DAY 1: I arrived in Taipei just after lunch time, and was starving by the time I got into the city, although I did grab some steamed buns from a small supermarket in the airport to keep me going on the 1 hour long bus ride. After asking several people I eventually found someone who spoke enough English to tell me which of the buns were meat free. I got a taro one and the other was black sesame, both were some of the nicest steamed buns I have ever had.
It took me quite a long time to find the place where I was staying as most of the street signs were only written in Chinese, but after asking several more people until I found another English speaker I was finally pointed in the right direction. I dropped my bags off and then decided to get the MRT into the city centre with the idea of going to a vegetarian buffet restaurant called Evergreen that I had heard a lot about. However, when I got there I discovered that their dinner price was TWD600 (approx.$20) which was a bit expensive so I left in search of a better deal. Several hours later I was still walking around Zhongshan area trying to find another of the veg restaurants from my happycow list but as I was discovering cities in Taiwan (particularly Taipei) has a very complicated street numbering system which in addition to very few signs in English can make things quite challenging for a non-Mandarin speaker, especially if you’re trying to find a particular place.
Finally I stumbled upon a Loving Hut tucked down a very colourful and busy alley near Taipei main station. They had an English menu with pictures which was handy. I ordered the spicy dumpling noodle soup, soy nuggets and a very strange tasting mulberry milkshake.
Loving Hut dinner
The dumpling noodles were the standout, the other things were alright but nothing special. I wondered around for another hour or so and then headed back to the hostel.
DAY 2: I woke up very early despite still being really tired from the flight so I decided to get the MRT a few stops north to Beitou which, although is still very much in Taipei city is considered to be a village. It is famous for its hot springs. There is also a large park (sorry the name escapes me) with good hiking trails so I spent a few hours exploring around there until it was lunchtime.
44 Huaining rd, near Taipei main station
YUMMY VEGAN HOUSE
I managed to mind this cute and quirky little Japanese vegan café tucked under the MRT line opposite a big Buddhist temple. Strangely the kitchen was outside on the porch whilst the 4 small tables took up the entire inside space. I got there at 11.30am right on opening time, I was the first one there but it quickly filled up. They have a menu in English available and the staff also spoke some English. I ordered the braised rice with vegetables, the cold tofu and a blueberry milkshake.
It was all quite reasonably priced for the portion size, my meal cost around NT250.
218 section 1 Zhonggard rd south, Beitou
After lunch I got back on the MRT still trying to decide where to go next. I ended up at ivegan supermarket, Taiwan’s 1st all vegan supermarket that had only opened a few months ago. I got off at Wanlong MRT and straight away saw the ivegan sign so followed it down a series of laneways.
The supermarket was huge and divided up into 2 sections. The 1st was the fresh produce sections with a large range of reasonably priced organic fruit and vegies.
The 2nd was pre -packaged items including a small section of mock meats, various dried and canned goods and lots of vegan cheeses (including Daiya) which was sold either in the regular sized packs and also in 2.5kg packs for NT2000. Surprisingly they had almost no junk food except for small tubs of Loving Hut chocolate ice cream. They also have a small coffee shop just inside the entrance.
I left ivegan with my sweet craving intact so though a visit to Taipei’s only 100% vegan bakery was in order.
Near Wanlong MRT, exit 1 turn left and follow ivegan signs
Black forest cake
Run by an overly friendly Indian guy (sometimes a lady just wants to eat her cake in peace and quiet). I had a slice of black forest cake which was fairly nice but I thought the icing was a tad on the sweet side and there was also a bit too much of it. Fresh bakery also makes lots of different flavoured breads so I got a few to try, including one stuffed with potato and Daiya and my favourite a spiced pumpkin and nut. They are also happy to cater to anyone with allergies with several days notice so if you want GF etc just phone ahead. I had planned to have them as snacks for my day trip to Fulong the following day but after meeting a very sweet and skinny stray dog in a park I ended up donating most of the bread to them.
466 section 6 Zhongxiao east rd
It had started to cloud over by the time I left Fresh bakery and had thankfully cooled down a bit too (it was still about 38 degrees with humidity in the high 90s). I had planned on hiking up Elephant mountain and by the time I got to the nearest MRT it had started to rain but I decided to just keep going as it was only supposed to be a short hike (or so I thought).
After 100’s of steep and slippery stairs I finally made it to the top and was definitely ready to sit down and enjoy the view for a little while. The view was very beautiful and you could see right across Taipei and of course Taipei 101 which was the world’s tallest building until a year or 2 ago.
View of Taipei 101
I was about to head back down the path that I had come up on but then noticed another path that continued going up the next mountain. I was quite enjoying the cool breeze and the rain which was a welcome change from the stifling heat of the city below so I decided to follow the path up for a little while longer. Three hours and 1000’s of stairs later I was still walking; it was now starting to get dark so I was a bit concerned about trying to find my way down. I figured it was probably too late to turn back so just kept going asking the various middle aged men who passed me by on their daily run (FYI Taiwanese men apparently turn into hardcore exercise junkies once they hit 50) until I found one who could speak English and told me that it was only another 40 minutes walking.
I the path was really slippery from the rain so I went fairly slowly, I was overtaken several times by a guy of about 60+ yo literally running backwards down the stairs (he kept stopping to stretch before overtaking me again). Eventually I made it back to a road but had absolutely no clue where the hell I was. There weren’t many people around to ask except for two women but I managed to gesture to my MRT map however due to the language barrier they weren’t able to tell me directions so one of them very kindly offered to walk me to the closest station which turned out to be a 20 minute walk away which was very kind of her, especially since it was raining.
On the way back to the hostel I stopped briefly to look around Shilin night market which turned out to be way too touristy, they did have lots of cheap and tasty fruit though.
DAY 3: HO HAI YAN rock festival
I was quite excited to be getting out of the city and also at having the chance to check out some Taiwanese indie rock and punk bands at this music festival which I had heard a lot about. The whole festival which is totally free (apparently it’s sponsored by the government who is trying to encourage young people to become more involved the creative and performing arts) it goes for 5 days and takes place literally right sand on Fulong beach.
Main stage at Ho Hai Yan
There was some mix up with my train ticket and the train I had a ticket for either got cancelled or rescheduled so after a few minutes of confusion I was shoved onto one of the local all stations trains to Fulong which unfortunately meant standing up for the entire 2 hour journey, but at least it was air conditioned.
