A dynamic district in northern Taipei, Neihu’s modernity exists in stark contrast to the sleepy backwater it was just three decades ago. Recently, it has blossomed into a hotbed for IT and innovation, as well as a great place to live and hang out. Australian Mark Goding has lived in Taipei for 18 years and runs a craft sausage business that caters to the city’s top hotels and restaurants. Now that Filipinos can travel visa-free to Taiwan, Mark puts down the tools for a day to give us a guided tour of Neihu’s entertainment options, running trails, temples and food markets.
8AM: Checking out the flower market
The seasonal flora at the Neihu flower market always gets Mark excited and out of bed early. The rainbow-colored building is packed with stalls offering a wide variety of veggies and blooms. Stall owner Lu Ping-wei says, “A lot of chefs come here for herbs and spices; iced-tea vendors also purchase their drink ingredients here.” The strong whiff of herbs has Mark sniffing out produce that could end up as sausage ingredients.
11AM: Coffee time at Glory Fusion
Mark gets a cuppa at Glory Fusion, a restaurant he works with. He chats with French owner Damien Turpin, who serves sophisticated French-Taiwanese fusion fare in an elegant setting — wood-paneled walls, sleek furniture, a chic bar area — at reasonable prices.
12noon: Shopping at the Miramar
Miramar Entertainment Park is a F&B and entertainment hotspot Mark enjoys wandering through. He’s never been on the Miramar Ferris wheel, though, so he takes it on. On his return, he says that the view of Taipei from up high is “humbling and not to be missed”.
2PM: Late lunch at a food court
Xihu Market follows the old Taiwanese wisdom that spending on ingredients is better than expensive fixtures and fittings. Here Mark takes a look, picking up a few things before adjourning to the subway stop food court that’s built into the side of Xihu Station. Locals make up the majority of patrons here — the subdued environment makes it the perfect spot for a quiet immersion into Taiwanese casual dining. Mark checks out the wide array of mom-and-pop stalls serving fragrant, home-style favorites at wallet-friendly prices. Xihu Station (Wenhu Line)
3PM: Tea-time sweets at Hey Fun Chocolate
At New Square, a shopping center that houses boutiques offering stylish goods and tech gadgetry, one standout store is Hey Fun Chocolate, where Mark opts for the cocoa-infused tea before sampling dark chocolate beans. His favorite? The 75% cocoa purity variety.
5PM: Chilling out at Bishan Temple
Perched on a mountain ridge, and framed by forests and clouds, Bishan Temple overlooks the capital city. The vista from the grounds encompasses the area between Taipei 101 and the port of Tamsui. Pointing down the valley, toward some hills where, he adds, “Between March and May, people have a lot of fun picking the strawberries.”
8AM: Hitting the mountain trail
After a day of indulgence, it’s time for a run at the Liyushan trail. Mark often starts here on Hash House Harrier runs, where he becomes the “hare” that marks the route for willing runners keen on a libation or two. “I love the city, and a drink, but you can’t beat nature.”
Neihu has its top-drawer restaurants, but the Xihu Station food court is great for local flavors. There’s beef noodles, braised pork rice, hot and sour soup and fresh fruit milkshakes.
Hey Fun Chocolate has powdered chocolate for hot drinks, matcha-flavored truffles and mint creams, along with all its cocoa offerings
Meet Wen Shao-qi, the managing partner at Hey Fun Chocolate
Mark: Is the chocolate made in Taiwan?
Shao-qi: The cocoa beans are grown in Pingtung, in the south of the island, where the temperatures and conditions are quite ideal.
Mark: How long have you been doing this?
Shao-qi: About seven years ago, my family made chocolate for fun and gave it to friends and family. But it got so popular that we started selling it — Hey Fun was born out of that as a family business. Now, we have this shop in Neihu and pop-up stores in several places.
Mark: What’s special about your chocolate?
Shao-qi: It’s natural and healthy! We don’t use coloring, extra flavoring and preservatives.
This story first appeared in the January 2018 issue of Smile magazine.