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Taipei Taiwan

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

Categories
Taipei Taiwan

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.

Categories
Taipei Taiwan

Taipei, Taiwan: Ximen WOW Hostel – gay-friendly

Hi there! I’m in Taipei, Taiwan for the 2019 Taiwan Pride March! It’s a grand celebration this year because, in May, Taiwan became the first country in Asia to legalise same-sex marriage. This is the first of several blog posts about my first trip to the “heart of Asia”.

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

***

XIMEN WOW HOSTEL was the choice accommodation that my friend Colin and I agreed on. We wanted to save on accommodation during the peak pink period. Colin found the hostel and I went ahead to book it.

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Ximen WOW Hostel ❤

I didn’t want to expect much! But I was pleasantly surprised by Ximen WOW Hostel. Its location, price point, and comfort were more than enough. I liked the feeling that if I was hungry past midnight, you’d find good street food two minutes away.

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Entrance to Ximen WOW Hostel on Level 8.

Location. Perhaps the number 1 highlight of Ximen WOW Hostel is the location. It virtually sits above Ximen Pedestrian Street. Take the lift down and you’re right where the action is. Street food, bargain shopping, arcades, tiny restaurants, bubble milk tea… it’s all right there! Just a few seconds walk away.

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Common area at Ximen WOW Hostel.

Room. We booked beds in a mixed dorm type of room which says it had 17 beds. I wasn’t counting though. I was expecting IKEA-style bunk beds. But the beds resembled more of a capsule type of hostel with curtains providing a comfortable amount of privacy. It was Pride Weekend in Taipei so the hostel was quite lively!

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Single bed (capsule style).

Amenities. Ximen WOW Hostel covers the basics of any hostel you’d expect. Common showers and bathroom facilities. A common area to sit and read a book or do some socialising. A fridge has water, soda, and beer (pay at counter or drop money into a box). Toast and jam are served in the morning. A balcony outside (my favourite spot) is a nice place to enjoy the Taiwanese evening air. Towels are not provided but are available for purchase. The hostel can connect you with free walking tours and also provide you with tourism help.

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My favourite spot, outside! Balcony overlooking the Ximen pedestrian street.

Price. It was about SGD 24.00 (USD 18.00) per night to get a bed in a mixed dorm. Given the PRIME location, it’s totally worth it FOR THE BACKPACKER. Great for backpacking friends or adult family members.

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The ambience downstairs.

Verdict. I’ll stay here again if travelling with my boyfriend or with friends.

Ximen WOW Hostel is located at 108, Taiwan, Taipei City, Wanhua District, Hanzhong Street, 42號. I made my booking through Hostelworld.com. Closest Metro Station: Ximen (Blue/Green Interchange Station)

 

Have you stayed at Ximen WOW Hostel or other hostels in Taipei? Let me know your thoughts! ICYMI, I’m on Instagram! Follow me at @bekpackr.sg