Tag Archives: Taiwan

Easy House Vegetarian Cuisine

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Name of Restaurant: Easy House Vegetarian Cuisine (寬心園)
Address: No. 3 Hesi Road, Yancheng District, Kaohsiung City, Taiwan
高雄市鹽埕區河西路3號
Phone Number: +886-7-561-2631
Hours: Daily 11:30AM-9:30PM
Website: www.easyhouse.tw
MRT: O2 Yanchengpu
Days off: None
Vegetarian Options: Yes
English Menu: Yes
English Service: Yes
Average Cost Per Person: TWD 300 to TWD 500
GPS Coordinates: 22.621934,120.288939

On any given day and in any given restaurant, being a vegetarian in Kaohsiung can be extremely frustrating.  Most restaurants lack vegetarian options or simply won’t alter a recipe to make something vegetarian for you.  However, what Taiwan does have that America does not are restaurants serving only vegetarian meals.  These meccas for vegetarians include all sorts of places – from the quick lunch spot to a swanky date-night bistro.  Easy House Vegetarian Cuisine belongs to the latter group and has quickly become my favorite special occasion restaurant.

Atmosphere
Set on the banks of Kaohsiung’s Love River, Easy House Vegetarian Cuisine offers a romantic setting often foreign to the city.  The second floor provides views of boats bobbing down the calm water.  The softly lit interior is decorated with images of Buddha and classic Chinese calligraphy set on a dark stone color scheme.  The service is discreet yet attentive and helpful.  Together, these factors add up to one of the most enjoyable dining environments in Kaohsiung.

What to Eat/Drink
Unlike many vegetarian restaurants in Taiwan, the food at Easy House Vegetarian Cuisine is neither greasy nor bland.  The owner and chef have created a menu of internationally inspired vegetarian meals using natural spices and healthy cooking methods. While tasty meals and soothing refreshments are plentiful, a few are, in my opinion, particularly noteworthy.

1. Portuguese Noodle Soup
This dish smells so great that your mouth will be watering before the waiter can set it down on your table.  The creamy, curry broth contains tomatoes, Japanese seaweed, baby cabbage, mushrooms, and noodles.

2. Mushroom and Truffle Fried Rice
This twist on the classic Taiwanese dish adds a dimension of flavor that is not found elsewhere.  The dish is prepared with special ingredients such as day lilies, wild mushrooms, asparagus, and a truffle sauce.

3. Passion Fruit and Pomelo Tea
This flavorful tea is full of authentically Taiwanese flavors.  Pomelo, a local fruit that tastes somewhat like grapefruit, and passion fruit are freshly squeezed into a pot of soothing, hot tea.

All entrees can be purchased a la carte or with a set meal.  Sets include fruit and vegetable energy juice, a Japanese salad, vegetable soup, seasonal fruit, and a red bean dessert.

Directions
By Scooter: From Bo Ai Road, turn west onto Wufu Road.  After you pass over Love River, take the first right onto the small street named Hesi Road.  Easy House Vegetarian Cuisine will be on your left at number 3.  If you see the Kaohsiung Film Archive, you have gone too far.

By MRT: Take the orange line to O2 Yanchengpu.  Exit the station using exit 1 and walk northeast along Jhong Jheng Road.  Turn right onto Wufu Road after one block.  Turn left onto Hesi Road after seven blocks (just before the river). Easy House Vegetarian Cuisine will be on your left at number 3.  If you see the Kaohsiung Film Archive, you have gone too far.

 

After I began writing this post, I saw a sign advertising a new additional location for this restaurant.  The second location will be at the corner of Mingcheng Road and Fuguo Road.  While I cannot foresee the view being nearly as great at the Zuoying address, it will be much more convenient for those of us living up north. 

 

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Kaohsiung Junk Market

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I really enjoy looking at other people’s junk. I’m not sure whether this is hereditary or my own issue, but flea markets and garage sales excite me. Lucky for me, Kaohsiung is home to the wonderful, perpetual garbage sale lovingly known among expats as the Junk Market.

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On any given weekend, one can wander through the aisles of covered booths which sell everything from Nerf guns to antique hardware. My previous purchases have included a DVD player, jewelry, and orange jump suits.

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Most of the wares are cheap and used. Bargaining is welcome and expected. If you are looking for something in particular and don’t want to spend a fortune or simply want to browse for an unexpected treasure or souvenir, the Junk Market is definitely the place to go.

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Hours: Sat-Sun: 9AM-5PM
Address: 295 Zhōnghuá 2nd Road, Gushan District, Kaohsiung City, Taiwan
GPS: 22.646077, 120.291110

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Donggang Bluefin Tuna Festival

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Last Sunday, the rain held off just long enough for E and I to drive to Donggang. There we had the opportunity to experience the popular Donggang Bluefin Tuna Festival.

The festival is not a carnival type festival we are used to in America. Rather, it is a special time of year. From the beginning of May until the end of June, Taiwanese fishermen haul in massive bluefin tuna from the waters around Taiwan. During these two months, Pacific Bluefin Tuna migrate to the Bashi Channel off the southern tip of Taiwan in order to spawn.

The tuna catch in Taiwan is much higher than in other Asian countries, although it has steadily declined. Last year, Taiwanese fisherman sold just over 700 bluefin tuna (down from thousands in previous years). Because of the quality and quantity of fish brought into Donggang, much of it is exported. Japan is by far the largest importer of Taiwanese bluefin tuna.

Due to a declining fish population and the imposition of catch limits in Taiwan, the price of bluefin tuna has skyrocketed in recent years. This year, the first two fish to be sold in Donggang weighed 299kg and 280kg. Together, they fetched an astounding NT $2.8888 million at auction. These auctions take place daily and are part of the fun of the Donggang Bluefin Tuna Festival.

