Taiwan is a small island nation 180km east of China with modern cities, traditional Chinese temples, hot springs resorts and dramatic mountainous terrain. Taipei, the country’s capital in the north, is known for its busy night markets, Chinese Imperial art at the National Palace Museum and Taipei 101, a 509m-tall, bamboo-shaped skyscraper with an observation deck.
The north part of Taiwan belongs to sub-tropicalclimate zone, while the south part belongs to the tropical climate zone. Winters are warm and summers are hot and wet, with typhoons and thunderstorms. Because Taiwan is a relatively small island, the ocean breezes have a cooling effect so it never feels too hot.
The Taiwan New Dollar is the currency of Taiwan
Average conversion rate 1TWD = INR 2.25
Most travelers who have gotten back from a holiday in Taiwan will usually express just how overwhelmed they are with the variety of things they can buy during their vacation. With numerous shopping malls, commercial outlets and night markets in Taiwan, you will quickly find yourself spoiled for choice when it comes to finding the best things to buy in Taiwan.
2/28 PEACE PARK
Since I have no definite plan, I just walked around on my first day and went wherever my feet take me. Until I came across the peace park. If you like taking photos, this is a nice place to go. There are also squirrels running around, chased by the people who want to take them a photo.
While on my way back to Ximending, I passed by Zhongshan hall. I was not aware that it is one of the important historical buildings in Taipei until I googled where I was. Most of the significant events in the past occurred here, and until now some events and exhibits are still held in the hall.
Ximending is like the Shibuya crossing in Japan as it was the first pedestrian zone in Taiwan. It is also a grid of outdoor shopping in Taipei where you will find the latest fashion trends. I roamed around the area and they do have a huge variety of clothes. Most of the travelers also stay in this district because it is in the center of Taipei and is very accessible to most of the must-sees in the city.
Longshan’s history is really interesting. Imagine it was rebuilt 3 times due to the calamity that has damaged it twice, and the other was during World War 2 in 1945 where Americans dropped a bomb on the temple. But even if calamity and humans tried to destroy it, the temple remained to be strong.
HUAHSI NIGHT MARKET
Something I didn’t expect about the place is the snakes. The place is called the “Snake Alley” because of the variety of snake delicacies served in the area. Aside from that, it once became a legal “red-light district”. Although what used to be motels are now hostels.
Yehliu Geopark is the first marine park in Taiwan. It’s like Mars on Earth because of the orangy-yellowish color that is dominating the place. It is a great escape from the hustle and bustle of the city with just an hour and a half travel from Taipei.
A natural disaster shaped the sands into these formations, and due to wave erosion and weather, the rocks turned into a yellowish brown color creating a spectacular landscape. Amazing how a disaster turns into a beautiful creation.
JINSHAN OLD STREET
This is where most of the locals go to get foods and snacks. It’s no different from other street markets aside from the fact that Jinshan is not too crowded.
One of the popular foods to try here is the Jinshan Duck Meat. It was just steamed with some seasoning and will be served with a pickled ginger. It has a smoky savour, it’s not too salty or greasy. The owners have rented many locations along the street, meaning that the whole length can sometimes appear to be people carrying plates of duck meat shuffling between the various stores.
We were back in the city at around 4 PM. And my friend decided to take me to the largest retail bookstore in Taiwan, Eslite. The building’s architecture is what impressed me. It’s truly the largest as you would think it’s a shopping mall and not a bookstore. There are some cafes inside too where you can chill and a store that sells bubble tea, one of the best things to try in Taiwan.
ELEPHANT MOUNTAIN (Xiangshan)
My Taiwan trip would not be complete without hiking the famous Elephant Mountain for a stunning sight of Taipei 101. Xiangshan is also the perfect spot to get a bird’s eye view of the metropolis. I chose to hike at night cos I like watching the city lights, together with the sky.
