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Journey to the heart of one the most exciting culinary scenes in Asia on this Real Food Adventure in Taiwan. From the fresh oyster omelette, mouth-watering sesame chicken and golden-brown fried taro balls served up in the night markets, to the many delicious incarnations of beloved beef noodle soup found all over the island, the Taiwanese approach to food is one of both modern flair and deep tradition. Join in street-level social enterprise in Taipei, roll your own xiao long bao (steamed soup dumplings), and sample a great spread of local produce straight from the source in Yilan – from spring onion to organic tea to boutique whisky. With must-see sights such as Sun Moon Lake, Tainan and Taipei 101 included along the way, this Intrepid Real Food Adventure delivers the perfect balance of flavours in an often overlooked foodie paradise.
Welcome to Taipei! Upbeat, profoundly livable and superbly located, Taiwan's capital is a thrill to explore on foot. If you arrive early, be sure to get out and about. Your adventure begins with a welcome meeting at 6 pm in the hotel lobby where you’ll meet your tour leader and fellow travelers. Afterwards, if off to the Ningxia Night Market for dinner. Here you can eat like a local, sampling world-class street food – perhaps some fried yam, oyster omelette or Hakka-style mochi balls. Bitter tea (not for the faint hearted) and papaya milk are also known to be available here. Whatever's on the menu, the market is great way to kick off your food adventure, allowing you to sample a multitude of dishes. This excursion is also a chance to experience the city's impeccable metro system, which could give Tokyo a run for its money in efficiency and cleanliness.
Travel by high-speed rail to Tainan. It’s a two-hour journey to the island’s oldest city, widely regarded as the food capital of the South. Begin your day with a tasting walk along the ancient and famed Anping Old Street. This narrow and winding adventure will lead you to food vendors serving up a variety of streetside delicacies, from fresh fruit and Taiwanese meatballs to the ubiquitous sweet or savory ‘coffin bread’ (fried toast) creations.
From there, get a dose of history and culture at Anping Fort. Built in 1624 by the Dutch, the edifice – which was originally called Fort Zeelandia – served as a Dutch trading hub. After the Dutch were ousted in 1661, the sprawling grounds were renamed Anping Fort. Afterwards, discover the unusual Anping Tree House. Once an old storage warehouse, the structure has since been taken over by a far-reaching Banyan tree, whose branches and roots now completely engulfed it. The result is a strange marriage of history, architecture and the power of nature.
Dinner tonight is a truly special experience – a menuless meal served at a 100-year-old house built during the Qing dynasty. The current owner is an antique-lover who has filled the home with fascinating pieces that surround you as you enjoy whatever Taiwanese delicacies are on offer that night, which could include braised pork belly, homemade sausages, steamed milkfish and all manner of seasonal vegetables, not to mention a host of fried snacks accompanied by endless pots of tea.
Your day begins with a visit to Chikan Lou. Also known as Chikan Tower or Fort Provintia, it is one of the most important historic sites in Taiwan. Chinese-style towers sit atop a foundation initially built by Dutch colonials, creating a unique hybrid structure surrounded by elegant lawns and the koi ponds. After this peaceful and contemplative visit, change gears as you enter the Hayashi Department Store – a beloved multi-story shopping centre. Opened in 1932 during Japanese rule, it was bombed by the U.S. in World War II. Beautifully restored and reopened in 2013, it now features museum-style exhibitions on local farming and handicrafts, as well as cutting-edge fashion, tech, a traditional tea shop, food court and observation deck. Having accomplished some sightseeing, it’s time to get active on a bamboo raft excursion on Cigu Lagoon. Sample freshly harvested grilled oysters lagoon-side and perhaps get the opportunity to harvest some yourself! After lunch, hit the road and travel about one-and-a-half hours north to Taichung. Here, you'll pay a visit to the Confucian Temple complex to gain some insight into Confucian philosophy.
