Taipei, Taiwan

Saturday, February 25, 2017

Way, way, overdue post. This has been sitting in my "drafts"folder for too long but here it is, finally!

"You must be crazy going overseas with a bunch of people you barely even know well," a concerned friend of mine advised, upon learning that I was going to go on a trip to Taiwan with the O'Week Comm.

Indeed, I was crazy, and the trip was crazy. By that I mean - crazy good.

To be honest, I was really apprehensive about the entire situation as well. Going overseas isn't something to be taken lightly - for one, it's a (fairly) big ticket "purchase", but more importantly, you'll be spending a significant amount of time with the same few people. This could probably go very well, or end terribly.  From experience, even when I head abroad with some of my closest friends, I'd be slightly withdrawn after a couple of days, probably caused by social fatigue. And that, isn't a side I'd be comfortable with exposing in front of those who don't know me well.

However, the most compelling reason that held me back was the fact that the previous and only other time I visited Taiwan was with a bunch of people of I barely knew /throwback to Dwen An in secondary four/ and it ended up being one of the longest, most difficult trips I had to live through. Sure, it wasn't all that bad (the country is beautiful, and the people are incredibly kind) and turned out to be a hilarious memory in hindsight but as a whole, I just never had a positive recollection of my experience there.

That said, after the five days spent (25-29 December 2016) in Taipei with O'Week, the impression I have of Taiwan is now an exceptional one. I'm so thankful it turned out this way.

Truly, I'm all set to work hard and to work tirelessly with this group of insanely talented and entertaining individuals in the year ahead. Here's hoping that we stay strong, energized, and supportive of one another. And of course, that we'd still be friends at the end of all this.

With that, I shall attempt to recap all the highlights from the trip, hopefully but probably not in chronological order.

Day One

Fu Hang Dou Jiang 阜杭豆漿

We landed in Taiwan on the morning of Christmas day, and headed straight for a really popular breakfast place - Fu Hang Dou Jiang (阜杭豆漿) - for a bite. The place serves traditional Taiwanese breakfast of you tiao (dough fritters) and dou jiang (soy bean milk), amongst other dough-based pastries. The queue was really long, with both tourists and locals alike. Having the latter is probably representative of how good the place is.

And guess who I saw when in the queue!

None other than Tiffany! It was such a great surprise, and we both laughed so much upon seeing each other. We did briefly mention on Whatsapp that we'd both be in Taiwan in December, but the dates we'd be there didn't seem to overlap and thus didn't think much about it. Who knew we'd both go to Fu Hang at the same time on the day I landed, which was the day she was supposed to leave. I was so heartened to see her, and even more so of all places in Taiwan because it is the place that our friendship started. 

When we finally reached the store, we all mostly got the typical combination of you tiao and dou jiang. For something so famous, it was reasonably priced yet at the same time, for something so famous, it didn't taste all that mind-blowing. Of course, I'm not mad at it - it's great comfort food for sure, and it's freshness definitely warmed up my tummy. 

Hi Phyloy!

Ximending Shopping District 西門町

Following our hearty breakfast, we headed to Ximending to do some shopping, and eat even more. We actually went to Ximending a couple of times over the next couple of days, but I've compiled most of what we did at this district here. 

Hi Weiliang and Xin Yu! 

Always wanted to try this kind of ice cream cones with a super high swirl - and I did! The chocolate-vanilla flavour was pretty disappointing though. Definitely bought it just for the photo opportunity.

The melon flavoured one that Larry bought was much better - and that's Xin Yu in the background.

Some dumplings Weiliang bought from a temporary push cart - these were so good. There were many illegal push carts selling food all around even though Ximending isn't a night market. It's more of an organized shopping district with proper shops and storefronts. We did witness the police coming, and all the push cart owners frantically trying to push their carts away. What a sight.  

The famed Taiwan beef cubes - simply seasoned, but heavenly.

Grilled mochi - which we went all over the place looking for.

Condensed milk and matcha flavoured!

Our Airbnb

After our little shopping trip, we went to check into our Airbnb, which was located within this commercial office-residential building. We booked three rooms, and I was on the 23rd floor with Roy, Eugene, Siska and Phyloy. We were very lucky to have gotten the biggest and nicest room, complete with a bathtub (not that we used it). 

