Taipei Travel Guide
For that 20, and 30 something traveler
So, you have a week vacation and want to go to Asia. Now this isn’t going to be a cheap trip, but you already know this and have probably looked at airfare. The choice becomes where to go. Japan probably jumps to the top of the list, who doesn’t love sushi, and your local Hibachi Japanese restaurant back home? A couple other top tier options may be South Korea, Singapore, or perhaps Thailand. Hipsters love the shit out of Pho back on the West Coast of the USA. Chinese cities like Shanghai and Beijing may even be entertained, but who wants to deal with smog and actually applying for a visa? Why don’t you take the option in the middle, Taiwan? It was occupied by Japan for 50 years before WWII ended, so it has authentic Japanese food. Taiwan loves the shit out of Korea, and their food, so you have little Korean places popping up everywhere, as well as Korean fashion and K-Pop everything. Also, Taiwan is closer to South East Asia, Indonesia, and the Philippines, than both Korea and Japan. It is cheaper and more open culturally, so you get populations of those cultures immigrating to Taiwan. Now, you are also likely going to drop a grand or more USD on plane tickets, so let me repeat my point, it’s cheaper than Korea or Japan. It also shares a line of latitude with Hawaii, so if you are trying to escape some colder weather, it’s a great choice.
So, I convinced you to spend a week in Taiwan, what are you going to do? There’s a lot, so let’s get into it. First things first, make sure you get a hotel in Taipei that is close to Taipei Main Station, or at the very least, somewhere close to the blue line of the MRT between Main Station and City Hall Station. This will simply make life better. Also, hotels are not expensive here, so get one, and don’t cheap out on a hostel, it’s just not worth the savings.
When you land from your transpacific flight, a half day or more in the future, after 12-15 hours in the air, you’ll be exhausted. In this hypothetical situation you departed JFK Friday night, at midnight, and now it’s 6am on a Sunday in Taipei. Even the most seasoned traveler isn’t in great shape. Take the Airport MRT to Taipei Main Station, then get a taxi to your hotel. If it’s a couple MRT stops away, and you are feeling hearty, maybe try that. If you take the taxi route, don’t despair if you possess absolutely no Mandarin Chinese. Hopefully you purchased yourself a WiFi card at the airport, so you can call up your hotels address and point to it. Make sure it’s in characters, Taiwanese can’t read pinyin.
Now your check in probably won’t be till noon or later, but your hotel will take your luggage for you. You’re half dead and probably only feel like you have energy because of the adrenaline in your system from being in a place where everything is new. Get some food. How to go about doing this, you may wonder? Walk outside and head in absolutely any direction. You will eventually find a Taiwanese breakfast spot with half double decker egg sandwiches out front and probably a decent crowd of people. If you want food without a struggle, grab a sandwich and move it in front of whoever is working the cash register. They will speak Chinese to you, perhaps nod and give them anything more than fifty Taiwanese dollars, it won’t be more than thirty, but this saves you from being exact. Now if you’re daring and want to try to get some tea with your sandwich, or perhaps something other than a sandwich, check out my list of survival Chinese words below. Now you have some food in your stomach, but you still have a couple hours to kill before you can check-in. Find the MRT, get yourself to Yuanshan station on the redline. A short walk to the west is a temple to Confucius as well as a few others. Be touristy and lazily take some pictures. If lunch roles around, find your way to Cisheng Temple and the little Market around it. Get yourself some Kong Rou Fan a.k.a. Lu Rou Fan. It’s braised fatty pork belly on rice, have it with a Japanese Kirin Ichiban beer and it will probably put some vitality back in you. By now your hotel will have your room ready, so make your way back. Once you’re in your room, don’t hesitate to take and hour or two nap. You landed at 6 am, you are not wasting your day. Set an alarm though, it won’t help your jet lag to simply sleep your day away.
If you are curious why I sent you on a lazy sight seeing venture around some old districts in Taipei, and not something more exciting, your body is in rough shape, the crazy stuff is for later. You wake up and its 4-5pm and you have still much of your first day in Taipei left, what do you do? You’re about to get your drink on, but first it’s time to put something familiar in your body. Hop on the Blue Line to Zhongxiao Dunhua Station, go out exit one and walk north through some alley roads till you get to Pachuco, a Mexican restaurant in one of the newer and more popular parts of Taipei. Why the hell are you at a Mexican restaurant when you’re in Taipei, Taiwan? Because you are going to eat burritos, take some tequila shots, and drink a fountain of margarita. Oh yeah and speak English. Hell, maybe you will find some expats who have lived in Taiwan for years to show you around. Either way, grab some beers for the road when you leave, and walk straight towards Taipei 101. It’s the big fucking lit up building you can see from anywhere. Why are we going there? To drink and party and to make sure you sleep through the night without any jet lag issues. Do whatever you want for the rest of this night, but make sure you have a business card in your pocket for your hotel. You can just show that to a taxi cab driver at some point to get yourself home.