In the evening, join the owner of Spring Land Villa and her family for a home-cooked repast in a family-run guesthouse; this is bound to be a memorable local experience. The meal will likely include a traditional communal hot pot where freshly harvested local ingredients can be cooked to your liking in various flavorful broths with accompanying sauces.
After breakfast at the guesthouse, make tracks for Sun Moon Lake, Taiwan's only natural lagoon. It’s an excellent backdrop for some cycling, so today you’ll set out on a 1.5-hour bike ride around Sun Moon Lake, taking in the full beauty of the lake and its surrounding green hills, followed by a picnic lunch made with quality, local produce. After lunch, continue to the Wufeng Lin Family Mansion and Garden, Taiwan's finest traditional compound (approximately 2 hours). Enjoy plenty of time to explore the stately mansion and gardens, before a free evening to explore on your own. Dinner is free tonight so be sure to ask your leader for recommendations at Fengchia night market!
Head out of town this morning to a restaurant in Taoyuan. Here, you’ll learn to make xiao long bao (steam soup dumplings) in a DIY class. Originating in the Jiangnan region of China, these little flavor bombs can be tricky to create but are well-worth the effort. Under the guidance an expert cook, create the filling (usually gelantinsed ground pork) and learn the delicate art of shaping their thin shells, before steaming these small morsels in bamboo baskets. Then sit down and enjoy your creations for a satisfying lunch. Back in Yilan, you’ll get the chance to try their renowned jar-roasted chicken for dinner. In a legendary but unassuming eatery, 130 to 150-day-old free range hens are marinated in herbs, garlic, cumin and a medley of other spices, and then cooked in earthen jar ovens until smoky and beautifully tender. Depending on when you arrive back in Yilan, there may also be time to enjoy a relaxing soak the hot springs at the hotel.
Get ready for a full day of behind-the-scenes food experiences in and around Yilan and Taipei. Begin in Yilan with a tea picking and tasting experience. Head to a nearby restaurant for a seasonal lunch, then continue to a spring onion farm. Here, you’ll learn the important role this ingredient plays in Taiwanese cuisine as you do some picking and help to make spring onion cake. Finally, wrap up an illuminating day with a tour and taste at a local whisky distillery. Though Taiwan may not be the first place you associate with whisky, it’s actually among the world’s top up-and-coming whisky producers alongside Tasmania (Australia), Japan and Sweden. In fact, it made a single malt that was rated as the world’s best a couple of years back.
Today you’ll experience Taipei's 'Make My Day Cooking Lab', an amazing local cooking class operation that attracts people from all over the world. Join a master local chef and try your hand at some classic Taiwanese dishes in this fun, yet homely setting. The excursion includes a market tour and wraps up in the early afternoon. The remainder of your day is free for you to spend as you please. Consider a trip to some nearby hot springs for a soothing soak after all your culinary adventures. In the evening, join your fellow travellers for a group dinner at Shin Yeh, a Taipei institution since the '70s, that specialises in traditional Taiwanese cuisine.
Enjoy a leisurely start to the day before learning about the local Sweet Potato Mama project in the late morning. As you’ll discover, the sweet potato is an important symbol in Taiwanese culture and a dietary staple. That’s why these women, or local mamas, roast them daily and serve them to a lunchtime crowd in order to support their families. You’ll get to taste some of the sweet potato, and roll up your sleeves and lend a hand, serving potatoes to locals. All proceeds from the excursion going to the Genesis Social Welfare Foundation’s Sweet Potato Mama Program to support single mothers. Afterwards, set out on street food crawl through Jiufen Village, tasting local dishes such as tea eggs, taro balls peanut ice cream balls, 14-year-old aged tea and grilled snails (if you haven’t tried grilled snails before, you’ll find the texture is more agreeable than you might expect). When it's all over, return to Taipei and enjoy a free evening.
Your Real Food Adventure comes to an end after breakfast. There are no planned activities today.
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|Standard:||from AU $2,850|
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