Exploring Taichung: Rainbow Village

Exploring Taichung: Rainbow Village

One of the most-visited attractions in Taichung is the Rainbow Village. Once home to a group of soldiers, one ex-soldier and resident stood up to paint the houses in the village in an attempt to have them preserved. The land belonging to the Ministry of Defence was about to be reclaimed.

While he initially did it out of boredom, the village slowly gained recognition because of its vibrant colours that stood out.

Located in the Nantun District in Taichung, Rainbow Village became a hit only over the past decade. Many locals alike had not visited the place before, and it was only after it became an “Instagram-worthy” location, did more locals and tourist flood the site.

The resident, also known as Rainbow Grandpa (彩虹爺爺), still lives on site. At a whopping age of 99, he still paints the place when necessary. Teams of volunteers have also stepped in over the years to help in the preservation of the attraction. You can find Rainbow Grandpa at the attraction on some days. He takes photos with groups of visitors for a small fee that goes towards preserving the village.

Rainbow Village brings so much joy because of its vibrancy, and also because it teaches us a lesson on how sometimes our little efforts can lead to great things – just like what Rainbow Grandpa did to preserve his home.

Rainbow Village is Instagram-Worthy

P.S. There is a small play area for children in the area. Snacks and collectable items can also be found at the Rainbow Village.

Address:
Rainbow Village
408, Taichung City, Nantun District, 春安路56巷25號
Open daily from 8am to 6pm

Exploring Taichung: Gaomei Wetlands

Exploring Taichung: Gaomei Wetlands
Gaomei Wetlands

A one-hour drive from Taichung City brings one to a wetland wonderland – Gaomei Wetlands. Situated in the Qingshui district, Gaomei Wetlands has, over the years, been an attraction when visiting nearby Taichung. 

Located at the mouth of a river, Gaomei Wetlands is an area with both mud and sand and is home to a rich diversity of migrating birds, fishes and crabs. Lining the wetlands are wind turbines that add quite a view to the 300-hectare land.  

Here are two main reasons why I love heading to Gaomei Wetlands:

You can feel the sand and mud at your feet. 

A short walk across the boardwalk brings you to the actual wetland where you can walk across. While only a section is open to the public, it is a pretty large area, and one can comfortably walk barefoot across the wetland, with soft earth under your feet. There’s just something about walking on the ground with cool water flowing past. 

If you’re lucky, you’ll also be able to find small crabs and mudskippers along the area. Just remember to view from afar and not disturb them in their natural habitat. 

The sunset here is lovely.

Most visitors come in the late afternoon/ early evening to enjoy the sunset. The vast wetland, wind turbines, and the sunset make the entire place picturesque on a clear day, but the vibes the area gives on a gloomy day is still pretty impressive. 

Gaomei Wetlands is a bit out of the way and can be slightly tricky to get to, but the views and the smell of nature are what really draws people (like me) there. Some street vendors are nearby, so you probably do not have to worry about getting food in this quiet area. 

Visit this place

Gaomei Wetlands
Meidi Street, Qingshui District, Taichung City, 436

Exploring Taichung: Taichung Second Market

Exploring Taichung: Taichung Second Market

Did you know? Taichung has an interesting way of naming their markets – First, Second, Third, Fourth, Fifth, and Sixth Markets. This naming convention apparently came out in the past based on the order they were founded – very different from the naming conventions we are used to, but very practical. Only the second, third, fifth and sixth markets seem to be in operation at the moment. 

Over the weekend, I visited the Taichung Second Market, which had an abundance of food options. A popular tourist attraction, the market had some signs which made it easier to move around – note, easier, not easy. The market felt like a maze, but it was fun to ‘get lost’ inside as it allowed us to explore the various shops. 

Of the many food stores in the market, I ate at five of them (over two days). Here’s my quick review of the places:

Arashi Braised Minced Pork (嵐肉燥專賣店)

Unlike your usual braised minced pork rice bowl, the braised pork here comes in thin slices (think ramen chashu), topped up with minced braised pork – this is a pork-on-pork bowl. The meats were well-seasoned, and the sliced pork came with a nice chew. If you like fried shallots, you’ll love the braised minced pork sauce as it had a robust aroma of shallots. At 65 NTD (~$3.10), I’d give it a 5/5 for this affordable bowl of rice – in fact, I’d buy it even if they raised the price. 

