19th May
written by Hope

Note: We’re in China! Or, more correctly, The Meng’s are in China…on an EATING tour (hide the women and children)! J and I met up with my parents (in Taipei) and my brother (in Shanghai), and we’re touring around central and southern China together for the next two weeks. This is my Mom and Eddo’s first time in the (grand)motherland!!! Postings might be sporadic during this time, as we’ve got a jam-packed tour schedule…but we’ll make up for it with guest posts from my Dad and Eddo coming soon!

While Kara and Patrick were visiting us in Taiwan, we did some traveling around the North and Eastern part of the country, but we also did some old-fashioned sight-seeing around Taipei. Since Jeremy and I are in school most of the week (and we typically head out of town on the weekends), we still hadn’t visited some of the major sights around Taiwan’s capital. So, we were excited to check out some of the sights that Taipei has to offer, and to share that experience with K & P.

you walk across stones in a pond to get to the tea rooms
Crossing the koi pond in Yuan Xu Yuan teahouse.

Maokong is a suburb of Taipei, and it’s best-known attraction is a gondola that ferries you from the Taipei Zoo MRT station up into the hills, where you can wile away an afternoon in one of many quaint little teahouses. Unfortunately, after we arrived at the zoo, we found out that the gondola was out of service (boooo), but we took a bus up the mountain instead and spent the afternoon in Yuan Xu Yuan teahouse, enjoying a gorgeous view of the city and munching on various steamed baos. Tearooms in Yuan Xu Yuan are built over a koi pond, with acrylic floors so you can watch the fishies swim around underfoot. To access the tearooms, you have to walk across some stone steps submerged in the koi pond.

at the yuan xu yuan teahouse, maokong

That evening, we headed up to the top of the Taipei 101 (which I believe is still the world’s tallest completed building) to watch the sunset. The super high-tech elevator takes you up 89 stories in 37 seconds. Despite the fact that there were huge tour groups full of pushy mainlanders gettin’ all up in our personal space, it was a really pleasurable experience, as the view is truly breathtaking.

view from taipei 101 at nightfall

We also had a rather funny day that involved biking around the tea fields of Pinglin…I say “funny” because it was one of those days where nothing goes your way. “Biking around tea fields” sounds really romantic, but in reality, it took us FOREVER to get out to Pinglin, and when we finally arrived at our destination, we found out we had to drive another 30 minutes to get to a bike rental shop. The bikes were in horrible condition, and the tea fields were hillier than we thought they would be, which made for a much sweatier, more strenuous experience than we were expecting. As Patrick says, “sometimes you eat the cookie, sometimes the cookie eats you,” and we’ve eaten a LOT of cookies in Taiwan, so we weren’t too upset that things didn’t go our way that day. :)

riding bikes through pinglin tea fields
K, working off some XLBs through Pinglin tea fields.

Chung Kai Shek Memorial Hall—which is sort of the unofficial town square of Western Taipei—was the site of another one of our adventures…this time we had a little more luck on our side; the day was gorgeous and a huge Tzu-Chi group (China’s largest Buddhist society) was rehearsing some sort of performance: they wore navy blue and white outfits that matched both each other and CKS Hall!

chung kai shek memorial hall, taipei
Chung Kai Shek Memorial Hall, with Taipei 101 in the background.

And, of course, we’re in Taiwan, so let’s not forget about the food! We had so many amazing meals (too many to recount here), so let’s just cover some of the more unusual highlights: we spent one night in Shilin (site of Taipei’s biggest night market) and tried the fried chicken, which is dusted with chili powder and served up piping hot in a plastic bag. No wonder it was the longest line at the Shilin food court…it’s finger lickin’ good!

good frickin' chicken at the shilin night market, taipei

For K & P’s first day in Taiwan, we took them to eat at world-renowned Dintaifung (home of the planet’s most famous xiao long bao, with branches in Hong Kong, Shanghai, and Los Angeles). This was Kara and Patty’s first encounter with an XLB, and of course, they loved it! Actually, we may have created two XLB monsters…watch out Jersey City! ;) We all liked the meal at Dintaifung, but as P & K got to know Mr. Bao better, I think we all eventually agreed that DTF is kinda overrated. We liked Kao Chi better (just around the corner from DTF’s Xinyi Street location)—and it’s cheaper, too!

kao chi shrimp and pork shumai, taipei
Shrimp-topped pork shumai’s at Kao Chi.

But our most memorable meal was dinner at the Golden Dragon restaurant in the Grand Hotel (one of Taipei’s major landmarks, featured in Eat Drink Man Woman), courtesy of Momma Fusco. We had an absolutely fabulous meal at a table overlooking the Keelung River at night, and the hotel wasn’t too shabby, either. It really was a special treat because Jeremy and my travel budget does not allow for many (ahem, let’s make that “any”) expensive meals, so it was quite a change of pace for us to see how the other half lives in Taipei! Thanks Momma Fusco!!!

pakara and menghermanns at the grand hotel, taipei

And once again, a thousand xie xie’s to K & P for coming all the way out to Taipei to visit us…you guys are the number one wai guo ren’s in our book! By the way, HAVE YOU BEEN TO CARREFOUR?!? ;)


  1. Erika

    I read this post after seeing Kara and Patrick’s photos and have to know what camera you are using nowadays. I know the camera operator’s eye for capturing a great pic has a lot to do with it, but I am even more blown away by your pics than ever because of the comparison shots (which are also very lovely, but just not quite the Getty-quality that you’re getting).

    Love you, miss you, and wish I were sharing tea, xlb’s, and bike rides with you.

  2. 21/05/2009

    what?!? *i* haven’t even seen k & p’s photos! ;)

    we’ll cover this in more depth in our electronics gear post, but we’re using a nikon d40x (with a Nikkor 18-200mm lens) as our SLR, and the leica d-lux 3 as our handheld. overall, we are extremely happy with both (though if i were to do it all over again starting NOW, i would get a nikon d90 and a panasonic lumix).

    thanks for the nice comment about our photos, e! i’m planning a photography post, too, so hold on tight! :)

  3. Kara

    Our photos: http://gallery.me.com/pakara#100092

    I agree, Hope and Jeremy have taken some art-gallery worthy pics in these past six months…I would love it if they found somewhere in SF to host an exhibition of their work when they return!

    Patrick and I are still grinning from ear to ear every time we think about Taiwan and how much we enjoyed traipsing (and training and hiking and scooting…and even the biking!) around with Hope & Jer. Love and miss you kiddos. xoxo

    (Another Taiwan-induced obsession….Bubble tea! Muah-ha-ha-ha….)

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