Returned from Singapore this morning after a painful 18 hours or so of travel, long time readers (if I even have any) may know that this is the third time I’ve been, and so not going to bother doing traditional holiday blog posts, however i’ll probably upload some pictures.
I guess i consider myself somewhat of a seasoned veteran of Singapore now, and so, for anyone interested to go, here are some tips and tricks, as well as must sees/do’s during your stay on the island.
Must do list
In no particular order, attractions you definitely have to see are..
There are of course tons of other attractions, but the ones listed below are the must do’s imo.
Gardens by the bay
The conservatories in particular are $20 SGD and air conditioned inside, I’ve been at least twice and it’s still breathtaking inside, well worth the entry price, flower dome is more traditional (and runs some limited time exhibitions) and cloud forest is just stunning.
The rest of the park is mostly free, and also stunning, the supertrees are unreal up close. Check the website as they frequently run events in the park. The marina bay sands mall food court nearby is your best bet for lunch if you want to dine on the cheap.
Light and water shows
Do them all if possible, well worth your time.
– Gardens by the bay supertree show – 7:45pm and 8:45pm , runs 15 mins, free, plenty of viewing space but come a little early to find a good spot, there is a nearby grass bit which gets filled up early but I think being in the heart of it all is more fun.
– Marina Bay Sands show (Spectra) – 8pm and 9pm, runs 15 mins, free, loads of public seating, good spots will go early but easily viewable from far. There is a walkway in front of the seating area which you can use if you get desperate but you’ll probably get sprayed by the water.
– Sentosa Wings of Time – 7:40pm and 8:40pm, runs 20 mins, 15 Sentosa Tokens. Gates open 1 hour prior, free for all seating, aim for as front and center as possible.
– Changi Jewel rain vortex – Once per hour on the XX:30, from 7 to 11, runs 5 mins, free. You’ll be at the airport at some point, so watch it while you’re there.
– Suntec City Fountain of wealth
Not a full show, but a lovely free fountain at a shopping mall, go during the day to complete ritual for good luck, and/or go at night and take the stairs to street level to stare at the water/light patterns for a while. No specific show or music, but very pretty.
Eat at the hawker centers and try all of the signature dishes
Feel free to use this as a checklist, would advise trying the relevant dishes from the stalls listed later in this post:
– Hainanese Chicken Rice – $4-7 – Simple chicken and rice, but done to perfection
– Char Kway Teow – $3-6 – Wok fried flat noodles with veg/meat
– Laksa – $3-6 – Coconut based spicy curry noodles
– Kaya Toast – $1-5 – Crispy toast with sweet coconut jam and butter
– Congee – $2-5 – Breakfast rice porridge, try eating with You Tiao
– Ice Kacang – $2-5 – Shaved ice with various toppings
– Black pepper / Chilli Crab – Self explanatory, seems rare
– Nasi Lemak – $2-5 – Coconut rice, meat, chilli and various toppings
– Satay – $0.50-$1 per stick – BBQ meat on skewer, served with peanut dip
Sentosa market themselves as the island of fun, and it’s hard to disagree. Activities are unfortunately quite expensive and 2 days on the island can easily run you $150 per person, I’d recommend looking into the Sentosa Fun Pass, we did Universal and 80 tokens which is $140.
Here are some personal island highlights
– Adventure Cove – 35 tokens – Really fun few hours, plenty of slides, best lazy river i’ve been to, and includes snorkelling with fishes. Lockers are $10 you can just about cram 2 ppl’s worth of stuff in. Bring some slippers as the floor will grate your feet away quickly otherwise.
– SEA Aquarium – 35 tokens – Best Aquarium I’ve been to, and i’ve seen a few.
– Segway – 10-20 tokens – A fun way to use up any remaining tokens and great experience if you’ve never done it before.
– Universal Studios Singapore – Great fun, though a little small, you’ll still need almost whole day for it just because of the ride queues though. Battlestar Cyclon is a really good rollercoaster.
