Why Taiwan should be on your bucket list: A Travelers Journal to Exploring Taipei (with Photos)
When traveling, I have huge admiration for cities with good and efficient public transport system as most of my trips abroad are DIY (Do It Your Own). This means I would do my own itinerary, with a list of the places that I (and company) would want to visit, plus a good map and addresses either saved on our mobile phones or printed out as our tool to be able to navigate the places, and then we are ready to go.
Since I like DIY, we would use subways very often and thankful that Taiwan is one of the countries I’ve visited where it is easy to explore it because of an efficient transport system.
Since I am from the Philippines, a flight from my city- Manila to the capital city of Taiwan-Taipei will take about 2 hours. Taiwan, is geographically located in East Asia and it’s neighboring countries, aside from our country the Philippines are Japan on the northeast, China on its west.
As a traveler, exploring the city and visiting their night markets, checking out famous architecture both new and old especially those that have historical relevance such as palaces or temples, scenic views, and great food are on my definitely to do list. I also love chatting with locales even just a small talk with cab drivers because it gives you an idea of the locales day to day lifestyle. I just like being exposed to different cultures as it gives me a greater perspective of how different and similar other cultures are to my own. You can read all the books you like about a country, but nothing beats to being actually there, seeing the places and landmarks before your eyes, talking to locales and exploring their unique delicacies. Food has always been an important part of my journey; and when I say food, I meant trying out their locale dish and no commercialized fast food for me.
So, here are my Top 5 Favorite Things about Taipei:
1. Taipei is a cosmopolitan city with modern infrastructure and amenities. But what I love more is how beautifully the Modern infrastructure blended with the charms of cultural landmarks and structures depicting their history and tradition.
Taipei 101 is an example of a modern building that currently holds the position in the Top 10 tallest buildings in the world with 101 floors and about 1,667 feet in height. It is one of the most luxurious shopping malls in Taipei and this tallest skyscraper gives you the most amazing view of the entire skyline of Taipei at any point of the day; including night time where you see a birds-eye view of the city adorned with lights.
Chiang Kai-Sheck Memorial Hall is in the business district of Taipei just a few blocks from Taipei 101 and this historical landmark blends beautifully where everything surrounding it is modern.
Presidential Office building is another old and restored structure with historical significance as the structure was completed in 1912 and it formerly was used as the office of the Governor-General in Taiwan during the Japanese colonial period. Today, it is among the most visited architectural sites to visit in Taipei especially if you want to learn more about Taiwan’s culture and history.
2. They have superb food choices/selection in almost all their Night Markets.
Exploring the city’s night markets is also an important activity that you should add to your bucket list when visiting Taiwan. Here, you get a taste of their most authentic local street foods all at a reasonable price. Shilin Night Market is the biggest and best-known night market in Taipei. Be sure to go there with an empty stomach so you can feast on as many as you can of their best delicacies that Taipei has to offer.
Before heading on to Shilin Night Market, take a side trip and enjoy light meals at this famous Modern Toilet Restaurant in Shilin. You must be wondering how in the world would you be able to appetizingly eat while seated on a toilet bowl or delight in a dessert plate that looked like a poo? I struggled with the same thoughts too before coming into this place. But, surprisingly, when you dine here, you will like the humor concept of this restaurant and will delight at this rather very unique and out of this world concept. Also, I did enjoy the food we ordered which is light snacks of mozzarella cheese sticks and ice cream.
3. For the more scenic and cultural part of Taipei, be sure to visit Shifen Old Town and the famous Shifen Waterfalls.
If almost everything in Taipei, being the business district is modern, Shifen Old Town by its name reflects how Taiwan looks like before modernity took place. Here, you’ll see an old railroad built in 1921 with old trains that are still running and seeing the railroad still existing even when it is about century old just gives me goosebumps. Atleast, even when we were not born during those time, we have a preserved structure of an old village allowing us to picture how life was like back then and how different it is today.
Even when the city is being visited by a lot of tourists around the world, and most tourists would fly lanterns on the railroad street, you will notice how laidback, relaxed and quiet the environment is. I also love the fact that mountain views are just everywhere giving you a more scenic view.
When you are already in Shifen Old Town, make sure to visit the famous Shifen Waterfalls as it is considered to be the most scenic, Instagram perfect, waterfalls in Taiwan. Shifen Waterfalls is about 40 meters tall and to get there, you will have to walk a trail for about 10 minutes (if your walking at a fast pace) but the trail itself gives you a great view.
4. Ride the Maokong Gondola (longest cable car ride) and enjoy picturesque of mountain views as the gondola literally lifts you up on top of the highest part of the Maokong mountain.
I say longest because I’ve tried different cable car rides and this gondola in Maokong is so far the longest one-way ride taking about 25 minutes; which means 25 minutes of great mountain views everywhere. It’s amazing also that their gondolas have clear glass floors and you literally feel like “flying” as the gondola lifts you up to the highest part of the mountain. If you are not afraid of heights, this one is a must try. I wanted to get a good video while we were inside this gondola, however, it was raining outside so it was a little gloomy and will not be too clear when taking the video.
5. Taiwanese people are warm, friendly and very hospitable.
The best experience I’ve ever had in visiting Taiwan that sure outweighs seeing this beautiful city and experiencing their food and culture is definitely meeting Taiwanese locales. I was so privileged to be connected with locale Taiwanese friends who are also good friends of my great friend here in the Philippines. They have toured us around to some places that are best traveled by car, made us try their famous household locale dishes and literally accompanied us to some of the best places in Taipei. Having locales now as my friends was by far my best experience being in their country.
Our trip was just 4 days and 3 nights so we focused on exploring Taipei, the capital city. But surely, Taiwan has a lot more places to explore and we have more reasons to come back and visit this beautiful country again.
So, that wraps up my blog for Taiwan. Now here are quick tips that will help your trip if you want to travel here soon.
1. Purchase a Metro Taipei ticket. You can choose for an unlimited day access train rides to Taipei or unlimited Train plus bus rides to the city within a day. I suggest if you are traveling and just doing a DIY on your trip, you will need this.
2. Familiarize yourself with Taipei’s map and subway stations. Get a map upon arrival to the airport, it will really help you besides just saving the locations or maps of the places that you’d like to visit on your mobile phone.
3. If you are looking for budget accommodations, I can highly recommend their hostels. We checked in at Sleepbox hostel and it is cheap but really clean and has complete amenities; lounge, mini dining area, shared bathrooms (separate for female and male) but is completely clean (I have to emphasize clean bathrooms because that is absolutely an important consideration for me).
I would also recommend that you get a hostel/hotel that is walking distance to the nearest subway station. Again if you are commuting via subway, it is going to be convenient for you to book a hostel or hotel that is walking distance a subway station. Check reviews online and make your own due diligence.
There you have it. I hope this helps. See you on our next trip.