Midnight cravings

You’re binging on Netflix. You suddenly get hungry. You grab some garlic and olive oil. Fry bacon slices. Boil pasta. So you can fulfil a craving.

Nothing fancy about the recipe as it’s pretty straightforward. ❤

I’m on Instagram: bekpackr.sg 😀

In Photos: A day trip to Jieufen, Taiwan

About an hour bus ride from Ximending is the mountainside town of Jieufen. It used to be an old mining town. Today, it’s a collection of old streets and tiny alleys with food and souvenir shops. I loved the weather. It was windy and cool.

Before anything else… I’m on Instagram! Follow me at bekpackr.sg. 🙂

This is part of a series of Taiwan-related posts culminating with the 2019 Pride March. I write about the hostel I stayed at (Ximen WOW Hostel), Ximen Pedestrian Street (Day and Night Version), Raohe Street Night Market, Longshan Temple, Bopiliao Historical Block, and National Taiwan Museum.

Jieufen is a lovely day trip from Taipei. I’ll share the rest in photos. 🙂

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My thing about theme parties.

What’s cool about PJ’s department is that they organise their own year-end parties. There’s a higher level of authenticity when a group of people pro-actively organise their own year-ender. It’s less corporate. Amirite?

The best part is I get to be his PLUS ONE.

It’s also a THEME PARTY. Woot!

In typical George fashion, I wouldn’t dare enter a theme party without thinking carefully about what I’ll wear. I once went as Marty McFly to a Christmas party ten years ago.

Did anyone understand which Hollywood character I was wearing? No.

Then, last year… Netflix was the theme. Low key I wanted to put meaning behind why I wore a Star Trek uniform. Star Trek TNG on Netflix helped me through many sleepless nights when I was going through a very difficult period in early 2018. Ending 2018 in a Star Trek uniform with PJ (who hadn’t seen a single episode of Star Trek) was full circle. ❤

partyHowever, people at the party thought we were from USS Callister on Black Mirror.

picardo

***

Fast forward to last Saturday at PJ’s department year-ender. The theme? Netflix and chill! We cleaned up for this one.

The others came dressed as characters from Chilling Adventures of Sabrina, Pose, Money Heist, and Stranger Things.

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What a mix.

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Del and Gel

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Not to be taken seriously.

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Look at this fabulous set.

I had a super great time at this DIY year-end party. It was pretty spectacular. Decorations, food, music, performances, games… when it’s DIY like this = lots of heart. ❤ ❤ ❤

well, this is me.

This one is a more personal entry. I’ve been sharing about travels lately. It’s nice to see but I’m also at a point in my career where I feel vulnerable. I’ll take a break to share this.

The past few weeks I have shown how strong I can be. (Completely rephrased from my original thought process of “I feel scared”).

In my role at work, I have been navigating a space of both uncertainty and promise. Uncertainty since it’s a contract role and promise because I’ve invested time to learn. There’s a lot I still don’t know but I try each day. Really, I try.

There are times I feel vulnerable and easily disenchanted. How is success measured in the role? Is it based on a set of metrics? Are these metrics accurate? Is it fair to be measured or compared to another person… say, a high-performing colleague or team? Is the role actually a challenging one when it comes to measurement in general? Am I getting a fair evaluation?

It’s a role thing. I’m enjoying the company I get to work for. I’m doing soul-searching. And I’m trying to take every learning and applying it. I have to accept I won’t be able to please everyone. I’m trying each day to focus on what matters. To prioritise. But I don’t want to suffer mentally just to fit in. I care for myself and I love myself enough to stop, breathe, and relax.

I put myself on this journey and I’m going to see it through. I won’t look at things as a failure but rather as an opportunity to optimise. Or realise. Really now… I’ve picked up new tricks. Amazing new ways of thinking. I now know how to tie projects and creatives to business needs. My manager taught me this and it’s the biggest takeaway.

And it’s okay if it’s not something I want to end up pursuing in the long term. I am aware of my strengths and skills. If I could somehow combine all the creativity and all the analytics.