– Luge – $24-30 – Gravity based karts with multiple downhill tracks, really good fun. Use the chairlift to go back up and try a different course, they have 4.
All public transport can be done with the EZlink card, this includes to/from the airport ($2) , buses, all metro ($0.80-$2.30) , and the Sentosa express ($4). I’ve seen people using monzo cards to tap in/out but I think the EZlink card is safer personally. You can get it from stations.
Hotels – I recommend staying in Chinatown, the metro station has 2 of the most common lines, and it’s walking distance to both the Maxwell and Amoy hawker centers which will save you a bunch of money on breakfast/lunch. If you’re looking for a hotel I can vouch for the Bliss Hotel, but it can be quite expensive (though, that’s Singapore in general to be fair).
As an added bonus, there is a supermarket, Din Tai Fung (famous dumplings) and Daiso (Japanese actually good poundshop) in the nearby Chinatown point right by the MRT.
Money/Budget per day:
Hawkers and small businesses/cafes/food courts are often cash only.
Most restaurants and brick and mortar stores will take card, we used our monzo as often as possible and had no problems.
We exchanged $350 for 9 days and that was about right – no alcohol, but heavy food spend, and spend on souvineers.
– Hawker Centers $2 to $8 for food, you can easily get a good meal for $5 but some seafood dishes or premium dishes can be around $10. A typical noodle/rice and meat is usually $4/5/6 for S/M/Large respectively
– Drinks – $2 fruit juice in many hawker centers, $4 bubble tea at shops, special drinks max at around $7.
Alcohol seems very expensive, $10 for beer seems the common rate, even buying at a 7-Eleven isn’t much cheaper.
– Clothes – Can be cheap at bugis street market ($10-$30), relatively normal priced everywhere else
Not to sound like a little bitch but…
Vaguely plan for air-con during your sightseeing.
Singapore is hot and humid AF (lows of 28^C at night), malls are very common so be sure to make use of them every now and then to cool down – heat stroke is a very real thing, sit down and get a drink/snack every now and then to prevent yourself from literally burning out.
I would say carry water, but I hate warm water so just make sure you have some cash on you for vending machines etc. if you are out on a park or beach day.
Have some spare suitcase space for souvineers or things to bring back. It also sounds really stupid, but if you are from the UK i’d really recommend visiting a Daiso, it’s basically Japanese poundland, everything is $2 but jesus they have so much useful shit in there, it’s like a small supermarket and IKEA rolled in to one and you’ll be shocked at some of the products which just make a ton of sense but we don’t have easily available here.
Make a day of the airport
We had no idea, but the mall at Changi airport is absurd, I think you could genuinely spend a whole day at that airport – Waterfalls, nature walks, interactive exhibits (the sales rep claimed 90 mins), bars on the rooftop garden, extra exhibits/activities on the top floor, free food samples at some shops, a pokemon center, loads of dining…
We were there for maybe 2 or 3 hours and it went by so fast, not allotting more time to explore the airport is my biggest regret of the holiday.
We were lucky enough to try a fair few of the Michelin bib hawker stalls during our 2019 visit, and also got to try some other popular places… Here are my recommendations.
Tian Tian Chicken Rice
$5 – Maxwell food Center
The chicken was really tender and the skin delicious, rice flavourful, add some spice and it’s easy to see why theres frequently a queue here.
A Noodle Story
$8/11/14 – Amoy Food centre
Best meal we had in Singapore maybe? Big queue as soon as it opens so get there early. Spring noodles, Wontons, pork slice, perfect boiled egg, prawn wrapped in potato, oh yeah. Order extra prawns because they are incredible. The small size is enough for most people.
Hong Kee Beef Noodle
$5? – Amoy Food centre
Bit like a pho? Amazing beef broth with beef slices and noodles. Really friendly staff. one of the few places in this hawker centre open on a sunday so I recommend fitting them in for your sunday lunch.
J2 Famous curry puff
$1.50 per – Amoy food centre
Flakey pastries filled with curry potato or a black pepper saucy chicken, holy shit so good. Must try for sure.
