Taipei: Do It

I’ve had the opportunity to visit Taipei a few times recently, never staying for more than 48 hours.  Although described by one of my work colleagues as a “Dirty Hong Kong”, the city offers an incredible depth of interesting places to visit.

Eat it

Din Tai Fung:  The world famous, Michelin-starred dumpling restaurant started in Taipei.  The original store is located on Xinyi Rd near the Dongmen station, although the outlet at Taipei 101 is nicer.

Night Markets: Honestly, there are endless recommendations for where to eat in Taipei.  The food is wonderful, options plentiful, and prices are cheap.  If you’re looking for a staple, find a leek pancake or a dumpling shop.  Or try some Okonomiyaki (Taipei style) in the Shillin night market, or grab some peanut shaving ice cream, or drink some frog eggs, or try some duck tongue.  I didn’t do the last two, but I did take photos.

See it

Changing of the Guard at Chiang Kai Shek memorial hall:  Chiang Kai Shek (typically referred to as CKS) is filled with amazing photo opportunities. The Changing of the Guard ceremony happens on the hour, almost every hour (timings change, but typically from 10a – 4p)

Taipei 101: “The” skyscraper in Taipei.  Take a ride up to the observation deck and check out the views, and the impressive damper, which helps the building absorb energy from wind and earthquakes.

Elephant Mountain: A lovely hike with great views around.   The hike is a bit steep in parts, but nothing unmanageable, it’s paved, and most of it is a stair climb.  Still, it can be very slippery when wet.  You have been warned.  Take a good offline map with you so you can find your way (check out our post on offline maps!).  The trails are easy to follow, but there are a few options to do this as an out & back, loop counter-clockwise up to the Xinyi road, or go deeper into the bigger hills if you have time.

Beitou Hot Springs:  The area of Baitou, northwest of Taipei, offers a lot of options to dip your toe into hot springs.  Everything from cheap/public hot pools to luxury eco-spa retreat type experiences.  If you’re looking to splurge, check out Villa 32 (http://www.villa32.com/en/).  Expensive (starting at about NT$1700, or ~$50 USD for public hot springs), it’s an oasis of luxury.  No swimsuit, no problem.  The Public Hot Springs at Villa 32 are separate for men and women, and no clothing is allowed.  Private Hot Springs are available too.

Tamsui: If you want to escape the big city, take the Red #2 line all the way to the end station Tamsui.  It’s a lovely harbor town where you can walk along the shops or waterfront, take a boat to Fisherman’s Wharf, and enjoy a place which feels like a small town version of Taipei.

Maokong / Zhinan Temple:  Board the gondola next to the Taipei Zoo.  The 4.6km long gondola ride to Maokong is interesting, especially if you wait for a car with a glass bottom (no extra charge).  Maokong is interesting with some food stalls and a walkway in the woods, and the Zhinan Temple station on the goldola offers the opportunity to visit a very nice temple.

Taipei Zoo: I’m not normally a zoo person, but this Zoo is cheap (NT$65 or ~$2 USD), and they seem to have a large variety of very healthy animals with large enclosures.  The major disappointment was the Panda, who looked sad.

Shop it

Shillin Night Market: The biggest, craziest, and best night market!  It starts around 4p, but it’s worth getting there closer to 6p for everything to be open and busy.

Ningxia Night Market:  Not as bit, bright, or varied as the Shillin Night Market, the Ningxia night market has a lot of food carts and a more relaxed pace.

Skip it

Snake Alley, aka Huaxi St Tourist Night Market: I guess this was a shocking experience back in the heyday,

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Din Tai Fung (Original): 25.033483, 121.530112
Din Tai Fung (Taipei 101): 25.033335, 121.564307
Shilin Night Market: 25.088805, 121.524904
Chiang Kai Shek Memorial Hall: 25.043531, 121.535861
Taipei 101 Observation Deck: 25.033773, 121.563997
Elephant Mountain Trailhead: 25.027401, 121.571445
Beitou Hot Springs: Villa 32: 25.137712, 121.510365
Tamsui: 25.171407, 121.438622
Maokong Gondola: 24.968863, 121.588268
Taipei Zoo: 24.998855, 121.581058
Ningxia Night Market: 25.056970, 121.515591
Huaxi Night Market: 25.038590, 121.498425

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