It’s exciting when someone visits us in Taiwan. Seeing Taiwan through someone’s eyes for the first time is rewarding, especially when it’s family. This is going to be a massive photo post because my sister Shauna was here with us for three short weeks and we covered a lot of ground while she was here. There are many amazing things to do in Taiwan.
In fact, we covered a few places listed in my article on 30 Authentic Taiwanese Experiences. Since my sister is a foodie, just like me, we decided to focus on a culinary journey for her. And since Taiwan is one of the best places in Asia to eat, I’d say that Shauna experienced a culinary experience beyond any other she has ever had.
Here is how things went down in Taiwan, through my sister’s eyes.
My sister would kill me if I posted the very first photo of her in Taiwan when she arrived at 5am, so after she got cleaned up, I showed her around our building and showed her the earthquake struts in our building.
Luckily, she didn’t experience any earthquakes while she was here, but she was here for three typhoons! This is officially her first photo in Taiwan since I can’t use the early morning photo.
That day, I showed her how to use the YouBike system in Taipei. I don’t bike much, but we took a short ride up to Xinpu Station and we walked around the Banciao Flower Market. We walked back to my apartment complex so I could show her around my neighborhood.
The next night, we had Shauna’s welcome dinner to Taiwan at Tamin’s Place in Dazhir. Tamin and his wife Rachel are good friends of ours. He is an amazing chef, and he has a fantastic restaurant that we eat at quite often. It’s a gathering place for our Taiwan family.
Featured to the right, you’ll see some of Tamin’s famous Mentaiko mushrooms, but he has so many great dishes on his menu, it’s really hard to choose what to order, so we usually order everything. After dinner, we headed back to Rachel and Tamin’s rooftop patio for a few drinks before going home.
The next day, we had an appointment that isn’t worth mentioning in this post, but since we were so close to Ice Monster, I had to take her for Taiwanese ice cream. CNN rated Ice Monster is one of the top 10 dessert places in the world!
The ice cream sure cheered her up; as you can see, she had no trouble digging into her strawberry ice cream. I had mango. You can’t go to Ice Monster and not get mango ice. It’s THE place to go. Please remember she is jet-lagged here. (This photo is the best! I love that she hams things up for the camera as much as I do.)
The next place we visited is my favorite place in Taipei. Ximending is just 12 minutes from our home. It’s full of movie theaters, restaurants, cafes, bars, shopping stalls and malls. It is also home to Tianhou Temple, which is one of my favorite temples in Taipei.
Tianhou Temple was built in 1746, which makes it more than 270 years old! It is dedicated to Matsu, the “Heavenly Queen”, and it is an interesting blend of Taiwanese and Japanese religious icons. (Notice the two Japanese statues standing at the exit as you depart the temple on Chengdu Road.)
The entrance is also on Chengdu Road, but most people miss it completely because it is tucked away amongst tea shops, cafes, and clothing shops. Any time someone comes to visit, I always take them to this temple and they are amazed at how big it is once you enter. It is an oasis amongst the craziness of Ximending.
Please keep reading after you’ve scrolled through the photos of this gorgeous Taoist Temple.
That day, we also strolled around the Ximen Weekend Market and then we took a tour through the heart of Ximen. The look on Shauna’s face when we hit the crosswalk in the middle of Ximen is priceless. Keep scrolling. There’s lots more!
One of the only things Shauna wanted to do in Taiwan was to meet the tattoo artist that did my forearm tattoo. We planned to get tattoos together, but things didn’t quite work out. That said, we were lucky enough to drop by Kevin Tattoo’s second shop to find Adrian there and he had time right then and there.
Although she wasn’t planning to get a tattoo that day, we decided to accept what fate was telling us and we got things rolling at 4:30pm. We didn’t get home until almost 11pm! I’ve had three tattoos done in Taiwan, all by very different artists. Adrian is extremely quiet, but he is an artist through and through.
If you want to go to Kevin’s Tattoo in Ximen, I strongly suggest calling them. Ask to speak with Anna. She speaks fluent English and she can translate for you if needed. Adrian is the only tattoo artist I’ve seen that does free-hand drawing on you. He doesn’t use tattoo stencils. He hand draws tattoos on your skin with red and black ink.
My sister has seven tattoos and she says she’s never seen anything like it in Canada. Shauna wanted something very specific, and her tattoo holds a lot of significance, just as mine does. My tattoo represents my struggle with Ankylosing Spondylitis and Fibromyalgia. Her tattoo ties in with her line of work and as a symbol of remembrance.
Another thing I’d like to mention about this shop is that it is an outdoor tattoo shop. I avoided this shop for a long time because I’m a germaphobe, but Kevin Tattoo was the only shop that would do exactly what I wanted when I wanted it. There was no wait time and their tattoo artists are awesome.
If you’re squeamish about the idea of hundreds of people walking by and seeing you getting needled, or if you are against a tattoo shop that has animals in it, then this shop might not be right for you. They have several friendly dogs that have free reign of the entire shop and they have a 7-month old black kitten who greets most guests with a playful attack on the legs.