Din Tai Fung
$30-50 per person – Chain store
Famous dumplings, you have to try the Xiao Long Bao at least once in your life. We ordered a few carbs but they were pretty mediocre tbh, so if on a budget i’d actually advise just sticking to the dim sum stuff and then maybe having second meal after if you’re still hungry.
$12~20 pp – Chain store
Didn’t expect this one to be so good tbh, gigantic plate of curry rice, big cutlet, good taste, good spice, good price point. Spice level of 2 was about right for me, I wouldnt dare go past 3 unless you’re a real spice lord.
Best Satay 7+8
$0.70 per stick – Lau Pa Sat / Satay street
There are like 8 different satay places next to each other, all harassing for your business – except 7+8, who already have all the business. Tasty, plenty of sauce, good char, if you order the prawns they are already deshelled which is nice.
328 Katong Laksa
$5 – East Singapore
Few different locations to try this one, you can find them all online.
The laksa here is really creamy and almost thick, they cut the noodles so you can just eat it with a spoon. I’m not sure if its worth the travel on its own as it was pretty far out, but if you’re in the area its definitely worth a visit.
$10-25 – Bugis+ shopping mall
We really enjoyed this place, we went in expecting a restaurant but its actually a small japanese themed food court almost, with a few different mini restaurants inside. The ramen at place right at the back was awesome, and the snow ice from the drinks/desserts counter was one of the best we’ve ever had.
Day 2 turned out to be absolutely mental, especially compared to the rest of our group. Once again we were among the first to awake, even though we woke up around 9am, nobody else was really stirring. Cath declined to go out with us for morning exploration so off we went to find breakfast. The first place we had on list turned out to be closed or out of business so we ended up at a place nearby called Cremat 11 for some amazing breakfast, I had a fluffy batch of pancakes with crispy bacon on the side, served with caramelized banana and berries, so lush.
We’d walk over to Ciutadella Park and barcelona’s version of the Arc de Triomf to meet the others, and had a nice walkaround in the sun with everyone. The fountain in the park was particularly impressive, especially with the pure blue skies as a backdrop.
The Gothic quarter was right next door and so seemed like an obvious next destination, a few of the group wanted to go to the Chocolate museum so we went inside there to have a look around. My expectations for the chocolate museum were super low, so i guess I was impressed by it all? there were lots of chocolate models and scenes, including drogon from GoT and some scenes from the smurfs, asterix, etc, it was almost like one of the comic book museums we went to in Brussels. We had a little snack/smoothie afterwards and saw the outside of the cathedral (couldn’t go in because of my slutty shoulders on show).
At this point (1:30pm ish) the others wanted to go back to the apartment and then go to the beach (again), this being our last full day we decided to split off and do some more sightseeing, each trip to and from the apartment was half an hour we didn’t feel like losing.
And so off we continued, on our own, we’d hit up the ‘Palau de la Música Catalana’, ‘Plaça de Catalunya’ and do some window shopping in some of the nearby shops to cool off (we came across some crazy hippie shop, pics below)
A few stops on the metro and a ride on Barcelona’s funicular later, we were riding up the cable car to Montjuic castle. The castle gardens and structure were interesting, with flower arrangements and old cannons still in place, but the views were really what you were paying for with that castle entrance fee – that and the breeze, being on top of the mountain the wind was super strong and actually just what you want after a hot day, we’d walk about and take in the views for an hour and a half or so before getting a cable car all to ourselves for the return journey back to the city.
Given that we arrived late on day 0 compared to everyone else (they already went to the beach on Day 0) we felt like we hadn’t seen much of it yet, so we took a bus down to check out the beachfront shops and walked out down the pier to chill on the marina, before eventually heading to the beach to meet up with the others, hoping to get dinner or similar.
We found them (or rather, Cath found us) still sunning away and playing in the water at 8pm or so, their plans were to go back to the apartment again to shower and freshen up before dinner, considering there are 7 of them – travelling for half an hour and then waiting for 7 people to get ready when there are only 2 showers? – Didn’t really feel like waiting around for 2 hours and so even though we just reunited, we split off again to continue our adventure.