I won’t be tied down to a ticking clock. To a time limit. I’ve lived quite fortunate the past thirteen or fourteen years. I’ve had it pretty good.

Funny to write this to myself. But hang in there! You’re 35 in 2020. It’s a new decade and you have the liberty and power to do whatever you want. Hindi na kailangan sumiksik sa mga lugar kung san ka nahihirapan or napipilitan lamang. It’s your path to take, your own path. Not the same path as those around you.

What advice would you give your younger self when it comes to failing forward or learning?

Taipei, Taiwan: Raohe Street Night Market

What’s probably everyone’s favourite thing about Taipei? The NIGHT MARKETS! They’re ideal for those capping off a day of shopping or touring. There are several famous night markets like Shilin. But for my first visit to Taipei, I chose to visit the Raohe Street Night Market (closest metro: Songshan/Blue Line).

I’m on Instagram! You can add me at @bekpackr.sg

This is part of my Taipei series of posts. I’ve written about Ximen WOW Hostel (where I’m staying), the Ximen Pedestrian District (Day Version and Night Version), the Taiwan Pride March, and a visit to Longshan Temple, Bopiliao Historical Block, and National Taiwan Museum. Check out those posts too. Anyway… let’s head into the street market!

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This beautiful archway greets you as you arrive at Raohe Street Night Market.

I headed into the market with my friends Colin and Terrence. The first major thing you’ll see is the famous black pepper bun at the entrance. Expect a queue here. But the queue moves pretty quickly. You can also see how a black pepper bun is made while you are in queue. I recorded some in video.

The black pepper bun is normally piping hot since it’s really freshly made. Honestly, because it’s so hot, I didn’t get much of the flavour apart from the obvious black pepper. Still a must-try to get you started with the long stretch of Raohe.

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How the black pepper bun is packaged.

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It’s piping hot. I almost burnt my tongue!

As you head into the Raohe Night Market, you’ll notice that it’s basically a very, very, very long street with tents setup in the middle. The foot traffic is easy here. It operates on two sides. It isn’t much of a maze. It was organised pretty well.

Let’s see what else I found.

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This was marketed and sold as “crispy ribs”. It looks like chicken popcorn.

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A food vendor working on some pancakes with pork strips.

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The signs are in Chinese. Refreshments are spaced out properly along the route.

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Shrimps!

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Shallot pork rolls

Good thing we were a trio so we got to sample the snacks we all bought.

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Terrence and Colin

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This stall was selling something that looks like bakkwa back in Singapore.

While walking we ran into a two Filipinos and a Korean who were doing a last-minute food trip before their trip back home.

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Meeting people randomly. Brought together by a love and curiosity for food.

All the street food meant the next best thing is BEER.

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Cheers with Colin!

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Neon signages at the night market.

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A vendor works on a popular jelly snack.

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Wearing my PJG bag.

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The night market also has an even share of souvenir stores.

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Baby pancakes! But I was too full by this point to order any.

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Absolutely GRAND. The Songshan Ciyou Temple is at the entrance of the night market.

Hope you liked my photos and videos from the Raohe Street Night Market! The closest metro station is Songshan. The night market starts setting up in the late afternoon (4:00 PM onwards).

Add me on Instagram! @bekpackr.sg

Photos: Longshan Temple, Bopiliao Historical Block, and National Taiwan Museum

On the day after Taiwan Pride, I had an opportunity to do some sightseeing within the city. Three locations I’ll cover in this post are Longshan Temple, Bopiliao Historical Block, and the National Taiwan Museum.

Before we continue, I’m on Instagram! Add me at @bekpackr.sg 🙂

This is also part of a series of posts on Taiwan. I’ve written about the Ximen WOW Hostel (where I’m staying at) and the Ximen Pedestrian Area (Day Version and Night Version). Feel free to check those out too!

Longshan Temple

The Longshan Temple is a Buddhist temple built in 1738. I read that it was destroyed and rebuilt a few times through the centuries. It is one of Taipei’s most well-known temples and is frequently by locals and tourists. It is served by nearby Longshan Temple metro station.