魚皮李滷肉飯

This store serves the more traditional version of braised pork rice. Instead of ordering the braised minced pork version, I ordered one with a thick slice of pork belly. This small bowl cost 55 NTD ($2.60) and was a pretty small portion, but when topped with a fried egg, the combination of runny egg yolk, pork belly and piping hot rice was delicious. I’d give it a 4/5 because of the cost (mainly because the portion was smaller than the bowl of rice from Arashi Braised Minced Pork. 

小庭找茶 

Situated on the market’s outer ring, this shop sells traditional desserts that come with a modern twist. Of the two desserts we consumer, the 相思粉粿 (60 NTD/$2.90) consisted of red beans and a blob of yellow slimy goo topped with almond milk. This dish was unique – the taste was good, but the texture was strange. I don’t hate it, but it is not something I’d want to order again. The other dessert, however, was good. 

The dessert, 餅冰淇淋 (55 NTD/$2.60), came presented very nicely – a biscuit made of brown sugar, which resembled a coconut husk, had a scoop of ice cream and boba in it. Considering that Taichung is known to where bubble milk tea originated, I loved how they incorporated boba into the dessert. 

2/5 for the 相思粉粿. Good to try, but only for trying

4/5 for the 餅冰淇淋.

王家菜头粿糯米肠 

Tip: Buy the tea from Like Tea Shop and have it with your snack here! (Image credit: Arlene)

This stall sells traditional snacks like radish cake, glutinous rice rolls, and soups. With a pretty extensive menu, this shop honestly sells mostly carbs, making every dish very filling. We had the radish cake with an egg. The fact that they served it fresh off the griddle made it appetizing. Still, the carb-overdose was real as it felt like I was eating a flour cake that had no strips of radish within the dish – I personally prefer the Hong Kong-style radish cakes. 

3/5 for the radish cake! 

Like Tea Shop (老賴茶棧)

This shop had such a queue when I went on Saturday, so I gave it a miss, but on Sunday, this shop only had two people in line, and I took it as a sign to try it. 

As someone who does not enjoy sweet black teas, I was surprised by how smooth this cup of iced tea was. It had a strong tea fragrance and had a pleasant refreshing aftertaste. I’d give this place a solid 5/5 as this cup of tea only cost 25 NTD ($1.20)! A definite must-drink if I’m in the area! 

Conclusion

I’d highly recommend that you visit this market if you’re in Taichung, preferably in the morning as there are more shops open. The food options are abundant so do go with an empty stomach!

Taichung Second Market

No. 87, Section 2, Sanmin Road, Central District, Taichung City, 400

Closed on Mondays (Most shops are closed by 2pm)

Dihua Street – a gem in Taipei

Dihua Street – a gem in Taipei

I love visiting old streets – the vibrancy and the old, low-rise buildings just give them a nice and welcoming vibe. Over the past weekend, I visited such a street in Taipei City – Dihua Street. While it is not considered an old street, it certainly gave a similar vibe!

Located near Dadaocheng, Dihua Street is easily accessible via the Taipei metro. This street is renowned to be THE PLACE to go and shop during the Chinese New Year season. Peppered with many shops selling dried goods from seafood to snacks and preserved food, this place is heaven for shopping regardless of age.

Dihua Street

Aside from dried produce, Dihua Street is also home to many other types of shops – shops that sell local-university products, shops that sell creative products from local artists, and even an Olympus shop selling cameras and accessories. There are various small exhibitions within some of these shops as well, which make them a great place to spend an afternoon.  

I went on a rainy weekend afternoon and it was quiet, but I do believe that it’s a lot busier on dry weekends – especially because there’s food readily available in the area.

One of the shops I stopped to eat at was 度小月 – a shop with origins in Tainan. I had a taste of the Dan Zai Noodles and Braised Meat Ball which cost 50 NTD (~$.240) and 15 NTD (~$0.75) respectively – very affordable! Can’t deny that the portion was a bit small but the minced pork sauce and prawn with the noodles, topped up with piping hot soup, was quite a treat on a cold rainy day! The interior of the shop was also very unique – it had a ‘cart’ set-up resembling how they used to sell these Dan Zai Noodles in the past.

