Showing posts with label best_of_taipei. Show all posts
Showing posts with label best_of_taipei. Show all posts

Saturday, June 8, 2019

My favorite Taipei cafes: 2019 rundown


In the past I've done reduxes of my favorite cafes for atmosphere - which is mostly accurate still, though a few places have moved (such as Nancy), rebranded as restaurants (Anhe 65), are now noisy tea shops (Red House Theater), or closed (Mono Cafe). I've done one for good coffee in Taipei as well - though that's a bit more outdated: My Sweetie Pie is long gone and there is now more than one George House in the Yongkang Street area. I don't think Naruwan Indigenous People's Market is still a thing anymore, either, though I haven't been in awhile.

Both posts are now badly in need of an update - most of the places I mentioned are still open, but I've found new haunts that I like just as much.

To deal with that, I'll leave those old posts as they are (links above) and provide here a new redux of where I'm imbibing right now. This isn't just for folks who live here - when I've traveled to other cities with hopping cafe scenes, I've found blogs in English by committed residents of those cities to be helpful guides as to where to go. So I want to be one of the people who does that for Taipei. Plus, as a grad student, I spend a lot of time in cafes getting reading done or writing papers so my list of good spots has grown.

You'll see some of my old entries repeated here, with new ones added, and I've prioritized places with outdoor seating, as that's so hard to find in Taipei. I've also noted where some cafes are near other good options, as seating can be so hard to come by. There's also a bias towards southern Taipei because that's where I live and hang out. Overall there's simply a lot of bias for "places I actually go to", so there's not much more to unite them thematically than that. No pretension to "the best" or "the top 10" or whatever - just my real world.

Instead of looking up each address like it's still 2010, I've gone ahead and made a Google Maps list, which you can access here. (I realized after I'd made it that I could actually create a map rather than just a list, but I'm too lazy to go back and re-do it, so this'll do for now.) 

Heritage Bakery and Cafe


This 'newcomer' (opened in 2016) has quickly become a go-to spot in the Taipei Main Station/Ximen area. Pretty much everything about it is excellent - you feel as you walk in that you're somewhere in New York being exceedingly posh in that middle-class hipster sort of way. If that doesn't sound appealing to you - a bit to gentrificationy - don't let that deter you (you're not gentrifying much here - the neighborhood is much the same as it always was). Go for the bright, attractive upstairs seating with exposed brick walls, the very good coffee and other drinks (non-coffee drinkers can choose a variety of teas or fizzy drinks, or beer) and most of all, the desserts.

Oh, the desserts.
Westerners who complain that Taipei doesn't have good dessert options can shove some of this cake in their cakehole - from fluffy, perfect, cinnamony cinnamon rolls which sell out quickly to pink guava cheesecake to sea salt caramel Belgian chocolate cake all in generous or even huge servings, this place knows how to do Western-style desserts. The foccaccia sandwiches are quite good too - try the chicken avocado club.

It's not particularly cheap - drinks, sandwiches and a cinnamon roll for 2 will cost you NT$900 and change - but it's not insane. 90-minute limit on holidays and weekends. Otherwise, pretty much the only downside is that the air conditioner is often on full-blast, which makes it a bit chilly. Bring a cardigan.


This Cafe ((這間咖啡)


This is quickly becoming one of my favorite work cafes. Very strong social movement bent (check out the "I Support Taiwan Independence" banner in the back), good wifi and lots of plugs - it's quiet and you can usually get a seat. It's a little dimly lit but that just adds to the charm and isn't a problem if you're on a computer, and the table in back is set under antique Taiwanese milk glass hanging lamps. They have non-coffee drinks including beer, and a small selection of sandwiches and salads which are reasonably priced. I think I also like it because the guy who most often works there knows me on sight and knows my order by heart now. Plus they're open pretty late. There are other cafes nearby, such as Perch (nice, but often crowded) and PuiBui, which I haven't tried yet. 

Cafe Le Zinc

Set in the back of an old Dihua Street shophouse, Le Zinc can be accessed through the Art Yard ceramics shop from Dihua, or directly from a little lane that snakes around the back. Seating is limited but I've never had a problem, and the well-lit long table has plugs. There's also strong wifi. Windows look out into the narrow courtyard of the old house, where the bathroom is. There's an extensive (but expensive) wine list - house wine by the glass is more affordable - beer, coffee and light food. Music leans toward the jazzy and old-fashioned, which I like. It's a good place to work (on account of the big table, wifi and plugs) and also a good place to meet friends just to chat.

In fact, this whole area is bursting with cafes - if you can't get a seat at Le Zinc, you can surely get a seat somewhere. There are so many that I can't possibly put them all on my map.



Dihua Street is actually bursting with cafes these days - a huge change from my first few years here when it was a somewhat forgotten corner of the city where you could do a little fabric or dry-goods shopping and check out the old buildings, but not much else. If anywhere in Taipei has gentrified, it's here - and yet the fabric and dry-goods sellers still mostly seem to be in business. Where Le Zinc stands out for its table space and wine/beer list, Fleisch has some unique coffee drinks - my favorite being a latte with dried Mandarin orange (dried citrus slices are fairly common dried goods in Taiwan - they make a nice drink steeped in boiling water.)



A very new addition to the Dihua Street cafe scene, Hakkafe was opened by an entrepreneurial Hakka guy named Terry who is friendly and enthusiastic about his mission to create a modern cafe space with a traditional Hakka twist. The space is large, minimalist and quiet, done in shades of black, white, gray and wood. We especially liked the Hakka BLT (with Taiwanese pickled green chilis), and the brownie was wonderful. I highly recommend the Hakka breakfast tea - Terry noticed that England has a 'breakfast tea' culture but Taiwan, another tea-drinking nation, does not. So he set out to blend his own. The results are stunning.

This is the only place on the list that doesn't actually serve coffee, but you won't miss it if you try the Hakka Breakfast Tea.

It's also near funky-looking Chance Cafe (
一線牽), which I haven't tried yet. 

The Lightened

Formerly Backstage Cafe, which had a student activist/social movement theme (yes, a theme, but the former owner was apparently active in those circles), The Lightened is now associated with Anmesty International Taiwan. Located on Fuxing South Road near the back gate of National Taiwan University, The Lightened is unpretentious, well-lit, there are lots of plugs and good wifi, and you can always get a seat. The coffee is good (and fair trade), there's a small selection of beer and the desserts are homemade. On weekends a spunky black-and-white cat might be around.

