Smoothie House

food, taipei, taiwan, 台灣, 台北

Of all the famous dessert and snack chains in Taiwan, Smoothie House may just hold the title for being the most famous. Smoothie House has locations all over Taiwan (and overseas), with the most popular stop at Yong Kang Street. There will always…ALWAYS be a huge line for Smoothie House, because it’s usually frequented by tourists so there really isn’t a way to beat the rush.

They specialize in shaved ice covered in fruit, and have a variety of options as to what fruits you want on your dessert (you may also customize your order). Click here to check out their Menu.

Advice: keep in mind which fruits are in season, because that will make it taste so much better.

I thought it was “okay,” but my friend seemed to enjoy it. As I mentioned in previous posts, the Big 3 shaved ice shops are Smoothie House, Ice Monster, and 臺一牛奶大王. Only Smoothie House and Ice Monster are chains. 臺一牛奶大王 only has one location next to National Taiwan University.

$$: don’t remember the exact range, but guessing it’s around (NTD 100- 300)

Hope you guys find this post helpful! Although not one of my favorite spots, Smoothie House is a must-try if you are visiting Taiwan and want to hit all the touristy places. Feel free to leave a comment if you have any questions, or if you have any thoughts!

 

 

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Guting Riverside Park

ntu, taipei landmarks, travel

If you are looking to take a calm, scenic stroll in the park, Guting Riverside Park (古亭河濱公園) is definitely one of the best parks in Taipei. Unlike Da An Park (大安公園), Guting Riverside Park is very long. There is even a bike trail that runs along the river all the way to Tamshui (淡水). Don’t worry if you don’t have a bicycle, you can rent a YouBike or rent a bicycle from the shop near 永福橋.

Along the trail, you won’t see as many trees as Da An Park; however, you will be able to see lots and lots of beautiful, vibrant flowers decoratively placed. I’ll post some pictures below for you to check out. They also have basketball courts, which get pretty crowded at night. As far as I know, the trail is very flat. There should be no problems for people who can’t overexert themselves. The park connects to the Taipei City’s Hakka Cultural Park (sort of), where you can stop by to learn about Hakka people. There’s also an old water pump you can play with. If you visit around Christmas time, Taipei City’s Hakka Cultural Park will be decorated with lights.

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Hope this post was helpful! Let me know if you stop by Guting Riverside Park!

Ice Monster

food

Ice Monster and Smoothie House are pretty similar, and are often compared with one another. I feel like Ice Monster is a little “classier” than Smoothie House in the way they present their shaved ice & shop decor. However, it really depends on your personal preference because both of these establishments are very popular. I would say the Big 3 shaved ice shops in the business are Ice Monster, Smoothie House, and 臺一牛奶大王. The latter being way different than Ice Monster and Smoothie House, but let’s focus on Ice Monster.

I’ve only tried Ice Monster once, so I can’t say too much about it. I haven’t tried any of their fruit shaved ice, but my friend liked one of the strawberry flavored ones. I ordered the Milk Tea shaved ice with boba. If you check out the picture below, you will see that their shaved ice is actually Taiwanese shaved ice. Instead of taking a block of ice and shaving it into snow, it looks like layers and the ice has a creamy consistency. Pretty much a cross between ice cream and shaved ice.

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No lie…I don’t really remember how the shaved ice tasted. I’ll take that as a sign that it wasn’t bad, but not good enough to remember. I do remember liking the boba/pearls though, but for the price I paid…I should’ve liked all of it.

Click here to check out their Menu.

$$: NTD80-280 (to eat-in there’s a minimum charge/ ~NTD110 per person?)

2 locations:

Original – No. 297, Section 4, Zhongxiao E Rd, 大安區, 台北市 Taiwan 106

Hours: 10:30AM – 11:30PM

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Near City Hall- No. 16 Songgao Rd, Xinyi District, Taipei City, Taiwan 110
Hours: Unknown
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臺一牛奶大王 🍧

food

臺一牛奶大王 (Tái yī niú nǎi dà wáng) is located across the street from National Taiwan University in the Gong Guan/ Daan District. It’s one of the most famous, traditional shaved ice shops, and very different from the ones you will find at Smoothie House or Ice Monster. Instead, 臺一牛奶大王’s shaved ice is much like Hawaiian Shaved ice where it’s literally just ice shavings. What sets 臺一牛奶大王 apart are their toppings. Depending on the season, 臺一牛奶大王’s fruits like mango and strawberry are very fresh (make sure it’s the right season)! The locals often flock to this establishment because it’s one of the very few dessert shops that cook their red beans (紅豆) to the perfect consistency.