Final location for the day and one of the highlights of our trip, the magic fountain situated around plaza espanya and near the museum. The fountain runs shows from 9:30 to 10:30 – we were surprised to see massive crowds already forming at 8:40 when we arrived, how big was this show going to be exactly?
Given that we hadn’t properly eaten since 10am or so, we were pretty hungry now and so went off to find dinner in the nearby converted bullring – now a shopping center, the inside was surprisingly modern and really nice looking, i wish we had more time to look around, but in a rush we just ended up grabbing some tapas in a restaurant on basement level (which was very average to be honest).
By the time dinner was finished and we got out, it was 9:50 or so and the sun had finally set, the main road towards the magic fountain had exploded into life, with lit fountains on both sides of the street, security staff and loads of people, with the big fountain at the back lit up in rotating colours in front of the museum. It was really impressive and felt surprisingly intimate and romantic despite how busy it was. We’d stick around for a while to watch before heading home, grabbing some churros and packing for our departure early next morning. Fully exhausted.
Day 0 – Arrival
My latest travel would take me to Barcelona for 2 and a bit days, departing from gatwick on the Thursday and leaving on the sunday morning.
Our outbound flight was delayed unfortunately – I have no kind words for Vueling airlines and would honestly advise others to avoid at all costs.
Despite leaving the house around 10am, we would only arrive at our Airbnb in Barcelona at around 6pm local time, this trip has been dubbed ‘Book Club on Tour’, there are approx 9 of us in this bookclub and we meet up maybe once a month or so to mostly eat and drink, on occasion we discuss a book though this is usually something we can actually read on the day – so it’s a very serious book club as you can tell.
The first night everyone was so tired from travelling that we decided to order in – which turned out to be a disaster on multiple levels as the deliveroo guy was given the wrong phone number, and then when it eventually did turn up, it was painfully overpriced and plain awful, a selection of tapas which – I think it could probably make better myself to be honest.
We got the short straw when it came to the airbnb as well, having arrived last we effectively got the bitch room, a small windowless room with no air-conditioning and some awful single beds, sleeping over the next 3 nights would be rough, and unsurprisingly, we would turn down multiple group plans of “lets go back to the apartment and rest in our rooms”.
Day 1 – Sagrada, Monumental, Park Guell and Beach
Cordelia and I were among the first to wake up on the Friday, Cath was also awake. Eager to get out and actually see some of Barcelona aside from the apartment, we set out to find some breakfast and do some early sightseeing, the other 6 could catch up later. Tripadvisor directed us to a nice little brunch spot not too far from our apartment, called Billy Brunch, small and cosy with friendly staff, we had some amazing eggs benedict, I thought i’d order some sausages as well to get some protein in and they gave us 5 for 2.5eur which was a nice surprise.
We’d hit up the famed Sagrada Familia cathedral next as it was nearby, still not set to be completed until 2032, the Sagrada is truly a baffling architectural piece – being under construction so long that it already has an old and new side despite the whole thing itself not being finished, you can really see the differences in construction and weathering, to the point where I wonder if it’ll have 3 distinct sides/ages by the time it’s done.
I think the most exciting bit of construction finally finishing is that people will be able to photograph it without the ugly cranes
The other 6 members of book club I believe were still in the apartment at this point I believe, so rather than going back we headed to the next nearby flag on our google maps which was ‘Monumental’
I wasn’t actually sure what Monumental even was when we approached, its name isn’t particularly descriptive and from the decor outside I actually thought it was a synagogue – upon further inspection though it was an old bull ring – still holds some shows apparently, but for the most part it is now a bullfighting museum and landmark. Tickets were fairly cheap and I’m really glad Cath initiated us actually going inside because it was pretty interesting and relatively empty inside, Cath gave us a little history on bullfights (unexpected bullfighting expert?) and we walked about and took some nice pictures, the sky was so very blue in contrast with the arena, i think it made for some nice shots.
