Wednesday, September 25, 2013

Taipei, A Foodie City

Three days and four nights wasn't enough for me to eat all of Taipei's specialties. With my limited command of Chinese, I made people laugh a lot with my Vietnamese accent and half of the time they didn't understand me at all. But it was fun and I'm glad that I made the effort.
One thing I was wondering about before the trip was how I would be treated by my Asian neighbors. It's always a little bit awkward because in this region, people assume that I am from their country and are quite surprised when I can't communicate. I need not have worried because the people from Taipei are amongst the most friendly I've ever met in all my travels. I think I need come come back and spend at least two weeks to walk around for both sightseeing and eating as well as to see other parts of Taiwan. On this trip, I didn't spend much time visiting tourist areas at all except for the Longshan temple.
On the food front, however, I probably spent too much time! There are so many dishes to try and, because I'm Asian, the rice and noodle base never gets boring. Some Chinese Taipei dishes are a bit similar to Vietnamese dishes but I think it's more about BBQ and stir frying. It doesn't really matter which way the food is cooked as long as it tastes delicious. Perhaps my favorite dishes (from a long list!) were the squid noodles with thick broth and Asian basil or Guobao which is another version of steamed bun.
The weather wasn't that great but it didn't stop me wandering around to try Taipei moon cake and at the Astoria cafe, I had their famous Mazurka cake and coffee. At their retail outlet I also went a bit crazy, taking away a great Portuguese Pasta de Nata and a creme brûlée. I think one of the best things about sweets in Taipei is that they are not too sweet like they tend to be in Vietnam.

I need to send special thanks to Robyn and Dave for all of their great recommendations to eat and stay in Taipei. Their blogs continue to give me lots of good tips for my travels.

Monday, September 09, 2013


Yet another 3 hours local train trip but this one was less crowded compared to the short suburban one in Colombo. I sat with a Sri Lankan family who didn't mind letting me sit next to their daughter, the father talking a lot in his limited English combined with body language. We had fun conversations with lots of laughs. This train trip was full of interesting passengers, especially the ones selling food, who jumped on for a stop or two before getting off again. I bought quite a few snacks including shrimps, fried corn fritters and peanuts and chick peas with curry leaves from these sellers and they were very tasty.
After alighting from the train in Weligama, I travelled the short 6kn to Mirissa to our accommodation, the Sunset Guesthouse which is located right on the beach. The hotel rooms were very basic with a slight plumbing problem from time to time (pooh!) but they had a fantastic chef, super friendly staff and very cold beer. There's nothing quite like enjoying a beer on the beach on holiday. Sometimes I had two!
I walked along the beach in the late afternoon to try to find something to eat. There were quite a few restaurants and bars on the beach but nothing compared to the food at the hotel, even though the environment at the other places was nicer. This is often part of the experience of travelling, I find. Dinner was fabulous from the hotel restaurant which cost $6 for 6 different curries and they were all really tasty. The chef told me that the curries are freshly cooked to order and I think that's the best and what makes it different from other places in Mirissa.
The range of curries, especially the vegetable ones, was incredible. Over our five night stay, even though we were often having the veg curry option, we tasted so many different curries, including okra, snake beans, eggplant and pumpkin. While I wasn't eating and drinking, I was walking the beach and watching the sunset. It's indeed a very nice beach, and reminded me a bit of Phu Quoc beach or Doc Lech beach in Vietnam. Mirissa is a great place to just chill for a week or so. I will definitely be going back!