Monday, October 29, 2012

San Want Hotel, Chao Ping Ji Restaurant and Pozzo Bakery – A must place to visit by everyone!

We recently had the great opportunity to visit the San Want Hotel in Taipei to enjoy there fine dining in the Chao Ping Ji Restaurant for afternoon brunch with close friends and family and afterwards their utterly fantastic baked goods at the Pozzo Bakery.

From the moment we entered the hotel, we encountered first class service in the hotel lobby.  Multiple hotel staff were there to greet everyone that entered and offered assistance as needed.  

We were promptly shown the Chao Ping Ji restaurant on the 2nd floor, which had a lovely ambiance and several people to handle reservations and seating.

I immediately wanted to start taking photos for my blog and realized I had lost my camera.  We had just come from the SOGO department store and was in the Issey Miyake section where I was seated waiting for my wife to finish shopping.   

Little did I know that it dropped from my pocket on the floor.  I dashed back several blocks to the MRT, took the train to the Zhongxiao Fuxing MRT station and hurried to the SOGO department store next door.   

Zhongxiao Fuxing MRT Line - Courtesy of Wikipedia

Up the escalators from the B2 level to the 4th floor.  When I arrived to the area I was sitting at, there it was, still on the floor. Thank goodness for honest people in Taipei.

I arrived back at the restaurant, happy, a little overheated and somewhat tired, but even more hungry and ready for a wonderful lunch.

Chao Ping Ji Restaurant's Decor
Now lets take a few peeks at the Chao Ping Ji Menu:

The Chao Ping Ji is famous for its excellent "Dim Sum" and Yangcheng Lake Chinese Mitten Crab when in season.

Wikipedia states that “Yangcheng Lake Chinese mitten crab 陽澄湖大閘蟹 is a famous delicacy in Shanghai cuisine and is prized for the female crab roe. The crab meat is believed by the Chinese to have a "cooling" (yin) effect on the body.” 

Courtesy of Wikipedia

Wikipedia also mentions that “Chinese spend hundreds of yuan just to taste a small crab from Yangcheng Lake which are considered a delicacy. The crabs cost 680–700 Chinese Yuan, or roughly US $105, per kilogram. Most of the Yangcheng crabs are exported to Shanghai and Hong Kong, and high-profit foreign markets. Recently, China introduced vending machines to sell this species of crab in the subways. The crabs are stored at 5 °C (41 °F), which induces a sleepy state of hibernation. The prices of the crabs range from around $1.50 to $7.00 (USD). They are guaranteed to be fresh and alive.  This species' distinguishing features are the dense patches of dark hair on its claws.”

Mitten Crab - Courtesy of Wikipedia

Of course, in Taiwan and even in China restaurants, you should expect to pay $20 to $30 or more for one of these delicious crabs prepared in a variety of ways.  We had our crabs prepared and served as our last course. 


In the meantime, we had many incredible tasting dim sum prepared for us.  You can see many of the dishes below.  For my global readers not familiar with dim sum style of food, dim sum refers to a Chinese style of food prepared and served in small bamboo steamer baskets or plates.  Much of the dim sum is fresh vegetables, meats, and/or seafood enclosed in a type of rice pastry and then steamed cooked in the bamboo baskets.   

Typical Hong Kong style (Canton Provence) Dim Sum - Courtesy of Wikipedia

The baskets are perforated on the bottom and stacked 5 to 10 high while being cooked and then covered and served to guests.  Dim sum can be steamed, deep fried, cooked or served cold depending on the type of food, and there is always wonderful tasting soup selections as well.

Some of my friends call dim sum “finger food”, snacks, or appetizers that can also be served at the formal afternoon tea.  There are many sweet and tantalizing dim sum offerings including egg tart, egg custard, flavored gelatins such as almond and others, sesame and taro steamed or deep fried treats and more.   

Typical Egg Custard Tart - Courtesy of Wikipedia

My favorite is Mango Pudding!!  I’m sure you could have guessed that from my Mango Madness Blog! 

Typical Chinese Mango Pudding .... Yummmm! - Photo Courtesy of Wikipedia

Many restaurants only serve dim sum in the morning or for lunch, so if you want dim sum for dinner, call your restaurant ahead of time to make sure it is available.

The fun part of dim sum in many restaurants is that they serve on carts that are rolled around the restaurant, so you can pick and choose whatever looks or sounds interesting. In the Chao Ping Ji Restaurant, they actually bring each dish directly to your table to ensure it is steaming hot and fresh.  The following are some traditional dishes like vegetbles, sliced duck, sliced pork, etc.



