Latin America Adventure – third stop, Lima

After the Singular, we stayed overnight at a small hotel ‘Hotel Ilaia’ in Punta Arenas as our flight was for a 6am departure. It’s run by a mother and daughter team  – extremely hospitable and the hotel is located near the downtown area, which is 30 mins from the airport.  Sadly, we arrived at 9pm so we quickly got ready to rest for a 4.30am start the next day. They don’t speak much English so a few handy words in Spanish is highly recommended to arrange a taxi and to pay to pay the taxi CASH so make sure you keep some spare pesos! We needed to make this overnight stay because The Singular located in Puerto Natales – which was still another 2 hours away from the airport at Punta Arenas….. Once you are in Chile, you realise people drive great distances all the time (2-4hrs one way easily).. it’s the norm.  Having lived in Singapore for over 3 years… 4hours gets you to KL!

We flew out from Punta Arenas at 6am to Lima, Peru. We were planning to fly over to Lake Titicaca via the airport at Juliaca. And the rule is that you have to fly through capital cities when coming from another country in South America…. … thus, do build this into your itinerary for time consideration… you do end up staying a night here and there invariably. Our first impression of Lima is that  it’s definitely not as ‘safe’ as our little cocoon in the Patagonian region of Chile.  Lima is a big city with lots of immigrants and you can sense it the moment you land. Most local’s have their luggage cling wrapped, presumably to guard against theft and smuggling. You need to screen your luggage to exit the airport – each one of us had to which you can imagine, caused a big delay in leaving the airport….  not really well streamlined.

We bee lined ourselves to the taxi limo queue to arrange for a drop off to the Boutique Hotel ‘Second Home‘  run by Lillian Delphin. It’s in an arts district of Lima and we reckoned it would take us 40 minutes to get there. Our taxi driver got lost!!! … and we ended up arriving at our destination after over an hour. Needless to say, Mr K was not a happy bunny… but still. we’d rather be IN the cab than out of the cab. We drove through some rather dodgy looking neighbourhood, lots of incompletely construction and derelict homes…. most of the shops, if not all the shops had metal bars on the doors and windows.

Realisation – Boom… we are back to the big cities… certainly a far cry from Patagonia where we saw only a handful of people on a daily basis…..nature vs. urban jungle.

To be fair, we’ve read a lot about Lima and it’s art scene so we were looking forward to it. After we checked in, we walked around our neighbourhood which was a pleasant up and coming art area, lots of galleries, small boutique shops and quite a lot of American influence… we even saw a cupcake shop next to a … Taco shop haha.   The particular hotel we are staying is run by the daughter of a famous Peruvian sculptor Delphin. She’s extremely well learned and educated. We enjoyed our breakfast encounter with her and told her a little bit about Singapore… she was a thin lady, with dark attractive eyes…. a arty type, almost French looking but Peruvian of course. The hotel is actually the grounds for a museum by day, with huge sculptures scattered in the balcony, gardens and all four corners of the home. It’s truly spectacular and a sight to be behold.

If you ever get to visit Lima, stay in the art district and say hello to Lillian for us – not too many make it there from Singapore 🙂

Second Home Lima

Second Home Lima
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Latin America Adventure – 2nd stop, Puerto Natales, Chile

After the Explora, we arranged a transfer to The Singular which is located in Puerto Natales. The Singular is a new luxury hotel located within the premised of an old European cold room which housed all the meats which were to be exported to Europe from that part of Chile.

The property is an impressive long architecture  – each room faced the peer which  juts out into Last Hope Sound.  When we arrived, it was evening and I could see the lights on the jetty – it was a moody grey evening – stunning to see through ceiling to floor windows. The bedrooms were really luxurious and spacious – twice the size of the rooms we had in Salto Chico.  We can see how the guides at Explora were so excited for us when we told them this was our next stop. They told it was it ‘really luxury’… and by then, we had already thought the Explora’s Salto Chico was luxury…..

