Travel

[Taipei] Raohe Street Night Market 台北饒河街觀光夜市

Never worry about going hungry in Taiwan... because there's going to be food everywhere you go. And I mean literally. Street are filled with stalls, snacks and stores. Xiao chi (小吃), or street snacks, are fundamental to daily life in Taiwan. So much so that it's indoctrinated into their culture and social lives.

During my 8 days in Taiwan, I had food at least every 2 hours Here are just some of the snacks and street food I tried while traveling around Taiwan. Needless to say, I gained some happy tummy rolls as I left the country.

Entrance of Raohe Night Market

Entrance of Raohe Night Market

For starters, I recommend going to the Raohe Street Night Market (台北饒河街觀光夜市) located in Songshan District of Taipei. Open daily from 5pm to midnight. It's not the biggest one around, but trust me, it's enough for a night and less crowded than some of the more popular places. I think the food here is more authentic and of higher quailty due to there being less tourists.

MUSTS:

  • Handmade pepper buns (福州世祖胡椒饼) , freshly handmade and oven-baked made on the spot! I had to wait 15 minutes for it, but well worth the time. Filled with carefully marinated pork and pepper, the filling is mixed with spring onions and other spices. Baked with a sesame crust, it's super crispy on the outside and tender-juicy on the inside. One of the most popular vendors in the market - for a good reason!

  • Peanut and sesame coated glutinous sticky rice balls 麻糬 (mashu) but known to be 糖不甩 in some other places

Savory and crispy on the outside, and juicy on the inside! A must!

Savory and crispy on the outside, and juicy on the inside! A must!

Pepper buns (胡椒饼) fresh out of the oven

Handmade mochi with peanut powder and black sesame (mashu or 麻糬) 

Handmade mochi with peanut powder and black sesame (mashu or 麻糬) 

Jello
Peppered and deep fried squid sticks

Peppered and deep fried squid sticks

Black sesame sweet soup with mochi balls 黑芝麻

Black sesame sweet soup with mochi balls 黑芝麻

meat-sticks-taiwanese
All kinds of meat sticks - from pig hearts to livers

All kinds of meat sticks - from pig hearts to livers

Have fun and be adventurous! Try some things you've never tried before! More likely than not, you won't be disappointed. :)

[Kenting 垦丁] Kenting National Park & Kenting Main Street, Taiwan

Kenting (垦丁) is located at the most southern tip of the Taiwan island, in Hengchun (Pingdong Country) and is surrounded by water on all three sides: the Taiwan Strait, the Luzon Strait, and the Pacific Ocean. Due to its geography, it has a very warm climate and tropical weather all year long. Kenting is known for its beautiful equatorial scenery and is approximately 90 kilometers, or 56 miles, away from Kao-Hsiung (高雄).  

Even though it was late December when I visited, the weather in Kenting was perfect. Neither too cold nor too hot, the temperature was ideal to relax in the sun. At times, there would be wind but not unbearable. In fact, the breeze was quite comfortable, especially during the day. However, I would recommend bringing a jacket if you come here in the wintertime because it does get a little chilly at night. 

Like all other night markets in Taiwan, the Kenting Main Street night market is full of little stalls that serve all kinds of local snacks, food, and souvenirs.


I stayed at the Chateau Beach Resort, which is located in the Kenting National Park area and by the beach. The resort itself has an exclusive 3-km (1.88miles) long beach with very fine sand. 

Here are some pictures I took from the resort's private beach: 

The resort has an outdoor private pool that faces the beach.

I was so glad to have ended my Taiwan trip on such a relaxing note! :)

[Huangshan] Yellow Mountain 黄山 - 3D2N Hiking Trip

Huangshan, or Yellow Mountain, has become one of China’s most recognizable and frequented tourist attraction sites. Located in Huangshan City of Anhui province, the massif spans across a total expanse of 1,200 square kilometers with a core area of approximately 161 square kilometers. Renowned for its natural beauty, unique geological history, and geomorphology, the cliffs first formed over 100 million years ago during the Mesozoic era due to crustal movements and subsequent uplifts.

yellowmountain.jpg

There is a Chinese saying that goes, "Mount Huangshan is picturesque all the year round.” Most known for its five wonders: sea of clouds, uniquely shaped pine trees, jagged granite peaks, springs, and magnificent sunrises, Yellow Mountain is worth seeing at anytime of the year. It is listed on the UNESCO World Heritage List and is often the subject of traditional Chinese paintings, literature, and poetry. Nowadays, it is one of the most photographed icons of China.

My trip to Huangshan was an impromptu one; I flew in to Shanghai from Hong Kong and hopped on a five-hour road trip with my family and friends immediately upon landing.

yellowmountain2.jpg
The famous Flower Blooming on a Brush Tip (梦笔生花). It is a granite formation topped by a pine tree.

The famous Flower Blooming on a Brush Tip (梦笔生花). It is a granite formation topped by a pine tree.

