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HUALIEN (花蓮) - TAROKO (太魯閣)






Tuesday, August 14, 2018


“No. 7”, said by the waiter as he brought to my table a bowl of ice and six pieces of glutinous rice balls.   It looks like a bird's nest.  Sprinkled with osmanthus flowers, its unusual appearance made me wonder on what is special about this Taiwanese dessert.   It's all white!  No jellies.  No beans.  Just dumplings and ice at first sight.  Haha!

Yù pǐn yuán (御品元) restaurant

You can find the dessert in Tonghua Night Market or better known as Linjiang Night Market.  Smaller than Raohe Night Market, the intersection of Tonghua Road and Linjiang Street in Taipei's Daan District transforms every night into a parade of street food.  And look what I have found! The Yù pǐn yuán (御品元) restaurant.    It is open every night from 6:00 pm (5:30 pm every Saturday and Sunday) to 12 midnight.  Great for night owls like me.

The menu.  My order is No. 7

Visiting the store at 10:30 pm was a wise decision.  There was no line but I knew that they have lots of customers during peak hours because of the retractable-belt barrier that stands in front of the restaurant.   The staff asked me in Chinese but I could not reply in Mandarin.  I just showed to them a photo of my order and they instantly let me inside.  I sat on an empty table and waited for ”No. 7” to arrive on my table. The Sesame and Peanut Tangyuan with Osmanthus Soup flavored fire and ice dumpling.

The lemon juice is that whitish liquid inside the bottle.

osmanthus soup
After receiving it, I stared at my dessert for a long time imagining what would it taste like. Something must be missing so I observed my fellow customers if they are doing something special.  I saw a man stood up and went to the entrance together with his bowl of ice and poured something into it.  Eureka!  

An illustration in the restaurant helps explain how to correctly sprinkle the osmanthus and lemon flavors on the dessert.

Sprinkle the lemon juice on the ice part only.

“This is sugar.  This is lemon”, the waiter explained to me their special flavoring.  Both are liquids and I believed the “sugar” to be something like a mixture of honey with osmanthus flowers floating on it.  I poured the liquid both into the dumplings and ice, but I was told to apply only the lemon juice on the ice portion of the dessert.  

So the fire and ice dumpling have a magical sweet and sour taste.  The fillings of the glutinous rice balls are the tangyuan sesame and peanut butter.  The metallic color of the former excited me so much while the latter is just ordinary for me.  Both taste great.  Adding to the sweet taste of dessert is the “sugar”.  The dumplings and honey-like liquid complemented each other, dominating the sour taste of the “lemon”  sprinkled ice portions.  The combination of flavors is unusual in Taiwan where the thick fructose taste of mangoes dominate most of the island's summer delights. 

The glutinous rice balls slowly harden as it gets soaked in the ice cold water.

Yehey! I have found another great Taiwanese shaved ice dessert. The glutinous rice balls that were cooked in the fire but bathed in a sweet and sour flavored ice.  Highly recommended for international visitors wishing to discover a new craving for their taste buds. Joining the ranks of the watermelon milk cool balls and Jingimoo, I give a perfect score for the Fire and Ice Dumpling.

Yù pǐn yuán (御品元) restaurant
address: No. 31, Alley 50, Lane 39, Tonghua Street, Da’an District, Taipei City, 106
[Google Map]
Open: Monday - Friday, 6:00 pm to 12 midnight
           Saturday - Sunday, 5:30 pm to 12 midnight

How to get here:  MRT Xinye Anhe Station (Red Line) -> Go to Exit 4 -> walk 500 meters

My order:
Sesame and Peanut Tangyuan with Osmanthus Soup: NTD 80
(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 180815 (Rapsa Edition): Fire and Ice Dumpling

Read More

Saturday, August 11, 2018

Do you want to save on taxi fares in Taiwan?  Do you want to visit places like having your own private car but don't want to spend so much? Do you find it difficult to talk to drivers in Chinese? If you answer is yes, then you are reading the right page.  Introducing tripool taxi. Your private point-to-point transportation.

Brought to by roundTaiwanround, a legit and officially recognized travel agency in Taiwan.  They have created a legal and licensed product called tripool taxi that lets you visit the thousands of tourist attractions on the island at a fraction of a cost of a taxi fare.  Check the web app and see for yourself how it works (

Believe me (and the luomujie blog, of course. Haha!), you will really save money with this service.  Having been to many places on the island since the first day I arrived in this beautiful country, I have a lot of experiences in riding Taiwan's public transportation system from trains to buses and taxis.   I'm a budget traveler and sometimes I also board taxis to reach my destination faster.  You really can't travel in Taiwan without them.  But sometimes cab drivers charge too much and this post is to help you develop a wise technique on how to reduce your taxi fares by as much as 50%.

