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Eating through Taipei, all the way up to Jiufen

Traveling becomes a little slow when you’re gone for over a month, especially when you visit a city you’ve been to dozens of times, so I’ll just cover the next few days in terms of what Taipei is best known for — the food! It rained pretty much the entire time we were in town, thus all the mall eats.

Day 38: Friday, November 16, 2012
After walking around the up and coming neighborhoods of Beijing and Shanghai, we really just wanted to see the cleaner, newer side of Taipei: “Dong qu”. Gotta love the shiny, new buildings and clusters of malls! First, we hit up Eslite (otherwise known as The Best Bookstore ever), for some TenRen boba and popcorn chicken.

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After trying dumplings from Singapore, Beijing, and Shanghai, I’ve got the say, Din Tai Fung still has the best xiao long bao’s. The one at the 101 is only a short walk away from Eslite…

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Day 39: Saturday, November 17, 2012
Guess what? We found Indian food (cooked by actual Indian chefs!) at the Miramar food court. Curry was good, naan was decent, but the sides were…fusion-flavored. (Corn soup?) Stuffed, we went to watch 007 Skyfall on the giant IMAX screen upstairs.

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Day 40: Sunday, November 18, 2012
I thought maybe we’d find a decent sit-down place at Ximending (other than Modern Toilet), but the rain made the meandering through crowds unbearable, so we left shortly after to head back towards “Dong qu” and the well-sheltered Mitsukoshi mall. What I did find at Ximending though, was a cute dog-themed cafe, which Ryan wasn’t as fond of.

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At Mitsukoshi, we stumbled upon the greatest Korean BBQ restaurant, ever: Leang Ban Jia Korea Barbecue. At roughly $15 a person, Ryan and I were fed fresh grilled chicken, shrimp, kalbi, fish, scallops, bibimbap, and a tofu soup — not to mention all the traditional sides.

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Day 41: Monday, November 19, 2012
Wanting a change of scenery, we took a van to the north-eastern shores for pretty rock formations and a dual-colored cove, thanks to run-off from a copper mine set in place during the Japanese occupation. The mine has since been abandoned, but the pollution is still evident.

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Next, we drove up to Jiufen, a cute town tucked away in the mountains. The village used to be a lucrative gold mine for the Japanese; now it’s just a popular tourist destination featuring an “Old Street” packed with food vendors, souvenir shops, and teahouses. Jiufen was the inspiration behind some of the scenes in Miyazaki’s Spirited Away as well as the setting for Hou Hsiao-Hsien’s political drama, A City of Sadness.

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takoyaki!

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Ryan was really upset that we didn’t get to spend time in a teahouse, so back in Taipei, I looked up the closest teahouse to our hotel, which just so happened to be TenRen’s Cha for Tea:

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We had tea-infused dumplings and tea leaf tempura, which were pretty special. What I found most amusing was that our waiter kept refilling our cups of free tea (the Taiwanese equivalent of tap water) despite us having our premium pots of tea!

Afterward, we hip up Kitchen Table (the W hotel’s buffet), since it left a lasting impression on our minds last year:

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Can I say, stuffed?!

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