Today was long awaited, for I had never actually travelled overseas with this bunch before. I had my experiences with my secondary school friends in separate trips, and most of them turned out to be really memorable. There were mountains climbed, motorbike rides at 4 am, and some crazy stories and inside jokes that went well beyond their call of duty and infiltrated beyond every imaginable facet back in our mundane lives.
So when we planned this trip back in October I was already excited for it. It took about sixty days to get to where we are now — on the plush beds in our AirBnb in Kaohsiung. There wasn’t much planning in between our busy lives so once all the assignments were submitted the entire process has been and will continue to feel freshly spontaneous.
We planned this trip from south to north of the island, starting from Kaohsiung and ending at Taipei via Taichung.
Kaohsiung has been your typical Taiwan city. There is nothing lacking here; from the cabs that flash past in abundance to the night markets lining every street and blocking out every blotch of pavement. Kaohsiung has and Kaohsiung delivers. We walked a fair bit and tried out the public transport, which was effective in shuttling us from the inner to outer city areas.
We didn’t do a whole lot today. Given that Veggie was vegetarian, we tried out this super high-rated vegetarian restaurant called Han Lai Vegetarian Restaurant (漢來蔬食), located on the fifth floor of a huge department store called the Han Shin Arena.
The entire restaurant was posh, but the prices weren’t unreasonable. The service was really friendly and the food served was great. The vegetarian food back in Singapore had a certain taste that made you feel like it was undoubtedly vegetarian. The food here, however was vegetarian not because of its label, but simply because it didn’t have meat. This is a very fine difference. The food tasted like vegetables should, and didn’t mask its taste behind mock meat products but took to the challenge of shaping the tastes and combination of the greens. There were a lot of mushrooms, for example. They used these to enrich everything both in texture and taste (unfortunate that Veggie wasn’t a big fan of mushrooms!). They also combined certain products like You Tiao and Chee Cheong Fan to get a delectable dish both diverse in taste and texture (taste and texure seems to be all I can describe food by) whilst there were dumplings and noodles with a hearty infusion of mushrooms (again) and greens. My favourite by far was this dish where they had an assortment of mushrooms, corn, greenbeans, soy and yam and taukwa in a claypot rice mix. The rice stuck to the sides with a flirtatiously burnt taste and the vegetables neutralised the saltiness of the dark sauce. It was as good as you could hope for a vegetarian dish to be, and it had us scraping the sides of the pot for more.
In the night we scoured the streets, the four of us, hungry and desperate for some food and finding it in the form of Liouhe night market (六合夜市). I had visited this place back in March 2014, back when I was here on an army trip. It was exactly like how I had left it; crowded but not stifling, the cool air settling nicely over the wide streets streaming with tourists. The shops were an assortment of temptations with voluptuous clams and creamy potatoes poking their heads out, almost whistling at us, inviting us over for the purchase. Nothing presents one with the prospect of excess as well as a night market.
The walk down Liouhe was nice, but predictable. We avoided what we didn’t find alluring enough and ate what we wanted. We then took a cab down to Rei Feng night market (瑞丰夜市), where a surprise awaited. On the maps this night market didn’t take up a lot of space, and so we left it as a second choice. In fact, unlike Liouhe, it only occupied a small section of road so we were fooled into thinking that it was definitely much smaller. When we arrived we were duly impressed by the complex network of shops that stretched deep within a complex unbounded by any roads or alleyways but existed on its own. There was no linear concept behind this, and the people walked about instinctively, recognising undiscovered lanes and bashing through the hoards of locals. Granted that we didn’t scour the entire complex, the shops at Rei Feng did seem to sell its products at slightly cheaper prices than Liouhe, perhaps due to its popularity among the locals and with the tourists flocking to the latter.
It seems like the last few times I’ve visited Taiwan hasn’t exactly left me yet. We’ll be going to Taichung tomorrow, and then Taipei after that, most of the things we’ll be doing will mirror what we did the last taiwan trip. I think Kaohsiung has been the last part of the puzzle that Taiwan has to offer, after venturing to the central and northern parts of Taiwan this May. I’ve had a lot to see, and a lot to learn from this place that hasn’t ceased to impress. My next Taiwan post will probably come during subsequent trips.
Until then, here’s to the rest of the trip!