I got to Fulong ready for lunch but had no clue where or how to find anything vegan as my internet research for this town hadn’t got me anywhere. I sussed a few places out but the language barrier was becoming an issue and I was getting very over heated walking around in the hot sun so settled on a mango shaved ice (with no milk) instead. Most places it is common to pour condensed milk over the fruit on any shaved ice dessert so always be sure to ask for no milk.
Mango shaved ice
Still hungry but feeling much better I headed down to the beach to see what was going on down there. The music hadn’t started yet and the food options were even less vegan friendly than in town (not to self, beach side towns in Taiwan are really into deep fried sea food). After around an hour of walking around on the sand with the burning hot wind I was ready for another dose of air conditioning so went back towards the main street and into the 7/11. The 7/11’s in Taiwan are much more hospitable to the povo vegan backpacker than the ones in other countries and before long I was stocked up with a carton of soy milk, some cold ramen noodle salad and some stuffed tofu skin rolls. I wasn’t sure if the sauce with the noodles was soy or fish sauce (it definitely didn’t smell like soy) so I just ate the noodles plain. Most 7/11’s and Family Marts also sell whole roasted sweet potatoes and yams and will have a selection of steamed buns, with some vegetarian options too which is quite useful if you can’t find anything else to eat.
Most of the bands playing were pretty decent although the majority of them just sounded like Greenday or Offspring tribute bands. The highlight for me was a girl pop/metal band (yeah you read that one right) called P!sco. The day was also quite a good learning experience in Taiwanese culture. Firstly, I learned that Taiwan is an extremely safe country. The amount of people who I saw just dumping their bags with all their valuables in them on the sand and then just wondering off to go for a swim or to get food completely out of site from their bags took me a while to get used to, but no one seemed the slightest bit concerned about their stuff being stolen. Taiwanese also prefer to swim fully clothed and apparently don’t like to go further than knee deep. Several times I went in as far as waist deep only to have some guy (I think he was a lifeguard) frantically coming up to me in a speed boat motioning at me to move back to the “safe area”. It was a really fun festival and although I ended up with some very bad sunburn as a momento it was a great day out and met some awesome people too.
DAY 4: Feeling a bit worse for wear with my sunburn/heat stroke I decided to have a lazy inside day. After catching up on some research in internet land I ventured out into the heat in search of some food. I had planned to visit Loving Vegan, one of the only entirely vegan buffets in Taipei. It was a bit of a trek as it was right on the southern edge of the city, but when I eventually got to the address I found it was closed and semi abandoned looking (still not sure if it was closed down or just closed that day). I went to back to the MRT and headed for my next restaurant of choice.
This very aptly named pay by weight vego buffet is situated right across the road from Shida university about a 10 minute walk from Taipower building MRT, making it a popular hangout place for students. There was no sign in English so just look for the street number. I was really hungry by the time I arrived so I grabbed a cardboard tray (they don’t use plates for some reason) and a pair of tongs and piled up my plate as high as I could with lots of tofu and vegies. FYI many of the mock meats in Taiwan are made using egg and dairy ingredients so if in doubt it’s best to avoid them.My tray was about 3x bigger than everyone else’s and cost NT270. Everything was very fresh and delicious, especially the pumpkin.
Buffet @Vegetarian Paradise
182 Heping E rd, MRT Taipower building
HUA KWANG VEGETARIAN
On the way back I stopped in at one of the vegetarian restaurants near to where I was staying to get some takeout for my hiking trip the following day. I just kept it simple and ordered some fried tofu, rice and stir fried greens. Some of the staff spoke good English and English menu was also available. Whilst ordering I spotted a fried tofu skin dish stuffed with taro which sounded interesting so I got that for dinner.
Taro stuffed tofu skins
It was very yummy, the outside of it was several layers of crispy fried tofu skin with a thin layer of finely grated spicy veggies with steamed chunks of taro in the middle, it went perfectly with the salty crunchy pickled veggies that it came with.
357 Zhongzheng rd, MRT Shilin
DAY 5: It was an early start for the hike in Yangmingshan national park. I’d come across some hiking group on Facebook that had organised it so just joined up with them. There were about 8 of us in total, a mix of Aussies, Taiwanese, a Russian and a Singaporean. We met up at the MRT station and then got a bus to the trail head about an hour away.
The first hour of the hike was through some very scenic open grassland with lots of cows. We then walked down into a valley where it slowly turned into rainforest. The path we planned to take was “official closed due to landslides” but it was still easily accessible aside from one small section where the track was missing so we had to climb down the cliff using ropes to the next part. The forest was teaming with a huge array of insects, particularly butterflies; a couple of the others were stung by wasps along the way.
Bayan hot springs
3 hours later we finally reached our destination: Bayan hot springs, a beautiful natural hot spring that flows into a river at the base of a waterfall with a succession of pools, each a different temperature cascading down the river. It reminded me quite a lot of the amazing hot springs I visited in northern Sumatra last year. After a quick cool off in the waterfall I jumped into the hot spring with the others, it was very relaxing and peaceful. There were only 3 or 4 other people aside from our group (this hot spring is “officially closed too”). We stayed for around 2 hours going back and forth between the hot spring and waterfall and then walked the half hour back to the main road to catch the bus, stopping at a few places along the river to take photos. I just got some snacks at a supermarket for dinner and for my train ride to Hualien the next day.
DAY 6: I was pleasantly surprised when I stepped off the train in Hualien to discover it was a bit cooler than Taipei (still horrendously hot though). I quickly dropped off my bags and then consulted a map to check where the closest vegan food options were located then headed out to find somewhere for lunch. My first pick was an all vegan buffet restaurant called Guo Xiang Yuan that was recommended by some random local guy I was chatting to at the train station. However after doing several laps of the street it was on with no sign of it, I gave up and headed for the next best option.
GREENLAND (also called Green Earth by locals)
It was around 3pm when I finally arrived at Greenland to discover that they had just closed and wouldn’t reopen until 4.30pm (FYI it is very common for many restaurants to close in the mid- afternoon period from around 2.30pmish- 4.30pmish). So I thought I’d just wander around the town for a couple of hours until they reopened. I only got a few hundred metres up the road when I found an ice shop which looked too irresistible given the heat so I got a matcha red bean shaved ice. Most shaved ice desserts will usually be served with condensed milk and sometimes ice cream or sorbet (some sorbets are vegan depending on which shop you go to. To ask for no milk you can either say “wo buxiang chi nai”, (“I don’t drink milk”) or if they don’t understand your pathetic attempts at Chinese pronunciation as happened to me on multiple occasions you can just point to it in a picture and say “bu” (“no”).
