Ahh, Taiwan, the land of xiao long bao (or so we say). But more than these world-famous dumplings, here are a few more things we loved about our recent Taiwan trip.
1. HIKE ELEPHANT MOUNTAIN
Hiking Elephant Mountain is a great and cheap alternative if you want to have an amazing view of the city.
It’s a quick and easy hike with stone steps and plenty of rest spots that’s perfect for photo ops. Aim to reach the peak before sunset so you can watch the sky turn into wonderful hues of gold and purple.
HOW TO GET THERE: Ride the train to Xiangshan Station (Red Line) • Take Exit 2 and follow signs along Zhongqiang Park (about 300 meters). See the map in our Taiwan artinerary for directions to the jump-off point of the Elephant Mountain Trail.
2. FEED YOUR CREATIVE SOULS AT HUASHAN1914 CREATIVE PARK
The Huashan 1914 Creative Park is a perfect spot if you want a quick round up of Taipei’s current and local art scene.
It’s a big area comprised of warehouses showcasing art exhibits, little stores selling cutesy stationeries and crafts, as well as themed restaurants and cafes each with their own curiosities – all instagram-worthy.
HOW TO GET THERE: Ride the train to Zhongxiao Xinsheng Station (Yellow Line) • Take Exit 1 and walk to Huashan 1914 Creative Park. See the map in our Taiwan artinerary for detailed directions.
3. SHOP AT XIMENDING
Ximending Night Market offers a great mishmash of things – there are department stores, various shops, salons, bookstores, cinema houses, spas, and many others. Streets lined with wide selections of clothes, accessories and shoes go on and on, while food carts flock every corner. Items for sale range from calligraphy brushes, miscellaneous toys and knick knacks, bags, hats, even polaroid portraits from a vintage camera, to whatever else you could think of. There are also numerous restaurants and cafes, some of them themed (Modern Toilet!), some with pet dogs, and some just like the regular carinderias that we have here in the Philippines.
Ximending is definitely a great place to get lost in.
HOW TO GET THERE: Ride the train to Ximen Station (Blue Line) • Take Exit 1. See the map in our Taiwan artinerary for detailed directions.
4. GO ON A FOOD TRIP AT SHILIN NIGHT MARKET
Another famous night market in Taipei, Shilin is the perfect place to go on a foodtrip and try Taiwan’s many local delicacies and street food.
The fried milk and candied strawberries (and a surprise tomato!) were some of our favorites.
HOW TO GET THERE: Ride the train to Jiantan Station (Red Line) • Take Exit 1. Follow the crowd and walk towards the Shilin Night Market. See the map in our Taiwan artinerary for detailed directions.
5. DROP BY CHIANG KAI SHEK MEMORIAL HALL AND THE LIBERTY SQUARE
Visit CKS Memorial Hall for a taste of Taiwan’s Chinese history as well as its grandiose traditional Chinese architecture. Aside from the Memorial Hall itself, the square also houses the National Concert Hall and the National Theatre, both boasting of elaborate and intricate roof top decorations.
HOW TO GET THERE: Ride the train to CKS Station (Green Line) • Explore and try to wait for the hourly changing of guards. See the map in our Taiwan artinerary for detailed directions.
6. TRY THE PUBLIC EXERCISE EQUIPMENT AT BEITOU PARK
We didn’t even think we’d stay at the Beitou Park when we were coming up with our itinerary. We’d pass by it yes, since the beautiful public library is right by it, but not really linger around. When we discovered these public exercise equipment though, we thought we found perfect opportunity to kill time. We were like kids in a playground, endlessly trying out all the equipment and figuring out which one was most enjoyable.
Here’s the back story: We were supposed to climb Mt. Qixing earlier that day. However, it was raining hard at Yangmingshan National Park, so we decided to head to Beitou earlier than scheduled. Hence, the extra time to kill! Watch a quick summary of our Yangmingshan-Beitou adventure in this travel video (1:59-2:28).
HOW TO GET THERE: First, take the train to Beitou Station (Red Line). From Beitou Station, transfer to the opposite platform and take the special train to Xinbeitou (Pink Line) • The special train will be easy to spot – it’s wrapped with floral stickers and is relatively short (probably just a couple of carriages). See the map in our Taiwan artinerary for detailed directions.
