Raving About Taipei’s Riverside Part 2: Where to Go and What to Do


I’ve already said that the Riverside Park system is one of my favorite things about Taipei, but with a Riverside this extensive, it can be hard to decide which is the best portion to hit up if you only have a little bit of time. In this post, I’ll offer you 12 interesting suggestions of where to go and what to do along the Riverside.

Starting from the south end of the Riverside…

1. Taipei Zoo and the Maokong Gondola

Located at the southern terminus of the Taipei Riverside system in the Wenshan District, the Taipei Zoo and Maokong Gondola are two great areas to explore the mountains bordering the southern edge of Taipei. Of the two, the Maokong Gondola is the more famous tourist attraction, taking you on a 17-37 minute journey up into the mountains. The crystal cabins give you a magnificent view of the mountains as you pass over, with numerous temples and tea fields beneath you. Once you reach Maokong, you can access a variety of hiking trails and tea houses, all surrounded by gorgeous scenery.

The Taipei Zoo is a great destination for any family and hosts animals in a variety of areas, including the Formosan Animal Area, Children's Zoo, Asian Tropical Rainforests Area, Desert Animals Area, Australian Animal Area, African Animal Area, Temperate Zone Animal Area and Birds World. The pandas and penguins are especially fun to visit!

If you’re interested in biking the entirety of the Taipei Riverside, there’s also a bike rental station located here near the entrance to the Riverside!

Nearest MRT Station: Taipei Zoo Station (Brown Line 01)

View of Maokong Gondola Zoo Station

View of the Zoo entrance from the Riverside


2. Rock Climbing Wall

Are you a climbing fanatic? Just want to stretch your arms a bit? Well there’s a climbing wall along the Riverside just for you! Great for bouldering, this free public climbing fixture is great for anyone who wants to get a quick climb into their day.

Nearest MRT Station: Gongguan Station (Green Line 07)

Rock on.

3. Treasure Hill

Treasure Hill is an Artist’s Village located on a hillside overlooking the Xindian River. Making its home in a complex of illegally-constructed shanties that is now a municipal historic site, Treasure Hill exhibits a serene, introspective atmosphere that provides a quiet escape from the hustle and bustle of Taipei city life. Treasure Hill regularly hosts multiple artists in residence in its 14 studios as a way to “build a multinational network through associative participation”. Get coffee at one of several shops located on the hill, stroll through the alleys and visit art studios (but first make sure the sign outside says you can go in!), and overall just enjoy the beautiful atmosphere that Treasure Hill provides. Additionally, Treasure Hill is the home of Taipei media school, known for its educational programs focusing on music, the visual arts, and show production.

Visit their website here to learn more about their history and special events!

Nearest MRT Station: Gongguan Station (Green Line 07)

View of Treasure Hill from the Riverside

Treasure Hill Artist Village main plaza


4. Gongguan Waterfront Plaza

One of the best spots to grab food or drink along the Riverside, Gongguan Waterfront Plaza hosts several small shacks that provide a variety of food and drink options ranging from beer and pizza to cocktails and fried chicken. One of my favorite stands at Gongguan is the Poutinnerie, which offers the amazing combination of great French fries and affordable craft beers (100NTD for ~473mL).

In the mood for live music? Pipe Live Music is also located in the Plaza and is a regular site for live music shows, ranging across genres such as heavy metal, EDM, and hip-hop. Check out their website here (in Chinese only).

Additionally, if you leave the Waterfront Plaza and walk down the street, you’ll quickly come across other unique Taipei attractions such as the Taipei Water Park and Museum of Drinking Water, the Gongguan Night Market, and the beautiful National Taiwan University campus.

Nearest MRT Station: Gongguan Station (Green Line 07)

The Waterfront plaza may look boring during the day...

...but it quickly comes to life at night!