Matcha red bean shaved ice
Right on 4.30pm I went back to Greenland more than ready for lunch/dinner. Only very minimal English was spoken by staff but they had an English menu so ordering was easy enough. I got the sesame noodle rainbow salad, crispy fried tofu and a mystery vegetable juice (I tried to ask what was in the juice to no avail so just took a gamble that there would be no tomato in it.
Everything was awesome and even nicer than I had expected, the noodle salad was deliciously fresh and the spicy tahini sauce was really yummy. The fried tofu was also really nice and cam served with lots of veggies too.
Greenland was a little pricier than the standard veg buffets but still reasonable prices; I think mine came to around NT220.
143 Jianguo rd
DAY 7: Began with an early start to stock up on snacks and get some breakfast from 7/11 before an hour long bus ride to Taroko gorge. I just got some bananas, soy milk, a taro flavoured steamed bun and a roast purple yam.
Roast purple yam from Family Mart
Taroko gorge is an overwhelmingly huge place, with steep marble cliffs rises up right out of the ocean to over 2000m in height, the entire park covers an area of around 1000km sq. I bought the day bus pass so I could just hop on and off the shuttle bus anywhere which made it easier to hike from one part to another. I just did a few of the trails as it was a very hot and sunny day and the crowds of people in some places made it far less enjoyable. The swallow grotto trails which went along the edge of the gorge for several km’s going through a few tunnels along the way was nice as it allowed you to see all the patterns in the marble. It was however one of the most popular and easily accessible trails so if you don’t want to have all your nice gorge photos being photo-bombed by elderly Chinese tourists trying to elbow you out of the way either go here early or go somewhere else. The Bunyan waterfall trail was probably my favourite because it was mostly in the shade and a lot less touristy. It was a very pleasant 6km walk each way following the river upstream.
By around 4pm I was a bit over walking around in the heat constantly and was also getting hungry but didn’t want any of the mediocre and outrageously priced food that was available in the park so got the bus back to Hualien.
On the bus ride back into town I discovered a date bar and some nuts at the bottom of my bag which was quite exciting so I decided to skip dinner and just go straight for dessert. It was back to the previously mentioned ice shop for a mango and red bean shaved ice.
CHANG CHUN TENG
DAY 8: After one last ditch attempt to locate Guo Xiang Yuan, I finally gave up and went to another veg buffet place near to the train station for lunch before I caught my train to Ruisui. For NT200 (approx $6) this buffet restaurant is all you can eat rather than the usual pay by weight, what’s better is that it also included drinks and dessert. You pay at the counter first and are then given a spoon and chopsticks. There didn’t appear to be any order in which way you should go around in the buffet section so be sure not to pile up your ridiculously small plate too high because all the elderly Chinese people that pack out this restaurant at lunchtime seem pretty hell bent on getting to every single dish before you at any cost.
There were all the usual type dishes you’d expect at a veg restaurant, there was also a big salad bar and lots of different types of dumplings and sauces to choose from. The dessert consisted of the regular tofu puddings with tapioca balls, herb jelly and a few different kinds of mocha and flavoured sticky rice. The food wasn’t amazing by any standards and was fairly bland but it was fresh relatively healthy and cheap so it’s still worth a visit if you’re in Hualien.
22 Fu an rd
Before my train I also bought some mocha from one of the many fresh mocha stalls located next to the station.
DAY 9: I’d wanted to stop in one of the small towns between Hualien and Taitung to explore the area and little more, however the accommodation in most places was way beyond my budget. Ruisui, a small hot spring town about 1 ½ hours south of Hualien was the only viable option so I booked a room at the oldest and cheapest place in town which was actually about 5km’s out of town in a tiny little backwater village called Hongye. The hotel was a Japanese tatami style that has apparently been in the same family since it opened 90 years ago and very little has changed since. I had planned on doing some cycling around the area but after discovering that the hotel didn’t have rental bikes (despite their website clearly stating they did) I learned that it would be a 5km walk in the hot sun to get into town to rent a bike so I decided to just have a lazy day and make the most out of the hot springs instead.
My bamboo mat room
The hot spring water was into pumped into some very tacky looking concrete pools with a fake natural rock finish out of a natural spring which flowed down the mountain just behind the hotel. There were 3 pools with varying temperatures, the hottest being about 48C. The water in this spring is apparently very high in iron oxide and sodium which gives the water a particularly unappealing rusty brown colour but at least it didn’t have that hideous sulphur smell like many other hot springs and it was very pleasant and relaxing once I was in the pool anyway.
I had a midday train to catch t Taitung and after a bit of internet research I discovered that there was a vegetarian restaurant in Ruisui close to the train station so set off into town with plenty of time to spare to find it and have lunch. It was pretty simple to find the address but when I got there I wasn’t too sure how accurate my info was as it just looked like someone’s lounge room with a freezer full of mock meats in it. The lady inside spotted me lingering on the door step and motioned for me to come in, after a few moments of confusion and failed attempts to speak Chinese, I managed to get the point across that I was hungry and didn’t eat egg. The lady then disappeared up stairs; there was no menu so I had absolutely no idea what to expect when she re-appeared 10 or so minutes later with a lunchbox and a bowl of soup. It turned out ok, it was just very simple, plain food with rice, some green veggies and a few different kinds of mock meat. The meal cost TWD65.
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2 Guoguang N rd (2 blocks from station then turn left), sign only in Chinese so look for the street number.
On the train ride to Taitung I was invited out to dinner with some randoms that I’d started chatting to (they were Taiwanese but now lived in Melbourne). So I went out with them to a non-vegetarian restaurant (I have no idea what it was called but it was near the beach somewhere). I left ordering up to them since I couldn’t read the menu. The food was nice enough but nothing exciting.
I was staying right next to the night market which is also nicknamed “Fruit street” due to the huge array of fruit stalls that lined the street on both sides for several blocks. There were also about 3 or 4 vegetarian restaurants within 100m which I was completely unaware of (all the signs were only in Chinese) until the very sweet girl at my hostel kindly offered to take me on a veg tour of the neighbourhood and pointed them out. Unfortunately I didn’t get a chance to go to any of them but they were all in the laneways off Fruit st near the Carrefour supermarket.
