Updated: Jan 15
On a scale of 1 to 10, our love for Taiwan is 12. Chill-lah, Malaysia, my home country, simply cannot be measured on a scale. *Patriotic*
Taiwan quickly gained popularity among avid travellers and backpackers over the past decades, thanks to its landscape and cityscape, cultural diversities as well as its culinary pot-pourri. We are so glad that we have always had chances to visit this beautiful country in past years, and it remains one of our favourite destinations when we need a quick holiday fix.
Most international flights to Taiwan land at Taiwan Taoyuan International Airport (TPE - 臺灣桃園國際機場). Upon arrival in Taoyuan International Airport, remember to purchase traveller's simcard, which gives you data, call time and SMS allowance to stay connected. Getting to Taipei city centre from the Taoyuan International Airport is relatively convenient too. For tips on travel simcards and getting to city centre from airport, find it in this article.
Visit a local night market
If you have an evening to spare on your first day in Taipei, we recommend you to kickoff by visiting a local night market. Night market is a culture in Asia, but Taiwanese night market is just not quite a "neighbourhood" affair. Instead, it is more like a "tourism" activity. There are several night markets which are popular among tourists, and are all conveniently accessible by Taipei Metro network. Here are some popular night markets in Taipei.
Given you have few days in Taipei, and absolutely have to choose among the others, we recommend:
Shihlin Night Market (okay, many will tell you it's touristy but it gives you an all-rounded experience)
Ningxia Night Market (our favourite because there are a number of stalls here selling outstanding street food, it's the most "delicious" night market)
Raohe Night Market (one of the oldest night markets)
Heading to a local night market is a brilliant idea on the first evening because what's a better way of understanding a country than exploring its food scene? In Taipei, street food is a serious affair and vendors do take it very seriously. Imagine every vendor in the night markets is specialising in only one or two dishes and work towards perfecting them night after night. Our only tips is - go with an empty stomach and get it filled by delicious food!
After a restful night, let's explore Taipei's top attractions!
Chiang Kai-Shek Memorial Hall 中正紀念堂
Chiang Kai-Shek Memorial Hall is a famous national monument built in memory of Chiang Kai-Shek, former President of the Republic of China. Now, it is not only a famous landmark but a must-visit tourist attraction.
Nearest Metro station: Chiang Kai-Shek Memorial Hall, Exit 5
Taipei Botanical Garden 台北植物園
Established in 1921, the Botanical Garden is where people come to appreciate the beauty of lotus in summer and falling leaves in winter. There are 17 sections in the garden, exhibiting various plants which make it an ideal place for academic research and natural science. As visitors, it makes no harm to take a leisure stroll around the garden!
Walking distance: 1.3km from Chiang Kai-Shek Memorial Hall
Longshan Temple 龍山寺
Longshan Temple is one of the oldest and most well-known temple in Taiwan. Located in Wanhua District, it is always crowded with locals and tourists alike. Come here to appreciate the meticulous carvings and religious statues around the temple, while watching locals praying whole-heartedly for their wishes to be granted. Beware though, on warmer days, the crowded temple might be rather suffocating with the smoke from joss sticks lingering in the air.
Nearest Metro station: Longshan Temple Station, Exit 1
Walking distance: 1.1km from Taipei Botanical Garden
Ximending is a young and energetic neighbourhood and shopping district. There are many eateries, fashion boutiques as well as all other in-trend goodies. As night falls, the area turns into an even busier and more exciting destination. It is a pedestrian zone, so just explore every corner and alley you wish!
Nearest Metro station: Ximen Station
Walking distance: 1.4km from Longshan Temple
Mid of trip is best for a day-trip to venture a little bit further to the outskirts. While in Taipei, one of the most popular day-trip from the city-centre is to Jiufen and Shifen.
Begin the day with local breakfast
Explore around your hotel/hostel and you will find yourself a local breakfast joint selling typical Taiwanese breakfast - from sandwiches（三明治）and soy milk（豆漿） to Taiwanese egg crepe （蛋餅）and sticky rice roll（飯糰）, begin your day like a local.
= / Find out what we ate in Taipei / =
Head for Pingxi and take the adorable Pingxi Railway
Pingxi Line is famous among tourists, especially those who seek authentic Taiwanese experience, as it passes through the centre of several towns. To be exact, it connects 7 stations, with termini on both ends being Sandiaoling and Jingtong. In between, there are some towns which you may consider taking a quick stop at on this day-trip. You can find the suggestion here.
Choose your lantern and let it off in Shifen!
