I must admit I knew little of Taiwan before. I’ve always known it was our nearest neighbor up north, but apart from that and the phenomenal rise of the boy group F4 and their show Meteor Garden, I wasn’t as interested in its history or culture. With the help of some research and the growing popularity of hiking, I finally got myself to visit its capital, Taipei.
Since there is a visa requirement (it was easy to apply but still, visas are a hassle), I booked a 5-day trip to maximize what I paid for. It’s pretty long compared to my past international trips, but in the end it wasn’t even enough for all the places I wanted to visit!
Taipei was a wonderful surprise and here are some reasons why I think you should go discover it for yourself:
**Tourist-friendly / Their MRT is very convenient and easy to navigate. Most of the tourist spots have their own MRT stations and when you alight, they are only a few steps away. On my first day, I managed to tour the attractions within the city by train. For places in the outskirts, they also have a very organized bus system.
**It’s a nature lover’s heaven! / For those into the great outdoors, Taiwan has a LOT of hiking trails to choose from, it was so hard for me to decide where to go. Elephant Mountain, which even has its own MRT station, is very accessible and has the best view of the city at sunset.
Yangmingshan National Park is 40 minutes away from the city and has the highest point in Taipei, Qixingshan.
The trails are established and I am amazed that people of all ages hike here.. no wonder they all look so fit! The highest mountains, Jade and Snow, are on my bucket list. Aside from hiking, we visited the Yehliu rock formations, Beitou natural hot springs, and the beautiful northern coast!
**Food and milk tea / I am not a fan of Chinese food but I loved Taiwan’s noodles and street food! Super cheap but super good. Going to the night markets was mostly about eating and trying out their local delicacies. Shilin Night Market is one of the biggest and it’s right beside an MRT station. We were here every night to pig out! Ximending is a more upscale night market but they have a lot of food choices as well.
**Hip and affordable hostels / I stayed in 2 different hostels but both were really cute, clean and homey: Happy Taipei Hostel is walking distance from Shilin night market, while Meander Hostel is walking distance from Ximending. When I went in September it was off-peak and the beds would go at Php 500 a night.
**Friendly locals / They seem very pleasant and lacking a better word, disciplined. The atmosphere is very laid back despite Taipei being a well-developed city. Meeting Couchsurfers who really went out of their way to tour us around the city (without anything in return) made the trip even more memorable.
**Rich in history and culture / The temples, memorial halls and museums are all worth a visit. The old streets of Jiufen and Pingxi are touristy but they give us a glimpse of Taiwan’s past.
What are you waiting for?
My favorite links to help you plan your adventure: