Something we wanted to do on this trip was visit the infamous Taiwanese whiskey distillery, ‘Kavalan’, and we knew it was a bit of a drive from Taipei. If we were there for longer, we would have got the train but given our short trip, our hotel told us that the best way to get there would probably be by taxi (really?). We followed a woman who worked at the hotel to the taxi rank and watched as she spoke to the driver in the local language. He nodded and said something to her, which turned out to be the price – and it was reasonable, so we got in, not expecting to be in a yellow taxi for yet another day trip, but ready to explore.
We had been driving for a while and had gone through a few tunnels that must have been through mountains. It was a beautiful drive – the countryside in Taiwan is just spectacular! We entered another tunnel and I watched the brown walls pass by and waited until I could see light at the end. Soon were outside, at the base of some huge mountains, when the driver, who spoke very little English turned to us, pointed to the top of the mountains and said ‘coffee’. There was no way he knew how much I loved coffee, and I thought it was very nice of him to point this out. We smiled and nodded and thanked him. Not long after, we began making our way up a mountain. The road was narrow, and we had to pull over whenever a car needed to get past. After a winding drive of over 20 minutes, we pulled into a gravel driveway at the top. The driver stopped the car, turned to look at us and said ‘coffee’ and pointed to a building. It wasn’t until then that we realised he thought we wanted to go to this coffee farm! There must have been some confusion between the lady at the hotel and the driver! ‘No, no…whiskey’, was all we said and luckily, he understood. ‘Ahh, whiskey!’ He said and turned the car around. He apologised and pointed down the mountain, which we assumed meant it wasn’t far away.
The grounds of Kavalan
We had driven at least half an hour and were passing through a small town. To be honest, it felt like we were lost. The driver called his friend who was kindly able to provide directions to the distillery, thank goodness! When we got there, he said to take as long as we needed and that he would wait there. We thanked him and got out of the taxi (at last!). The grounds were huge and very well kept. We enjoyed a whiskey tasting, though couldn’t understand the man as he explained what each different whisky was, but it didn’t matter. We were in a foreign country sampling some of the finest whisky and were glad to have finally arrived. We even mixed our own whiskey after sampling three different kinds and deciding how much of each we wanted to add to our test tubes, 6 ml in total. After we had written down our ratios, the instructor mixed us large bottles that we could take home. He sealed the bottles and put them into a box, which we wrote our names on. We were quite surprised by this final touch and very happy. What a good idea!
After a long and unexpected day being driven around Taiwan in a yellow taxi, we were looking forward to setting out on foot to explore Taipei once more.
Dinh Tai Fung
One thing that we absolutely had to try in Taiwan was Dinh Tai Fung. We had tried this restaurant in Melbourne and had learned that it actually originated in Taipei, so were pretty excited to check it out. We were staying right near the DTF at Taipei 101 and went to have a look the first day we arrived. When we got there, we realised there was an 80 minute wait for a table. We were pretty hungry, so decided to go another day. The original DTF wasn’t far from where we were staying either, so we thought we should check out that one anyway.
We went to DTF the day that we went to Shifen and Jiuffen actually! We had returned from the day trip and were starving and weren’t disappointed. We ordered at least four different kinds of dumplings, including their famous Sha Long Bao, or soup dumplings. We had heard that the dumplings at DTF were some of the best, as the casing was so delicate. It was a delicious meal but we couldn’t help remembering the dumpling restaurant we had been to on our street food tour.
Exploring and eating are two of my favourite things to do while on holiday. I highly recommend going to DTF in Taipei and making a trip out to Kavalan, however you end up getting there!