Well, not yet…
Imagine you just landed in Taiwan and now all you want is your first “authentic” true-blue bubble milk tea, with Taiwan-flavored pearls swimming inside. (I can’t seriously imagine what a Taiwan taste is!)
But before you had your first sip of milk tea, or hoping you will come across Jerry Yan somewhere, you might want to take on some easy to go trips?
Here is a mini-guide to help with your DIY itinerary. These are easy, budget-friendly places, easily found in your google maps. I personally have done them on my trips.
By the way, it’s Andy here.
I first visited Taiwan in 2010 and have been coming back almost every year to this small island that is packed with natural attractions, cultural heritage sites, vibrant street food, lively night markets and hospitable people… err, despite the uber-expensive Visa fee.
Lucky for us these days, no Visa is required for Filipinos to visit as a tourist in Taiwan and hopefully it stays that way.
It is a no-brainer the first city to visit is the island’s capital, Taipei, which is home to the world’s 2nd tallest skyscraper, Taipei 101. However, Taipei is more than that, so let me introduce you to some wonderful sites for you to visit.
Before anything else, take note of the Chinese names of the places. They are very helpful to know if you are actually there at your destination by recognizing the characters.
1. Chiang Kai Shek Memorial Hall
The founding father of Republic of China finest memorabilia is housed in this place in honor to his contribution to modern Taiwan. It is in a wide sprawling complex called the Liberty Square with the National Concert Hall and National Theater flanked on both sides. Best time to visit is dusk until night time when these buildings are lit up.
Take the MRT and take off at CKS (Chiang Kai Shek) station (Red/Green Line)
2. Sun Yat Sen Memorial Hall
A memorial hall dedicated to the founding father of post-dynastic China. It has a very large flower garden and the views of Taipei 101 is the best at this vantage point, in my opinion. Best time to visit is around 5pm to witness the flag closing ceremony performed by the guards.
Take the MRT and take off at Sun Yat Sen Memorial Hall Station (Blue Line)
3. Shilin Night Market
Taipei’s biggest night market offering the cheapest of the cheapest goods. Local and International brands alternate each stall and quaint diners hide on its reclusive alleys. It is my favorite place to sample the various street snacks (think, Hotstar chicken) , and yes, milk tea!
Take the MRT and get off at Jiantan Station (Red Line). The night market can be easily seen (or rather smelled, which comes from the pungent aroma of stinky tofu) from the station and is merely a 5-min walk. Don’t be confused on getting off at Shilin station.
4. National Palace Museum
When Chiang Kai Shek fled from mainland China to establish the Republic of China in Taiwan, he brought with him ships of treasures and antiques with him. The National Palace Museum houses these treasures and it is said that until now not all have been exhibited yet. General admission costs NTD250. (Price has gone up already, in 2010 it was only NTD190)
Take the MRT to Shilin station (Red Line) and exit at Exit 1. Walk towards Zhongzheng road and take bus R30. The museum is around 10-15 minutes away and is directly in front of the bus stop.
Shop, shop, shop to your heart’s content in this trendy district featuring the latest fashion clothes from Japan, Korea and even the local brands.
My personal favorite here is to eat at Tonkatsu, a local Japanese bento house and visit the Red House which is a historical landmark and exhibits contemporary art.
Take the MRT and get off Ximen station (Green/Blue Line)
6. Elephant Hill
In Mandarin it is called 象山 (Xiangshan) . It is one of the 4 mountains on the southeastern part of Taipei in Xinyi district. It has the most scenic view of the entire Taipei City with the Taipei 101 smacked in the middle. Best time to visit is during dusk when the city lights start to appear. More info can be found here
Take the MRT to Xiangshan Station (Red Line). Follow the marked directions going to the base of the trail and climb for 25-30 minutes or until you are satisfied with the vantage point.
7. Taipei 101
Well, obviously this shouldn’t be missed in your itinerary. You can’t say you’ve been to Taipei when you haven’t been to Taipei 101. It may have lost it’s spot as the world’s tallest skyscraper but it’s architecture is iconic and very “Chinese” and never fails to amaze me every time I behold at it.
The first few floors is a mall of luxurious brands. The observatory deck on the 88th floor can be accessed by visitors for a fee. Updated entry prices to Taipei 101 observatory can be found here
You might ask, what are best vantage points to take pictures of Taipei 101?
The grounds outside aren’t that conducive. Why? Because the building is so tall, it wouldn’t fit in the entire frame of your camera.
Here are some of my suggested areas where to have that perfect selfie with Taipei 101.
a. Sun Yat Sen Memorial. The picture above is taken from Sun Yat Sen Memorial grounds which is just 10 to 15 minute walk from Taipei 101.
b. The overpass before Taipei International Convention Center. This spot is a favorite among photographers who are into night photography to chase those fast and furious-y trail lights. Location of overpass can be found here.
c. Elephant Hill. See previous item.
Take the MRT and get off at Taipei 101 station (Red Line). Alternately, you can take the Blue Line and take off at City Hall station. You need to pass by several malls before you reach Taipei 101.
Beitou is often placed on the last day of the itinerary. These are times when you have become tired of the city rush, hopping from one MRT station to the other, and hours of non-stop walking and you need something refreshing and relaxing.
Beitou is in the outskirty part of Taipei and is home to old Japanese community. This charming town is littered with resort spas fed by the hot springs of Yangming mountains. It also has several museums and a huge public library.
The geothermal valley, located at the end part of the area is an interesting place to visit. Also, there is a community pool where you can spend hours just to soak in the hot, therapeutic sulfur-rich water.
The entry to the public pools is per batch and for a limited time only, so you need to be there before the schedule time of entry. Prices are 40NTD for Adult and 20NTD for children.
Take the MRT to Beitou Station (Red Line). Get off, change trains and take the train going to Xinbeitou station.
So there you have it. If you have 2 to 3 full days to wander in Taipei, all destinations above can be well covered at a very convenient slow pace.
The destinations can be grouped to following based on their close vicinity with each other.
- National Palace Museum and Shilin Night Market
- Chiang Kai Shek Memorial, Ximending
- Sun Yat Sen Memorial, Taipei 101, Elephant Hill
If you have a few more days to spare, you might want to visit towns just outside the vicinity of Taipei. This, I will cover in my next post so stay updated.
Oh wait, you may ask what about my Milk Tea? Well, they are everywhere in Taipei, more concentrated in night markets so just choose the one with the longest queue (follow the locals) and that is guaranteed to be good!
Don’t forget to pair it with onion pancakes.