Le Bistro D’Ours

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Name of Restaurant: Le Bistro D’Ours
Address: No.13 Dujing Road, Gushan District, Kaohsiung City 804, Taiwan
高雄市鼓山區篤敬路13號
Phone: 07-5502692
Hours: Daily 6PM-Late
Vegetarian Options: Yes
English Menu: Yes
English Service: Yes
Average Cost Per Person: $200NT to $300NT
GPS Coordinates: 22.663603, 120.302243

A fantastic new cocktail bar has opened its doors in the Kaohsiung Arena neighborhood. This place has abundant potential to add a much needed and creative option to Kaohsiung’s nightlife.

Atmosphere
Le Bistro D’Ours lives up to its name with a cozy bistro feel. The retro décor adds an eclectic impression unique to Kaohsiung. The dark color scheme is reminiscent of a European style eatery. The small outdoor seating area includes a couch and giant spools repurposed as tables. The only drawback to the location is the large bar that creates cramped quarters in the long and narrow space.

What to Drink
This restaurant offers one of the largest and most creative cocktail menus I have seen in Kaohsiung. There is a whole page of delicious sounding essential oil infused drinks based on flavors such as ginger, pepper, or rosemary. The menu separates other special cocktails into mild, slightly tipsy, and smashed. In addition, two pages feature champagne-based cocktails and movie themed cocktails.

So far, I have tried the Swollen Lips and the Kiss on the Lips. The Swollen Lips is made of vodka, elderflower liquor, ginger ale, and chili. It definitely lived up to its name with a spicy kick that left me wanting more. The Kiss on the Lips was a bit milder, but equally delicious. It is a frozen cocktail with rum, peach schnapps, mango, and grenadine. I haven’t yet found a drink at Ours that I haven’t liked.

If cocktails aren’t your thing, Le Bistro D’Ours offers Stella and Kronenbourg 1664 Blanc on tap in addition to a wide array of bottles and an extensive wine list.

What to Eat
While I have not yet tried any of the food, Le Bistro D’Ours serves up a full menu. Both the Caribbean Pork and the Fried Pepper Ribs have received positive online reviews. Smaller dishes such as French fries and other fried foods are also offered for the late night munchies.

Directions
By Scooter: If you are driving north on Bo Ai Road, turn left onto Minghua Road. Take the first right. Le Bistro D’Ours will be on the left hand side after half a block.

By MRT: Take the MRT to R14 Kaohsiung Arena. Use Exit 2 and walk south through the adjoining park to McDonalds. At the McDonalds, turn right and then take a left at the first stop light after about 200 meters. Le Bistro D’Ours will be on your right after a block and a half.

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Mala Bay Water Park 麗寶樂園

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Mala Bay Water Park is one of the most famous water parks in Taiwan. Located just outside of Taichung, Mala Bay is half of a bigger, aboriginal-themed amusement park called Lihpaoland. The other half of the park contains carnival rides while Mala Bay contains water attractions. Recently, I had the opportunity to celebrate my friend’s birthday here, and thoroughly enjoyed beating the heat of Taiwan’s summer on the various water slides and water play areas.

While Mala Bay is small by Western standards, it does have some exciting and worthwhile attractions. These include seven water slides, two water play areas, a wave pool, a lazy river, bumper boats, and beach volley ball.

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A few of the more exciting attractions are the Magician Airship, Cowabunga, and an inflatable bridge. The Magician Airship is a u-shaped track on which you ride back and forth in a two-person inner tube. It is exhilaratingly fast and the first drop is terrifying if you ask me. On Cowabunga, you can try your hand at artificial wake boarding. It’s definitely more difficult than it looks (I absolutely couldn’t get the hang of it). Finally, the inflatable bridge is reminiscent of the old MXC game show. Competitors attempt to cross the long bridge without tripping and falling into the pool below. The whole spectacle is rather comical.

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Mala Bay is a great day of water fun during the extreme summer temperatures, but of course, it comes at a price. An adult ticket costs $650NT while a child’s ticket costs $490NT. Entering the park after 2PM will save you some money. A ticket at this time only costs $450NT. Another way to save money is to buy tickets in advance at a 7-11 ibon machine. Advance tickets save $100NT over at-the-door.

Getting to Mala Bay can be a bear. By public transportation, the most obvious route is to take the slow train to Fengyuan Station (豐原車站) in Taichung County. Then transfer to the local train to Houli Station (后里車站), the next stop north from Fengyuan. This will cost $15NT. From Houli Station, walk about 500 meters straight out from the front door. Across from the first 7-11 on the left is a bus station. Here, you can catch the 155 to Lihpaoland for $20NT. Alternatively, you can catch a taxi from Houli Station for $250NT.

If you have your own transportation, getting to Mala Bay is a bit easier. From National Highway 1, take exit number 30, Houli/Waipu onto Fullon Road. Turn right on Chia-Hou Road and follow it to the park. From National Highway 3, take the Waipu exit onto Chia-Hou Road. Follow this to Mala Bay Water Park.