Pipe Live Music venue entrance

5. Huajiang Wild Duck Nature Park

Are you an amateur ornithologist?  A general nature aficionado? Simply like bird watching? Come visit the Huajiang Wild Duck Nature Park where you can see an abundance of Taipei’s water birds. The most dominant bird in this area is the brown-headed Cattle Egret, but you’ll probably spot a glimpse of some other cool species such as herons, mallard ducks, and water rails.

Nearest MRT Station: Longshan Temple Station (Blue Line 10)

Signs along the Riverside path show you what types of ducks you can look for.

One of the Riverside's resident dog packs coexisting harmoniously with some of Taipei's native waterbirds


6. Dadaocheng Pier Plaza

The spot on this list located nearest to Homey Hostel, Dadaocheng Pier Plaza offers another great area to relax and find good food along the Riverfront. Whereas the Gongguan Waterfront Plaza is best to visit in the evening for drinks, Dadaocheng Pier Plaza feels more like a place you would go for an afternoon picnic. With a variety of food options available, from noodles to pizza, there’s something for everyone. Don’t worry you can still enjoy an alcoholic afternoon drink here by visiting one of several stalls that offer craft beer, champagne, and cocktails.

Nearest MRT Station (even though it’s easiest to just walk from Homey): Beimen Station (Green Line 13) or Daqiaotou Station (Orange Line 12)


Unlike most of Taipei's night markets, at Dadaocheng you can actually sit and enjoy your food!

Take a break from your bike ride and grab a bite to eat!


7. Old Taipei Children’s Park and Yuanshan

As you bike east under the Chengde Road Overpass, the view of an old Ferris wheel begins to come into view. The previous home of the Taipei Children’s Amusement Park (now located across the river in Shilin District), the lot currently houses several band ones theme rides, including the aforementioned Ferris wheel and a carousel. Trespassing on the lot is most likely prohibited, but the view of the old park provides a unique spectacle along the river.

The old amusement park used to be a part of the Yuanshan Park area, which is a still vibrant system of several parks on the northern edge of Taipei proper. On the weekend, the park plaza outside the MRT station is filled with a bustling farmers market, and all week long, Maji Square offers a variety of snack stalls that offer delicious goodies from around the world, including tapas, tacos, and ramen. When you visit, there’s plenty of green space to explore, and if you wander over to the neighboring Xinsheng Park, you can even find a garden maze to lose yourself in and a botanical conservatory that allows you to surround yourself with beautiful plants while staying indoors.

Nearest MRT Station: Yuanshan Station (Red Line 14)

This abandoned ferris wheel provides a simultaneously eerie and beautiful picture.

Take a few minutes to lose yourself in this free garden maze

See a variety of exotic plants inside the Taipei Collective Botanical Garden

8. Splash Park and Sandbox at Dajia Park

Fun for kids of all ages, Dajia Park hosts a large splash park and sandbox area that your kids (or maybe just you) can play in. Build a sand castle, escape the hot summer heat, and grab a snack at one of the food stalls located in between the two areas.

Nearest MRT Station: Dazhi Station (Brown 14)

Sand and sun, what could be more fun?

Splash Park Fun

9. Boat Docks and Dragon Boats

The Riverside hosts several boat docks that allow you to take watercraft on to the river (you may or may not need a permit though – I haven’t found much information on boating or kayaking in Taipei yet). During the Dragon Boat Festival, one of the spots you can view dragon boat races is at this spot located under Dazhi Bridge. If you’re in Taipei during May or June, be sure to check out this historic Chinese tradition and catch a dragon boat race!

Nearest MRT Station: Dazhi Station (Brown 14)

Dragon boats for days (actually only a few days, check this website first!)

10. Minigolf course

Can’t go on vacation without hitting the green? Go to Yingfeng Riverside Park to practice your putting on the Riverside’s very own miniature golf course. BYOBAC (Bring your own balls and clubs).

Nearest MRT Station: Dazhi Station (Brown 14)

What what in the putt?