Yehliu Geopark

at Jiufen Old Street.  Red lanterns light up this narrow alley.

A group of children getting ready to release their sky lantern at Shifen Old Street

Ahmei teahouse in Jiufen Old Street.

So how does tripool taxi let you save money?  Let's have a real-life example.  Imagine you are in Yehliu Geopark and you want to go to Shifen or Jiufen.  But it's your first time in Taiwan and you have read somewhere that it is a hassle to travel by bus and train from Yehliu to Shifen or Jiufen.  You don't speak Chinese and you want to maximize your time because you are only in Taipei for a few days.  You are in a hurry until a taxi driver approaches you and offered a taxi ride to the land of sky lanterns and Spirited Away for a price of NTD 1,200 and NTD 1,400 respectively. Deal or no deal?  Let's compare the cab fares (See Table 1) of a general taxi against a tripool taxi from Yehliu to Shifen or Jiufen to see which taxi method is cheaper.

Table 1.  Price comparisons of a general taxi vs. tripool taxi from Yehliu Geopark to Shifen or Jiufen.
Pick-up point
Distance (km)
Estimated travel time
General taxi (deal offer)
 Estimated fare in tripool taxi
# of passengers
Yehliu Geopark
Shifen Old Street
49 min.
NTD 1,200
NTD 690
NTD 761
NTD 1,361
Yehliu Geopark
Jiufen Old Street
51 min.
NTD 1,400
NTD 715
NTD 787
NTD 1,385

Looking at Table 1, it is very clear that you can save lots of money by choosing tripool.  Why spend NTD 1,200 if you can only pay for NTD 690 for a ride from Yehliu to Shifen with two passengers on board.  Traveling alone? No problem.  The price is still the same for two passengers. tripool web app:

The price increased in tripool with more passengers?  Remember the saying “the more, the merrier”.  As more people hop on the tripool taxi, more friends are willing to share the cost of the fare which translates to savings.  You can see from Table 1 that the tripool taxi fare doubled when the passenger number was increased to five.  This happens because a bigger car will be used to accommodate the larger number of passengers in a vehicle.  Do you want to squeeze yourself in a five-seater car if there are six people that are going to board? Haha!

The picturesque Gaomei Wetlands during sunset

Enough of the tourist traps in the suburbs of Taipei.  Let's go to Central Taiwan. To Taichung, the gateway of Sun Moon Lake and the home of the famous bubble milk tea.  I bet you have heard of its popular attractions like Gaomei Wetlands.  I dare you to visit there on weekends especially during holidays and let yourself get drowned by the sea of people after the sun has finally set.  Bwahaha!

Everyone is waiting for the bus going back to Qingshui Station until an unknown man approaches you in the middle of darkness and ask you to hop in his taxi.   For a woman, it might be scary to go with a stranger.  With tripool taxi, you are assured of your safety because after you booked a car, you will receive an e-mail about the driver's name, car plate number, and contact number.   So you know who is going to be your personal driver for the drive back to downtown Taichung.   

Now let's have an example in Taichung ala Yehliu-Jiufen (See Table 2).  How do people go to Xinshe Castle and Zhongshe Sight Seeing Flower Market from Taichung Station?  For Xinshe Castle, tourists on a tight budget usually board Bus 91 from TRA Fengyuan Station up to Zhongxingling terminal stop.  Then, a cab will take them to the Summit Resort area for NTD 200.  Sounds good, but cash-rich tourist like those from Singapore would probably ride a taxi from Taichung Station for NTD 800 (their minimum offer based on my experience) and they will arrive in the place in less than 40 minutes.  In a tripool taxi, visitors will only have to pay NTD 578 (for 2 passengers) to get to Xinshe Castle from the train station with no hidden charges.  Just schedule your ride based on your arrival time in Taichung Station.    

