Most people don’t give Taipei a lot of credit preferring mostly to spend their vacations in Hong Kong or Singapore. However, having stayed in these countries for prolonged periods, I still find Taipei to be the best travel destination in terms of food, sights, culture, people, and value for money.
It’s only in Taipei where food is consistently delicious, be it when you’re forking out NTD 25 for a braised pork rice at the street market, or NTD 2,000 for the best Japanese sushi in town. Taiwanese people are cute and polite, and red carpet service is rolled out to you wherever you go, so long as you smile and persist. Though they have some difficulty to understand you as Taiwan is mainly a Mandarin speaking country, most will try to help as long as they are not busy.
Taipei transportation is also top-notch, way better than Hong Kong and Singapore in my honest opinion, with extremely clean, air-conditioned subways that can get you around most places in the city via the help of an Easycard. Looking for a bathroom while traveling? No problem, every subway station in Taipei has one — and they’re clean too!
If subways don’t work, taxis make traveling around Taipei extremely convenient, and drivers are much more polite than those in Hong Kong. Just ensure that you have Chinese translations of the names of your destination written on paper.
Lastly, Taipei is one of the best cities to party, with various clubs offering events from Wednesdays to Saturdays. Most of my friends from Hong Kong used to fly to Taipei on Friday evenings, de-stress, and fly back to work again come Sundays. Entrance fees are relatively cheap, with free drinks usually included, and the music is good, the girls hot, and the vibe electric.
Do spend a few days in Taipei, a bustling metropolis with interesting things to do and places to see whether you are there for a quick 1-day stopover, or if you have a week to spend. A suggested itinerary is included in this package.
- Day 1 – Taipei: Arrive at Taipei – Eat beef noodles lunch @ Hsimenting – 228 Memorial Park – Chiang Kai Shek Memorial Hall, Sun Yat Sen Park – Eslite Bookstore – Taipei 101, Dinner at Mitsui Japanese restaurant – Party at Barcode, Room 18 and Luxy Taipei
- Day 2: Stroll around Sogo area – Lunch at Ding Tai Fung (Xinyi) – Dong Qu Fen Yen for Dessert – Longshan Temple, Dinner at Huaxi Street or “Snake Alley”
- Day 3: Dihua Street – Danshui’s Fisherman’s Wharf (Sunset) and Gong Ming Street – Dinner at Villa 32 – Beitou for hot springs and overnight
- Day 4: Peitou for Hotsprings, Lunch at Tasty Steak – National Palace Museum by 2:45pm, Shilin Night Market for dinner, snacks and shopping
- Day 5: Daytrip to Yehliu (No. 167-1 Gang Dong Road, Yehliu Village, Wanli Township) and Jiufen Mining Village
- Day 6-7: Hualian, Taroko Gorge National Park – Taiwanese Dinner
Flights from Manila to Taipei
- Philippine Airlines 896: 7:30 am –> 9:40 am (Daily EXCEPT Sunday) **
- China Airlines: 10:45 am –> 12:55 pm (Daily)
- Philippine Airlines 894: 12:35 pm –> 2:55 pm (Friday)
- EVA Air 272: 12:50 pm –> 3:00 pm (Daily)
Flights from Taipei to Manila, 2 hours:
- China Airlines: 7:35 am –> 9:35 am (Daily)
- EVA Airways 271: 9:30 am –> 11:50 am (Daily)
- Philippine Airlines 897: 10:40 am –> 12:55 pm (M, T, Th)
- China Airlines: 1:45 pm –> 3:55 pm (Daily) **
- Philippine Airlines 895: 3:50 pm –> 6:20 pm (Friday)
- Philippine Airlines 899: 5:30 pm –> 7:50 pm (Wednesday)
- Philippine Airlines 899: 6:35 pm –> 8:55 pm (Sat) **
Day 1 – Taipei: Arrive at Taipei – Eat beef noodles lunch @ Hsimenting – 228 Memorial Park – Chiang Kai Shek Memorial Hall, Sun Yat Sen Park – Eslite Bookstore – Taipei 101, Dinner at Mitsui Japanese restaurant – Party at Barcode, Room 18 and Luxy Taipei
Upon leaving customs, turn left and look for the airport bus terminals. Take the city bus (NTD90 approx) to “Taipei Main Station (台北車站).” Bus company should be called “Toward You.” Get down at the Taipei Main Station stop, and the hotel is close to the Mitsukoshi Department Store.
Recommend to check in first at the City Inn Hotel (No.7, Huaining St., Jhongjheng District, Taipei 100, Tel: +886-2-2314 8008). It’s located two streets down the Mitsukoshi Department Store. Below it is the is the Family Mart Convenient Store.
Before grabbing a bite to eat, check out NOVA Computer Center.Entrance is just beside the hotel. Other side of entrance is the street across Mitsukoshi Department Store. This used to be the tallest building in Taiwan before Taipei 101. PC prices here are the cheapest in Taiwan. Formal address below:
Then, after checking out goods, take the MRT right in front of the Mitsukoshi Department Store to Hsimending (西門町) MTR Station, Exit C2. Turn to right upon exit, and go straight till you see a Sony Style store on your left. Turn right on that corner (you know it’s correct when you see a Family Mart Convenient Store) on your left side. The beef noodle chain is right beside the Family Mart Convenient Store. Order the 紅燒牛肉麵 and some appetizers. Should come with a nice set.
Restaurant Address: 10 峨眉街, Wanhua District, 台灣. Order their beef noodles. Cheap and yummy.