DAY 10: While there were quite a few vegan eating options in Taitung they all seemed to be fairly spread out and a bit challenging to find, mainly due to there being considerably less street signs in English than other cities in Taiwan. I’d managed to find Loving Hut pretty easily but for lunch I decided to go to another less generic more interesting sounding vegetarian restaurant called Denim Elephant.
On the walk there I passed a mocha shop that I’d been told was very famous amongst locals in Taitung so I dropped in and bought a few different ones for snacks on the train (I ended up eating them all on the way to Denim Elephant).
This very funky little vegetarian restaurant is attached to an art gallery in a quiet back alley, it is packed full of elephant statues, pictures and knickknacks, the seats were upholstered with used denim jeans. It had a pretty chilled vibe and an English menu, the friendly wait staff spoke a little English but when I asked what was egg free there was some confusion, but she miraculously was able to decipher my Chinese attempt at “I don’t eat egg” (“wo bu chi jidan”) and marked the things on the menu that were vegan. I ordered the fried noodles and an iced green tea.
Unfortunately the food didn’t match the vibe, or even come remotely close; it was probably the most disgusting meal of my Taiwan trip thus far. It was literally a bland plate of stodgy partially uncooked noodles with a few token bits of veg swimming in an oily pool of flavourless liquid. It cost NT170 which I thought was too expensive for such crap and simple food. It was back to 7/11 and then the fruit market to buy food to keep me going for the 2 ½ hour journey to Koahsiung.
181 Guangdong rd
By the time I arrived it was pouring with rain, thundering and starting to get dark, luckily I was staying right near an MRT station. I grabbed a map of the city to find where the closest restaurants were and found one about 3 blocks away. While I was in Hualien several day before I’d also asked someone to write out in Chinese “where is the closest vegetarian restaurant” so I also showed that to a few random people on the street who pointed on a map where there were others nearby so I knew I had about 4 to choose from with a 5 minute walk of where I was staying which was quite handy.
QIAN YE VEGETARIAN
This buffet was so awesome that I ended up eating here every day during my 3 days in Kaohsiung, they had a huge range of fresh, tasty and mostly vegan dishes to choose from and it was half the price of all the other places. I piled up my plate on all 3 visits to this restaurant and prices ranged from NT95-115 which I thought was a total bargain considering the amount of food that I got and the quality.
plate no. 1
131 Dayi st on the corner of Sinle st
DAY 11: I rented a bike for the day and cycled around the city, up to the Lotus pond and then down along the river. Despite continuously putting on huge amounts of sunscreen throughout the day I still managed to get horribly sunburnt (and I’d only just recovered from my Hohaiyan sunburn, sigh).
LIN SHI JIE
During my bike ride I stumbled upon this street side eatery, there was a large picture menu so it was easy to order just by pointing. I’m not sure if it’s entirely vegan but when I queried (in Chinese) I was told that everything was egg free and meat free. My Chinese pronunciation of the word milk (“nai”) still need some work it seems so I couldn’t find out if anything contained dairy. I got a veggie curry for NT70, it was pretty tasty.
337-1 Huarong rd
For dinner it was back to Qian Ye (see above for picture).
DAY 12: I had planned a day trip to Meinong to cycle out to Yellow butterfly valley and take in some of the local Hakka culture of the area, I trip which I’d been looking forward to for a while, but I woke up feeling a little worse for wear from my sunburn. I had also realised that it was Monday (it took me a while to figure that one out) and the Hakka museum I wanted to go to in Meinong was closed on Mondays, so I ended up having an inside day and caught up on some washing and travel planning. I couldn’t really be bothered to venture too far in search of food so I ended up back at Qian Ye for round 3.
DAY 13: I was quite happy to be getting out of Kaohsiung, it was an alright city but didn’t really like the vibe that much and was starting to get a bit bored. It was just a half hour train trip to get to the much nicer and friendlier Tainan. After a few hours of wondering around the city centre I went to Guli’s natural vegetarian restaurant but it was closed. I then went to see the Confusionist temple where I found another veggie place across the road but decided to go to a vegetarian buffet restaurant near to where the Monday/Tuesday night market is held.
Long Spring vegetarian buffet
It turned out to be a pretty choice to come here instead and totally worth the 20 minute walk. This place was massive and had a huge range of dishes, with quite a lot of Japanese style stir fried vegetables and a good selection of vegan sushi rolls. My plate cost NT180 and was delicious.
Long Spring plat #2
201 section 1 Datong rd
DAY 14: The plan for the day was to rent a bike and explore the outer edges of Tainan and the historic old city of Anping. However, thanks to typhoon Matmo that plans got canned pretty quickly when I woke up to the sound of torrential wind and rain lashing the rooftop. Thankfully Tainan escaped the brunt of the storm which mostly hit around the Hualien area and by late morning it seemed to have cleared enough to venture outside. I decided to walk into town instead of going by bike, figuring that I could just get a bus if it started to rain again. It was very pleasant walking (for a little while at least), the rain had cooled things down considerably to a refreshing 29C. About 20 minutes into my walk it suddenly started to pour again and a rather strong wind came up. Just as I was attempting to get my raincoat, which turned out to not be anywhere near as waterproof as I’d hoped, out of my bag some random guy on a motorbike pulled up beside me and gave me his spare raincoat (Taiwanese are seriously the nicest people ever). The raincoat proved to be an invaluable item of clothing for the day as the wind and rain kept pelting down in sudden bursts throughout the day. I had hoped to go to Guli’s natural veg for lunch but when I got there I found that it was closed still (there is a slight possibility that I had the wrong address) along with just about all the other shops due to the typhoon. Wandering where to go for lunch I tossed up the idea of going to one of the places in Anping but figured that I probably wouldn’t make it there in time for lunch. By this point I was fairly close to Long Spring vegetarian buffet so ended up eating there again.
After lunch I walked all the way to Anping, it took around 2 and a bit hours because I kept having to stop and take shelter every time there was a torrential downpour or the wind came up. Eventually I made it to discover that just about everything aside from 7/11 and a few dessert places were closed and the streets were largely disserted so I just wandered around looking at all the old buildings etc for a while until I came to Yunhe st which I knew had a small street side vegan eatery on it.
