Sunday, January 7, 2018

Taiwan 2017 Part 1 | Mitsui Outlets & Ximending

Hey guys! I'm back with another travel series and this time it's all about my trip to Taiwan last Christmas with the family! So happy the break is extra long and I had quite some time to fix my photos. Taiwan definitely has a special place in my heart. I actually studied here for about 2 months when I was in high school. That was almost 7 years ago! So there's a lot of things to be nostalgic about and there are also tons of new things that have changed as well. We were in Taiwan for a really long time so this series actually has a lot of parts so let's get started! :D

Our first stop from the airport was the Mitsui Outlet Park located in New Taipei City. It's halfway between Taoyuan and Taipei which I think is quite nice so you don't really notice the distance from the city to the airport. In the past, I remember the trip being so long but now it's a lot more comfortable.

Mitsui is an outdoor type of mall so it's best to walk here during colder times. I don't think it would be fun if it was summer because not a lot of shaded areas. Anyway, like most outlets around the world, you've got your usual brands such as Adidas, Nike, New Balance, Mizuno, and most other popular sportswear brands. I did notice that Converse, Mizuno, and Asics are especially affordable here.

The part with the blue glass is a large indoor mall that we didn't explore thoroughly but I do remember more high end brands inside such as BEAMS and snidel. There's also a Uniqlo but unfortunately, Uniqlo in Taiwan is really expensive. Think: same price here in Manila in terms of peso, but just turned into the local currency. So it's basically almost double the price of how it's sold here in the Philippines. *tears*

We didn't linger too long in Mitsui because I think everyone was more excited about the next destination - Ximending!

But first though, we stopped by Taisugar Hotel which is just less than a 5 minute walk to Ximending. I actually recommend this place because of its convenience and the rooms are quite nice! Also, it was completely unexpected to find an Animate store there just right below the hotel. Of course, I had to check it out!

For those who don't know, Animate is a store that specializes on all things Anime! You can find all sorts of things related to your favorite Japanese video games, manga, and animated series.

The simple straightforward interiors very reminiscent of their original stores in Japan. Sadly though, the stuff they sell is nowhere near as extensive as in Japan. Expected, but still! I was really disappointed to find almost zero merchandise for video games. Was really hoping to get my hands on some FFXV or Persona 5 merch but alas. I guess that's for when I actually go to Japan. Anywho, if you're curious about what it's like at an Animate store in Japan, you can see it here!

Gashapon is surprisingly everywhere in Taiwan, not just in Animate!

The only section of merchandise I could relate to - Haikyuu! The merchandise her is still pretty lacking though. We left the store a bit disappointed but oh well.

Now, for Ximending! Honestly hyperventilating ever so slightly as we approached what was obviously a bustling shopping district. It's crazy because I have very little recollection of Ximending from my student days probably because I never got to explore this side at all. When we went out of the station, I always explored the other side along the Red Theater (a little more on this later in the series), but never checked the other side which seems silly now because this side was so much more alive.

At the side of the entrance is a NET store and it's definitely a familiar Taiwanese brand! Think of it as a cross between GAP and a little bit of Mango. They sell clothes for both men and women but can be a bit pricey as far as price points go. It's definitely along upper middle range.

Now for Ximending proper! Right off the bat, I am reminded of Hongdae! If you've read my previous Seoul travel series, you know how much I love Hongdae in Seoul and these small streets in Ximending are a dead ringer. (Several posts about it here) You can find a ton of roadside shops with a mix of international and local brands, and of course, street food!

Coco! Love this milk tea brand. It's popular all across Taiwan and China, but I find Coco to be the best here. I love the small pearls and I usually don't like pearls in my Milk Tea!

Hot Star Large Fried Chicken greets you at the first intersection and it felt like Taiwan was giving me such a warm welcome. I was overwhelmed, to be honest. Hot Star is the most famous brand for Taiwanese Chicken Chop. It's a large almost bond paper sized piece of chicken that can be your whole lunch or dinner. You can't go to Taiwan and not eat it, to be honest. That's a disservice to yourself! Also, ABC Mart just around the corner! ABC Mart is a Japanese chain of department stores that sells popular footwear - sometimes at insanely good prices so it's always worth a visit!

Fifty Percent was honestly my favorite discovery in this entire trip. Their style is very Korean with beautiful marriages of local fashion. The price points are also great! You can get bags here for less than 1000 pesos, and clothes ranging from about 500 pesos to 2000 pesos depending on the complexity. All I can say is for me, the prices are quite justified and I bought a gorgeous bomber jacket here that I can't wait to feature on the blog!

Their Ximending store is 4 floors, by the way!!!

Before going to Taiwan, I actually read up on where to find K-Beauty, and one of the recommendations is COSMED. Sadly, K-Beauty in Taiwan is oftentimes ridiculously overpriced. Especially if you check in official brand shops. (Etude House products here are double the price as their Philippine counterparts if you go to the actual store)

However, going to third party shops that sell a variety of brands can help you get decent deals on K-Beauty products. Recommended K-Beauty stores later in the series! For now, COSMED is a good place to stock up on Taiwanese skincare brands which in my opinion is every bit as good as their Korean and Japanese counterparts. I hoarded about 80 face masks from the brand Dr. Morita just because they work so well on me! Very gentle but very effective at a competitive price with face masks in Korea! The usual deal is 300NT$ for 20 masks. Not bad at all!

The similarities with Hongdae in Seoul continues with the presence of buskers on the street!

The variety of street food here is also great.

We had dinner at a noodle shop called 三商巧福 which I think is a fastfood chain. I've honestly never heard of it. I had the first dish on the menu which was Beef Brisket and Stomach Noodles and it was alright. But to be completely honest, if you were in Ximending, you should just eat whatever you see on the streets. It's more worth it.

Sharetea is an international milk tea chain but it was so fancy here that I got curious. We got a strawberry mojito and I got to practice my Mandarin for the first time. I was, as expected, very rusty. Haha!

There was a convenient closed store at the side for taking hipster photos lol The strawberry mojito was good but I think I'll stick to Milk Tea from Sharetea next time.

At about 11PM, most food carts I passed on the sidestreets culminated along the street where Uniqlo is and it become a mini Myeongdong! (Posts on Myeongdong here) It was a really unexpected sight and it kind of made me wonder if Ximending was always this way. Sort of like a marriage between Seoul and Tokyo. Everywhere I went seemed to remind me exactly of a few aspects of either city which was really comforting and exciting at the same time. More about Ximending later on in the series!

Stay tuned for more! :)

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