12 May 2016

西門町 Ximending, Taipei

* this post was originally written on 14 September 2013, and has been updated on 12 May 2015 *

Having been to Taipei for 8 11 times within these few years, I have been often asked where I like to shop and eat etc.. While I wouldn't mind sharing with everyone, just a 'disclaimer' that what I like may not be what you like! hahaha... 

Before I get started with shopping and eating, do remember to bring shopping bags along. Most outlets charge for plastic bags. So do your part to save the environment too. Besides it's easier to put all the small little bags into one huge shopping bag and lug them along :)

When you arrive in 西門町 Ximending, the most 'iconic' things you see when you step out of Exit 6 is probably the 3-storey Watsons and the Eslite 106 Shopping Mall (under re-construction when I visited in early April 2016). Often you'll also see fantastic performances from local street artists (oh, we spotted international group acts from Korean and Japanese girl/boy band wannabes).

If you're travelling with your luggage and need to use the elevators, go by Exit 6 too. Oh! And there's a Mister Donut within Ximen Station, love their Pon De Ring donuts :)

For the artsy and history lovers, go visit 西門紅樓 The Red House (Ximen Station, Exit 1), you'll see a police station and NET fashion shop. The Red House is beside the police station. Inside the Red House are 16 creative shops. I learnt from some tenants that the Red House does re-select the occupiers on a quarterly basis, so always something new for me every time I'm in Taipei :) (FYI the Red House is closed on Mondays). During the weekends, there are art markets outside The Red House, pretty interesting to browse and shop the local handmade scene, and sometimes you do meet the artists at work!

At 屈臣氏 Watsons, what I usually buy is my Za cosmetics as they are cheaper there than in Singapore (if you notice, they are made in Taiwan). Oh.. I found that some items are cheaper at 康是美 COSMED and Guang Nan (Xuchang Street at Taipei Main Station, or Dingxi MRT Station Exit 1), where they usually have promotions for 我的美丽日记 My Beauty Diary facial masks. Recently, friends have also recommended us to buy 熊宝宝 XiongBaoBao clothes freshener - works great especially when you step out from a hawker centre and your clothes smells of grease.. and at times ciggie smoke

Another popular destination is 日本大創 DAISO at level 5 of Eslite 116 (漢中街116號 -- 誠品116, 5樓). (building under re-construction when we visited in early April 2016, so may want to head to the DAISO outlet at Xuchang Street at Taipei Main Station). The TWD 39 price tag usually means SGD 1.60 to 1.70... so I would enjoy some savings there and shop for cutesy stuff for decorating bazaar tables http://foong.etsy.com, get some laundry bags (I swear by DAISO laundry bags, they last longer than those I get from our local neighbour stores), hair accessories, etc

There's also Uniqlo in the heart of Ximending - when there are promotions, prices can be cheaper than in Singapore. One of my trips caused me a SGD 200 damage at Uniqlo alone but I managed to get a few items that Singapore outlets do not carry :) I love some of their thicker 3/4 and full long sleeve tops

If you plan to get some groceries, you can reach the nearest 家樂福 Carrefour on foot within 10 minutes from Ximen Station Exit 1 (108 台北市 萬華區, 桂林路1號). This Carrefour outlet along Guilin Road is open for 24 hours, and hence you can do your last minute shopping of packet beef noodles, beef jerky etc there! Things I love to buy at Carrefour Taipei include:
  • Packet Beef Instant Noodles - 滿漢大餐  ManHanDaCan brand, we realised the packet ones also have the meat condiment pack (we used to bulk the bulky styrofoam bowls from 7-11 and Family Mart which are costlier)
  • Beef Jerky - 新東陽 HsinTungYang brand is available in Carrefour too. Personally, we dont fancy 唯一 WeiYi brand, not as tasty we felt.. Anyway,  新東陽 HsinTungYang also have outlets within Ximending and near YongKang Street (Dongmen Station Exit 5)
  • Braised Eggs - these individually vacuum-packed eggs are quite sweet and tasty
  • Dried Cuttlefish - we tried the 珍珍 brand and we loved it! Well, it was the cheapest on the display, and actually tasted quite good (tested by my mum, hubby and myself of course) In our April 2016 trip, we bought 6 packs - 1 each for our mums, and 4 for ourselves hahahaha...