We had tickets booked for Park Guell in the afternoon, so we headed there next, I had been before and as far as my memory serves nothing much had changed, unfortunately there was a fair bit of renovation work being done to patch up mosaics, but it was still nice.
We headed back to the abnb to freshen up a little before heading out to the beach for the remainder of the afternoon and stayed until early evening, had a nice walk around the beach and watched George dig his big hole.
Eventually we headed off down the beachfront to find some Paella – and find it we did! Tasty stuff! We had some churros afterwards at a place a few doors down from our apartment – open 24hours (thank god I don’t live nearby or I would be obese)
So, initially I actually wanted to try and use my phone to do a vlog or video overview of my holiday, but I don’t think I really took enough footage to do this, coupled with the fact I don’t actually have any gopros etc, didn’t shoot any of my meals, and apparently I don’t even have Sony Vegas on my computer.
So instead, have a quick summary, some pictures, and some travel tips
Oh, I want to add that this is the first holiday in literal years where i’ve not taken my Canon DSLR with me, all these pics were just shot on my new phone, is it super obvious? I didn’t touch them in post either, I know the phone does some weird filters and stuff also so some shots aren’t artistically mine!
Day 1 – Arrival, Airbnb, went for dinner and then went to sleep because I felt a bit ill
Day 2 – Walked around the park, saw Vajdahunyad Castle, did a loop around the outside of the spa, saw Heroes Square, home for a nap, Went out to catch the sunset over the danube, walked along the danube for a bit just taking in the sights, saw the Budapest eye, went to Caviar & Bull (£90 per person, most expensive meal of my life, #3 on tripadvisor)
Day 3 – Went over to the castle district, Fishermans Bastion (very cool), walked around trying to find some gardens before it started raining, went to Central Market to have a look around, was going to eat there but way too busy, went to a local hungarian place for Goulash, Went out to a huge ruin bar, there was a small food cart street nearby where we tried Langos (traditional hungarian snack) and some chimney cake
Day 4 – 6am Wakeup to go to the famous Budapest Spa (no pictures), went over to St Stephens Basilica, food at Meatology (#6 on tripadvisor) where I had an amazing pork belly burger, long walk across to the other side of budapest to see the church in a cave, dinner at a Thai place
Day 5 – Lazy morning, tasty BBQ beef sandwich at Smokey Monkeys BBQ (#11 on tripadvisor), went to the highly disappointing 3d museum (0/10 would not recommend) and then went over to see the parliament building before starting to make our way back home.
- Széchenyi Spa ‘Cabins’ are actually just a changing room that you can use to lock your stuff in, the lock seems pretty robust and so you’re probably safe, they say you need to have slippers but nobody called us out on it
- Cash is king for smaller businesses, but larger restaurants and chain stores do all take card – the rate on ,my revolut card was actually much better than the exchange rate when we tried swapping cash.
- Budapest is very walkable, but I do suggest grabbing some travel tickets, we used 10 in 5 days (each), the shuttle bus tickets are separate
- Budapest is pretty affordable as long as you don’t go fine dining, most nice meals with a drink will cost less than £10 per person, if you want to go really budget you can easily do £5 per person per meal. We saw beer as cheap as £2 for a litre.
- Whilst you can technically get lunch at Central Market, I’d recommend making a plan B as it was mental while we were there
Day 2 would have us head away from the city in search of the gigantic Atomium – the Atomium is probably the only actual attraction which I had seen before and was aware of that was in Brussels, however after taking the tram over, I was still unprepared for the sheer size of this thing. Pictures make it look big but honestly when you are travelling towards it, you can really see it tower in the distance, especially as that portion of Belgium lacks many tall buildings, making it look even more surreal.
We opted not to go inside, even though you can, there are some exhibits and such inside but the entry fee seemed a little steep for what we believed to be inside, similarly I’m not convinced that Belgium has a city skyline to die for and so the observation tower at the top probably wouldn’t have been worth it either (I suppose everywhere is small beans now anyway since visiting the Burj in Dubai).
