And just like that we’re in Taiwan and Taipei. We flew here with EVA Air from Guilin which you can read about here. I’m actually writing this post a few months after going so my memory is a little hazy (not the best idea). Overall I loved Taiwan and definitely want to go back and explore more of the country. It has elements of Chinese culture but also Japanese and I think the fusion of the two makes for a really great dynamic of sights, attitude and lovely people. We stayed in quite a trendy area called Ximending which is full of shops, restaurants and bars. At night the place comes alive and it lights up with neon (which I loved). We spent about three days here but could easily have extended that and gone on for a week, there’s lots to see and do! Getting around the city was easy as their underground system is similar to Shanghai and very modern, clean and quick. Moneywise it was fun using New Taiwan dollars and prices were friendly to us Westerners – thumbs up from me!
I guess the most iconic spot in Taipei is Taipei 101 aka their skyscraper, pagoda tower. It used to be the tallest building in the world until Dubai came around. The building has one hundred and one floors (shocker) and houses offices, restaurants and lobbies. At the base is a very fancy shopping mall with the likes of Gucci and Versace. At the top the views are expansive and you can see for miles and miles. However I was a little disappointed as because it is the only proper skyscraper in the city, the views get a little repetitive and there aren’t too many landmarks to point out. You can see Elephant Mountain which is a nearby park/hikers dream. We actually went up there twice because I realised on our last day I wanted an instagram from up there haha. It has several options to get to the top (some containing more stairs than others) but you will sweat whatever route you take. It is a steep, high mountain but the views are incredible. There are lots of platforms to catch Taipei 101 from but I’d recommend going to the very top where these giant rocks are that you can sit on and really enjoy the view. The park itself (minus the steepness) is very pretty and you’ll see many hikers and regular athletes on the trails.
You know I love eating and so naturally I needed some grub a dub dub. I can’t remember how we came across this place but soup dumplings are a big deal in Taipei and you have to try them! It’s a really homely feeling place and it did have a queue out the door but it moves fast. Their menu is small but just has the main treats to check out. We got some soup dumplings (I can’t remember what flavour) and they were incredible. I’m not sure on the proper technique to eat them but I kind of bite a little hole and let the soup pour out into my spoon. Then I slurp and chew and smile from the deliciousness. I wish I could remember the name of the place but I’m sure there are tons of similar spots around the city!
Nearby was the Chiang Kai-Shek Memorial Hall which is a landmark dedicated to the former President of China. It sits at the end of a large square which also has a museum and concert hall. The memorial itself is very detailed and thought out. First off it stands out amongst other landmarks I’ve seen on this trip for its’ colour choice. The base is a white marble and then the roof is a royal blue with eight sides (eight being a fortunate number). There are eighty-nine steps up to the top which was the age Chiang passed away. Inside is a large statue of him similar to Lincoln’s in DC and there are guards watching over him. It is a very grand place and beautifully executed. It’s a shame we went on quite a cloudy day as I’m sure the building against a blue sky would be absolutely stunning and really stand out.
Night food markets are a big big big deal in Taipei. There are multiple all across the city offering different delicacies and treats. I have no idea how more people in Taipei aren’t overweight considering this is the main evening activity for people to do – eat. Shilin is the biggest and main market but we opted to go to Raohe as it was closer and we hoped less busy (it was still pretty packed). First impressions? It’s a manic mess. There is a lot of food and the smells blend together. Every so often you’d also get a tourist crappy stall in between which I feel kind of ruined the buzz. You essentially shuffle down the street as there are so many people but every so often there would be a nice gap to catch your breath. The food stalls varied from dumplings, ramen, cakes and some were takeout and others had chairs to sit down. Stinky tofu is not my friend and every time we walked past that I needed to run far away. It’s a really cool experience and the mix of people, smells and lights is really lovely. Make sure you go hungry, bring cash and get ready to undo that top jean button.
Thought I’d throw this in even though it wasn’t really my cup of tea. We went to the National Palace Museum which is a really beautiful building and architecturally stunning, but the contents of the museum just aren’t my thing. There are several floors of Chinese artefacts and artworks. I did enjoy the jade section as the colour is lovely and seeing the intricacy of detail. There was also a special section with interesting double vases which was really cool. One in particular on the outside was blue and painted to look like water with some cutouts. There was a second vase inside with painted goldfish on and it would spin to appear as if the fish were swimming through the holes. To get there it’s really easy and also Shilin Market is nearby so you could kill two birds here if you fancied it.
Gua Bao is a really popular snack in Taipei and you’ll see it a lot whilst wandering around. It’s essentially a slab of tender pork in a fluffy steamed bun (with some garnish and a sticky sauce). We were walking to Longshan Temple and came across this place. Bryan really wanted to try it and he was not disappointed! In regards to Longshan Temple, it was really stunning and the practice of throwing stones to ask the God’s a question was something I’ve never seen before. I didn’t take any photos there as it felt a little strange in a holy place but definitely worth a visit.
Taipei is a wonderful place to spend a few days and has a completely different vibe to mainland China. We managed to pack in a lot but we missed out on a bunch of stuff too! My next post is a day trip we did to the north of Taiwan and we hit up Jiufen (a stunning coastal town that was the inspiration for Spirited Away). Check it out in a few days!