FOR fans of Mandarin pop, Taipei is one of the best places to be in if you want to stargaze. It is home to popular singers like Jay Chou, Jolin Tsai and rock band Mayday, and I had, in all honesty, gone to Taipei hoping to bump into them.
But trust my luck, I had nary a celebrity sighting during the five days in the Taiwanese capital. Fortunately, the bustling city's sights, sounds and snacks more than made up for the initial disappointment.
Feasting at Shi Lin night market
When in Taipei, a trip to one of the ubiquitous hot and busy night markets is a must. And the most famous of all is Shi Lin night market, accessible from Jiantan MRT Station.
It took us two nights to explore the entire Shi Lin night market. Being kiasu Singaporeans, my travel companions and I made it a point to savour as many Taiwanese snacks as possible.
To make sure we could sample just about every delicacy there was, we shared the main meals, and had bite-sized portions of everything.
Many tantalising treats later, my conclusion is: Taipei is a foodie's paradise.
Here are a few of my favourites:
- Delicious and juicy extra-large chicken steaks fried to a gleaming golden-brown hue;
- Piping hot oyster mee sua (vermicelli) soaked in a thick and rich gravy that warms the stomach;
- Gigantic Taiwanese sausages roasted to perfection;
- Rainbow-coloured desserts that taste as good as they look; and
- Savoury squid rolls.
Strolling along Danshui Old Street
Away from the hustle and bustle of the night markets, another must-do when in Taipei is to take a leisurely stroll down the waterfront at Danshui Old Street. Located along the Danshui River, this pedestrian shopping area is lined with restaurants, game stalls and shops peddling traditional handicrafts.
The juxtaposition of old and new makes this place an interesting destination.
When we were there, for example, a middle-aged man was writing Chi-nese calligraphy on huge sheets of pa-per which he pasted on the shutters of a shop, while a teenage boy with a mo-hawk haircut was screaming his way through a repertoire of hardcore metal music thumped out by his band on a makeshift outdoor stage.
Romancing on Lover's Bridge
From Danshui Old Street, we took a short ferry ride to Danshui Fisherman's Wharf, which is a popular performance venue for many local variety shows.
While there, I suggest you check out Lover's Bridge at dusk. As the sun sets on the horizon, the bridge lights up in a dreamy purplish glow - just perfect for a romantic evening stroll.
Shopping at Ximending
A trip to Taipei is incomplete without shopping.
Ximending - a popular youth hangout that is somewhat like Singapore's Bugis Village - is worth exploring. If you fancy high-end shopping, head downtown.
If you are a Jay Chou fan, as one of my travel mates is, do make a trip to Omni at Dunhua South Road. Opened by the popu-lar singer-songwriter, it is fast becoming a tourist spot.
I did not see Jay Chou at the shop, which was a pity. But although I did not 'catch' any stars in Taipei, my trip there had enough bright moments to make me happy.
GETTING THERE: You can fly direct from Singapore to Taipei by EVA Air, Singapore Airlines, China Air or Jetstar Asia. Arguably one of the most famous night markets in Asia, Shi Lin night market attracts an endless stream of visitors every day.
Photo: Dawn Wong