PU YUAN SU SHI GUO WO
I found it pretty easily as there is a large green vegan sign out the front as well as lots of vegan stickers. It was however, all closed up but stopped briefly to look at the menu display board (it was all in Chinese), just then someone opened the roller door and came out. After asking the very lovely women (named Jessica) if they were going to be open for dinner she told me that they were closed for the day because of the typhoon but if I told her what time I wanted to eat she’d happily cook me something. I arranged to come back in a few hours and then set off on a bit more exploring. Everything I wanted to do/see in the area was closed including the Anping tree house and the Aboriginal cultural park but I did find a nice park with some quality play equipment during one of the brief dry periods of the day so that was good.
I went back to the vegan street stall at the specified time to find that Jessica had a 5 course meal ready and waiting for me (I really would have been happy with just one dish since I was still pretty full from lunch). I had some delicious dumplings, easily the nicest I’ve had in Taiwan thus far, she had also made some very tasty mushroom rice with veggies, soup, a fruit bowl with some chips and a cup of freshly made soymilk. If that wasn’t enough already she then brought out a bowl a freshly made herb jelly in a sauce made of sweetened black soy milk.
Everything tasted amazing and was so lovingly made. Jessica was really sweet and spoke excellent English so we chatted a bit. She told me a story about how she went backpacking in Europe about 20 years ago (long before it became the vegan wonderland it is now), and she nearly starved to because it was so hard to find food so now every time a vegan traveller shows up at her stall she always wants to make sure they’re well fed.
Dumplings and mushroom rice
After enjoying my awesome vegan dinner and refusing Jessica’s repeated attempts to laden me with yet more food I got up to pay and was shocked when she said it only came to NT50 (less to AU$2) for everything. I tried to convince her to charge me a more reasonable amount but she wouldn’t have a bar of it and said she just wanted to spread some good vegan traveller karma. If you’re visiting Tainan this place is definitely worth a visit, the food was so delicious and fresh and made with such love, not to mention the nice atmosphere and the pleasant view overlooking the water, and please say hello to Jessica for me.
24 Yunhe st, Anping
DAY 15: My original plan was to travel from Tainan to Chiayi and then onto to Alishan by bus for 1 day before going on to the small mountain village of Fenqihu where there were some hiking trails that sounded interesting before returning to Chiayi via the Alsihan forest train for a music festival. However, typhoon Matmo put these plans into jeopardy as much of the transport in the area had been suspended until further notice due to the weather and the national park around Alishan had also been closed off to visitors. In the morning I was due to leave Tainan, however I heard that the park was likely to reopen the next day so I decided to get a train to Chiayi anyway and figure out where to go from there. When I arrived I found out that the trains were still not operating but there were buses, the only hostel (and only affordable place to stay in Alishan) would not reopen until the following day. Since I was running out of time in Taiwan I couldn’t really spare a day waiting it out in Chiayi so I decided to head to Fenqihu first and then onto to Alishan from there, even though that meant having to get the much more nauseating and far less scenic bus in both directions and missing out on the famous Alishan forest mountain train (the train line currently only goes as far Fenqihu due to typhoon damage from several years ago, repairs on the Alsihan leg are still underway).
The visitor information desk at the train station were able to call ahead and book the hostel in Fenqihu for me so with 3 ½ hours to kill before my bus I wandered off in the directions of the closest vegetarian buffet restaurant which was only a few hundred metres from the train station.
GONGDING SU SHI
Tucked away under a large sign, I walked right passed it the first time. Probably one of the less impressive veg buffets of my Taiwan trip, it was more of a local budget joint. Despite it being bang on 12 midday they didn’t seem to have much food left, it also didn’t look particularly appetising but figuring it was possibly my last chance for a few days to have a decent meal I thought I should get something so I picked out some of the scraps that looked the least likely to give me food poisoning.
There were quite a few tofu dishes and hardly any mock meat which made a nice change, the dumplings were actually quite good, everything else was edible but that’s about it. It cost NT83
257 Ren’ai st (directly opposite train station)
After my meal I walked along the street for a little while and then headed back to the train station. I stopped and got a very delicious mango smoothie bubble tea (with no milk or sugar) from a small shop across the road from the restaurant. It was bloody huge and super tasty with lots of chunks of fresh mango and coconut, and it only cost NT65.
The bus ride to Fenqihu was certainly not boring, although the steep, narrow and nauseatingly winding road did make me regret eating beforehand, not to mention the erratic driving of the bus driver who didn’t quite seem to understand the concept of braking/slowing down before going around a sharp bend. He instead seemed to take great delight n going as fast as possible around every corner and seeing how many passengers would get thrown from one side of the bus to another. Within 30 minutes of driving we were already almost 1000m higher in altitude.
2 hours later I arrived in Fenqihu in one piece, and followed some random strangers from the bus who were also staying at the same place down the hill to the Catholic church which had the only affordable accommodation in town. I’m not usually one to go within sight of any kind of religious establishment but given the distinct lack of any other affordable options in town there wasn’t really much choice. The hostel is run by a very sweet, albeit rather nosy little old nun from Switzerland, they offer very basic and somewhat musty and weird loft dorm rooms to povo travellers like myself, and at NT300 a night it’s about a tenth of the price of any of the nice little b & b’s in the village.
After checking in to my 15 bed dorm room that I had entirely to myself (thankyou typhoon Matmo), I ventured out for a short stroll before it got dark. I found myself on the giant cypress boardwalk trail just a few minutes later. The path was extremely slippery due the large amount of moss covering the wooden planks and it was littered with lots of branches and fallen trees that came down during the typhoon the day before so it was quite slow going but very beautiful and peaceful. About an hour later I exited the trail and walked back up the steep hill to the Old st where there were a few shops. Market stalls and a 7/11. Most places were closed already so my only dinner option was 7/11. I bought a few packets of nuts to have as snacks for my hike the next morning and some cookies. I walked up the hill to a bench to eat some of them and was followed by a very sweet, sad and hungry stray dog so I ended up sharing a pack of Oreo cookies with him before returning to 7/11 to buy him some noodles for dinner because I felt so sorry for him.
DAY 16: The next morning I was up at 4:45am to hike the Fenqihu- Ruili historic trail which I had seen pictures of on the internet and thought looked rather spectacular. The trail is 7km’s each way and goes through some stunning giant bamboo forests to the peak of a mountain before going back down into a valley to the small town of Ruili. The track is only one way and there is no public transport between Ruili and Fenqihu so if you go there you then have to turn around and hike the 3 ½ hours back along the same path.
