If your gaggle of female friends is anything like mine, it doesn’t really matter where you are or what you do, your collective group of gal pals will still have a great time being obnoxious and embarrassingly loud together.
That being said, it doesn’t mean we don’t enjoy having an itinerary to mosey through, slotting in necessary naps and digestion time from overindulging.
Below are my 5 Taipei suggestions for when the girls are in town and you’re feeling the #NoNewFriends vibe:
Aquatics Addiction Development 上引水產 (www.addiction.com.tw)
It’s tough to just list one place especially for a vibrant city like Taipei. I once hosted girlfriends in NYC and we literally had 15 small meals in an afternoon. Women love sharing and grazing.
Keeping that peckish eating habit in mind, I’d suggest Aquatics Addiction Development, a Taipei fish market that was converted into a consumer friendly place a few years ago.
Whenever I take out of town guests there, I describe it as a “wonderland” but they counter and tell me it looks like a hipster joint. I carefully choose wonderland because there are so many facets to the venue.
In the center, under the string patio lights there’s an outdoor grill bar, complete with a hot stone grill as the focal point of the table.
Inside, the standup sushi bar has excellent, fast service. I’ve never experienced massive wait times, either. It’s probably a good reason why tourists from Hong Kong seem to flock there.
The grocery section is packed with ready-to-eat sliced sashimi, sushi, lunch boxes, salads, and even fried foods. My first sighting of zucchinis was here! Green and yellow and I paid an arm and some of my rent money for it, but if I were going to eat something that reminded me of home, it’d be quality zucchini. I also like getting the grilled shrimp here to-go. You can also get steak, cheese, frozen and fresh seafood inside the grocery section.
There’s also a wine bar, oyster shack, juice bar and flower shop that always looks empty. Here for the shrimp, not the rosé. Clearly. (At the juice bar, I like getting a cold and freshly hacked coconut for NT$100.)
Aquatics Addiction Development is off the Xingtian Temple MRT station, but still a good 20 minute walk North.
There are a few ways to get there:
i) take the MRT and then walk
Don’t be scared of this walk, even if you pass by funeral row – funeral flowers, funeral homes and everything after-life care. On the corner will be Xingtian Temple so you know you’re heading in the right direction.
ii) take the MRT and then UBike over
This is probably more suitable for locals who have an EasyCard that will allow them to rent a Ubike. I always park outside, trusting that humanity ensures I have a bike to ride back to the station.
iii) take the MRT and cab over after
I’ve had a few cab drivers be in a huff about how close it is, though if you’re clearly with a group of tourists, they are less inclined to be classic Taiwanese passive aggressive.
Taiwan cab meters start at NT$70 and are relatively cheap compared to cities like NYC or Toronto. If you’ve got a large group, why not save yourself the hassle and just get chauffeured over? A 20 minute cab ride can run you around $7USD and no tip is required.
Stretch those legs and turn on your Google map.
WA-SHU 和酒 （https://www.facebook.com/washutaipei）
I’m a social drinker so I don’t know anything about dranks and I never pretend it’s my realm. However, I have preferences and won’t apologize for my tastebuds.
My first time at WA-SHU was past midnight on a weekday, after we already had a few cocktails at a very trendy bar nearby. I was with a drinks columnist, who knew exactly what she wanted to order, but I didn’t feel silly just telling the bartender what flavours I liked. (And that’s how I continued to order.)
The Japanese owner and his robin sidekick were impressive in their drink making skills. Everything was so precise yet agile.
The bar’s backsplash is basically a wall made up of multiple refrigerators with clear glass sliding doors. Bottles of in-house distilled and infused choices for cocktails were lined up beside each other. It was mesmerizing.
My standard drink there is a yuzu cocktail. We left around 2 a.m., just in time to cab away for an early morning snack.
