Amid earthquakes and ‘sideways’ billowing rain, I managed to roam about in Ximending in Taipei.
Apparently, earthquakes occur are very common in Taiwan and are felt quite often. However, they are minor. I have not experienced an earthquake prior to this, and would not seek to chase after one like those who seek out tornadoes. As the tremor and shaking happened, I actually thought that my vertigo had taken for worse. It wasn’t until my daughter’s confirmation that she felt that shaking too that I realised it was an earthquake. The buildings swayed and creaked like they were ships at sea during a stormy current. It did not last long. Then, the news trickled in…the epicenter of the earthquake was in remote areas of Hualian, east of Taiwan, measured at 6.6 or 6.3.
That’s my first day in Taipei – an earth-shaking welcome 🙂
Just in case you’re wondering why the rain blows ‘sideways’ in Taipei, it is because the rain actually does blow sideways. Meaning, one needs to adjust and hold one’s umbrella a little to the side and not vertical. Thankfully, it has been light drizzles, and not pouring rain. So, we could still walk about comfortably in Ximending or sometimes known as Ximenting. It is located in the shopping district of Wanhua in Taipei, and it is hailed as the “Harajuku” of Taipei. It was the first all-pedestrian zone in Taiwan. No cars are allowed so that everyone can wander around fearlessly – shopping, browsing, eating and etc.
Personally, I prefer to eat as I walk – as there are many various stalls that sell from fruits, to local delicacies to western brands like Starbucks and KFC – there is no shortage of diversity here. There are interesting cafes and restaurants cosying up next to quaint shops. You can find anything and everything here. Not just fashion, shoes and leathergoods. I do mean, EVERYTHING. Even stuff you did not think you needed. Here, the locals bring out their pets and walk through the small lanes. Do not be surprised to find resident dogs at some food and beverage outlets.
My first stop in Ximending was the Ay-Chung Flour Rice Noodle place.
There are always hordes of people lining around the shop. I am not the only tourist waiting in line. There are Japanese, Hong Kong people, Singaporeans and etc. By the way, there are no tables or chairs here. People wait in line, then place their orders, and eat while standing.
In places like Ximending – one just eat and go, because there is so much to see and explore. So, one cannot afford to spend too much time in a place.
The noodles served at Ay-Chung Flour Rice Noodle Shop are very delicate and fine – even finer and softer than angel hair pasta. Apparently, the broth is made of flavoured-cured pigs’ intestines, bonito flakes and other ingredients which I do not dare ask, or care to know. Yes, I may not attempt to eat it if I do find out what it is made of.
In fact, I just really wanted to taste what all the fuss is about. These dainty rice flour noodles are called, misua or mee suah. You can read all about misua/mee suah here. Mee Suah originated from Fujian, China and is traditionally cooked during special occasions such as birthdays and festivities. However, it is a common staple food in Taiwan.
Mee Suah symbolises long life in Chinese culture, and so, it comes as no surprise that it is served traditionally on birthdays. Mee Suah can be garnished or served with ingredients such as eggs, oysters, shiitake mushroom, beef, shallots, or scallions, and roasted nuts. In Taiwan, there are two forms of Mee Suah. The first is made of simple, clear broth, while the second has been cooked at high heat, caramelizing it to a light brown colour.
I must say that the taste did not agree with me as much it did with all the rest of people slurping away around me. Then again, I am probably just accustomed to it. So, it happens. Not everyone’s taste buds are built the same, and we hold our own personal preferences. But I am glad, I did try.
And guess what my daughter opted for? A couple of blocks away, there is a stall that specialises in ‘peanut pancakes’. We call them, Ban Chien Kueh in Malaysia.
They look crispy on the outside, but it is soft and fluffy on the inside. At this particular stall, they are served with all kinds of fillings and not just peanut. The lady explained that she can customise to one’s preference – be it chocolate, black sesame, banana or red bean. My daughter chose the black sesame, and it was GOOD. She gobbled it up so fast, I could not even snap a picture of it.
Being fearless in our exploration can sometimes lead us to find new things, or see old things in a new light.
Taiwan is famous for their street foods, and small eats. However, not everyone is cut out for them for various reasons. Some may be very concerned with the cleanliness and hygiene levels of these small stalls by the roads. So, it is ok if you wish NOT to try something.
THIS SUMS UP THE START OF MY TRIP IN TAIWAN 🙂
As always, start your own brand of fearless living and love the life you live.