Tour around Hsimending (西門町). It’s similar to “Harajuku” in Japan. The local bookstores carry mostly Japanese oriented magazines, books, CD albums, etc. These are where the “young” people all roll…
228 Peace Park (Optional):
Take the MRT to red line, Taiwan University Hospital Station (臺大醫院捷運站) to reach the park.
Originally called Taipei Park, the 228 Peace Park (二二八和平公園) is one of Taipei’s most interesting historic sites. Just a few minutes walk from the Main Station and Bus Station, the 228 Peace Park houses the neoclassical National Taiwan Museum, which used to house a radio station operated under the Japanese and Kuomintang rule. The park contains a number of memorials to victims of the 228 Incident of 1947. In the evenings, it’s a popular place where gay men go cruising at night.
CKS Memorial Hall:
You can walk or take the MRT for one stop to CKS Memorial Hall. Personally, I would just prefer to walk.
Chang Kai Shek Memorial Hall showcases two buildings facing each other — the National Theatre and the National Concert Hall — right inside the gated Liberty Square. The CKS Hall lies at the center and situates a large Chiang Kai-Shek statue. Inside the hall, you can see much of what Chiang Kai-Shek’s life was like. From his bulletproof Cadillac to the clothing he wore, and the chair he sat on. A wall clock has needles set to 11:50pm, the time of his death.
Check out the bullet holes of Chiang’s car at the left rear part, and count the number of steps from the ground to the second floor. There are 89 steps to be exact, equivalent to President’s Chiang age. He lived for 89 years. The back of the bronze says, “Ethics, Democracy, Science.” This is the essence of the Three People’s Principles — To practice nationalism by ethics, by democracy, and by science.
Must do: Wait for guards to change. It happens on the hour from 10am to 4pm. Wednesdays are from 10am to 6pm. The army, navy and air force takes turns to be the guards every four months. How do you know who is which? The army wears the green uniform, the navy wears the black uniform in summer and white in winter, while the air force wears blue.
Take MRT from CKS Memorial Hall to Sun-Yat Sen Memorial Park MRT.
The National Sun Yat Sen Memorial Park
A memorial dedicated to the Father of the Republic of China, Dr. Sun Yat Sen, this Memorial Hall was completed on 1972. The total building area covers 29,464 square meters (7.3 acres) with an open space of 115,000 square meters. It contains displays of Sun’s life and he revolution he led, and is currently a multi-purpose social, educational, and cultural center for the public.
Walk to Taipei 101. Drop by Taipei Eslite Bookstore, the largest retail bookstore in Taiwan.
Taiwan’s largest skyscraper, Taipei 101, enjoyed the title of the world’s tallest building from 2004 up until the Burj Khalifa in Dubai was completed in 2010. It remains as the world’s largest and tallest green building, standing at 1,667 feet and consisting of 101 aboveground floors, five underground floors, and houses a mix of offices, a multi-level shopping complex, food court and restaurants.
Most impressive than the total building height is its structural integrity. Taipei 101 is designed to withstand earthquakes and typhoon-level winds thanks to a massive damper sphere, the largest in the world. The building’s exterior is meant to resemble bamboo, a symbol of longevity.
Ride the world’s fastest elevator to the eighty-ninth floor of the observatory. Take a self-guided audio tour in the indoor observatory before climbing to the outer deck to take in the bird’s eye view of Taipei.
Hours: 9:00am-10:00pm, daily. Last ticket entry: 9:15 pm.
Admission: NTD 450 for adults
Dinner: Mitsui Taipei (三井日本料理)
Serving Japanese food made from the highest quality ingredients, today, Mitsui operates at ten locations and offers a hierarchy of omakase selections. The basic Yue Yin set comprising of 7-8 courses is already at NTD 1,800 but is worth every penny. The only difference is in the types of dishes and quality of ingredients. The sushi is handpicked by the chef, and is flown every morning from Japan to keep the freshness.
Mitsui Cuisine, B1, No. 108, Sec. 1, Dun-hua South Road, Taipei City (Tel: +886-2-2741 3394, www.mitsuitaipei.com.tw/en/home.html). Reservation required.
Alternative: Cuisine M, No. 1, Songzhi Road, Xinyi District, Taipei City (Tel: +886-2-2345 1101, About NTD 1,500-2,000/pax or NTD 1,800/pax for a 6-course dinner set, MRT: Taipei City Hall)
Partying in Taipei
Head to Barcode first, then to Room 18, Neo 19 Building, NTD 700 with 2 free drinks. Then, check out Spark, which can be found at the Taipei 101 basement. It’s not huge but gets the job done if your task is to dance, drink and sweat. (No. 45, Shifu Road, MRT: Taipei City Hall Station, NTD 600 for entry)
Luxy Club, No. 201, Zhongxiao East Road Sec. 4, Taipei (NTD 300 for entry with 2 drinks, Closest MRT: Zhongxiao Dunhua Station, http://luxy-taipei.com)
The biggest, baddest club in Taipei is Luxy. With multiple floors going from all-out pop extravaganza to four-on-the-floor electronics to some more experimental stuff going upstairs, Luxy brings out the best DJ and is the most famous club in Taipei.
Best times to party: Wednesdays (Ladies Night), Fridays, Saturdays
Day 2 – Taipei: Stroll around Sogo area – Lunch at Ding Tai Fung (Xinyi) – Dong Qu Fen Yen for Dessert – Longshan Temple, Dinner at Huaxi Street or “Snake Alley”
Take the Chungxiao Fuxing MRT station and walk to Din Dai Fung. If you are early for lunch, you can walk around the area and check out the Pacific Sogo Department Store (Exit 2) or the surrounding boutique stores. Best to come in at 11am for lunch at Din Tai Fung to avoid the lunch crowd. Ding Tai Fung does not accept phone reservations so you have no choice but to line up.