11. Yingfeng Dog Park

Dogs are allowed all along the Riverside! In fact, there are more than a few packs of wild dogs who have made the Riverside their home (cared for and fed by the city, none of the dog packs are aggressive. However, they tend to keep to themselves, so it’s wise to exercise caution and avoid antagonizing them). However, if your dog can’t be trusted off its leash, but you want to let him or her run wild for a while, Yingfeng Dog Park is the perfect place to go. Consisting of two fenced in areas that have plenty of space and fun fixtures for your dog to run to, it’s the perfect place to give your dog some exercise and maybe make some other puppy friends along the way. Don’t have a dog? The dogs that come to the dog park are still super fun to watch!

Nearest MRT Station: Dazhi Station (Brown 14)

Plenty of space for your dog to run around!

There are even obstacle courses for your dogs to run along!
This dog pack may live in Jingmei and not Yingfeng, but they're still super cute!


12. Rainbow Park and Raohe Night Market

Rainbow Park is probably one of my favorite parks along the riverside simply because the multiple different-colored bridges provide a beautiful backdrop as you relax along the river. After meandering along the Riverside, you should definitely enter back into the city and visit the nearby Raohe Night Market to enjoy some delicious Taiwanese snacks next to the beautifully ornate Songshan Ciyou Temple.

Nearest MRT Station: Songshan Station (Green 19)

Rainbow Park Bridges

Raohe Night Market Entrance Gate


Any of the above places seem interesting? Here’s a map showing the locations!



Honestly though, no matter which part you go to, you should visit the Riverside.

Don’t think these are the only spots along the Riverside worth visiting. On any given day you can also find people flying kites, running, practicing instruments, and just generally living their best lives. Even in the places that don’t necessarily have any “special attractions”, there’s still a ton of gorgeous scenery and greenery to immerse yourself in and escape the city for a little while.

Stay tuned for next week’s post, in which I address one of the greatest (or at least one of my greatest) challenges of traveling/going on vacation: getting your workout in.

Until next time,
Your favorite Homey LTR, Angie

鼎王麻辣鍋 Ding Wang Mala Hotpot, Taipei

My friend Selena, who recommended and booked for us recommended Ding Wang Spicy Hotpot (鼎旺麻辣鍋)She said it looks fancy, famous, good, affordable and quiet for us to enjoy proper hotpot dinner. So I decided to go there together with my local Taiwanese friend, Oliver. 
There are actually two Ding Wang's! Ding Wang, with the name in Romanized letters instead of the Chinese name in characters. So I unwittingly googled "Ding Wang" and found a Ding Wang Spicy Hotpot (鼎旺麻辣鍋) with 2 locations and an official FB page.

Then a short while later, trying to confirm their location I googled "Ding Wang" again, this time coming upon a second Ding Wang Spicy Hotpot (鼎王麻辣鍋) with 4 locations and an entirely different official FB page. See the difference in the characters there: 鼎 versus 鼎, both romanized as and pronounced Ding Wang, and both are on this Foursquare top 15 Best Hotpot places in Taipei


We went for the Yuan-Yang Guo (鴛鴦鍋), which consists of their traditional spicy broth that comes with duck's blood and tofu, and a non-spicy sourish broth that comes with pickled cabbage. Both soups were refillable but we loaded up on the mala soup big time and the servers kept throwing in more duck blood. 

Oh man, those chunks of blood couldn't be any fresher or delicious despite what you might think.  They were smooth and soft like tofu but the thin casing had a slight snap that made them playful to eat them.(That what Oliver thinks) He downed more duck blood throughout this meal than he ever had in my entire life. I'm not a big fan of it. Since for me it just another BLOODY food for me. 
We ordered a whole bunch of stuff to throw into the bubbling tripod cauldron. Among some of the more unique items were their uber crispy dough fritters (an awesome idea to weave into our reunion dinner), fish paste, beef tendons and all sorts of hugeass handmade meatballs.



