I had the chance to pop quickly into Taipei this past week (I know, I hear the collective “YOU TRAVELLED AGAIN!?”), somewhere I’ve never been before. Besides travelling to the outskirts of this bustling city to see its sights, I also had the luxury of staying right in the heart of one of Taipei’s most exciting districts – Ximen.
Most people know Ximen for it’s night market, but there’s so much more. For starters, it’s only 1 stop away by MRT from Taipei Main Station, so you’re less than an hour away from the airport. There’s a tremendous amount of food in the area, including a rather popular soybean stall that has people from all over the world visiting it (more on that later).
Busy, exuberant and packed with great food, Ximending is a little like Seoul’s Myeongdong district, without the heavy emphasis on beauty products. Instead, street food and fashion line the streets, luring you into purchases that add up quickly. In Ximending, wallets empty blissfully in a thousand small purchases.
Small is Beautiful – Orange Hotel Ximen
Of course, before we hit the markets, we had to find our lodging first. For this trip, we stayed at Orange Hotel’s Ximen Branch. It’s 1 minute away from exit 1 of Ximen Station, so I had no trouble finding it. We were greeted by this really cute Orange Mascot!
Orange Hotel’s Ximen Branch operates on a “Small is Beautiful” concept, meaning their rooms are comfy and cozy. We had the loft option, with a double bed in place. This room fits about 2 people, maybe 3 people at the most. So if you’re a travelling couple, or a small family, this is perfect for you.
Besides the comfortable rooms, we were surprised to find out that the basement was a 24 hour pantry for guests. They keep a stock of fruits, yoghurt, milk and coffee at all times for guests. This was a courtesy that not many hotels in Singapore extended to their guests, so I was pleasantly surprised. Of course, we warmed ourselves up with a hot cup of coffee first.
Endless Nearby Eats in Ximen
Now that we had our bellies warmed up, and bags checked in, we headed out to explore the nearby Ximen area. It was really easy because Orange Ximen’s location is less than 5 minutes walk to Ximending Night Market, and there’s great food in a 10 minute walking radius. This proximity led us to a great dessert place called 明池豆花 (Click for Google maps link)!
明池豆花 serves some luscious cold beancurd with an assortment of red beans, sweet potatoes, taro balls, yam chunks and an entire assortment of other sweet treats. It was a good start to our food adventures in Taiwan, and with the sun starting to set, we headed for Ximending Night Market. We were immediately waylaid by something Sheena told me about way before we even landed – Mochi on a stick.
We got the black sugar flavour, and it was off the charts. The surface of the mochi was slightly crispy from the grill, while the insides were chewy and sticky. They don’t have the bounce that mochi from Kyoto possess, but they certainly hold a certain sweetness that stays with you.
We also picked up a small box of blowtorched beef cubes. These beef cubes are available all over Ximending, so you won’t have any trouble finding them. I must say that these cubes are from a fattier cut of the cow, so you might have some trouble eating it all at one go. Munch as you go along for maximum enjoyment!
Famous Taiwanese Breakfast in Ximen – 永和豆漿
Just 5 minutes walk from our Hotel, is the very popular 永和豆漿 (Click for Google Maps). We actually went back twice during our trip because we loved the food and ambiance there.
This place is not fancy, and seating is limited. What’s more, there always seems to be a large crowd lining up for a meal. If you’re thinking of going over, remember one very important rule: Think, then order. If you don’t, you’ll get a curt “想好很重要!” from the resident food nazi, especially during peak periods.
You really have to commend these guys for maintaining their food quality, even under the weight of such crowds. I was served a really warm beancurd drink, with crunchy dough fritters that were fresh out of the pan. It’s a really magical feeling to have such a good breakfast when it’s 10 degrees outside.
I also found their version of hot beancurd soup interesting. Instead of the combination of silen beancurd and sugar water we’re used to in Singapore, the Taiwanese have a heartier version that’s more soup than curd. It’s a salty soup that has beancurd, shrimp heads and a generous serving of dough fritters. I really liked the fact that they took the time to cook the flavour of shrimp into this soup for a heartier flavour.
Ximen’s a great place to stay
It’s central, you’ll be surrounded by great food and there’ll be plenty of exciting sights nearby. If you’re heading out to Taipei, check out Orange Hotel’s Ximen Branch.
In case you’re wondering how to get there:
Take Kingbus to Taipei Main Station (NT $125 per person). it runs every 15 minutes from Taoyuan International Airport. Get off at the last stop (East Gate #3, Taipei Station), then transfer to MRT Bannan Line (Blue line) to Ximen Station Exit no.1, turn right when facing Chunghwa Road. The Hotel is 1 minute walk from the station.
I’ll be updating the blog very soon with even more of my adventures in Taiwan, so see you then!
I’d like to say a very special thanks to Orange Hotel for our stay in Ximen. It was top notch hospitality, and I hope to be back again sometime soon to explore the rest of Taiwan!