HUALIEN (花蓮) - TAROKO (太魯閣)






Tuesday, June 19, 2018


Multiple scoops of ice cream in one serving? Strawberry-flavored red balls?  A dessert house in Shilin Night Market has one of Taipei's coolest dessert.  It has shiny spheres that sparkle like a ruby gem.  Are your taste buds ready to try them?

The facade of the restaurant

The snow of Shilin District.  Welcome to the Handmade Snow Flower Ice (花藏雪手作雪氷)  restaurant.  A tiny paradise in the busiest night market of Taipei.  Blossoming with its sweet menu, it is slowly getting the attention of locals for its intriguing best-seller.  Meet the Xīguāniúnǎi liángqiú.  A mouth-watering shaved ice dessert that will ignite your senses.

I ordered a small bowl of the mysterious red balls dessert.

Ordering was so easy.  I just showed the staff the picture of the food that I want to eat and they immediately asked me to pay.  For a cheap price of NTD 150, I can enjoy the delicious “strawberry” flavored dessert that the store has to offer.   After giving them the money, they asked me to sit on an empty table and  I then waited for a few minutes.  
And my food has arrived!

Expectation vs reality.  On pictures, the shiny red balls looked so big, but when the food was delivered to my table I got a bit disappointed.   They weren't that large as I thought and their sizes can be likened to giant marbles.  I have also mistaken them to be shaved ice that had been shaped into spheres.   Well, looks can be deceiving but what is important is its flavor.  Will it pass the taste test?

Coupled with a tiny cup of condensed milk, customers can pour a cream of sweetness over the pink shaved ice and the red balls.  A food for the stomach and for the eyes as well, gazing at the flowing milk was like a work of art.   A masterpiece that I have also destroyed when my spoon grabbed some ice and put it in my mouth.

Suprise!  The pink shaved ice didn't taste like strawberries.  The red balls weren't also.  They were all made from watermelons.  Haha!  The red balls were actually the fleshy fruit shaped into spheres.   I was really fooled.  Their shiny appearance made me think that they were colored ice if they weren't the strawberry flavored ice cream that I was expecting for.   

Aside from the red balls and the pink shaved ice, there was also a slice of yellow watermelon in the dessert.

A healthy dessert for all.  For those who are conscious of their diets, the use of watermelon balls instead of real scoops of ice cream meant lower calories.  Also with the fruit's high water content, eating the red balls with the pink shaved ice will make anyone's stomach full.  Like any delicious dessert, customers will feel the final blow of sweetness when all of the ice melted and are collected at the bottom of the bowl.  The condensed milk plus the freshness of watermelons will surely take you to the deepest regions of outer space.

Before I left the place, I asked the staff about how they make the watermelon balls.  Their answer was just simple.  They use a spoon.  Haha!

Burp! My collection of gastronomic adventures in Taipei now got tastier with the addition of Shilin District's emerging red flavor.

Shilin Handmade Snow Flower Ice (花藏雪手作雪氷) restaurant
address: No. 27, Dabei Road, Shilin District, Taipei City, 111
[Google Map]
Open: Everyday from 3:00 pm to 10:00 pm

How to get here:  MRT Shilin Station (Red Line) ->  Go to Exit 2 -> Walk 500 meters

My order: a small bowl of watermelon milk cool balls (西瓜牛奶涼球)
Price:  NTD 150
My rating: 4.5 out of 5 luomujie stars

Rapsa is a slang for the Filipino word "sarap" which means delicious. Delicious -> sarap -> "rapsa" (inverted syllable order). The Rapsa Edition of the "My Beloved Taipei" Travel Series will take readers to the tastiest and yummiest foods in Taipei. Get to know the best desserts and local delicacies that Taiwan's capital has to offer, through this subprogram of the luomujie blog.

Taipei kong mahal 180620 (Rapsa Edition): Red Flavor

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Tuesday, June 12, 2018

The sight and sound of a red vehicle is turning heads in Taipei.  It runs on six wheels, has two floors and open on the top.   A double-decker bus!  Do you want to experience a joyride?  C'mon, it will be fun.

Before you get too excited to board the bus.  Let me give you some reminders.  This sightseeing tour offers different kinds of packages and routes for visitors to enjoy.   Ticket prices vary for how long you want to ride the bus and what places do you want to visit.   A 4-hour ticket gives you unlimited rides and costs NTD 300.  For foreigners residing in Taiwan,  just show your ARC and you will get a 50% discount.  Yehey!

Departure times of the double-decker bus

The start of the road trip.  I asked for help from the Visitor Infomation Center at Taipei Main Station on where to board the sightseeing bus.  They pointed me to Exit M4 and I was delighted to see the vehicle parked at the intersection of Zhongxiao West Road and Gongyuan Road.  It was waiting for its passengers for the 4:20 pm trip.  I decided to board the bus even though it was a hot summer afternoon.  The sun was getting ready to set and the sky was blue with some clouds, so the temperature was just right to enjoy the trip.  And it really turned out to be a wise decision!

