Do you ever feel like you just need to be completely shut down for a day and find a sanctuary away from all the chaos going on in life? Or you're itching for an out-of-town getaway but are a bit short on time? As much as I love living in the city, it's nice to escape from the hustle and bustle once in a while. And I think I found just the perfect getaway spot to do that.
I went on media tour day trip hosted by the Ministry of Economic Affairs to Shiding (石碇), a small town just 30-40 minutes drive to the East of Taipei, making it the perfect destination for a great day trip out of the city. If you're like me, a first timer, this article will give you some ideas while planning your one-day itinerary. In fact, even if you've been before, this could still possibly show you Shiding in a new light.
12:00 - FAMILY STYLE FEAST
We kicked off the trip with a 10-course round table lunch at one of the most popular restaurants in Xizhi district before we make our way up to the mountain area in Shiding. Ichiban Za (一番座) is a family-owned restaurant that has been serving the community since 1994 and is constantly improving their menu. Currently they offer a "omakase family style" menu, basically adjusting the menu accordingly to whatever fresh ingredients they have on the day. Overall I thought the style is more of Japanese Taiwanese fusion given that the owner incorporates many Taiwanese ingredients and stir fry cooking techniques into the dishes.
14:00 - HANDMADE NOODLE WORKSHOP
Our first stop after lunch is Hsu's Noodles (石碇許家手工麵線), which was also the highlight of this trip. We signed up for a DIY hand pulled noodles workshop and learned about how the noodle is pulled from dough.
To break down the process, there are a total of 6 steps:
1. Stamp the dough by feet to squeeze out the air
2. Cut the dough into big pieces
3. Press the dough into a machine that evenly stretches the pieces
4. Wove the dough in the shape of the number 8 around 2 metal rods
5. 2 people stand across from each other and pull the rods toward themselves at the same time and repeat the motion 4-5 times to make noodles longer
6. Throw noodles into the air (don't let go of the rods) and pull back the rods again to make them thinner
You'll be able to do step 5 & 6 with the help from the staffs during the DIY workshop.
Honestly it was quite a challenge, and much harder than I expected. The dough was SO heavy (15kg with the metal rods) and there's a unique motion that your hands have to follow in order to not break the noodles in half. You'd also need to perform every step with the right force.
We got to try the "flowing noodles" after the workshop as a way to reward ourselves for the hard work and all the energy we've lost. The "flowing noodles" is basically noodles flowing out of a long and narrow bamboo flume and you try to catch it using chopsticks before it gets flushed down. As for hygiene, do not worry! Each person gets two sets of chopsticks, one for you to catch the noodles with, and the other set is for you to eat with. The staff will provide soba noodle sauce for you to dip your noodles in. The release of the noodles is timed by the staff, and noodles that are missed will land on the huge basket placed at the end of the pipe (so I guess if you're not good at catching noodles, you can also just take some from the pile). This was super fun and definitely something I would recommend to groups of family and friends, it's a perfect bonding activity!
*Need to make reservation for DIY workshop
Tel: +886 932 129 401
16:00 - CONNECT WITH MOTHER NATURE
The mountains up in Shiding are bound to be full of hidden gems to experience. Secluded in a world of its own, I was very amazed by how surreal the Thousand Island Lake is. Overlooking the emerald lake surrounded by so much greenery, it was easily one of the most serene experiences I've had this year.
The area is formed by Feitsui Resevoir and Beshi River, you will be able to see 5 crocodile-like islands with many small ones among them when looking down from the mountain Trail.
The Shiding Thousand Island Lake (千島湖) is definitely a must-visit, for its spectacular view. But that's not the only reason to go. While you're in the area, stop by the Ba Gua Tea Garden (八卦茶園) nestled in the Thousand Island Lake. The tea field is planted in steps, hill after hill of lush tea bushes, which reminds me of the beautiful rice terrace in Bali, Indonesia. See, you don't even need to make a trip out there! Taiwan has something just as beautiful, and I just saved you a plane ticket, you're welcome.
There are also many tea houses nearby for you tea lovers to get a taste of Taiwan's tea culture. Before heading down the mountain, we grabbed tofu ice cream at one of the tea houses near Ba Gua Tea Fields.
19:00 - GET IN MY BELLY! BRAISED PORK BELLY RICE
No trip is complete without food. To wrap up the day, we were taken to Nature Tea Restaurant (天然茶莊), which is not only a restaurant but also a tea shop at the foot of the mountains. What's so unique about this place is that all the dishes here are cooked/infused with tea and tea oil. The braised pork rice here is also nominated for the 2018 Braised Pork Rice Award hosted by Ministry of Economic Affairs. It is also known as the "Professor's favorite braised pork rice" because the restaurant is conveniently located near Academia Sinica (中央研究院) and many professors often frequent the restaurant just for this bowl of rice.