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Taipei

Day 9: Shifen and Jiufen Old Street

Our First Taipei Motorcycle Tour

We got up early for our Taipei Motorcycle Tour. Despite only being able to go for the half day Dawn Tour, we were super excited. Instead of the usual sight-seeing methods, we’ll be riding with our drivers on their stylish motorcycles!

Our riders Xiao Zhu and Yi Xin arrived at our apartment to pick us up. They seemed like friendly cool dudes, and they explained the safety rules to us before we got on. Because we wanted to go to Shifen and Jiufen, they tailored a route for us. And we got no clue where those places are because the names were in Chinese.

Words cannot describe how exhilarating the ride was. It was scary yet it gave us an early morning adrenaline rush. We were literally traveling at 120 km/h, and after weaving through traffic in town and hitting the highway, we reached our first stop. It was some gathering point near Shi Ding, where there were lots of other riders and racers. Our hosts went to get their coffee while we waited and took a breather.

Motorcycle Tour to Shi-Ti Slope Mine 石底大斜坑

Now that we’re away from the town area, the roads have less traffic. Our riders were going even faster right now! It was actually very cold because of the wind hitting our bodies. Mildly freezing but enjoyable! Oh my we didn’t buy enough insurance to do this! But luckily our riders were superbly skilled, we arrived at our next destination in one piece.

We got off at Shi-Ti Slope Mine, it was an abandoned coal mine from the ancient times. Our guides told us that a lot of celebrities and movie directors come here to do their photo/video shoots. Coincidentally at that time, there was an indie director doing his video shoot. We too, had our fair share of artsy poses, but the ground was too muddy so we didn’t explore much.

Taipei Motorcycle Tour to Shifen Old Streets 十分老街

When you talk about Taipei, the name Shifen comes to mind. It is dubbed as one of the most visit places in Taipei. During the Japanese era, the steam trains transported coal from somewhere to somewhere else, passing by this area. History lessons for another day, but this place has now turned into a collection of lanes and alleys with shops. This is also the place where hordes of tourists flock over to release the Sky Lanterns.

However the shops weren’t open at all, like I mean who the hell comes here at 8 AM in the morning? But because Shifen was closer to where we were, our riders strategically brought us here because they knew there wouldn’t be anyone else. It is only at this timing when we can get full views of the railroads without getting photo-bombed. If you look at the photos later, you’ll see why we are so appreciative of what our riders did.

By now we got the hang of riding as pillion, our guides told us that we have to follow their turns so that the inertia won’t make them lose control of their bikes. And also, I figured out that I should use Minmin’s phone to take videos.

Taipei Motorcycle Tour to Gongliao 海大牧場 and Nanya Peculiar Rocks 南雅奇石

We rode towards the eastern side of Taipei, towards Gongliao District that faces the East China Sea. It was a scenic route, on your left is the mountain range, and on the right, the big sea. We pit stopped at a seafood restaurant called Gongliao 海大牧場. We didn’t eat there, but went out towards the abalone rearing enclaves to check it out. The waves were quite strong, if we fell into the water that’s it, we’ll become abalone food. Nature you scary!

Nothing much else to do here, so we headed to our last location, Nanya Peculiar Rocks. Basically some rock formation that has been oxidized and corroded by the salt content in the atmosphere. Not a scientist but I suppose it is this way. Can’t spend much time here, as we are kind of running late. Herein, we took our last photos with our riders. We even posed as bikers wannabes on their bikes. Thank you Team AJ for bringing us on this fantastic Taipei Motorcycle Tour! We love it!

Again I tested the quality of our Valore selfie stick. At the expense of Minmin’s new iPhone XS. I managed to get this video into YouTube, this meant the phone didn’t fly out on our ride.

Jiufen Old Streets

We hit the winding roads up towards Jiufen Old Streets. Time to bid goodbye to Xiao Zhu and Yi Xin. Our Taipei Motorcycle Tour officially ends here. The fun seemed to have just started moments ago and now it’s ended. Thank you guys for your friendly hospitality. And for now, the food hunt begins.

Amei Teahouse 阿妹茶樓

One of the must-visit places in Jiufen is Amei Teahouse. Many would have known this place as the inspiration behind the popular Japanese animated film “Spirited Away”. Indeed this place has a Japanese feel to it, plus the weather was a little misty. Lucky us, there was no queue at all. The staff gave us seats with a nice scenery view in the outdoor area!

Not sure if their whole day menu is the same, but because we are early, the menu that’s available is only tea and local snacks. Their menu is special too! It was a traditional bamboo menu with engravings. The challenging thing for us is to decipher the names of the Chinese teas. It was a really enjoyable morning, sipping on our tea while enjoying the mountain view. On our way out they gave us postcards with the Amei Teahouse image. Advertising yo.

