So I’ve dropped off of my disturbingly regular blogging schedule (too much procrastination going on for my taste); due to the fact that my best friend Sherylvi Rico has been in Taipei, via the good ol’ USA! We’ve known each other since freshman year of high school and were half of this magic little girl clique (we called ourselves TGS, ‘Teen Girl Squad’) that defined my high school experience. We’ve been through awkward crushes, the nerve-wracking weeks before proms & homecomings (will we get asked?! will we?!), AP classes, college decisions, and so much more. She’s one of those friends that I don’t feel the need to talk to every single week–partly because she’s a busy gal and doing awesome stuff in the world (she just graduated from Brown with a degree in bio-applied math…I know) but partly because each time I talked to her after a long break; it’s like no time has passed at all; we slip right into familiar best-friend-I’ve-known-you-forever-and-know-so-many-humiliating-things-about-you territory. Ah, that high school best friend dynamic: 3/4th nostalgic comfort, 1/4 fear of being blackmailed.
The past four days have been a whirlwind of showing her and her wonderful boyfriend Ryan around the city; U-biking, stuffing their faces until they feel like dying…you get the drill.
I spent the morning & afternoon of the Saturday that they were flying in basking in the sun in Wulai (post to come!); so I hopped on the bus back to Taipei just in time to meet Ryan & Sherylvi for dinner. I decided to take them around what I call The Magic Heping Circle (clearly, I am amazing at making names for things, this is the girl who thought of Teen Girl Squad). Essentially, The Magic Heping Circle is just a nice way to loop around Heping E. Rd and experience all the hits around the Shida area: Yongkang Street, Shida Night Market, Qintian/Taishun Streets & accompanying late-night coffee shops. I’ve made a handy little map below to show you exactly where to go; because clearly, you’re not able to go on Google Maps and look this secret information up yourself. It’s the perfect night-time activity to do with friends; including dinner, it’ll take about 4 hours and covers good Taiwanese restaurant food, good Taiwanese night market food (& dessert!), shopping, and a cafe.
Without further ado, ‘The Magic Heping Circle’–
First Stop, Dinner at Yongkang Street–I suggest that you make your dinner an early one (We went around 6:30pm) as the restaurants are positively swarming with people, starting around 7:30 pm, like clockwork. I always joke that Americans eat according to what fits their schedule; and Taiwanese fit their schedule around their eating. Actually, that’s not even a joke. It’s true, and you don’t want to find out the hard way. So show up early, and find a place to eat (there really are so, so, so many places to eat on Yongkang Street) and add a full 40 min-hour of waiting time to your plan if you’re determined to eat at the OG Din Tai Fung–if you don’t want to wait so long, nearby Kao Chi offers hearty Taiwanese fare, and they also have xiaolongbao (make sure to try their horribly delicious crispy bottom baos). However, we opted for Du Xiao Yue (website here)–which serves Tainan-style braised-meet noodles/rice and a whole host of delicious side dishes. It’s one of my top places to take visitors because the restaurant’s decor is perfect: just Asian enough to make your visitors oohhh and ahh (at every store, they have someone cooking a big pot of braised meat/noodles out in front)–and clean/sleek enough that first time visitors to Taipei (and aren’t used to our, ah, liberal standard of hygiene) don’t get freaked out. Plus, the food is cheap (we spent around 1,000NT for 4 people) and delicious. After our meal, we walked around the various food shops and debated getting the famous mango shaved ice, but the lines were mind-boggling long; so we just settled for drinks from CoCo and a passionfruit popsicles from the nostalgic snack store (again with the names, right? I’m a genius)–that sells both retro & modern Taiwanese snack favorites (Pocky galore!)
Second Stop, Shida Night Market—This is more fun for girls than guys if you’re planning on doing some serious shopping, but in terms of food, it’s fun for the whole family. It’s also a great place to grab desserts: there’s this place by the JSF Stationary store (the one with the huge pink sign, can’t miss it)–that serves huge crepes stuffed with fruit and chocolate and more deliciousness. Then of course there’s a few shaved ice shops around (although sadly, a couple of my favorites have closed!) and in some of the alleys, you’ll find some unique sweet treats if you wander: the stalls that serve Macau Egg Tarts and Butter-Stuffed Buns are my favorite: you’ll notice them by the long, long lines!
The third stop (either Qintian/Lishui Streets or Taishun Street; on opposing sides of Heping E. Rd, see map) are absolutely chock full of coffee shops; many of which are open late until midnight or 1am. It’s a good place to wind down the night and rest your feet after pushing through the crowds at the night market. Some good suggestions are: Insomnia Cafe (good waffles, and slushies, open til 12:30am); Salt Peanuts (although I’m not a fan of the service, so I don’t go here often, but good, homemade food), Cafe Kuroshio (some of the best coffee in Taipei; open til midnight), and Red House (right on Shida Rd, as seen in the picture above; a cramped little place with a great view and an excellent beer selection) You can sort through your purchases, complain about how full you are, plan your next day’s adventures, and chat well into the night!
Steamed dumplings photo via Linh Chi Tran Le