We did however take a trip next door to Little Europe, basically a small representation of all of the major landmarks in Europe – however after journeying through the choice of what was and wasn’t present seemed a bit odd, for example, for the UK they had a P&O Ferry labelled ‘Pride of Dover’, yet didn’t fancy putting in Stonehenge, London Eye, Tower of London, or even Buckingham palace? I feel like I’ve seen a lot of Europe and yet still didn’t recognise half of the buildings on show. Still, it was an easy way to kill an hour or two and gave us some food for thought on future holidays.
We’d catch the metro back into the city and end up walking around for a bit looking for lunch, eventually ending up in a coffee shop for a bagel and drink.
Our next stop was the Comic Book Museum – Belgium is (apparently) famous for it’s comics, and has a large culture around them, with muiltiple museums and street murals dedicated to comics. The comic book museum was interesting but also a little alien to us as majority of the strips were in french – we did discover a love for Boerke however – a belgian comic which doesn’t have text and so perfect for foreigners like us. Here’s an example of the kind of tone majority of the strips are – https://meng.s-ul.eu/PiIjMOWN
We’d spend the remainder of the day walking around and just taking in the sights, by chance following a string of small christmas markets and signposts, we came across the main christmas market – we were actually kind of disappoiinted in how small the christmas market seemed to be – having only seen the one at Beurs around the museum, but it turns out that was just a small one, this second Christmas market went on for ages.
Eventual dinner at Mozart, which specialises in bottomless ribs, highly recommended, for 18eur you get eat as much as you like ribs coated in a sweet bbq sauce and accompanied by veg and jacket potato
We didn’t really know what to do on our final day in Brussels, we had already done all of the A-list attractions, and majority of the B-List attractions we were interested in.
We had to check out by 11am which was a bit of a pain as our train was at 7pm – for anyone else who runs into a similar situation, you can store luggage at Brussels Gare du Nord for 5eur all day.
Cordelia decided to take us to the MOOF Museum, or Museum of Original Figures – basically models and figures from comic books and some stuff from graphical novels and manga, it was short but interesting, I didn’t think it was worth the money personally however.
Belgian meatballs are apparently a thing? Or one restaurant wants to make it a thing at least, we had one for lunch – literally just one huge one in a small pan of sauce and accompanied by chips, it was pretty good to be fair, the sauce made from a cherry beer (though there were other options).
I’ll be honest not much else really happened for the rest of the day, we went to Poechenkelder on recommendation of a friend, which was a small quirky bar near the Mannekin Pis – who had a wardrobe change over night it seems. Cordelia got to try Kwak Beer which was recommended to her, and it came in a really weird glass which was almost like a round bottom flask – it needed its own wooden apparatus to prevent it from falling over. We had waffles, we saw the pissing dog, and walked around the Christmas market some more before eventually heading back to the station to go home.
We arrived later than expected on the monday, by the time we actually arrived in Brussels and caught the tram to our Airbnb, it was going into 7:30-8:00 in the evening, initially we were planning to drop our bags and then head back into the city for food and exploration but we were way too tired for that. Instead we ended up just chilling in the airbnb, and grabbing food from a local grill shop – to Cordelia’s surprise, she ordered a kebab sandwich thing and then shovelled a portion of chips into the roll as well, I grabbed a kebab meat platter thing with salad and chips, pretty unhealthy but tasted damn good.
The airbnb itself was well sized, though we think the host is leeching wifi from somewhere else, as the signal was atrocious, I was hardly able to connect and Cordelia couldn’t get wifi at all.
An early start for us, considering we went to bed at like 9pm with not much to do, we popped out to the local supermarket to stock up on drinks and get breakfast for the next few days, before heading out to the central Brussels.
The city was fully christmas’d up, with plenty of decorations and lights around the street and shopfronts, as expected all around central brussels were waffle shops, loaded waffles lining the window frame and topped with fruit, chocolate and cream. Chocolate shops were in equal abundance, we went into a few just to grab some samples – can confirm, pretty damn good chocolate.
