During our travels abroad, both of us get accustomed to getting lost and just drifting the streets, figuring out where to find the next good meal or where would stumble onto some secret only locals whispered about. Getting lost was second nature to us. You might be wondering why, perhaps. This is because we refused to read guidebooks from the airport terminals. We always resort to friend recommendations, blog sources on the internet, random conversations with locals or sometimes from our cab drivers.
With legacies as diverse as its dynamic landscapes and feisty traditions flourishing alongside the cream of Asian classiness.
This Wander Taiwan Series will attempt to show you what you can do during your few days in this country. From discovering their culture, from drinking eating and yes, all the way up to their dive bars. Fat Girls Day Out got you covered. For this article we’ll cover the essentials first:
- 5 Reasons Why You Should Experience Taiwan
- Complete Travel and Experience Guide
Watch out for our next phase content which will cover the entirety of Taiwan’s epic food culture. For today, we’d like to talk about Taipei and its character. Large, flat, bold and often forgotten. A few years back Taipei was often not included in the top 5 must-see cities in Asia for travelers, but since the emergence of affordable flights and the recently announced visa-free entry for Filipinos it quickly picked as part of everyone’s must-go-to destination.
Taiwan blends traditional and modernity seamlessly. We’re here to show you what you can do around Taipei and its surrounding areas, what the locals like to do and what you as a traveler would want to see.
Famed for centuries as Ilha Formosa (Beautiful Isle; 美麗島; Měilìdǎo), this is a land with more sides than the 11-headed Guanyin. Pillar gorgeous sea cliffs, marble-walled gorges, and lush tropical forests are just the start of your journey, which could take you as far as Yushan, Taiwan’s 3952m alpine roof.
In Taiwan, you can criss-cross the mountains on colonial-era hiking trails or cycle alone highway with the blue Pacific on one side and green volcanic arcs on the other. Cool air and great landscape.
‘Have you eaten?’ The words are used as a greeting here, and the answer is always ‘yes’, as there’s just too much eating that can be done. Taiwan offers the range of Chinese cuisines, some of the best Japanese outside Japan and a full house of local specialties from Tainan milkfish and Taipei beef noodles down to indigenous barbecued wild boar.
Night markets around the island serve endless chaotic feasts of snacks including their famous stinky tofu, steamed dumplings, oyster omelettes, wagyu cubes, shrimp rolls, and shaved ice. And when you’re thirsty, you can look forward to the juice from the freshest local fruits, local craft beer, aromatic teas and, in a surprising twist, Asia’s best gourmet coffee.
Taipei has a mix of both contemporary and historical buildings, from the well-known Taipei 101, which was one of the tallest buildings in the world, to the more historic buildings such as the Residential Office Building and the Grand Hotel.
Countering those who said it wasn’t in their DNA, the Taiwanese have crafted Asia’s most vibrant democracy and liberal society, with a strident free press, progressive gender equality, and high respect for human and animal rights.
They stay loyal to their Gods, parents get their dues, but still remain vigilant to any slandering politicians who will break any moral and political code.
Taiwan is an inheritor of the entire Chinese tradition of Buddhism, Taoism, Confucianism and that formless collection of deities and demons worshipped as folk faith.
Over the centuries the people have blended their way into an inimitable and open-minded religious culture that’s often as ritual profound as Catholicism and as wild as Santeria. Taiwanese temples combine worship hall, festival, venue and art house under one roof.
We’ve shortlisted this quick reference guide to show you Where to Go, What to Do and What to Eat.
Where to Stay
Top 10 Best Hotels (Click Hotel Names to get rates and availability)
- Royal Seasons Hotel Taipei Nanjing West
- Hotel Eclat Taipei
- Evergreen Laurel Hotel
- Ambiance Hotel
- Palais de Chine Hotel
- YoMi Hotel
- Les Suites Taipei Ching-cheng
- Grand Hyatt Taipei
- Link World Hotel Taipei
- Park Taipei Hotel
Taiwan Incredibly Budget-Friendly Hotels (rates starts at 1,600php or 32USD)
- Kindness Hotel Kaohsiung Jue Ming
- Kindness Hotel – Sanduo Shopping District
- Maison de Chine Hotel Chiayi
- Constellation Coast Bed and Breakfast
- Airline Inn – Kaohsiung Station
- Just Sleep Kaohsiung Station
- CLICK here to get fill list from Trip Advisor
You may opt to rent out an apartment for large groups and should you plan to stay longer. Sign up for Airbnb here!
Transport & Logistics
If you’re only staying for a few days we highly suggest that you stay in the heart of it all- the Ximending area. Where all the hustle and bustle of the night & day happens. The is a perfect place to kind of have as a base in Taipei to see the rest of the city. The area can get a little hectic at night when all the food vendors, street performers stage their act. But it is a great central location and there’s always happening.
Airport to the City
When arriving in Taipei the best way to get into the city is thru their Airport MRT. It is well organized and won’t cost you that much. Take their Airport MRT to Taipei Main Station, it’s fast and efficient and will only cost you 160NT/6USD/280PHP. From Taipei Main station, find your respective trains to what area you’re staying. We highly suggest that you have data as most of the stops will only have Mandarin signage, this is the best way to know where your stop is.
However, if you arrive past 12 midnight, try finding a taxi. Arrival in the city cost you roughly around 1,200pNT/36USD/2,100php. Make sure to bring a copy of your address in Mandarin and English, as not everyone in Taipei can read English.
In fact when the city is as spread out as Taipei we advise taking their MRT and Bus system. They are efficient, easy to navigate(with data) and are always on schedule.