My personal favorites are their 湯圓 (Tāng yuán), which are the soft, white chewy balls, and the boiled peanuts….now I’m craving it. Check out some of the pictures below!

*Feel free to customize your order by picking out your own toppings

Hours: 10AM – 12AM

$: NTD40-100+ (the more toppings you add the more expensive)

Address: No. 82號, Section 3, Xinsheng S Rd, Da’an District, Taipei City, Taiwan 106

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If you have a lot of free time, try to go during off-peak hours. Since the weather in Taiwan is pretty hot during the late Spring to mid-Fall seasons, a lot of people rush to eat shaved ice (that goes for Smoothie House and Ice Monster too).

Dinosaur Hot Pot Island

food

火龍島極品火鍋 (Dinosaur Hot Pot Island) is an AYCE (all you can eat) restaurant, and one of my favorites in Taiwan. I hated hot pot back in the US. I just thought it was tasteless and since I don’t like vegetables, it was basically a nightmare. For those of you who don’t know, hot pot is 70% vegetables.

I don’t know what it is about Taiwanese hot pot, but it’s like hot pot back at home on steroids. A lot of AYCE hot pot restaurants in Taipei have the “double/split” soup which is basically half spicy soup (the best) and half regular soup (you can pick). If you don’t know what I’m talking about, check out the pictures below!

Hours: 11:30AM – 1:30AM

$$$: NTD439 (lunch) & NTD499 (dinner&holidays)

Address: No. 34, Lane 107, Section 1, Fuxing S Rd, Da’an District, Taipei City, Taiwan 106

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If you need anymore reasons to visit this restaurant. There’s also all you can drink, and all you can eat fruit & dessert (including haagen dazs & movenpick ice cream)!

Next post: MORE FOOD

Very Thai Noodle

food

Very Thai Noodles only sells noodle soup, because that’s all they need. This place is SO GOOD. I have brought multiple friends (visiting from the states) to this restaurant, and they have all requested to go again. If you are dead set on eating Chinese food, then this probably isn’t the restaurant for you. However, if you are sick of Chinese food or just want some variety, then Very Thai Noodles should definitely be on your list.

$$: NTD180-250 *noodle soup only (set meal is an additional NTD80 or NTD120)

Multiple locations:

very thai locations

I ordered the 酸辣海路面 (Suān là hǎi lù miàn), which is their special. It has both seafood and pork. The soup is very tangy (sour), but not very spicy. The picture I posted below lacks some greens (cilantro), because I don’t like it. If you do, it comes with the meal. I’ll include the menu below so you can check out the other options.

酸辣海路面

酸辣海路面

very thai menu

very thai menu

If you guys end up visiting this restaurant please comment down below to let me know your experience! Hope this post was helpful. Next post: more food suggestions

Academic Year at National Taiwan University

ntu

Before I started my program in Taiwan, I wanted to find out as much information as I could before the program started. There were very little bloggers talking about Taiwan, which didn’t help much. So I hope this will be able to help those of you who are just beginning to embark on your journey to Taiwan!

After landing at Taoyuan International Airport at around 11PM, all I wanted to do was leave the airport as quickly as possible. I rushed to the immigration counter, to the baggage claim, and past customs. This was the 7th of June, and the program didn’t start until September, so I was staying at my aunt’s apartment. I spent the most of my summer taking summer classes at Tamkang University and traveling.

*If you are arriving in Taiwan close to the check-in date for the dorms, NTU offers an airport pick-up service you can sign up for.

Fast Foward ⏩August 30

Dorm Check-in:

When I first applied for this program, I chose to live on campus at the Shui Yuan Prince Dorms. It may be kind of confusing but it works like this:

A dorm: all women dormitory (all rooms are singles)

B dorm: all men dormitory (singles)

C dorm: co-ed dormitory (singles & doubles – girl/girl – guy/guy)

For a more detailed description of the rooms check out this website: Prince Dorms If you arrive earlier than the scheduled check-in date, just email the dormitory and they will probably let you move in earlier (if there are vacancies). I’m glad I moved in earlier because check-in day was crazy! The lobby as packed and everyone was trying to move in at the same time. Something to keep in mind when booking your flight to Taiwan.

