Taipei is one of our favorite cities. This is only augmented by the fact that public transportation makes it easy and cheap to get pretty much anywhere you’d like to go! The food is some of the best in the world (check out our Ultimate Taipei Food Guide here). And the streets are teeming with cultural opportunities to peak the interest of any world traveler. Up there with Kuala Lumpur and Singapore – Taipei is a city we’d consider moving to, and one we’ll definitely be visiting again 🙂 Here’s a breakdown of how we spent our two weeks in this awesome place.
How We Spent Two Weeks In Taipei
Buy A Sim Card
When you get to the airport, we highly recommend picking up a sim card. It’s easier and cheaper to just take care of that right away when you arrive. They speak English and will set it up for you in 2 minutes flat 🙂 We used Chungwa Telecom and found the 4G to work amazingly everywhere we visited in and around Taipei. A 10-day unlimited data plan will cost you 500TWD, but they have other options if you prefer something else. We opted for a 2.2GB (with local calls and texts) for 250 TWD and ended up burning through it before our 11 days was up… so it would have been smarter for us to get the unlimited plan. That said, there is WIFI everywhere and speeds were good at all the places we connected.
To top up your data when you run out you will need to go to a convenience store like 7-11 and use the machine. Not every convenient store has one of these and they are not in English, so ask the clerk for help. Alli had a guy who works at the supermarket help us find a place where we could top up one day. He ran all around the neighborhood with us on his break, translating and trying to get it to work. When we finally found a place with a helpful clerk behind the counter who was able to top up her phone the guy from the supermarket bought Alli’s data and then ran out the door to get back to work before his boss got mad (we tried to pay but he didn’t let us as he said “my treat” with a smile on his face). We couldn’t believe it, but it just goes to show how kind the people of Taiwan are. We will not forget his generosity!
Another convenience and time saver to take care of right when you get to the airport. Pick up an Easy Card at the MRT information counter if you are going to be taking the MRT to get to Taipei from the airport (this is definitely the best and cheapest option for getting into the city from the airport unless you are part of a large group). The card costs 100 TWD (non-refundable) and you fill it up as needed. You receive a 20% discounted fare on every Metro ride, so the card pays for itself real quick! The top-up machines are really easy to use and using the card vs. one time tickets will save you heaps of time if you’re spending more than a day or two in the city. We had a blast riding the MRT all around Taipei. P.S. don’t be surprised when the ride to/from the airport is a bit more expensive than your rides around town as there is a premium included in that route.
Feeling hungry after your long flight? Stop by Ijysheng in the Terminal 1 food court for some delicious savory and sweet pastries. The pizza, pesto quiche, and almond croissants were amazing, and much needed after our 2am arrival and subsequent nap!
Transport From The Airport
The main airport is located 40 km west of Taipei in Dayuan District, but there are several convenient ways to get into Taipei from the airport. You can take the MRT which is the quickest and easiest way, but there are also plenty of buses and taxis that can take you as well depending on when you arrive.
Top Sights And Things To Do In And Around Taipei
Lane 202 Minquan Market Street (For a Taste Of Local Life)
Our Airbnb was located on this street, so we are a little biased, but this little community really does give you a true glimpse of Taipei’s daily life and is home to some great mom and pop restaurants. Along the street you will find many street vendors peddling local snacks and treats, fruit stands galore (really cheap and delicious fruit – queue breakfast each morning!), several convenience stores, and quite a few restaurants. Not a place you will spend too much time, but definitely worth taking a stroll through if you’re around Banqiauo MRT station.
One of the busiest shopping and entertainment districts in Taipei. Also home to some delicious foodie spots. There are usually lots of street performances to check out and its just a cool area to spend an afternoon walking around with no particular destination in mind. To get here head to Ximen Station on MRT and follow the signs.
If you have checked out our Ultimate Taipei Food Guide then you may remember two places we stopped to eat/grab a drink called Dream Color and Ay Chung Flour Rice Noodles which you will find in the Ximending Market.
For all of you photographers out there, this is the place for you. An entire street dedicated to shops selling camera equipment. If you’re in the market for a new camera or accessories, this is the place to go in Taipei. We picked up a new “Octo” tripod for Alli’s DSLR while we were there. It had it’s debut when we went to the Pingxi Crags (see below!) a few days later.
The most notorious temple in Taiwan, built in 1778 as a gathering place for Chinese settlers, Longshan Temple is an icon worth visiting for anyone interested in peeking into the Chinese and local culture. When we were there, everyone was gearing up for the New Years celebrations and hundreds were gathered making offerings, praying, and making preparations for the coming of the new year. This temple has a dedicated MRT station, making it very easy to get to.
Bopiliao Old Street
Located near Longshan Temple, Bopiliao Old Street offers a glimpse into Taiwan’s past. Filled with brick architecture this long street retains the looks from two hundred years ago. Worth a visit for a quick stroll down the street while visiting Longshan Temple, but we did not spend much time here.