Obviously, you can't miss this while walking around Shifen Old Street. It is believed that letting off a lantern will bring you good luck if the God sees it. Yup, it's a bit of luck. But even if you do not believe in a lantern acting as a God's messenger, you can still do it for the experience. There are many shops at the side of railway selling colourful lanterns. Each colour represents luck in different aspect. You can choose any colour you like, or even the one with combination of several colours, write your message on the side with the hope it really does reach to God. :)
From Shifen Old Street, you can rent an electric scooter (approx. NT$200 for the hour) OR you can walk to Shifen Waterfall. On the plus side, the scenery along the route is beautiful - you will pass by suspension bridges over a river, and all surrounded by lush green mountains. Oh yes, definitely very Instagram-worthy! The waterfall itself is magnificent. With water pouring down powerfully, it's a sight to behold.
Explore the quaint little town of Jiufen
Story time! Legend has it said that long time ago, there were nine families living in this area. Due to its challenging location (back then was middle of nowhere), living resources had to be transported from afar and they had to buy in bulk before dividing into nine portions. Hence, the name "Jiu" (nine) "fen" (portions). If this does not excite you, we're sure the delicious street food found in Jiufen Old Street will keep you exhilarated. There are a number of well-known eateries here, offering their signature such as fish balls, taro balls in sweet soup, and etc. If you're not a foodie, then this place is still worth a visit because there are beautiful temples around, and the 1900s Shengping Cinema near the central. Stay here until dusk where you can watch sunset against the breathtaking coastline from a higher point.
= / More tips on how to make Pingxi, Jiufen and Shifen a day trip / =
Travel like a pro this day. Make good use of extensive and convenient MRT network to explore the city like an expert!
Sun Yat Sen Memorial Hall 國父紀念館
This memorial hall is built as a memorial to the founder of modern China, Dr. Sun Yat-sen. The building stands majestically amidst an open space of 115,000 square metres. While this could be crowded especially during changing of guards, it is still considered a little "quieter" than that in Chiang Kai-Shek Memorial Hall. Changing of guards takes place every day from 9am to 5pm on the hour.
How to get there? Take the Metro Blue Line to Sun Yat-sen Memorial Hall Station.
Maokong Mountain 貓空
If you wish to take a break from the summer heat in this city, an ideal place to go is Maokong Mountain. Located at a suburb area of Taipei, the entire city of Taipei can be seen from the mountain. To get to the top of Maokong Mountain, visitors should take a ride on Maokong Gondola, a 4.3km line connecting Taipei Zoo and Maokong, with another two stations in between. If you're adventurous, try Crystal cabin (separate queue) in which the base of the cabin is made of 48mm glass sheet.
How to get there? Take the Wenshan-Neihu Line of Taipei Metro to the Taipei Zoo Station and then walk to the Maokong Gondola Taipei Zoo Station (about 350 meters).
Appreciate the beauty of Beitou Thermal Valley 北投地熱谷
When you're in Taipei, a very unique place to visit is Beitou Thermal Valley. Regarded as one of Taiwan's 12 Great Sites, the springs at thermal valley gives off sulphuric steam that rises from the surface of the pond. It is a surreal sight, but visitors are not allowed to bathe in this spring as the water temperature of the springs can reach up to 80-100℃.
How to get there? Take Metro Red Line to Beitou (北投), then change to the Xinbeitou branch (新北投). After arriving at Xinbeitou, walk straight out of the station and along Zhongshan Road (中山路). After reaching the Hi-Life convenience store, take a left onto the lane to reach Thermal Valley.
End the day at Tamsui Old Street 淡水老街
From Tamsui metro station, it is an easy walk to Tamsui waterfront old street. Here you can find nostalgic treats from traditional biscuits and snacks to deep-fried goodness and bubble tea. Take an evening stroll along the waterfront broad-walk and watch beautiful sunset overlooking Tamsui Lover's Bridge（淡水情人橋）.
How to get there? From Xinbeitou, take metro back to Beitou and interchange to Metro Red Line, to the end station of Tamsui.
This is your last hurrah! You may want to do sightseeing around Taipei city centre so it will be more convenient for you to travel to the airport later on.
The Top of Taipei 101 臺北101觀景台
How can you miss this when you're in Taiwan? Mind you, this is a pricier activity in Taipei (general ticket priced up to NT$ 600) but the unobstructed view of the city from 88th, 89th and 91st floor is incomparable. Alternatively, you can pre-purchase the observatory deck tickets online here. It gives you a better deal. Even if you decide not to go up to the observatory deck, the megastructure itself is still an impressive landmark not to be missed.