For those who are not into hiking, you may find it hard to ascend to the mountain since there are a lot of steps. Bring enough water to keep you hydrated. You can rest at the benches along the trail whenever you feel the need to stop.
SHILIN NIGHT MARKET
I remember my friend told me that my shirts would fit after this trip because the foods are endless, and she was right, I gained weight when I got back to the Philippines. Haha! Taiwan has a large variety of food and Shilin is the best place to try some of the best Taiwanese street foods. Here you can find the popular hot-star chicken, some stinky tofu, shaved ice, and a lot more! It’s also a nice place to go shopping like in Ximending.
NATIONAL PALACE MUSEUM
I am not one of those who likes visiting museums cos it tends to bore me, however, National Palace Museum was an exemption. It’s truly interesting and the place is filled with Taiwan’s history. Most of all, it’s where they have displayed a thousand collections of their ancient artifacts during the Ming and Qing dynasties.
Two of the popular things to in the museum are the Jadeite Cabbage and Jade Pork belly. These jades really resemble the cabbage and pork. Although, I was not able to see the Pork Belly as it was displayed in a different museum during my visit.
I can’t remember the last time that I was in a zoo, and I don’t have any plan to visit. But I met someone from the hostel who told me to go cos there are animals that I wouldn’t know even exist, and she was right. I’ve seen animals that I have never heard of.
Of course, I wouldn’t miss seeing the star of the zoo, the Pandas. These pandas eat a lot which makes them sleep 10-16 hours each day, and most visitors are patiently waiting for hours just to get a glimpse of the pandas’ cute and fluffy face. But unfortunately, the Panda is asleep the whole time I was there.
MAOKONG HILL / GONDOLA RIDE
We took the gondola (cable car) to get to Maokong hill. There are 2 types of gondola cars: regular and crystal that has a glass floor. The fare is the same for both but the waiting lines are separate. I lined up for the glass bottom to get the whole experience of the ride. The view of the forest from above was so refreshing, with views of the green, jungle-covered hills and the city in some parts.
JIUFEN and SHIFEN
I allocated a day for Jiufen and Shifen as I was really interested in the old streets of Jiufen and the railway image of Shifen. Both are very popular to tourists and can be really crowded especially on a weekend.
Jiufen Old Street is a food destination. Here you can get a taste of their local delicacies. The narrow alleys, red lanterns and lots of stairs is Jiufen’s signature. If you have already watched Spirited Away, then this place will take you to the movie.
SUN YAT SEN MEMORIAL HALL
Like CKS Hall, Sun Yat Sen Hall is one of the iconic buildings in Taiwan. Some tourists tend to skip it but it’s a treat to most photographers. If you are fond of history, then you may find this place interesting.
This is a good en route to Taipei 101 as they are close each other. And if you’re lucky enough, you may also witness the changing of guards which usually happens every hour.
Dubbed as the highest tower in the world back in 2004 and has the world’s fastest elevator. With the building’s appearance that echoes the design elements of their most ancient structures, Taipei 101 is truly beautiful with its unique appearance.
The architecture of the building is filled with deliberate references. Its shape is inspired by a bamboo which is also why the windows are tinted green. The “101” in its name means 1/01 which is literally the date of New Year. And the best thing about it is that it’s earthquake proof. It was put to test when a magnitude 6.8 earthquake struck the building, there were few people who died during that incident, cranes collapsed and the city was badly hit. But Taipei 101 still stands and was just fine.
There are times when I wanna have my own peace, sit in the park and watch people pass by. I was kinda sappy on this day since it was my last day in Taiwan. I don’t wanna do anything extreme, I don’t wanna move, I just want to appreciate the place before I go back. I was trying to find a spot for the mood I’m in when I luckily stumbled upon Daan Park.
Daan park is pretty huge, it’s a nice breath of fresh air in the midst of the city. The park was relaxing as it’s so close to nature, there are lots of trees and different species of birds humming around which is a nice contrast to the buildings that surround the park.