25.0330° N, 121.5654° E
The city of Taipei, once ruled by the Japanese colony, now the largest city in the Republic of China since 1945 – Chinese speaking country with Japanese themes? No wonder why Hong Kongers love coming here!
Here are my top 7 favourite things to do in Taipei that I’d highly recommend you visiting!
1. Visit the Santorini of Taiwan at Jiu Fen Old Street (九份)
Ever watched the beautiful Studio Ghibli film ‘Spirited Away’? This is where they based the animated film! Built originally by the Japanese for gold mining, it is now a mountain of alleys and lanes filled with Japanese, British and Taiwanese historical culture selling food and souvenirs. Many expats describe Jiu Fen as the ‘Santorini’ of Taiwan because of its mountainous roof-topping architecture facing the ocean, whilst enjoying your tea at a Japanese themed cafe.
Notes: I would personally suggest spending a full day here and Shifen. Most people actually go to Shifen first because its closer to Taipei but I like to set off the lantern at night, so I ate and did Jiu Fen activities during the day first! Leaving early from Taipei City around 8am would be most ideal to fit it all in, it takes about 2 hours to travel to either Shifen or Jiu Fen from Taipei Main Station (and another 2 going back). If you prefer nature sightseeing, the Gold Waterfall or hiking Mt. Keelung (基隆山) would be your day activities after sipping some Chinese tea at the famous teahouse – City of Sadness Restaurant (悲情城市小上海茶樓).
How to get there: From Taipei Main Station (台北車站), take a train heading north to Ruifang Station(瑞芳站). Exit the station and you will see a Wellcome supermarket, take a left and walk 200 metres down Mingdeng Road. You should see a police station with a bus station (Local Residents Plaza Bus Station 區民廣場) showing routes 827 and 788 heading to Jiu Fen (the bus stop directly next to the police station heads east to Jiu Fen, and bus stop across the road from police station heads west back into Taipei City). Route 825 also goes but is weekend service only. The bus takes around 15 minutes from here costing NT$15 during weekends and NT$21 during weekdays.
(Photo: A very busy afternoon in Jiu Fen alleys)
Getting back directly From Jiu Fen To Taipei: Take bus #1062 from Jiufen Old Streets (九份老街) to Zhongxiao Fuxing MRT Stn. (忠孝復興站) in Taipei.
Otherwise you can head to Shi Fen to set your wishes off on lanterns (points 2. below) by going back to Ruifang Station, and transferring to Pingxi Small Railway(平溪支線) to Shi Fen Station(十分站).
2. Set off a Lanterns above a railway at Shi Fen (十分)
Shi Fen although sounding similar to Jiu Fen actually isn’t as close as it sounds to each other. Located in the Ping Xi area, Shi Fen old street is a bunch of old lanes and alleys surrounding the Shi Fen railway station, built originally for the Japanese to transport coal through the village. The main thing people come here for is the to write wishes is to set off a lantern into the sky above the railway tracks – when there are no trains coming. You pay the service at around the market for a coloured lantern of your choice, and they will move your lantern when a train comes – don’t worry they are experts at this! There are also food and souvenirs around the market place.
(Photo: #lifewelltravelled – yes I spelt travelled in American english by accident:p – lantern is heating up and ready to take off! )
How to get there:
From Taipei To Shifen: Take a railway train from Taipei Main Station to Ruifang Station (瑞芳站). Transfer to the Pingxi Small Railway (平溪支線) to Shifen Station (十分站). Reverse to get from Shi Fen back to Taipei!
(Photo: Lantern set off! I like to do this at night, so you can see it light up in to the sky.. like a shooting star!)
3. Hike Elephant Mountain (象山) to see the rooftop views of Taipei and Taipei 101
To me this had the best views of Taipei, and it was free! Please refer to my other blog post here on how to get up to Elephant Mountain 象山 and what you will see up there!
(Photo: from Elephant mountain)
4. Relax in a hotspring bath at Beitou
Hotsprings give the body many benefits such as reducing stress to help with fatigue, helping your body to relax and improve sleeping patterns. Sulphur hot springs (which smell a bit like egg) also help with dry skin (smoothes skin), arthritic pain and internal problems such as menopausal symptoms and digestive disorders!