Look at this - so gorgeous. Please ignore Roy in the background.


We headed to this pretty atas restaurant at Da'an District called 'Tasty 西堤牛排' for our Christmas dinner. Despite its dubious name, the restaurant offered very affordable 7-course Western meals (estimated damage per person was less than 30+SGD) in a semi-fine dining setting. I'd highly recommend this place for anyone heading to Taipei - although it does seem slightly off eating Western food in a country where you can get great authentic cuisine from the streets, the ambience, service and food here is truly worth a shot. 

We were so stuffed by the end of the meal. I can't remember exactly what I had, and didn't manage to take pictures of everything but from what I remember: fruit salad, pastry baked with beef (this was amazing), seafood soup, main course of roasted chicken (sorry, boring choice I know), macaron, dessert of matcha cake & chocolate covered grape with gummy candy and vanilla ice cream (I remember the name of this only because the name was ridiculously and hilariously long), and ended off everything with a drink of milk tea with popcorn. Oh, and halfway through the meal they gave us a shot of passionfruit ice-blended... which our table "da"-ed. Eeks. So worth it though - the food, not the gulping of the drink. 

Half macarons! 

The baked pastry with beef - love love love this. 

Cheesy mushrooms with toast - which I didn't order.

I think this was Eugene's main course.

And the "milk tea with popcorn" that we were so excited about. The popcorn didn't go well with the milk tea at all, and we all decided it was a placed there as a ploy to make the drink sound more enticing.

There was a bookstore across the restaurant and I sneakily took this family shot. 

After our dinner, we headed to a KTV to sing karaoke (of Chinese songs). We were supposed to play Secret Santa that night too, but were way too shagged to. What a day. 

Day Two

The Original Din Tai Fung 

Started the day with lunch at the original Din Tai Fung restaurant! The queue was mad long - I can't imagine working at this place, and having a crowd at the doorstep 24/7. 

Mad crowds.

And so, I spent my time taking shots of the photogenic main comm. 

Hi Jess!

Hi Roy!

Hi Jingwen! 

Hi Jiayi (and Siska and Jingwen in the background)!

Hi Eugene!

Hi Siska and Xin Yu!

"What should we order?"

"Isn't this the exact same as Singapore?"

Hi Yeekiat and David!

The restaurant spanned three storeys and we were seated on the third. It was so cramped, although service was top-notch.

Hi Zi Yang, Roy, Xin Yu and Larry!

Do xiao long baos taste nicer at the original restaurant? Maybe. 

Shida Night Market 師大夜市

After eating our fill, we headed to Shida Night Market which wasn't particularly eventful. Perhaps it was the timing which we went there - the afternoon - and a couple of shops weren't even open. I really liked the colours of the photos I took there though. 

Hello my friends. 

Couple love.

Hey look my three favourite OG mates.

My 23rd floor room-mates! 

I really like this photo - the two of them caught mid-laugh.

More streets. 

Check out David in the background. 

Elephant Mountain 象山

Following our little trip to Shida, we headed to Elephant Mountain to climb to the peak! I didn't expect the hike up to be so long - the flights of stairs seemed never-ending. Okay, maybe it isn't that bad but everyone was so fast and me and my unfit self was dying at the back.

I was really touched though, that Weiliang offered to carry my bag even though I insisted not for him to. When he took it, Larry said something along the lines of "now you know there's people who care about you" and I was so touched that I starting tearing up there and then (HAHA seriously doing physical activities make me a lot more emotional). Really thank you to the both of you - I think you guys are the ones who come closest to understanding how horrible an experience I had when university first started since you guys were there, and even though we weren't close then, thank you so much for accepting me and being my friend, really.

Climbing up gave us a lot of photo opportunities, and it was overall a good experience. I thought this was a meaningful group activity.

Yay group shot! 

So many things happening in this picture. 

Somehow all the photos I like are of Eugene and Yee Kiat - but maybe this photo would have worked better without Yee Kiat's silhouette since Eugene's one is so dynamic. 

One of the many people posing atop a rock. 

