard, the house is oppressively hot and humid, and the TV is always blaring Chinese news. I retreat to the wooden  bench in the corner of the room where I can position the fan right in front of my face and the sound of the Tv is blown away, and my legs are so long I can’t even fit under the table to have a proper reading desk. My position is most uncomfortable. Yet somehow, it feels the perfect place to begin The Magus, uncomfortable as Fowler was in his hot Greek island.
And even as I write this I’ve retreated to a cafe, an unexpected diversion from Taipei station since there was nowhere to sit and the mall depressed me. Jonason needed time to read his books too. We both just wanted to be inside ourselves for a while.  The cafe is no place and every place. Mostly students on laptops with headphones, like every cafe in the world. Only this one has the beloved AC, the sound of clanking china, inaudible music, Chinese conversations, mismatched wallpaper and an old TV.

- Excerpt from my diary, September 17, 2018

Thursday, May 2, 2019

What I Ate in Taiwan

Taiwan is a food-lover’s dream and every time I go I have a huge list that I never get all the way through. Most of the food I ate on this trip I had eaten before on past trips, so this was all about satisfying cravings. My favorites meals are Salty soymilk soup with friend dough for breakfast (which deserves it’s own post), the ubiquitous stinky tofu that perfumes the streets, and meat-rice for dinner, all of which I ate several times. Here is the Eats List from this trip.

1. Food I wished I had but didn't: Dim sum, it’s always great in Taiwan
2. Food I had but wished I didn't: Pork chop rice, after Meesum in Seattle, the original in Taiwan isn’t as good
3. What should have been on the list: hot pot!
4. Biggest surprise: shaved ice! Finally had it in Taiwan and it was decadent
5. Most delicious meal: it's not a meal, but the Black Sugar boba from Chen San Ding is the best ever


Milk Tea
The boba versions (Chen San Ding second from the left)

The high-end cafe version

The convenience store version

Shaved ice
Taiwanese style from Smoothie House in Dongmen

Japanese style from Mugetsudo

Japanese style from Mugetsudo

Taiwanese Food

Din Tai Fung

Beef noodle soup

Stinky Tofu

Street Food

Hot Pot!

Regional Foods 
Tainan Style (top) and Pork rice (bottom)

pork chop rice (top) and oyster pancake (bottom)

Seafood medley - oysters, shrimp, fish


Soymilk Soup

Jian Bing

Taro Cake

Sunday, April 28, 2019

Beige Dress in autumn

This dress from Uniqlo in Taiwan is my absolute favorite clothing purchase since getting pregnant. I was walking around the Taipei 101 when I saw a very pregnant woman in this dress and immediately wanted on for myself. Of course, at that time I barely had a belly and didn't look pregnant at all in the dress. I wore it several times in my third trimester, and finally, in these photos I look obviously pregnant. 

Once I give birth, I plan to wear it again and either belt it or keep it loose. It is so comfortable and appropriate for all seasons. 

Dress: Uniqlo
Leggings: Motherhood Maternity
Clutch: Coach

Wednesday, April 24, 2019

Incredible Bookstores of Taipei

After a visit to Taipei’s most famous library, I was eager to check out some of the city’s unique bookstores. We explored everything from the famous chains like Eslite and Kingstown, to obscure places like mystery-themed store Murder Ink and art book store Artland. This is a city where people love to read and appreciate a unique buying experience. 

Eslite 誠品網路書店
Taiwan’s largest and most famous bookstore is worth a visit for the sheer volume of it. There is an Eslite near practically every major station and each once has something special to offer. One Eslite we visited featured an art gallery on the fifth floor. I compare Eslite to Japan’s Tsutaya, which also exists in Taiwan.

Kingstone 金石堂書店
Another chain bookstore with the typical offerings, but a little more down to Earth and with cheaper prices on some items.

Mollie Used Books 茉莉二手書店
A popular stop down a narrow allow by the university, this bookstore offers a large variety of magazines and used books for very reasonable prices.

Murder Ink 偵探書屋
A mystery- and murder-themed bookstore and café, with a curated collection by the other and other enthusiasts of mystery novels.

Artland 亞典藝術書店
Focusing solely on Artbooks from around the world, Artland also features a small gallery with local artists, as well as a café.

VVG 好样本事
A small shop covered wth greenery sells foreign books and antiques. A very cool place to check out for gifts and things you can’t find in other shops.

Muji Books 無印良品

Famous clothing brand Muji from Japan has it’s own bookstore in Taipei, which features Chinese-translations of popular Japanese books.

Cafes of Taipei

Last time I was in Taipei, I was overwhelmed by the sheer number of cafes present on every street corner, I didn't ev...