 Best of all, you can even ask to pack up the remaining soup when you are done for the session and they would throw extra tofu and duck's blood (!!!) if you wish for more (the blood fairy is in da house, yo). But i'm not do it as we too full for it. 


It goes without saying that the service at Ding Wang was impeccable. Each time a server attends to you, she would make it a point to bow 90 degress - talk about being at our humble service!

So if you stay in Homey Hostel, i really recommended for you guys to come here as this place is amazing. 




Raving About Taipei’s Riverside

Words cannot describe how in love I am with Taipei’s system of Riverside Parks.

In the past two months that I’ve been living in Taipei, the Riverside system has become my favorite part of the city – and where I try to spend as much of my time as possible. Every time I hit the Riverside, I discover something new, and I am thoroughly convinced it’s the best way to be outdoors without having to go too far away from Taipei.

Here are a few of the reasons why Taipei’s Riverside is one of the best parts of the city:

Beautiful Views

First and foremost, the Taipei Riverside system is a beautifully developed collection of 29 parks with a total area of 514 hectares in the greater Taipei and Keelung area. Each park has its own distinct characteristics, from the series of love-inspired sculptures and flower beds at Guting Riverside Park to the wetlands that border Longshan Riverside Park to the iconic multicolored bridges that dominate the scenery at Rainbow Riverside Park, every kilometer brings with it a new atmosphere and a new way to appreciate the river.

Guting Riverside Park heart-shaped sculptures. Photo credit: Taiwan News.
View of Rainbow Park. Photo credit: Angie Korabik


Daonan Riverside Park. Photo credit: Angie Korabik

Sunset at Yanping Riverside Park. Photo Credit: Angie Korabik

Exercise!

The Taipei Riverside system hosts an impressive 112 kilometers of bike paths that weave along the Tamsui River, Keelung River, and Xindian Creek. These paths provide a convenient, beautiful location to get in a solid run or bike ride, but don’t worry – you don’t only have to focus on cardio. Every few kilometers you can build strength on public gym equipment that includes pull up bars, core-exercise platforms, etc.
Are you more of a team player than a solo exerciser? The Riverside is lined with a number of fields and courts for baseball, soccer, basketball, and tennis, and on any given weekend you can watch local teams compete against each other.
Open bike paths for miles. Photo credit: Angie Korabik

Take a quick break on your bike ride for a game of pick up? Photo credit: Angie Korabik

Riverside Gym Equipment. Photo credit: Angie Korabik


Good Food and Drink

Who doesn’t love some good food or drinks with a water front view?  The Riverside system hosts several areas that are a great place to grab a bite to eat or something to drink. Go to Gongguan Waterfront Plaza for cheap craft beer and great pizza, Dadaocheng Pier Plaza for champagne and noodles, or grab some coffee or traditional Taiwanese snacks at Dajia Riverside Park. Alternatively, bring your own food to the Riverside and have a picnic!

Dajia Riverside Park food vendors. Photo credit: Angie Korabik
Gongguan Waterfront Plaza. Photo credit: The Poutinerie & Snack Shack

Dadaocheng Wharf. Photo credit: Google Images

Ecological Refuge

While the Riverwalk System has a largely recreational function, it is also an ecological refuge for numerous species. Of Taipei’s four Nature Conservation Areas, two are located along the riverside bordering Taipei proper: Taipei City Waterbird Refuge (located along the top half of Xiandian creek, connecting to Tamsui River) and Huajiang Wild Duck Nature Park (located at the north end of Shuangyuan Riverside Park).   Both of these areas boast restored habitats and contain largely diverse populations of native flora and fauna. Additionally, Shezidao hosts wetlands for wetland conservation where you can birdwatch and learn about the local environment.

The Riverside system also acts as the host for numerous environmental education, public outreach programs, and cultural events, such as the annual Taipei Riverside Festival.

Between 2007 and 2016, the River Pollution Index (RPI) value for Taipei’s border rivers has been steadily been improving, and with the amount of attention the Taipei City Government gives to these areas, we can expect it to improve even further in the future!

