First impressions of Taipei will lead you to believe that the city is stuffy and all about work. The business district boasts big city living, shiny buildings and luxury shops everywhere, just like other progressive cities all over Southeast Asia. Dig a little deeper and you will soon find out that first impressions can be misleading. Once you make your way to the inroads, away from the busy corporate areas, there you will find where the heart of Taipei really is. Venture into the many night markets and busy streets and interact with Taipei’s people and you will find them to be very warm amidst stiff exteriors, just like the city they call home. Look around and you will see old buildings side-by-side with new developments, a perfect match to its population represented by their older citizens working alongside the younger generation, all just hustling to make a living. Traditional eastern living combined with an emerging wave of western influence is what embodies Taipei and gives it its unique flavor.
When the sun sets in the city, Taipei’s colors change and the city comes alive with a burst of energy and all the food you can eat. Instead of talking about where you should eat, and there are so many places, let’s talk about what culinary treats Taipei has to offer.
The jumbo chicken cutlet from Hot Star, onion pancakes and Taiwanese pork sausages are must trys, good thing they can be found conveniently in almost any street market. If your sweet tooth is aching, you have to try the Toffee Fruit – they’re candied cherry tomatoes, dried plums and/or strawberries on a skewer, made to delight with every bite.
If you’re feeling adventurous, and if your nose can take it, try the stinky tofu from the many street food stalls around. You can’t miss it as you can smell it from a mile away and they say that the smellier it is, the better it tastes. You can have it either boiled or fried, and even though the smell may shock you at first, I wouldn’t be surprised to see you hungry for more.
Another thing Taiwan is famous for, and something you can find practically everywhere, is Milk Tea. It’s said that it originated in Taiwan, and the locals love it even more than the Filipinos do. That’s why it’s pretty much their national drink. Tracing its origins back to the 1980’s, a shop owner noted how Japanese people enjoyed drinking cold coffee, so he tried it with his tea. It became a hit. Eight years later, he experimented and poured tapioca balls into his milk tea. It was then that it became a phenomenon and a national obsession.
Aside from tea and streetfood, you also have to visit Taiwan’s National Palace Museum, home to the world’s largest collection of Chinese art, the Huashan 1914 Creative Park and, of course, the famous Taipei 101.
Beautiful, rich in culture, delicious (And visa free!) Taipei is one of our neighboring countries that’s simply waiting to be visited.
If you opt to visit during their coolest weather months, winter season is between December to February while spring is between March to May. Summer is June till August where it can get extremely hot and humid. Autumn is September to November. Best time to go is Spring time, not too cold and not too warm.
Taipei is well-known for their night markets, which come alive during the evening. You will see a vast array of goodies being sold - from clothing to household items, but the main attraction is their wide variety of street food.
Local shopping and mostly foodie stalls. This night market was generally more crowded than others we visited. In this market you’ll find the famous charcoal baked black pepper pork buns better known as Hu Jiao Bing. The hot buns are oven-baked to give it that crisp texture, filled with generous minced pork fillings with hints of peppery flavour.
MRT: Songshan Station
One of the most famous night markets in Taipei. It gets pretty crowded here during rush hours and weekends. Plenty of delicious local food and drinks to try and souvenirs to buy. You can also find the Shilin Cixian Temple here.
MRT: Jiantan Station
A must stop for people who love clothes, fashion and shopping. This night market is a garment wholesale area that has alleyways of small stalls draped with the latest yet affordable fashionable clothes. Multiple shops carry the same design but prices vary between shops so don't just buy the first piece from the first shop you see!
MRT: Houshanpi/Songshan Station
Also known as Tonghua night market, this small market is not overly crowded and the food selection is just as good as the others. Offers visitors both sit down restaurants and push cart vendors. This is a few blocks away from the Xinyi district where the Taipei 101 stands. Treat yourself with a wild boar sausage when you visit.
MRT: Liuzhangli Station
Definitely one of our favorite areas in Taipei. There’s a youthful vibe in this area which you’ll see in the crowds walking the streets that are impassable to cars. The population in the area is mostly tourists and young people. It is often compared to Shibuya Crossing of Tokyo. You’ll find stores ranging from major brands to budget stores. Shop for clothing, cell phone accessories, beauty, local cuisine, street food, sportswear and more. A lot of hotels surround this area.
MRT: Ximen Station
Wanhua is the oldest district in Taipei. Historical landmarks, numerous temples and local markets such as the famous Ximending Night market can be found here. Red house still hosts an array of art exhibitions and performances up to this day. This area is great for families for the kid-friendly parks, museums, and restaurants.
It's one of the more upscale sections of Taipei, a beautiful area where it's nice to walk. Xinyi shopping district is home to the famous Taipei 101 and ATT4fun. Go here if you want to shop for expensive brands and want to experience the fun Taipei night life. This is also where you’ll find the infamous Grand Hyatt hotel which is believed to be haunted. The hotel is said to be built on a World War II prison camp. Spooky!
Taipei Main Station
Being the main station, there are many MRT lines and other modes of transport connecting from here. You can travel to different areas in Taiwan through this station. A one way express fare to and from Taoyuan airport costs around NT$160.
If you are looking for food, head to the second level of the complex, there is an array of good food options - cafes, food courts, restaurants.
Chiang Kai-shek Memorial Hall
A national monument in honor and in memory of the former President of the Republic of China. The area consists of the memorial hall, the National Theater and National Concert Hall. The change of guard is once every hour and is located in the Bronze Hall. Go down at the Chiang Kai-shek Memorial Hall MRT station.
It used to be the tallest building in the world until Burj Kalifa in Dubai was built. You can visit their observatory deck but keep in mind it’s a bit pricey with admission (NT$600) and a little touristy. It is a must-do if you are looking for a spectacular view of the city. Click here to know more.
Shifen old streets
The journey starts at Ruifang station, where you can either take the train going to Shifen or take a bus going to Jiufen (another popular tourist destination). The scenery in Shifen is of sky lanterns and the old railway tracks. People lined the tracks to release the lanterns with their best wishes for themselves and loved ones. You can also check out the Shi Fen Waterfalls nearby. If you ask me it’s a bit of a tourist trap.
Yangmingshan National Park
Less than an hour outside Taipei, this beautiful park boasts hot springs, volcanic formations, and great mountain sceneries. Once you reach the park there are shuttle buses that go around that will drop you off at selected locations. Please note that the last shuttle bus that goes back to the city is around 6pm so there is limited time and you have to plan your visit accordingly so you can explore all the places the park has to offer. Cherry blossoms cover the mountain slopes during flowering season (February to March). Definitely a perfect place for nature lovers!
Hotpot & Yakiniku
Eat all you can Hotpot and Yakiniku is popular in Taipei. How can you say no to unlimited Häagen-Dazs and Mövenpick ice cream?
Taipei is known for some of the best street food in the world and it's easy to see why. Wander around the night markets and you will encounter the different street food offerings being sold by vendors every night. From savory dumplings to decadent desserts, customers are treated to a barrage of food that is a delight to the senses. The smell of grilled sausages and pungent stinky tofu, the clatter of steel utensils and the vibrant colors of the city are all part of Taipei's memorable street food experience
Last year Philippine nationals were given a visa-free entry to Taiwan. This 9 month initiative will be until July 31, 2018 for further review. So better book your ticket now!
For the following nationalities: Vietnamese, Indian, Indonesian, Myanmar, Lao, and Cambodian nationals can acquire an electronic visa for free. The applicant must have at least one visa issued by the United States, Canada, United Kingdom, Japan, Australia, New Zealand, Korea, or Schengen countries. Click here to get an electronic visa.
Photos property of Lívph