By Train or Bus
Taiwan Railway Administration (TRA; www.railway.gov.tw) has an extensive system running along both the east and west coasts. There are no services in the Central Mountains, except tourism branch lines. For fares and timetables, see the TRA website.
Taipei Travel Pass
The easiest way to get around Taipei is by purchasing the Taipei Travel Pass, this can be purchased in the Taipei Main Station or at all information counters at the MRT Stations. You can choose to have the 1- Day, 3-Day, or 5-Day Pass – This gives you unlimited access to all buses, subways, and trains for the duration of your validity. They also provide you with discounts on select tourist spots.
As a bonus, they also have free data on the train stations and their buses.
To have access to their WIFI network, head over to any major train station and head over to the Tourist Information Center, they will ask for your passport and in turn, provide you with a username and password that you can use thru out your stay in Taiwan. This will give you WIFI access to the buses, subway, and any tourist area within the city.
Taiwan travel pass
Foreigners with resident permits are not eligible for the Taiwan Travel pass which is intended to help young people experience Taiwan through reduced train fares. In order to qualify for a 5-day, 7-day or 10-day travel pass, students must present a passport from their country of origin, a student certificate as proof of study or a travel pass from the National Youth Commission.
Tip: Many Taiwanese do not speak English and the ticket machines can be confusing. It is advisable to book a ticket in advance (up to 14 days) and collect it at the station or at a post office. It is recommended to check your timetable online before you get to the station to avoid unnecessary confusion.
Bus and coach services between main centers are efficient and cost-effective. Check out The Taiwan Tour Bus offers sightseeing services (https://www.taiwantourbus.com.tw/C/us/home). The Taiwan shuttle tours (https://www.taiwantrip.com.tw/) offer the same initiative.
Taiwan’s taxis are easy to spot as they are bright yellow “taxi” on their car roofs. Almost ALL drivers do not speak and can’t read English it’s advisable to ask someone who knows Mandarin to write down your destination down to show to the driver.
Where to Eat
- Jinfeng Braised Meat Rice (10 Roosevelt Road)
- The Beef Noodles at Lin Dong Fang (No.274, Section 2, Bade Road)
- Fried Pork Liver at 古納廚房 (No.5, lane 23, Yanji street)
- James Kitchen (65 Yongkang Street, Da’an District)
- Qin Wei Guan (Address: 2, Ln 138, Yanji St, Taipei (台北市延吉接138巷2號)
- Ningxia night market
- Shilin Night Market
- Raohe Night Market
- Addiction Aquatic Development (full feature here)
- Din Tai Fung
- Yongkang Beef Noodles – Go to place for Taipei’s homestyle beef noodles.
- Yuelu Restaurant- Traditional Hakka fare in a historic mountaintop house.
- Le Mout Taiwan– French
- Wu Pao Chun Bakery Prize-Fusion bread in Kaohsiung.
- Do Right –Hearty Taiwanese cooking in an old rice mill.
- Roots Creative – American
- Cafe de Riz – Japanese
- B-Line– Gastro Pub
- Orange Shabu Shabu
- Tua Culture – Modern Taiwanese
- Mume– Clean and minimalist take on food
- RAW by Andre Chiang (reserve atleast a month in advance!)
- Dawan– Barbecue
- Miss Green– Vegan food
Quaint Coffee Shops
- Café Costumice (No. 6, Alley 71, Lane 223, Section 4, Zhongxiao E Rd, Da’an District, Taipei City, Taiwan 106)
- Ecole Coffee Shop (No. 6, Lane 1, Qingtian St, Da’an District, Taipei City, Taiwan 10)
- Forgood (No. 12號, Lane 41, Yongkang St, Da’an District, Taipei City, Taiwan 106)
- Kiosk (No. 40, Section 1, Xinsheng N Rd, Zhongshan District, 台北市 Taiwan 104)
Where to Drink/Night Life
What to Experience
For a hassle-free experience, try booking your tours with Klook. They have discounted rates for the must see spots all over Taiwan.
- Taipei 101
- Ciang Kai Shek Memorial Hall
- Spot Taipei – Film House
- National Palace Museum (Shilin)
- Alishan Forest Recreation Park (Penglu Islands)
- Miniquan Old Street (Sansia)
- Treasure Artist Village
- Ximending (central city)
- Maji Maji (weekend market)
- Singyan Elite (unique fashion finds)
- Yingee Ceramics
- Art Yard (old town)
- Haushan 1914 (exhibition compound)
- Fujin Street (hipster, scenesters)
Sample Daily Costing
1 PHP =1.75 NT (average)
- Dorm bed: NT$550–800
- MRT: NT$30
- Noodles and side dish: NT$80–120
- Convenience store snacks and drinks: NT$40
- Temple admissions: free
- Double room in a hotel: NT$1400–2600
- Lunch or dinner at a decent restaurant: NT$250–500
- Car rental per day: NT$1800–2400
- coffee shop: NT$120–260
- Soak in a private hot-spring room: NT$1000–1400
• BEST DEALS ON FLIGHTS: Want a quicker way to scan the cheapest airfares available per airline-destination? local carriers included. Log on to Kiwi.com and get the latest flight on demand with the best price
• BOOK ACCOMMODATIONS: Get room availabilities and best rates with real user reviews via Tripadvisor.com
Verdict: We would definitely come back. Not only the city filled with unique and traditional eats, but the Taiwanese people are kind, helpful and always up for a good time. Not as fast-paced as the other Asian cities, but a must-stop for any serious Asian city travelers. Please watch out for the next Eat Up Taiwan! article a complimentary follow up to this travel guide.
Go forth and wander! and when you return home to become a storyteller.
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