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7-Eleven & Leeco Outlet

If you don’t know already…7-Elevens in Taiwan are not the same as 7-Elevens in the US. 7-Elevens in Taiwan are AMAZING…and the best part is there’s one right next to the dorm. If you show them your NTU student ID you will get 10% off your purchase (except on certain items/services & only at the 7-Eleven next to the dorm and on campus). You can also withdraw money from the ATM, buy train/concert/anything tickets from the ibon kiosk, and use the printer/copier.

Important things to know:

– Post Office: closest one is in Gong Guan MRT Station, you will go here to pay the dorm rent (if you don’t have a bank) *side note: you can also mail packages at 7-Eleven, but only to other 7-Elevens in Taiwan.

– Bikes: so, NTU’s campus is pretty big and most students get around by bikes. If you are going to buy a bike, you should get a secondhand bicycle (because people will steal your new bike). Shui Yuan occasionally holds secondhand bike auctions, but you will have to start lining up at 4AM-5AM to get a number. I had a bike during first semester, but got into an accident so…that was the end of that. It’s good exercise either way! Probably a 20-30 minute walk from the Shui Yuan dorms to the other side of campus (which is where ICLP is).

– Orientation (3 parts):

NTU orientation: this is the orientation for all of the international students at NTU. You will need to attend this orientation to get all the important documents you will need to get your student ID & register for your ARC (alien registration certificate).

UC/CSU orientation: if you are on a exchange program through the UCEAP or CSUIP program, you will also need to attend this orientation…and IF you haven’t already, you will be meeting Margaret Wang at this orientation. Margaret is the advisor for the uc/csu exchange program. She is the sweetest person, I love her to death! She will become your best friend, and if you ever need anything she will be the first person you call! After you fill out the documents that you got from the NTU orientation, you will need to turn it in at the UC/CSU orientation to get your ID card.

ICLP orientation: final one I PROMISE! You’re probably thinking why there are so many orientations…cause that’s what I thought. If you are from the CSUIP program, you probably chose between 3 options (Learn in English, Learn Chinese, Advanced). If you chose the Learn Chinese option you’d be taking classes in the ICLP program, an intensive Chinese program that adopted the “Stanford” way of teaching (more details below). Anyways there will be something like a week of orientation from ICLP (but I skipped most of them).

– Selecting Courses: one of the most confusing/stressful parts of studying at NTU is registering for classes. Here are some rules:

1. There is one registration time for all the students at NTU, so be prepared.

2. There’s only ONE section for most classes, with ONE time slot. If it doesn’t fit in your schedule…too bad 😦

3. If you need to take classes taught in English, there aren’t many options. The classes that they do have fill up quickly.

4. It’s NOT first come first serve. It’s by lottery. (the system will take your department into consideration).

*I can’t go through all the instructions here, so if you want more details you can download this document here: NTU Courses

My final advice for registering courses, is to select all of your classes and add them before the registration date. After that all you have to do is wait until your registration date, and then import your class list into the system. It goes a lot faster & smoother.

– ICLP: if you are taking classes at ICLP, then after orientation week is over, you will take a placement test and interview with ICLP teachers. They will assess which level of Chinese you should be put into. There is no way to study for the test, just answer what you know and leave the others blank (no point in cheating you will just make it harder for yourself later on). Each classroom is set up with a 1 to 4 ratio, as in 1 teacher for every 3-5 students. Small classrooms enforces discussion and participation. You also can’t speak any language other than Mandarin or Taiwanese (to provide the best [intensive] learning environment). For more information on ICLP visit their website.

Now that I’ve finished bombarding you with all the information/advice I could think of. I’ll tell you guys a little about my personal experience with this program. What I already knew going into this program, was that the year was going to go by really fast…too fast. At the beginning everyone thinks they have an entire year…but you have to know you only have a year. Don’t waste it because you’ll regret it.

NTU requires students to take a minimum of 15 units each semester. For UC students 1 NTU credit = 5 UC credits. CSU students 1 NTU credit = 1 CSU credit. How that works how I don’t know, but that’s what they told us at orientation. I’ve come to terms with the NTU course system. It has flaws, but nothing I can do about it. The teachers are okay, and the courses I took weren’t too bad. Except, I’ve heard from other students who took major courses at NTU and said the classes were really difficult.

