Taipei was on my bucket list to visit while living in KL, as my company has a plant there, and I had heard so many good things about it! They all turned out to be true. 🙂 I ate a lot of amazing food and walked a ton. I’ll go through what we packed into each of our busy days. But before going through all of the sights…Take a look at what we ate! Taipei = amazing (and very cheap) food city ❤
Day 1: National Palace Museum, temples, and Elephant Mountain
Technically this was day 2, as I had arrived at my hostel near Taipei main station very late the previous night. I decided not to get a local sim card, and I was actually really enjoying that very ‘lost’ feeling of having no internet and not being able to read or speak anything in a new place 🙂 But anyway, I got my bearings, and on my first full day after getting tons of recommendations from the hostel, I decided to go to the National Palace Museum. This place had tons of interesting artifacts that are important to Taiwan/Chinese culture. On the way back, I stopped at the Confucius temple and Dalongdong temple. The Confucius temple was very simple but got me curious about the influence of Confucian philosophy. Dalongdong temple was very beautiful, and a kind lady suggested there suggested I check out the expo park nearby after, which I did.
Next, I headed to the Chiang Kai-shek Memorial Hall, named and erected in memory of Chiang Kai-shek, the former leader of the Republic of China. This plaza is so, so vast – and each building is massive!! I was in awe at the design and sheer size. I walked to the main chamber, where the statue resides, and watched the changing of the guard, which happens every hour during the day.
After a quick break at the hostel, I went on an Elephant Mountain walking tour. We climbed up a bunch of steps to get a great view of Taipei 101 and the whole city at night. Next we walked to Taipei 101 to get an up close view, then headed back to Ningxia night market, where we bought tons of food and then feasted back at the hostel. 🙂
Day 2: Food and walking tour
On this day, my coworker Hayden was here as well, so I had company for the rest of the trip 🙂 The first thing we did go food hunting for some famous Taiwanese food. We headed to the Dongmen area for this. We shared a lot of snacks, including delicious beef noodle soup and mango ice. After that we went to Huashan Creative Park, which is an interesting area with art, quirky shops, and food – I compared it to Bishop arts district in Dallas, but of course, Taipei style.
The second half of our day, we went on a walking tour with a local Taiwanese guy. His English wasn’t the best, but his cheery attitude really made up for it! We saw the historical North Gate, the varied architecture of Taipei, and even lit some incense and walked through Xiahai City God temple, where people come to wish well for your future relationships.
Near the beginning of the walking tour, we ran into a random other Western tourist on the street corner, and our guide invited him to join. Immediately after, Hayden stared at him and realized that he knew him! The two of them went to college together and had hung out before – talk about a crazy coincidence. It was especially crazy because there are so few Western tourists in Taipei – most of the time we were the only ones around. He and a really nice German guy joined me and Hayden at the night market after the tour to eat tons of stuff (including trying stinky tofu, blegh). Then we headed for beers and card playing in the Da’an district, a hip area with a few bars that reminded me a bit of Hongdae in Seoul. Side note – Taiwan allows you to drink on the street – so freeing to walk around with a beer 😛
Day 3: Miniature museum, Jiufen & Raohe
The next morning, Hayden and I went to the Miniature museum, which had a really impressive collection of miniature setups, dolls, architecture, etc. I especially liked the phantom of the opera one, and one setup even had its own tiny working TV 😀
That afternoon, our two new friends from the walking tour joined us for a day trip to Jiufen. The teahouses in Jiufen are reminiscent of those in the movie Spirited Away, and since I love Miyazaki, I knew I had to go to Jiufen. We took a bus from the city and had great views along the way, especially on the winding roads in the mountains close to Jiufen. Upon arriving, it was drizzly and quite crowded in some parts, but we pushed through and tried a wide variety of food and walked around the cute narrow alleyways. We wanted to have some tea, and we found an amazing teahouse that you had to enter through a cave tunnel sort of thing off of one of the narrow streets. We had oolong tea in very traditional Chinese style – I have never had a traditional tea time, and I’m so glad I was able to experience it. Our view of the mountains was spectacular too.
After even more food and beer and wandering, we headed back to Taipei. Raohe night market was on the way back, so we stopped there for – you guessed it – more food!! This night market was the biggest I’d seen and had not only food, but also shopping and even some games along the way as well.
Day 4: Yehliu Geopark & Taipei 101
The next morning Hayden and I took a bus to Yehliu Geopark! The bus was really nice and quite convenient. We went early in the morning – and I’m glad, because it seemed much busier when we were leaving in the afternoon! We walked around the park, looking at the interesting rock formations. First we went on a bit of a hike. We found a path that was off the beaten track and saw very few other toursits, which was nice 🙂 There were so many beautiful, big butterflies, as well as flowers on the path, and we had a view of the ocean and cool rock formations along the way. We walked to the lighthouse and then on a cool windy path to the end of the cliff. We walked back and this time, stopped and got a more up close look to the cool, weird rock formations! After seeing pretty much everything, we got an amazing seafood lunch. Our fish was freshly caught and killed for us! We also tried oyster omelette, a famous Taiwanese dish, which was delicious.
We got back and met our German friend at Taipei 101. We walked around the big mall, snagging some free samples of pineapple cakes, then went up to the top of Taipei 101. The elevator was insanely fast. And of course the views were really nice! There were both indoor and outdoor views, a bit of a museum with coral art, and also a viewing area of the huge ball that acts as a damper and helps keep Taipei 101 stable. It’s a really interesting engineering feat (it weighs 730 tons!!!). After soaking in the sunset and the views, we found food nearby at a food truck park type thing, which seemed pretty ‘hip’ – for example, they had a sandpit to emulate a beach hangout area, haha. That night we spent some time chilling in the hostel, playing guitar and ukelele and chatting with other travelers. I’m definitely still in love with the general hostel environment 🙂
Day 5: Lungshan temple
The next morning we headed to Lungshan temple, a really pretty and big temple in the city, and walked around nearby. I got some great coffee and more pineapple cake, and we saw some historic buildings. I had to catch a flight that afternoon, so we grabbed a quick bibimbap lunch – funny that now I consider bibimbap the ultimate comfort food 😀
Overall, I absolutely loved Taipei! Great food, nice people, interesting nature, cool weather (compared to KL), and inexpensive. I don’t know why there aren’t more Western tourists there! But anyway, as usual, the time came to go home. Every time I return to KL, I am so grateful that I get to live here. If only it weren’t so fleeting…C’est la vie. 🙂 Next stop – Bali!