Taipei can be at the first view like a jungle of huge buildings and mind blowing toys, especially with Hello Kitty on every corner. But even so I fell in love with this surreal city due to its amazing temples and delicious food.
I prepared a 2-day itinerary, a small mixture of sightseeing and gastro touring, which can be changed for longer stay as well. However, before we jump into this virtual journey, I would like to share with you some tips reffering to the public transport and money exchange.
About the public transport:
The shuttle or taxi from the airport is nearly three times more expensive, while the public transport is much more affordable, easy and very well organized.
From the airport you can get the Airport Train right to the city (145-150 TWD), after this you have to take the MRT, which stops at the most frequented points of Taipei. You can buy tickets at ticket mashines, but if it is confusing for you – what I can understand – there is always somebody to help you. In terms of costs I recommend you to buy a ticket for 24-72 hours or the Fun Pass, which can be used all day long and includes 12 attractions.
About the money exchange:
In Taipei there is no money-changer, what means you have to go to the bank to have some local money. In this case please mind the opening hours and can happen, that you have to stand in a queue. You need to have your passport, furthermore intact banknotes are accepted only.
As in Taiwan it is pretty difficult to make yourself understood in English, a Chinese-English offline dictionary can ease your journey.
After these helpful infos I would like to share with you my 2 days itinerary in Taipei, in the capital of Taiwan.
As I mentioned, it is really easy to get to the city from the airport. In order to visit the most points of interest, Ximen District can be a good initial point for your Taipei-adventure not to speak of the accommodation.
Tasting of the real Taiwanese breakfast is the best start before you immerse yourself into the world of beautiful temples and heavenly delicious bites. Maybe that is why I visited Taipei for short trip…I did not want to leave this country like a big meat dumpling gained plus 5 kilos!
As a tasty energy bomb I advice to try the pancakes filled with spring onions, topped with eggs, different omelettes or pen-fried dumpling with creamy pork inside. I am a person, who could die without sweets and creations of best bakeries, so I had to take a look into these luring places. I have to say, visiting of the local bakeries and tea houses is a must. You will find something for sure, that meets your taste.
After the breakfast I walked around the area in order to get a pinch of Taipei-feeling. The tiny streets in the junge of skyscrapers hide the paradise for foodies. Thousands of food stalls, local restaurants provide the authentic Taiwanese delicacies.
I tried the Bubble Tea, which can be found in Taipei on every corner. It is a very popular Taiwanese drink, very well-known in Europe as well. It is milk tea containing tapioca pearls or fruit jellies according to your choice.
Sipping the original bubble tea my next stop was the Liberty Square, home of the Chiang Kai Shek Memorial Hall. This famous national monument was built in honor of Generalissimo Chiang Kai shek, the first President of the Republic China. At the beginning of the square is the Gate of Integrity, one of my favourite architectural jewels in Taipei. To the right is the National Theatre, to the left, the Concert Hall: ideal examples of Chinese buildings.
The Memorial Hall is located at the end of the square waiting – with its unique octagon shape – for the visitors.
The next hidden treasure of the city is the Peace Park 2/28, which I discovered accidentaly. It is one of the oldest parks of Taipei designed traditional with beautiful ponds and Japanese gardens. There is an aphiteather, the National Taiwan Museum, an old radio station – today home of the Taipei 228 Memorial Museum – and the Taipei Memorial 228 Monument, which was built to remind us of the Taiwan’s White Terror period. Visiting the museum you can learn about the rich history of this country, while walking through the gardens you will definitely find tranquility and peace. I really loved this place watching the chatty locals and the woman, who eternized the magical, precious moments in this park by her paintings.
From here the Lungshan Temple is an easy walk. It is a must while visiting the Wanhua District, because it is one of the oldest temples in Taipei, very well known – of course always crowded – and not to mention, that it is one of the „Big 3” (must see temples in Taipei). On the other hand the Lungshan Temple is very special, because it is not place for one religion only, but Taoist, Buddhist and Confucian faiths are welcomed equally.