The plan was to hopefully make the return journey and then be back in Fenqihu by 12 midday to catch the last bus to Alishan, otherwise I would have to spend another night in Fenqihu. It was a beautiful clear morning, with lovely fresh cool mountain air and almost no humidity thanks to Fenqihu’s 1500m elevation so walking up the hill to the start of the trailhead was very pleasant. I found the track easily which was clearly marked (in English), the first hour was up some very steep and slippery moss covered stone steps. I had to go very slowly as the track had not yet been cleared after the typhoon and there were a lot of fallen trees that I had to duck under/climb over. After a while it finally levelled out a little to a dirt track as the scenery gradually changed from rainforest to bamboo forest. At one point there was an eerie mist flowing up the side of the mountain that got caught in the sunlight making the forest look like it was straight out of a fairy tale.
Fenqihu-Ruli historic trail
The trail was easy to follow as it was well signed the entire way telling you how far you’d gone and how much further there was to go. Eventually I made it to Ruili and sat down in a clearing on the side of the road to have a rest and some snacks. About 30 minutes later I was contemplating heading back when it started to rain fairly heavily. I wasn’t that keen on hiking all the way back to Fenqihu in the rain given how slippery the path was and it was also getting quite late and knew that if I hiked back I definitely wouldn’t make it back in time for the bus so I decided to hitchhike back instead. Although the trail is only 7km’s from Fenqihu to Ruili the road is 22km’s and there was very little traffic so I was really hoping I didn’t have to walk all the way back along the road in the increasingly heavy rain. Thankfully though after just a few hundred metres of walking a nice old man in a fruit and vegetable truck stopped to offer me a ride. I had no idea where he was going and vice a versa due to the language barrier but I eventually managed to find a map of the area written in Chinese in my bag and pointed to where I was going. He wasn’t going anywhere near there but kindly gave me a ride all the way back anyway, he even stopped a few times to let me take photos which was super nice of him. I made it back to Fenqihu by 11.30am so I had plenty of time to pick up my bags and also grab some take-away food for the bus ride to Alishan.
I didn’t know of any vegetarian places in Fenqihu since it was so small but I thought I would go and see if Fenqihu hotel had anything vegan as they are famous for their lunchbox meals which come served in a cute little take-away box made out of bamboo. No English was spoken so I attempted to tell them in my horrendous Chinese that I was vegetarian and didn’t eat egg, which the women thankfully understood and disappeared off into the kitchen. She came back a few minutes later with some food for me so I paid the NT100 and headed up the hill to the train station to wait for the bus.
Vegan lunchbox from Fenqihu hotel
My lunch was surprisingly delicious, it had a base of rice with various stir fried vegetables (I have no idea what the bright red stuff was but it was really tasty) and some kind of fake dead thing.
Fancy lake hotel is on the Old st directly below 7/11
I didn’t have any accommodation booked yet in Alishan as the Catholic hostel there was closed the previous day so hadn’t been able to call ahead (the only cheap accommodation in Alishan is also the same deal as in Fenqihu). When I eventually arrived I went to the visitor centre to get directions and was told that the hostel ws already fully booked but they knew of another place nearby that had cheap dorm rooms so they took me over there.
It was a crappy, musty and very run down looking hotel just off the main parking lots where all the shops are. It was a bit more expensive than the Catholic hostel (NT700) a night for the dorm room and was definitely way more disgusting but there wasn’t any other choice and by this time it was pouring with rain so I settled for a bed in a damp and musty dorm room which I ended up having all to myself. As soon as the rain let up a little I went out for a walk, the park is horrendously touristy during the day with busload after busload of elderly Chinese tourists but from 4pm onwards it is almost completely disserted and had a much nicer vibe. I finally found my way to the giant tree trail which was one of the main reasons I’d wanted to go to Alishan to see. It was still raining fairly steadily so the rain coat that the kind random guy on a motorbike in Tainan had given me came in handy once again. I walked past the 3rd generation tree which was pretty amazing and also the huge “sacred tree” to the board walked giant tree trail 1 that goes through a beautiful forest of giant red Cyrpress trees, many of which are around 2000 years old.
I finally arrived at the end of the track which opened up into a viewing area on the edge of the mountain and was greeted with an absolutely stunning sunset, so I hang around to watch that and then made my way back to the village to find somewhere to have dinner.
ALISHAN RESTAURANT OF FINE FOOD
Located around the corner from the main tourist drag near the train station, they had an English menu available and the staff happily pointed out which things were vegan once I explained what I wanted (or didn’t want).
I ordered the sizzling tofu with some rice, nothing fancy or amazing but it was fairly tasty and filling.
Around the corner from 7/11 going towards the train station
DAY 17: I woke up at 3.30am and stumbled out of the hotel and towards the already packed train station to purchase my ticket for the sunrise train which, as I kept getting told was a “must do” in Taiwan. The train took 20 minutes to reach the top of the mountain at an altitude of around 2600m. While 99% of people went straight for the horribly over crowded viewing platform directly in front of the station I decided to walk a few hundred metres further up the path to an area that had far superior views and very few other people.
The sunrise was quite stunning; as the light increased a sea of cloud completely enveloped the mountains below making it appear as if the top of the mountain where I was standing was floating above to clouds.
To get back down the mountain there are 2 options, the train which involved a long wait in line and then a chaotic fight with a whole bunch of elderly Chinese tourists who seemingly want nothing more than to elbow everyone out of their way and even knock others to the ground just so they can get a seat on a mere 20 minute train ride, or a nice leisurely 1 ½ hour stroll downhill on an almost disserted trail through some beautiful forests with stunning views across the countryside. I personally would recommend the latter.
3rd generation tree @ Alishan
I got back to my hotel at about 7.30am and noticed a lot of people going in and out of the basement carrying plates which I had assumed was just storage or something else equally as boring. I’d already had my usual banana and soy milk breakfast from 7/11 so wasn’t really hungry but curiosity got the better of me so I went downstairs to see if there was any worthwhile. As it turned out the was a considerable upside to staying in a hotel as opposed to a hostel, FREE BREAKFAST. There weren’t any labels on the food so I just asked someone if anything was vegetarian, to my surprise I discovered that everything was actually vegan by default. The breakfast buffet consisted of rice porridge, steamed bread, freshly made hot soy milk and a selection of stir-fried tofu and vegetable dishes. I grabbed a few different things for my 2 ½ hour bus ride back to Chiayi and then went back to my room to pack my bag.