But I can understand their meaning after arriving at The Singular – first of all you will be impressed with the entrance – a glass elevantor brings to you the front desk which was like a top rated restaurant reception area. Mood lighting and spot lighting on specific historical objects and artefacts illuminate the hallway.   It’s less of the ‘lodge’ and more of the boutique hotel you might find in big cities.  But… don’t forget we are at the end of the Earth here… and this used to be… essentially an abattoir, cold room for exports – not glam at all. So whomever thought of converting this building into a hotel had the project cut out for them. The end results was impressive and achieved what the owners were hoping for – something luxurious and special in Peurto Natales.

view from our room

view from our room at The Singular

As we arrived after trekking part of the W inside the Torres Del Paine, we headed straight for dinner. The restaurant was the thing that completely amazed me – it was like dining at the Ritz Carlton in London. The dining room was decked in oak, walnut long tables and antique chairs with red velvet and rich colours to warm up even the coldest of nights. It was an open kitchen and I can see the chef and the staff working away, cooking up a storm. I couldn’t wait to get stuck in!  The food surpassed our expectation in that, it was really comparable to some of the restaurants we’ve had as fine dining in France and Italy from the Chateaux Relais guide. After a hard day’s trek, my toes were curling with delight… to be pampered with amazing food in a beautiful setting – that reminds me of the ‘Downtown Abbey’  🙂

Smoke Salmon with salmon caviar

Whilst staying with the Singualr, we choose several activities tailored to our needs as we are no longer grouped with other people. We had a guide decidicated to look after us for the next 2 days. So we went cycling in the morning and then horse riding for about 3 hours in the afternoon. Horse riding with our guide ‘Cherchin’ was one of our most memorable days… it was the feeling of absolute bliss… freedom, outdoors and wilderness… the feeling of ‘life’ from the concrete jungle. The wildlife and fauna here is something we are incapable of dreaming of…. Small stunted dried up trees were like museum objects littered everywhere, bright yellow fungus growing on the tree branches, sheep and ox and brightly coloured birds in green, yellow and blue flying above our heads… not to mention condors souring above us during our ride.

As there’s only two of us, we practically had private lessons… by the end of the day, our horses cantered and galloped 🙂 and we can’t have asked for a better day.

Horse Riding with CherChin

Horse Riding with CherChin

We would highly recommend those who need a little pampering and a bit of luxury now and then to stay at The Singular – it’s truly customised service for the discerning travellers.

You won’t regret even a minute, we promise.

Puerto Natales

Puerto Natales

Latin America Adventure – GEAR we used and why

As mention in my previous post on Latin America, Mr K and I went on a long vacation to South America earlier this spring. Turns out a few friends have been asking us what gear to bring with us since it is indeed a very different climate from tropical Singapore and it’s a long trip so travelling with a compact and smart wardrobe is required.  We covered an area from the end of Chile, Patagonia to Havanna, Cuba so all in all the temperatures ranged around 30 degress. Mostly we were focussed on being waterproof and windproof – yet being light, durable and …. haha… to look stylish too!

Mr K and I both have snowboarding gear so we have our snow pants and jackets. But they are very bulky…. we decided against bringing that because it’s not something that are thinnish layers we can take off an pack away easily.

I researched on gear quite extensively in SG because well… in short, there ain’t much of the outdoor stores we see back home like Blacks, Ellis Brigham, Millets, Snow & Rock, Patagonia and a multitude of other special boutiques for snow, mountaineering, camping etc.  In Singapore… the concentration of such shops appears to be in Novena Square – around 5 shops.  There you’ll find ‘Saloman, Outdoor Life, X boundaries  and a few others…  … Sadly most of them are twice the price of that in the UK. Sizes are limited too since… frankly we’re of very average asian sizing so they tend to run out of S and XSs. Pffff……

So off to the internet it was for me… research, buy and send it to my family in the UK (since we had to stop in London anyways)….. we figured it’s cheaper and better that way or for really important stuff, send it to Singapore so we can try it and return if it we had any problems.  I discovered a WONDERFUL BRAND called Norrona by recommendation from staff at an outdoor store based near Preston, UK.  I’ve never heard of them before and wasn’t too keen to take the risk with a brand I’ve not heard of especially since it was not cheap.  However….. I can’t express how impressed we were of this brand not just because the quality was really good (we wore our jackets every day we were there!). But their design and forward thinking company philosophy tells you … these guys KnOW nature and they LOVE being right in it!  Their gear design, function, quality, level of detail is frankly…. another level.  They would have thought of little things that would make the world a bit better for you when you are walking against the wind at 60mph…. with rain coming at you at right angels… you will find their little head adjustment strapper to hold your hood up…. a real godsend….  ** two thumbs up **

