Posts tagged Taipei
Our Taipei Trip in Pictures

In late October 2016, Ivan and I traveled from Los Angeles to Taipei for our wedding ceremony.


Wedding receptions, street food, and shrimp fishing all in one day...

The two of us, waiting awkwardly as the reception room filled up.

The two of us, waiting awkwardly as the reception room filled up.

We had our wedding reception at Taipei 101's Ding Xian 101 (頂鮮101) seafood restaurant.

Ivan's family actually arranged the entire reception. We had fancy seafood as well as other delicious Taiwanese influenced dishes. I'd say the biggest highlight of our wedding (reception) day was that we finally had a chance to relax and unwind. And it was my family's first time in Taiwan; my siblings first time abroad. Everything was new for them and I wanted to share all the great things that I'd come to love about the city. So, let me warn you -- there's a lot of food. 

Since I wanted to share my love of Taipei, I thought -- what better way to enjoy a new country than by eating more Taiwanese food? So, we headed over to Shilin Night Market

And what was I most excited about?! The Hot Star Large Fried Chicken. It was hot, crunchy, fatty, and oozing with hot oil. The hype around this snack is definitely worthwhile to check out. 

Another fun thing that we did in Taipei after my wedding reception was shrimp fishing. We stayed up a little late, had a few beers, and caught a few shrimp. Sadly, the owner felt so bad for how little we caught that they gave us some free shrimp on the house. 


Another beautiful day in Taipei...

We took the subway with my family to one of our favorite areas in Taipei's Zhongzheng District

Ivan grew up in the area around the National Chiang Kai-shek Memorial Hall (中正紀念堂). Every time we've been back to Taiwan, we come and visit this area. I love it because I get a peek into Ivan's memories and past. We could easily spend hours wandering around this area...

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A visit to this area also means that we have to visit our favorite soup dumpling place, Hangzhou Xiaolong Tang Bao (杭州小籠湯包)

We actually enjoy this place a lot more than Din Tai Fung (鼎泰豐) because it's still a family run restaurant and tastes great. 

Hang Zhou Xiao Long Tang Bao 杭州小籠湯包
Opening hours: 11:30am - 9:30pm (Opens daily)
Nearest MRT: Chiang Kai Shek MRT Station (Exit number 5 and walk about 5 mins)

If you're stopping by, I highly recommend checking out the cold side dishes, the crab roe xiao long bao, and the seasonal dishes. When we came out they had sweet pumpkin buns.
 

Jiufen (九份)

On our last day with my family, we took an hour long (and rickety) bus ride up a mountain to check out Jiufen (九份)

The views were spectacular but it was really crowded in the narrow alleyways, which were filled with delicious Taiwanese snack and memorabilia vendors.

If you want to see what foods you should eat in the area, I'd recommend checking out this guide from Food Republic. My favorite snack was the grilled snails!

Our last days in Taipei...

Our last days in Taiwan were spent together, wandering the streets for my favorite foods, hanging out with Ivan's family, and running last minute errands before we had to leave Taiwan again. 

Beef noodle soup from a local shop near Taipei Main Station.

Beef noodle soup from a local shop near Taipei Main Station.

We both got new bracelets from the Taipei Weekend Jade Market 台北市建國假日玉市.

Each time I come back to Taiwan, it becomes a little bit more difficult each time to leave it. At the airport before our departure, we had Mos Burger before we went through security. We sat around, thinking about our time in Taipei and we felt exhausted...and a little sad to say goodbye again.

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If you're thinking of visiting Taipei, check out some of our latest posts below.


Origami Guides: A Local's 3 Day Itinerary Through Taipei

Taipei, Taiwan
台北市, 台灣 

Ivan here. 

Taipei is the gateway drug to Asia. It’s Japan without the rigidness, Hong Kong without the hyperactivity, and China without the pollution.  It’s also one of the most socially liberal democracies this side of the Pacific. The people here are warm, friendly, and laid back. English signs are everywhere and everywhere is just a subway ride away. 

What’s the best way to experience Taipei? 

Glacially. With a beer in one hand, a snack in another, and a view to look at. Maybe a good conversation if you're lucky. For me, I’m just happy to be part of the scenery. I’ve learned that that’s all it takes when I’m in Taipei. Because being home is enough.  

Who should use this guide/itinerary?

Independent couples or small groups (i.e. 3-5) who are looking to avoid the crowded tourist traps in favor of a slower and less conventional way to experience Taipei. 

What’s the best time of the year to visit? 

Avoid the summers and typhoon season, which runs from June to early October. Taipei in the summer is a humid and miserable experience. Like swimming through the intestinal tract of a gassy farm animal. Also, steer clear of Chinese New Years, which runs from late January to mid-February. 

Where should I stay in Taipei? 

Stay within walking distance of Taipei Main Station. From there, it’s less than a half hour subway ride anywhere in the city.  