Cattle Egret. Photo credit: Angie Korabik

Salamander. Photo credit: Angie Korabik 
Chengmei Left Bank Riverside Park. Photo credit: Angie Korabik


Packs of wild dogs often roam the riverside. Don't worry, they're relatively tame. Photo credit: Angie Korabik
Convenience!

But the best part about the Taipei Riverside? Homey Hostel is located only 1 km from Yanping Riverside Park!

How to get there:
By foot: Turn left when you exit Homey’s building, and walk along Chang’an West Road (長安西路) until you reach Tacheng Street (塔城街) and turn right. Walk north about 1 block, and turn left onto Nanjing West Road (南京西路) – Make sure you turn west, because Nanjing Road changes direction at this intersection. Walk for about 3 more blocks, and then pass through Yuquan Evacuation Gate玉泉疏散門 (淡四號疏散門)You’ve reached the Riverside Park! Enjoy it!

Map to walk to Yuquan Evacuation Gate. Photo credit: Google Maps

By bike: Turn left when you exit Homey’s building, and turn left again when you reach Taiyuan Road 太原路.  Ride south two blocks until you reach Zhengzhou Road 鄭州路 (the one with the huge over pass) and turn right. Ride for about 1km, and then pass through Yanping Evacuation Gate延平疏散門(淡三號疏散門)。You’ve reached the Riverside Park! Happy riding!

Map to bike to Yanping Evacuation Gate. Photo credit: Google Maps
Stay tuned for next week’s post, where I’ll tell you about the best spots to visit along the Riverside and what you can do there!

Your Favorite Homey LTR (Long Term Resident), Angie

Best Snack to Bring Back from Taiwan.

As any true traveler knows, the best souvenirs are of the eating variety. On my trip to Taipei, after indulging in high-end restaurants and rubbing shoulders with locals at night markets, I decided some Taiwanese treats needed to be at the top of my souvenir shopping list. If you’re similarly on the search for the best foodie mementos, here’s what to buy and where to buy it.

Everybody favorite 7-11
The ubiquitous presence of 7-11 convenience stores is remarkable, comparable to the presence of Starbucks in US cities. There are more than three or four shops on each block in Taipei, selling everything from fresh stuffed buns and tea eggs for breakfast, to metro cards and Muji merchandise and an unlimited number of snacks, flavoured noodles, and bottled iced coffee. First up on my foodie treasure hunt, I found Viva’s Almond Strips and Fish, a snack mix of, you guessed it, fish and almonds. The combination may sound bizarre but this protein-full blend is actually tasty. (It also comes in a sealed and affordable pack so it will easily find a home in your luggage.) I also picked up Pringles with basil and salt, melon bread (a soft roll with melon filling), and some other difficult-to-identify but colourful snack packs. Those delights all made it home to my pantry, but while I was there, I also enjoyed some in-the-moment tea eggs, warm stuffed buns, and black sesame soy milk.

SUPERMARKET 
Supermarkets are probably one of the best places for culinary shopping since you can find both local grocery items and imported goods. A stop by Carrefour, the international supermarket chain, was a good choice.  You can find mostly national brands of everything but also brands from around the world with more localised themes — think Lays chips with seaweed flavour. Once you start strolling the aisles, you’ll find plenty of foods you’d want to bring back if you only had additional luggage allowance: Chinese mahogany-flavoured soda crackers, apple-flavoured soda drinks, plenty of teas and, of course, amazing dried fruit. I scored a box with dried pickled kumquat. Also highly recommended: the spring onion pancake crackers, which transform a favourite local snack (spring onion pancakes) into a cracker. And the almond original flavour crispy pork paper, a Taiwanese delicacy that consists of a blend of pork and almonds in a crunchy paper-thin cracker.