I was very delightfully surprised by how well preserved and logistically organized the site was. The infrastructure of the whole region is generally safe and steady. Tens of thousands of stone steps have been carved into the mountains over the years and the paths are clearly marked. There are directional signs, maps, and checkpoints wherever you go. Two trails are available if you decide to skip the cable cars and start hiking from the very bottom. There is the longer “Western Steps” (14km, ~6-7 hours) with mind-blowing views or the shorter “Eastern Steps,” which is still lovely but comparatively less grandeur (~2-3 hours). Of course, you can always take the cable cars up to the upper reaches of the peaks (which is what we did) and start walking from there. 

Cable cars

Cable cars

Map

Map

There are only two things I’d warn people about. One is to keep alert at all times and watch out for the mountain porters who carry food and supplies up to the hotels and stores at the mountaintops. Remember that they’re carrying cargos with weights heavier than themselves (I’m guessing 140-180 pounds) and balancing them on the long poles rested on their shoulders and backs. It would be stupid not to sidestep for them as they’re moving swiftly on the thrust of momentum and aren’t fully in control of their movements. Stay out of their path if you don’t want them to collide into you.

Just look at that...

Just look at that...

All the materials available to tourists and residents on the mountain are hauled up and down on the backs of the carriers. This includes food, drinks, construction materials, hotel supplies, linens, and all other goods and necessities. To say that I’m in awe would be undermining my respect for the hardworking porters. How difficult it must be to be carrying beasts of burden everyday back and forth on these ceaseless steps...

Steps

Steps

My second warning would be to plan your hiking route ahead of time and make realistic estimates about your pace. The cable cars shut down early afternoon and being trapped in the middle of the mountains after dark would not be a good idea. It'd probably take (at least) another 6 hours to hike back to where you started (also because there are barely any night lights, so bring a flashlight just in case).

yellowmountainblue.jpg
Enjoying my mid-hike break with a popsicle. 

Enjoying my mid-hike break with a popsicle. 

There are hotels of various prices at the mountaintops and I recommend staying over for at least a night to try to catch the sunrise at 4:30am. We weren't so fortunate in seeing the sunrise however. We woke up early, climbed to a peak, and waited. We waited and it started to drizzle but we continued to wait, to no avail. The sun had sneakily creeped up behind the heavy clouds. It was beautiful and a great experience regardless and I'd love try it again another time. 

5 am.

5 am.

 I had high expectations prior to this trip and it turned out to be nothing less than exceptional. There's no question that I'll be back again in the wintertime someday to catch the sunrise and of course, the sea of clouds.

[Berlin] East Side Gallery: A Testimony & Tribute to Freedom

Categories: Outdoor art gallery, memorial
Address: Near the city center (in former East Berlin) on Mülenstraße in Friedrichshain-Kreuzberg
 Date visited: February 2013
 Price: Free 
Verdict:
 MUST SEE!

HIGHLIGHTS

  • International memorial and symbol of freedom; a visual testimony to the jubilation and spirit of liberation after the fall of the Berlin Wall 
  • 1.36 kilometers long; it is the longest segment of the Berlin Wall that is still standing today
  • Features 106 beautiful murals painted by 118 artists from 21 different countries. Also referred to as the Kunstmeile, or art mile, the gallery is located along the banks of the river Spree in Friedrichshain
  • Very inspiring and informative, a must-see in Berlin!
  • Will end up here with the alternative Berlin free walking tour (strongly recommended!)
  • Some of the more well-known murals are: 

 Dimitrji Vrubel's “The Mortal Kiss” of Erich Honecker and Leonid Brezhnev's mouth-to-mouth embrace

 

Dimitrji Vrubel's “The Mortal Kiss” of Erich Honecker and Leonid Brezhnev's mouth-to-mouth embrace

Dimitrji Vrubel's “The Mortal Kiss” of Erich Honecker and Leonid Brezhnev's mouth-to-mouth embrace

            Birgit Kinder’s Trabi (Trabant) knocking down the Wall

Posing with Birgit Kinder’s Trabi (Trabant) knocking down the Wall

Posing with Birgit Kinder’s Trabi (Trabant) knocking down the Wall

Some of my other personal favorites: 

[Oslo] Frognerseteren Restaurant: A Magical Panorama View of Oslo

 

Categories: Diner, Cafe, Self-service
Address:  Holmenkollveien 200, Oslo 0791, Norway (Frognerseteren)
Date visited: February 2013
Price:  8-15 €  
Verdict:  I wouldn't visit for the food, but I would definitely make my way out here for the view! STRONGLY RECOMMENDED! 

HIGHLIGHTS

  • Magical and breathtaking view of Oslo from a mountain lodge at the top of Frognerseteren (a popular skiing and hiking spot in Norway located amid the Nordmarka forest)
  • Architecture: a century-old wooden lodge, Vikings styled
  • Self-service cafeteria style, with Norwegian food: main dishes (salmon, filet, etc.), soups, desserts, drink
  • Warm cozy dining room sit-down area
  • Food is quite expensive for what you're getting, but remember that you're paying for the setting
  • Recommendations:
    - Apple cake
    - Inhale the view and atmosphere. Sit back and relax. 

How to get there & tips:

  • Take the metro and get off the Frognersetern station, which is the terminal station of the Holmenkollen line.
  • Follow the signs for a short hike downslope towards the restaurant. Make sure to wear hiking-friendly shoes (NO UGGS)! The journey is a little tough and you may slip a few times, but it's well worth it.