I took most of my classes at ICLP. I had classes Monday – Friday, 9AM-12PM (you will either have classes 9AM-12PM or 1PM-4PM). Well, at least that’s how it was suppose to work out. I really enjoyed my classes first semester. My afternoons were pretty free, but I spent most of the time studying because ICLP gives crazy amounts of homework. Not sure what happened between first semester and second semester, but second semester was a disaster. ICLP let go 2 or 3 of their staff members, and 4 other teachers were pregnant! ICLP did not have enough money or teachers to offer every student the classes they wanted, so they just put as all into random classes, and even made up a new class for the NTU students (NTU and ICLP are not really affiliated). They had put me into a level 7 class (total of 8 levels), even though, I was only in level 5 the first semester. I had a difficult time keeping up with the other students. The ICLP advisor for NTU students tried to help me out, and eventually moved me into a level 5 class. However, this class was in the afternoon. Which meant I had class from 9AM-10AM, 11AM-12PM, and 3PM-4PM. No more complaining…even though second semester was rough, I still enjoyed my overall time at ICLP. If you are serious about learning Chinese, I would definitely suggest you go to ICLP. NTU also offers General Chinese courses, but you won’t learn a third of what you could at ICLP.

Finally…when your program is over, you will have to deregister. For UC/CSU students, Margaret will email you a de-registration link. Follow the link to a log-in page, then to a form. You will have to complete the form and fill out an optional survey (not sure if it is really optional). When you fill out the form, you will notice that there is a section that asks you to write a blog or exchange report. This is NOT optional. You have to do this within two months after your program is over, but you should do this early on because they won’t process your transcript until you do so. It doesn’t have to be long (a paragraph about your experience should suffice).

Actually, that is the reason why I started this blog. I always wanted to start the blog, for myself, to keep as a memory of my year in Taiwan. Procrastination hit..and well here we are. Hope this was helpful for you guys, and not too boring…

Next few posts: food suggestions!

Alishan 阿里山

travel

Alishan is one of the most beautiful places in Taiwan. With that said, it is a pain to get there. I’m not sure if there’s a bus that takes you straight there from Taipei, but even if there were it would take hours. The first time I went, my friend drove us to Chiayi (the closest city to Alishan), and from there we took a bus up the mountain. The second time I went, I took the high speed rail to Chiayi and transferred to a bus that took us up the mountain. Either way it will take you about 1½ hours to 2 hours to get to Chiayi, and another 2 hours to get to the Alishan National Scenic Area. The drive up the mountain has a lot of turns, so if you get carsick TAKE MEDICINE. The trip there was enough to make me never go again, except my friend (visiting from the US) really wanted me to take her there. So…I went again.

The Alishan National Scenic Area is really small. I read some blogs suggesting tourists stay there for a few days, but I don’t see why you would have to. There aren’t many hotels in the area, and most of them are really old. If you don’t mind your hotel conditions then you will be fine. Otherwise, there is really only one good hotel, and it’s expensive:

Alishan House (Modern House) / 阿里山賓館(新館)

Alishan House is split up into two parts: Modern House & Historical House. It was built about 100 years ago, but has since been remodeled. I stayed at the Modern House both times, because the first time I stayed I snuck over to the Historical House to take a look. Let me tell you…don’t stay at the Historical House. It is completely different than the Modern House. Again, if you don’t care about your hotel stay then the Historical House is a cheaper option.

Secret: You can book a room at the Historical House (much cheaper), and call the hotel to see if they can put you in the Modern House instead. This works, except you do run the risk of possibly staying in Historical House if there are no availabilities.

Another thing about Alishan House is that, in my opinion, the view from the hotel is better than the top of Alishan. Check out the slideshow below to see pictures from my stay:

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Buses to and from Alishan start and stop at inconvenient times. So if you want to see either the sunrise or sunset, you HAVE TO stay in Alishan overnight.

To get to the top of Alishan, you will wake up at 3:30AM to take a 4:10AM bus from your hotel to Alishan Train Station. From there, you will wait in line for about an hour to get on the Red Train (小火車), which will take you even further up the mountain (~25 min). Buy your train ticket from your hotel, the night before! If you don’t, you will most likely miss the train and miss the sunrise.

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My final suggestion: after you get off the train, many tourists will go straight to the viewing deck. You may join them, but you will be fighting many Chinese tourists to get a good view. Instead, turn right after you reach the top of the stairs. Keep going ALL THE WAY. It is a little bit of a hike, but totally worth it. Do this first, I promise you, you won’t regret it.

Next post: National Taiwan University

A few days ago, a friend told me that he ate at a restaurant near the university that had really good pizza. You can’t turn down good pizza, even if you’re lactose intolerant (such as myself). So yesterday, my other friend and I found ourselves looking for a place to eat dinner. Remembering our friend’s pizza restaurant, we set out to find it. After wandering around for a few minutes we found Kelly’s Pizza. Unsure if it was the right place, we decided to try it.