Lunch: Din Tai Fung:
When you think of xiao long bao, there is no other restaurant that comes to mind other than Din Tai Fung. The restaurant originated in Taiwan and is the country’s pride despite offering Shanghai staples like the xiao long bao. Make sure to give this place a visit when in Taipei.
Their Xinyi Road location is right at the heart of Taipei City, a 10-15 walk from the Chungxiao Fushing MRT station. This location has long line-ups but the queue moves quick and they allow you to order while waiting.
Start off the meal with a bamboo steamer full of xiao long bao, each with the characteristics of a good xiao long bao: a super thin skin, succulent non-pasty meat, and the skin that holds the meat sauce that doesn’t tear easily. Eat this with a chopsticks and your soup spoon after dipping it lightly in the vinegar and sliced ginger sauce.
Must order: Xiao long bao, steamed vegetable and pork dumplings, red oil wonton, chicken soup, hot sour soup, fried rice with shrimps and eggs
Alternative: Din Dai Fung, No . 194 Xinyi Road Sec. 2, +886-2-2321 8928 (Opening hours: 10am-9pm)
Dessert: Chungxiao Dunhua
Walk to Dong Qu Fen Yuen near Chungxiao Dunhua.
Dong Qu Fen Yuen
No. 38, 216 Alley, Section 4, Zhongxiao East Road, Daan District, Taipei (Tel: +886-2-2777 2057)
Closest landmarks would be the Ming Yao Shopping Center and is close to Ding Tai Feng. The shop will be packed and you can choose all your favorite ingredients. Choose from the tofu, red bean and grass jelly sweet soup, fill up with crushed ice and select up to 3 toppings for only NTD 25. Toppings include yams, green beans, red beans, soft peanut, passion fruit, strawberry jam, gingko, pumpkin balls, almonds and pearls. The QQ balls glistens with the ice and is sweet, soft and very chewy.
Closest MRT: Zhongxiao Dunhua
No. 26, Lane 131, Yanji Street, Daan District, Taipei (Tel: +886-2-8771 8901)
Try their strawberry tofu with little tapioca balls, soft bean curd, strawberries and milk. Other selections include black sesame tofu, red bean tofu and mango tofu
To get there: take the Longshan Temple MRT station.
Longshan Temple is Taipei’s oldest, most popular temple, dating back to the 18th century, when it was first established by settlers from mainland China. In the meantime, it’s expanded and contracted in times of war and peace, very much integrated into city life, while offering an oasis of reflection and contemplation within its heart. Visitors are usually moved by the amazingly ornate carvings and other decorative elements in display. The ceremonial gateways, elegant pagoda roofs, and heady incense burners associated with traditional Chinese temples are found here. Also typically Chinese is the mix of faiths: Longshan is associated with Buddhism, Taoism and other local gods.
Longshan Temple is found in central Taipei and is served by its own MRT station. It’s open until 10am so you can consider an evening visit when the temple is at its atmospheric, perhaps before or after dinner at the nearby Huaxi Street Market. Admission: Free.
Dinner: Huaxi Street or “Snake Alley”
Huaxi Night Market announces itself with a ceremonial gateway with charming Chinese lanterns providing decoration and more powerful lights illuminating the area to near-daylight levels.
Most visitors are drawn to Huaxi Street by the stalls collectively known as “Snake Alley.” Vendors attract far more onlookers than those willing to test the potency and vigor that comes from eating snake soup and other serpent derivatives. For the less adventurous, there is a huge range of dining options in the surrounding streets encompassing noodles, oyster omelets, chicken skewers, cuttlefish soup, traditional custard pastries, and local delicacies include stinky tofu.
Day 3 – Taipei: Dihua Street – Danshui’s Fisherman’s Wharf (Sunset) and Gong Ming Street – Dinner at Villa 32 – Beitou for hot springs and overnight
Dihua Street is Taiwan’s most preserved, most historically significant old street lasting generations. It’s the best place to check out Chinese fabric stores, traditional Chinese medicines and is the largest dried goods market outside of China. A walk down the full length of Dihua Street’s three sections is a good 20 minutes. Along the northern section, there are a number of old historic stores. In the central section is a collection of dried good stores of any and every kind you could imagine, including a variety of products from Hong Kong, Japan and Korea. The southern section is a dried goods market with a long history. The dried goods available here are all fresh and of top quality.
To get here: A 5-minute walk from Nanjing West Road. Closest MRT is Shuanglian MRT Stop (Red Line).
Danshui: Fisherman’s Wharf and GongMing Street
Upon arrival at Danshui, head to Fisherman’s Wharf by taking the R26 bus from Danshui MRT station. Go to the Lover’s Bridge, an infamous bridge born on Valentine’s Day and is the reason for its inspired name. Watching the sunset off this bridge is one of the most breathtaking moments.
Then, head back to Danshui’s GongMing Street, a street full of unique Taiwanese eats to enjoy some local food. A mere 5-minute walk from the Danshui Main Station, try the following eats:
- Ice cream shop that sells 6 different flavors — all at arm’s length: vanilla/chocolate, green tea/mango, taro/strawberry. Taste-wise, it doesn’t have the same creamy consistency and is more of a sorbet. But it sure is refreshing. Price: NTD 10
- Freshly grilled squid with bonito flakes and onion garnish. The squid is usually moist and the texture is neither pasty nor chewy. The taste is a little sweet. Price: NTD 60
- Ah-Gei (NTD: 30): Fried tofu stuffed with cellophane noodle and sealed with fish paste. It’s steamed and topped with special ketchup sauce.
