Translated to Chinese by Teresa Lee.
Violinist Kevin Liao may live in Taipei for his work—he released his first EP Not For Display last year and a new album is in the works—but family, friends and nostalgia (and his love-hate relationship with that infamous Hsinchu wind) keep him coming back to the Windy City, where he grew up.
“I love Hsinchu… Hsinchu is my home…” the singer-composer croons an impromptu ballad.
“But to be honest, your middle and high school years are really quite formative years, you know, and you’re fond of the places you grew up in.” He’s serious now. “I guess there are more people-to-people relationships in middle and high school, so you really remember the places you went to with certain people.”
Here is Kevin’s handpicked list of his favorite places in Hsinchu.
An insiders’ favorite in a tiny back alley “literally in the garage of somebody’s family”, this restaurant serves up silkie, a breed of chicken with black skin and bones that Kevin insists on calling “black chicken”. Don’t be fooled by his nickname for the dish though, the unique salty flavor makes it “quite incredible”. The shop is also known for its MSG-free chicken soup; the owner will tell you he brewed it for days, before handing you more to take home for free. Kevin has loved this restaurant ever since he returned from Vancouver. “I still think about it,” he says. “My brother and I go every time he comes back to visit from the States. It’s ritual.”
This local favorite is popular for its shaved ice and douhua—often sold out before the night’s out—in the summer and hot sweet soups in winter. After a basketball game, Kevin will order a watermelon or papaya milk or a mung bean slushie, which, he says, isn’t watered down like at a lot of other places. “The ingredients are so real, and it’s the perfect balance between sweet and not too sweet,” he says. As Kwan Hua judges portions by eye, Kevin says the owner won’t hesitate to fill another cup for you for free when there’s extra left over. As a testament of Kwan Hua’s popularity, Kevin says the shop owner was able to put her kids through college in the States with the money from this shop alone.
每到夏天，光華冰店的豆花和刨冰就成了最熱門的選擇，而且通常在晚上天黑前就賣光了. 到了冬天, 熱銷的產品便是熱甜湯。打完籃球後，廖柏雅通常都會點一杯新鮮西瓜或木瓜牛奶、或一杯他說「絕對不像外面那樣大量稀釋」的綠豆沙。「這家店的用料新鮮實在，而且有恰到平衡的甜度」，他說。由於光華冰店的食物都是目測盛裝的，當有剩下的好料時，老闆從不吝嗇再送來店的客人們一杯免費的。為了證明光華冰店的熱門程度，廖柏雅說，老闆光用她店裡的營收，就將他的子女送到美國讀大學呢！
It’s incredibly difficult to find an indoor fitness venue in Taipei with a swimming pool, gym, basketball courts, badminton courts, and rooms for table tennis and weightlifting, Kevin says, and all for only NT$80 for the whole day The entire space is air-conditioned, and the floors have just been redone. On Fridays and Saturdays, UMC’s basketball court is always “packed to the max, which is good, because you get some good competition… If you win,” Kevin says. If not, then you may have quite a wait on the sidelines.
廖柏雅說，在台北，要找到一間包含泳池、健身房、籃球場、與球場、桌球室、和舉重室的室內健身中心，而且日票還只要80元，大概是難上加難。聯園活動中心整棟建築都有空調，而地板才剛整修過。 每每到了星期五和星期六, 聯園運動中心幾乎總是擠滿了人。「這樣很棒，因為你會有許多強勁的對手……如果你有贏的話，」廖柏雅說道。如果輸的話，可能就得在邊線等上好一段時間了。
image via UMC
Speaking of basketball, Kevin tells me how he, his brother and their friends used to compare the prices of sneakers at the numerous sport equipment store near the Dongmen Roundabout. “The prices really only varied by like $NT200, but back then we would always be like ‘Oh, it’s so much cheaper here. Everything is like half price,'” he says laughing as he reminisces on his “dumb high school days”. Then he starts dishing out the insider tips: A lot of the shops have basements; that’s where the sales are. “If you’re rich, don’t go down there.” And if you’re super broke, he says, there’s one store next to the police station with a third floor that has massive sales. “You can usually always find a cool pair of kicks for cheap there,” he says.
Of the many cafes in Hsinchu, Kevin really likes 100 Tastes, which he says is a nice place to hang out with friends or to take your date. It’s got a nice vintage look going for it, he says. “Rustic,” he adds. The pie selection at 100 Tastes changes from day to day, but the blueberry is a staple that Kevin recommends, noting the freshness of the fruit. Customers can also buy by slice or by pie, “great for parties and stuff.”
image via 100 Tastes
If Kevin has a moment in the morning, he will go to Shui Ge and grab a hearty Taiwanese-style rice ball, that is all around “very customizable and not oily or greasy.” Shui Ge is also known for its soy milk. “It’s got a little smokey flavor to it,” he says, “It’s like your soy milk smoked a cigarette.” He quickly adds that it’s a terrible metaphor, reassuring me it’s “homemade, nothing like at the convenience stores.” If you’re really hungry, Kevin recommends getting a rice ball along with the rice milk, which can be extremely filling.
This post is presented by Forte Orange Hotel 福泰桔子商務旅館