Rediscovering Taiwan - The Beef Noodle Street, JiuFen and ShiLin!

I’ve only been to Taiwan once ten years ago and I fell in love. This second trip was just as unexpected as the first. I ate so much, walked so much and haggled so much in four days and I still wanted more by the end of the trip.

Taipei Surprise
Four hours of waiting in line on the last day of Philippine Airlines’ 70th Anniversary 70% off Seat Sale brought me to a last-minute decision to go to Taipei. After all, I could go Visa-Free and apply for a Taiwan Online Entry Permit because I had a US Visa. An event that I’ve never heard of, called the Taipei International Flora Expo, also coincided with my trip and had free tours. That got me curious by the time I left Manila.

Getting There
Taipei is just two hours away from Manila via Philippine Airlines. It took almost around the same time to go to the hotel because I decided to lead our pack and ride a Guo Kuang 國光 Bus in the airport (to stop: 林森北路 Linsen Beilu). It was cheaper and we had to walk a few blocks to get to the Riviera Hotel, which was located right across the Taipei International Flora Expo sites. Hunger was the main drive to go exploring at high noon and we were out as soon as we put our luggage in the room.

Lunch in an Unnamed Restaurant
I think of Beef Noodles when I think of Taiwan. Where else can I find the best but in what they call the Beef Noodle Street! Rumors turned out to be true. Located near MRT Stop Ximen Exit 4 and 3, just go straight and turn left to a small street. We picked a restaurant with no name, kitchen and beef all laid out in front and, of course, the one still filled with locals at almost 2 p.m. 

We sat with a father and son and they recommended the dish that keeps the father coming back for decades here, something aside from the common HongShao Beef Noodles 紅燒牛肉麵 (for 150 NT$).

We get this when we say Taiwan Beef Noodles in Manila and all over the world (our equivalent is the Special Taiwan Beef Noodles with dark soup).

Let me introduce to you my new favorite TangMian 湯麵 below (for 100 NT$). 

I could describe it as light or dan and our new friend was right, it was not common and I preferred the milder flavor of the soup. Before they left us to enjoy our meal, they offered two more pieces of advice. For one, this free unlimited veggie add-on will lessen your “umay”, so you don't get tired of eating these yummy Beef Noodles. 

Most importantly, do not forget to dig in that bowl of Taiwan Beef Noodles while it’s hot or it will become oily. 

Don’t waste the perfectly made noodles and the generous beef portions! I bet this restaurant will still be there and still filled with regulars when I come back.

Looking for JiuFen
JiuFen 九份 was next in my list. I didn’t know what to expect or what was there and it was exactly why I went looking for it. From the ZhongXiao FuXing MRT 忠孝復興 捷運 Stop, we took the 1081 bus to get there on a rainy afternoon. It took around 19 stops (I slept through some during this long ride) and numerous attempts to talk to the bus driver since some of the stops were not written on the bus. It was an old local bus going up a mountainous and winding road. We bought an Easy Card for our public transport needs. Remember to swipe twice on this bus! The driver will give you a piece of card (do not throw it away!). You will need that card to determine the fare and pay as you go down. We descended from the bus when we started to see some shops and people, hoping it was the JiuFen that I heard about.

We entered a food alley and it brought us to the amazing LaoZhenXiang 老珍香 Taro Puffs! 

I like the plain ones better and I could actually finish more than two of these in one sitting. 

They are also ideal as trip gifts. 

With taro puffs in hand and umbrella on the other, we found that this was a very long alley filled with all sorts of food and stuff from trinkets to meatballs to shrimp croquettes to glow-in-the-dark lanterns and many more! 

The shops were different from each other with their own specialty item in store for you. 

We reached the “end” in around an hour where you can watch boats from a distance. I also found out that there were rows of teahouses where you can just relax and sip tea in the day near a long steep stairway, which was another entrance to the alley. I made sure to make a mental note to go to JiuFen earlier and to spend the whole day there next time.

One More Stop for the First Day
It’s hard to forget an adventure when you’re out to discover something you’ve never tried before. There are just some things you can only find in Taiwan. As if it wasn’t enough, we headed over to the ShiLin Food Market (Stop:  剑潭 JianTan MRT Exit 1 Go straight, cross X intersection, go straight not right (the right has the street entrance to the main shops), the new Food Market Building is after the kiddie games and sidewalk vendors - not 士林 ShiLin MRT) for some sizzling late night steak (niupai) 牛排!