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Colin saying a prayer.

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With Colin and Terrence at the Longshan Temple.

Bopiliao Historical Blocks

A few steps away is the Bopiliao Historical Blocks which is celebrated for its 18th-19th-century architecture. They look like old shophouses but inside are alleys with some boutiques and cultural mini-museums. With Terrence, we discovered a traditional Chinese puppet show.

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National Taiwan Museum

After the Longshan Temple and Bopiliao Historical Blocks, I took the train to get to Taiwan Main Station metro and walked to the National Taiwan Museum. Built around 1908, it’s Taiwan’s oldest museum. I read that it was built by the colonial government at the time (Japanese). Which explains why the contents of the museum feature Japanese scientists and how it was turned over to the Republic of China. The closest metro station is NTU Hospital (Red Line) but it is also walking distance to Taipei Main Station and nearby Ximen.

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Between the National Taiwan Museum and National Palace Museum, I would’ve visited the latter. But I understood that the Palace Museum is a bit further away from the city center. The National Taiwan Museum, however, was interesting for how the Japanese played a part in research in the early 1900s when Formosa (Taiwan’s old name) was a Japanese colony.

Also, I didn’t realise one thing in documenting extinct species. They preserve material so it’s possible in the future, given technological advancements, that extinct species can somehow be revived. If I understand that correctly! I’m talking about the Clouded Taiwan Leopard.

These are three locations I got to visit during an afternoon in Taipei. 🙂

Have you done a city tour of Taipei? Let me know your recommendations in the comments!

I’m on Instagram! Add me at @bekpackr.sg

My 2019 Taiwan Pride March Experience

In May this year, laws allowing same-sex marriage took effect in Taiwan after decades of lobbying. This makes Taiwan the first in Asia that allows same-sex marriage. The law was signed by Taiwan’s President Tsai Ing-wen. ❤

Taiwan’s capital Taipei is currently home to the largest LGBTQ pride march in Asia (after Tel Aviv). It sees tens of thousands of people gather on the streets in a parade of love, protest, representation, and belonging. It also attracts thousands of LGBTQ tourists from across Asia.

Taiwan Pride March is normally held on the last Saturday of October. This year’s big event took place on October 26. It was a highlight to be in Taipei when the weather is comfortable in the mid-20 degrees. Luckily no typhoons!

Getting to Taipei

Taipei is one of the most well-connected cities in Asia. From Singapore, it was a four a half-hour flight. The airport is convenient and easy to navigate. Americans have up to 90 days visa-free on arrival. From the airport, you can take a commuter train or an express train to get to Taipei Main Station.

My friend Colin and I booked beds at the Ximen WOW Hostel in Ximending district. It’s a 15-minute walk from Taipei Main Station. I write about the hostel here. If you want to learn more about the Ximen Pedestrian Area, I share photos here.

About this year’s pride march

According to the website, the theme this year is “Together, Make Taiwan Better”. The starting point is at Taiwan City Hall plaza. The route is pretty straightforward and takes you down major roads towards Ketagalan Boulevard. The official website has information in English here.

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The pride march route according to the Taiwan Pride website.

Getting to the Pride March

With over 200 groups participating in the march, it could be overwhelming for independent participants. Colin and I were ready to jump into the parade at our own pace but I reached out to the Microsoft Taiwan group since Microsoft is the parent company of my employer. Thanks to a friend in the Microsoft Singapore office, I got connected and received instructions to meet the group at 1:30 PM outside Taipei City Hall metro.

At first, we couldn’t locate the Microsoft group. Colin and I decided to walk up these steps nearby to get a better perspective of the scene.

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It looks super crowded but it was organised.

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The steps near the Taipei City Hall metro station gave us our first view of Taipei 101.

Finally, we spotted the Microsoft group! I literally knew no one… but we were quickly welcomed and given Pride singlets and stickers. One of the stickers is a Microsoft Outlook pride sticker. MICROSOFT OUTLOOK PRIDE STICKER.

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Swag from Microsoft.

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Team Microsoft Taipei ready to march.