Right, so here we are back at my place in Banciao. We live in that tall building complex to the right in the photo below. On Shauna’s birthday, I took her to the roof of our apartment. It overlooks Dahan River, which is a 135-meter tidal river that eventually flows into the Xindian River.
It also sits on one of the longest river parks in Taipei. People do tai chi and other exercises in the park, they ride their bikes and go for long walks. Some people like to fish there, and the area behind my building is a very active Ultimate Frisbee area.
Unfortunately, we had a meeting the night of her birthday, but we rushed home to have some beer and cake with her. Sorry, I forgot to take a photo of the cake. We ate it pretty fast. Happy Birthday, Sis!
Here are a few views of the Dahan River and some views from the rooftop of our 38 floor building.
Looking out over Banciao.
Looking out over Banciao.
One day, we went to Yingge, which is famous throughout Taiwan for its pottery. It’s a pretty little town with lots to do. If you’re into arts, this is definitely a must-see for Taiwan. There are lots of pottery stores, a pottery museum, and other local handcrafts to be found here. Being Taiwan, you can also expect LOTS of food anywhere you go and Yingge is no exception.
We munched away while digging through pottery, and we came home with some gorgeous treasures. I finally found a rock salt lamp and I found a gorgeous iron-cast teapot with dragonflies on it. My sister scored a stunning iron-cast window candle and a 24-karat rimmed vase. She has some wonderful keepsakes for her home now.
In the photo below, Shauna is standing in the entrance to an old pottery kiln. They fired the pottery in this tunnel. Today, you can walk through it, view the kilns, and come out into the back of a pottery shop where you can take a turn at working with clay or buy souvenirs.
After a great meal, we went to the Shangri-la Hotel, where we stopped to admire the gorgeous flower arrangement in the lobby before heading up to the Marco Polo Lounge on the 38th floor. The drinks here are a little expensive, but if you’re there on a clear night, there is no better place to be seated. The view is gorgeous! Too bad I was busy drinking and didn’t take a photo. You’ll have to go and see for yourself.
The next day, we had lunch at another one of my favorite restaurants in Taipei. It’s called NAKEDFood and let me tell you that you will not believe your eyes when you eat there.
Their mission is to share their passion for life-giving food. Everything that they serve is raw vegan in its natural state, and wow, would you be amazed at how this food looks and tastes.
Our party of seven had a blast because we were able to have a great lunch, celebrate Dean’s birthday, and spend our last afternoon together with Honi, who has lived in Taiwan for 10 years. She recently returned home to South Africa, so we had a giant surprise party for her at my friend Jenna’s place.
Our next day trip out was to Jiufen, which is still one of my favorite places in Taiwan, even thought it’s a tourist trap. It’s also one of the hardest places for me to navigate because it involves a lot of hiking and walking.
Nevertheless, the food and stunning views are worth the effort of climbing stairs. We wandered through the streets of Jiufen and tried all sorts of food. We were there just as the sun started to set, so we found a traditional tea house to have some cold iced tea while looking out over the water.
After a visit to Jiufen, even though we eat like pigs there – just like they do in the movie Spirited Away – we always drive through Keelung and stop at the Keelung Night Market.
It is one of the best night markets in Taiwan and you can get the freshest seafood on the island at this night market. It’s so famous, even Anthony Bourdain and Andrew Zimmern have eaten here. As you can see, Shauna was pretty happy about the food selection there.
Our final last excursion out together was to an event that I have been working on for the past eight weeks. The Canadian Chamber of Commerce in Taiwan (CCCT) hosted its 2nd Annual MacKay Charity Gala, and I serve on the MacKay Gala committee.
It was truly a wonderful way to show my sister that even though I haven’t lived in Canada for over 13 years, I am still very proud to be Canadian.
The CCCT worked directly with the Canadian Trade Office in Taiwan to help them celebrate their 30th anniversary in Taiwan during this event. We also raised money for the Children’s Ward at MacKay Memorial Hospital.
The hospital was established by a Canadian Presbyterian missionary from Oxford County, Canada, now known as Ontario. Dr. George Leslie MacKay came to Taiwan in the late 1800s. He was a massive influence to the people of Taiwan and he is well known for establishing schools, churches, hospitals, a dentistry practice for aboriginals and many other accomplishments.
It was an honor to spend the evening at this event with my sister. To top things off, my husband got us a suite at The Grand Hyatt Hotel that night, so we could prep and preen properly for the event. We had a fantastic night and we were all fast asleep by 1am.
The two days following the gala were typhoon days and we weren’t sure if Shauna was going to be able to leave on the day her flight was booked to return to Canada. It was delayed several times, but she finally got out just before midnight last Tuesday. It’s hard to believe she has been gone for a week. I still haven’t gotten used to her not being here!
Although it was horrible to say good-bye to her, I am grateful for the three amazing weeks together and the lifetime of memories we created. We haven’t had this kind of time together since university, so it was truly a wonderful way to spend time with my gorgeous sister.
Thank you for coming!