I managed to find a stockist of Norrona with Tamarack – a family business run up north in the UK. The chap was really helpful and he had pretty much all the sizes and designs we needed. What they didn’t have in stock, they ordered from Norrona HQ and restock within a week.  A bonus was that we bought the things from him UK VAT free 🙂 hehe… always good when VAT is 20% but it did incur a shipping cost…

When you are thinking about what gear you’d need, my advice would be prioritise them so you list out the ‘key, must have’ gear vs. nice to haves. It’s easy to get carried away and buy a lot of stuff when in reality, it’s going to be 3 weeks of your life trekking one of the most beautiful places on Earth then you’ll back back to reality… work etc. So unless you feel you’ll get due mileage from the gear, be mindful of what’s to splurge on vs. what to borrow and get by.  For us, waterproof jacket, trousers (your outer shell) and boots were THE priority. Hence we spent more to get the better stuff.  But honestly… we wore them every day and just changed the inner layers. For boots  – you must really be able to try them on before you buy so we went with whatever we could find in Singapore.  We were pleased to find ‘Garmont’ which is an Italian brand that specialises in Alpine gear actually.

So.. our gear line up is as follows:

His

  • Norrona Bitihorn – waterproof trousers with 3/4 zip off
  • Norrona Falkentind – waterproof and windproof jacket
  • Garmont Vetta Boots – extremely comfortable, no broken toe nails at all 🙂 We bought these are a store in Singapore.. inside Novena. It’s called X Boundaries – the staff were really nice and helpful. We recommend them if you are in SG.
  • Thermals – get the ones made from merino wool as they breath better. Several will be required.
  • Get nice thick socks – trust me… they make a difference when it’s -10 degrees at the top of the Torres Del Paine.

Hers

  • Norrona Trollvegens – warm thermal tights, super comfy… I wore these as inner layers with waterproofs on the outside
  • Norrona Falkentind – waterproof and windproof jacket
  • Norrona Navrik warm 3 fleece. This was really useful indeed. I even wore it whilst in London as it was really cold back in April 2012.
  • Garmont Tower Boots– extremely comfortable especially as I have a weak left ankle… these are good ankle supports for all the uphill and unevent rocky surfaces you’ll encounter on the treks and good also for horse riding. We bought these in Singapore 🙂 X Boundaries – They are the only distributors in Asia….. none in Malaysia….. I wanted to get my friend Z to buy them as he was going to the Antarctic for a shoot but alas, he had no time to come over to try them on.

Let me end with this little picture of our boots at the top Winya Wayna, part of the Machu Picchu Trail.

winya wayna

Our reliable boots – stood the test of machu picchu trail @ winya wayna

Hope this helped whomevers doing research for similar travels! 🙂  Enjoy planning for your trip!

Ciao,

PT.

Latin America Adventure – first stop, Patagonia.

It’s been a good few months since my last update because…… I’ve been super busy exploring, eating, shooting, cooking. Finally,  I am back to home base and will share some of my experiences.

This March, we travelled to Patagonia, Lake Titicaca and Havana in Latin America – it’s super far from Singapore hence, previously we’ve always waited till we go back to London to make this trip but alas, it seems we’ll be in SG for a few more years yet. Thus, our epic journey begins.

Our journey highlights is as follows:

  1. London -à Patagonia-à Cusco and Macchu Picchu, Peru-à Havana, Cuba -à London.

Perhaps this may be useful for people who may be planning similar trips:

Flight/Transit path:

  1. Fly from SG to London
  2. London to Madrid, Santiago and then to Punta Arenas
  3. Explora pick us up at PA airport to transfer to the Torres Del Paine National Park. Explora is the only lodge that operates within the park so it’s a real treat.
  4. Road transfer from Torres Del Paine to Puerto Natales – stay in The Singular.
  5. The Singular, transfer to Punta  Arenas, fly to Lima via Santiago.
  6. Stay overnight in Lima in the art and culture district in Second Home by Lillian Delphin – daughter of the Peruvian famous art sculpture.
  7. Lima to Juliaca airport for a land transfer to Lake Titicaca, stay at The Titilaka
  8. Oriental Express train from Puno to Cusco
  9. Stay in The Garden Hotel in Cusco, visit Sacred Valley, Pisac and Cusco city.
  10. Hike Machu Picchu with Llama Path
  11. Fly from Lima to Havana, stay at Casa Diana
  12. Fly from Havana back to London.

