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!
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.
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.
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.
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!
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! ❤
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.
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.
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.
If there’s a top five? I’d recommend these to try in Ximen.
- Ay-Chung Rice-Flour Noodles. Absolutely must-try.
- Hot-Star Large Fried Chicken you can try in other parts of the city… but try it here.
- Street food like the beef cubes and the oyster pancakes.
- Minced meat or braised pork over rice at one of the smaller stores in the alleys.
- 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.