- Souvenirs include iron eggs, almond tae and nougat (Flavors: Green tea, almond, chocolate). The iron eggs are stewed in a variety of spices and air dried, giving them a chewy consistency.
Beitou Hot Springs District
The Beitou district is the most mountainous in Taipei, and its geothermal warming has created a series of natural hot springs, one of the largest concentrations in the world. Beitou Hot Spings was originally developed as a public bathhouse during the Japanese occupation beginning in 1895. For decades, the area was one of the country’s largest red light districts before a major cleanup by the government in the 80s and 90s.
Today, there are luxury hot springs resorts in place of brothels in what has become a family-friendly area of Taipei. The Beitou Public Bathhouse, the largest during the Japanese era, is now the Beitou Hot Springs and Museum, where visitors can read up on the history of the hot springs before soaking in the healing sulfuric waters. Since the baths of Beitou Hot Springs Park are public, men and women share the same pools and wear swimsuits, and women must have their hair tied up.
Dinner: Villa 32
Villa 32 only has one Italian restaurant, providing classical and fine Italian delicacies. Chef Jimmy selects the best local and worldwide ingredients to present aromatic food and delicacies. Set menus and a la carte menus are available.
Villa 32 is located at n°32, Zhong Shan Road, a five minute walk from Xin Beitou MRT Station. Near Beitou Park, Spring Museum and Hot Spring Valley, Villa 32 is the nearest backyard garden of the city you can reach
If you have special dining requirements, they can provide customized menus. Call for reservations.
- Set menus for lunch start from NTD 980 + 10%
- Set menus for dinner start from NTD 2,200 + 10%
For reservations, call: +886-2-6611 8888
Check-in Overnight: Aquabella Hotel
Suggested accommodation: Hotel – Aquabella Hotel
63 WenQuan Road, Beitou, Taipei
Tel: +886-2-2891 1118
Closest MRT: Xin Peitou MRT
General direction: It’s less than a 10-minute walk up a road behind Sweetme. It’s in front of KFC. Stay overnight and includes a tasty sesame dumpling dessert, with free complimentary breakfast. Check-in at 5:30pm.
Day 4 – Taipei: Peitou for Hotsprings, Lunch at Tasty Steak – National Palace Museum by 2:45pm, Shilin Night Market for dinner, snacks and shopping
Complimentary breakfast at the Aquabella Hotel. Checkout at noon.
Lunch: Tasty Steak
Tasty Steak Restaurant, Set Menu: NTD 550/pax for 8 courses
- Taipei Chongqing South S. Branch, 2/F, No. 129, Sec. 1, Chongqing South Road, Zhongzheng District, Taipei (Tel: +886-2-2370 8292)
- Taipei Nanjing East Road, 2/F, No. 11, Sec. 2, Nanjing East Road, Zhongshan District, Taipei
- Taipei Fuxing S. Branch, 3/F, No. 152, Sec. 1, Fuxing South Road, Daan District, Taipei
- Taipei Guangfu South Road, No. 94, Sec. 2, Keelung Road, Xinyi District, Taipei
- Tianmu Zhongzheng Branch, B1/F, No. 188, Sec. 2, Zhongcheng Road, Shilin District, Taipei City (Tel: +886-2-2876 6591)
- Beitou Zhonghe Branch, 2/F, No. 366, Zhonghe Street, Beitou District, Taipei (Tel: +886-2-2896 2109)
National Palace Museum
The Museum has a permanent collection of more than 696,000 pieces of ancient Chinese artifacts and artworks, making it one of the largest in the world. The collection encompasses over 8,000 years of Chinese history from the Neolithic age to the late Qing Dynasty. Most of the collection are high quality pieces collected by China’s ancient emperors.
The National Palace Museum and the Palace Museum in the Forbidden City in Beijing share the same roots. They split in two as a result of the Chinese Civil War. Its most famous items are the Jadeite Cabbage, and the Meat-shaped Stone. The Jadeite Cabbage with Insects is a piece of jadeite carved into the shape of a Chinese cabbage head, and with a locust and katydid camouflaged in the leaves.
It’s best to join the English guided tours that is available twice daily, at 10am or 3pm to fully enjoy the relics. Each guided tour is open for 15 online reservation applications, and should be completed 3 days prior to the visit. You need your passport number, contact number, and email address. For those successfully registered, visit the audio reception desk on the first floor at least 15 minutes before the start of the guided tour.
To get to the museum, take the MRT to Shilin Station, and take bus R30 (Red 30), 255, 304, 815, Minibus 18 or Minibus 19 to the plaza in front of the National Palace Museum. The National Palace Museum is open daily from 0830-1830 all year around. Tickets: NTD 160/pax. Allot 2-4 hours for tour.
Shilin Night Market
Take the bus back to the Shilin Night Market.
The Shilin Night Market is one of the most well-organized, most popular night markets in Taipei. One section covers the streets surrounding the traditional Yangming Theatre and stretching to the Chicheng Temple on Danan Road. The other sector is a centralized food court serving a wide variety of snacks that attract large crowds.
