Ever since Rich and I returned from our 2014 visit to Taiwan we’ve been promising to go back. Spurred into action by an expiring STA Travel gift voucher we booked tickets in December 2016 to travel February 2017, the same time of year as our previous visit (not too hot, no typhoons, fewer earthquakes!).
Gwilym & Fi were very kind to come to Tayouan airport to pick us up in their car and drive us straight back to their house. It was a welcome treat as after 24 hours of being on the go my mind was fried and I just needed to be led to dinner and a bed.
The whole family all live together and we joined them for a home cooked dinner and then to bed. Laurie and Nicole had converted their TV room for us and Fi & Gwilym borrowed an airbed from work for us which was one of the most comfy beds I’ve slept on (air or sprung included).
This time my jet lag was less of a problem than in 2014 when I spent 2 weeks like a zombie. I did awake in the night and fairly early in the morning but I shook it off fairly quickly. Rich never seems to suffer from it. Bizarre, as he is plagued with with every other sleep issue.
So whilst Rich and I had been slavering for two years about all our favourite Taiwanese dishes and what we would do, our first breakfast was Eggs Benedict following a shopping trip to Carrefour. Not quite the Dan Bing we’d been lusting after but we weren’t up early enough for that and Nicole and Laurie were treating us.
The first few days were beset by Rich and I getting our timings mixed up and following a hearty breakfast by a hearty lunch. I think GwiFi despaired of us! Our lunch was a much more Asian affair. Gwilym and Fi took us to a smart Szechuan restaurant near their office where we ate such delights as Plum Plum Chicken, Beautiful Ladies’ Thighs, Salty Egg, Sweet & Sour Fish and green beans. To begin we had a glass of vinegar to stimulate our appetites, much needed after the eggs Benedict. The sweet and sour fish was a revelation and we sought it out a number of times afterwards.
We left GWiFi to get back to work and they pointed us in the direction of one of their favourite stationery stores where we easily spent a couple of hours only to then go to the famous 24h Eslite book (and stationery) shop.
Flagging by now (there’s only so much stationery you can buy) we headed home intending to go to the hot springs in Beitou but we were too tired after dinner and instead watched some Midnight Diner: Tokyo Stories and went to bed.
Saturday 11th February was our much anticipated return trip to Shifen for the Lantern Festival. Favourite food stalls were revisited and new street foods sampled. Inspired by Midnight Diner we tried a Corn Dog (nothing special) and were also tempted by a giant shrimp stick (quite gross, not very shrimpy and with processed cheese!). I thought I was immune to the unique smell of stinky tofu but I was wrong. It is a vile all pervading smell that I could not get away from fast enough. The barbecued squid and the sweet potato fries were the winners of the day. We avoided the actual lantern burning on ecological grounds and found the Shifen waterfall (a much more beautiful prospect than barn owls caught in burning lanterns).
The crowds were enormous but easy going and we all got to see and buy what we wanted. The waterfall was a real find and new to all of us. I’ll let the photos speak for themselves. We left early evening to avoid the mass exodus and got back to Beitou for diner, Midnight Diner and the David Brent movie (surprisingly good). A walk in the mountains planned for Sunday the quiet evening was welcome.