Typical Taiwan Market
Taipei is famous for its night markets where you can find everything from tote bags to socks, touristy gifts, hats and, of course, street food. Night markets are good places to taste fresh food cheaply, like sticky tofu, fried chicken on a stick, pepper buns, and coffin bread (a soup-filled piece of deep-fried bread). I haven’t seen a lot of packaged foods but they do exist if you keep your eyes open for colourful candy boxes, sun cakes, and even pork jerky.

By day, Shi Dong Market is a fresh market and a favorite destination for local foodies. It’s a place that has it all, from pork slices to winter melons, freshly made noodles to tofu. It’s not an ideal place to buy items to bring back, since most of the goods for sale are perishable, but you can invest your Taiwanese dollars in some packaged dried mango that is locally produced, as well as unique vinegar and maybe even pickled iron eggs.

Din Tai Fung paraphernalia

Din Tai Fung is the quintessential Taiwanese dumplings restaurant now found in many cities around the world.  If you end up eating at the one in the Taipei 101 building, don’t miss the opportunity to buy mugs, pineapple cakes, and paraphernalia from this largely popular eatery

Dihua Street
Dihua Street is the old Chinese neighbourhood in the Taiwanese capital. A long street with candy stores that also sell dried fruit and local delicacies, it will probably remind you of any Chinatown you’ve seen anywhere. But don’t be fooled; some of the findings can be one-of-a-kind — like the medicinal candies with a strong licorice flavour. You may not like them at first, but I can reassure you, they will send your cough away!

Get your tea at Maokong or the Chun Shui Tang Cultural Tea House

Taiwan is famous for its varietes of oolong tea, with the top quality being Alishan High Mountain Tea. If you can’t visit the tea plantations throughout the country, then make a visit to Maokong, a scenic spot just on the outskirts of Taipei. Not only will you get to experience a 30-minute gondola ride to the top of the mountain, but you can also find locally grown tea. Grab a bite at a teahouse, taste some teas from the numerous tea sellers, and be sure to buy a box or two of tea leaves. For the record, oolong tea can be far pricier outside Asia, so if you are a tea aficionado, investing a bit of money for a nice cuppa is not such a bad idea.
Alternately, head to the Chun Shui Tang Cultural Tea House in Taichung. It’s reportedly the birthplace of boba tea, or bubble tea (that milky tea with tapioca pearls at the bottom). Of course, you won’t be able to pack any to bring back home, but you can take a class and learn how to make it yourself. What you will bring back is your boba tea diploma — proof of your newly acquired skills.
Taiwan Bakery
The signature dessert of Taiwan is the pineapple cake that’s found nearly everywhere in the country — from specialised pineapple cakes stores like Sunnyhills and Chia Te to top bakeries like Wu Pao Chun’s. (But you can also find them at the local supermarket if you can’t make it to a bake shop). Pineapple cakes make a great gift to bring back home as they are individually wrapped in cute packages and have a two-week shelf life. Go for the traditional and tart, purely made from pineapple jam, or the sweeter cakes that include a mix with winter melon. Also, the word ‘pineapple’ sounds like ‘prosperity’ in Chinese so there’s another incentive for bringing back a few.

Find non-food, but food-related, goods


Apart from actual food, you could also just bring home some non-edible but still food-related souvenirs. Yingge is a district known for high-quality ceramics, where potters produce tea sets for the locally cultivated teas. Don’t miss Yingge Old Street, a pedestrian street where you can find pottery, porcelain, and related items at all price points. Some of the artwork you’ll find may be difficult to transport, but if you can manage, a nice teapot may be worth packing effort. Or you could go smaller — I found some elegant wooden chopsticks, which are much easier to carry.
Lastly, the number-one souvenir in my shopping list is cookbooks. In Taipei, I visited the secondhand shop Whole Books, located not far from the Shida night market. After spending two hours looking at the cookbook collection, I decided to buy an ices and iced tea cookbook… in Chinese. With the help of a translator, one day I’ll be able to figure out some of the recipes and prepare my own ice desserts.