Mingyi 明易足體養生館 (http://www.mingyi.tw/)
This is my go-to massage place. I preface this suggestion by telling people that the body massage hurts like a mofo, but leaves your muscles loosey goosey and you fall into a deep slumber once you hit the hay. (Like a natural muscle relaxant – cuz we all know how divine those are.) I’m absolutely not joking about how much it hurts. If you’re a regular foam roller, think of that type of pain all over your body…non-stop. (But it hurts so good!)
Mingyi’s flagship location is right off the Dongmen MRT station – about a 2 minute walk away, which is another reason why I love it. I first tried out this place with my girlfriend JK and it remains one of our fav activity after a leisurely ladies who lunch afternoon when she’s back in town.
It’s a relatively new spot and the interior is clean, bright and welcoming. When you first enter, you change out of street shoes and into slippers. You have the choice of a short yukata top and shorts if you’re doing a body massage. Lockers are also available for you to leave your belongings in.
You may see a lot of celebrity and athlete photos all over the store – aside from the owner loving sports, I think Taiwan is all about having klout to legitimize their biz, which Mingyi absolutely doesn’t need.
You can choose between a foot massage, half body or full body. I fluctuate between foot and half body depending on how poorly my posture has been. If you choose half body, you can tell them which areas to focus on. The foot massage comes with a 10 minute shoulder rub while your feet are soaking.
The only thing about Mingyi that I wish they had was a lounge where you could chill out a bit before they hurry you out. In polite Taiwanese fashion, your masseuse is waiting by the door to escort you out before clocking in for their next customer. I always feel like my zen-o-meter is recharged and then all of a sudden they are aggressively shoving me out the door like a Tokyo train station rush hour.
Reservations are not necessary, but suggested during busy times like weekends. Cash only so don’t roll up thinking plastic will do.
4) [BE MERRY]
Hike Elephant Mountain
Now, we could continue to be gluttonous or choose to do some physical activity. (You can also combine the two.)
To get in a sweat sesh (read: light sweat sesh), hike Elephant Mountain. If you’ve ever hiked Grouse in Vancouver, think the opposite.
Elephant Mountain is quite appropriate for light physical activity and even the elderly or young people with aching knees. The trail is equipped with shallow steps so there’s no need to get your trainers muddy. Once you reach a certain level, you see the entire view of Taipei. Don’t forget to bring an #InstagramHusband up there with you girls – or a selfie stick – cuz what is the point of doing something if no one gets to see what you’ve accomplished?
Getting to the trail is easy peasy – take the MRT. Once you get to Xiang Shan station on the red line, exit and you will see signs pointing you toward the trail.
Don’t be like me and JK – we went off the beaten path, got lost and followed a group of middle school girl scouts who led us down the mountain WITHOUT A CELL PHONE AND JUST A PLAIN PAPER MAP.
The hike takes less than 45 minutes and will motivate you to climb faster, if you want to eat more throughout the day. Now go put on those Lulu pants, your flyknits and assemble a messy bun/”don’t care hair” to go leisurely hike up this mountain!
5) [HAVE FUN]
Street Shopping in Ximending
Shopping is considered fun, right? If you’ve got friends who still like the old fashioned way of purchasing goods, and not spending the entire day on Amazon or Taobao, then shopping will sure pump some adrenaline into the body.
If the gal pals are visiting from North America, they probably won’t want to hit up big box shopping malls like Taipei 101 or Shin Kong Mitsukoshi and see the same brands that are cheaper at home. (H&M is a prime example.)
I’d suggest street shopping. For street shopping, Ximending is your best bet.
If I’m thinking of stocking up on beauty products, I like to head to Ximending before the kids get out of class on a weekday. (Ximending is known to be a high school hang out so if you’re an adult and like feeling aged, feel free to hop on by – but don’t be creepy and stay too long.) There’s Etude House, Skinfoods, Innisfree and most of all recognizable korean skincare brands all within a relative radius. (It irks me to the Nth degree when I have to go to multiple areas to get my holy grail products.) There are also a lot of accessories and clothing to browse. Whenever I return to Toronto, my girlfriends request these bizarre telephone cord hair ties that they swear by and this is where you can find them.