Rufous Coffee

Almost directly across the street from The Lightened, Rufous is a bit darker, more famous, and is known for having top-notch coffee. Any of the single origin choices are good, and the Irish coffee is spectacular. That said, non-coffee drinkers won't find much here, and they don't have much in the way of food, either. I like it for its cozy, friendly atmosphere, though it can be hard to get a seat sometimes. Not far away there's a 2nd branch, which is quite close to URBN Culture. 

Shake House (雪可屋)


 I simply cannot write a post about coffee without including my long-time hangout. I don't know why I go to Shake House. There's no wifi, nor any plugs. The bathroom is tiny and through a dilapidated passageway. Lamps are hanging flower pots with ribbons. The chairs are ancient. But I just love the place - it's like, in every city I live in, I need my student hangout in some old building that's falling apart, and I just get attached to it. That's how it is. The coffee is good, the chicken sandwiches above average, the beer selection excellent (and affordable as cafes go), they're open very late and the music is...eclectic. From odd movie soundtracks to church music to Johnny Cash to John Coltrane to whatever. You just literally never know what you'll get. Also, I know the owners and they know me.

If you really need plugs and wifi, Cafe Bastille is just across the lane (and there are other cafes in the area, including Drop Coffee and its new neighbor).

Drop Coffee (滴咖啡)

Drop is another coffeeshop I always include. On Xinsheng Road just across the street from NTU, the space is a renovated Japanese wooden house. The owner is passionate about coffee and does a mean siphon brew. The dog - 橘子 (Orange, although he is black) - is unfriendly in a comical way. There are a few teas on the menu as well as some desserts but really you come here for the coffee. A new place has opened across the lane which has more space, but I haven't checked it out yet.

Cafe Philo

If you go to any sort of political or activist talks or activities, you know Cafe Philo. They have a space downstairs just for that. Upstairs, they have generous space and a wide menu which includes food. I've been going there recently as I'm taking a course (not related to my Master's - because I'm insane) and I can always get a seat.



This large black-and-white space on Yongkang Park advertises itself as an ice cream shop, but you can absolutely get coffee here. They have a good deck if you want to sit outside, and the coffee is high-quality. You can get some interesting coffee drinks here that you may not find elsewhere - I had iced coffee in a glass flask that I could pour over a giant ice ball, and my friend had a huge ball of iced coffee that melted as he poured foamed milk over it.

Caffe Libero

Another classic, I've found myself going here less ever since Red On Tree left (they used to sell excellent French-style pastry confections on-site), and they close early on Sundays. But I still love the place for its outdoor seating, quirky indoor decor, cigar selection and more.


Near 8% and Libero, Yaboo has decent sandwiches and - most importantly - cats! Also a nice atmosphere, but it fills up on weekends. A seat is not guaranteed. But the cats are sweet and friendly.


Another minimalist place, I like it for its weird shape and good coffee (though all they really have are coffee and a small dessert selection). Big windows let the light in, and it's called Angle because it's set in a weird triangular building outcrop on Rui'an Street (Pillow Cafe, which is also good and used to have a corgi, is nearby. They're under new ownership - hence no more corgi - and friendly.) I find myself here on the occasional Sunday as one can usually get a seat, and there are good views from the bar seats.

Slo-mo Cafe

This place has generous indoor seating and an outdoor area partitioned off from the lane - although smoking is allowed outdoors, it's never too overwhelming. The lane is not particularly busy (except at rush hour) - you may know it as the shortcut between Keelung Road where the gas station is and the Far Eastern Hotel or Carnegie's. The only real downside to sitting outside is that there are some mosquitoes - but that's an issue with all of the outdoor options listed. The desserts are standard cafe fare - though I like the lemon cake - and the glass of white wine I once got on a scorching day was pretty good. Even better? This place never seems to fill up.

Beautiful Tree Coffee (美樹咖啡館)


This place is tiny and odd, run by a friendly older man. I absolutely love it. There's something of a rainforest theme going on, with a little outdoor area that has birds. And a ceiling with faux stained glass skylights! I'm not sure how to describe this place beyond that, it sort of defies description and, like many quirky spots, is in a gussied-up old building. The coffee was fine, and I genuinely liked their ham and cheese sandwich. Not too expensive, either. It's very close to Slo-mo as well as another place called Kaldi that I haven't tried yet. 

A8 Cafe

A8 is one of my favorite workspaces. It was opened by world-famous Taiwanese indigenous pop star A-mei and employs indigenous staff. The space has a sort of industrial decor (concrete floor, warehouse windows, exposed brick) with good lighting, big shared tables as well as individual tables and couch areas (one of which is set under a real potted tree - my favorite spot), quirky decorative elements, plugs and good wifi. They have a full menu of cafe standards as well as meals and alcohol, but they close a bit early (around 9pm, but they'll let you stick around until they really pack up for the night.) They're closed on Mondays and sometimes take business breaks, but nearby 青沐, which is technically a restaurant, will let you order a drink and just hang out if they're not too busy. There's also a nearby place called Pachamama which I haven't been to, but looks cool. 


I go here because it's near my home - it's not really a workspace but you can sit outside on the little deck, and it's basically a cool, bare-bones espresso bar in a quiet lane. 

Cafe Costumice

The Big Mama of cafes where you can sit outside, Costumice is that cafe everyone knows about, and yet you can usually get a seat (not always outside, though). Its major selling point is the huge front deck (bring bug repellent) which feels like an outdoor urban oasis. Though they are a little expensive, they're worth a splurge. There's a modest but pretty good food menu, wine (including a sparkling white which makes for a decent champagne on a hot brunch-y day) and beer.

The Key

I'm including The Key's cafe - The Key is my gym - because I've been spending a lot of time there, and they make a real effort to provide quality fare at good prices (and members get discounts). Strong wifi, plugs, a range of sandwiches and a protein-rich chicken meal if you're keto and a good range of drinks beyond coffee make it a fine place to hang out. It's been useful for me to go to the gym, do a short session on one of the cardio machines, and then head to the cafe to get some grad school work done. There are a few tables outside as well. Just down the road is another cafe decorated with hanging plants which looks promising as well - I think it's where the churro place used to be - but I haven't checked it out yet. 

Coffee Tree (咖啡樹)

This spot near Zhongxiao Dunhua has a range of fattening desserts, beer, coffee and more. The interior decor is interesting, but we go because they have outdoor seating along a lane popular with pedestrians. It's near Quay Cafe which I haven't been to but would like to try. 