We spent the majority of the first day doing all of the A-list Brussels attractions, hitting up Grand Place and taking in the views of the buildings lined with gold, the town hall, Notre Dame du Sablon and St Michael’s cathedral were all also equally grand and impressive though obviously only so much I can say about them.
We accidentally stumbled upon the mannekin Pis, which is (rather worryingly) Brussels main attraction? A statue of a small boy taking a piss, he was naked during our visit – for those unaware, Brussels has an unhealthy obsession with statues that piss – along with the Mannekin Pis, they have Jeanekke pis (a girl doing a squat piss) and one of a dog taking a piss on a pole as well.
We also spent a good hour or so in the Delirium Cafe, previously held a guiness record for most beer on offer in a bar, it has since lost it but still serves some 200 different drinks, including 3 types of ‘Delirium’ beer, all of which sit around the 8.5% to 9.5% range. The Bar we went to was only one of many, they are all kind of down an alley together, and I think all the bars have the same owner so it’s literally just a dead end alley filled with bars on both sides. The decor was pretty interesting, with ceiling filled by beer trays, even all of the lighting was provided by beer lamps.
Dinner at a small place called Baogo, which served burgers but on chinese bao buns, I had a pulled pork one with coleslaw and it was pretty damn good.
On the way back towards the station and christmas market we stumbled into a light show happening in Grand Place – music playing and the entire square lit up in a variety of colours, the size of the crowd was insanity. We’d wander around one of the Christmas markets (Beurs) for a bit before heading home, exhausted from a full day of walking around the city.
Day 8 – The designated shopping day
We had finished mostly everything on our extensive list, and so decided to dedicate the day to shopping and other smaller things we hadn’t had a chance to do yet. After a long lay-in, Ultimate Noodle (Ximen Branch) was our first major stop, we arrived just after it opened and after sitting and filling in our ballot card of ramen choices (neat little decisions like: how rich do you want the broth, how hard/soft do you like your noodles, how spicy, etc) had a lovely bowl of garlic, black sesame and squid ink ramen – the Jet Black ‘Kuroo’ bowl, it was really good, best ramen I’ve had in ages.
We didn’t even manage to get down one street before Cordelia bought a bag from a nearby shop, a Taiwanese brand ‘uma hana’ had been catching her eye all week and I guess ‘shopping day’ was all the go ahead she needed to get the purse out. I took the opportunity to drag her to a nearby arcade I saw previously though (Hyper gamer in Ximen) where I pumped a few credits into Drummania, da best game and sadly one we still don’t have access to in the UK.
We would poke through a few underground malls and such before eventually deciding to turn our efforts to the ‘Wufenpu shopping district’, known for it’s wholesale outlet shops, in my head I thought this was going to be like a wide strip of some brand outlet shops, this was not the case.
After exiting the MRT and walking around in the rain for a bit, we found the shopping district, which promptly lead into a deep web of narrow roads and alleys filled with clothes shops, some of it was covered whilst other parts had been patched with makeshift tarps overhead to make it so shoppers could go through without being affected by the rain, which was perfect for us. I lost count of how many stores we looked through, we both got headaches from flipping our heads around so much checking out all the styles. Prices ranged from dirt cheap 100 TWD (£2.5) to more normal high street prices, but we found plenty of good deals around the £5-8 per item mark which seemed to be the sweet spot between cost and quality.
After shopping, back to the apartment to nurse my headache, I think I may have had a nap in a familymart and on the train back as well, so probably a fair chance I was pretty tired as well.
In the late evening, we set out north towards Shilin, for what I believe to be the biggest night market in Taiwan – and if it isn’t, i’d hate to see one larger.
The market sprawled for entire blocks, with different intensities and niches, there was a clear food street but we also found ourselves venturing down an indoor area filled with carnival/festival games aimed at kids and adults alike, with games where you fish live prawns, and plenty of some sort of mahjong game which we didn’t understand, a bunch of airsoft places too, I was really tempted to try the bow and arrow one but decided against it.