Dihua street is an amazing place to spend an afternoon. I’ll definitely check the place out again when it’s not raining. Check out the 7-11 along Dihua Street too – it really is very pretty!

Loving Cha Gio (Recipe included!)

Loving Cha Gio (Recipe included!)

My memory of Vietnamese food goes as far back as pho and Banh mi, but I’ve never really been adventurous enough to try others. Vietnamese cuisine incorporates a lot of fresh vegetables, which I do not enjoy. Let’s just say that I love greens so much that I can’t bear to eat them 😉

However, I recently discovered a Vietnamese food store in Taipei which serves really good fried Vietnamese spring rolls. Fried Vietnamese spring rolls, also known as Cha Gio, is a fried snack made of rice paper skin, stuffed with meat filling and then deep-fried.

Let’s begin by describing this dish. Unlike Chinese spring rolls which are wrapped in egg or flour-based skin, being wrapped in rice paper skin provides a chewy and crispy texture to the spring rolls. The filling consists of ground pork, shrimps, black fungus, mushroom and other garnish and because of the variety of ingredients, it has many textures in one bite. The dipping sauce consists of fish sauce, chopped nuts, lime/lemon juice, sugar, garlic and fresh chili – this combination complements the fried dish with a tangy and savoury aftertaste.

Cha Gio with rice noodles

So I’ve side-tracked a bit, but this dish is amazing, and I had it served with cold rice noodles at the Vietnamese food store (they diluted the sauce to ensure that it’s not too overpowering).

Sauce for the noodles; The actual sauce for Cha Gio is slightly thicker!

I’ve linked the store here, but this post is different – a friend shared a recipe and here’s something that you may want to try yourself!

Have fun and enjoy making it!

Jeju Kitchen – Tampines 1

Jeju Kitchen – Tampines 1

It’s the eve of Chinese New Year, and I thought I’d do a different post to celebrate the new year. Just before I returned to Taiwan, I visited Jeju Kitchen at Tampines 1. It was honestly really good – something I didn’t expect to find at a heartland mall.

Here’s a 27-second clip on what I had there:

Items I had there:

  1. Pork Volcano Fried Rice with CHEESE ($12.80) – A good mix of kimchi fried rice, bulgogi pork, cheese and egg over a sizzling hot plate. This is great for sharing and the fact that it was on a hot plate helped retain the heat of the food longer.

    Taste: 👍👍👍👍 Value: 👍👍👍👍
  2. Pork Kimchi Stew ($12.80) – Nice small chunks of pork within the stew – kimchi was nice and soft. The soup was good but I personally felt that it would have been nicer if it was slightly thicker – this is a good go-to simple kimchi stew!

    Taste: 👍👍👍👍 Value: 👍👍👍
  3. Injeolmi Bingsoo ($13.80) – This was the most expensive item we ordered and it was worth every dollar. An amazing bowl of goodness indeed. Soft mochi and a ton of injelomi powder. There were many items within this bowl that provided different textures. Highly recommend if you enjoy eating bean-based desserts.

    Taste: 👍👍👍👍👍 Value: 👍👍👍👍👍

Jeju Kitchen has three outlets across Singapore – Waterway Point, Tampines 1 and Nex. I’d highly recommend going there for the desserts – it’s worth it!

Bak Kwa – which will you choose?

Bak Kwa – which will you choose?

A Chinese New Year must-have, good bak kwa is important! As a follow-up to our previous post on home-made bak kwa, here’s a review on two brands of bak kwa that may be of interest to you. 

Bee Cheng Hiang – Mini EZ Festive Collection ($32)

A household brand to almost all Singaporean households, Bee Cheng Hiang carries bak kwa that’s fresh from the grill as well as a wider variety of vacuum-packed bak kwa. In a gift set we received recently, there were four boxes of different types of bak kwa – and each bite-size piece was individually vacuum-packed. The four flavours in it are – Mini EZ Pork, Mini EZ Pork Chili, EZ Gold, and Mini EZ Chicken.