I couldn't contain my excitement as I sat on the second floor.  I have been to many places in the city but to see the streets of Taipei on a double-decker bus was a different experience.   The traffic lights were so close and I could even see their LED lights.  Even the street signs were so near that I could reach them with my tripod.  Haha!

Most of the passengers wanted to sit at the air-conditioned area.

audio guide.  Just ask the "stewardees" to borrow the earphones.

À la Hong Kong.  The service of this sightseeing bus started in January 2017 while other Asian cities had also been offering this kind of travel option.  But during the early '90s, double-decker buses used to run in some cities on the island like in Taichung.  If there had public buses like this in Taipei, imagine a rush hour where everyone wants to get off from the bus.  Worst, most of the passengers are still on the second floor.  And there is no Easy Card technology yet.  So a ticket inspector goes around and squeezes his or her body between people just to collect their bus fares.  Bwahaha!

Presidential Office Building

Taipei Guest House

East Gate

When the double-decker bus passed by the Chiang Kai-shek Memorial Hall

Hop on, Hop off!  The slogan of  Taipei's double-decker bus.  Visitors can get off and ride again at the designated bus stops to explore the city on their own.   A new way to wander in Taipei aside from the thousands of classic MRT tours that you can read on the internet.   The Red Route takes tourist to the Red House in Ximending then passes by the Chiang Kai-Shek Memorial Hall.  The vehicle will then go to Taipei 101 with Yongkang Street and Daan Park as one of the stops then back to Taipei Main Station after passing by Sun Yat-sen Memorial Hall.  The Blue Route also runs in the Ximending and Chiang Kai-shek Memorial Hall but its destination will be the National Palace Museum with the Taipei Fine Arts Museum and Shilin Official Residence as part of the major stops.

Taipei City Hall

Taipei Main Station

Like magic.  Riding on the Red Route,  I waited as the bus slowly approaches the majestic Taipei 101.  Living here for almost five years,  I couldn't remember how many times I have seen Taiwan's tower of power.  It's still a different feeling every time I gaze at the tall structure.  When the vehicle was about to make a turn at Songzhi Road, the double-decker bus allowed me to look at Xinyi's highest building without the fear of losing my balance.  I sat comfortably on the open air second floor while my digicam is pointed to the highest point of  “101”.    Such things that you won't experience if you are just standing on the ground.

mini double-decker bus souvenir worth NTD 300 per box

A bus ride for all.  First-time visitors in Taiwan will surely enjoy the riding this new mode of transportation designed for tourists.   Ride and get off at your destination.  Explore the city on your own with the Taipei Sightseeing Hop On Hop Off Bus.  Hurry! The “double-decker” is waiting for you.  Beep! Beep!

Boarding location:  Taipei Main Station Exit M4 [Google Map]

Bus Tickets and Fare
4-Hours Pass:  NTD 300,  Tickets are valid within four hours unlimited rides
Day Tour Pass: NTD 500,  From 9:10 to 18:00 you can experience unlimited rides
One Day Pass:  NTD 600, Valid within 24 hrs from the first boarding
Two Days Pass: NTD 1200,  Valid within 48 hrs from the first boarding

*50% discount are given to Taiwanese citizens and foreigners with ARC.  Just show your ID.
*Passengers without tickets can board the bus and pay the fare to the “stewardess” while the bus is already running.
*The “stewardess” will ask you which stop do you want to get off and the tickets will be cheaper if you are going to alight at a certain stop.  For the Red Route, some locals board the vehicle at Taipei Main Station and then get off the bus at MRT Taipei City Hall Station.
*If you happen to sleep during the ride and wake up at the terminal in Taipei Main Station.  Board the bus again in front of Exit M4.  Remember that you can ride the double-decker bus for an unlimited number of times depending on the type your ticket.
*Ridership is very low for the Taipei Double-Decker Bus.  Let us support this project of the Taipei City government.  Nobody knows how long this tourist bus will be available for everyone.  The service can be suspended if found to be not beneficial and profitable anymore.

Bus Routes
Red Line: first bus at 9:10, last bus at 20:00, Taipei Main Station to National Palace Museum.
Blue Line: first bus at 9:40, last bus at 16:40, Taipei Main Station to Taipei 101.
The detailed schedule of the Taipei Double-Decker Sightseeing Bus as of Jan. 22, 2018

Taipei Double-Decker Sightseeing Bus (台北市雙層觀光巴士) [Taipei kong mahal 180613: Beep! Beep!]

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