Alright, it’s Monday morning. You don’t really know how you got home last night and your head hurts. Find that breakfast place again and perhaps a mango drink. I don’t know what the science behind it is, but they make hangovers disappear. Dante’s Café has a great one if you can find one close by on Google Maps. You are probably not feeling great today, so you’re not going to do anything too physical. Get on the MRT and make your way to the Taipei Zoo station on the brown Line, and then to the Maokong Gondola. Take it to the top of the mountains. You are going to hop from tea house to tea house enjoying whatever you can manage to order while you’re pleasured by stunning views and a steadily growing caffeine buzz. There’s food up there and gift shops, so you can pass a serious amount of time. You may want to check out the zoo too, if that’s your thing. Take pictures of everything, the Taiwanese are doing it, so don’t feel ashamed about it. Once it gets later in the day, you should be mostly recovered, so it will be a good time for a Night Market. I would recommend Shilin, which stretches between Shilin and Jiantan stations. You can try to eat your way through it, but I can promise you won’t make it across. Try whatever looks good and don’t hesitate to try the stinky tofu, it smells foal at first, but I’ve come to love it. Feel free to spend this night drinking and wandering, keep your hotel’s business card handy and you’ll make it home just fine.
It’s Tuesday now, and hopefully you didn’t drink yourself into another vicious hangover, because today you’re doing things. Again, we are hopping on the Red Line, but this time we are taking it all the way north to Tamsui. It’s probably going to take the better part of an hour to get there, but it’s all on the MRT, so it’s not bad. Head North West along the river, from the station, there’s a day’s worth of shops and markets here to explore, with every sort of Taiwanese food you could imagine, so I won’t demand too much of you. Make the trip to Yangmingshan National park though. There’s a bus that will take you up, or you could rent a scooter. The views are incredible and the post volcanic landscape there is worthy of the trip. If your cardio is on point, make the 1.6-kilometer stair climb to the very top for some great views. This is a day trip, and you may only have energy enough for some drinks in proximity to your hotel once you return.
Alright, it’s Wednesday and you’re on a subtropical island, so you’re wondering at what point you are going to the beach. The answer is today. My question is this though, do you care more about swimming and water-based activities, or do you just want to sip on something alcoholic and lay in the sun? If your answer was water sports for days, you’re going to Waiao. If you just want to laze around and tan, we’re going to Fulong. Fulong is a straight up trip on the commuter rail, take the faster one if you can figure it out. Waiao is a bus trip from City Hall Station to Jiaoxi then a transfer to the local train, or a brief taxi ride the rest of the way. Waiao is littered with surf shops, and at Fulong you can purchase umbrella space and mats. Both have great views, but Waiao’s black sand and often overcast days can be less photogenic. The surf is great though. Hydrate, and have fun. From Fulong, it’s an easy trip back to Taipei. From Waiao, you might get caught up in the expat social and party life, but don’t worry, hostels are not more than $20 USD a night if you get stuck there.
Whether you made it back Wednesday night or Thursday morning, you should be back in Taipei. It’s time to get a little adventurous with your food. You don’t have to mess with your Taiwanese breakfast routine, but now we are going to get a little more local. For lunch, we are going to ease into things with a hot pot. You essentially get a huge pot of boiling broth and assorted meats and veggies to throw into it. There are many good options for these. I’ll throw a couple onto my recommendations lists below, but you may just want to see what Google Maps has close by. So, you ate your hot pot and you have a few hours to kill before you gorge yourself more. Find your way to the Riverside parks, either on foot or on UBike. They are separate from the city a bit with sports parks, basketball courts, baseball diamonds, and simple walking/biking paths. They wrap all the way around the city, as Taipei was built in a river basin between the mountains. The views are stunning, and you may burn the necessary calories to be hungry again. Now make your way to City Hall Station. You’re going to want to end up by Exit 2 of the MRT station, which is also conveniently next to a UBike station. You can return your rented bike, if needed. Across the street from Exit 2 and City Hall station is a network of happening alley streets loaded with restaurants. Also, the general area is packed full of good options, so choose at will. Do you want Korean? Or do you want Japanese? Sushi, or Tempura? You can make your choice. I’ll highlight a few restaurants from this location below. Note: Many hot pot restaurants are only open for dinner, so you may want to flip your dinning order.