The first of the series of write ups will be of our experience with Explora in Patagonia.  After about 30hours of flights, transits etc since leaving London, we arrived at the Explora lodge, Salto Chico.

Salto Chico - Explora Lodge

Salto Chico – Explora Lodge

The Explora lodge is a pioneering tourist concept based on sustainable, luxury travel experiences.  I first heard of this from a friend, S and A who had stayed with them 10 years ago for their honeymoon! I was pleased they were still around, in fact, flourishing!

We had elected to stay here for 4 days and 3 nights with daily excursions arranged for us based on a selection offered. The lodge operates like a well oiled machine, young good looking guides who speak often fluent English will discuss your plans and arrange with you the night before.

The meals were really quite delicious and international. The matre de is a wonderful lady named Rosario whom it turns out was a little star struck when she found out who Ken Duncan was (famous Australian landscape photographer who has landed early one morning unannounced and caught Rosario off guard. She wanted to shoo him out as he was not a guest at the lodge!). When we told her who he was and showed her his works…. she turned  bright red and all of a sudden, schoolgirl shyness came about…. was just wonderful to witness! A genuine group of guests that caused a real stir of excitment especially amoung the young guides were the  Louis Vuitton  PR team of stylist, make up artist, models and directors as they were filming for a new menswear ad from Salto Chico. Alas… it was menswear so only male models…. much to the disappointment of the guides!

Here are just a couple of pictures of what we saw during our wonderful stay at the Explora……our highlight has to be trekking part of the W circuit, heading 10KM uphill to the Torres Del Paine base camp (last photo). And shoot and trek session around the national park grounds with Oso where we saw beautiful fauna, guanachos,  several Condors, various angles of Cuernos del Paine (Horns), Torres Del Paine (Towers), Sarmiento Lake and Lake Sofia. We even spotted a few flamingos but alas, too far for us to capture….  My advice? Go and see it for yourself with your own eyes. Pictures really can’t do it justice.

Explora near Pingo

Full Rainbow capture – Explora

Waterfall in Rio Del Paine in Torres Del Paine

Waterfall in Rio Del Paine in Torres Del Paine

The Base Towers – part of the W trek

In the Jungle we sometimes find a gem…. Les Deux Garcons

Hello,

As I mentioned earlier, we were in KL over the weekend. It’s been over a year since my last visit. I find that when I am in KL, it’s usually for some specific purpose – event or friend’s gathering so I don’t have much time to wander around and explore much else other than the same neighbourhood I’m familiar with and that’s Bangsar. I worked in Malaysia once and lived in Bangsar for a few months. A lot of my friends live nearby so it’s uber convenient to meet up with them, have a night cap over coffee and nice chilled out music or even to sneak in a cheeky Roti Chani in TTDI or SS2. I usually hang around Telawi, Bangsar, Damansara and on this visit, I’ve seen a lot of new boutique shops popping up. For one thing there’s a really glam looking ‘Pantry Magic’!

Anyway, we came across a pristine white shop besides a fruit stall. I peered in wondering what is it exactly. To my delight – it’s a patisserie called ‘Les Deux Garcons’. It’s owned and run by Toto and Ben. On our first visit, we tried a cake each. Den tried the Mango Passion fruit – think he liked the happy zesty colour. I tried the Raspberry gateaux because… well, it was pretty! When we sliced into it, we noticed the layering of the mousse was in a similar style to that of the famed Japanese Patissier, Hidemi Sugino. It’s a style that our friend, C loves and aspires too. We know it’s hard to achieve different coloured and layering of the mousse over delicately thin sponge. But these guys did it and it looks  – well, see for yourself just how pretty the cakes are.Les Deux Garcons, selection of gateaux

On our 2nd visit, we tried another 2 cakes and ordered a dozen of the macarons for our friends. For the cakes, this time we tried the Dark Chocolate Cherry Mousse and the White Chocolate Truffle tart (apparently their signature).  Again, we were impressed with the choices – the lines were clean, the sponge and layering inside were precise and retained the moistness that sometimes gives away mousse that’s been left out too long. The white chocolate truffle creates an interesting flavour for your palate because your brain will associate the truffle with savoury dishes like risotto or truffle shaved on eggs/pasta and yet the white chocolate sweetness will counter the savoury taste in a similar way that salted caramel does except – this is the Rolls Royce version of that sensation.

