There are Black Friday sales happening everywhere today, but I highly doubt you'll be finding those in the night markets of Taiwan! But sales aside, I thought our three trips there have warranted at least one post on what to bring as well as the interesting things to buy!
What to bring
Taiwan gets a lot of rain, so do bring raincoats for the kids, and umbrellas. Or even better, buy an umbrella when you are there, since you'd be spoilt for choice with regards to the range of brollies available! And speaking of weather, check the weather forecast and pack accordingly. It can get really cold up in the mountains in winter, and the best would be to layer since that gives you more flexibility with regards to the fluctuating temperatures. The UV radiation can get quite intense, so do bring sunscreen and hats!
For those travelling with toddlers and babies, you might want to consider bringing a clip-on high chair, as many of the eateries do not have high chairs. Most eateries provide only plastic soup spoons and chopsticks, and do not have forks. As such we found these training chopsticks (from Qoo10) were really useful, if you're travelling with kids old enough to feed themselves. The chopsticks are easy to handle, and even our 4 year old had no problems using them. We also brought along spoons for the toddler, since soup spoons are a tad too large for him.
The baby carrier would come in handy if you have kids that still need to be carried. Prams can be useful, if you have a kid that can nap in there, and it is relatively easy to navigate the city areas with a pram in tow. Leave the pram behind when it comes to the nature areas though! For more packing tips when travelling with kids, read this post.
What we bought in Taiwan
Taiwan is quite a great place to shop! We found that in general, you might find similar products being sold in the night markets and tourist spots, but they tend to be a tad cheaper at the night markets. If there is a local market near your accommodation, take the time to check it out first since sometimes you can get some stuff at an even cheaper rate there! (You can read about our local market buys here.)
Unlike places like Thailand where bargaining is necessary, the shopkeepers in Taiwan don't take very well to bargaining. We usually do ask for a discount, especially if we buy more, but most are quite reluctant to lower their prices, so don't push too hard! However, I find most sales people are really friendly and nice folk, and do not show any signs of unhappiness if you leave their shop empty-handed.
Shopping: Clothing and accessories
The night markets are pretty good for shopping for clothes and accessories, and I've heard that the wholesale area at WuFenPu near the RaoHe night market can be a place to find good deals. However, most posts I've read (like this one) have not had very promising reviews of WuFenPu, also do note that the clothes available follows the changes in seasons. We didn't really bother to hunt for clothes, since clothes shopping with 3 littles in tow is quite a nightmare, but we managed to pick up some interesting finds along the way.
We found our colourful hand-sewn leather shoes at the local market near our apartment in Taipei (more details here), and these were being sold at 40% cheaper than the retail price at department stores. We were told that the stall makes its rounds around the local markets, and can be found at that particular market only on Mondays, when all the usual stalls selling produce are closed. We also bought some cute socks for the kids at the same market, from another stall that only sets up on Wednesdays.
Ximending probably has the most number of bag shops amongst the tourists spots, and has lots of trendy shops selling all sorts of merchandise. We picked up backpacks for the boys at one of these shops, and I love the prints!
We spotted this shop selling these cute leather pouches in Jiufen, and bought some as gifts (I think there were a few of these shops that stocked these in Jiufen). There was a stall over in RaoHe night market selling similar pouches, but at a cheaper price. However, the shop which we purchased the pouches offered the complimentary service of engraving names on the pouches, which I thought was a nice touch.
Shopping: Home accessories
I've shared before about these little train carriages, which we bought at a shop over in Shifen (a kind IG follower recently sent me the name of the shop: Shifen Handmade Shop, which has a bright yellow signboard). That aside, the same shop sells all manner of pretty wooden musical boxes and other home accessories.
We bought some of these waterproof mats over at the RaoHe night market, then subsequently found that they were also sold at the local market near our apartment, at a cheaper price (they were sold at the same stall selling socks, that sets up on Wednesdays). These are soft and machine-washable, and are useful if you are training your kid to go off diapers at night. I loved how comfortable these felt, compared to the usual waterproof rubber mats or incopads, and their cheery designs that were cute and not tacky looking!
The Taiwanese really seem to love owls, and you'll find all manner of merchandise with owls printed on them! The hubs picked this fellow up at the museum over at the Toucheng farm, and we spotted some similar ones made of twine over at a shop near the calla lily farms at Yangmingshan. The shop sells all sorts of gardening accessories, and our friends probably bought most of the owls there, but I'm sure they will restock!
Shopping: Yummy food
There are all sorts of snack galore, so I'd say, just try samples as you go and buy whatever your tastebuds fancy! One of the most popular ones would probably be their pineapple pies, which are sold everywhere. Even some bakeries stock their own versions. We also bought these seaweed snacks for the kids at the RaoHe Night Market: these are strips of seaweed with nuts/seeds sandwiched between, and are addictive and make quite healthy snacks. The kids have almost finished them up, and Baby J demands for them everyday!
Another interesting buy we spotted at RaoHe was this stall selling this sweet ginger herbal drink. You can buy pre-packed blocks of the ingredients to bring back, and all you need to do is pop the blocks into hot water and stir. We purchased some yummy veggie and fruit chips from another stall in RaoHe, only to discover that the market near our apartment sold them in larger packets at the same price!
Shopping: Kids stuff
Eslite is great for shopping for books, and certain Eslite stores also sell toys and games. In general, I find that their other products tend to be more high-end, so we usually only window shop when we are there. We discovered the Lonpos range of logic puzzles at Eslite during one of our earlier trips, and thought those were pretty interesting, and those are worth checking out if you have kids who are into these things.
The Taiwanese produce their own range of toys, so it can be quite interesting to visit various department stores to check those out. We've spotted a Taiwanese version of Lincoln Logs, and you'd find stationery stores and market stalls selling imitation Lego. We picked up a few sets in the market near our apartment, and those were pretty cheap (by now you would have deduced we did the bulk of our shopping at the local market!).
We also purchased a few ocarinas from Jiufen to give as gifts to some of the kids' friends. There are at least two shops in Jiufen which sell ocarinas of all shapes and sizes, and you just need to follow your ears to find them. Each usually comes with a fingering chart and a song-book, and I think those with six holes have a larger note range compared to those with four. These days, they come in such cute designs!
And finally, with all that shopping you might be doing in Taiwan, I must add one more thing to bring along: a foldable luggage tote/bag that you can use for all that extra baggage you'd have at the end of the trip!
PS: This post is part of a series of posts for our third visit to Taiwan. For our trip itinerary, go here, and you can read about our first and second trips to Taiwan here, and here.