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Terence and his colleague from Microsoft.

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These two girls attracted a large crowd. Colin and I were trying to figure out who they were.

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The scene at the assembly area which was right in front of Taipei City Hall (background).

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This was my outfit btw! I wore a Boracay sando (singlet) and these shorts I bought online.

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Bigger companies sent in their branded trucks.

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Google has a growing presence on Taiwan. Nice to see their pride vehicle!

This is the third country I’ve attended pride after Singapore (Pink Dot in June) and the Philippines (Manila Pride, also in June). The main difference being… the temperature! The atmosphere at pride is always electrifying. You can feel the energy and love.

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Taipei 101 in the background.

Colin and I joined the Microsoft group for the march. But it was so packed… we often would end up pulling away from the group and walking with other marchers.

I’ll share the rest in videos and photos!

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A drawing of Taiwan’s president signing the landmark legislation into law earlier this year.

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Awww… cute dog!

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A whole new world. Revelers come dressed up in costumes.

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There were groups that brought flags representing Europe, Canada, and even Hong Kong.

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Worldwide support.

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One of the party floats in front of us.

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They were giving away fans and other memorabilia.

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Love this shot of Colin… lost in the crowd!

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Colin picks up a fan.

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This was how thick the crowd got at the start of the parade.

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Marching with Terence from Microsoft.

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Terence is a proud ally of the LGBTQ movement.

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Freedom to show placards!

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I mean if you have it… flaunt it!

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Spotted several drag queens along the route too.

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This was how it looked like when we got on the main road.

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One of the dancers on the float behind us.

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I felt people were really HAPPY after same-sex marriage got signed into law.

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The sight of rainbow flags.

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Marching with Colin.

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“Together stronger”

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Many came in groups of shared interest.

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This guy is really cute!

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Corporations have a responsibility to support their employees.

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This was towards the end of the pride group.

About two hours into the pride march, Colin and I were exhausted from walking and decided to take a detour and eat a nearby cafe. We didn’t make it to the end of the parade route but I was happy to have experienced it. Seeing different parts of society come together and celebrate pride is like participating in the fight for our time.

My thoughts on pride

Pride is about visibility and showing solidarity with the rest of the gay community. We’re here and we care about the ones we love. We want to be able to marry the ones we love. We want to be able to hold their hands in public without feeling discriminated against.

Taiwan’s Pride March sets the stage for other pride marches in this part of the world. I’m very happy for my Taiwanese brothers and sisters. But I also stand with them to defend what’s been achieved. A big battle may have been won earlier this year. But the fight is far from over in Taiwan and in Asia.

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A drag queen performs ‘Cuz I Love You’ by Lizzo.

Happy Pride, Taiwan! ❤

News articles that covered this event:

I’m on Instagram! Add me at @bekpackr.sg

Taipei, Taiwan: Ximen Pedestrian Area – Part 2 of 2

Hi there! I’m in Taipei for the 2019 Taiwan Pride March. It’s Asia’s LARGEST LGBTQ+ pride march. It’s xxxtra special this year! Why? The country approved same-sex marriage a few months ago… making history as the first Asian country to do so. Anyway… I’m writing a series of posts and this one features the neighbourhood that I stayed at. This is the second of two parts. The first part covered Ximen at night. This one covers Ximen in daylight.

I’m on Instagram! You can follow updates at @bekpackr.sg 🙂 Maraming salamat!

***

XIMEN in daylight is slightly less busy as it is in the night time.

What’s become a hotspot for Instagrammers and visitors is the rainbow crossing right outside Exit 6 of Ximen Metro Station. I was there at the height of Taiwan Pride so there was quite a crowd. You’d have to manoeuvre to get a clearer shot.

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Tourists and visitors alike gather at the rainbow crossing in Ximen.

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A splash of rainbow makes the city scenery better, doesn’t it?

Now, let’s take a walk around Ximen during the daytime. One of the things I noticed was advertising in the area. Most of the ads cater to young people. That means… video games! Spotted the next game I want to play on my Nintendo Switch.