Taipei 101! It was slightly cloudy. 

A beautiful sight :-)

Sports King 2k16!!!

More group photos yay.

And more! 

Even getting down the mountain was quite tiring. Though of course, without gravity everything is better. 

Shilin Night Market 士林夜市

After our climb up Elephant Mountain, we rewarded ourselves by stuffing ourselves silly with the street food from the famed Shilin Market. In fact, I didn't even bother taking any photos throughout our time there - all I wanted to do was eat! My favourite was probably the fried milk balls, it was just amazing. And the vendor had such a calm demeanor. 

Being at Shilin Market brought back a lot of memories though, because the last time I was in Taiwan we actually stayed extremely near the market, and nothing has changed about the surroundings of the place. So nostalgic. 

Anyway, I ventured around the market with Larry and Weiliang mostly, and they are really hilarious and great company. Halfway through, they decided to go prawning just so we could sit on the stools that were available there. They ended up pretending not being able to catch the prawns so we could sit there for longer. 

Snorlax! Great game stall playing skills by Weiliang who managed to win this yay thank you!

Day Three 

Leofoo Village Theme Park 

Our day three itinerary consisted mostly of spending time at Leofoo Village Theme Park - and this was the day when the weather in Taiwan took a 180 degree turn. For the past two days we've been complaining how it felt so much like Singapore and that we brought all our jackets for nothing. However, it suddenly became insanely cold and there was also a slight drizzle.

Perhaps because of the weather, the theme park was really deserted - which was actually quite fun because we had the whole place to ourselves and could really go wild.

O'Week girls! 

Group shot yay. 

There, everyone was so excited to sit on the roller coasters, and even though I'm not a thrill seeker when it comes to amusement park rides, they managed to convince me to go on a couple of crazy ones that I wouldn't have gone for otherwise. One of them was long and draggy and I regretted every moment of it when I was hung upside down in the sky, but the feeling of accomplishment and relief upon touching ground is very comforting.   

Seeking warmth in a little cafe. 

Hi Siska! 

At the entrance of the park!

We ended the day with a heart and belly warming steamboat buffet, and if I remember correctly we played Secret Santa that night as well. Thank you Minhui for giving me a gift that really aligned with whatever I requested for HAHA I love it. 

Day Four

Leaving our Airbnb

We had to check out from our Airbnb that morning, which was quite sad because I absolutely loved staying there. It was such a convenient location and every morning, the 23rd floor girls (Siska, Phyloy and myself) would go and get breakfast from the nearby stalls. And on our final morning there, we decided to re-visit a breakfast place that we really enjoyed, together with Minhui who joined us. The food seems to be an East-West fusion - like its technically Western food on the menu like spaghetti and crepes and burgers, but it features extremely Chinese flavours. 

They sell these savoury ham and egg crepes. So, so good. 


We decided to visit this hipster coffee shop that we've been eyeing for the past couple of days, and I got my brother a box of drip coffee. Oh, and I also tried the "Apple Milk" from the convenience stall, it was surprisingly not repulsive. Singapore should bring in more creative flavours of milk. 

Before we left our Airbnb, we decided to take some 23rd floor group shots. 

"Everyone, look like beggars" - Eugene, 2016. 
Why would anyone think of posing like that? HAHA

Yay, thanks for being such fun people to live with. Special shoutout to the guys for always allowing the three of us to sleep. Initially, I thought that bunking with Eugene and Roy would mean that we wouldn't get any rest since both of them are always filled with energy, but we did.

Of course, we had to add to the wall of notes too.

Here's ours!

Modern Toilet Restaurant 

Before travelling to Jiu Fen, we made a stop at Ximending to visit the Modern Toilet Restaurant for lunch! While it's not exactly a novel concept anymore, it was still so fun to eat food shaped like poop. Plus, the food wasn't priced exorbitantly for a restaurant this popular. 

/insert poop emoji/


I really enjoyed the bread actually - the olive oil at the side was flavourful.

This one was the most realistic and off-putting dish. Especially when it's coupled with the curry sauce. I don't want to write explicitly what it resembles, since the visuals are already so explicit - but you get my drift.

