Welcome to our travel blog. We are Tabitha and Nic. In 2011 we 'retired' in our early 40s and set off to travel the world. We spent our first year in South America and have been lucky enough to make two trips to Antarctica.

Our blog is a record of our travels, thoughts and experiences. It is not a guide book, but we do include some tips and information, so we hope that you may find it useful if you are planning to visit somewhere we have been. Or you may just find it interesting as a bit of armchair travel.

Thursday, January 14, 2016

Taipei - tea and night markets

Raohe Street night market, Taipei
Taiwan is well known for its tea and its food, it seemed only right to go and check them out. There is a convenient and important tea growing area close to Taipei, so we took a bus out to just by the zoo, and from there, took the gondola up the hill to Maokong.

Maokong, Taipei
It was a bit of a dreary and wet day, so we didn't get the best view, or spend much time walking around, but we did check out a couple of the tea rooms. We had already done a bit of research about which were the best of the many tea rooms up there, so we took our maps and tried to find them.

Maokong, Taipei
The first was Liujixiang Teahouse. Oolong tea is the specialty here, so we tried two of their many varieties. You buy the packet, and they give you the tea making set and a kettle, and you do it yourselves. At this point, we were very grateful for that visit we made to a teahouse in Kunming, as it meant we had at least some idea of what we were supposed to be doing.

Liujixiang Teahouse, Maokong, Taipei
We later found that there were some instructions, it was just an oversight that we didn't get a set. Never mind, we got it right, so it was all good.

Having had about as much as we could drink here, knowing that we would be having more elsewhere, we decided to move on.

Yuanxuyuan Teahouse, Maokong, Taipei
Our second stop was Yuanxuyuan Teahouse, which was a much fancier place. Finding it was slightly more testing, as the maps aren't great, and it didn't have the map number of outside, so we had to recognise it by the characters instead.

The tea room has a stream running through it, with stepping stones and little bridges. You sit on the cushions on the floor in little cubicles, some of which have a glass base and water, complete with goldfish, underneath. It also has an excellent view over the valley and out to the city - or at least it would have had, if it wasn't so cloudy.

Raohe Street night market, Taipei
So that was the tea, now for the food. We obviously ate in various places, but we'll focus on the night markets. We went along to a couple, one at Raohe Street, and one at Ningxia Road.

Now I am often a bit stuck with streetfood, because it has a tendency to have a lot of seafood or spicy stuff. The good thing about here though, was that there was a lot of variety, so whilst my choices may not have been the most interesting, I could at least find enough to eat.

Raohe Street night market, Taipei
And I did try a few of the sweet things, like the little crepe things filled with a kind of creme patissiere and other fillings. I also took quite a liking to bubble tea, a kind of milky flavoured tea that can be hot or cold, but contains lots of big chewy tapioca balls -  the bubbles.

Ningxia Road night market, Taipei
Nic can be a bit more adventurous, and he tried the fried squid, and some kind of blood thing, a bit like black pudding. But the thing he really knew he had to try, even though he expected it to be disgusting, was the infamous stinky tofu. It took us a while to find it, and to confirm that it was the right thing, but eventually he had a box full of the tofu, which has been fermented for months in a brine of made from milk, meats and vegetables. As it does stink.

Ningxia Road night market, Taipei
We took ourselves, and our foul smelling food, off to a secluded corner, so that if Nic did throw up on eating it, he could be discreet about it. The first mouthful was accompanied by a large amount of trepidation. You really had to try to ignore the smell, and just hope it didn't taste as bad - after all, lots of people love the stuff.

Nic eating stinky tofu, Taipei
And actually it wasn't nearly as bad as it smelled. I even braved it myself and tasted a tiny bit. It wasn't good though, so we had no qualms about finding a bin for the rest of it.

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