Dim Sum is a traditional Cantonese style food from China’s Canton Province. This restaurant is actually Chaozhou潮州菜,Teochew, or Chiuchow cuisine originated from the Chaoshan region in the north-easternmost area of Guangdong province, China, which includes the cities of Chaozhou, Shantou and Jieyang.  The following are some of the real dim sum treats we ordered and ate at this restaurant.

Baked  with Sweet Pork filling

Steamed dumpling with shrimp and vegetable filling

Lots of Yummy Dim Sum

Steamed bun with Sweet Pork filling - My Favorite!

More of my favorites on the Bottom row...Steamed shrimp (left) Steamed Pork, Mushroom & Shrimp (right)

Baked BBQ Pork - Delicious!!

Ahhhhhh..... my egg custard tarts arrived !

More goodies !!!!!!!!!!!!!

If you are visiting Taipei, or live here, you have to stop by the San Want hotel, try their famous Chao Ping Ji Restaurant and enjoy the flavors and tastes that their chefs’ meticulously prepares!  You will not be disappointed.

Well if this Chao Ping Ji restaurant isn’t enough to get you to visit this hotel, the maybe their equally famous POZZO Bakery on the first floor might tempt you even more.

I recently wrote a blog on the Florida Bakery in Qing Guang market area of Taipei.  That is a great bakery, but I must say, that the Pozzo Bakery rivals the quality of their baked goods, even though it does not have the same extensive variety of the Florida Bakery.  Lets look at just some of the Pozzo Bakery Goodies:

There walnut raisin bread is scrumptious, soft and so very enjoyable as is their cheese bread.  Their blueberry cream cheese tart is a delicious breakfast snack.


But their tiramisu mango desert is just to die for.  A tiramisu cake on the bottom and a wonderful mango like pudding on the top…… What a great combination !!  

Mango Tiramisu - Second Row from Bottom and fourth (4th) desert from right to left.

Need a super birthday, party or family desert cake, go for their Tiramisu cake.  We bought one for my brother-in-law's birthday and it is the best tiramisu cake/desert I have had so far in Taiwan.

The San Want Hotel in Taipei is a great hotel with excellent service, a superb Chinese restaurant and an awesome bakery. 

San Want Hotel:

Address: 128 Nanjing East Road SECTION 1, 104, Zhongshan District, Taipei, Taiwan
Telephone: +886-2-25115185
Location: Just minutes from the Zhongxiao Fuxing MRT station

This blogger plans on going back again very soon!

Saturday, October 20, 2012

Taipei, Taiwan Transportation Options: Car, Taxi, Bus, MRT, Moped, Bicycle, Walk ? ...... and my Burghausen, Germany experience.

Well, I have been in Taiwan two and one half weeks now, and things are starting to settle down.  We have taken care of our two Italian Greyhounds.  They are in quarantine until next week. Tuesday 10/23/12 is the day we can take them to our place in Taipei.  We have taken care of personal issues, met with family and friends, and have explored the City and its sights along the way.  From our apartment in Taipei, we have a fabulous view of Taipei 101 building that we enjoy day and night.

Taipei is a melting pot of the historic, old, the newer and the ultra-modern.  The 2012 current population of Taipei and New Taipei City is about 6.5 million people.  This population, especially the younger generation is very mobile and people are on the move almost 24-7. 

Courtesy of Wikipedia
In Taipei, there are almost 2 million registered automobiles, and there are over 40,000 taxi cabs all painted in the typical bright yellow color.  I certainly would have guessed much more than that, because they seem to be everywhere.  So far, we have taken many taxis in Taipei, but have never waited more than 1-2 minutes to get a taxi ride.  Great Taxi Service in Taipei!

Even more prevalent are the motorized scooters (mopeds)  driven predominantly by the younger generation.  One source said that in Taiwan there are almost 9 million registered mopeds and another source indicates over 2 million mopeds in Taipei alone.  

Motorists crowd at a junction during rush hour in Taipei October 29, 2009. There are around 8.8 million motorcycles and 4.8 million cars on Taiwan’s roads and nearly all motor vehicles and inhabitants are squeezed into a third of the island’s area. This results in high concentrations of polluting emissions in the places where people live and work, according to official reports. A U.N. climate change summit in Copenhagen will be held in December. REUTERS/Nicky Loh (TAIWAN TRANSPORT ENVIRONMENT SOCIETY IMAGES OF THE DAY) BEST QUALITY AVAILABLE

At rush hour, peak travel times, Taipei is moped madness and mopeds dominate every  road.  From my perspective, mopeds out number cars and taxis in rush hour by a factor of 5x to 10x (my pure guess).   Driving in this moped madness is driving insanity and requires a slow pace, extreme caution, and un-measureable patience.  