So, now your well fed again, and it’s Thursday night. Where do you go? Look up. Can you find Taipei 101? Of course, you can. Yes, you’re walking in the direction of Taipei 101 once again. It’s Thursday night, and Taipei will be alive. Enjoy yourselves as you see fit.
It’s Friday morning and you just completed your Taiwanese breakfast routine yet again. By now you better be ordering dan bing, because they are the fucking greatest breakfast contraption ever constructed. Today is the day for freeing your soul and being rid of bodily toxins. We are going to Beitou to chill, or quite the opposite, in some hot springs. This is a trip up the red Line again, but this time just to Beitou station. Here, you will transfer to the pink Line and take a quick trip to XiaoBeitou. This is the resort area, full of hot springs. Depending on how modest you are, you can make your pick of your preferred hot spring. I would recommend one that isn’t physically painful to stay in for an extended time. You are not an old local Taiwanese who has long sense acclimated themselves to the temperatures. Some will be naked only, others won’t be. Many will be gender segregated. Some will be private for you and your party. Choose whatever you’re comfortable with. There are restaurants all around here, so this is an easy day trip. Enjoy and relax.
It’s Saturday, and you have a flight that leaves at 7:30 pm. You have time, but not all day. Reflect on what you enjoyed the most about your trip to Taipei. What do you want to do or see one last time? Happy travels from @TylerGolec on Instagram!
Hello = Ni Hao (knee how), 你好
Thank you = Xie xie (She-a She-a) 謝謝
Want = yao (y-ow) 要
Have = you (yo) 有
How much money? = Dou shao qian (doe shou chien) 多少錢
I = wo 我
You = ni 你
Rice = fan (fawn) 飯
Noodles = mian (mien) 麵
Egg = dan (Dawn) 蛋
Cabbage = gao li cai (gow lee tsi) 高麗菜
Corn = yu mi (ewoo me) 玉米
Pork = zhu rou (Jew row) 豬肉
Chicken = ji rou (jee row) 雞肉
Beef = niu rou (nee-o-row) 牛肉
Fish = yu rou (ew row) 魚肉
Sandwich = San ming zhi (sawn ming jir) 三明治
Scallion breakfast wrap = Dan Bing (Dawn bing) 蛋餅
Black tea = hong cha (hoeng chaw) 紅茶
Green tea = lu cha (le chaw) 綠茶
Milk tea = nie cha (niw chaw) 奶茶
Xinyi Night Life, in the shadow of Taipei 101:
W Taipei WET 池畔酒吧
Brass Monkey (though currently closed down)
You can find just about anything including your choice of club around the ATT for fun center
Top Hot Pot destinations:
初衷小鹿原味鍋物 at 110 Taipei City Xinyi District, Section 5, Zhongxiao East Road, 17-2號 1樓
鍋董日式涮涮鍋at No. 167號, Minquan Road, Tamsui District, New Taipei City, 251, this hot pot restaurant is just outside Zhuwei Sation, and comes highly rated.
厚舖涮涮鍋 Hot Pot at No. 146號, Guangfu North Road, Songshan District, Taipei City, 105, this place maybe a little pricy by taiwanese standards but comes with some fantastic reviews.
Recommended Restaurants around City Hall Station:
韓肉舖Hanroupu, this is and aged meat Korean BBQ restaurant in Taipei. It’s less than a 5-minute walk from exit 2 of the City Hall MRT and is highly recommended.
Pure Japanese, this is a highly recommended sushi location down the alley across from City Hall station and a quick right. You can enjoy watching the chiefs prepare your food right in front of you.
博多天婦羅yamami, this is a Japanese Tempura restaurant just a brief walk away from City Hall Station. The Tempura is yummy, and you get unlimited spicy fish roe!
Range Bistrokaya, this is a highly rated Japanese style restaurant just past Pure Japanese. They have your more standard Japanese menu, not limited to sushi or tempura
By, Tyler W. Golec