Here’s a quick reviews of the four: 

  1. Mini EZ Pork – Classic pork bak kwa that is nicely flavoured and chewy. It’s on a tougher side and is quite of a chew. 
  2. Mini EZ Pork Chili – Similar to the Mini EZ Pork but has a slight spice to it albeit almost negligible. Would recommend to those who like subtle spice. 
  3. EZ Gold – Taste more like Chinese sausage instead of bak kwa – will not recommend this at all as it’s tough and dry. 
  4. Mini EZ Chicken – Tastes almost exactly the same as the Mini EZ Pork and you definitely can’t tell that it’s chicken – it’s pretty good!

If there’s one thing Bee Cheng Hiang got right is the packaging. This gift set is very presentable and provides a sampler of its various products.

I’d highly recommend it to all who want to have controlled portions of bak kwa and would like to have a taste of the different products. However, all the vacuum-packed bak kwa lacked the smokey barbecue flavour. If you are looking for char-grilled, strong smokey flavour bak kwa, this may not suit your palette. 

Kim Hock Seng – Traditional Bak Kwa ($24 – $48)

It’s not a new kid on the block as the owner has been making bak kwa for the past 50 years! Situated along Geylang road, this store prides itself for its home-made bak kwa that is well-grilled over charcoal.

The packaging does not do justice to this delicious piece of goodness. In the box came many slices of barbecued bak kwa which was wrapped in paper – as we transferred the pork slices over to a separate container, I could see the juices (and lots of oil, of course) dripping to the bottom of the box.

Now for the best part – the taste: each slice of bak kwa was nice and chewy, with the bits of fat that we desire in a good bak kwa. The seasoning itself was just right – not too sweet, not too salty.  And the char was amazing – it wasn’t burnt and had that flavourful smokey flavour to it.

It is recommended to keep the bak Kwa in the fridge if you intend to eat it over a span of more than three days. You can heat the slices of bak kwa just before consumption! 

Verdict

Bee Cheng Hiang may win in its packaging, but Kim Hock Seng wins hands down. I’ve tried many brands of bak kwa in Singapore and I’ve got to say that Kim Hock Seng’s is comparable to Lim Chee Guan’s bak kwa (maybe even better!). 

Bee Cheng Hiang – Taste: 👍👍 Texture: 👍👍

Kim Hock Seng – Taste: 👍👍👍👍 Texture: 👍👍👍👍👍

Changi Experience Studio@Jewel: Be immersed in Singapore’s aviation history

Changi Experience Studio@Jewel: Be immersed in Singapore’s aviation history

Fun fact! Singapore’s first airport was located in Kallang – near our port. As time evolved and Singapore saw the need to increase the passenger airport’s capacity, the government explored other options, including the Seletar and Paya Lebar areas. However, due to residential considerations and the further possibility of expansion in the future, Changi was selected, and that was how Singapore Changi Airport came into existence.

I learnt about the fun fact above when I visited the Changi Experience Studio located at Jewel recently, and I would recommend anyone interested in the aviation industry or if you’re interested in learning about how Singapore Changi Airport came to be.

At the entrance, we were presented with our own personal journey maps with RFID tags on it. With it, we could quickly go to different sections in the studio and opening the map activated content of that section to be projected onto it (something like a Le Petit Chef video experience).

Timeless Exhibit

As we walked through the different exhibits, each exhibit had a story to tell. The first exhibit was a simple introduction to how the journey map worked, and the second exhibit was where things got interesting. We travelled back in time to learn about how the idea of Singapore Changi Airport came to be, view clips of famous people visiting the airport, learn more about Terminals 1, 2, 3, and the budget terminal. It was fascinating to know how far Singapore Changi Airport has evolved from a single terminal in 1981 to the four terminals and Jewel.

The third exhibit had many stations within it, which told short stories about Singapore Changi Airport. From fun facts about the three runways to learning about the extensive baggage system that runs across the airport, and the Singapore Changi Airport’s distinct scent, this exhibit showed behind-the-scenes on how the airport is run, and ultimately how the airport experience is built.

Following, there were many other experiential exhibits that include a race down a runway on stationary bikes, simple games on identifying dangerous objects from bags through x-ray machines, and even a booth that ‘rated’ your smile. A photo booth was also present, and you can take a photo and get it tagged to your journey map. You’ll be able to purchase the picture at the counter when you exit.

The Changi Experience Studio is very impressive –the technology it utilised throughout the museum helped tell the Changi Experience story.