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Link’s Awakening is currently being advertised this season.

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In fact, I was going to borrow the game from Colin.

Heading into the pedestrian area, you can find several stores like Uniqlo and sports shoes. You’ll encounter arcades with claw machines, bubble tea shops, and stores selling shoes, bags, cellphone cases, and other collectables.

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The ambience at Ximen during the day.

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Toys from the arcades and shops.

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Places like these are food corners. They spring to life in the evening.

Walking back towards the Ximen main intersection (with the rainbow crossing), another area I wanted to look at was the famous Red House which is ground zero for creativity and art in Taipei.

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Built in 1908, today it houses art galleries and many boutiques.

Inside, are a collection of tiny stores selling art products. I found a store that was selling a pin-on embroidered rainbow flag which I felt would look great with my bag.

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A space that celebrates art creators.

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Look what I found! Bought it for my bag.

During Pride weekend, the area outside The Red House had tents setup which featured LGBTQ businesses. They were selling collectable Taiwan Pride memorabilia as well as things ranging from sexy underwear to subscriptions to LGBTQ content.

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This is the power of the pink dollar!

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From underwear to harnesses. Take your pick.

Some of the tents featured advocacies. One tent had brochures for Pre-Exposure Prophylaxis otherwise known as PReP. The brochure was cute!

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Advocacy stalls like this one.

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Brochures on PrEP were available for visitors to the market.

I’ve barely scratched the surface at Ximen even during daylight. It was a highlight to see how gay-friendly the area is. It makes me wonder how it’s like in other parts of the country. The locale seems to support LGBTQ rights… given how many establishments had rainbow flags displayed prominently. They know how to court LGBTQ dollars!

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Rainbow flags can be seen throughout Ximen.

If you’re looking for food, there are still plenty of options here to try. I recommend the Ay-Chung Rice-Flour noodles which I mentioned in Ximen Part 1 (Night).

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Colin fancying himself an ice cold cup of… Taiwanese refreshments. Is that a pear or bitter melon?

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Colin lining up for pancakes one morning.

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Colin trying the pancake.

Where is Ximen Pedestrian Street?

Location. Ximen (Ximending) has a metro station: Ximen (Interchange with Green and Blue Lines). It’s a lively neighborhood that has stores and street food available til late.

Can’t wait to write the next post! Follow me on Instagram @bekpackr.sg

Taipei, Taiwan: Ximen Pedestrian Area – Part 1 of 2

Hi there! I’m in glorious Taipei for the 2019 Taiwan Pride March. It’s Asia’s LARGEST LGBTQ+ pride march. It’s xxxtra special this year! Why? The country approved same-sex marriage a few months ago… making history as the first Asian country to do so. Anyway… I’m writing a series of posts and this one features the neighbourhood that I stayed at. It’s called Ximen! WHO DOESN’T LOVE XIMEN??? This is the first of two parts which covers the kind of Ximen you see at night.

I’m on Instagram! You can follow updates at @bekpackr.sg 🙂 Maraming salamat!

***

XIMEN is short for Ximenting and is Taiwan’s fun-filled, brightly-lit street shopping district. Akin to Tokyo’s Harajuku (and Shibuya Crossing, in some aspects) or Singapore’s Bugis (wow, Bugis, you get a nod)… Ximen is filled with colorful shops, local restaurants, and street vendors. It’s pretty festive!

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It’s a busy neighbourhood. Take your time as you walk through it.

The city has several famous night markets like Raohe and Shilin. But here at Ximen, you’d be able to snack on some local favorites. Let me share some of them with you!

 

Let’s start off with Ay-Chung Flour-Rice Noodle. Literally, this was the first Taiwanese snack I got to try when I arrived in the city. It had a queue that lined the tiny street. It has virtually no seating area. People were scooping down noodles in cups while standing. ❤

Here’s how it looks like:

 

The soup is not halal okay. It has chewy pork intestines in it. Not normally my cup of tea… but the hot soup was perfect for the 25-degree weather that greeted me on this particular October evening.