The first sign: the smell I smelled…was the first sign to leave. It wasn’t so terrible that it made me sick, but it wasn’t a good smell.

I didn’t bring my lactose pills, so I refrained from ordering pizza. After looking at the menu, I ordered spaghetti, to which the waiter asked me if I wanted a single order of it. Confused, I asked what other kind there was. He told me about their 2 different buffet style options:

NT$199: all you can eat pasta and pizza w/ bread

NT$259: all you can eat pasta, pizza, bread, salad, and fried chicken wings, chicken nuggets, fries, and fried onion rings

My friend thought the NT$199 deal was pretty good, so we both ordered that option. We couldn’t even get past the first round and we were already full, but not satisfied. For the pasta was bland, bread wasn’t good, pizza was literally bread with pizza toppings, and we didn’t even make a dent in the fried food. TRUST. There was a much older lady working the cash register who asked if we were full. She was so sweet I couldn’t tell her what I really thought of the food, but she didn’t ask what I thought. She just asked if I was full, to which I responded yes…very full (not a lie).

After we left the restaurant, my friend was craving 7-Eleven ice cream (yes, 7-Elevens here sell ice cream). I already had some pizza (without taking lactose pills), so I wasn’t sure if ice cream was the best option. Yet, I found myself with my friend at 7-Eleven.

Second mistake: My friend bought me milk ice cream (instead of vanilla they have milk).

The weather was kind of nice (a little hot), so my friend suggested we sit outside. All the tables were taken except one, for good reason:

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our wonderful table

As we sat in front of our decorated table eating ice cream, I began to feel my lactose intolerance kick in. I warned my friend, that I was finally feeling the effects…but she was lost in a “flashback” she was having. “Like the ones in the movies, but not as glamorous.”

At that point, the ice cream was melting at an incredible speed due to the heat. It was RAINING ice cream. I got it all over my hand, hair, and face. She started laughing about how “great” this date was going. I told her:

One day…someone is going to ask me what’s the worst date I’ve ever been on, and this might be it.

After we finished laughing about how ridiculous our friendship was…we rushed back to the dorms to take care of my situation. Isn’t it funny how a night full of so many bad decisions can still be so fun?

friends

Sun Moon Lake 日月潭

travel

Located in Nantou County, Sun Moon Lake boasts the title of the largest body of water in Taiwan. It’s breathtaking views across the lake attract many travelers from around the world, so Sun Moon Lake is definitely a stop to put down on your list.

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So you can’t swim in the lake…but there is an event, where thousands of swimmers gather to swim across the lake every year (around fall). One of the most memorable parts of my stay at Sun Moon Lake was the hilarious host on the boat who asked us:

Host: Do you know what kind of lake Sun Moon Lake is?

Tourist: Fresh water!

Host: Right! But there is one day when the water turns salty…

Yeah…I think you can guess why!!!

Some of the things that you should try at Sun Moon Lake:

  • Wake up early to see the sunrise! Trust! (and of course the sunset)
  • Grandma’s Tea Eggs (I couldn’t find it, but if you do try it!)
  • Biking around Sun Moon Lake (you can get some amazing pictures)
  • Taking the gondola to the Aboriginal Village (those views…)
  • Hike to Wenwu Temple (366 steep steps)

You will probably be staying at Sun Moon Lake overnight. Here are some hotel suggestions:

The Wen Wan Resort

google image: junior suite

google image: junior suite

google image: junior suite

google image: junior suite

The most famous & EXPENSIVE resort at Sun Moon Lake. The resort was first built for Japanese royalty and later became the vacation spot for President Chiang Kai Shek. The hotel had to be rebuilt after it was destroyed in an earthquake.

Hotel Del Lago

I stayed at Hotel Del Lago, which is a little on the expensive side (~NT$12,000 for 2 nights), but it included 2 dinners & breakfast, boat tickets, and coupons. I really enjoyed my stay at Hotel Del Lago:

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Things to Know:

  • There are three main parts to Sun Moon Lake: Shuishe, Ita Thao, and Syuanguang Piers
  • If you buy a boat ticket from one company, you can only ride boats belonging to the same company
  • Here is a link to the boat running hours: Sun Moon Lake Boat Hours
  • After 5PM everything dies down, and a lot of shops close very early.
  • If you have any other questions or want to know more about Sun Moon Lake, here is their official website: Sun Moon Lake Official Site

Next post: Alishan