For mid-range accommodation, we’d recommend the Cosmos Hotel ($100-120) for maximum comfort and convenience. More frugal, minimalist alternatives include the Star Hostel ($60-70) and Meander Taipei Hostel ($60-70)

How do I use this guide? 

The map is divided into three areas by color: 

  • Day 1 attractions are in blue
  • Day 2 attractions are in red
  • Day 3 attractions are in yellow
  • The gray markers are for optional sites

Note: For simplicity’s sake, this guide assumes that you’re staying at either the Cosmos Hotel or within walking distance of Taipei Main Station. All prices below are in USD.

A Three Day Taipei Itinerary

Day 1 (Blue) 

Morning

  • Land in Taoyuan International Airport. Follow the signs to the buses and take the Kuo Kuang 1819 Express Bus ($4) which takes you straight to Taipei Main Station and lets you off right across the street from the Cosmos Hotel. The journey takes 45 minutes. The taxi is more expensive ($35) and is only 15 minutes faster. We timed it. IMPORTANT: By mid-2017, the long-delayed subway line should be open, which will take you from the airport to downtown in under 35 minutes.  
  • Arrive at the Cosmos hotel. Freshen up. Then head out to explore the surrounding area. Lunch nearby at Liu Shandong Beef Noodles ($5-7), a local hole in the wall serving piping hot bowls of beef noodle soup. 

Afternoon

  • Book an appointment for a body and foot massage to relax after an international flight. The most popular is Manyi Ting Massage Parlor ($30 per hour), but we recommend the smaller, family run Jingqi Massage Parlor ($30 for 90 minutes). To get there, take the escalators down into Taipei Main Station from the Cosmos (Exit M3) and follow the underground signs to Exit M8. Cross the street, make a left. The place should be on the second floor up a narrow flight of stairs. The staff there speak English and know what they’re doing. Feel born again. 
  • After the massage, take the subway a few stops down to Chiang Kai Shek Memorial Hall (free). There’s a changing of the guard ceremony every hour from 9 to 5. 

Evening

  • Dinner at Hangzhou Xiaolongbao ($15-20) for soup dumplings. We prefer this place over the more prestigious, Michelin star rated Din Tai Feng ($25-30).  Prestige is basically another way of saying that everyone else thinks a certain way. When it comes to food (as opposed to the laws of physics), this is both irrelevant and meaningless. 
  • Take the subway north to Jiantan Station. Exit 2 leads you to the Shilin Night Market. It’s gotten touristy (and crowded) over the years, but it’s still the best that Taipei has to offer. Get there well after dinner (8 or 9). 
  • Time to go late night shrimp fishing. Take a taxi from Jiantan Station ($8-10) and ask your driver to take you to Zhishan Road Section 2 (‘Zhishan lu er dwan’), where you’ll see a row of buildings with large indoor pools. These places have similar prices and are open twenty four hours a day. Grab your bait and fishing pole. Drink your weight in Taiwan beer as you wait for the shrimp to bite. After you’re done, you get to clean and cook them yourself on an open grill. Don’t worry, there’s staff onsite to help the beginners and the squeamish.
  • Taxi back to the hotel and pass out ($15-20)
Din Tai Fung (Taipei);  s  ource: Tripadvisor

Din Tai Fung (Taipei); source: Tripadvisor

Shilin Night Market;  source: Wikimedia Commons

Shilin Night Market; source: Wikimedia Commons

Day 2 (Red)

Morning

Afternoon

  • Take the MRT to Zhongxiao Fuxing Station. Follow these directions to get to Jiufen Old Street. The bus ride should take about an hour. We recommend going to Jiufen on a weekday to avoid the crowds. The scenery allegedly served as inspiration for Hayao Miyazaki's Spirited Away. Our favorite thing to do in the afternoons is to find a cafe with a nice view to watch the sunset. 
  • Grab a taxi and head over to the nearby Houtong Cat Village. The name says it all. This sleepy former coal mining town is now overrun by cats. Everything here is cat themed.
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Evening

  • Take the final half hour taxi ride of the day to Keelung Miaokou Night Market. Keelung is a small port city about a 45 drive north of Taipei and Miaokou is probably the most “authentic” night market in northern Taiwan. It’s renowned for its cheap, fresh seafood which is cooked to order (crabs and shellfish).
  • Walk along the harbor towards Keelung Railway Station. Take the train back to Taipei Main Station ($4-5)

Day 3 (Yellow)

Morning

  • Breakfast at hotel or take an order of Taiwanese savory breakfast crepes to go from Dasifang Egg Pancake (大四方蛋餅). The old man who runs the stall is the real deal and typically drops the mic (closes up shop) by 10 am. 
  • Skip the Taipei 101 Observatory (not worth the $20 admission) and instead hike up Xiangshan (free) for a nicer view. It only takes 20 minutes to reach the summit. 
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Afternoon

  • Lunch at one of the many basement food courts beneath Taipei 101. Snap an obligatory photo in front of the building as you leave.  
  • Head over to MRT Taipei Zoo Station. Follow the signs to catch the Maokong Gondola (closed on Mondays) up to Maokong scenic area, known for its teahouses.  