My go-to spot when I'm in the Taipei Arena neighborhood. Coffeeology has truly excellent coffee at great prices. No food - just some cookie-like snacks - but you can get a large latte with Irish cream (real Irish cream, not just a flavor syrup) for very little money by coffeeshop standards. There are a few chairs outside, but the whole space is fairly open so you feel like you're outdoors even though you're technically not. Great beans to bring home at good prices, too. 

Zabu (in its new location)

I actually haven't been in ages because it's quite far from where I live, but if I'm in the north Tienmu area, this is my spot. It's the same Japanese-influenced hipster haven it's always been, with great rice balls, cats, and student-funky decor that it used to be in Shi-da all those years ago before the jerks made that neighborhood boring. 


Every few months, I teach a six-week course at the Shi-da school of continuing education, on the campus that Yongkang Street hits as it ends. During one of these classes, I have to give my trainees their final exam and then stick around to pick it up, so I go to cat.jpg while they work.

You'll find cat.jpg one lane behind that Shi-da campus, where are a small klatch of cool places, including Bea's Bistro (friendly, but more of a restaurant), Nom Nom (below) and cat.jpg. There's also a local population of yellow-and-white street cats and an urban garden, some of whom are friendly and all of whom seem to be kept healthy and fed by the local community.

cat.jpg has two of their own cats who are sociable enough (one is firiendlier than the other). They have wifi, a big work table and sandwiches on the menu. 

Nom Nom


Nom Nom is not only a great cafe (and place where you can buy ceramic ware), but also a decent brunch spot. Sandwiches and fried chicken are served with luscious little salads, and there's French Toast on the menu. Try the cumin chicken sandwich with apple and honey for sure. Their milkshakes are straight-up luxurious, served overflowing on lipped coasters so they don't mess up the table. The mint chocolate milkshake is garnished with mint leaves and a dried orange slice and then sprinkled with chocolate bits. Also, the place is Peak Taiwanese Hipster.


Classic Coffee (品客經典咖啡)

Classic Coffee, in the Shi-da Road neighborhood which used to be fun, doesn't look like anything special. There's food and perfectly good coffee. But this place has a major selling point - a super friendly old cat who will aggressively love you, and a similarly friendly fat corgi who gets jealous of the cat. It's my favorite cat cafe because that cat is just so in-your-face with the cuddles and snuggles, and it's a fluffy cat, too. 

Notch (Front Station)

I don't typically expect funky, studenty coffeeshops in the Taipei Main Station neighborhood - it's an area loaded with cram schools, cheap shopping, a few government buildings...not a place where students really hang out. But this particular branch of Notch brings it. It's also not particularly far from the Legislative Yuan, so if you need a place to go after a good hearty protest, this is a great choice. When the same-sex marriage bill was passed last month, I spent a period of time here out of the pouring rain, watching the deliberations at the Legislative Yuan on their good wifi (far better than trying to connect alongside 20,000 other people standing outside in bad weather). 

Look Upstairs (上樓看看)

An excellent 'work cafe' in Xinyi near City Hall Station, this place has good drinks and beer. There's food too, but it's a little expensive. Lots of space, good light, wifi and plugs - you can settle in here to get things done, especially upstairs. Some tables and countertops even have desk lamps. 

2730 Cafe

Another cat cafe! This little place in a tiny shack-like building is very close to Liquid Bread and is attached to a vintage store (of which there are not too many in Taipei). I've only had the beer and coffee - they have a DPP beer! Which...odd, but tasted fine! But a big selling point here are the two cats, one black and the other white. It's also easy to get to from Xinyi, an area that isn't exactly known for its great cafes, so it's a solid choice in that neighborhood.

BreakFirst Cafe & Studio (棗點咖啡)

Sometimes we take care of a friend's pets in the Dazhi area, and this is our go-to when we're around there. The main selling point (beyond seats usually being available) is that they have several cats! 

Lion / LineUp Dessert


I ended up liking this place because I reviewed it for FunNow - but it's a funky little spot in an area not known for cafes (the Zhongshan Elementary School MRT area), with great desserts and solid croque sandwiches. The coffee is just OK, but I go for the desserts.

Jing Xin Cafe (晶心咖啡館)

To be honest, this isn't a place I go to hang out - it's sort of a hybrid coffeeshop and crystal shop in an odd corner of Taipei. But, they roast Taiwanese coffee beans which make great gifts (and they sell them at a reasonable price), so I wanted to include them for this reason. 

Thursday, March 1, 2018

I'm in this month's Centered on Taipei!

The March 2018 issue of Centered on Taipei is the "women's issue" - I wrote a piece about shuttling between multiple identities as a foreign woman in Taiwan - likening it to being a human version of a Newton's Cradle which you can read on page 32.

To read the magazine, click on the cover photo in the link.

Thursday, January 11, 2018

My latest for Ketagalan Media: an interview with artist Lin Ching Che

Moving in the Space Between Light and Rain
Lin Ching Che, 2017

(used with permission of the artist for this piece)

I know it seems like I'm writing more for other people than for Lao Ren Cha, but rest assured, that's because I'm balancing writing with grad school, and I only have time for some writing. When my papers are done, you'll see more content here again. I'm not someone who'd start a blog, run it for awhile and then use it only as a vehicle to link my work elsewhere.

With that said, I am super excited about this interview with talented watercolorist Lin Ching Che, who paints beautiful rainy night scenes of Taipei - the soft and the gritty alike. I tell a personal story (which I've touched on before), we learn what Taipei looks like from someone who grew up there and loved it enough to paint it, we talk about neglected alleys, the meaning of the rain, 7-11 and "cha bu duo".

I tried purposefully to weave together ideas concerning light and dark, inner and outer life, smoothness and imperfection, detail and abstractness, being at home and being a foreigner, belonging and loneliness, city and country and beauty and ugliness, all through the back-and-forth of a conversation about painting that focuses on the comparison and contrast of two different personal experiences: one of the local painter, and the other of the foreign viewer. But, I have no idea if any or all of those ideas came through.

In any case, don't miss it.

Tuesday, February 21, 2017

The Emotional Geography of an Accidental State

Screen Shot 2017-02-27 at 1.38.46 AM
That tiny gray plaque in front of the Men's Tailor on the right marks the place where the 228 Incident began. Across the lane on the left, the colonial-era black buildings are the site of the Tianma teahouse, where the vendor who was beaten was "illegally" selling cigarettes. On the far left at the top you can see the sign for Tianma Teahouse (it's the white rectangle above the windows if you can't read the Chinese). 