I noticed that most of the food stalls have an organised queuing system. You get this stub which you then use to help you collect food later on. Like at Hot-Star Large Fried Chicken which sits at one of the busiest intersections in the Ximen Pedestrian Area.

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It’s an organised queuing system for food.

I remember spotting this first in Singapore (in fact, in my home neighborhood of Tiong Bahru). I understand that Hot-Star originated at the Shilin Night Market in Taipei if I’m not mistaken. Anyway… as the name implies… it serves a monstrous chunk of fried chicken. Take a look at this gentleman.

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Hot Star Large Fried Chicken sits at the main pedestrian intersection at Ximen.

The size is huge! I can’t see how one person can finish one order. I was sharing it with my friend Colin and we both couldn’t finish it. Hot-Star Large Fried Chicken also has other fried offerings like squid rings, potato fritters, and fries.

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A famous item to try is the Hot-Star XXL chicken cutlet. Huge.

There seems to be a symbiotic relationship between Hot-Star Large Fried Chicken and the neighbouring bubble tea stall. They pass you a voucher for a discount on bubble tea. I couldn’t help myself so I stopped counting calories (I’m in Taipei, hello).

Shake shake shake.

***

Ximen at night gives me a happy feeling. Spending six years in Manila before moving to Singapore, the gold standard of a perfect evening involves a bustling environment. I want to see street food, I want to see people enjoying street food. A little bit of chaos is healthy right?

I got to try other snacks during my stay in Ximen. I discovered these “beef cube” street vendors one evening (I forgot to take a photo). Alternatively, there are “beef cube” fixed restaurant stalls behind the Ximen Uniqlo building. I mean, seriously… look at this!

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Torched beef cubes! You can choose which seasoning. I picked rose salt.

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They come served in these paper containers.

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Juicy cubes of meat. I’d like to try other types across the city.

While the street food vendors are quick fixes. You can also stroll into one of these “hole-in-the-wall” local restaurants where the menus are in Chinese. But the prices are cheap. For $2 to $3 you can get a rice bowl topped with minced meat or pork belly. SO GOOD! ❤

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On one evening, we tried one of these hole-in-the-wall restaurants. Super cheap prices!

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This braised pork over rice was THE BEST. Melts-in-your-mouth. My boyfriend would love this!

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I tried a minced pork dish over rice. Added egg!

If you’re on-the-go, you can always grab a snack at these food stalls. I imagine Singapore to be like this 50 years ago. Before the street hawkers were clustered together and eventually evolving into dedicated hawker centres.

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Plenty of street food options that are available til late.

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Yes, most of the street food signages don’t have English translations! You have to wing it.

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I noticed these pancakes were popular.

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There’s a wide selection of proteins too.

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I didn’t get to try this but I took a photo anyway. Some fritters.

Commercial break. I keep saying this was the neighbourhood I was staying at but I forgot to mention where I was sleeping. I stayed at a very gay-friendly hostel right at the heart of Ximen called Ximen WOW Hostel (click the link to see my post).

And speaking of gay-friendly, I ran into a BIG COCK PINEAPPLE CAKE.

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A novelty for the rising pink dollar.

Honestly, you can spend a whole evening exploring Ximen. It’s a place I’d love to take my parents to. My mom would love the shopping, my dad would love the food, and my brother would love both.

Time for dogs.

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Super cute!

If there’s a top five? I’d recommend these to try in Ximen.

  1. Ay-Chung Rice-Flour Noodles. Absolutely must-try.
  2. Hot-Star Large Fried Chicken you can try in other parts of the city… but try it here.
  3. Street food like the beef cubes and the oyster pancakes.
  4. Minced meat or braised pork over rice at one of the smaller stores in the alleys.
  5. Xing Fu Tang bubble milk tea. There’s another store behind Uniqlo with less queuing.

***

In my next post, I’ll write about the Ximen you see during the day.

***

Where is Ximen Pedestrian Street?

Location. Ximen (Ximending) has a metro station: Ximen (Interchange with Green and Blue Lines). It’s a lively neighborhood that has stores and street food available til late.