Guys, I had an affair. Seriously, I cheated on Japan with Taiwan and I think I’m in love. I didn’t really know what to expect from Taiwan, only that I never really heard anything negative about it. Also, my own curiosity wanted to compare and contrast the differences after having traveled to mainland China and Hong Kong. I honestly expected Taipei to be a smaller version of Hong Kong, but it’s SO MUCH better.
Taiwan is wonderful on many levels and let me tell you why. First, it’s affordable. This might be the first trip to a developed Asian country that didn’t break the bank. Second, the food. I’m not kidding I literally ate my way through this country and will honestly travel all the way back there just to eat. Third, the people. Unlike, mainland China and some of Hong Kong, Taiwanese are just super warm, friendly, and welcoming. Lastly, Taiwan seemed to be a pretty progressive country. They have women serve in their military, their president is a woman, and they support the LGBTQ community (which is HUGE in Asia). Honestly, in my short three days there I really have nothing bad to say about Taiwan…maybe the humidity, but guys that’s it! Let me break down our trip for you and seriously start planning your immediately!
Taipei is only a three-hour flight from Nagoya and for us these days that’s super short. So having found reasonable tickets, we decided to make a weekend out it. Our first day we dedicated to Taipei City. I should also mention that we didn’t really have this trip planned out and decided to “wing it”. Maybe that a good thing or a bad thing, but it was stress free and we managed to fit a lot in.
Thanks to my BFF TripAdvisor we started the day at Chiang Kai-shek Memorial Hall, which was the former president of the Republic of China. Also, for those wondering Taiwan is part of the Republic of China, not the People’s Republic of China which is communist China. Taiwan is considered a capitalist country. Anyway, my history is not so good and maybe not the point. Back to the memorial hall. It was under construction while we were there, but the main building reminded me quite a bit of the Temple of Heaven in Beijing. It really is interesting to see the similarities between the two places. I highly recommend a stop here, and definitely around the hour because the changing of the guards in the bronze statue hall is definitely worth a look.
The second stop on our tour of the city was 228 Peace Memorial Park. It’s defiantly worth a stop as it highlights some of Taiwan’s history and celebrates their want for peace as a country regardless of what communal group they are a part of (aka mainland China).
It would have been a sin for us to take a trip to Taiwan and skip out on Xiaolongbao, which I think might be the most famous Taiwanese foods in the world. Xiaolongbao are soup dumplings and these little bites from heaven are absolutely amazing. They even have their own Michelin star restaurant, Din Tai Fung, located in the basement of the Taipei 101 building. So two birds, one stone, soup dumplings and Taipei 101. For the travelers out there I recommend going hungry and putting your name in early. We waited about 40 minutes for a table for 2, but lots to see and do around Taipei 101. Also, I have to add that is you aren’t feeling the wait for Din Tai Fung, the food court in the basement of Taipei 101 is literally unreal. I’ve never seen anything like it! Oh also, foodie tip: try the truffle dumplings. Oh. My. God. I’m pretty sure I died an went to dumpling heaven. Take a look:
After stuffing our faces full of delicious dumplings, we decided we needed to walk it off and make room for night market food, so we ventured over to the Confucius Temple and Baoan Temple. One thing I really loved about this city is that even some of the “touristy” sites weren’t completely crawling with people and disrespecting what is there. It was nice to be able to walk into a temple and appreciate it’s purpose. Also, the crowds were minimal, which I find rare in Asia as a whole. Oh and they’re free. Every place we visited in Taipei was free, and lovely…what a concept? Here’s a few photos from the two temples.
Of course to finish off the night we had to visit what makes Taiwan famous, the night markets. We decided to visit the Shilin Night market first because it’s the largest in the city and also home to a craft beer bar that was recommended to us by some friends. Obviously, that’s what’s important in life. Now let me tell you, I’ve been to my fair share of Asian markets and night markets alike and in some countries they’re scary (by scary I mean the mysteries of Asian foods and animals alike), however Shilin was legit. There were food stalls, restaurants, any type of good under the sun for sale and the best part is now one was hassling you to buy something. And let me tell you night market food, absolutely a must on a visit to Taipei.
I had a pretty steller recomendation from a friend for a driver in Taiwan, so John and I decided to venture out of the city the next day to check out the Northeast Coastline and some surrounding cities. BTW, for anyone looking for a driver in Taiwan, let me know because our guy, David, was amazing!
Our first stop was Yehliu Geopark on the Northeast coast. The Geopark is unique because it’s home to these rock formations that have been carved out by the wind. I admit that this was kind of cool, but a little too touristy. Also, it poured the rain so the views of the ocean weren’t that great. Maybe on a nicer day this would have been cool to see, otherwise you could probably skip it.
Since I was still on a high from all the delicious food I ate the day before, I asked our guide to share some of his suggestions of foods to try while we were there. Not only did he give us some tips, but he took us to a local shop that makes excellent Niu rou mien, or beef noodle soup. I sound like a broken record, but if you are a travel foodie, then Taiwan is your spot, because this was delcious.
Our second stop of the day was Shifen Waterfall, or the little Niagra Falls of Taiwan. This was probably the only good thing about the rain that day, was the waterfall was pretty legit due to it. The waterfall itself is really beautiful and worth checking out, as it’s nearby Pingxi which is a popular train village and known for their annual lantern festival.
Annnd speaking of Pingxi, we of course had to be a tourist and buy a lantern to release, because when in
Rome Taiwan. Maybe it was a tourist trap, but it was still fun to write our wishes on the latern and do a mini photo shoot. Pingxi is also an interesting place because the mainstreet of the village is actually train tracks, with an active train that runs through it. And no joke they just blow a whistle and people move out of the way…I’m not even sure the conducter slows down, they just barrel through. Which is equally cool and terrifying.
To round off our time in Northern Taiwan, we stopped at an old market street in the Shenken District of Taipei. This street is famous for the various types of tofu sold. I will say that it’s a bit shocking when walking the streets of Taipei and you come across the most reppungent smell, that it literally makes you gag…profusely, and you come to learn that it’s a national dish called Chou doufu or “Stinky tofu”. We had been told by many locals to give this a try, if we could get past the smell of it. Let me tell you, I’ve tried a lot of “interesting” things during my time in Asia, but the smell of this stuff is just bad. It’s the worst smell you could possibly imagine, just somthing rotting. With that being said, John and I decided to brave it up and try some with Taiwanese kimichi. I’ll be honest, it’s not the most delicous thing I’ve had, but after the first few bites you realize it’s not half bad. I recommend giving it a go if you’re ever traveling in Taiwan.
Well there you have it! Our Taiwanese adventure. Taiwan was the 11th country we visited since we moved to Japan, and I have to say it’s one of my favorites. If you love culture, travel, and eating then Taipei is your spot. I’d 100% go back to this amazing country!
Oh yeah, I almost forgot! Taiwan is know for their pineapple cakes, they are famous and sold everywhere. Our guide took us to a famous shop that has the best in town. They even served a delicous cup of tea with it. I highly recommend picking a box of these bad boys up…maybe one for yourself and one to share 😉
We have one last international trip planned before our repartriation home…I’m still in denial. So look out for my blog posts on our upcoming travels to Thailand and Malaysia!
Until next time! じゃまた！