Last summer, a student of mine asked me if, instead of regular class, we could walk around Dadaocheng as she'd never actually been. She's aware I go there often and know the area well. I met her at the Jiancheng traffic circle - this was before that glass circle building was torn down - and was genuinely surprised to learn that she didn't know three things:

- That the area was a swamp until Qing times
- That the circle itself had been a pond/reservoir as well as a bomb shelter, with the water from the pond used to put out fires from air raids, and after that was a popular culinary destination for local street food
- That the 228 Massacre began nearby, just to the west as one approaches the Nanjing-Yanping intersection.

After a quick backgrounder on Jiancheng Circle - which, again, I was truly surprised to be giving - we spent quite a bit of time ruminating at the plaque that marked where 228 began. It felt weird and slightly inappropriate to be a foreigner giving this information to a local, but here we were.

"Of course I know 228," she said. "But I didn't know where it happened. I guess I never thought about exactly where in the city it started."

We fell quiet.

Screen Shot 2017-02-21 at 7.17.58 PM
See that barely-noticeable granite plaque on the left? You'd miss it if you weren't looking for it.

"I already know this history," she repeated. "But maybe now I feel more connection to it, because I actually went to the spot."

This is not to say she does not know her own country's history. By her own words, she does - quite probably as well as I know my American history. This will not be a hectoring "Taiwanese don't know their history!" post. I will never write such a post. If I ever approach that topic, it will be in a more realistic and nuanced way.

However, as we wandered around various other Dadaocheng landmarks - the old riverside mansions of major trading families, the municipal brothel, the old Yongle Market, Wang's Tea and more - she kept commenting, and I could feel, a deeper connection to her city being formed. We finished the day with her exclaiming again that she was genuinely surprised and regretful that she'd never taken the time to explore that neighborhood before. She seemed the most affected by the simple 228 commemorative plaque on that unexceptional stretch of sidewalk on Nanjing West Road.

I've come back to this story because, as 228 approaches and as I plan to visit Nylon Cheng's office (the Cheng Nan-jung Liberty Museum) on that day (some people who want to go in our group are not free on the more appropriate date of April 7th), I have found it helpful to reflect on the importance of attaching knowledge of historical events to the more visceral feeling of visiting the places where they happened. Knowing the historical and emotional geography of your city, and even your country. Taiwan is an accidental state (as the shiny-brand-new book of the same name points out), and also accidentally in its current state. Knowing not just the facts and dates but also visiting the places where these things happened imparts an emotional connection to that history that reading a book or memorizing a list of dates can never do.

It is more fruitful, then, to reflect on how the 228 Massacre continues to affect Taiwan by connecting it to a real geographical point, a historical locus from which to better understand the city and country. This, not "history", is the connection I have noticed some acquaintances of mine lack. It's a problem not limited to Taiwan, but feels especially jarring here, where the Taiwanese identity movement is so closely tied to associations with history - many social activists think of themselves as carrying the torch of civil society from their predecessors - and the land itself. Cycling around Taiwan and climbing Jade Mountain are seen, if subconsciously, as activities that bring one closer to the land and identification with it, so it is confounding that so many loci of political and social history are unknown or forgotten. How many other Taipei residents know about 228 but haven't a clue where it happened?

Again, this is not to say nobody knows. I know many socially and politically active people who can and do visit these places regularly. I'm describing a trend I see among some friends and students; it is not meant to be an indictment of an entire society.

Of course, 228 is not the only site of historical interest that make up Taiwan's emotional geography. I could do a sweeping survey of the country and list many - from the (likely) beach in Manzhou where the events of the Mudan Incident began to the Wushe battlefield to Baguashan in Changhua to Guningtou Beach in Kinmen. Instead I'll just name a few that resonate with me in Taipei:

Qingshan Temple, which has an interesting backstory that very weirdly mirrors some of the stories told about shrines in In An Antique Land about an entirely different part of the world and, while not a great historical turning point, is a story that brings to life the temple culture of the waves of Hoklo immigration from China.

Students and friends: "Where is Qingshan Temple? I didn't know that story about Qingshan Wang!"

Machangding Memorial Park, which gives me the heebiejeebies at night (though I wrote this post awhile ago, when I wasn't the writer or Taiwanophile that I am now, so please don't judge me too harshly for it)

Students and friends: "I've never been there - was it really an execution ground?" (Yes.)

Dihua Street - the old commercial center of Dadaocheng and subject of a well-known painting. Not for any major historical event but just the general sense of history (I'm particularly a fan of Xiahai temple and one house in particular, the one with the decorative ginseng around a high circular window. See if you can find it).

Students and friends: "What is there to do on Dihua Street?"

Ogon Shrine in Jinguashi (close enough to Taipei!) - simply because it's one of the easiest and only Japanese shrines that still has some existing structure that's within striking distance of Taipei. There is a much better-preserved temple in Taoyuan but the setting is not quite so evocative.

Students (not so much friends): There's a Japanese shrine ruin up there?

Yes, there is. 

The Chung Nan-jung Liberty Museum, which I will admit I have not yet been to, mostly because that sort of thing tends to make me emotional, and I think deep down I've been avoiding it. However, it is crucial to understanding Taipei's emotional geography to know where Nylon Cheng immolated himself in his burning office and why, and to see the spot for yourself.

Students and friends: That's downtown? It's right near the MRT? I had no idea it was so close!

Chen Tian-lai's mansion - there is quite a bit of history here that you can read about in the link, but honestly, I've been known to head down there and just look at the facade. I'm a huge fan of 1920s colonial architecture. Very close to Dihua Street (I also like the Koo Mansion a bit to the north, down a lane you would never think to walk down, occupied currently by a kindergarten).

Students (but not friends, most of whom know this place): There's a mansion here?

The Wen-meng municipal brothel - no survey of women's history sites in Taiwan is complete without a stop here, although chances are all you'll get to see is the exterior.

Students and friends: Prostitution used to be legal? There was a government-run brothel? What?

Qingdao and Jinan Roads around the Legislative Yuan - frankly, if you weren't down here some evenings during the Sunflower occupation, you missed a seminal moment in Taiwanese history. I spent quite a bit of time here around this time three years ago, and the two streets are now synonymous in my visual memory with social movements in Taiwan.

Wistaria Tea House - first the home of the Japanese governor-general, the setting of Eat Drink Man Woman, and also a gathering place for political dissidents in the Dangwai era. Also, great tea.

OK, everyone knows this.