Must haves at the Shilin Night Market:
- Hot Star Fried Chicken, NTD 55
- Giant sausages, NTD 60
- Frog eggs drink
- Fried oyster omelets
- Cold Layers milk dessert, Stall No. 250
- Chili Wantons, Stall No. 1, NTD 45
- Lou Rou Fan (Stewed meat in rice)
- Teppanyaki, ~NTD 100
- Cheap steak, NTD 120
- Pan-fried bun (生煎包), NTD 50. Like the fluffiness of cake and the crunchiness of potato chips? The pan-fried bun gives you the best of both worlds. The buns are made with spongy white Chinese bread that is pan-fried on the bottom. Break one open to reveal the moist porky filling. A Shanghainese staple, the Taiwanese version differs in two ways: it’s slightly bigger in size and it hits the pan upside-down. Hsu Ji (許記), Shida Night Market, Taan District, Taipei City; +886 9 3085 9646
- La mian, NTD 50
- Oyster misua, NTD 30, at Shilin Market Food Street arch
- Toilet restaurant
To MRT to get there: Jiantan MRT Station, NOT the Shilin Night Market Station
Day 5 – Northern Taiwan: Daytrip to Yehliu (No. 167-1 Gang Dong Road, Yehliu Village, Wanli Township) and Jiufen Mining Village
Off the coast just north of Keelung sits one of Taiwan’s most fascinating geological parks, the Yehliu Coast. Over thousands of years, wind and rain eroded away parts of the softer top layer of rock to reveal interesting patterns. Some look like honeycombs, others like potholes, a shoe and even a queen’s head. The exposed sandstone landscape is littered with fossils, old relics of a past era. The mushroom and candle-shaped rocks are among the more alien-looking formations. It’s a perfect trip to combine with a visit to the Keelung seaport and Yehliu’s Baoan Temple.
To get there: Take a bus from the Taipei West Bus Station Terminal A (near Taipei Main Station) to Yehliu (NTD 96-102, cash or Easycard). It’s the “Jin Shan Youth Activity Centre” route, bus number 1815 and is operated by Kuo-Kuang. The first bus departs at 0540 hours (weekdays) and 0615 (weekends). Bus frequency: 15-20 minutes. Travel time: around 1 hour 20 minutes. Be sure to request the bus driver to alert you when the bus reaches Yehliu.
From there, it’s a 10-minute walk to the Yehliu Geopark after passing a quaint fishing port town. There isn’t a lot of variety for snacks on food stall at the park so if you’re hungry, grab some fresh seafood along the row of restaurants outside the park. Better yet, bring some bread and snacks with you so you don’t get hungry on this trip.
Entrance to the Geopark is NTD 50 for adults and NTD 25 for children shorter than 115 cm. They are open from 8:00am – 5:00 pm daily, or 6:00pm from May to September. The Yehliu Ocean World is just next door, but we usually just skip this attraction and focus on the Geopark.
Allot yourself 3 hours to leisurely visit the park. After paying the entrance, catch the short English film at the visitor center introducing the park. Follow the path to observe rocks and amazing views and allot yourself 3 hours to go around. Please wear a light jacket. The park is divided to 3 areas: there are mushroom rocks, ginger rocks, candle rocks and even a queen’s head.
The Queen’s Head resembles the head of an Egyptian Queen from the narrow delicate neck ot the imposing head dress. It’s been said that the Queen’s Head will break due to natural wear and tear within 50 years.
On the other side of the park, notice the statue of Lin Tien Jen, a man who sacrificed his life by jumping in the water to save some drowning children. After saving the children, he couldn’t pull himself back in. He left behind a wife and kids and a the statue was built dedicated to this unsung herl.
You can take a separate day for Jiufen and after the park, visit Keelung City by taking a bus from this stop outside the convenience store. Travel time: 30 minutes. Eat at the Keelung Miaokou food street and night market. It’s just a 10-minute walk from Keelung Railway Station where you can get back to Taipei. Alight train at Keelung Railway Station and board a trip to Songshan Railway Station (for Wufenpu and Raohe Night Market) or Taipei Main Station. Alternately, take a Kuo Kuang bus back to Taipei Main Station.
If you want to take a separate day trip. From Jiufen to Taipei: From Taipei, take the Jiufen bus # 1062 (Bus company: Keelung bus) from Zhongxiao Fuxing MRT Station Exit 1. Make a U-turn as you come out of the station so the Sogo mall (big red letters) will now be on your right hand side and the elevated railway line will be in front of you. Walk a minute and take the first left, then after a few meters, you will see the 1062 bus stop. Cost is NTD 102 so bring exact change or easycard. Travel time: 1 hour.
From Yehliu to Jiufen, walk back to Yehliu stop and cross the road. Take the Keelung Bus #790, 862 or 1262 to Keelung City. Fare: NTD 43 and travel time: 40-50 minutes. Then, transfer to Bus #788 or 1013 to Jiufen. The bus stand for Keelung bus from Keelung Railway Station to Jiufen is located at one of the staggered bus stands to the right if you are exiting Keelung Railway Station. Board Keelung bus with destination “Jinguashih”. Fare: NTD 40 to Jiufen and travel time around 40 minutes. The Gold Ecological Museum is a short walk from Jinguashih bus terminal. Alight at Jiufen at the 7-11 at the right of Jiufen entrance.
Jiufen is situated in the hills overlooking a small harbor on Taiwan’s northeast coast. Once a prosperous town famous for its gold mining industry, Jiufen was abandoned by the 1970s and nearly forgotten, and is now a mecca for artists and writers, as well as the inspiration for films like A City of Sadness and Spirited Away. Jiufen so much inspired Hayao Miyazaki, the director of the 2002 Oscar winner for Best Animated Feature, Spirited Away, that he used the town’s scenery as a backdrop to the Japanese film.
Follow through the narrow cobbled streets past stone walls and tea houses that provide a picture of the town during the Japanese occupation. The Jiufen Old Street offers plentiful food stalls throughout the entire town. Walk down the long, narrow street that brims with traditional crafts and delicious snacks such as sweet taro balls, rice cakes and grilled squid. In the Jiufen residential area, try to find the restored Shengping Theatre House, the first movie theater in northern Taiwan, originally built for mineworkers’ after-hours entertainment. Admire authentic details such as the ticket office, seats and stage, as well as vintage movie posters and defunct equipment.
