Xinyi Shopping District (信義區)

Saturday, 11 February 2017

After lunch at Din Tai Fung at Taipei 101, we stayed around the Xinyi District (信義區) to do some shopping and walking around. In this area, you will conveniently find located within walking distance to each other landmarks like Taipei 101 and Taipei City Hall, shopping centres like Shin Kong Mitsukoshi and ATT 4 FUN and the Xinyi branch of Eslite Bookstore.

With 11 floors of shopping and restaurants, we started off with ATT 4 FUN first because I wanted to visit Donguri Republic, a concept store selling many products and merchandise relating to Hayao Miyazaki's work. I'm not a huge fan of Studio Ghibli, but I do like a good handful of his works—like "Castle in the Sky", "Spirited Away" and "Howl's Moving Castle". Shirley picked a few items, but I didn't find anything I particularly wanted to buy because I thought I should get them in Japan instead.

Depending on when you visit the store, you can take photos with a huge Totoro (as I did below) and the Catbus. I originally wanted a photo with No-Face on the train (which I saw on Instagram), but we were a day late and they had changed it to the Catbus. I really like my photo with Totoro—though it would've been more fitting if I was holding a red umbrella. Heh.

Wanting to sit down somewhere, we then went to THE best bookstore I've ever been to: Eslite (誠品網路書店), also known as the largest retail bookstore chain in Taiwan with a total of 48 branches in the country. I mean, Kinokuniya is good, but Eslite is on a whole different level in terms of ambience and layout. It's comfortable, contemporary-looking and easy to navigate. I didn't get that heavy rush or discomfort after spending so much time in one place. Overall, it was just a really good shopping experience and we spent a good 2 and a half hours there that night.

Eslite not only offers a huge collection of books, they also sell bags, jewellery and stationery. If you're feeling a little peckish, there's a food court on one of the lower levels and cafés scattered all over the place. If you're feeling creative or inspired and have some time on your hands, you can even make your own music box (Wooderful Life) or visit an art exhibition.

The café we went to in Eslite was called LATTEA (綠蓋茶• 館) and we ordered a pearl milk tea and their famous green tea lattea (綠蓋茶), which is green tea covered with a salty cream cheese froth. I know it sounds weird from that description alone, and to be frank, I was totally gobsmacked when I took my first sip because I thought they gave me the wrong order! However, once you start mixing everything together, it tastes amazing. #mindblown You would have never expected such a combination and honestly, it was one of the best drinks I've ever had and I highly recommend it.

It was 7:30pm by the time we left Eslite, so it was time to grab some dinner. I didn't have anything planned to eat at Xinyi, so we just went to some random dumpling shop and stumbled upon Fat Zhou's Dumpings (周胖子餃子館), a very local yet homey restaurant selling beef noodles and of course, dumplings. I think we were the only tourists there that night!

We ordered: a bowl of beef soup noodles (牛肉湯麵), a hot and sour soup (酸辣湯), 5 vegetable dumplings (素水餃) and 5 pork dumplings (豬肉水餃). We only realised after our order came that "牛肉麵" is beef noodles with beef and "牛肉湯麵" is beef noodles without the beef. Maybe it's just how name things here, but we thought "牛肉麵" was referring to a dry type of noodles, whereas "牛肉湯麵" is with soup. We also got two little side dishes of tofu and melon.

Costing us NTD$250 for the whole meal, which is about AUD$11, it may not be the most glamorous meal, but it was definitely one of my most favourite and memorable meals during our two-week trip. It was hearty, humble and satisfying at the same time. I mean, when the food tastes good and comes with a cheap price tag, what's not to like? Other than the two side dishes which were quite average (like meh), I very much enjoyed everything else.

After dinner, we were originally looking for Tsujiri, a dessert store, but got lost for a bit and stumbled upon a beautiful light installation called "愛.Sharing" at the Uni-UStyle department store (統一時代百貨). It was actually raining when we were there, but that didn't stop people from taking photos of the huge Christmas tree or riding on the carousel. I wish we were this big on Christmas lights in Sydney because the space looked absolutely magical.

Turns out Tsujiri was located at a totally different building called Breeze Centre (微風廣場), but 愛.Sharing was a lovely find. Tsujiri is a tea house originating from Japan and is famous for their tea and green tea desserts.

We ordered the Shiratama (O-matcha) (白玉聖代-抹茶) and a plain hot green tea, O-matcha (御抹茶). When I had my first bite of the ice cream and sip of the tea, I was taken aback by how bitter they were—especially the tea—because with the green tea craze out there at the moment, even when people serve you just "tea" they tend to add a lot of sugar for you without you specifically asking for it. As for the ice cream, the texture of it was really smooth like a soft-serve and the level of sweetness was just right (very subtle). Thumbs up to Tsujiri for not going over board with sugar to the point that you can longer taste the "tea". I'm a little disappointed that we didn't go again, but there's always other branches around the world :) You can check out their menu of the Breeze branch here.

Finally, to end our night, we walked through the Strasbourg's Christmas Market at the Taipei 101 before heading back to our hotel. When I was reading about the Christmas Market back in Sydney, I was stoked that they were coincidentally having the market in Taipei because it's an event that is held in different cities each year. However, the whole event turned out to be a let down because you needed to buy tickets to buy anything at the market itself. Don't get me started at how long the line was, but I heard some people had to wait 3 hours for it! Luckily, the market was still open to the public who didn't have tickets for viewing/photo purposes—so that's what we basically did. In fact, after we had looked around the stalls, there wasn't anything that we wanted to buy so I'm glad we didn't waste our time lining up for tickets!

No. 12, Songshou Road, Xinyi District, Taipei
台北市 信義區 松壽路 12號

Eslite (誠品網路書店)
No. 11, Songgao Road, Xinyi District, Taipei
台北市 信義區 松高路 11號

Fat Zhou's Dumpings (周胖子餃子館)
No. 37, Section 5, Zhongxiao East Road, Xinyi District, Taipei
台北市 信義區 忠孝東路五段 37號

Uni-UStyle Department Store (統一時代百貨)
No. 8, Section 5, Zhongxiao East Road, Xinyi District, Taipei
台北市 信義區 忠孝東路五段 8號

Breeze Centre (微風廣場)
Level 4, No. 68, Section 5, Zhongxiao East Road, Xinyi District, Taipei
台北市 信義區 忠孝東路五段 68號 微風信義店 4F

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