How to get there? Take the metro Red Line (Xiangshan train) to Taipei 101 station.
Elephant Mountain 象山
If and only if, you're keen on seeing iconic Taipei 101 all lit up from above, and take a photo so Instagrammable that will make all your friends envy, you may want to consider taking a short hike to Elephant Mountain. However, please be mindful that the photos are taken while standing on boulders overlooking the city, so you may need to queue up as this spot is getting increasingly popular. If you're in a hurry to catch a flight, you may want to reconsider your schedule as the hike itself will take some time. Say, half an hour?
How to get there? Take the metro all the way to the beginning of the red line (Xiangshan).
One last night market, maybe?
If you have enough time, why not?
SIMCARD FOR TRAVELLERS IN TAIWAN
Depending on travel length and data / airtime requirement, travellers can choose any package that works best for them. All telcos are reliable, and their purchasing kiosks in airport terminals are easy to locate.
1. Chunghwa Telecom 中華電信
Click here for their official website.
Purchasing kiosks / Service centres in the airport:
Taiwan Taoyuan International Airport B1 of Terminal 1 (Departure Hall)
Monday to Sunday 07:00-24:00
Taiwan Taoyuan International Airport Terminal 2, on the 3rd floor Departure Level
Arrival counters in Terminal 2
Monday to Sunday 07:00-22:00
Taiwan Taoyuan International Airport Terminal 2, on the north side of the 1st floor Arrival Passenger Reception Area
Monday to Sunday 07:00-19:00
2. Taiwan Mobile 台灣大哥大
Click here for their official website.
Purchasing kiosks / Service centres in the airport:
PUBLIC TRANSPORT IN TAIPEI
Getting from Taoyuan International Airport to City Centre - Recommended Ways Only!
It is fairly simple to get to the city centre from Taoyuan Airport by metro. This option is inexpensive (NT$160 from airport to city centre) and reduces travelling time especially during rush hours when traffic condition in the city can be unpredictable. There are clear signages around the airport to guide visitors to head to the metro station. However, do remember that metro does not operate 24/7, first train is at 6am and last train is at midnight, so you may need to take this into consideration should you arrive at the airport after midnight.
During my first few visits to Taipei, bus services were my top choice. It is the cheapest option of all, and most importantly it is hassle-free, with frequent buses to-and-fro Taipei Main Station. From the arrival hall, there are clear signages to direct visitors to bus station. It is only a short walking distance away, so it's pretty accessible. At the bus station, there are different counters selling tickets to various stations or districts. If you plan to get to Taipei Main Station (from which you can transfer to metro), look for Kuo-Kuang Line（國光客運）. The ticket is NT$140 (may also get at discounted price) and the friendly staff will give instructions on where to wait for Bus 1819. There will be a bus every 15-20 minutes, and the journey to city centre will take up to an hour.
Even if you're getting to a different destination, just walk to the bus station and look for bus services that will offer bus service to that destination.
Using Metro in Taipei
Okay, let's just be very frank. Taipei Metro is a wonderful infrastructure and we rely on it heavily every time we're in Taipei. Its network is extensive, fare is reasonable, and completely hassle-free.
Many attractions are within walking distance from metro stations. First-timers might be caught in confusion because these metro stations come with a number of exits. However, this should not be a problem because there are directory boards to guide passengers which exit to use for which destination. Just follow the directory and you should do well! Before we forget, some major metro stations also act as commercial buildings, so passengers can actually do some shopping within the station. *wink*
Let's say you are in Taipei for a few days, you should use this ticket / pass advisor to enjoy some discounts.
When we are in Taipei, we always choose to stay nearby Taipei Main Station OR anywhere with easy access to metro station. Of course, this is rather subjective. Some travellers prefer staying near popular neighbourhoods and districts like Ximending, for its convenience and atmosphere. It's really up to every individual.
W Hotel Taipei
Address: 10 Zhongxiao East Road Sec. 5, Xinyi District, Taipei City, Taiwan 110
Phone: +886 2 7703 8888
There are a few branches around Taipei
citizenM Taipei North Gate
Address: No. 3, Section 1, Zhonghua Road, Zhongzheng District, Taipei City, Taiwan 10043
Phone: +886 70 1016 1061
“It was one of those striking moments in life where you find familiarity in the inexplicable.” ― Gerry Abbey
Taipei is the place we want to be for many memorable moments. We were there to renew our marriage vows, to celebrate baby-moon, and to remind ourselves how lucky we are to be someone who can travel freely.