As we were leaving, we had the luck to meet the both of them (Toto and Ben) – they shared their passion for the patisserie arts with us and their drive to succeed and expand. Ohh… and they used to live in London too 🙂

In short,  it was love at first sight and after tasting and cutting through the middle – truly great craftsmanship and artisan in the colours, layering and precision. I think they are better than any patissier currently found in Singapore…

In Singapore there’s The Patissier at M’md Sultan or Ann Siang HillFlo at DuxtonK-ki At Ann Siang HillAntoinette in Mandarin Gallery…. but Les Deux Garcons is a nudge above their peers. It’s comparable to the best we’ve had in Paris and in Japan like ‘Patisserie K Vincent in Kagurazaka’ or ‘Hidemi Sugino in Ginza.

If you are heading over to KL and you love desserts, trust me you don’t want to miss out. For all you know, they’ll be heading to the bright lights of Tokyo or London and Paris soon!

Au reviour,

PhoodIE.

Sunday Brunch Malaysian Style – Bak Ku Teh

Hello,

Mr K and I had the occasion to visit Malaysia over the weekend. Our friend took us to try the Malaysian style Bak Ku Teh – the dry and the soup one in Puchong on a Sunday morning – before noon!
Our friend helped us order and we just had to eat whatever comes our way. What I like about the Malaysian style BKT over the ones you find in Singapore is that it is what it says on the box ‘herbal ribs’. Slowly stewed Pork Ribs in herbal tea.
I really like the fact that you can add the inoki mushrooms and there’s always plenty of ‘tofu curd’ in the clay pot. Of course, we add the ‘yau char gwai’ too. Oh yes.. there’ s always a token side order of veggies…. just so we feel we’ve done our greens for the morning.

 Bak Ku Teh in Puchong

After about 3 mins of silence when everyone tucks into the first slurps of the herbal tea, rice and ribs…. We look up with a big smile and satisfaction on our faces. Three Words – “hits the spot”!!

The BKT in SG have a huge amount of white pepper in the broth… and not much of a herby taste….. I’m not a fan. Who prefers the ones in SG over Malaysia? You must be a Singaporean haha.

Signing off.
PhoodIE.


Taipei, Taiwan – places I’d recommend…

Ola,

Lately a number of friends have been asking me about travelling to Taiwan, Taipei to be exact. I went recently in Sept 2011. As always, D will compile a list of  ‘places to visit and eat’.  When we’re back home, we sometimes have time to review the list again and short list the ones that we really did and enjoyed.

Here’s our list for our favourite phoods during our travels to Taipei this year.

Soyamilk Shop - Quintessentially Taiwanese

Fried dough, sticky rice wrap, savoury soyamilk, sweet soyamilk..... and a grilled flat bread.... (siew beng)... yummmm

Type Restaurants/ Good Food to bring home

Cuisine

Remarks

Lunch and open till late 老張牛肉麵
南昌路一段50號之2號
MRT: 中正紀念堂站
TEL:02-23960927
南海路 71 m
Left onto 南海路2巷 46 m
Right onto 南昌路一段31巷 110 m
Left onto 南昌路一段
Beef Noodles  
breakfast 永和豆漿大王‎
台北市大安區復興南路二段102號
BEST SOY MILK, yau cha gwai and all things yummy Taiwanese soy. I loved their omelette sticky rice too A MUST
They close for a break in btwn bfast and late lunch. Go before 11am or after 3pm. I think this is a brekkie place… so go early and you won’t be disappointed. We went there… daily!
Dinner or lunch 食養文化山房 (Taiwanese)
02-2646-2266
新北市汐止區汐萬路三段350巷7號
http://www.shi-yang.com/
(booked.  Re-confirm on arrival to taipei)
MRT: 南港展覽館站 (30 mins)
then taxi address (35 mins 15 km TWD350)
Organic, gastronomy. Beautiful setting…. Relax and enjoy. A MUST
U can try to go at lunch when it’s less busy. The owner, Mr Ma is usually there. Hardworking and down to earth guy. Nx time should interview him 😉  It’s in a very remote location. Be prepared for taxi drivers refusing to go there. Whilst you are up the hill and thinking you have arrived…. remember.. u are not there yet!!! Keep going till you see a white roofed building! and it really will cost 350 TWD!
Snacks 哈肯舖
Hogan Bakery
台北市信義路四段265巷18號
MRT: 國父紀念館站
South 光復南路 toward 仁愛路四段 400m
Right 仁愛路四段 8m
Left 光復南路 230m
Right 光復南路456巷 160m
Continue 信義路四段265巷
http://www.hoganbakery.com.tw
Cookies and bread This chap won the best bakery and french techique award a few yrs ago. V good bread for Asia 🙂
Lunch and open till late 度小月擔仔麵
忠孝東路四段216巷8弄12號
02-2773-1244
MRT: 忠孝敦化站
Exit 3
Right 忠孝東路四段194巷 66 m
Left 忠孝東路四段194巷1弄
Noodles A MUST
Very good and tasty. V. reasonably priced. The place was in an area good for snacks. Recommend a walk about in the neighbourhood
Open till late 桃源街牛肉麵
台北市桃源街15號
MRT: 西門站 Exit 3
http://www.pigpigscorner.com/2010/05/rice-noodles-in-taipei.html
   