While waiting for the bus I did a quick lap past all the tourist shops to have a look and couldn’t go past the mocha stall without getting some. I got a few different flavours of mini mocha on a stick; each mochi cost NT8 each and were all delicious.
Mochi on a stick
CHIAYI- WAKE UP FESTIVAL
I’d heard about a 3 day metal/punk music festival happening in Chiayi and luckily it happened to coincide with when I was passing through Chiayi. I’d originally planned to go to Taichung as well but I was running out of time so decided to give it a miss in favour of going to one day of Wake up fest. The hostels were all booked out and I couldn’t find anyone to couchsurf with at such short notice but at the last minute I found a place on airbnb. The owner only sent me the address and directions in Chinese and when I cut and paste them into google translate they made absolutely no sense whatsoever. So I arrived in Chiayi with only a faint idea of where I was actually going. I managed to find the right area easily enough but there were no street signs so I had trouble finding the correct street but some random guy on a motorbike stopped and asked if I needed help and then gave me a ride to the street I was looking for. Unfortunately though, I had the wrong street number for the place (FYI Google translate is shite), so I ended up walking all the way back to the station in the hope of finding internet so I could ask a person to translate my Chinese directions. I was almost all the way back at the station when some random guy wanting to practice his English asked if I needed help. He kindly let me check my emails on his phone so I could get the address and then he called up the place where I was staying to get directions (apparently they didn’t make any sense in Chinese either). The guy who owned the place where I was staying offered to come to the station to pick me up since it was so hot, which was awesome so I sat down and chatted to the random guy for a while until my lift arrived.
It was getting late and the festival had already started so I dumped my bags in my room and quickly headed back out again. The festival took place in the creative industries and cultural park just next to the train station so it was just a short walk. Wake up fest is quite a small more DIY type festival but it had a really cool chilled out vibe, quite unusual for a metal festival. There were 3 outdoor stages and one inside an air conditioned warehouse, there was also an alternative clothing market with lots of handmade fashion by local designers and the usual type of festival food stalls. Most of the bands were local Taiwan bands but there were also a few from other countries including South Korea, Japan, Hong Kong, China, Australia and UK.
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I was really surprised at the diversity of the crowd, although it was mostly 15-25yos, there were also quite a lot of families with young children and even a few 70+ yos who were rocking out including a sweet little old lady who was pushing her husband around in a wheelchair. I discovered a tonne of new favourite bands throughout the day, but my top picks were Solemn, an epic 7 piece metal band with one of the best female metal drummers that I have ever seen and 88balaz, a fun punky 3 piece. There was also a Korean black metal band called SEED who were pretty rad too. The festival was quite an interesting insight into Taiwanese culture, despite the majority of bands being on the heavier side which is usually a very male dominated scene in most countries, over half of the bands at Wake up fest however had at least one female band member and quite a few were all girl bands. The crowd also had a much higher percentage of women than you’d expect to find at most metal festivals in other places, and were almost even numbers. I was also quite surprised to see so many girls diving into the circle pits which was pretty awesome to see, girls in Taiwan are obviously way more into their metal and music in general than in other places.
Solemn- one of my new favourite bands @Wakeup fest
I was really impressed with all of the bands although Solemn were still my definite favourites, once again there were a high percentage of women there rocking out. The crowds in Taiwan are also considerably better than in Australia (no drunk bogan dickheads) which meant that I could quite easily get up the front and enjoy myself without having to worry about get pushed and shoved about by some egotistical wanker.
None of the food stalls at the festival were vegan friendly from what I could tell so I went back to that cheap veg buffet place (Gongbing) near the station to grab some food to go, as well as another mango bubble tea from the shop across the road before heading back to the fest to eat it.
Wake up fest was probably my favourite music festival of the 2 that I went to as it had a much cooler vibe and was more alternative and DIY than Ho Hai Yan, I was way more into the line-up too. Of all the bands I saw only one was kind of crap (the UK one) all the local bands were awesome and I was really impressed with the quality and ingenuity of the alternative music scene in Taiwan which seems to be very much alive and well.
TONG DE SU SHI
DAY 18: I had a ticket already for the 12:20pm train back to Taipei which took 3 ½ hours. After checking out I walked about 15 minutes up the road to a small, more local budget vegetarian buffet to get some food for the train ride. This buffet was pretty much indistinguishable from most other buffets in that price range, with all the usual types of dishes on offer. I piled up my cardboard take-out container and paid the NT83 then made my way back to the station stopping at one of the many breakfast places to buy a vegetarian steamed bun and some soy milk for breakfast. Sorry forgot to take photo.
419 section 1 Bo’ai rd
The train ride back to Taipei was quite pleasant (trains in Taiwan are considerably nicer than Australia’s), the journey seemed to go quite quickly and before I knew it I was back in Taipei main station. Although I was excited to be back in Taipei it also meant that I was near the end of my Taiwanese trip which was a shame.
Earlier that morning whilst trying to find out the names of all my new favourite bands in English (the info on set times at the festival was all in Chinese) I’d found out that one of my new favourite bands from Wak up fest (Solemn) was playing a show in Taipei that night at one of the most well-known live indie music venues in town called the Wall so I was keen to go and check them out again. Solemn were part of a 4 band line-up that consisted entirely of female fronted metal bands, 3 were from Taipei and the headliners Head phones president were from Japan.
DAY 19: After a bit of a sleep in I walked around the corner to a fruit shop to grab some fruit for breakfast when of course I came across a vegetarian buffet restaurant so a few hours later I headed back there for lunch. It was the standard mid-range buffet similar to Long Spring in Tainan, but they had a few less common dishes including steamed taro. My plate cost about NT170
Yummy vegan buffet lunch
286 Dalong st (sing only in Chinese)
After lunch I got the MRT to Da’an park as it was one area of the city that I hadn’t spent much time yet. I ended up having a bit of a knap in the shade before making full use of the awesome play equipment and monkey bars in the park’s play area which seemed to have an unusually high number of adults playing there (or maybe that’s just normal in Taiwan).