These are just a few of the many possible choices, and I narrowed it down by choosing those that matter to me - the ones that have made the history of Taipei and of Taiwan come alive for me (and in one case, really come alive, as I was there in the crowd when things went down).

In any case, I encourage you to leave your homes this long weekend commemorating one of Taiwan's greatest tragedies and saddest cultural touchstones and go out and see some things for yourself. I promise, you'll connect with the city on a more physical level. Go!

Wednesday, May 25, 2016

Taipei: The New Old Berlin

So I was reading this article about how Berlin has changed and, as I read it, something about the old, pre-cool Berlin that the writer describes felt familiar.

I can't point to any one quote that captured this for me, just an overall feeling - a modern, capitalist, free city (well, half-free) that was not particularly inviting to outsiders, was off the beaten track, and was full of grubby neighborhoods that you could live in if you wanted cheap rent. If you were there it was because you wanted to be there, and not anywhere else, but anyone who wanted to be anywhere else generally did not give Berlin a second look. The "beautiful people" were in other cities (London, Paris, Milan).

And I realized, it reminded me of Taipei now. Taipei is not particularly cool. It doesn't have the cachet with Westerners that Shanghai, Beijing, Hong Kong or Tokyo (or more recently, Seoul) do, or even Bangkok or Singapore. Tourists from other parts of Asia come here but it is not a global tourist hotspot by any standard, and wasn't a tourist hotspot at all until Chinese tourism opened up. You are here because you want to be here - at least I am here for that reason - and not anywhere else. It's very local, and looming just across the straight is a massive Communist threat. I highly doubt Chinese missiles are going to rain down on my head anytime soon, but some days you can't help but wonder and be reminded of that during the occasional air raid drills. The beautiful people are in those other cities, and with them their beautiful overpriced nightspots and commercialized bar and restaurant scenes.

It can be nice and shiny and new - look at Xinyi (or don't - I kind of prefer not to). But entire neighborhoods are a bit grubby, and you have to look more deeply to find their charms (which they do have). It's so cool because it's not cool at all.

And, like that older version of Berlin, you have to work to understand it, and you might not always like it at first. You may remember that I did not really like Taipei when I first arrived. It was hard - foreigners generally make friends with coworkers when they first land but I didn't care for most of mine (the ones I liked I still didn't feel that close to, and they have pretty much all since left Taiwan). I cried on my birthday, after eating dinner alone at a terrible Indian restaurant, two weeks after arriving, on the Muzha line MRT because I could look down through rain-streaked windows at people on the street all going somewhere they belonged and probably seeing people who cared about them in lives that were anchored in some way, and I had none of those things.  It took another year or so before I felt like Taipei was alright, and probably another year after that before I began to really feel it, and Taiwan, was someplace special.

As an aside, so far I can count on one hand the number of people who know why this blog is called Lao Ren Cha. There is no special reason why I don't publish the reason publicly other than I never really felt like it. The people who know I felt, for whatever reasons I had at the time, deserved to know. Some still do! But, it's not a big deep secret, and perhaps someday I will write about that. What I'll say now is that it was very much intentional - not just a pretty name - and is very much directly related to my experiencing Taipei first in a muddy, dark, monochromatic sepia and only later a stunning, clear azure blue. It took more time than you would ever think such a thing would require.

And I'm not alone - when my cousin visited recently and stayed for a semester, he took time to adjust too. At first absorbing everything, then feeling a bit down due to the unrelentingly bad weather, then finally realizing one day that he had a solid group of friends and that Taipei was a super cool city to be in. The Taipei effect is not immediate.

I do wonder, as Taipei gets cooler - maybe not Seoul-level cooler but cooler nonetheless, with its plethora of perfect little cafes and increasing number of tour buses, increasing rents and gentrifying neighborhoods if it will start to become a victim of its own coolness. Part of me hopes it will bypass the Brooklyn effect, as it feels like it's already become too expensive to truly be a hip haven - and all the cool kids are already taking advantage of the better weather and cheaper rents in Tainan.

I wonder, I guess, if in 10 years (assuming I am still here, which I may be), what was an off-the-beaten track choice for building a life in Asia will start to be THE place to be and it will start to lose some of its street-level vibrancy and slightly grubby charm. Will I feel like that disaffected old expat in 10 years, complaining about all the new kids and how "this city isn't what it used to be"?

Yes, I do realize expats before me have already said that, but I wasn't here then so LA LA LA I CAN'T HEAR YOU.

Part of me wants Taipei to get that international recognition. Part of me wants it to stay the way it is.

Monday, May 9, 2016

Something Old, Something New


One of the things I love about living in Taiwan - though I suppose this is true for expat life in just about any country - is that I can see something that looks as though it will be the same as something I've seen in the past, but discover something completely new within it.

For example, I happened upon a temple parade in my neighborhood a few weeks ago. It is fairly rare to find one there; they usually take place in the older part of the city, not the most densely populated part of Da'an! I enjoyed it in part because, being more of a neighborhood thing, it didn't draw the massive crowds that the more well-known festivals draw. I was able to get solid close-ups of the temple cohorts and performers, including some more unique or characterful shots that are hard to get when you are pressed in by a massive crowd at, say, Qingshan Wang, Baosheng Culture Festival, the Matsu pilgrimage or others.

The other thing I liked about this festival was that I saw something I'd never seen before, despite having thought I'd "seen it all" as far as temple parades go.

And that is the offering of beer to bajiajiang, or the 8 generals!


This was really interesting to watch - a tiny temple, more like a shrine, in the lanes around Rui'an Street, coming out with a tray of Bar Beer and offering it to the performers. The performers accepted it formally and drank it quickly.

I didn't know this was something you could do, in fact, I wasn't aware they could be seen drinking, talking or using technology (though I have definitely seen bajiajiang chatting, smoking or on cell phones when they shouldn't be.


Another thing I didn't expect was the "temple parade enthusiast" (which I joked might be me in about 30 years) - I had seen spirit medium type parade followers who became possessed during parades but never one who was clearly not possessed but simply wanted to also be a part of the procession. She even had the right outfit, and was allowed to join by the rest of the temple troupes.


I was quite sad to see a truck with poles for sexy temple dancers being used for Three Princes (santaizi) instead, and none of them were dancing on the poles. A pole-dancing child god would be a wonderful photo! 


Otherwise it was a fairly normal neighborhood parade, with small crowds coming out to watch, not unlike, say, a Firemen's Day parade in the US but more colorful and interesting, at least to me. There were two bajiajiang troupes, the second fiercer than the first. These guys were legit scary: 





And the usual cohort of dragon dancers, lion dancers and tall god costumes.