Hours: 9AM-5:30PM (July/August Mon-Sun: 9AM-10PM, Sat: 9AM-5:30PM)
Address: Fullon Hotel, No. 8, Furong Road, Waipu Interchange, Houli District, Taichung City, Taiwan (R.O.C.)
台中市后里區福容路8號(台中后里外埔交流道下)
Phone: (04)2558-2459
Website: http://www.lihpaoland.com.tw/mala/
GPS: 24.323741, 120.698731

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Krispy Kreme Taiwan

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In fantastic news for American expats in Taiwan (and everyone else), I recently learned that Krispy Kreme has opened its doors in Taipei! The city now boasts two locations that sell these fantastically sweet creations. Each donut costs between $30NT and $40NT. A dozen will set you back about $300-$350NT.

1. Location: Taipei 101 Store
Address: No. 18 Songshou Road, Xinyi District, Taipei City, Taiwan
台北市信義區松壽路18號(信義威秀1樓)
Hours: Mon-Sun: 10:30AM-11PM
Telephone: 0800-588-896
MRT: Taipei City Hall (Exit 3)

2. Location: Taipei Main Station Store
Address: B1, No. 49 Zhongxiao West Road, Section 1, Taipei Station, Zhongzheng District, Taipei City, Taiwan
台北市忠孝西路一段49號B1
Hours: Mon-Sun: 8AM-10PM
MRT: Taipei Main Station (Exit M3)

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Kaohsiung Jade Market 十全玉市

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By far, the jade market is one of my favorite places to buy gifts in Kaohsiung.  The indoor market is full of all sorts of jade products, both real and fake, as well as other traditional goods, such as tea, sculptures, antique money, and paintings.

One gift that I particularly enjoy giving are zodiac charms.  The charms, which you can purchase at many of the stalls, look like the animals of the Chinese zodiac.  These usually are not made of real jade, but look good enough to be anyways.  Once you have purchased the charm, you must take it to the back corner of the market.  There you can choose one of the elaborate and colorful ties which turn the charm into either a necklace or key chain.

Of course, more expensive gifts are also available.  I simply enjoy “windowless shopping” for the many green and red necklaces and bracelets.

However fun browsing and gift giving may be, if you are looking to make a serious purchase, it would be helpful to know what characteristics real jade possesses or to take along someone who does.  I have heard a few theories on how to determine real jade versus fake.  For example, someone once told me real jade is scratchy on the skin whereas fake is not.  I have also heard that real jade warms to the touch while fake jade stays cool.  If you have any other tried and true ways of determining the worth of a jade piece, please share your knowledge in the comments below.

To reach the market by scooter or car, turn west onto Shiquan Road from Bo Ai Road.  The jade market will be on your right on the corner of Zili Road and Shiquan Road.

There is not currently an MRT station within walking distance.  However, you can take the MRT to R12 Houyi Station and then hop in a taxi.

Hours: Wed, Thu, Sun: 9AM-4:30PM
Address: Zili Road and Shiquan Road Intersection, Sanmin District, Kaohsiung City, Taiwan (R.O.C.)
台灣高雄市三民區自立一路與十全二路交叉口
GPS:  22.646003, 120.296482

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Online Pizza 網購比薩

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Restaurant:  Online Pizza (網購比薩)
Location: Aozidi Park, Kaohsiung
Website: www.opizza.us
MRT: O13 Aozidi Park
Hours: Wed-Thu: 5PM-8:30PM; Fri: 11:30AM-1:30PM, 5PM-8:30PM; Sat-Sun: 11:30AM-   2PM, 5PM-8:30PM
English Menu: Yes
English Service: Yes
Average Cost Per Person: $150NT to $280NT

A couple weekends ago, I had the pleasure of trying one of Kaohsiung’s newest foreigner run businesses, an online pizza company.  Online Pizza operates on online, carry-out orders only.  It is definitely a unique business plan that might just work if enough of the foreigner community catches onto to this great idea.

Online Pizza not only offers the convenience of online ordering but also serves up a delicious pie.  Their menu is well-rounded and includes a number of interesting combinations like the sweet white veggie with caramelized onions, sweet peppers, green peppers, and olives.  For our first Online Pizza experience, we kept it traditional with the margherita pizza.  The hand tossed crust was topped with a nice blend of cheese, many tomatoes, and lots of garlic.  Overall, it left my pizza craving satisfied.

Currently, Online Pizza offers pick-up services only.  The pick-up location is near the intersection of Dashun Rd. and Nanping Rd.  The website indicates that this service will only be offered until June 24th.  The business will reopen in September at which time it will offer delivery services in northern Kaohsiung.

If you are looking for a convenient, American-style meal in Kaohsiung, I encourage you to hop online and order a pizza through opizza.us.  A delicious, cheesy pie will be ready and waiting for you in 30 minutes.