Evening

  • Most of the teahouses in Maokong are touristy. Locals prefer the mile long hike away from such establishments to Yao Yue Teahouse (open 24 hours). It’s the perfect place to while away an afternoon brewing your own tea leaves from traditional clay pots, playing cards and eating tea infused dim sum while enjoying a gorgeous view of the city.  Watch the sunset and wait for the city lights to come on. It’s magical.
  • Make your way back to the Maokong Gondola (shuts down by 9 pm). The ride down in the darkness will take your breath away. 
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What We Miss About Taipei

Jennie here!

Taiwan has really rekindled my love for travel. Recently, I’ve noticed that I’ve gotten too comfortable and forgotten how much I miss the feeling of getting lost in a foreign city. Last Sunday I landed back at LAX, but my mind was still back in Taipei, wandering its hurried streets. 

I wanted to share with you some of the things I miss about the city:

  1. The ease of getting around (without the need to drive). 

    The Taipei MRT System is pretty much the best thing about the city. Seriously. I’ve thought about this a lot.  It’s a modern, award-winning subway system that will take you almost anywhere you want to go in this city within minutes. Navigating it is simple, convenient, and cheap. And it’s never late. If you’re staying near Taipei Main Station, you’re never really more than 30 minutes away from any point in the city. And the best part? You’ll get a chance to rush through crowds, people watch, and occasionally get a little lost in the excitement. You could never do this sort of thing in Los Angeles. For me, I spend more hours in LA traffic than I do living in the moment. Being in Taipei gave me back some valuable hours of my life.
     
  2. Feeling safe, even at night in Taipei.

    On the second day of my trip, I woke up at 5 am, unable to fall asleep from the jet lag. So I wandered around the streets near Taipei Main Station alone. I could feel the heat and humidity seep up from the dark pavement. The streets, which are usually teeming with people and speedy scooters/mopeds, were completely empty. The only people I saw were the ones camped out at a nearby 24-hour Mcdonald's; it was full of sleepy patrons -- likely homeless or students waiting for sunrise. Taiwan is probably one of the few countries in the world where you’d catch me wandering around alone at 5 am.

    Clearly, I’d only do this because the crime rate is extremely low and street crime (pickpocketing, mugging etc.) is practically unheard of. As a woman, I feel especially safe, and I have no problems with walking around the city proper at any time of day or night without reservations. Keep in mind, though, that I’m comparing this to American cities that I’ve lived in like Los Angeles and Boston. Without a death wish, you’d never catch me wandering alone around LA past midnight.
     
  3. Taipei’s hectic city vibes.

    On the surface, Taipei may seem like your typical modern city filled with skyscrapers and busy/hard working commuters, but at night Taipei turns into a city packed with wandering locals and food stalls. The often crowded night markets leave you wanting much more than what you had initially set out to eat. You could never find this sort of foodie hub in the U.S. Also, maybe I’ve got some deep rooted masochistic tendencies but I enjoyed crossing the busy intersections as fleets of scooters chaotically and gracefully weaved in and out of traffic, nearly taking down pedestrians down in the process. The congested streets only add to the quick-paced ambiance and perfection of the hectic city of Taipei.
     
  4. Communicating in a foreign language. 

    Despite my year of training in Mandarin during high school, I’ve clearly retained little to nothing in my conversational and negotiation skills. Things that I actually enjoyed in Taiwan was constantly hearing a new word or sound while nervously ordering food items from busy street vendors and convenience stores; oh, and horribly failing at negotiating the price of an item of clothing. You don’t need to know everything that’s happening but you can definitely enjoy the experience of being lost and vulnerable. It was also strangely fun to wander the streets with Ivan, conversing in English and knowing that no one else had any idea what we were talking about. Now that I’m home in Los Angeles and back in my comfort zone, it feels strange to be among people who can understand every word I say. Where did all that confusion and excitement go? 
     
  5. The diversity (and accessibility) of food in Taiwan.

    Taipei is probably one of the top street food cities in the world. Any Taiwanese night market is going to be packed with people. I enjoy walking through the narrow walkways and looking for the next Taiwanese snack that I’ve never tried before. There are endless possibilities. You can even find some pretty bizarre options like snake blood or turtle soup. And although there are some diverse food hubs peppered throughout L.A. (e.g. Koreatown, Little Tokyo, Little Ethiopia, etc.), it’s just not the same because of the distances I’d have to travel (by car). It’s a 45-minute drive just to get a decent bowl of pho.