Table 2. General taxi vs tripool taxi in Taichung. Comparison of cab fares (computed for two passengers) in going to Xinshe Castle and Zhongshe Sightseeing Flower Market from the train station. tripool web app:

Pick-up point
Estimated travel time
General taxi fare (deal offer)
Estimated fare in tripool taxi
Taichung Station
Xinshe Castle
19.3 km
38 min.
NTD 800
NTD 578
Taichung Station
中社観光花市(aka Zhongshe Sightseeing 
Flower Market)
34.5 km
41 min.
NTD 700
NTD 662

pink tulips in Zhongshe Sightseeing Flower Market

Zhongshe Sightseeing Flower Market.  This place is popular every spring because of its tulips festival.  How to get here had long been demystified by the luomujie blog by just walking from TRA Tai'an Station. You entered the garden and you had lots of fun.  Then it's time to go back to Tai'an Station.  Sounds easy to do but going back to the train station by taking a stroll for two kilometers will take a lot of time for many.  So the best way is to board one of the cabs waiting at the entrance of the flower garden and ask the driver to take you to TRA Tai'an Station.  Not to mention that you will still have wait for the local train going back to downtown.  But beware! Taxi drivers in Taichung have a dirty habit of deciding for themselves which place they will drop their passengers.  Sometimes, instead of taking you to Tai'an Station, the driver will take you Taichung Station which means a higher taxi cost for about NTD 700.  Are you ready to pay that sum of money?  Imagine going to Taiwan as a tourist and then end up feeling robbed.  Been there, done that.  

The price difference of tripool and a general taxi for the Taichung Station to Zhongshe Sightseeing Flower Market is almost the same (See Table 2).  But in tripool, you don't need to talk to the driver in Chinese because the destination and pick-up point had already been set during booking.  Once your reservation is confirmed, you are guaranteed a hassle-free trip unlike talking to taxi drivers and being denied to board the car because of disagreements of not using the taxi meter.  

at Hehuanshan

Now let's go higher to Nantou province.   I have two point-to-point examples in Table 3 where tripool shows its convenience for travelers in Taiwan.  The first one is going to Hehuanshan from Taichung Station. Going by taxi is a common technique for people with thick pockets. But it doesn't always give the results that you want.  Two of my past Travel Buddies who have tried to go on an adventure in Hehuanshan have experienced horror instead of bringing home beautiful memories.  They boarded a cab from Taichung Station for a roundtrip price of NTD 8,000.  The plan is, the driver will take them to the mountains and then will come back for the return trip.  However, the “kind” taxi driver didn't return and another driver (the "kind" driver called his friend to do the job for him) fetched them from Hehuanshan.  Upon reaching Taichung they were charged NTD 4,000 for the return trip.  So that's NTD 12,000 for a roundtrip Taichung – Hehuanshan taxi ride.  Tsk..tsk..tsk... 

Table 3:  Taichung to Nantou cab fares in a general taxi vs tripool taxi. tripool web app:
Pick-up piont
Estimated travel time
General taxi fare (deal offer)
Estimated fare in tripool taxi
Taichung Station
113.1 km
2 hrs and 29 mins.
NTD 4,000*
NTD 1,680*
Cingjing Farm
Puli Station
34 km
58 mins.
NTD 900**
NTD 761**
*two passengers, **three passengers

So what happened to my friends? They did not give the extra NTD 4,000, so the taxi driver called a policeman.  But the officer could not speak English, so the foreign affairs ministry of Taiwan was asked for help.  Sigh! These things should not be happening to visitors in this country.   

And this is one of the reasons why tripool taxi was invited.  To move people to tourist spots in Taiwan without hidden charges.   For a Taichung Station to Hehuanshan point-to-point tour, you only need to pay NTD 1,680 (one-way trip) instead of the dubious NTD 4,000 offer of taxi drivers in Taichung.   Let's say you want to explore the mountains and wanted to come back to the city after wandering in the rolling hills for three hours.  So you book a return trip using tripool again to set your desired pick-up time.   Your tripool car will probably stay in Hehuanshan in your agreed meeting place and will wait for you as you enjoy the beauty of Hehuanshan.   It is so convenient for backpackers without the worry of being overcharged.  Yehey! 

A flock of sheep in Cingjing farm.

Going back to Taichung from Cingjing Farm by bus? Not so fast.  It is not as easy as what you think.  Although there are public buses that service the winding road in Cingjing Farm down to the town of Puli, the bus drivers have a weird way of just bypassing the bus stops even with people waiting at them.  I have experienced this last winter.  At that time, a thick fog shrouded Cingjing Farm and most buses don't want to stop.  It was a good thing that two Taiwanese women were standing beside me and we just decided to board a taxi to the town of Puli.  We haggled for the price per person and it was agreed to be NTD 300 each.   But in tripool, the Cingjing Farm to Puli Station itinerary costs only NTD 761 for three passengers which makes the budget for each person down to NTD 254 only.  The difference was only less than fifty Taiwan dollars but we waisted one hour of our life trying to catch a bus that doesn't want to make a stop.   With tripool taxi, you won't experience these things.   You just schedule your trip one day before, the car arrives at the meeting point and takes you to your destination.  