Lunch 林東芳牛肉麵
八德路二段274號(中央日報旁)
MRT: 忠孝新生站
Exit 1
North on 安東街 toward 忠孝東路三段251巷1弄 350 m
Right onto 市民大道三段 37 m
Left onto 安東街 270 m
Left onto 八德路二段
02 2752 2556
 Beef Noodles Tiny place famous for beef noodles. I liked the side veggies too
Lunch 回留 (vegetarian)
台北市永康街31巷9號
+886-2-2392-6707
MRT: 忠孝新生站 then Taxi
11:30-22:00
 Vegetarian It’s EXCELLENT for tea ceremony if u don’t have time for any meals. The lady will guide u through the options. Go for ‘Ah Li San’ Lung Jin which is what Taiwan is famous for. The key is to relax, slow down and enjoy the tea break. It’s near to 度小月擔仔麵 so maybe come here after the noodles 🙂
Pineapple Tarts 舊振南餅店
台北 SOGO 新光三越 新天地A11
台北市松壽路11號B2
光復南路456巷
Right 光復南路
Left 基隆路一段364巷
Left 基隆路一段
Slightly right 松壽路
http://www.jzn.com.tw
pineapple tarts I only buy this branded pineapple tarts.The rest sold in airports etc aren’t v tasty…
Dinner 茶酒沙龍 (Chinese)
+886 2 2721 1970
仁愛路四段15號 2-3F
MRT: 忠孝復興站
South on 復興南路一段 400m
Left onto 仁愛路四段 73m
http://www.isabelle-wen.com/wenfifi/
   
Places to see 太魯閣國家公園
龍山寺
MRT: 龍山寺站國立故
宮博物院
北投區(Hot Springs)
大龍峒保安宮
Bus 涼州重慶路口 601 (天母), 223 (大南汽車關渡站) to 酒泉重慶路口
Walk 哈密街
   
In bwtn meal snacks DTF – the original shop  Shanghai Dumplings – filled with lots of yummy juice Was actually very good even though there’s many branches in SG.
Go at an offpeak hour to avoid all the coach load of Japanese and mainland tourists.
A Mountain Area for walks Yang Min San Really lovely walk. U will see all the local oldies with their picnics, chit chatting/ playing chess games. I went here once when I was younger and have very good memories of it. Happy to find it almost as I had remembered it.
private kitchen Cat’s Private Kitchen is at
#25, Alley 20, Lane 391, He Ping East Road Section 3, Da An District, Taipei
台北市大安區和平東路三段391巷20弄25號
Tel: (886) 961-173451
 Private Kitchen Extremely difficult to get a reservation for 2 pple. Need a group of 4. and book 2 months or more in advance. For those who are determined – give it a shot. Better still if you can converse with them in Taiwanese I think… I had to struggle a bit with my broken mandarin…. they tried to fit us in but alas they had another larger group booked in. Makes business sense 🙂

Hope you peeps enjoy your visit to Taipei!! 🙂 There’s also a snacks markets in Shilin which we visited – you should go too at night and enjoy the street food there.

Ciao for now,

Phoodie signing off