Today was a failure of sorts, but we’ll get to that later.
So we noticed early on that the city doesn’t really “wake up” until early afternoon (minus the taichi grannies and breakfast stands) which meant the activities and neighborhoods to explore until then were pretty limited. This was obviously unfortunate for people like me who wanted to seize every day as early as possible. However, Addiction Aquatic Development happened to be one of the few places that opened early so we decided to pop in around 10am.
Addiction Aquatic Development
Quite unconventional as far as breakfast meals go, but this popular seafood market draws large crowds once it hits lunch time and we were not down to deal with hungry and aggressive Asians.
So the market is comprised of several sections. Right through the main entrance, we were greeted by large tanks brimming with live seafood of all kinds. Surprisingly, there was no fishy smell in the air at all – a far cry from the fish markets we’re used to in Chinatown. The next section housed refrigerated goodies: pre-made lunches, frozen foods, sashimi sets, and even dessert. In another section were decorative homewares for sale and adjacent to that, a wine tasting table. We didn’t check the upstairs but I believe it was a hotpot restaurant. This place had a little bit of everything.
Onwards to the good stuff! What we and most other people specifically came for was the roped-off raw bar located at the center of all the craziness. Considering it was only 10am, the bar was relatively packed. We grabbed a numbered ticket and waited. I’ve read horror stories about 1-2 hour wait times, but we managed to snag a spot within 15 minutes. Score!
Fail #1: Not preparing a list of what we wanted to order beforehand.
The menu was strictly in Chinese and Google Translate wasn’t much help. After informing them that our Mandarin is piss poor, we were assigned their designated translator-for-the-tourists waitress but even then, ordering proved difficult. Straight up struggle city man. What’s a girl got to do to eat around here!
Dimas wanted an order of uni served in the shell, but obviously it got lost in translation as we only received that one sad piece, which turned out to be okay because we got full off of the oysters. Now I don’t know what’s being fed into the water supply on this side of the world but these oysters were freakishly huge and meaty – so much so that we felt gross after just having three each and had to order miso soup to cleanse our fishy palates.
Raw seafood for breakfast, it turns out, is a terrible idea. I feel sick just thinking about it.
Xinyi Shopping District
Our next stop was the top of Taipei 101. Well, not exactly. I had read a tip about a Starbucks on the 35th floor which is free to visit and offers just as impressive of a view as the $500NT observatory on the 89th.
Fail #2: Not fully researching how to actually get into Starbucks.
There used to be a kiosk that simply issued visitor passes to get in, but I guess they changed it due to an increasing number of tourists. The security guard explained that Starbucks visitors now have to make reservations by phone one day prior. 不会吧! We sulked away like two underage college kids rejected by a bouncer.
Instead, we did some light shopping in the vicinity. This area is basically one extravagant mall town with all the different malls interconnected by overpasses. ATT4Fun, Breeze Center, Bellavita, Shinkong Mitsukoshi, and Neo19, just to name a few.
Malls are typically the same anywhere you go but here in Taipei, they also serve as the go-to grub spots (since each one houses an acclaimed and expansive food court) and nightlife scene (since many bars and clubs are actually located inside the malls). You could fill an entire day’s worth of activities within any one of these mega complexes.
By 2pm, we were already dead exhausted due to a combination of jetlag and all the miles we’d clocked, and took refuge at Ice Monster before heading back to the hotel for our daily nap. (Seriously.)
I cannot put into words how delish and satisfying the shaved ice from Ice Monster is. Each mouthful was pure heaven. (That was not supposed to sound dirty.) This shaved ice puts all the patbingsu, snow cones, italian ices, etc. of the world to shame. Thankfully, we do have Snowdays Shavery in the East Village & Flushing for when I’m feeling the withdrawals but it’s just not the same!
Later in the day, we ventured out to Elephant Mountain in order to catch the 6:40 sunset, giving our unfit selves a generous amount of time to complete the hike to the peak. Within two minutes of arriving at the foot of the trail, we were hounded by relentless mosquitoes and realized that’s why locals are all decked out in long sleeved attire despite the above 90° weather and suffocating humidity. Even after reapplying a toxic amount of Deet, they did not let up and I just knew this was going to ruin the whole romanticized version of the hike I had pictured in my head.
Fail #3: The mosquito bites I got during this hike ended up giving me cellulitis which became an expensive 3 month long nightmare. To this day, I have yet to fully heal. But that’s a long story with unpleasant photos for another day.
The hike consisted of never-ending stairs and various rest stops snaking up along the mountain. Sounds easy enough, right? Nooope.
We had to stop 10 minutes in at the very first lookout point because we were already getting our butts kicked. But at least we weren’t alone – tons of other young people had trouble ascending the trail. Every subsequent person that emerged from the stairway was also panting and drenched in sweat. Then a topless and barefoot old man came sprinting through, weaving in and out of us youngin’s effortlessly with his dog right behind him. Ugh, show off. I could totally do that too.
S’all good though. We had a pretty great view from where we were already so there was no point in trying to push ourselves any further (a wonderfully convenient lie we told ourselves).
Ximending @ 3am
Overwhelmed with fatigue yet again – we aren’t very exciting people – we trudged back to the hotel and gave each other foot rubs until we both slipped into a deep slumber, completely forgetting about our plans to get AYCE hotpot for dinner. In the middle of the night, we awoke disoriented and hungry. Luckily Mala Yuanyang Hotpot was still open until 5am for those late night munchies!
Fail #4: The restaurant just so happened to be doing a deep clean on this particular night. It was closed for the time being. Nothing else in the area was open.
It was an unlucky day. I really wanted to try this place because not only is it AYCE, but also BYOB (the only acronyms in the world that matter) and has rave reviews.
Instead, we ate 7/11 instant ramen in bed, watched The Amazing Race: Canada (cringefest btw), and called it a day. At least we got these cool photos of Ximending looking like a ghost town.