If you’re looking for an attraction in the east, or if you have some SingapoRediscovers vouchers to utilise, hit this place up – you will not regret it.  

Changi Experience Studio
Level 4, Jewel Changi Airport (closest to Lobby C)
Monday-Sunday: 11:00-20:00
Last admission: 19:00

Fancy Ban-mian!

Fancy Ban-mian!

It’s well-known that the Chinatown area has a ton of good food. Today, I managed to try out this particular noodle stall, 麵莊Mian Zhuang, at Hong Lim Food Centre that serves ban-mian (板面 also known as flat noodles) but with a twist. I first chanced upon this stall in an “Our Grandfather Story” video and was intrigued that the stall owners dared to venture out to start this hawker noodle stall despite having stable jobs previously.

A conventional noodle stall usually serves ban-mian with minced pork, an egg, some vegetables, and ikan bilis (anchovies). Occasionally, the stall will also serve it with sliced fish, but not many do.

However, this stall serves ban-mian with minced pork balls, ikan bilis, and something very different – fish maw! I had this combination and have to say that I enjoyed this combination. The soup was light and flavourful, the minced pork balls were fresh and gave more texture (as compared to just minced pork), the ikan bilis added the salty and crispy texture, and the fish maw was a delectable ‘sponge’ that absorbed the soup well.

The chili that was served on the side was spicy and had a slight tangy flavour which paired very well with the bowl of ban-mian. The texture of the noodles was nice and chewy, and it was evident that it wasn’t factory-made – quite rare in recent times.

At S$4.50, I would definitely recommend this modestly fancy bowl of noodles to others.

Other combinations are also available including ban-mian with abalone clams (S$4.50/S$6.50), abalone (S$13.50) and prawns (S$4.50/S$6.50). The homemade chili can also be bought at S$5.50/bottle.

Do check Mian Zhuang out if you’re in the vicinity! It is located at Hong Lim Food Centre #01-51 and opened from 9am to 3pm (Monday-Saturday). Do note that it seems to run out of items later in the day so do head there early!

Verdict

Taste (especially with the chili): 👍👍👍👍👍

Value: 👍👍👍👍👍

Flying (again) during the pandemic

Flying (again) during the pandemic

Having flown to Taipei earlier in August on China Airlines, here’s a short update on my flight back to Singapore on Scoot just last week.

The journey back on Scoot was a fairly smooth one. I booked the flight a month before my date of travel and was delighted to find out that Scoot resumed flights between Taipei and Singapore (previously, only China Airlines, EVA, Singapore Airlines, and Jetstar provided flights). The addition of Scoot flights gave me the option to fly back to Singapore on a Monday while the rest of the airlines flew later in the week.

Online check-in was as per usual, with me filling in my personal information and declaring if I had check-in baggage. However, I was also informed by the airline to fill in the Singapore Arrival Card, a travel requirement where all travelers to Singapore had to submit our arrival details to the ICA for immigration clearance within three days before our arrival.

Besides, Scoot also had their health declaration form which had to be submitted 24 hours before the flight.

Counter check-in at Taoyuan International Airport was also very smooth, and I was informed that there were around 20 passengers on the same flight as me from Taipei to Singapore. As we waited to board the plane at the gate, the ground staff constantly reminded passengers to keep their masks on at all times via the PA system.

On-board the flight, our seats had a ‘care-pack’ consisting of a bottle of hand sanitizer, a mask, and alcohol wipes which we could use during our flight. It was very thoughtful, considering that it’s a budget airline. Compared to China Airlines, I’ve to admit that Scoot’s care pack was a better one.

The return flight to Singapore was an uneventful one, with most passengers choosing to stay in their seats and barely anyone used the washroom or moved around during the flight.

Upon landing, all the passengers had to proceed to the immigration area where we took our COVID-19 test before clearing immigration. I pre-paid for my COVID-19 test earlier and only had to wait a short while before the test was administered (I got my test results back within eight hours!).

Immigration clearance and luggage clearance were also a breeze, which I was thankful for!

All in all, the flight back was an uneventful one. It is indeed sad to see airports so empty but I could get used to the empty seats around me on the plane!

If you’re flying in/out/through Singapore Changi International Airport, I highly suggest checking the Changi Airport website for the latest updates – it really helped me as I planned my journey back.