Normal cheese sticks, that were a tad bit disappointing.

Jiayi and I didn't realize that we ordered two of these hella large shaved iced masterpieces... we thought we were ordering two single swirls of chocolate ice cream. So when they brought this to us we were in shock. This was the worst dish though, the shaved ice was extremely coarse and they didn't use high-quality chocolate sauce. 

Travelling to Jiu Fen 九份

We took the train to Ruifang District, where many of us slept. When we reached there, we had to travel to Jiu Fen and did so by cab. It was extremely cold but I think our moods were perked when we saw our accommodation for the night - it was a quaint little B&B, and we had the entire "floor" to ourselves. This time, we bunked with our cells - yay External plus Jingwen!

The people at Jiu Fen were personable and friendly, and we had dinner at a very homely place. I felt like we were guests at someone's home, rather than a restaurant. And the food served was truly comfort food at its finest. Sitting around a table digging into the dishes together with the rest of the O'Week girls felt so nice. My heart and belly was so full by the end of the meal. 

Ahh :") 

All the helpful hands hehe. 

That night, since it was our last night together, we stayed up till late talking through the night (although some of the guys stayed up way, way, later). 

Day Five

Jiufen Old Street 九份老街

When all of us finally managed to get out from bed, the breakfast timings at our B&B was already over. We then headed to Jiufen Old Street for some noms. 

We look so cute.

I don't know how I ended up with Roy, Ziyang and either Yee Kiat or David (I really can't remember much honestly, was way too tired on the last day) in some Xiao Long Bao restaurant for most of our time at the Jiufen Old Street. They were all almost dead by that time HAHA. 

Random fried food item on a stick that someone left on the ledge that I took a photo of. 

The view from Jiufen was gorgeous though.


Shifen Sky Lanterns 十分天燈

Following that, we cabbed to Shifen. I shared the cab with Yee Kiat and Roy, and we had the most reckless taxi driver who was watching strange cartoons while speeding along the roads. We could tell he was extremely skillful, but we probably escaped death close at least three times throughout the ride. Of course, we headed there to release sky lanterns. This is one of the tourist must-dos whenever anyone is in Taiwan, but it's quite hilarious because I'm not entire sure if the "wishes" I wrote on the lantern I released when I was there four years ago actually came true. For sure, some did - but there were things like "找一个好老公" that I am still waiting for heh heh. 

This time, we wrote mostly nonsense and O'Week related stuff. 

"O'Week Main Comm to stay bonded forever" in Jess' gorgeous handwriting. 

Raise your hands for class participation!

After releasing our lantern, we stayed and filmed a couple of music videos along the railway track. It was so much fun. 

And our final group shot!

We took the same cab to the Taoyuan International Airport, and we made the horrible decision to record a Carpool Karaoke to One Direction's "What Makes You Beautiful". At first, I thought that Yee Kiat and Roy were enjoying it... and so I tried my best to smile throughout as well. But the moment the camera stopped recording we just died. It was so dizzy, tiring and stuffy at the back of the car. Roy even got the taxi driver (the same reckless one, may I add) to stop by the middle of the road so that he could get off and take the shotgun seat. 

At the airport, we grabbed dinner (I had Burger King) and spent the last of our Taiwan moolah. Our flight back was mostly smooth and I slept throughout. We made a transit at Kuala Lumpur though, where we grabbed some Malaysian McDonald's breakfast - and that journey from KL to SG was by far the shortest flight I've ever been on. The Captain said "prepare for landing" about five minutes after he prepared the crew for take-off. 

It was such a memorable trip. I had a lot of fun, and got the opportunity to get to know some of the people I'll be spending the bulk of my 2017 with better. Thank you so much Jing Wen and Roy (pictured above - I really like this shot) for organizing this trip. It was very well-planned, hats off to Jing Wen for taking such good care of all of us. 

A pity that Geraldine couldn't join us, but I'm really thankful that we got this chance to go on a trip together. It's amazing how sixteen vastly different individuals can come together and support each other in ways I never thought was possible. I only hope we'd be able to translate this positive energy into the planning and execution of O'Week and to make it the best one ever. I'm going to try my best at least. 

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