A one night stand in Taichung with a girl band and a bucket of sticky goo. And yes, another night market.
Backpacking often involves staying around central train and bus station areas and the one in Taichung is a rippa. We booked a room for one night at the Twinstar Hotel, right near the station.
It's buzzy with an edgy low rent, yesteryear feel to it, as a good Asian central train station area should. And there's food everywhere.
There's a couple dozen Indonesian and Vietnamese hole-in-the-wall restaurants around, most likely catering to migrant workers. These look rather sensational but we make the tough, tough decision to save our stomach space for Taiwanese food.
Apparently (according to Alison), Taichung is the birthplace of Taiwan's biggest culinary export: bubble tea. Taiwan is mad on bubble tea but the central station area in Taichung takes it to a new level. There must have been thirty to fifty bubble tea joints on the block around our hotel. Opposite our hotel there's five in a row.
Vicious security hound.
Waiter, there's no J in my soup.
The sign says 'restaurant district'. Yeah right, the whole of Taiwan is one big restaurant.
We like the cut of this guy's jib, we eat here. There were a number of stalls just of Zhongzheng Road along a mall.
We'd seen stalls around elsewhere with big piles of bones and pots of soup, we were keen to see what it was about.
It's a soup with lamb bones and goji berries.
Soft jellies flavoured or with a nutty nougat inside.
We saw perhaps a dozen red bean pancake stalls around but everybody was queuing up at this one.
The crowd looks hungry grumpy. The auntie looks extra tops.
The streets are a bit wider on the other side of the station, it's almost a different world. We stayed in a big ol' business hotel right near the entrance to the underground station passageway.
Alison read about a local specialty here available at Taichung Meatballs, at 529 Fuxing Rd Sec 3. It was a fair walk up from the train station, but worth it for the unusual meatball dish they serve here.
The meatballs are sandwiched between two discs of pastry and deep fried.
A pot of super gloopy goo is made from a starchy mix and added over the meatballs. There's a pot on every table so you can add starchy glue to your hearts desire.
A sweet sauce is added on top of the starch. Unusual, super filling and a carb fest. We also tried some simple pork ball soup and a noodle soup, all excellent.
Beware of the blob.
Later we find these chestnut like hot nuts that look like upside down court jesters.
On our way back from the gloopy meatball fest we wander through a market, mostly filled with clothes and things no one actually needs.
We spied this apam balik style dish being made, filled with sugar and little black sesame seeds.
Sweet goodness, hot and fresh off the pan.
Coming out of the markets we walk out into the middle of a street long night market, it's like wherever we go in a city in Taiwan there's someplace where there's a food market.
The Zhonghua Road Night market goes all the way along a busy road. The road is not blocked off, so the cars run right along the busy street.
You can even ride your motorbike right up to the stalls and get your takeaway.
Giant pot pies! If only we hadn't filled up on meatball stodge.
This large store towards the end of the market had plates and plates of options to choose from, make your pick and make your hot pot.
Baskets of dumplings.
This super busy stall had a queue, people would ride right up to the stall on their bikes, order takeout and ride off.
After all that feasting, perhaps a visit to the Weight Loss Clinic at the end of the street might be an option.
Ever popular steak.
Huge piles of prawns and at the end oysters. All ready for omelettes.
We are intrigued by this platter filled with different coloured shredded goods, mostly different types of floss. Pork or fish floss was one of the most popular ingredients we saw to add flavour.
Make your selection of floss flavours and it gets wrapped up into a popiah like roll, some cabbage for filler.
So so many stalls.
There's a swirl and a prettiness to each of these crumpet like waffles. The decorative swirls serves as a way to seal them together.
Western style food is creeping in at many stalls. This pizza stall 'Slice n' Dice' brings giant pizza slices to the masses.
There's also a lot of kebab stalls in Taiwan, an influence from the other east.
Pots of boiling goodness.
Blenders at the ready, most likely for a papaya shake.
Japanese style crepes, another influence from another country.
This restaurant had a huge outdoor pick n mix, you then took it inside to be cooked and eaten. There were a number of restaurants that acted as both street stalls and eat in places.
Deep fried options.
Is there anything else required?
Beautiful selection of vegetables to grill or soup up. Green beans, peppers, shitake mushrooms, slices of cabbage, corn, broccoli, bamboo shoots skewered down the middle like lollipops, king mushrooms, capsicum, eggplants and zucchini.
Motorbikes rule the streets.
Rustic sushi styles.
Stuffed inari pockets and almost Korean style rice rolls.
We finally make it to the end of the markets and the last stalls are packing up.
Walking around the block we come across a huge department store with crowds of people milling about on the ground floor.
Three young women have left the crowds waiting for at least an hour. Queue squeals.
This group of young men waited and waited and waited. They had signs, cameras and gooey girl band eyes at the ready. After the girls sang a few songs the fans bought up merchandise galore. It was worth buying a coffee at Starbucks just to hang around and watch the crowds, who were far more interesting than the show.
Tyre sniffing pussycat. He'll be black and white if he gets any closer.
Seeing a white cat on the way home must have led us to this cat themed ramen bar back down near the train station.
The place was run by a group of kids who were mucking around and laughing. We should have walked out but they seemed like it would be OK.
The ramen looked good on the menu.
But the ramen we got in the end really wasn't a good version. The garlic soup had loads of fried crisp garlic granules and fresh hunks of garlic inside but the broth was a little average.
Shawn, for some reason only he will ever know, orders the Cheese Ramen. The cheese was a pile of that supermarket parmesan that smells kinda funky, which mixed in with a thin milky tonkotsu soup. Not a bell ringer.
On a less than happy meal we said farewell to Taichung.
Despite the cheese ramen, we still love Taiwan.
Next stop, Lukang.