(photo above: Beitou Thermal Valley – do you see the steam rising?)
There are many public hot spring baths in Taipei City. In Japan you have to travel a minimum of 1.5 hours to reach onsen towns, what I like about Taipei is the hot springs are actually inside Taipei City, in the region of Beitou.
How to get there: You can reach Beitou via MRT on the red line, some hotels may be closer to “New / Xin Beitou Station” – which will require a change at Beitou Station. Some hotels such as the hotel I stayed in (Asia Pacific Hotel Beitou) provided free shuttle from both Beitou and Xin Beitou Station directly to their hotel.
Choosing you’re hotspring bath: Please note that traditional hotspring baths require full nudity and are separated by sexes. For Taiwan, tattoo’s are now acceptable in most public baths (unlike Japan).
The most popular hot spring hotels in Beitou include Beitou Hot Spring resort, for affordable private hot spring in your room I’d recommend Sweet Me Hotspring Resort, and for a quite modern luxury private in room hotspring resort I’d recommend Asia Pacific Hotel Beitou – you can see more photos on my blog post for this resort here.
(Photo: Hotspring room at Asia Pacific Hotel Beitou Branch. Click to view blog)
5. Send a postcard at the top of Taipei 101
Once the highest skyscraper (in 2004-2010) before Burj Khalifa in Dubai , shoot up to the highest floor to see the city of Taipei at 60km/h! Have you really been to Taipei if you didn’t go up their most iconic building? I sent a postcard from up there too via their super cute postbox! Remember also to eat at Din Tai Fung Taipei 101 branch before leaving!
(Photo: taken from Elephant Mountain, to show Taipei 101 is still the tallest in Taipei!)
Details: The Taipei 101 Observatory is open every day from 9AM to 10PM, costing NT$ 500. When the weather is good you can also access the outside observatory via the 89th floor.
(photo: 5 years ago taken on a vintage phone xD, writing a postcard in Taipei 101 )
How to get there: Take the MRT to Taipei 101 station, follow signs for Taipei 101, and walk towards this massive iconic building!
6. Visit the edge of Taipei – Tamsui (淡水)
On the very end of the No. 2 Red MRT line, the small fishing town of Tamsui (pronounced Dan Shui in Mandarin) at the North West of Taiwan is the perfect spot if you want to get out of the city for a day trip and to watch sunset.
How to get there: Take the Red No.2 MRT line to the very end stop named Tamsui (left on the map). When you come out of the station follow all the crowds who will be heading towards Old Street(yes it’s Old Street everywhere usually meaning there is food). Pick your food! Here you will also find every souvenir possible and many are handcrafted!
Parallel to Old Street you will see a very colourful Tamsui Riverbank, this happyland you will find unlimited street food again (during both night and day), traditional Taiwanese market game stalls – where you can throw darts at balloons to win prizes, the all famous 1 meter tall ice-cream cone and bike/moped rentals! If you have time don’t forget to take a cruise between Tamsui and Fishermans Wharf (漁人碼頭) to see the shooting star shaped lit bridge – Xhizhi Star Bridge during nighttime!
7. Shi Lin Night Market
Shi Lin Night Market is definitely the busiest night market not only for tourists but even locals as they have the biggest range of street food, pretty clothes and amusing Taiwanese games! From eating snakes, to paper thin crispy pork to fishing your own prawns, it’s a sin not to eat anything here! There are two sections of the night market, a Shi Lin Market building and the other part is outside in the heat during summer.
(photo: A very busy night market right? Taken by @Xpolorer)
How to get there: On the No.2 Red MTR line, Shi Lin is a station. Walk out of this station and the market is so spread out you will keep discovering more and more stalls of food.. follow the crowds to your food!
I have been to other night markets, which have been reviewed to be more authentic but as a tourist like myself, my favourite is still Shi Lin as it doesn’t seem to end and doesn’t shut until 1pm!
Thanks for all the memories Taiwan, be back soon!
Disclaimer: We were full paying guests at Asia Pacific Resort, Beitou branch. All opinions, photos and written content belong to Heidi Leung and Heideexyz.com© 2018 All Rights Reserved.
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