What bothers me, and I feel like writing about here, are complaints about traditional temple activities and how they should be curtailed or banned. Not just temple parades but ghost money, Mid-Autumn Festival barbecue and Chinese New Year firecrackers.

People complain that they are noisy, they are dangerous, they pollute, they annoy neighbors. I have very little patience for this (maybe for the ghost money but honestly the most polluted days to me are not the ones on which it is being burned). People who think the occasional temple parade causes "pollution" don't seem overly concerned about the actual biggest source of noise and air pollution in Taipei - scooters. Or how they are far more dangerous than a few fireworks from a parade.

They say Mid-Autumn Festival BBQ annoys neighbors, without even thinking about how noise trucks, those stupid loudspeakers outside of stores, or community events (Fireman's Day is a big one in my community, and there are quite a few concerts and children's events too) that are just as noisy and maybe just as annoying to some of us. But no, a few days of barbecue is somehow more polluting than Taipei's traffic, and somehow noisier and more annoying than all the other events in the city.

Give me a damn break. I just can't take seriously the idea that temple parades are somehow worse than scooters for traffic snarls, noise, air pollution or general danger and public annoyance, that Mid-Autumn BBQ is worse than a political noise truck or more polluting than the imprint of a large, air-conditioned, concrete department store, that Chinese New Year fireworks are more annoying than the Musical China Douchemobile. That ghost money smoke creates more pollution than factory or traffic exhaust (again, the worst pollution days to me - someone with a weak respiratory system - are actually not ghost money days).

So stupid. So wrongheaded. 


I'm usually not one go to in for conspiracy theories, but I can't help but wonder in whose interest it is to slowly let the air out of the cultural street life of Taipei (and Taiwan in general, but this seems to mostly be a Taipei problem). Whom does it benefit to see temple parades become smaller, quieter and more rare until they disappear altogether? Whom does it benefit to squash autumn barbecues? Whom does it benefit to allow noise trucks and civic events but not firecrackers? Whom does it benefit to ban or discourage election posters so Taipei looks less like a democracy going through an election as you drive around?


Because it seems to me that while temple parades may have originated in China, they aren't really done much in China anymore (one year in China and I saw exactly one lion dancer, hired for the grand opening of a supermarket), and a lot of the quintessentially "Taiwanese" practices, such as bajiajiang, have their origins in a few temples in Fujian and aren't really pan-Chinese in any real sense of the word. I didn't see much ghost money burning in China either although it originated there and I am sure is still practiced to some extent. The others, such as barbecue (which originated in Taiwan with a barbecue sauce ad, but I still love it and anyone who doesn't can shove off) and, well, democracy, are not Chinese in origin at all. Night markets may be a thing in some parts of China - I went to an okay one in Yantai - but most people associate them with Taiwan...and a lot of neighborhoods have become recently and mysteriously interested in closing down night markets in their vicinity where no such animosity existed before.

Is it an attempt, consciously or not, to make Taiwan look more like China?

I don't know, and I realize I'm baiting conspiracy theory by even asking, but that's sure how it feels. 


Some people, for sure, probably aren't even thinking along those lines and think these are the things keeping Taipei from being a truly modern city - quiet, clean and upscale.

Which is of course utter nonsense.

These things are what make Taipei Taipei, rather than, I dunno, some crappy box-building city in China with streaky luxury apartment complexes rotting out by the 80th ring road, or Beijing which is even worse than that despite the cultural heritage because you literally can't breath and they are slowly razing anything of interest (rather like the cultural razing of temple parades and other items of cultural interest in Taipei in favor of luxury apartments, boring civic celebrations and department stores?), or Duluth or Peoria or Des Moines or some other city I wouldn't want to live in that feels like a stand-in for a boring, poorly-planned metropolis more known for suburbs than actual urban vibrancy. 


I mean, if I wanted to live in Duluth I would have moved to Duluth. If I wanted to live in 屁眼, China, I would have moved there.

I live in Taipei because I want to be in Taipei, and a part of that is the street life, the overall street-level liveliness, and the cultural aspects of living here. I'll put up with a traffic jam because a ten-foot god is walking down the road for that. 


Some people do say it's because so many temple events are connected with gangsters, because gangs, temples, businessmen and politicians are in many ways just an inbred group of cronies in Taiwan.

Sure, that's true.

But who cares?


Honestly, of all the things gangs in Taiwan are involved in, this is by a very wide margin the least problematic. Stopping temple parades isn't going to make gangs go away, and even if there is gang activity inherent in them, it's fairly harmless as gang activity goes.

I mean, imagine if the best pasta joint in town were run by the local mafia (which in New York might very well be the case, though not always). Would you want to stop the gang from doing anything illegal or truly problematic? Sure.

Does that mean the pasta restaurant is the problem, and you shouldn't enjoy delicious pasta there? I don't think so. It just doesn't seem like a very strong reason to me. You want to crack down on gangs, crack down on scammers, prostitution rings/pimps/brothels, drug cartels and a scary large percentage of politicians and big business.

The temple parades are not the problem.

Anyway, rant over, enjoy a few more photos:




Thursday, June 11, 2015

Black Garlic in Taipei!

I've been a bit busy to post actual longer posts these past few weeks, but I wanted to share my latest culinary find: black garlic! I had heard of it before but not had the chance to try it - it's an extremely flavorful ingredient made by...I guess by heating it on low, and perhaps steaming it then drying it (?) for a month or more. It turns the cloves shriveled and black and gives it a soft, spreadable texture and a taste that's somewhere in between soy sauce, tamarind and balsamic vinegar.

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Well, there's someone in Taiwan who makes it - the store is just called 黑蒜頭 or "Black Garlic". It's made from garlic grown in Yunlin County and it is delicious.

To get some, take the MRT to Xinhai station. Exit and look almost immediately to your right (slightly away from the road, down another small dead-end road). Alternately, follow the smell of sweet roasted garlic that permeates the air for several meters in every direction. There's a small shop with a can't-miss sign (you can even see it from the MRT train if you take it past Xinhai) that says "Black Garlic" in English and Chinese and has a picture of black garlic on it for good measure.

Don't live in Taipei? You can also call them at (02)2934-0535 or visit their website. Apparently they do deliver!

This shop also has black garlic wine, vinegar and other items - I feel like black garlic wine would be a wonderful thing to cook with and I will eventually go back for some.