By chance, on one of my first days in Taipei several weeks earlier I’d heard about a tattoo studio in Taipei called Queen Tattoo Ink that only tattoos women. I really liked their work that I’d seen on their Facebook page which had lots of beautiful colour and shading. I’d been thinking about getting one of my tattoos turned into something else for a while but hadn’t really given it much in depth thought until I heard about this studio but thought they sounded like the perfect place to get my dodgy spur of the moment Thailand job fixed up. So that evening I went to their studios to discuss the design etc and made an appointment the following day to get it done. I didn’t really have any definite ideas about what I wanted so I just left it up to the artist to design something.
OOH CHA CHA VEGAN HEALTH BAR
DAY 20: Since I only had a couple of days left in Taiwan and realising just how many awesome veggie/vegan restaurants there were left on my list, I decided to skip the buffets for the day. Although I really liked most of the buffet restaurants I’d been to I was keen to try a few different cuisines so I went to Ooh Cha Cha an all vegan health food bar located right next to Guting MRT. I’d checked out their menu online a few days prior and it looked interesting, lots of quinoa and tempeh dishes and a variety of sandwiches and raw desserts. There were also lots of gluten free options, which were well labelled.
Tofu bahn mi sandwich and smootie
Banana swirl cheesecake @Ooh Cha Cha
I ordered the tofu bahn mi sandwich, a cacao, goji and banana smoothie and a slice of the banana swirl cheesecake for dessert. The sandwich was fairly tasty but nothing too exceptional, smoothie was really nice but I thought it was quite tiny for the price and the cheesecake was really tasty and not too sweet.
207 Nanchang rd (30 second walk from Guting MRT exit 2)
After lunch I went to the tattoo studio for my 2pm tattoo appointment. I’d left the design pretty up up to the artists as I wasn’t really sure of exactly what I wanted. When I arrived they showed me what they had drawn up which was a mostly turquoise and blue Chinese style phoenix with lots of tiny detail and shading on the feathers.
It turned out to be quite a marathon job, taking just over 5 hours to complete due to all the fine details so it was almost 8.30pm by the time I finally left in search of some dinner.
Before and after tattoo from Queentattoo Ink
SOUL R CAFÉ
Another of Taipei’s 100% vegan restaurants, it was only about a 15 minute walk away from the tattoo studio so I thought I might just make it before closing time at 9pm. They have a mostly western menu dominated by various kinds of burgers and pasta with a heavy use of mock meats. Personally pasta is the last thing I would ever consider eating when it’s 40 degrees with high humidity outside, especially in a place like Taiwan where there is an abundance of amazingly fresh and delicious fruit and vegetables on offer, but I guess it must be fairly popular since half of the menu at Soul R Café are pasta dishes. They do however have an excellent and very extensive dessert menu offering a variety of homemade vegan desserts including ice cream, waffles, brownies and crème brule.
It was just before 9pm when I finally arrived here to find that they had literally just closed, but the staff kindly offered to make something for me to takeaway. They only had a few things left so my choice was very limited. I eventually settled on the apple burger and the chocolate walnut waffles.
Impressive vegan dessert menu @Soul R Cafe
Mediocre apple burger @Soul R Cafe
Chocolate and walnut vegan waffles
The burger was quite literally just a bun with some lettuce, a slice of apple and some vegan mayo on it so not entirely sure why it took them over 30 minutes to make, the waffles however, were much better and some of the nicest waffles I’ve had. Soul R café is definitely a good place to go for desserts but I don’t think I’d bother going back for mains.
6 Alley 1, lane 217, section 3 Zhongxiao rd E
DAY 21: My last full day in Taipei had sadly arrived. I was up fairly early as I planned to go to Wulai which was the top of my long list of places that I still wanted to go. It was about a 30 minute train ride and then another 30 minutes on the bus. Wulai is a tranquil Aboriginal community with some of the most stunning hiking and scenery in the country. It is also really interesting from a cultural perspective as the traditional culture and the Atayal (the original inhabitants of the area) is still very much alive and well in the village despite it being a very popular tourist destination.
Wulai Old st
After a quick stroll through the old st I walk up the road to look at the waterfall. It was a very hot day and my leg was a little bit sore still from the previous days tattoo session so I wasn’t really up to do any of the more lengthy hikes in the area or visit the hot springs so I walked back to town and went to the Atayal Aboriginal culture museum. Despite it being quite small the museum was really interesting with lots of photos and miniature replicas of traditional houses and info on traditional foods etc. Unfortunately a large group of very unruly school children arrived there at about the same time and seemed to find me a much more interesting subject to stare at which made it slightly less enjoyable.
TAIYO POPO RESTAURANT
I was quite interested to sample some of the Aboriginal cuisine that Wulai is famous for, I had done a little research to see if there were any vegan friendly restaurants around town and I’d come across Taiyo Popo which was almost right next to the museum. They had an English menu so after checking what was “su”, I ordered the tossed betul nut flower salad with sesame oil dressing, a taro rice dumpling and some millet rice.
Everything was really good, the salad was very fresh and tasty and the dumpling had a delicious smoky flavour.
Tossed betul nut flower and sesame salad with millet rice
Taro rice cumpling @Taiya Popo
14 Wulai old st
There were many little street stalls scattered along the main st selling a variety of traditional snacks, many of which were vegan so I got a grilled rice cake stick with soy sauce and seaweed topping which was delicious and a box of one of my new favourite foods: candied wild yam which was also really yummy.
Grilled rice cake with soy sauce and sea weed
One of my fave Taiwanese food- candies wild yam
I ended up going back to buy two more rice sticks, this time I got one with brown sugar and black sesame topping and the other with matcha red beans. The former being the much nicer of the two as the red beans made the rice cake all soggy.
More rice cakes, top: brown sugar with black sesame, bottom: matcha red bean
After another hour of ambling around I was feeling quite tired and sunburnt so jumped on the bus back to Taipei.
DAY 22: I had been putting of packing for the last few days as I was in denial that I was leaving, but I really couldn’t put it off any longer since my flight was now just a few hours away. So I quickly rammed everything into my pack and then set out to get some takeout lunch to eat on the way to the airport. I had planned to go to Minder a vegetarian buffet restaurant chain as they had a branch in Taipei main station but then I discovered that the airport bus stopped just a few blocks away from where I was staying so it seemed more practical to just go to the veg buffet around the corner to get food instead.
Lunchbox from Chinese veg buffet
There is also a vegetarian /vegan restaurant in the airport serving mostly Korean and Taiwanese food. It’s located in Terminal 1 B1 foodcourt.
Vegan restaurant in International airport