7. EAT AT THE ORIGINAL DIN TAI FUNG BRANCH ALONG XINYI ROAD
Have we mentioned how much we loved Din Tai Fung’s famous xiao long baos? After having lunch at this Michelin star awarded restaurant, all we could say was “Xie Xie!”
And xie xie it was. Food was great – aside from the dumplings, we also loved their spicy beef noodles which was perfect for the cold weather. Service was excellent and it was amazing how the servers know a variety of languages – English, Japanese, Chinese.
There was a long line outside when we came in for lunch, but the wait wasn’t bothersome since they had a reliable queueing system. Also, we don’t really mind lining up for mouth-watering dumplings. ☺
HOW TO GET THERE: Ride the train to Dongmen Station (Red Line) • Take Exit 5. Walk straight forward until you see Din Tai Fung on your right. See the map in our Taiwan artinerary for detailed directions.
8. DRINK COFFEE & TEA AT JIUFEN AND ENJOY THE SERENE VIEW OF THE YIN YANG SEA
Jiiufen was like a scene straight out of a storybook – narrow streets curving up and down the mountainsides, with charming little houses and establishments lined side by side. The alleyways were filled with stores and shops selling various products: from native fruits to mochi sweets, to famous Taiwan milk teas and flavored fried chicken bits, even leather goods as well as calligraphy brushes.
The place was packed with tourists and locals, and amid the busy, bustling streets, we found a quaint little cafe with a great view of the Yin Yang sea.
Coffee and tea seemed a perfect idea for the cold weather that we weren’t prepared for (we thought the coldest temperature would only be up to 20°C, so imagine our surprise when it went down to 11°C!)
It was truly a delightful place to chill and take a break from all the walking and window shopping, and the great view was really the cherry on top of this wonderful experience.
HOW TO GET THERE: Book a cab driver for a day for a Northern Taiwan tour • Or, you can also take a train from Taipei Main Station. First, ride the train north via Taiwan Railways Administration (TRA) to Ruifang Station (Yilan Line). From Ruifang Station, cross the street to the bus stop and board a Keelung Transit bus going to Jiufen (Jin Gua Shi).
IMPORTANT NOTE: We decided to book a cab for a day instead since we figured that the total cost divided by the 4 of us would roughly equal the cost per person of taking the train or the bus. Plus, it’s definitely less of hassle considering that Jiufen is a bit of a long travel from Taipei. Also, once there, we couldn’t figure out where the bus stops were and how to get back via commute, so it might be a bit problematic if you’re running on a schedule.
9. VISIT THE ESLITE BOOKSTORE
There are a number of Eslite Bookstores scattered around Taipei, and some of them are accessible via MRT. The closest one to us was right in Ximending and just a couple of minutes away from where we stayed.
We dropped by it every night when we walked around Ximending Night Market, and we even bought a book to serve as souvenir.
HOW TO GET THERE: (Eslite Bookstore, Ximending) Ride the train to Ximen Station (Blue Line) • Take Exit 1. Eslite Bookstore is located at No. 34 Emei Street, at the 3rd floor of a clothing store building.
10. MAKE A WISH AND RELEASE A SKY LANTERN AT SHIFEN OLD STREET
Shifen Old Street has got to be one of the most charming streets in Taiwan. Picturesque stores are lined up along the sides of an old railway that is (apparently) operational. We didn’t know this at first, so imagine our horror when we saw the train coming at us while we were busy taking photos in the middle of the tracks! We ran to the sides and just laughed at ourselves for panicking upon realizing how slow the train was.
The old railroad track serve as a pretty backdrop to people happily releasing their lanterns to the sky. Best to go here late in the afternoon to evening, as the scene is much more vibrant and the light in the lanterns are more visible.
Prices of the sky lanterns range from NT 150-200, depending on which one you get. The more colors the lantern has, the higher the price. Each color represent something, like red for good fortune, white for health, green for luck, pink for romance, etc. We chose a green-colored lantern for the group, hoping that we get lucky with all our wishes ☺
HOW TO GET THERE: Book a cab driver for a day for a Northern Taiwan tour • Or, you can also take a train from Taipei Main Station. First, ride the train north via Taiwan Railways Administration (TRA) to Ruifang Station (Yilan Line). From Ruifang Station, ride the train to Shifen (Pingxi Line).