You can use it in a lot of different ways - it seems like it'd be really good in Italian, French or Spanish foods, and also work well in Chinese food (imagine a sauteed whole chicken rubbed down with the stuff, which also flavored the broth at the bottom of the pan, or on a fish that could handle its flavor). It seems to go especially well with vegetables, tomatoes, chicken and cheese. I think it'd be delicious as a lamb chop rub or with stuffed mushrooms.

But black garlic doesn't come cheap. One large bulb is NT100, a pack of 6 small bulbs is NT250, and a large pack is NT600. If you wanted to experiment with this ingredient or just eat it (it's delicious eaten straight), an NT100 bulb will do just fine.

Make sure you pick up a copy of their brochure for this little gem. Then stroll to victory with your black garlic!

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Little additional note: If you take that main road to the right for a few minutes' walk you'll also come to Mr. Lin, who makes old-school tatami mats that are far higher quality than the ones sold at B&Q. He is the only guy I can find left in Taipei who still does this.

Monday, September 1, 2014

Taipei - City of the Future, and the Great Walls of China

I found this article on China's urban planning mess courtesy of Alexander Synaptic's Facebook page, and felt that there was some relevance to Taiwan in here that I felt like writing about.

So while I have a couple of women's issues and hiking posts on the back burner, I'll tackle this first.

One reason I love living in Taipei (Taipei specifically, although the rest of Taiwan is not bad in this regard either) is that they have largely avoided the urban planning mistakes of much of the USA, which China is now falling prey to. It's the same reason why, when I was a resident of the country of my citizenship, I enjoyed living in Arlington, Virginia.

It's also a reason why I am not that interested in living in the major urban centers of China.

Basically, I have seen with my own eyes how Beijing was transformed, in a generation, from a city of interconnected, pedestrian-and-bike friendly hutongs connected by roads with bike lanes and dotted with historical sites and squares into a smoggy hellscape of massive ring roads, six-lane highways (downtown, even!) with unpleasant sidewalks if they existed at all and no more bike lanes. The old hutongs were either torn town for glass-and-steel monstrosities that soared into the gray-brown smog above, leaving little space for street-level development, or turned into ersatz up-market "hutongs" dotted with tourist shops replacing the erstwhile real deal.

Why would I want to live in that?

As one of my former coworkers put it, in Taipei, as ugly as some of the architecture is (and I don't think it's all ugly - only some of it - but there is charm to be found if you look closely), as you walk down the street there's a lot to see. Old stores jostling for space with new ones. Chefs from Hong Kong style restaurants smoking outside, backed by with ducks hanging behind glass. Red lanterns and carts full of barbecue, tempura, tofu, dumplings, buns, onion pancakes and more. Basically, you can walk down most streets and they practically shove the food in your face. But walk down a street in Beijing and you're likely to have four lanes of exhaust-spewing cars on one side, and on the other...a wall. Maybe they thought the one great wall was so damn great they needed to fill the whole city with them. Or maybe some horrible glass box - no shops, no lanterns, no food, not much street life at all really.

Why would I want to live in that?

And as this happens, more and more people are fleeing to the suburbs. Can you blame them? With a city center so uninviting to life-after-work, surrounded by not-so-great walls, it makes sense to flee.

But that's just what happened in the USA, and I don't want to live in the vast majority of places in the USA either, so why would I want to live in that?

Every time I go back to the USA, I end up being picked up at the airport. There's no other convenient way to do it. There are buses (and you have to make connections) but no Airport Express trains. It takes forever to get between cities because either you have to "beat the traffic" or take the (usually delayed) train. No bullet trains (the Acela emphatically does not count). Visiting either set of parents, we can't go anywhere without driving, and one has to drive to the nearest urban center. That's fine, if you're in the country - you have to do that in Taiwan, too - but once in that urban center, you also have to drive! There is no worse driving than that of a multi-lane open highway that empties out into a series of shopping centers interconnected in the most mind-bending ways.

Not a thought to building more public transit - there are buses, but you wouldn't want to rely on them. There aren't any subways or trams. The only subway system worth a damn is in New York, and that one is in desperate need of upgrades and maybe a nice bath. In DC, we'd head down to the Metro and find we had to wait 14 minutes - this in the early evening on a weekday, when it's fairly busy - for a train to go three stops, but the trip wasn't walkable. 14 minutes! To catch a train to go three stops! That's only like a 5 minute trip! In Taipei if you have to wait 6 minutes (which only happens at night or on the Xinyi Line, which I hope they fix soon) you're groaning. I couldn't possibly have been a freelancer in DC the way I am in Taipei - I'd need to own a car I couldn't have afforded. There would be no other way to get between my various jobs in any decent amount of time. Everything was so spread out.

It's a reason why I can't attend grad school in the USA: not only can I not afford it (I would seriously never be able to pay off that loan), but a lot of schools are in areas where you need a car to get around.

I can't stand American urban planning in America - it's one reason why I left (also: healthcare, and fear for my safety in a country of people packing heat where the streets are not always safe for women. Guns make me feel less safe, not safer) - so obviously I wouldn't want to deal with it in China.

Taipei, on the other hand, is like the city of the future.

In DC, when I arrived in 1998, they had been talking about the "silver line" to the airport for years already. This was when Taipei's metro was first getting started (that's the year the yellow line opened). In that time, the silver line hadn't even begun construction (no ground was broken while I was in college, nor did it begin when I lived there again from 2004-2006) whereas Taipei's metro grew from an infant into a fiercely competent adult.

To recap: Taipei built an entire metro system in the time it took for DC to argue about the silver line for years, and not do jack about it. Taipei's metro is still growing, whereas the silver line, after they finally broke ground, is only about halfway complete. You still can't ride it out to the airport. It took DC to build half a Metro line in the time it took Taipei to build, basically, an entire metro system.

(This is, incidentally, why I would consider living in Kaohsiung but I hate Taichung).

Living in a city where a new metro line opens every few years and changes the face of public transit for the better (I can now take the MRT to Taipei 101 directly!) feels like a city in progress. A city that's growing. Living in a city where I felt constricted in where I could go and how fast I could get there, if at all, felt like living in a city that was slowly crumbling. The Decline and Fall of the American Empire.

Taipei residents understand the importance of an interesting, multi-use, well-connected, safe urban core that is good for something other than financial centers in horrible glass boxes surrounded by houses and shopping complexes you have to drive to. There's a reason why, despite the pushiness of various real estate developers, that nobody really wants to live in Linkou despite all the new, cheap apartments being built out there. It's the choice you make if you want to buy, not rent, but can't afford Taipei. It's not like the USA where people chose to live far from the city in boring little subdivisions where sidewalks weren't even guaranteed to exist.