Chiang Kai Shek Memorial
These grand memorial grounds are one of the most prominent and iconic landmarks in the entire city. The area surrounding the actual memorial building (and the building itself) is enormous and full of some pretty cool areas to explore. Definitely check out the changing of the guard ceremony that is held every hour on the hour in the main memorial hall. It can get crowded, so arrive early if you want to be front and center which we recommend if you want to get a good photo/video.
Daan Forest Park
A lovely park to spend a few hours strolling around, reading a book, or just people watching. There are also many cute coffee shops and boutique stores in the surrounding neighborhood. Alli made this her getaway retreat for some much needed alone time and enjoyed sitting next to the pond in the park (with tons of birds) before meandering the alleyways and stopping for a delightful pot of tea to write some postcards.
Take A Day Trip To Pingxi And Hike The “Pingxi Crags”
This was perhaps one of the coolest things we did in Taiwan, and may very well be one of the most amazing hikes we have ever been on (and we have been on a lot of incredible hikes). You can take a combination of the MRT and a local bus to get to Pingxi from Taipei in around 2 hours.
Get off at Pingxi Old Street and locate the small waterfall along the side of the highway road with stairs leading up the hillside (near public restrooms). Follow the path all the way until you reach the main trailhead. There are three main crags that you can summit and the views are incredible, give yourself an entire day to explore the trail systems, as we found many little paths that were not frequented often that offered some really cool experiences (like climbing up ropes and ladders and crossing rope bridges). None of the climbing is technical in any sense.
After you’re done hiking, head back down to Pingxi Old Street and grab a bite to eat and a delicious Ice-cream and peanut wrap (TJ claims this is one of the world’s best desserts). The railway station is also worth a visit as you can send off ceremonial lanterns into the sky year round. We opted not to do this after seeing dozens of these lanterns littering the trails up at the crags (not eco-friendly in any sense). You can take a bus back to Taipei or a train if you prefer.
Hike Elephant Mt.
For the best view of Taipei city, take a climb up Elephant Mt. and gaze down on the world below including some breathtaking views of Taipei 101. This hike is best done late in the afternoon for sunset and will reward you with some amazing photo opportunities. The trails are easily reached from Xiangshan MRT Station.
Once the worlds tallest building, Taipei 101 is impossible to miss. Resembling a gigantic bamboo stalk for which it was designed to replicate, this massive tower is home to many businesses and a shopping mall at the lower floors. We stopped by just to take a peak and ended up strolling through a marvelous grocery store in the lower levels called Jasons Marketplace.
If you happen to be in town for Chinese New Year then you will undoubtedly find many street vendors selling fireworks. We had a blast running around town sending off bottle rockets at night but be warned that it is illegal in most of the city and there are supposedly only a few designated areas where it is allowed. Regardless, everyone is blowing them up all week long around the new year and we had fun joining in with families as they celebrated the holiday.
Huashan Creative Park
This place is cool. Home to a dozen or so rotating exhibits of every kind imaginable, some really cool boutique shops, crafty places to eat, and (at least when we were there) some incredible street performers. Look it up beforehand and see what’s there right now, as things tend to rotate out frequently from our understanding. There’s also a really nice park and grassy areas nearby perfect for a picnic or just chilling out in the sun.
Take a Day Trip To Shifen And Jiufen
Ok, so this is a full day excursion and you should definitely head out early in the morning if you want to get the most out of both of these places in one day. We took the train to Ruifang at 7AM and then a commuter train to Shifen from there. Upon arrival, we made our way immediately to the waterfall. The crowds were out in full force, but we think it was mainly due to the New Year holiday. The waterfall is really awesome and the path to get there crosses a couple of cool bridges and is a lovely walk, especially in the morning hours before it gets too hot. You can only view the waterfall from the observation decks, which is a bit of a bummer but does not diminish the magnificence of this waterfall by any means.
After checking out the falls, you can make your way back into town and spend an hour or two walking around checking out the shops and places to eat. There is a big bridge right in the enter of town that you can use to cross the river and take some great photos. Lanterns are also sent up here year round and are a big tourist draw for many. Again we opted not to because we saw hundreds of remnants scattered all around the countryside.
Once you are done in Shifen you can take the commuter train back to Ruifang and catch the bus to Old Street in Jiufen. Jiufen is a cool place and our experience there was made exponentially more awesome because we got to spend a few hours walking up and down its many hillside steps during the day, and then exploring the Old Street market by night. We ate and drank beers in the streets for hours before making our way back to Taipei by bus late in the night. All and all, a long, but incredible day.
Planning a trip to Taiwan? Check out our Ultimate Taipei Food Guide for all of our favorite restaurants and foods to try while you are in Taipei!
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