I am not sure what we expected from Taipei, but we certainly got much more! Taipei is a blend of Taiwanese, Chinese, Japanese cultures. You can see traditional beautifully decorated temples in red color and modern high skyscrapers and hawker centers where vendors bring their carts each night to prepare some delicious food. There is just so much to do in Taipei! We spent a week there, and we saw all the main things and even had time to explore the Taipei’s suburbs. Unfortunately, we did not have enough time to eat all the food we wanted to, but now at least we have a reason to return. 🙂
Here, we will write about our 10 favorite spots in Taipei which are worth seeing.
1. Eating at Din Tai Fung
It may sound like a cliche, but we LOVED the soup-dumplings (xiaolongbao). Din Tai Fung is a dumpling restaurant which started in Taipei but is now all over South East Asia and North America. We have never before been in Din Tai Fung as we do not have it in Europe (although there are some rumors of one opening in London).
There is a special way of eating a dumpling, and on the table, there is a paper with instructions for tourists. First, you mix rice vinegar, soy sauce, and pieces of ginger. Then you dip the dumpling in the sauce and put it on a spoon. Next, you drill a little hole in the dumpling, and the soup is released. All you have to do then is enjoy the dumpling.
In the beginning, we were quite clumsy, and we must admit there was sauce dripping around, but we ate so many dumplings that we got better. Also our last day in Taiwan, we had our last meal there and just say, if there is any better was to say goodbye to a country with so magnificent food?
If you want to avoid long lines, we suggest going there after lunch hour, around 3 p.m. We went twice to the one in Xinyi and waited for maximally 15 minutes. Anyway, the wait was not so bad as we could observe the cooks how they mastered the dumpling preparation.
2. Climbing the Elephant mountain
The elephant mountain (or more like a hill for us, living in Slovenia) is a green hill in Taipei, which offers excellent views over Taipei and especially Taipei 101. It is supposedly shaped like an elephant, although with all our imagination, we could not see it. There is A LOT of stairs (1079 to be precise) to the top so try to go in the morning or evening when it is not so hot. We climbed to the top with many stops in between, and it took us about 30 minutes. The view was great, so it was worth the climb! On top, there are some benches where you can rest your legs or, if you still have energy, you can climb on some huge rocks to get a beautiful photo of Taipei.
3. Chiang Kai-shek Memorial
You cannot leave Taipei without seeing the Chiang Kai-shek Memorial. We were impressed by how huge the memorial was with a vast square before it. The photos do not do it justice.
Chiang Kai-shek was a Chinese politician, who was very important for the formation of Taiwan as he moved the government from mainland China to Taiwan. Each full hour there is changing of the guards which lasts for 10 minutes, and the soldiers do all sorts of moves with their weapon. If you are there too early, just sit on the stairs and enjoy the view.
4. 2-28 Peace Memorial Park
Already the way to this park was quite unusual for us, as all around it there were barbed wires and fences. Namely, just next to the park, there is the office of Taiwan’s president and the Ministry of Foreign Affairs.
On the 28th February 1947, there was an anti-government uprising in which 18.000 to 28.000 civilians were killed. Nowadays, it is difficult to imagine the troubling history as you observe the locals practicing tai chi, children playing and families on a walk. There is a memorial for all victims, and it was designed by a Taiwanese architect Deh Tzu-Tsai.
5. Dihua street
The Dihua street is the oldest street in Taipei and is now a busy commercial street selling various Chinese medicine, toys, snacks, herbs, food, teas. You can even see the oldest house at number 156. The oldest house is, however, quite small and we walked by twice before we could find it.
There are several temples in Taipei, and we visited the most famous ones – the Confucious temple, the Baoan temple, and the Longshan temple. The Confucious and the Baoan temple are right next to each other, and you can visit them both at the same time. We were lucky to even catch some folklore show at the Baoan temple where Taiwanese music was performed and accompanied by dancing. The Longshan temple is on the other side of the city and is very beautiful with its colorful architecture, Chinese motifs, and praying locals.
7. Xinyi district
Xinyi is a modern neighborhood with modern buildings, numerous shops, and food joints. They even have a slide going from the third floor to the ground floor. There is always something happening there. On each corner, some street artists dance, sing, do magic tricks or acrobatic tricks. How awesome is that? When we were there, there was a European Union festival where many countries had their stalls, and Taiwanese could try Belgian chocolate, German beer or French sweets.
Xinyi is also home to the famous building Taipei 101. It was the highest building in the world from 2004-2010 until Burj Khalifa was finished in Dubai. Nowadays, it is still the tallest green building in the world 🙂
8. Xiamen at night
Xiamen is a lively neighborhood which attracts many locals and tourists alike. It is almost always crowded (except in the morning). There are many shops, restaurants and, of course, arcade games like the claw machines.
We had our hotel there, and we had a room without windows. There was one positive thing about a windowless room – we could sleep at night as it was quiet and dark.
9. Games of all sorts
It seems Taiwanese are just addicted to all sorts of carnival games – claw machines, computer games, shooting games, something with tickets, Mahjong … Anything as long there is a prize to win and honor to protect. We also tried several games and mostly we miserably failed, but with a lot of persistence, Matevž got me one stuffed animal which we named Denis.
10. Food Markets
Taiwan’s food is one of our favorite foods in the world! And luckily, it is also affordable. Each night, we went to a different night market, where each street vendor offered one or two dishes which he or she mastered. Everything looked so delicious, and we tasted everything until we were too full to even try a small bite. It seems food is a vital part of life in Taiwan. You can eat at any time of the day or night.
The night markets of Taipei are a story for itself, and they deserve a dedicated blog, where we will list our favorite markets.
There are also numerous one-day trips in the suburbs of Taipei possible – Maokong gondola, ZOO, Beitou, Tamsui, the town of stinky tofu Shengkeng … More about them in our next blog!