The Hunger

The craving. That itch you can’t scratch. The insatiable hunger. What am I talking about? Getting a taste of home. When you get to a new country it is so fun to try all the new things around you, the variety of fresh flavors. I love food and I love eating. I’ve found some amazing cuisine since being in Taiwan. The thing is that who ever you are and where ever you’re from you probably get sick of the staples. After a while all the unique, exciting delicacies become the standard and you want something else. For me I crave western food.

So, for those of you who are in the same boat as me, here are some great places to check out in Yilan city.

Five Fish – This little pizzeria owned by a friendly Taiwanese family is great. They have a single wood fire oven and make delicious personal size pizzas. They are really affordable and you never have to wait. They make the pizzas with fresh ingredients right in front of you. Their menu is all in Chinese so bring your translation book or be ready to do a lot of gestures and pointing. In all seriousness they speak a little English and if you order a margherita they will know what you are saying. It is small and easy to miss, so keep your eyes open.

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Rain City Grille – This is a good place to go get a burger and fries. It’s owned by a Canadian guy, who mostly works the kitchen, though, you will probably see him milling about. Their lunch menu is almost identical to their dinner menu, but about half the price; so go for lunch. Even for dinner though it’s pretty affordable. Besides burgers they have pizza, pasta and sandwiches.

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Tavola – Another pizza joint! There ‘zas are pretty good and they have some really good salads (a rarity in Taiwan). They have a cool New York meets Italy meets Taiwan thing going on. Their pizzas are a little bigger than five fish and a little pricier, when I want a slice it’s always a coin toss between the two.

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Mr. Balagov – Not quite American but still really tasty, Mr. B’s serves classic Ukrainian food. It is a little spendy but really good. His specialty is the sultan kebab, a foot and a half of barbequed lamb. It is amazing and a big undertaking for one person, so go with a friend.

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Silks Lounge- if you are looking to impress a date thinks about this place. You should make a reservation because it fills up especially on the weekend. Silks is much classier than the other places mentioned and a lot more expensive, but worth it if you can foot the bill.

These are some of my favorite places to go eat some familiar food and take a load off. I’m sure there are others and as I find them I’ll be sure to share. If you know of any good places please leave a comment and if you like this post please follow our blog. Keep an eye out for more cool things to do around Yilan and Taiwan.

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Sevy Culture

Convenient stores are a way of life here. You can do anything at a 7/11.  You can pay you pay your bills, send mail, do laundry, and certainly buy groceries. There are four major quick shops: 7/11s, OK Marts, Hi-Lifes and Family Marts. Otherwise, there are a plethora of privately owned mom and pop shops.

If you’ve looked at any guidebook, you’ll almost certainly have come across this odd factoid about Taiwan, but it’s nothing compared to actually walking past 6 or more of these little shops on your short jaunt to work. Of the four convenient giants there are over 9,000 shops around the island. Including a modest 1,000 smaller family-owned shops, that’s about 1 store for every 2,500 people. They are such a big part of the culture that they are noted on a lot of tourist maps. It doesn’t seem like much, but wait till you see it for yourself.

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These places aren’t just for quick in and out shopping like at home, a lot of them have seating and bathrooms, decent (it’s a relative decent) food. People hang out at these shops. Instead of going to a café or a bar after work, people flock to the Hi-life. When you tell your friend “I’ll meet you at the 7/11, by the night market,” you have to specify which one, because there are three.

The convenience store culture is really something here. There is a 7/11 down the block from us and I love it, there’s also a ma and pa shop right here, too. Depending on what time it is and what I want, I have to pick the best store. Sometimes I just want to say hi to the 7/11 girls because they always get a good laugh from me (even though it’s an extra half a block).

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I love my neighborhood shops, and I love that I can go two blocks in any direction and find a taxi stand, a toilet, a trashcan, some lunch, a coffee, a beer or just a willing person to point me in the right direction when I’m lost (it happens all too often). Anytime, anyplace; that’s convenience.

Taiwanese Customs

Oh, cheese how I love thee.

Oh, Beer I wish you were here.

Pizza you’re hard to rhyme,

But I want you all the time.

If you are planning on spending a significant amount of time away from your home country you will inevitably start to miss things. One friend was going through salt and vinegar chip withdrawal within a week of getting here. Another friend lamented daily about his desire for a Bic lighter. I personally miss IPAs and blue cheese most of all.

I am here to tell you though that there is a way out, at least for your first month or so. Bring it with you!!!! Mal and I anticipated our impending cravings and brought six bottles of Portland, Oregon micro brew, and 2 lbs. of Tillamook extra sharp white cheddar.

This however is not strictly legal. Like any other place you have to pay duty on products brought into the country and some things aren’t allowed in at all. Knowing this, we were prepared to hand it all over when we went through customs. After all, that is really the worst that’ll happen, but to our great surprise and relief when we stood in the line to declare luggage the airline attendant gave us a look of contempt that told us, in essence, to go away. Why would we waste his valuable time when he could be napping?

Because of the amazing Taiwanese customs we were able to import the most precious cargo we had. The cheese lasted about two weeks, and as of now we have one beer left, which we have been hoarding for the past 5 months or so. We’ve been waiting for a good occasion; it’s kind of a big deal.

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Don’t misinterpret what I’ve said. Taiwan is hardly an alien nation where cheese and beer don’t exist. The real issue is cost. You can get just about anything you can get in the states or western Europe, there’s just a narrower selection and it’ll cost you a whole lot more. My advice: pack yourself a care package, and save it for a rainy day when you really need a Reese’s peanut butter cup (you really can’t get those here).