The second place on my bucket list is also a place we visited before.
Taipei is a major hub for flights from North America to South East Asia. We decided to take a two day layover there on our way back from Singapore.
The main train station was deserted when we arrived from the airport. We were fortunate enough to find three young people who spoke enough English to understand we were trying to get directions to our hotel. Amazingly, instead of pointing us in the right direction, they walked us all the way to the hotel.
On the first day we had booked a tour of Huaxi Street night market with dinner at Din Tai Fung in Taipei 101. The tour was excellent although our guide dissuaded us from sample the street food.
We needed to get to the airport late in the evening of our second day. Our hotel, the Relax III, was within easy walking distance of the Presidential Building, the Chiang Kai-Shek Memorial Hall and several museums and parks. Leaving our bags at the hotel, we just explored the area around the hotel.
Why Go Back?
Prior to the pandemic, Taipei was a hub for flights from Vancouver to South East Asia, making Taipei a natural place for an visit. Currently, there are no direct flights to Taipei â€” hopefully, that will change by the time I plan to start travelling again.
Taipei has twelve districts. Each one having its own unique features. For our brief stay we stayed within walking distance of Taipei Main Station in the Zhongzheng District. The area is a photographers dream, there seemed to be a new picture around every corner, with the added attraction of Taipeiâ€™s â€˜Camera Streetâ€™.
Surrounding Taipei are the 28 districts of â€œNew Taipei Cityâ€. Due to the varied geography, these districts range from beaches, grass lands and mountain retreats. Tourist attractions range challenging hiking trails to relaxing beaches. And, as with the attractions in Taipei, many of these attractions are easily reached by local transit.
Other areas are equally intriguing.
No matter where you want to go, getting around Taipei is very easy. Taipei has an excellent bus and metro system and high speed trains connect to most of Taipeiâ€™s major cities. Passes are available for the bus and Metro system.
Things to Do in Taipei/Taiwan
- Taipei 101 â€” At one time, the tallest building in the world. There are enclosed observation platforms on the 88th and 89th floors. An open air platform on the 91st floor is open â€” weather permitting. (Tickets available online)
- National Palace Museum â€” When Chiang Kai-Shek left mainland China, he took over 700,000 artifacts and art work covering 8,000 years of Chinese history. (Tickets available online)
- Maokong Gondola â€” a 4km long cable car ride from the Taipei Zoo to the Maokong (Sanxuan) temple. You can ride the gondola both ways or take a min-bus back down to the Taipei Zoo.(Tickets available online)
WARNING â€” The cars have glass bottoms, not those with a fear of heights.
- The Food â€” Taipei has many one & two star restaurants with one, in 2020, three star restaurant. Many of Taipeiâ€™s food stalls have made the Michelin Guideâ€™s â€œBib Gourmandâ€
- Hot Springs â€” Taiwan is on an active fault line which has resulted in a HUGE number of hot springs throughout the island. The closest to Taipei is Xin Beitou Museum & Hot Spring, a 1Â½ hour ride from Taipei Main Station.(Tickets available online)
- Day Trips â€” Many of Taiwanâ€™s cities and towns are easily accessible by train or bus. These are three I hope to visit:
- Danshui & Fishermanâ€™s Wharf â€” Loverâ€™s Bridge
- Shenkeng â€” Shenkengâ€™s Old Street is best know for its â€˜stinky tofuâ€™
- Pinglin Tea Museum â€” By bus or part of a tour to visit a tea plantation.
- Shilin Night Market â€” Dating to the 1890â€™s this is the best know and largest night market. It is also the most popular with tourists.
- Raohe Night Market â€” About 0.5km long and close to the Songshan Ci You Temple and the Rainbow Bridge across the Keelung River.
- Tonghua (Linjiang Street) Night Market â€” Close to the Taipei 101 tower and shopping district, it is said to have more traditional Taiwanese food than other night markets.
- Huaxi Night Market (Snake Alley) â€” When we were there in Jan 2018, there was still one stall serving snake meat with a large python on display. The market is close to the Longshan Temple, which we also visited.
Things To Remember
- The ticket machine for the Express Train from the airport to Taipei only takes coins.
- Taxis, food stall, and some restaurants and small stores only take cash (This may change due to the pandemic)
- English is not widely spoken although street signs and information signs in MRTs have English subtitles. Announcements in MRTâ€™s are in Mandrin & English.
- EVA flights to Canada are not allowed to do â€˜early checkingâ€™ at Taipei Main Station
There are a large number of tours of Taipei/Taiwan. Depending on your comfort level with travelling around a city/country where you donâ€™t know the language â€” this might be a good option.