I like that people here understand the life-enhancing importance of convenience, and how sometimes it's worth it to trade space for that convenience. Between having a yard and needing a car to drive to Buy 'N Large, or being able to walk less than a minute to the nearest supermarket and convenience store and restaurant and massage parlor and hardware store, I'll take the latter, and for the most part Taipei residents agree with me. In terms of urban planning, I've found My People.

Although we could have better sidewalks, urban thoroughfares netted together with quiet lanes, many planted with trees, parks dotting the landscape, street-level commerce of all types, a comprehensive public transit system and the ease of the new bike sharing program (which has been a stunning success, although we could sure use more real bike lanes with bike lane rules enforced), Taipei residents just get it. This was the urban planning of the past - the type of planning that makes towns like downtown Bangor, ME and New Paltz, NY so pleasant to walk around - and it is the urban planning of the future.

Why wouldn't I want to live here?

Another note on Taipei as City of the Future: I've become so accustomed to convenience here that the idea that I'd have to spend more than five minutes to get any given basic thing I needed has become alien to me. The idea that I'd have to hop in a car to do anything other than go hiking (and in Taipei you don't even have to do that - you can take the bus to most good hikes, and the MRT to some, too) is just ludicrous to me. I now feel that if I can't get breakfast in one minute, that city sucks. I liked Shanghai alright (wouldn't live there, though), but I had to walk 7 minutes just to find a Cafe 85 to get some coffee and baked goods for breakfast. No other options. This on Nanjing Road. That city sucks. It doesn't get a second chance. One minute to breakfast, or you're out.

I'm so used to being able to go to 7-11 for everything: buying books I've ordered, picking up a spare pair of socks, lunch, coffee (and pretty good coffee at that, at least as far as convenience stores go), copies, printing, bill paying, rental contracts, high speed rail tickets, concert tickets and more - and having two of those within sight of my building - it's like The Future, but the future is here.

No great walls. No faceless glass boxes. No six-lane highways downtown. No open-access highways to South Maple Falls Shopping Center far from your home, where it takes 30 minutes to drive to the store, get what you need and come home. None of that.

Even traffic isn't that bad: I mean, it's bad, but it's not's not like 66 in the DC area where you are basically parked at rush hour. You can hop in a cab at rush hour and still get to where you need to go in the city without banging your head on the back of the seat in frustration. You can catch a bus at 6pm and buses are frequent enough that you might even get a seat, and you'll get home in a reasonable amount of time. And you live near where you work - Taipei residents understand the importance of a short commute. A commute of over 30 minutes is basically a human rights violation to most of us.

And yes, we have to give up a little space, but there's something to be said for owning less stuff and inhabiting less space - good for the environment too. Surprisingly, dense urban cores that lack massive sprawl are also more environmentally friendly than over-manicured suburbs and snaking, gridlocked highways - and being home soon after you finish work. And for thinking "I want...whatever" and being able to walk or bike to whatever it is you want.

Is that guest bedroom and extra half bath really worth the hour-long commute and the 20 minute drive along the worst kind of road to the nearest supermarket? Not to me. I've found my people, and we are the future.

Friday, May 23, 2014

Updated Post: Atmospheric Coffeeshops in Taipei

I've updated with several new spots in Zhongshan, Dihua Street, Heping East Road and even inside a few temples!

As usual they all make it in for different reasons, which doesn't necessarily mean they offer the best coffee in Taipei. Some are in vintage or historic buildings, some have interesting decor, some have great architecture or a great view, some feature art galleries or small shops, and some just have cats, because cats!

Thursday, May 22, 2014

Silver Stream Cave and Waterfall (銀河洞越嶺步道)

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This short hike (more like hellishly steep, but short, stair climb in nature) is quite well known, covered in Taipei Escapes, Taipei Day Trips, and blogged by David on Formosa. I hadn't done it before, though, so I thought I'd add a few photos. It begins in Xindian (or Maokong if you are so inclined), snakes up (or down) a stair-trail through the mountains and takes in a slender silver waterfall backed by a cave, into which a retro little temple has been built.

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It will also get its own entry under "easy day hikes in Taipei for lazy people" (updated!) as you can easily begin this hike around or even after lunch time and arrive in Maokong with a comfortable amount of daylight remaining. Its fairly unchallenging nature - unless you hate stairs (and I do) - proximity and short duration are perfect for those who want to do something but didn't get up until 10am.

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I like this hike because it connects two disparate parts of the greater Taipei area: Maokong/Muzha and Xindian. You go up the long, ridge-like Maokong mountain, stop at a waterfall and temple on the way, pass a short trail to the summit (you can head up there if you like - but there's no view) and then come down to the road across the street from Maokong's cable car station. Straight up and straight down.

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There are buses and such you can take to get there; you can take any bus headed along Beiyi Road (Highway 9 or 北宜公路) towards Pinglin and get off at Yinhe Road (銀河路), hiking up from there.  However, it's only about NT155 to take a taxi from MRT Xindian to the trail entrance (tell any driver you want to go to 銀河洞越嶺步道 on Yinhe Road), so why not just do that?

Or you can go the other way - take the gondola to the top of Maokong, and directly across the street start hiking up the hill past the temple under renovation, turning behind a house (should be marked), past an old stone house, and up some more on a concrete path until you hit the woods again. Past the summit and then down, down, down to the waterfall and Xindian, and catch a bus on Beiyi Road back to the MRT. This way involves less uphill hiking and few, if any, uphill stairs.

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But we went the hard way, and ended up in Maokong at a great time for tea and snacks, hanging out until sunset and dinnertime. We went to my favorite teahouse on Maokong, 山中茶 - I like their fried sweet potato and their lemon diced chicken (檸檬雞丁).

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This trail is very much discovered - solo hikers (it's very safe) and large groups, often with dogs, meander along it, stopping for lunch near the temple. The temple itself was built sometime after the KMT landed in Taiwan, and tiles painted with a story in Chinese marking this fact, plus the obvious non-fact that "everyone in Taiwan celebrated Retrocession Day" (uh, NO THEY DIDN'T) and a list of temple donors.

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 You can walk behind the waterfall up a path just beyond the cave - the path continues, but it's better to take the path up to the right of the temple for a quicker ascent to Maokong.  photo IMG_5387.jpg

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