Courtesy of

One interesting part is that most mopeds are single drivers, but many are couples.  But every day you can see people with their dogs/pets riding on the moped and even families of 3, 4, or even 5 people on one of these small motorized scooters.

Ok enough of that.  If you are a visitor and don’t buy a car or a moped, how do you get around town?  Taxis are very convenient, but expensive.  The metro bus system is great, but most info at the bus stops are in Chinese, so navigation and bus selection is tricky unless you can read mandarin.  

The MRT is fantastic, efficient, clean and highly utilized by residents and visitors alike.  The cost is very low, about 60 to 75 cents for short distances.  But, to get where you are going, be prepared to walk quite a ways often times when your destination is not in line with the MRT lines.  

But, in many Taipei areas, they now offer “YouBike”, a subsystem on the Taipei MRT.   A simple and inexpensive way to rent a bicycle and get from point A-B or round trip when you don’t want to walk, or pay for expensive taxis.   Let’s talk about bicycle transportation and the super “Ubike” convenience in Taipei. The website refers to this program as “YouBike”, but the logo is “Ubike”.

At a YouBike or “Ubike” location, the first thing you will see is the row of yellow and orange modern and like new bicycles.    

You will also notice the tandem dock stations that holds two Ubikes secure, and ready to rent.  

Empty YouBike dock station

Here's one for Rent !

Dock Location to remember that number to rent.

Look for the Ubike KIOSK and you can get started on your Ubike experience.  The Kiosk is a wealth of information.   

Youbike Kiosk - Rent your "Ubike" here unless you are a member

Back of Kiosk with area map and rent/drop off locations

The system is in both Chinese and English and can give you maps, location summaries with number of docks and the number of available bikes to rent.   

For short term use, without registering  as a member, you chose your bike at the Kiosk, use your EasyCard to pay, and then go to the dock, swipe your EasyCard and take your bike.  Its that simple!   But if you do not have an EasyCard, in peak usage times people can walk up to the dock you chose and rent the bike before you finish the Kiosk process.

To return the bike to any location in the city, just move your bike into the available dock station, swipe your card, and then you are done and on your way.  The bike is now safely locked in the dock station for the next user.
Soon this operation will have mobile apps that will make renting and returning even more simple and faster.

Your Youbike is now safely returned and locked in the dock station

Why don’t more metropolitan cities around the world offer such a great system?  The Taipei MRT system's YouBike operation is world class in my opinion.  I only hope they expand further throughout the city.  Great Job Taipei!  Taiwan residents should be proud of this great service!

I have traveled all over the world, and this is the first metro system I have ever seen.  Sure cities have small business renting bikes by the hour or day, but they are not great bikes, not easy to rent without signed waivers, cash or credit card deposits, contracts, etc.  Forget that hassle and inconvenience ...... I prefer "Ubike". !!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!  

I remember back in the 90’s, I traveled extensively throughout Europe.  Many people rely on bicycles in most European cities, but I have yet to see such a flexible rental system. 

While traveling in Germany, I visited the small Bavarian city of Burghausen, along the Salzach River near the Austrian border.   This town is most famous for its castle which dates back to the Bronze Age more than 1000 years ago.   

Burghausen Castle at Night - Courtesy of Wikipedia

Burghausen Castle seen from Austrian side - Courtesy of Wikipedia

This castle is the longest castle in Europe and stretches along the river hillside for a total length of 10,43 meters.   

Burghausen Castle Eastern view - Courtesy of Wikipedia

Burghausen Castle Eastern view - Courtesy of Wikipedia

Well, I will tell most stories about my Burghausen adventures in future blogs, but this mention is in relations to a business trip to Wacker-Chemie’s plant in Burghausen.  This plant was founded in 1914, and today this facility employs about 10,000 people, and is one of the  major semiconductor silicon wafer production sites in the world.   

Wacker Burghausen Plant Site - Aerial View - Courtesy of Wacker website

Anyway, as I finished my day long meeting in the 1990-1991 time frame, I was leaving around 5:30 pm, and I was star struck, overwhelmed, and amazed.  I could barely leave the parking lot and get out of this huge facility campus, because there was literally thousands of employees from production workers, to engineers, managers and scientists, all riding their bicycles home from work.  I have never seen such a site of a bicycle "mass exodus" anywhere else in my life time.   At least Wacker Burghaussen saves significant land space to park bicycles instead of cars!

In my opinion, globally speaking, the world needs more such "Ubike" systems to keep our urban cities more green.