Despite the crowd-less photos you see, the entire place is actually filled with shit tons of tourists. No doubt one of Taipei’s most visited areas!

Grandma Lai’s Taro Ball 賴阿婆芋圓 

Our hunt for food begins now actually. Nothing much to really “sight-see” because it’s just hordes of tourists. Read that taro balls are a must in Jiufen, especially Grandma Lai’s Taro Ball.

We ordered the mixed balls, which include taro, sweet potato and tea balls. Different colored chewy and yummy balls. Luckily it wasn’t Grandpa Lai running the shop instead.

Jin Zhi Red Yeast Meat Dumpling 金枝紅槽肉圓

Another one our list is the red yeast meat dumpling. We’re not entirely sure what this means, from the look of it, it seems like meatballs. We got the combo with five different flavors of meatballs: codfish, squid, pork, kimchi, and bamboo charcoal. Not to sure what to feel about it, it didn’t taste bad but it’s just Yong Tau Foo ingredients yo.

Ah Zhu Peanut Ice Cream Roll

Almost every corner sells the some form of ice cream roll. But we read online that Ah Zhu Peanut Ice Cream Roll seems to be the one that we should try.

The combination of peanut and ice cream didn’t sound legit. It looks weird, kinda like those Vietnamese veggie rolls. It tastes weird too, the ice cream is not your kind of soft-serve ice cream. More like diluted mixture of vanilla and blended ice. We don’t like it. But at least we tried it before.

Back to Shifen Old Street

It was an hour journey from Ruifang Station to Shifen Station. That was the only way there. And we stood all the way because of the massive crowd.

As soon as we landed, we even took a picture of the crowd and showed it to Xiao Zhu & Yi Xin. Luckily they brought us here in the morning when there was nobody. This was why I said, we really appreciate them because if not for them we wouldn’t have gotten our picturesque photos on the tracks without any human obstruction.

Snack time! Awesome fried stuffed chicken drumstick. We were hoping the crowed would disperse but nope. It just keeps coming.

Shifen Old Street Sky Lantern

When talking about Shifen, people will think of the Sky Lanterns (天燈). Traditionally, the Chinese would write their well wishes on it and set it into the sky hoping that one of the Gods would pick it up. As we all know, it ignites mid-air and lands on some poor dude’s front-yard down the street.

As promised to Minmin, I’ll bring her to Taiwan someday to 放天灯 (to literally release the sky lantern). So here we are. Basically, every step you take, you’ll see shops selling these lanterns. The prices are all about the same, so no point going one by one to look for cheaper ones. For us, we tried to walk to a place where it was less crowded. So that we will be able to take nice pictures. But it seems like mission impossible.

I wished we paid attention in Chinese class last time, cos we seriously can’t read. We could draw the huat mahjong tile though. The staff there are skilled photographers. They could take shots in all modes, videos, photos, landscape and portraits. Not bad. The idea is to sort us out asap so they could move on to the next customer.

Shifen Waterfall

We rented a scooter so that we can get to Shifen Waterfall easily. The weather was too hot to walk. It was only a few minutes ride but we still had to walk from the parking lots to the actual waterfall area. Got a little hungry and bought some oyster omelette. Loving it! The texture, the sauce, the crispiness, and most importantly the oyster doesn’t have a zinc-ish taste.

We squeezed our way to the front so that we could get a clearer picture of the Shifen Waterfall. But it’s really impossible to take a picture without anyone in our viewport. Clever us, we used our selfie stick, and stuck it all the way out so we could take photos of the fall. Thankfully Minmin’s phone didn’t fall into the waterfall. Ok not funny.

It was too hot, we decided to just head back. Returned our scooter back at Shifen Old Street and took a cab back to our apartment. We fell asleep though, just nice for a refresher. Showered and headed out for dinner at Raohe Night Market.

Raohe Night Market

I’m pretty sure we’re getting sick of night market food by now. Same same but different. Tried the Taiwan version of KOI – 50 Lan (50嵐) and got us some usual milk tea. Walked around every stall and tried some beef cubes, meat skewers and popcorn chicken cubes. Nothing much to shout about these items right now, we just need some fillers.

One of the more special items was the Deep Fried Milk. It sounds physically impossible to do so, but it’s actually condensed milk cubes. Crispy on the outside when you bite it, and chewy on the inside. A little too sweet for our liking.

The next dessert was something we’ve not seen before. We didn’t even catch the name on the stall. I’m just gonna name it, glutinous red bean balls. Honestly it is quite delicious because it is cold and sweet.

Lastly, we tried their takoyaki. It looks tempting and there were others in the queue. It looks like it will taste nice but sadly it’s not. Not going to eat any takoyaki from other places anymore, except for Japan. I think we’ve used up our adrenaline on our Taipei Motorcycle Tour. And all our energy drained at Shifen Old Street. We now head back to have an early rest!

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