Dine at some legendary Taipei institutions, including the Ding Fung Restaurant and long-running Shin Yeh. Spend a couple of hours helping local ‘Sweet Potato Mamas’ ply their daily yam trade, a unique experience which also benefits single mothers through the Genesis Social Welfare Foundation. Take in the beauty of Sun Moon Lake from two wheels on an unforgettable bike ride around Taiwan’s stunning lagoon circuit. Enjoy several hands-on, behind-the-scenes food experiences in Yilan – visits to tea fields, a spring onion farm and a whisky distillery
Journey to the heart of one the most exciting culinary scenes in Asia on this brand new Real Food Expedition 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 country, 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) in Taoyuan, and sample a great spread of local produce straight from the source in Yilan – from spring onion to organic tea to boutique whiskey. With must-see sights such as Sun Moon Lake and Taipei 101 included along the way, this Intrepid Real Food Expedition delivers the perfect balance of flavours in an often overlooked foodie paradise.
Breakfast Included: 7 Lunches Included: 5 Lunches Included: 4
Welcome to Taipei! Upbeat, profoundly liveable and superbly located, Taiwan's capital is a thrill to explore on foot. So 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, then you will head out to dinner at the Ningxia Food night market. Here you can eat like a local, joining your new traveller friends to sample some 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.
Head out of town to a restaurant in Taoyuan (approximately 1 hour). Here you'll experience a DIY class in Xiao Long Bao (steam soup dumplings). Originating in the Jiangnan region of China, these little flavour bombs can be truly delectable. They can be time consuming, and it's tricky to shape that thin soft shell around the filling (usually of gelatinised ground pork), but once they're steamed in their bamboo baskets and their centres melt into a hearty broth, they make a satisfying lunch. After this, drive to the Wufeng Lin Family Mansion and Garden, Taiwan's finest traditional compound (approximately 2 hours). After exploring the stately mansion and gardens, it's getting closer to dinner time. Join the owner of Spring Land Villa and her people for a home-cooked repast in a family-run guesthouse; this is bound to be a memorable local experience.
Sun Moon Lake & Yilan
Leaving the guesthouse, make tracks for Sun Moon Lake. This is a popular spot, but it's popular for a reason, as you'll see. Taiwan's only natural lagoon is one of its top natural wonders, and the pristine water makes an excellent backdrop for some cycling. A 1.5 hour bike ride around the dedicated cycling circuit allows you to take in the full beauty of the lake and its surrounding green hills. Afterwards, sit down to a picnic lunch made with quality local produce. Then it's off to Yilan (approximately 4 hours) to try the renowned jar-roasted chicken there. In this legendary but unassuming eatery, free range hens of 130–150 days old are marinated in herbs and spices such as garlic and cumin, and cooked meticulously in earthen jar ovens for a beautifully tender, smoky result.
There may also be time to enjoy the hot springs at the hotel. Rich in naturally occurring minerals, you can sit back and relax while your skin is nourished.
Yilan & Taipei
Head out for a tea picking and tasting experience in Yilan. Afterwards, visit a local restaurant near the team farm for lunch made with seasonal ingredients – all vegetables used in these dishes are organic and grown by the owner. Also visit a spring onion farm to do some picking and partake in a cooking class (spring onion is a key part of the food landscape in Taiwan, as you'll learn!). Finally, visit a local whisky distillery for a tour and tasting. Though Taiwan may not be the first country you associate with whisky, it's actually among the up-and-coming producers alongside Tasmania, Japan and Sweden, and made a single malt rated the world's best a couple of years back.
Jiufen & Taipei
In the late morning, embark on a short Urban Adventure with a Sweet Potato Mama. You'll be volunteering your services to a noble cause – the entrepreneurship of female street food vendors in the local community. The sweet potato is a major food for the Taiwanese, and these Mamas roast them daily, serving the lunchtime crowd in order to support their families. It's a way to put your hands to work and help out, with all proceeds from the excursion going to the Genesis Social Welfare Foundation’s Sweet Potato Mama Program to support single mothers. Afterwards, travel over to Jiufen Village, where a street food crawl down the old street gives you the chance to savour a variety of tasty eats – perhaps tea eggs, taro balls, king mushrooms, peanut ice-cream rolls, 14-year-old aged tea, or even grilled snails (whose texture is more agreeable than you might expect!). When it's all over, return to Taipei and enjoy a free evening.
Time for some history today as we travel around on the metro or public bus. Visit the Chiang Kai Shek Memorial Hall, a monument to the founder of the Republic of China (the official name of Taiwan). Here you can see images of the leader alongside various US presidents, as well as his beautifully preserved 1950s armoured Cadillac. It's worth noting that in 2017 Taiwan's Ministry of Culture announced plans to change the hall into a national centre for 'facing history, recognizing agony, and respecting human rights' – part of a push to move away from the personality cult of Chiang. Also visit Taipei 101 and dine at the Ding Tai Fung Dumpling restaurant. After a visit to the National Palace Museum, enjoy a free evening, visiting the Shilin Night Market with the group if you wish.
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, concluding in the early afternoon. Transport today will again be by metro or public bus. The remainder of your day is free for you to spend as you please. Consider a trip to some nearby hot springs which provide a soothing soak after all your culinary adventures. In the evening, join your fellow travellers for a final group dinner at Shin Yeh, a Taipei institution since the '70s with a strong dedication to traditional Taiwanese cuisine.
The adventure comes to an end after breakfast.