While this festival can be quite controversial (as I will discuss later), the Pingtung County government maintains that the main point of the festival is not to encourage the consumption of bluefin tuna. Rather, the county hopes the festival will bring more visitors to Donggang and the county in general. In addition, proceeds from the festival are donated to local charities benefiting childhood education and food for the poor.

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The Markets
There are two locations at which you can enjoy the festivities and gorge yourself on fresh seafood.

1. Donggang Fish Market
The Donggang Fish Market is where the magic happens. Every morning at 6 AM the daily catch starts to arrive. It is unloaded by crane at this dockside market. We are told that the average daily catch of bluefin tuna has been between 12 and 20 this year. Of course other fish are unloaded as well. These include yellow fin tuna, bump heads, and sharks. Consumers can purchase bluefin tuna to eat on the spot or take home at one of the many vendors set up in the front of the market. Sashimi is the preferred method of preparation. Beware, one catty, or 600 grams, of choice bluefin tuna meat will cost you about NT $2200, or $73USD.

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To reach the Donggang Fish Market, follow the signs to the Xiao Leo Chiu ferry pier. Pass the pier and head toward what looks like the entrance to a paid parking lot. Past this pay station on the left, you will see the docks and the market.

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Photo courtesy of Elliot Pelling

2. Huaqiao Market
Huaqiao Market is another nearby option for getting your bluefin tuna fix. This market is open from about 2pm until 7pm daily. Here, you can purchase a wide variety of seafood in addition to tuna, including other Donggang specialties like Sakura prawns and oil fish. Most vendors sell raw seafood to be taken home and cooked. However, there are booths that sell prepared dishes and even booths that will cook up seafood you have purchased elsewhere in the market. Along the back of the market building are a number of restaurants with extensive menus featuring tables along the waterfront.

To reach Huaqiao Market, follow the signs to the Xiao Leo Chiu ferry pier. The market is immediately on the right once you have passed the ferry pier.

Photo courtesy of Elliot Pelling

Photo courtesy of Elliot Pelling

 

Proceed with Caution
1. Mercury Poisoning
Because of its position near the top of the food chain, bluefin tuna often contains high levels of mercury. The consumption of mercury has been linked to infertility, heart disease, memory loss, vision loss, and tremors. In children, it can be especially detrimental to the development of the brain, causing learning disabilities, cerebral palsy, deafness, and blindness. Therefore, the consumption of bluefin tuna should be limited. Children and women of child-bearing age should avoid consumption of the fish altogether.

2. Overfishing
Overfishing of Pacific Bluefin Tuna is a rampant problem. The species’ population has decline over 96.4% over the last 60 years, making Pacific Bluefin Tuna an endangered species and driving up the market value of the fish. Greedy fisherman who can live a lifetime off of a few tuna and fisheries that catch tuna that have not reproduced exacerbate this problem. Although Taiwan has made efforts to limit the number of vessels and the method used to catch the fish, many experts agree that Pacific Bluefin Tuna should not be fished or consumed until the population begins to grow.

3. Sharkfin
Shark finning is one of the major threats to our oceans. Every year between 80 and 100 million sharks are killed for the consumption of their tasteless fins by Asian markets. Most of the time, the shark’s meat is not consumed. Rather the shark is thrown back to sea without its fins and left to die. Unfortunately, sharks are at the top of the food chain and are slow to reproduce. If humans continue to kill sharks at this rate, many species could go extinct in only 10 to 20 years, wreaking havoc on the ecosystem. What does this have to do with Donggang? Unfortunately, fishermen in Donggang continue to sell hundreds of shark fins a day. A visit to the fishing port will surely bring a glimpse of piles of shark fins being weighed for market.

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Photo courtesy of Elliot Pelling

 

Elsewhere in Donggang
1. Dapeng Bay National Scenic Area
Dapeng Bay National Scenic Area encompasses a lagoon that lies just south of Donggang. Here one can enjoy watching a motor race, boating, and cycling around the wetland area. The newly developed area is constantly improving with new hotels and activities being added every year.

2. Ferry to Xiao Liu Chiu
Donggang also holds the dock for ferries departing to the small coral island of Xiao Liu Chiu. After a 30 minute boat ride, you can be snorkeling, scuba diving, or eating fresh seafood at this tropical getaway. Alternatively, rent a scooter and drive the 7 kilometers around the island, exploring the rock formations and caves along the way. Whatever you do, Xiao Liu Chiu is regarded as one of the most underrated destinations of southern Taiwan.

3. Temples
Donggang is home to many rather interesting temples. These include the Donglong temple where the deity Wen-wang-ye is enshrined. This temple plays host to the massively popular, triennial King Boat Ceremony. The gate in front of the temple is particularly resplendent as it is decorated with real gold foils. If you are in Donggang, it is worth your time to seek out this temple along with the others around it.

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How to Get There
1. By public transportation: From Zuoying THSR Station, board the Zhongnan bus toward Kenting. Alight in Donggang. From Kaohsiung Main Station or Kaohsiung International Airport, board the Zhongnan bus or the Kaohsiung bus headed for Kenting. Alight in Donggang. From Pingtung Railway Station, board the Pingtung bus to Donggang.

2. By scooter: From Kaohsiung, drive south on Jhongshan Rd. until it becomes Highway 17. Continue for approximately 40 minutes. Turn right on County Highway 187 to enter Donggang.

3. By car: Take National Highway 1 south to the Wujia System Interchange. Take the Provincial Highway 88 exit. Then exit the 88 onto Provincial Highway 27 at the Wangdan Interchange. At the end of the 27, merge onto Provincial Highway 17. Turn right onto County Highway 187 to enter Donggang.

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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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