9 days was more than enough for us to fall in love in Taiwan! Fantastic street food, efficient public transport, friendly people and an affordable lifestyle are some of the many reasons why. As compared to our itinerary, we have spontaneously changed some of the items along the way, which would not have been possible without easy transport options and really helpful locals that advised us on the way. Travelling in Taipei does not require a lot of homework after all. (:
In this post, I shall summarise our journey, before elaborating on the places we have been to in the coming weeks. However, it may take some time for these posts because I’m currently in the midst of preparation for my backpacking trip to New Zealand! But don’t worry, we will be uploading some of our best photos soon on our Facebook page, so do keep a lookout.
After Tiantian’s arrival, we bought ourselves SIM cards to keep ourselves connected during the trip (If you haven’t realise, I have been posting updates on Twitter and Facebook!). By the time we arrived at Taipei Main Station via bus, the sun has already set and we proceeded quickly to check in at Fun Taipei Backpackers in Shilin district for 2 nights. Instead of staying at a hostel as we thought, our room turned out to be a small studio apartment in the heart of the residential areas! Not bad for the price.
Having only the night left, we could not visit the National Palace Museum as planned but we had our first taste of Taiwan shopping and eating at Ximending, the famous shopping district of Taipei.
We spent the first half of the day doing a round tour of Yangmingshan through a public bus. Clearly we were under-prepared for the strong winds up the mountain as we were freezing badly! We made short stops at a couple of places, such as a leisure walking trail and sulphur vents. With the intention to visit Beitou for a private hot spring, we skipped a few stops and left for Beitou early. But it turned out to be a bad choice as most of them were already pre-booked and we had no choice but to leave. :(
Having half the afternoon wasted, we were kinda disappointed, but rushing back to Shilin to watch the Taiwan movie You Are The Apple Of My Eye was a saving grace. And little did we realise that we would pop by one of their filming locations (Pingxi) later on in the trip! (: We spent the remainder of the night eating away at Shilin Night Market, which was the first our of the 5 night markets we “conquered” during the trip. It is interesting to note that the newly renovated version of Shilin Night Market was re-opened on the day itself!
Having to switch accommodation by noon, we made a short trip in the morning to National Palace Museum. Besides the well-kept architecture, we were impressed by the collection of antiques they had. There were no shortage of tourist groups and guided tours, and we “popped” into a few of them to listen to the introductions. (:
Later on, we checked-in for 3 nights at Apple House, a much-welcomed upgrade as the apartment was simply gorgeous. It was cosy, not too fancy and akin to staying at home! We left for Danshui soon, a harbour town on the very far end of one of the metro lines, and visited its Old Street, Fort San Domingo and Fisherman’s Wharf. Fatigue from walking in Danshui and Yangmingshan the previous days kicked in fast enough, and we ended our night early having dinner at VVG Bistro, a french-themed restaurant that has received pretty good reviews online.
The reality of wet winter weather kicked in early on this day, but we still proceeded to Yeliu Geopark after an hour of bus ride to visit the famed rock formations. However, we thought it paled in comparison to other similar natural reserves in the world – we could have skipped it!
From there, we departed for Jiufen, a charming town perched on the hills, which took us quite some time as we had to transfer in Keelung city. We visited the Old Street and sipped hot tea in a tea house till the sun set completely. The night scenery at Jiufen is especially worth waiting for! Despite a short night left, we went to Keelung city for our second installment of night market at Miao Kou Night Market, which has a greater variety of seafood snacks.
Days of travelling via Taipei’s metro were over and we started to move further away from Taipei city via train.Day 5 for us was a day trip at Pingxi Branch Rail Line, one of the remaining few scenic tourist rail lines in Taiwan. We passed by various old towns such as Shifen, Pingxi and Jingtong, all of which were remnants of old towns co-habiting along the central rail. By the end of the day, we had the chance to release our own paper lanterns – Kongmingdeng!
Back in Taipei, we spent the night at Shida Night Market, recommended by our host as it seems to be targeted towards young adults like us.
After 5 days in Taipei, we left for Hualien, the premier scenic city of Taiwan located on the east coast. Public transport becomes a rarity here and taking a taxi can be hard once you are out of the city. Taking a taxi, we checked in at 境外漂流民宿, a minsu infused with Mediterranean design located right beside the sea.
We can’t decide if it was a good or bad experience, but the taxi driver who drove us to our minsu eventually turned into our dedicated taxi driver for our stay in Hualien, after some bugging on her side. Having only a day here, we spent the afternoon at Li Yu Tan, working our legs out by paddling a duck boat across this big and peaceful lake. Zi Qiang Night Market was the second and last stop for the day, and we loved it because it was small, un-crowded and had its fair share of fantastic street food.
The lazy morning started off with a wholesome breakfast prepared with love from the owners. This was the only time we got to chat with them before we left for Yilan via train. Unfortunately, Yilan has been raining non-stop during our stay there. Before we checked in at our next minsu, we dropped by Luodong Forestry Culture Garden for some photo-taking. Our second minsu – 聖荷緹渡假城堡 turned out to be even grander, built in the shape of a castle which we thought was simply magnificent.
The rain didn’t stop at all, but we had no choice and continued to the final night market of our trip, Luodong Night Market. I guess even the rain could not stop foodies like us, as we indulged in the various street food, holding an umbrella in the rain!
Having checked out early, we manage to fit in another attraction, National Center for Traditional Arts, before returning to Taipei. But this wasn’t the main point of the day.
As soon as we checked in to a newly built accommodation back in Shilin, we rushed to join the crowd at Taipei 101 for the highlight of our trip – Taipei New Year’s Eve countdown concert! We reached the concert as early as 5pm, and stood for a good whole 7 hours watching performances from Mayday, Show Lo, Ding Dang, etc. That was a real test to our legs! The night culminated with 3 minutes worth of splendid fireworks at Taipei 101. What better way could we celebrate New Year’s Eve?
With 80000 people at the countdown concert, it was little wonder how we only managed to return our minsu by 3am, and had 4 hours of sleep before we took a ride at the Maokong Gondola. Considering the price of this cable car ride (100 TWD for a return trip), it was bang for the buck as the mountain views were great.
Our trip in Taiwan thus came to an end, as we departed for Taoyuan Airport for our return flight in the afternoon…