Drink tea at the Jiufen Tea House (No. 142, Jishan Street, Tel: +886-2-2496 9056). The tea house was once the meeting place for many great Taiwanese writers and artists when it first opened. When you enter from the narrow crowded street, you will come into a spacious and calm interior. The host will lead you to a quiet table on the lower levels, or you can sit outside on the back terrace in good weather. Choose your favorite tea and tea snacks from the menu and sit for as long as you like.
To get back, walk back to the bus stop just near the convenience stores near the entrance to the town. Fee: NTD 90. You can get off at MRT Zhongxiao Fuxing Station. Duration: 1 hour 15 minutes.
Day 6-7: Hualian, Taroko Gorge National Park – Dinner in one of Taipei’s nicest restaurants
Some of Asia’s most spectacular scenery awaits at Taroko Gorge National Park, Taiwan’s foremost tourist draw. Marble rock faces plummenting into chasms, teeming rainforests, crystal waterfalls, and pine covered alpine reaches, offer breaktaking panoramas wherever you look.
Among the park’s unforgettable sights are the looming Chinghshui Cliff on the Pacific coast, the twisting vistas of the Tunnel of Nine Turns, and the dramatic hanging bridges of Swallow Grotto. Few buildings make the most of the topography, particularly the Eternal Springs Shrine, which hugs a lush green hillside next to its namesake springs.
Take the high speed Express train from Taipei to Hualien. It only takes 2 hours 15 minutes. Book online: http://www.railway.gov.tw/en. While on the train, have a lookout for vendors selling Taiwanese (便當)) or Taiwanese lunch boxes.
A lot of Taiwanese have a love-hate relationship with Taiwanese biandang (bento), the takeaway lunchbox that packs rice with a main dish (usually a type of meat) and small, often unappealing side dishes such as fried and preserved vegetables. It’s a convenient, quick, cheap (around NTD 100) and generally decent way to eat. Biandang isn’t one of the most delicious foods in Taiwan, but it’s a staple for countless working parents and busy urbanites. Bento with chicken cutlet is a good biandang choice.
As it’s not possible to walk to the main points in the park, best to book a local tour agency in Hualian (Approx fee: NTD 1,000/pax) to get around (Tel: +886-972 501 921)
Tour itinerary: Pickup from Hualian train station at 8:15 am → “Clear Water Cliff” →Taroko National Park →Eternal Life Temple situated atop a waterfall → Swallow Grotto Trail → Lunch at Buluoge Visitor Center → Hulian Train Station by 4:00pm. This tour requires you to take the newest train in Taipei from the Tze Chang line at 6:10am.
Other local drivers:
– Mr. Zheng (+886-989 777 576 or +886-989 055682)
– Mr. Lu Lai-Fu (+886-928 569 081) and ask him to bring you for Zha Dan. It’s open after 1pm and will close shop when out of dough. Wait 20-30 minutes.
Suggested Accommodations: Leader Village Taroko (No. 231-1 Fushih Village, Sioulin Town, Hualien 972), Grandview Chief Suite for 2 nights. You can book a one-day private tour for two from the hotel at NTD 1,400 per person.
Great food, location, culture and service at excellent aboriginal-styled villas with free 1.5-hour aboriginal shows every night. The rooms are lovely, simple, in faux-rustic style. Simple but delicious food is served with kings of local special products like wild barbecued pork, mushroom, and sweet potato.
Farewell Dinner: AoBa Taiwanese or Shinyeh Restaurant or Flavors
Aoba (No. 116, Anhe Road, Sec. 1, Tel: +886-2-2700 0009) or (Minsheng East Road, Sec. 3, Songshan District, Taipei, Tel: +886-2-2547 1111)
Making the most of Taiwan’s culinary traditions but presenting them in an environment of quiet luxury is what AoBa is all about. Menu ranges from set menus priced at NTD 800 per head or NTD 2,800 for four. Seafood set at NTD 3,800 for four.
Must try: Soup Noodles (NTD 80),Taiwanese style spring rolls (NTD 70), Shrimp with egg yolk (NTD 380).
Shinyeh (2/F, No. 112, Zhongxiao East Road, Sec. 4, Daan District, Taipei, Tel: +886-2-2752 9299, shinyeh.com.tw)
What started as a tiny back-alley mom-and-pop joint in 1977 has blossomed into one of Taipei’s most reknowned restaurants. Although its gone progressively upscale over the years, the menu is still about home-style Taiwanese classics.
Closest MRT: Chungxiao Fuxing Road. Open daily 11am-3pm, 5pm-10:30 pm. / Must order: Fried oysters, three cups chicken.
Three-cup chicken is cooked in a cup of rice wine, a cup of oil and a cup of soy sauce. To this Taiwanese culinary triumvirate is added fresh basil, chilies and garlic for an irresistible combination.
Flavors (No.13 Alley 26 Lane 300 Ren Ai Rd. Sec.4, (02) 2709 6525, flavors.com.tw)
TripAdvisor hails it as the top 5 restaurants in Taipei. Swedish food in Taipei? I guess so! Flavors has moved to a bigger location and is apparently still delicious. Try out their Swedish set menu and definitely order the apple cake. It’s moist, crumbly, sweet, flaky- just SO good.
The English and Chinese menu is pretty huge and can be a bit overwhelming. If you choose a main dish, it comes as a set with the soup of the day, bread, salad, apple cake and coffee. There are also a few multi-course set menus to choose from- “Taste of Sweden” (NT$1700) with aquavit (a flavored spirit) and snapas (small shots of snaps), or Chef Ola’s “Summer Gourmet Menu” which included 3 appetizers and 2 desserts (NT$1100).