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Taco Rico Taquería

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Name of Restaurant: Taco Rico Taqueria
Address: No. 85 Minsheng Road, Cianjin District, Kaohsiung City, Taiwan (R.O.C.) 886
高雄市前金區民生二路85號, Kaohsiung 886
Phone: 0981-356-676
Websitehttps://www.facebook.com/pages/Taco-Rico-Mexican-Food/269397119750333?sk=timeline
MRT: R9 Central Park
Hours: Tue-Sun: 11:30AM-2PM, 5PM-9PM
Vegetarian Options: Yes
English Menu: Yes
English Service: Yes
Average Cost Per Person: $50NT to $200NT
GPS Coordinates: 22.625151,120.295647

Great Mexican food has once again returned to Kaohsiung.  The gods were smiling upon us when the great people over at Taco Rico decided to reopen their doors at a different location.  The menu is much smaller, but there is no need to despair.  This Mexican spots only serves tacos and boy do they make tacos well!  As an added bonus, Taco Rico is possibly the cheapest foreign food restaurant in Kaohsiung.  Each taco is only $30-$40NT!

Atmosphere
Taco Rico is mainly a carry-out only restaurant.  The owner cooks everything on the menu at a stand on the sidewalk.  There is one table with six chairs next to the kitchen where customers can sit and enjoy their meal.  However, I think it would be much more pleasant to take the tacos to Central Park to eat.

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What to Eat
Honestly, everything here is amazing!  The corn tortillas are hand pressed and the ingredients are perfectly fresh and deliciously seasoned.  In our group, we tried the shrimp tacos, fish tacos, pork tacos, beef tacos, salad tacos, and fried vegetable tacos.  We couldn’t complain about any of them.  Overall, I think the fish, shrimp, and salad tacos got the most votes, but at the risk of sounding like a broken record, you can’t go wrong with any of the tacos from Taco Rico.

Directions
By Scooter: Head south on Jhongshan Road.  Turn right onto Minsheng Road.  Two blocks past the end of the park, Taco Rico will be on your left.

By MRT: Take the red line to R9 Central Park.  Go up the escalators at Exit 1 and turn right.  At Minsheng Road (the road at the top of the park) turn left.  Walk about 1 kilometer and Taco Rico will be on your left.

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Lei Cha (擂茶)

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Shop Name: Meinong I-Chan (美濃驛棧)
Address: 142 Cheng Gong Road, Meinong Town, Kaohsiung City, Taiwan (R.O.C.)
高雄市 美濃區 成功路142號
Phone: (07) 681-8475
Hours: Daily 10AM-8:30PM
English Service: No
GPS: 22.894215, 120.546794

Among my favorite day trips from Kaohsiung is the short trip to Meinong, a predominately Hakka city located about an hour and a half from downtown Kaohsiung.  The backdrop of mountains, water lotus farms, and traditional houses make Meinong a perfect tourist destination.  In my opinion, one of the things that make Meinong really special is the window it provides to Hakka culture.

The opportunity to make your own lei cha (擂茶) is one such way to experience this unique culture.  Lei cha, literally grind tea, was traditionally made by the Hakka people using local ingredients that benefitted their diets.  It is different than our traditional concept of tea in that the result is more of a nutty soup than a “tea leaf” tea.

I-Chan Meinong was the very first shop that assisted customers in learning about the preparation of lei cha by allowing them to actually prepare it.  Walking into the shop what I imagine walking into a traditional house must be like.  The walls are covered in umbrellas and lanterns.  The women wear traditional Hakka dresses.

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To begin, the women will bring you a mortar and pestle, along with peanuts, crisp rice, and white sesame seeds.  They will instruct you (in Chinese) about how to grind the base ingredients.  Their method is clearly the best.  Hold the top of the pestle down with one hand and use the other hand/wrist to move the bottom part of the pestle around the bowl.  This task is best shared among everyone at the table as it is incredibly tiring.  Snacks and other tea will be served to you in order to keep your energy levels high.

After a while, the women will tell you that you’ve done a good job.  At this point, they will add a green tea powder to the mix and tell you to keep going.  (As if you weren’t already tired…)  When the powder starts making clumps, you are ready for the next step.  This is adding hot water.

First the ladies will prepare a drink for you using mostly hot water and only a little powder.  This is so you know where you are starting from.  After that, you are free to experiment for your taste buds by adding more powder or some puff rice.  In my opinion, the result is not nearly as interesting as the process itself is.  But, hey, some people love the stuff.

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In addition to providing an education in tea preparation, I-Chan also offers an area to dress up in traditional Hakka costumes and traditional Hakka food.  Of particular note is the tobacco leaf rice, which includes pickled Hakka vegetables, tobacco leaves, pork, and fried eggs.  This dish must be special ordered and is sold for $130NT.

A lesson in preparing lei cha costs only $120NT per person and includes a few varieties of tea.  Unfortunately, at this point, lessons are only available in Chinese, but the ladies are used to getting their messages across using sign language.  Regardless, I-Chan and it’s tea preparation experience is definitely worth seeking out on any visit to southern Taiwan.

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