The whole temple complex is very detailed and richly decorated: dragons, phoenixes and other mystical creatures can be seen everywhere. I spent here an hour just sitting on the floor and I observed all these praying and chanting people, who simply enchanted me.
And now is coming the program, that never can be missing from my list: to find a cool spot for watching the Taiwanese sunset. This is the Elephant Mountain, easily accessible from the city centre, and even the trail is not very back-breaking, perfect for those, who are less fit. I adore this place thinking about it, like about a small green island in the middle of concrete jungle. From the top we get a fabolous panorama with the shiny Tower Taipei 101 fleeing into the sky. If you have companion, it can be memorable to dive into the golden world of the dusk with a small picnic busket and wine.
As a perfect end to the day I warmly recommend to have a colourful dinner at one of the Taipei’s night Markets, like the Guangzhou, the Shilin or the Huaxi Night Market. For dessert after dessert I would definitely take a foot massage!
I devoted my second day for visiting Beitou, home of natural hot springs of Taipei. My opinion is, you simply have to see this remote, cute close-to-the-nature part of the city. Especially if you are tired of hustle and bustle of the urban area, just take your swim-suit, towel and let’s have some pure Taiwanese bathing experience.
Before I got immersed in pleasures of springs I took a look at the Puji Temple, which is located a short walk up the hill. This is one of the few Japanese-era Buddhist temples pointing the traditional Japanese architecture full of harmony and serenity.
Among several Buddhist temples countless other attractions can be found: the Hot Springs Museum, the traditionally built Plum Garden and the Library.
My very best and favourite place is the Thermal Valley or the „Hell Valley”. Regarding to springs in Taipei I have to mention some infos. The local springs contain three different varieties of sulfur, that is the reason of their mesmerising colour and – often – disturbing, strangling smell. The green sulfur occures in Beitou, Taiwan and in Akita, Japan only. This type of sulfur gives the magical emerald green colour of the Hell Valley. I spent a lot of time here just staring at the sulfuric steam rising up from the water.
This place has a mysterious atmosphere and something calming at the same time. The valley is perfect spot for making pictures and timelapse videos, but I have a bad news as well: there is a fence around the water for security reasons, because the water is highly corrosive. So before you would like to jump for a little swim, trust me …You do not want to be cooked!
In relation to the thermal baths there are different etiquette rules referring to gender and swim-suit. From the luxurious, private spa rooms to the local, authentic thermal baths, from naked bathing to less „free spirit” swimming costume dip there is everything to get pampered. You will find the perfect thermal bath for sure, which fits your taste and your wallet.
For foodies I have something special here, in Beitou too. For having lunch the Manlai Hot Spring Ramen providing amazing ramen is a cool idea, while the Sushi Express is 100% fun waiting for exciting dishes, which arrive on conveyor belt. Before leaving the Thermal Springs the tasting of hot spring eggs is a must!
As I am an insatiable sunset-lover, I found again a mind blowing good spot for watching the twilight. This is the famous, third tallest building in the world, namely the Taipei 101. The building has 101 floors providing remarkable view for its visitors. The tower is open until 10 pm. so you have a chance to catch a wonderful sundown at the top – 382 m high – of the city and be amazed by little lights under your feet.
After this phenomenal scene you can stay for an outstanding dinner at Dai Tai Fung located in the tower or go for a gastro night to one of the city’s night markets, like the Gongguan Night Market or the Raohe Night Market.
As you see, Taipei is an incredibly diverse metropolis offering for all of us something different, something special. One thing is for sure: if you love to eat, if you are enchanted by new flavours, this city is the right destination for you.
My summary, what to eat in Taipei:
- Baobing: dessert made of condensed milk, fruits, ice-cream, peanut and azuki beans.
- Baozi: small buns filled with meat or vegetables.
- Beef Noodle Soup, called as Taiwan’s national food, so it can be found everywhere.
- Me Sua: tender pork intestine with noodles, kind of soup seasoned with garlic and fresh coriander. I recommend to try it at Ay Chung Flour-Rice Noodle, established in 1973, serving heavenly good Me Sua.
- Pineapple Cake
- Bubble Tea