Beef noodle soup lovers can also try out this local joint 老王記牛肉麵大王 which opens from 10am daily. Located at 15 Taoyuan Street. Walk from Ximen MRT Exit 3. Go straight along Baoqing Road, turn left into Taoyuan Street. Look out for the kitchen with a humble-shack appearance on the right-hand side of the road, there is no visible signboard. Entrance is to the left of the kitchen. At time of visit, a bowl of steamy hot beef noodles costs TWD 180 TWD 220 (as at April 2016) and comes in clear broth flavor or spicy red braised flavor. They are also famous for their spare ribs, which is sold out within the few hours of opening.. (sold out by 12pm when I was there the last time!) For more beef noodles in Taiwan, do visit my blog post http://wendyboey.blogspot.com/2014/07/taiwanese-beef-noodles-beef-jerky-in.html

For KOI bubble milk tea lovers, the shop is known as 50嵐 (50 Lan) in Taiwan - and there's an outlet near Exit 1. I love the mini pearls that are no longer available in Singapore. And for the price you're paying there, I would say... ENJOY! Anyway, 阿甘綠茶 A-Gan Tea shop is just beside it. Across the road, you can also find 85度C (85 Degrees Cafe)  (open 24 hours) - some of my friends enjoy the coffee and cakes there, while my parents dont really like the coffee.. think they enjoy the nanyang coffee more..

Some folks were telling me that I forgotten to recommend the famous Ay Chung Mee Sua 阿宗面线 in the heart of Ximending (heard they open an outlet at Shilin Night Market too). Unlike most Taiwanese meesua in Singapore that has oysters, Ay Chung's version is with pig intestines and bonito flavored. Technically, there is no dining area there, just a number of stools to sit outside the store while you hold the hot bowl. Alternatively, if you live within Ximen area, I would prefer to order a takeaway and enjoy in the airconditioned room. Open daily from 11am to 10+pm, and located at 8 Emei Street Section 1. Oh... check out the crazy queue on 3 April 2016 when I was there! 

鸭肉扁 Ya Rou Bian serves blanched goose meat, which Andy and I don't really desire after going there once. However this store has been around for more than 60 years, and if you would like to try it, 鸭肉扁 is located at 2 Wuchang Street Section 2

Also try the Bak Zhang (pyramid shaped rice dumplings with meat and other fillings) at 王記府城肉粽 Wang Ji Fu Cheng Rou Zhong at #84 Xining South Road. Unlike those sold in Singapore, their Bak Zhang comes with a delicious gravy. They also sell meat ball soup, which we don't fancy as much.

A place I definitely indulge at is 天外天火鍋 TianWaiTian Buffet Hotpot - after converting exchange rates, it works out to be SGD 21 for lunch (11am to 4pm) and SGD 26 for dinner (4pm to 4am).. and with 8 soup bases to choose from, free-flow angus beef slices and 12 haagen daz icecream flavors to die for... Level 2, 76 昆明街 (76 Kun Ming Street, pass by Taipei City Hospital, in between Wuchang St and Hankou St)  Tel: 02-2314-0018

Another new favorite is 熊一頂級燒肉專賣 Bear 1 Yakiniku located at the 2nd storey in the corner between Xining South Road and Emei Street. You wouldn't miss the bright pink signages. Recommended by my uni classmate Audrey, also the owner of Nails SG, this soon became a hot favorite after our first visit. Other than the BBQ grill for meat and seafood items, they also provide a small pot of clear-soup hotpot with vegetables. We particularly like the Movenpick and Haagen Daz icecream - oh manz, I miss Movenpick Swiss Chocolate now. But there are some down sides - best to book in advance, we were turned away a few times when we tried to walk in as they are fully booked! They are so popular! And that's perhaps why they are super strict about the 2 hours limit.

Taipei also have many novelty themed restaurants, such as Hello Kitty Sweets Cafe and 便所主题餐厅 Modern Toilet Restaurant. I gave the kitty a missed, as many folks shared that it wasn't a tasty experience, just more of taking photos.. if i have to travel all the way for a place, i want to have good food! :)

Anyway we went to Modern Toilet in Ximending (7 Xining South Road, Lane 50, Level 2, open on weekdays 11.30am to 10pm, holidays 11am to 10pm) with another couple of Singaporean friends Ek & Annie in March 2013. Hubby and I didn't order much - just fries and a brown-sugar iced beverage - as we wanted to venture to other local hideouts that day. But yes, the fries and drink are good and Hubby is still thinking of it now.. :) took a lot of fun photos too!

We also tried 西門金鋒 XiMenJinFeng in our March 2013 and March 2014 trips.. yummy local cuisine! 台北市昆明街89號 (#89 Kun Ming Street)

And for Ximending places I have not tried yet:

明星西点面包 Cafe Astoria, an old bakery store that sells Russian soft candy, etc
7 Wuchang St Sec 1

100 Hankou St Sec 1, 80 巷12之5号
Open 11am to 7pm

Somebody Cafe is a great place for artsy lovers - 131 Xining South Road, Level 2 and 3. It's also rather near Modern Toilet restaurant.