Bistro Le Pont 樂朋小館
Your goose is cooked at Bistro Le Pont (樂朋小館)). The restaurant is an extension of Le Pont (橋邊)), a Kaohsiung-based restaurant that specializes in dishes and condiments made from goose meat and goose fat. The space off Yongkang Street (永康街)) captures the spirit of a French bistro, with large picture windows and low lighting. The menu even lists prices in New Taiwan dollars and euros. Bistro Le Pont’s food, however, is made with mostly locally produced ingredients and features a fusion of French, Taiwanese and Chinese flavors.
Bistro Le Pont’s signature dishes are its plates of goose meat, viande d’oie au sel maison (NT$250) and viande d’oie fume maison (NT$280). The latter is smoked and has a heavier taste. Both dishes feature juicy, slightly oily, slices of poultry. An alternative is the confit d’oie maison (NT$450), made from leg of goose and very robust and complex in flavor. People prefer these to the two previously mentioned goose dishes.
Bistro Le Pont
176 Chaozhou St, Taipei City (台北市潮州街176號), Tel: +886-2-2396 5677 (Near Yongkang Street)
Open: 11:30am to 10:00pm
Average meal:: NT$350 to NT$500
Day 8 – Taipei: NOVA – Heading Home to Manila
Head to NOVA where you can find every laptop, phone, printer, cord, cable, accessory and every attachment known to the tech-dependent man. NOVA Electronics Center (2 Guanqian Street, Taipei Main Station MRT, Opening hours: 11am-10pm, Weekends start at 10:30am).
Lunch: Yong Kang Beef Noodle
We started our Taiwan journey with beef noodles and will also end our trip with this famous dish. The Yong Kang Beef Noodle Soup shop has been around forever, or since 1963, as the sign proudly declares. The beef tendon noodle is only a reasonable NTD 180 a bowl, and its broth is made out of beef and soyabean-based stock. Very tasty indeed.
Yong Kang Beef Noodle
No. 17號, Lane 31, Section 2, Jīnshān South Rd, Daan District, Taipei City (Tel: +886-2 2351 1051)
Hours: 11:30am-2pm, 5:30pm-8pm
Closest MRT: Dongmen MRT Exit 4
Must try: Beef tendon noodle soup , little spicy, and “fen zheng pai gu” (yam and pork ribs)
Other Notable Restaurants in Taipei (Taken word for word from: A Hungry Girl’s Guide to Taipei)
Best Hot Pot – ORANGE SHABU SHABU
If there was gourmet shabu shabu, Orange Shabu Shabu would be it. Offering luxe meats and seafood like prime rib beef or emperor crab for the customized copper hotpots, Orange also offers sashimi and cooked seafood dishes in a romantic ambiance.
No. 135, Da An Road, Sec 1, B1, (02) 2776-1658;
29, RenAi Rd, Sec 4, 2 FL, (02) 2771-0181; orangeshabu.com.tw
Ding Wang Spicy Hotpot
No. 89, Guangfu N. Rd., Songshan Dist., Taipei, Taiwan
Tel: 02 2742-1199
Best Steak – RUTH CHRIS
American chain Ruth Chris Steakhouse’s broiled steaks are topped with butter and apparently that’s how the readers like it.
No. 135 Min Sheng East Road, Sec. 3, 2 FL, (02) 2545-8888; www.ruthchris.com
Best Buffet – THE KITCHEN TABLE
The Kitchen Table is with no doubt the best buffet restaurant in Taipei! The food they offer is diverse, the ingredients-fresh, the service-impeccable! I tried both the Chinese and Western food they have and both were incredible! In addition, the restaurant makes its own ice-cream which is fantastic! The decor is unusual, fresh and inviting and makes you feel you are at home, having a world-class chef just for yourself. Taipei has so many restaurants, but the Kitchen Table is a real gem!
10 Zhongxiao East Road, Sec. 5,Xinyi District, Taipei 110, Taiwan
Tel: 02-77038888, www.wtaipei.com/thekitchentable
Best Pizza- ALLEYCATS
Locally founded Alleycats wins votes with its stone oven baked pizzas and fresh toppings and multiple locations. One of my favorites is the “Napoletana” with fresh tomatoes, goat cheese, anchovies, olives and spinach.
No. 6, Li Shui Street, B1, (02) 2321-8948
No. 285, Song Ren Rd, (02) 8780-5421;
Da An- No. 2, Lane 248, Zhong Xiao E Road, Sec 4, (02) 2731-5225;
Tien Mu- No. 31, Lane 35, Zhongshan N. Rd Sec. 6 , (02) 2835-6491;
Nei Hu- No. 67-1 Cheng Gong Road, Section, 5, (02)2630-6278;
Xi Men- No. 49, Alley 10, Cheng Du, 2FL, (02) 2370-8858;
Best American/Western- MACARONI GRILL
You can find huge American sized salads, pastas, pizzas and desserts at Macaroni Grill, and though it’s a little more than what we’d pay in the states, there’s nowhere else in town you’d get table side opera.
at Neo 19, 30 Sung Shou Road, (02) 2722-4567
Best French- CHEZ JIMMY
You can’t get more decadent than the foie gras and steak at Chez Jimmy. Apparently there used to be locations in Tien Mu or on Fuxing N Road (or so says Yahoo Travel and other websites) but after a call to the restaurant, they confirmed only 2 locations right now.
No. 128 Xin Yi Road, Sec 5 (02) 8788-3336
No. 180, Zhong Cheng, Sec. 2 (02) 2874-7185
Best Italian- TUTTO BELLO
Another place I hadn’t heard of until now and am looking forward to trying. Upscale Italian that might surprise you in Taipei.
