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Similar to Hong Kong, Tokyo, and Seoul, you can find all the Western brands in Taipei with crazy markups (in comparison with the US), so it’s best to stick to Asian brands. I hang out mostly in the Eastern side of Taipei so this is my point of view. Some places I mention are chains and have locations throughout the city. I shop mostly for beauty and housewares in Taipei and don’t go near the cutesy little things I used to find at the nightmarket that were since thrown out.

  • Tax Refund: With a foreign passport, you can apply for a sales tax refund if you spend over 3000 NTD (~$93) at an authorized retailer (details). Often the refund isn’t worth the trouble of remembering your passport.
  • Pay in local currency: All the places I mention are credit card friendly. If you’re not paying with an Amex or Discover and using Visa or Mastercard, you may be asked if you want to pay in USD or local currency. Always chose local currency and I hope you have a foreign fee free card. More reading: What is dynamic currency conversion, which card to use

Locations

The yellow road running East/West is Zhongxiao E Road. There are many boutiques, cafes, and restaurants in the alleys around this road. I’m using the MRT stations for reference but if you’re pressed for time, take a taxi.

  • Starting with the Zhongxiao Fuxing MRT Station, you can find Japanese department store, Sogo, at the SW and NE corners. The NE corner is the original Sogo and I like to browse/meet people there beyond the It’s a Small World clock. There is also a large Watsons next to it and more boutique shopping and eating in the alleys behind it. The SW corner is the high-end luxury Sogo — with a Din Tai Fung in the basement.
  • Walking East, you get to the Dunhua S Road intersection which has the Zhongxiao Dunhua MRT Station. Look two blocks SE and there is an office building with an Eslite bookstore at the lower and basement levels. This houses the 24/7 bookstore. I also like Eslite for their boutique/stationary — which isn’t 24/7 but still open pretty late. On either side of Zhongxiao E Rd east of Dunhua, you’ll find local Taiwanese department stores and lots of retail stores like Daiso, Zara, Uniqlo, etc. I normally come here for the Innisfree, a Korean skincare brand (more on this below). There is also a Mos burger and Cosmed in the alley.
  • If you go further east on Zhongxiao E Rd, you enter the new Xinyi district (Taipei City Hall MRT Station) which has Taipei 101 and many standalone department stores — Breeze, multiple Mitsukoshis, Uni-Hankyu (check out their food court – Tim Ho Wan, ramen, bakeries, etc.), 101 Mall, Bellavita, and ATT 4 Fun (Totoro). There are walkways that connect these buildings either under or overground, which is helpful if it’s raining outside.

On to the shopping.

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Looking West from the Shangri-la Far Eastern Hotel rooftop

Eating is a huge part of Asian culture. Taiwan is known for their “small eats” and Taipei does not disappoint. Asia in general is big on food trends and subject to influences from other countries and cultures. In fact, it’s hard to find a bad meal. It’s up to you how Taiwanese you want to eat. If you want to get deeper into Taiwanese cuisine, check out The Food of Taiwan by Cathy Erway. I personally don’t eat as much street food due to serious family meals, limited time and stomach space when I visit. I also have a list on Yelp that is disorganized and will stay that way!

Fruit. Tropical fruit here is amazing, especially in the steaming summer season. Taiwanese mangos are one of the few things that make up for having to visit Taipei in summer. To find good fruit, it is well worth a walk through a local wet market. (If you visit in the non-summer, mangos can still be found but it is nowhere as good and not as cheap.)

Taiwan mango, red dragonfruit, lychee

Din Tai Fung (鼎泰豐) is a Taiwanese chain that’s known for their soup dumplings. They boast many flavors of soup dumplings. I am also a fan of their veggie dumplings and fried rice. Pro-tip: the truffle dumpling (center) has to be eaten with a clean spoon. If you have a good server, he will proactively offer clean utensils. It’s best to go with a large group so you can try more dishes. If you’ve been to any DTF locations, you know to expect a wait. There is one location in Taipei as of October 2016 that takes reservations Mitsukoshi A4 (新光三越信義新天地A4館). Some people only like to go to the original location, but I am fine for what is subjectively considered subpar food with no wait time. Most of their locations are in shopping districts so the wait is not bad.

Breakfast is easily one of my favorite meals and a reason to wake up early. It is carb heavy though! My favorites are rice burritos (飯糰), variants of dough with scallion and whatever else you want to add (蔥抓餅/蛋餅), and these baked scallion buns (蔥酥餅). Be careful though! If you eat too much you won’t have room for the rest of the day! Coffee is relatively expensive (local chains are must cheaper than Starbucks) and hard to find non-cow milk or skim milk options. Read More

I was out of town last weekend and last week was exhausting. My saturday six series is more difficult to maintain than I expected… Better late than never, right?

Six things from the last two weeks

(1) Tata Harper master class at Cap Beauty. The event was PACKED. Once the crowds subsided, I got to ask Tata a bunch of questions and try many products. I will be blogging details in a separate post.

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Another Thanksgiving in Paris!


Bastille Day under the Eiffel, 2007.

I’ve always gotten Black Friday (the Friday after Thanksgiving) off. This year, I’m also getting the Wednesday off, so it got me thinking — I should go somewhere! But, it has to be relaxing and thinking about the trip can’t stress me out. As much as I would love to cross another city off my list, I need some R&R in a more familiar setting. Paris quickly came to mind as a bosom friend moved there not so long ago and I like visiting cities where I’ve knocked out most of the touristy sites so I can relax and enjoy the city. Not to mention, I miss quality time with my friend.

I’m not in the mood to spend beyond a crazy bargain fare for a flight. As luck would have it, I have a small hoard of airline miles across American Airlines, British Airways, Delta, and United/Continental. I typically don’t fly airlines that don’t accumulate miles on these airlines and will even pay a teensy bit more in order to accumulate miles on my target (currently United/Continental). Tip: make sure you check the classes of each leg against the airlines’ policy. Some airlines won’t credit you until you fly a certain, more expensive class.

I did a quick search online (too lazy to broaden my search) and American Airlines was the winner. 40,000 miles for a direct roundtrip. After details of the United/Continental merger sifted out, I am wondering if I should’ve focused on AA instead. Their awards have been the most useful. “Cheap” awards in general, great award availability calendar, one-way redemptions, and you can hold a reservation without booking. Not to mention I have a healthy flow of miles on a monthly basis, thanks to my current rent payment arrangement. Here were the losers:

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I will be posting about my recent or not so recent trips and relevant eating/shopping, including:

  • Spain (Barcelona, Sevilla, Cordoba, Granada); Paris quickie
  • Switzerland (Basel, Vals, Zurich, Lucerne)
  • Italy (Rome, Florence, Sorrento, Positano, Amalfi, Capri, Ischia, and my beloved Naples)
  • Tokyo
  • Hong Kong
  • Taipei
  • Last year’s big Europe trip (Copenhagen, Budapest, Vienna, Salzburg, Munich, and London)

Some of my travel companions have been bugging me for pics… don’t they know I’m backlogged for years? Maybe if I commit to pixels I will be more likely to follow through.