The market was really fun, though busy and hot as usual, though that said, much more spacious than the Raohe market from the other night, Shilin market was much more relaxed by comparison. We did end up seeing some sort of japanese TV show being filmed, with a few female jap presenters, no idea who they were though.
On the food street, I found a black pepper bun stall, they were inbetween batches and so we had to wait and queue for what felt like 10-15 minutes, the bun is made by folding marinated pork into dough with a bunch of spring onions, and then they stick it to the side of a clay oven filled with burning charcoal, and then scrape them out when the buns are done. I was so hungry, I ended up buying 3 as I was scared they would sell out and I wouldn’t be able to buy another without queuing again (the queue was very long due to the slow cooking process). Totally worth the wait, crispy flaky shell, soft bread on the inside coupled with juicy meat and a surprising amount of juice.
We’d also end up pigging on torched beef cubes, sweet potato puff balls, mango smoothie, a mango jelly thing, and then on our way walking back we got enticed in by the liquid nitrogen shop – these guys were having great fun just spraying the liquid nitrogen vapour into the crowd, creating a lovely cool whiteout (which sounds rude and obnoxious on paper, but in 33^C heat? very welcome.), we bought some biscoff cookie ice cream and some of the nitrogen puff snacks, which were kind of like corn puffs (think hard wotsits) which were swimming in a small pool of liquid nitrogen, you shake off the excess and then bite into it and all the white vapour pours out of your mouth/nose, nice and cooling too (though I think Cordelia got a cold burn by not shaking it).
I think we grabbed some bubble tea and another mango shaved ice on the way back, to mark our last night in Taiwan, there was a weird japanese amateur idol group dance/rave going on in Ximen which was also pretty entertaining.
Day 9 –
We had to check out of the airbnb so unfortunately rushed out to Taipei Main in the morning to try and find a luggage locker, thankfully there are plenty there, and the lockers were pretty cheap too (about £5 for 9 hours storage for 2 large suitcases).
Lunch was a bit of a disappointment, a sushi place in one of the metro malls. From there it was on to the Miniatures museum of Taipei, an underground private museum filled with miniature houses and scenes, ranging from 1:12 scale to much smaller. Some of the exhibits were really impressive in scale and detail, I completely forgot to take my camera (locked it in the locker by accident without thinking) so only phone camera, which made things less fun. Still, hopefully you can appreciate some of the stuff from even the phone pictures.
I can’t really remember if we did anything afterwards, but the next thing I remember is going to the Guanghua electronics district – I was hoping to find a hard drive or maybe a new 140mm fan for the PC, but the amount of shops was a bit overwhelming. Many of the shops also didnt have clear pricing and I was too scared to try and ask. We did get to see tons of ridiculous gaming PC’s and monitors though, decked out in their RGB and water kits. We ventured into one of the older buildings which was filled with specialist shops, as a few examples, one shop had thousands of connectors and jacks, another specialized in walkie talkies, one had a huge microscope (i presume they did mobo or phone stuff?), data recovery experts, etc, it was kind of neat to see, though they didn’t seem to be doing too well in terms of business.
The last major stop was at the Shin Kong Mistukoshi department store near taipei main, where we had a little go through of the basement food levels for snacks and souvineers for the journey home (Cordelia bought loads of mango pocky) and we also had dinner in the basement food court (Ramen followed by a traditional almond tofu dessert for me).
The trip home was a painful one, taking almost 24 hours, an 8 hour flight to dubai, followed by 6 hour layover (delay) and then another 8 hours back to the London, a bus ride, etc. Absolutely exhausting and I didn’t get much sleep through it. Still, it could have been much worse, none of the plane journeys had children behind me etc so I guess there’s that.
That pretty much wraps up this holiday, thanks for reading! Now if you’ll excuse me, i’m going to sleep as i’ve got work in the morning :(