No. 15, Lane 25, Shuang Cheng St, (02) 2592-3355
Best Japanese Restaurant- SUMIE NOUVELLE CUISINE at SAN WANT HOTEL
I always get the multi-course set menu and my friends new to the restaurant always are dazzled by Sumie’s plating and presentation of every dish. Don’t let the upscale modern interior scare you away from some of the freshest sashimi in Taipei.
No. 172, Zhongxiao E Rd Sec 4, 4 FL, (02) 2781 6909, www.sanwant.com
Best Uniquely Taiwanese Restaurant- SHIN YEH
When even the locals line up for this Taiwanese restaurant, then you know that it’s good. Shin Yeh offers Taiwanese classics in a sit down, family friendly setting.
No. 112 Zhong Xiao E Road, Sec 4, 2FL, (02) 2752-9299
No. 34-1, ShuangCheng St, (02) 2596-3255
No. 12, NanJing West Road, 8F, (02) 2523-6757
Shinyeh 101 at No. 45, Shifu Road, 85 FL (02) 8101-0185
Best Romantic Restaurant- VILLA 32
Complete your romantic evening with some hot springs or a couples massage, or just wine and dine your honey at ultra-luxe Villa 32’s Euro restaurant, tucked in Beitou, about an hour outside of the city.
No 32, Zhongshan Rd, Beitou, Taipei, (02) 6611-8888, villa32.com
Best Unexpected Find in Taipei- FLAVORS
Swedish food in Taipei? I guess so! Flavors has moved to a bigger location and apparently still delicious. Can’t wait to try it.
No.13 Alley 26 Lane 300 Ren Ai Rd. Sec.4, (02) 2709 6525, flavors.com.tw
Best Super Cheap Eats (Meal NT$100 or Under)- SABABA
Sababa is one of those restaurants that I’m surprised is in Taipei, but am very glad is successful. Part of the reason is its fast and fresh pita sandwiches and hummus platas- all great prices, especially for a “foreign” specialty food. Must try the Plata Sababa- hummus with roasted eggplant topped with a falafel.
No. 8, Alley 54, Ln 118, Heping E Rd Sec 2, (02) 2738-7769;
No. 17, Lane 283, LuoSiFu (Roosevelt) Rd, Sec 3, (02) 2363-8009;
No. 3, Lane 12, Yong Kang St, (02) 2327 9159;
Breeze at Taipei Main Station,
Best Breakfast/ Brunch- THE DINER
The first time I ate at the Diner, I couldn’t decide what to eat- but in a good way. Offering a wide selection of Western brunch/breakfast options all day, it’s definitely the place to go if you’re missing tasty pancakes, eggs benedicts, omelettes or even a breakfast burrito. Just be prepared to wait for a table and don’t forget to try the dessert menu.
No. 145 Ruian St, Taipei, (02) 2700-1680;
No. 6, Ln 103, Dunhua S Rd Sec 2, (02) 2754-1680,
Best Late-Night Bites- CONGEE on FUXING
While voters didn’t vote specifically for No Name, I included its address and review so you could get a gist for the general area. Offering Taipei’s version of comfort food until the wee hours of the morning, a row of restaurants offer up congee and all the sides you’d want on Fuxing South Road.
No. 130, Fu Xing S. Road, Sec 2, (02) 2784-6735
Favorite Night Market- SHIDA NIGHT MARKET 師大路夜市
Beating out the previous long time winner Shihlin, the new favorite Shida Night Market is a winding collection of lanes and alleys of shops and street eats including traditional favorites like baos and fried chicken and new offerings like Yofroyo and slider burgers. It’s one night market that I’ve been meaning to explore and write about. Try the following dishes:
Must try: Hsu Pan-Fried Dumplings and Lantern Hot Stew.
Lantern Hot Stew. Basically the stall has a large variety of different stuff to eat, all braised in a tasty broth then plopped onto a place for your enjoyment. On offer are about a dozen types of fishballs, meatballs, noodles and vegetables.
Favorite Afternoon Tea- SMITH & HSU
Winner second year in a row. As someone who thought scones were always rock hard and dry, the warm-out-of-the-oven buttery scones from Smith & Hsu were a revelation. You can’t go wrong with a bit of clotted cream, lemon curd or jam on top, and the inviting space to chat with a friend for afternoon tea. For serious tea drinkers, there are over 50 teas to select from, as they give each table a tray of bottled tea leaves to browse and there is a shop area to buy teas and tea sets.
No.33, Section 5, ZhongXiao E. Road, (02) 2747-4857;
No.103, Section 3, Minsheng E. Road, (02) 2546-6088;
Tianmu Sogo, No.177, Zhongshan N. Road, Sec. 6, (02) 2838-1828;
No. 8, ZhongXiao E. Road, Sec. 5, 6FL, (02) 8786-2877;
No. 21, Nanjing E. Road, Sec. 1, (02) 2457-6842;
Rose House, a Victorian-themed tea house on Li Shui Lane. Has Little Prince Afternoon Tea Set (NTD 399), featuring cheese cake, rose lychee jelly, rose macaron, roll cake, scone, creme brulee, quiche, bacon burger and petite sandwich (No. 1, Lane 3, Lishui Street, +886-2- 2394 8202, 11am-10pm)
Best French- SAVEURS 歐洲風味餐坊
Saveurs shows that you don’t have to empty your wallet to have an amazing French meal. Tucked in the lanes off of ZhongXiao, it’s one of those restaurants you’d pass by and never notice, but it’s worth looking for. Advance reservations strongly recommended for lunch.
No. 14, Lane 219, Fuxing S. Rd, Sec 1, (02) 2751-0185