The Taiwanese people were hands down some of the friendliest people I've met. They were super open and willing to show me around and just seemed genuinely so happy that I was interested in their country and their culture. Taipei itself is such an amazing city, it’s a little dirty, a little dingy, loaded with strange smells and lush vegetation, and FULL of character. One minute you’re walking through a tight little alleyway filled with shrines and memorials, then the next you’re next to the beautiful Taipei 101 and gorgeous temples. Taipei OOZES culture and history. Taipei is by far my favorite city on earth, it’s been three years since I was there and I can honestly say I day-dream about that magnificent city daily!
AirBnB in Taiwan is wonderful! I rented out a full apartment in the Da’an District and absolutely loved it! Certain parts of the district had this almost “nitty gritty” vibe to it. Small, back alleyways, loaded with vegetation gave a really exotic feel to the city.
Public transportation in Taiwan is AMAZING and while taxis are fine for when you have your big bags going to and from the airport, I would highly recommend you utilize the metro and the bus. They can get you literally anywhere in Taipei and the surrounding areas and using them really adds to the experience of trying to integrate into the hustle and bustle of city life! Just pick up an “EasyCard” at any of the many 7-Elevens and load some money on it and you’re good to go!
I pre-ordered a portable WiFi from Klook in advance. This was a nice option for those whose phones are not “unlocked” and thus unable to use foreign SIM cards in their phones. I just kept the WiFi in my backpack the entire trip was able to get WiFi almost everywhere!
I honestly don’t even know where to begin with the food in Taiwan, beef noodle soup, Gua bao, and night markets galore! The food in Taiwan is NEVER ENDING! One thing I know for sure is that you will never go hungry in Taiwan. There’re probably a million articles/Youtube videos on the food in Taipei and for good reason, but because of that I’m just going to glance over the topic but believe me when I say, the food in Taiwan will be something you never forget!
PLACES TO VISIT:
Hop on the Red Line and take it all the way to Beitou. Beitou is a mountainous district on the outskirts of Taipei, it's full of hot springs, dense vegetation, and some great views. There is a super cool Hot Spring Museum there that was unfortunately closed for renovations while I was there, but it was built by the Japanese during their rule of Taiwan and I’m sure is packed with some great history!
If you’re looking for hot springs, you have a ton of options while in Beitou, there are a number of hotels/resorts that allow people to just use their springs. The first one I went to was Spring City Resort, which I ended up in a private, single person spring. It was nice and relaxing, but pretty upscale and not the traditional hot spring experience I was looking for! The next day I passed through Beitou again on my way down from hiking through Yangmingshan and decided to stop at the Emperor Spa, this offered a much more authentic hot spring experience but beware, there may be some culture shock if you’re not prepared!
Be sure to check out The Beitou Museum (different than the hot spring museum). This museum was originally built as the Kazan Hotel during Japanese rule and was utilized in World War II by Japanese Kamikaze pilots where they would relax before their final mission. This place is loaded with history and offers the chance to experience a traditional Japanese Tea Ceremony. Highly recommend if you’re interested in some of the history of the Japanese rule of Taiwan.
Jioufen is an amazing little town nestled in the mountains up at the northern most tip of Taiwan. This little town is allegedly where Miyazaki got his inspiration for the movie Spirited Away (Although I believe that’s been disproved). Here you can come walk through ‘Jioufen Old Street’ and fill yourself with more delicious street food! There are two famous tea houses in Jioufen and I recommend you hit them both if you like tea. The first is A-Mei’s, this one is absolutely iconic with its dark wood and vibrant red lanterns. Go early though if you want a seat on the balcony, this place fills up FAST. The other is “Jioufen Tea House” which is a bit less touristy than A-Mei’s and honestly, has a much better variety of tea compared to A-Mei. So, A-Mei’s has a better view, but Jioufen Tea House has better tea. Therefore, you might as well hit both!
While I definitely think you should head to Jioufen for at least a day trip, I did something a bit different by heading there via taxi late on a Friday night. I arrived in Jioufen around 22:30, had a lovely pot of tea at A-Mei’s, and just wandered around the town. Everything is closed but there was an eerie calm that engulfs the town at night, such a stark contrast compared to the nonstop honking and rumbling of scooters in Taipei. Then head to bed, wake up early and get ready to EAT!
One of the most amazing things about Taipei is that you can be in the middle of the city, enjoying the hustle and bustle, and then hop on the MRT and in one direction be in Yangmingshan National Park or head the other direction and be up in the tea fields of Maokong in the matter of around 15 mins. I absolutely adored Maokong. Take the brown line all the way to the end and then hop on the gondolas and take that up to the top. Then start wandering through the deep green tea fields for an incredibly relaxing experience. And of course, if you’re in Maokong you have to drink some tea! Head on over to Yao Yue Teahouse (open 24/7) and get your tea fix! There’re also some great temples around the Maokong area and my favorite was the Zhinan Temple, head there for sunset and watch the sun go down over beautiful Taipei.
NEW YEARS EVE:
Let me just say, New Year’s Eve in Taipei is an experience you will NEVER forget. Of course, as with many countries, fireworks are a staple of New Year’s Eve but in Taipei, the fireworks are literally launched off of Taipei 101 itself. There are many great spots to view the show but chances are you’re only in Taipei for New Year’s Eve once, therefore I highly recommend you head up to Elephant Mountain and watch from one of the viewing balconies. Beware though! It gets PACKED up there so get there early and bring warm clothes and plenty of snacks. I got up there around 11:00 and got a great view but I had to sit around in the drizzly rain for 13 hours until the show began. It was well worth it though, but be prepared to wait!
EXPLORING THE CITY:
There is much to see and do around Taipei. If history is your thing, head on over to the National Palace Museum where you can see thousands of artifacts brought over from Mainland China by Chiang Kai-Shek during the Chinese Civil War. Speaking of Chiang Kai-Shek, definitely check out his Memorial over at Liberty Square. During the day you can watch the changing of the guards every hour on the hour and just relax around the square. However, it’s even more peaceful in the dark so be sure to check it out at night as well!
Visiting Taipei 101 is one of those must do things in Taipei, I’ll admit it wasn’t my favorite thing I did but it’s definitely worth going up and seeing the view from the top, as well as learning about some of its construction and architecture.
Taipei as a whole has so many hidden gems (or not so hidden, I’m looking at you Taipei 101) it’s hard to know where to begin. Whether you’re visiting the Longshan Temple, roaming the many side streets, or taking in the views from Elephant Mountain, Taipei has something for everyone. My best advice is to not make any set plans and just wander the city and see where you end up! Who knows what you’ll stumble upon! In my experiences often, unexpected occurrences are what leave the best memories!
I feel like this has gone on too long and I’m starting to ramble LOL but if anyone has any additional questions please feel free to reach out. This trip was my first solo trip and was a life-changing experience, I can only hope others will fall in love with Taiwan as I have! Safe travels!!
#taiwan #taipei #beitou #tea #maokong #hiking #adventure