Had the opportunity to visit Taipei for a week over New Year 2016. We really enjoyed the vibrant culture and the tasty food!
Since we flew Singapore Airlines, we stopped over in Singapore for a night, and stayed nearby at the Capri by Fraser.
After an early flight, we arrived at Taoyuan International Airport. From there, it was a 1 hour bus ride into central Taipei.
Accommodation in Taipei
We stayed at the 5 Star Howard Plaza Hotel. Got a good deal, otherwise it would’ve been $500/night.
A little old but very clean and service was great!
Taipei’s subway system is very easy to navigate, and trains are very clean.
Ticket machines have English instructions, and there are maps everywhere
The routes are laid out well so most destinations only require 1-2 changes.
We found an EasyCard to be cheaper than an Tourist Pass – your mileage may vary.
One of the things I was looking forward to was the night market food, and it did not disappoint. We tried many night markets but my favourite of them all was Rao He. It had a good range, and wasn’t as crowded as Shi Lin market.
Most stalls understand English. But it was also a great opportunity for me to brush up on my mandarin skills.
I recommend trying these foods: Wheel Cake, Deep Fried Squid, Deep Fried Milk, Deep Fried Mushrooms, and Deep Fried Chicken Cutlets.
One thing we did not like was Stinky Tofu! It smells like stinky old socks.
DAWAN Yakiniku Restaurant
I highly recommend this place.
Introduced to me by my cousins, it is so popular, you have to make a reservation at least two weeks in advance. Their specialty is beef, and it is cooked on a grill right in front of you. One cut of beef, called the “Ferrari cut”, basically grade A9 Wagyu, has to be ordered in advance.
The menu was entirely in mandarin, so the owner prepared an order for us. Everything he served us was perfectly cooked and the meats were melt in your mouth. The “Ferrari cut” was definitely a highlight.
Getting to Taipei Zoo is very easy via train. You can even use your metro card pay the Zoo entrance fee.
Got to see a Panda which was cool, but was a little disappointed at the rest of the Zoo as most animals weren’t very visible.
We checked out a few shopping districts including Ximending, and Xinyi.
Managed to pick up a jacket from Superdry, and a blazer and jeans from H&M.
Checked out Taipei101 but was very disappointed. Windows needed cleaning, and only a small bit of the rooftop was open with the ledge being too high to peer over.
Montparnasse in Paris, Eureka Tower in Melbourne, Auckland Sky Tower and other observation decks were way better than this.
Beitou Thermal Springs
If you feel you need to escape busy central Taipei, I recommend making a trip to Beitou, an interesting area with geothermal hot springs. There are lots of hotel/resorts which pipe in the hot spring water for their pools, which you can hire. Just don’t visit on a public holiday like we did.
There is also the Public Pools which costs only NZ$4 but was very crowded. Also strict rules on apparel (no board shorts allowed). We paid to have a look but didn’t bother soaking.
Tip: Hire a private pool from a hotel/resort instead of the Public Pool. No crowd. Less rules.
Jiufen and Surrounding Area
On our last day, we took a tour out to Jiufen, an old mining town. This was the town that Spirited Away was based on. Really liked the old buildings, especially the tea houses.
The market area was also decent. We had wheel cakes, and a famous soupy dumpling.
Other than Jiufen, the tour also visited the Ying Yang sea (a two coloured sea), the Golden Waterfall, Shifen (famous for its sky lanterns), and Pingxi.
Overall, we really enjoyed Taiwan. Loved the food and culture. Would have liked better weather, and more time to explore other areas like Elephant Mountain and Taroko Gorge. But that will have to wait until next time!