Treasure hunting and travel adventures in Taiwan. Part 1

hunting for exotic antiques

It’s funny old world. In most cases when I tell my friends and family I’m off on another adventure travelling to another exotic Asian country the usual response is “Your so lucky, ….you’ve got the life of Riley”.

Now I don’t know who Riley is but I doubt he’s been held captive in a derelict Sri Lankan police station. By an over zealous officer trying to extort him for $100 US because the Ayurvedic medicine balls the Buddhist monk just sold you was actually Hashish. However, that’s another story for another time.

 Taiwan was different. The majority of people who I spoke to of my intention to go there said the same thing or something similar ie. Wow What made you what to go there? Or it’s not a place that’s ever been on my radar. What will you do?……. What will you eat? Are you going alone? Do you know someone over there? So many questions and always the same answer “ I’m so excited it’s gonna be awesome”


Let me start by saying Taiwan is a country that’s always registered a strong ping on my radar. And I suppose the main reason was the mystery of it all. An intrepid travellers greatest friend…….the unknown. What I did know however was that Taiwan had deep and diverse culture. Once known as Formosa the Portuguese Dutch Chinese and Japanese have all had a crack at it. This mixed in with its own indigenous people equals an epic mash up of people, flavours and styles. What I learnt,….turns out is something that I’ve always known. People are the same whereever you go. They want to be happy and healthy. Be surrounded by people they love. They want to eat & drink, maybe get a little tipsy. 

asian food


It’s just like they say in Bali “people Same same but different. ‘


I booked my ticket and I was off. Air NZ flies direct from Auckland to Taipei. In 10.5hrs I would be stepping into a new city a new culture and a new adventure. I was travelling with my good bro Jonny Boy and his 17 year old son Niwa who was also up for an adventure. Jonny Boy is a major foodie who has a knack for sniffing out the tastiest treats.

 boy trip

He also loves a good treasure hunt just as much as I do. This wasn’t our first rodeo together. Last year we spent 2 weeks in Seoul doing exactly what we hoped to do here. Go to some markets eat some good food, have a look around and see what the day brings.

  I was looking for a suburb close to the action but not right in the middle of it all. I wanted a place where instead of just being voyeurs we could actually get amongst the locals and experience their Taipei as they went about daily life. We ended up in Zhongshan. It’s a mish-mash of old brick buildings, mammoth shopping malls and secret alleyways stuffed with cafés, vintage clothing stores, corner temples, funky bars & restaurants.

We had decided to book an Air BNB as opposed to a hotel. The rationale was that it would be a bigger space to kick back and unwind after what we knew would be longs days beating the feet around town. ( in Seoul we averaged 23kms per day) Also a bit of space would be needed to store all our treasure.

 Getting around was easy, the Taiwan Metro system is world class and cheap as chips. Our nearest subway station was a short 5min walk from the front door. The scale of these underground stations is mind blowing. Whole shopping malls complete with supermarkets, cinemas bowling alleys you name it. A whole subterranean world where you can do/find anything you want.

loading antiques in taiwan 


We arrived on a Saturday night around 9pm and Taipei was buzzing.

All the bars and restaurants in our part of town were doing a roaring trade. It seemed like the whole city was out and about enjoying themselves. Alas it was an early night for us, Taipei and its night life would have to wait. We had other plans, namely to get up at 6am and head off to our first location Fuhe bridge flea market. The combination of our internal clocks being a bit out and excitement of it all meant we woke at 5am. O well nothing for it.

The early bird gets the worm. Let’s do it. Jumped in a cab and…here’s a tip if you don’t speak mandarin make sure you have the address of where you want to go written in Chinese characters or it’s gonna take while explaining that yes you do actually want to go the the market where westerners don’t go. Sure enough we were the only westerners there which felt good. Like an explorer going where no man (Auckland Man) had gone before, well not on this day anyway. Into it… are the same where ever you go and this one was no exception.

From Wheelers and dealers to your average Joe having a clean out of their unwanted things trying to make a few bucks. First things first this place was huge well over 500 stallholders. Just think Avondale markets x 10.

taiwan street food

 We would definitely require some form of sustenance if we were gonna make it through the lot which we had every intention of doing.

The locals were queuing up for a cuppa tea and the ubiquitous Taiwanese green onion pancake or Cong you bing. When in Rome. The line wasn’t that long and moved quite quickly. This turned out to be the first of many lines we would join in our pursuit of the exceptional local street food. I haven’t queued up for anything since night clubbing in the 90s and even then I normally knew the boys on the door.  Shop Jay's finds here

But this was different. The good stuff was easy enough to get to. The great stuff always had a bit of a line. The secret was out. Having said that you still felt like you were being let in on a secret. This is Especially true when you are the only non local in the line. There is a reason why this is the most popular street food snack in all of taiwan. The Pancakes were crispy, flaky, and chewy at the same time — a perfect balance. Fueled up and ready to go. I dive on in. The First few stalls are full of your average household kinda stuff. The odd nice ceramic sake cup here and there. Some 70s kids toys a vintage JVC ghetto blaster. And then I see it. Layed out before me like an ancient treasure horde. It’s as if gehgis Ghan himself has set up a market stall and is getting rid of some of his most precious loot.

Bronzes of all different shapes and sizes various buddhas and monks a menagerie of gilded animals including monkeys elephants and tigers. Taiwan indeed Asia is famous for its ceramics. And Fuhe markets doesn’t disappoint. So many beautiful glazes and various voluminous forms. Vessels so old who knows how old a 100 200 600 years old , gold, silver, Turqoise and jade talismans. There’s so much to take in….too much….never too much…. More more, this is why I’m here… cue maniacal laughter mwahahahaha. I’ve been in this game for a while now. And Experience has taught me to stop,breathe and feel the hunters calm wash over you.

asian antiques to be shipped  

Don’t be too eager ….. and don’t show too much interest. But show enough interest to acknowledge the man standing before you knows his shit has a good eye for quality, He is different to all the other merchants here today. He isn’t hawking or trying to push his wares on anyone. Hes not desperate nor is he in a hurry to make a quick sale. Hes busily tho confidently unpacking more goods from the back of his beat up truck. He knows he’s got the goods. And he knows the fish will come…the net is cast, what will the days catch bring. A local points out the faults in an item he holds, a scratch here a chip there. It’s an amateur move in an attempt to get a better price


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