But have I tried tripool taxi before?  Yes, of course!  When I went to the Sun&Green sunflower farm together with my girlfriend, I booked a car in tripool with the web app (  

The sunflowers in Sun&Green farm. 
The tourist attraction was located in Guanyin District in Tayouan and there is no bus that directly stops at the flower farm.  The nearest bus stops are within two kilometers away and I was not even sure if the public buses passing by near Sun&Green were as frequent as the buses in downtown Taoyuan.  Tripool helped me solve my problem and within 40 minutes I arrived at my destination.  
How to book a car via the tripool web app using your smartphone? Just follow these steps:

taxi time, shuttle price

As you enjoy your trip with this private point-to-point transportation, don't forget to remember the tagline of this service.  Tripool taxi:  taxi time, shuttle price.    But I will give my own version, the luomujie way.  Tripool taxi: Taiwan budget travel technique

Tripool taxi: Taiwan budget travel technique

Read More

Tuesday, August 7, 2018

Looks can be really deceiving especially when searching for those delicious shaved ice desserts in Taiwan.  In a hidden corner of the city, lies a restaurant where locals can be seen lining up outside the store.  I know that there must be something tasty here (if I'm not mistaken) so I joined the queue, ate inside and went home thinking to come back.

At first glance, this dessert looks like a cake.

How do they shape the shaved ice into something like a cake? They just place a bowl on the shredded ice to create that cylindrical form.

I don't know how to describe properly this food.  An oozing lake of chocolate-looking liquid placed on a top of a shaved ice shaped like a cake.  It is amazing how such a dessert can attract so many customers even on a busy weekday night.  C'mon Taiwanese patrons of  Liushun bean flower (六順豆花) restaurant, give the international tourists a chance to taste this delicacy.  The line is very long every night and the store is not big enough to accommodate a large number of people.  Haha!

The menu of the restaurant

To order, just encircle the name of mud volcanic ice (right side) plus the for different kinds of filling (left side) that you want.

If falling in line feels like standing for a decade, then think again. Dios mio!  The menu is in Chinese only.  While in the queue,  I was given a laminated paper  (the menu) plus a pencil so I can encircle the kind of dessert that I want and the fillings that I was craving for.  Chinese characters.  Sigh! Hmmm... Which one is it?  The featured food in this episode of the My Beloved Taipei travel series.  I was quick to ask one of the waitresses and she was kind enough to help me select my order.

Yù níhuǒshān bīng or mud volcanic ice (芋泥火山冰).  The best-seller of the restaurant plus four different kinds of filling for the dessert.  Be it a jelly, nuts, or beans, the main ingredient that makes this food special is that viscous red bean paste.  Its the one that gives the “kick” that will send you to the limits of outer space.  A tasty lava on a crater of goodness.  It is justing waiting to erupt!

Adding more fun in eating the food is when you destroy one side of the crater.  Let your creative juices flow as the liquid slowly oozes out of its cage.  Watch as it devours any ice crystals that blocks its path.  With one scoop of a spoon, you put it in your mouth and then it explodes.  Boom!  The sweetness was just right enough.  Depending on what kind of nuts or jellies that was put inside, it will create a unique taste for every combination.  Eat the ice together with the red bean paste and it will change the way you look at Taiwan summer desserts.  It's not all about mango shaved ice after all. 

There also others dessert available for customers to choose from.   Why not try the milk snowflake.  With tapioca pearls and read bean glutinous balls,  it will act as your barometer in assessing the taste of the ice volcano.   I'm sure the Níhuǒshān bīng will be the winner even if you return to the restaurant for another taste test of the mud volcanic ice.

Liushun bean flower (六順豆花) restaurant
address: No. 1-1, Lane 26, Xindong Street, Songshan District, Taipei City, 105
[Google Map]

open: Tuesday - Saturday, 1:00 pm to 10:30 pm
           Sunday, 3:30 pm to 10:30 pm

My order:
Mud volcanic ice (芋泥火山冰): NTD 75
(4 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 180808 (Rapsa Edition): Mud volcanic ice (芋泥火山冰)

Read More

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