Posts tagged Travel Guide
5 Reasons to Visit Singapore (That Have Nothing to Do With Crazy Rich Asians)

Ivan here.

Singapore was the first country on our RTW trip.

When Jennie and I told people we were staying in Singapore for a week, the first thing they asked was, “Why? A week is too long for Singapore.” Then the follow-up question: “is it because you saw Crazy Rich Asians?”

No, we still haven’t seen Crazy Rich Asians.

 
Crazy Rich Asians Source:  EW.com

Crazy Rich Asians
Source: EW.com

 

Whether a movie boasts an all Asian-American cast or an all Somali-American cast is beside the point. In the final evaluation, Crazy Rich Asians just isn’t the kind of movie I’d go out of my way to see. Then again, I’m also the kind of asshole who resents being told what I should see based solely on what I look like. It’s almost as if the studio is saying, “This movie’s Asian. You’re Asian. What’s the problem here? Where’s my money?”

Don’t sell me on something being Asian or (insert minority identity), and therefore, groundbreaking and significant by default.

Instead, sell me on the actual work being groundbreaking and significant.


The First Stop on our RTW Trip:

Why We Traveled to Singapore


The iconic Marina Bay Sands building at night. Singapore is much more than meets the eye.

The iconic Marina Bay Sands building at night.
Singapore is much more than meets the eye.

Jennie and I had a very practical reason for why we wanted to spend a week in Singapore:

We’re looking for the next city to live in once our RTW trip is over. And Singapore is on our list.

On paper, Singapore checks a lot of our boxes:

  • It’s a financial services hub with a growing technology and cybersecurity industry.

  • Singaporeans are well-educated, speak multiple languages and have an entrepreneurial spirit.

We also got the sense that Singaporeans actually felt the rest of the world had something to offer them. That different countries, cultures and ethnicities could *gasp* learn from each other and get along.

I know, truly groundbreaking stuff.


5 Reasons Why You Should Visit Singapore Now


1. You can have a good time on almost any budget

Singapore enjoys a higher standard of living than most cities in the world, with a GDP per capita ($55,235) that’s slightly higher than the U.S ($53,128). That said, you arguably get much more for your money relative to other places. You notice this right away as you land in Changi Airport, rated the world’s best airport by Skytrax. Immigration was a breeze and the subway (MRT) to the city center took 40 minutes and cost less than $2 USD. The public transportation system is so efficient that we never had to take a taxi or Grab (Singapore’s Uber equivalent) during our entire week-long stay.

The only thing that could break your budget is accommodation. Jennie and I were lucky in that a friend let us use his apartment while he was away on sabbatical, but it’s possible on the low end to get a dorm bed for $15-20 USD a night or a private room for around $50-60 USD a night.

Outside of rent, there’s a wide range of things you can experience on any budget. Hawker centre meals cost $3-5 USD each. If you want to live the expat lifestyle during your stay, you can - for a price. Free tours are available in different neighborhoods across the city and local meetups and the dating scene (so we hear) is quite active and diverse.  

Jennie’s Note: We highly, HIGHLY recommend Monster Tour and their free walking tours. They are truly high quality and filled with a lot of personality.

If I could describe Singapore in one word for visitors it would be: seamless. Everything about Singapore is perfectly held together and without you knowing it, there were years of thoughtful planning behind it.

2. Singaporeans are great conversationalists, ambitious, career-driven, and that’s stimulating

One of the things you hear often about Singapore is the idea of the city-state being a “meritocracy.” This means that from a young age, the education system segregates students based on test scores into different “streams,” leading to intense competition and an overemphasis on study.

Predictably, this has had negative consequences, including mental health issues and growing inequality between different “streams” of students. But what the visitor actually experiences are well-educated, highly ambitious people who are knowledgeable about the world around them. Combine that with a dry sense of humor and their own brand of English (Singlish), and it’s almost impossible to have a dull conversation.

3. Foodie and hawker center culture is king in Singapore

Singaporeans live to eat - and the options in the city are limitless. A quick Google search will turn up hundreds of Singaporean food blogs dedicated to a specific niche. Everything else a visitor does in Singapore can be considered filler for the next meal.

This is a true food haven for people who want great quality food at an affordable price point. There are few places in the world that can match Singapore’s quality. More on this in an upcoming post about Singapore’s hawker centre food culture next week.

4. Exploring different neighborhoods and public spaces

Arguably, outside of the famous Supertree Grove at Gardens by the Bay (arrive well after dark), the other “tourist attractions” in Singapore are pretty sanitized and unimpressive. The appeal of the city is actually in picking one or two neighborhoods to explore for the day, choosing a few local food spots and just lounging at a cafe from midday to mid-afternoon to escape the oppressive heat. Then as night falls, join a group of locals for conversation and drinks.

This might not sound like a fun, action-packed way to spend a trip, but as two type A personalities, Jennie and I never felt close to being bored during our one week stay.

5. Singapore has modern conveniences and infrastructure that actually works

If you’re unfamiliar with Singapore’s history, you should know one thing: Singapore became an independent country in 1965; it’s a little more than 50 years old.  

Whatever the downsides of Singapore’s government (and there are downsides), it just feels refreshing to step off a plane and arrive in a city where public infrastructure actually works the way it’s supposed to. To experience even the semblance of competence and streamlined government was a huge revelation to us, and raises some questions about the American model.


5 Places in Singapore We Recommend


1. Our favorite Singaporean hawker centers & stalls

A delicious meal from A Noodle Story

A delicious meal from A Noodle Story

Learning how to order coffee at a Singapore kopitiam. Lime juice and barley drink from any drink stall.  A Noodle Story in Amoy Street Food Centre, Hong Lim Centre near Chinatown, wan tan mee at Old Airport Road Hawker Centre, and satay skewers with Tiger beer (satay stalls No. 7 and 8) outside Lau Pa Sat food court were some of our favorite food experiences. More details in a coming post.


2. Tiong Bahru neighborhood

Singapore’s hipster neighborhood. Highlights include lunch at Loo’s Hainanese Curry Rice and BooksActually, a vintage and independent bookstore store that publishes local Singaporean writers. It opened my eyes to a talented and hugely underrated Southeast Asian literary scene.

3. Bugis & Kampong Glam neighborhood

A Thursday evening starting with craft beers at Good Luck Beerhouse on Haji Lane ($18 USD), dinner at Michelin-starred Hill Street Tai Hwa Pork Noodle ($16), followed by a Korean movie (Burning) based on a Haruki Murakami short story at the The Projector ($20) - barely scratches the surface of a night out in Singapore after a long day of work.

Check out this guide from Click Network and a Singaporean local. It was actually really helpful when we planned for this neighborhood!

4. Geylang Serai district after dark

Red light district of Singapore. Grungy shophouses and late night eateries with plastic chairs and outdoor seating - all under the glare of fluorescent lights and electric ceiling fans. Cheap, delicious food, beer, and people watching in a “seedy” part of town, in a country with one of the lowest crime rates in the world.  

5. Little India

We joined a free walking tour with Monster Day Tours to get more context and local recommendations on Little India (they do tours all across the city. You should tip the guide afterwards). It was also an opportunity for us to chat with other visitors over some roti canai.


3 Places in Singapore We Avoided


Singapore Orchard Road - all high end shopping.

Singapore Orchard Road - all high end shopping.

1. Orchard Road

Orchard Road is Singapore’s 2.2 km stretch of shopping malls. Unfortunately, we can’t (and don’t) really shop because we have to fit everything we own inside two 40L backpacks. So for us, malls are only good for two things: air conditioning and clean bathrooms.

2. Marina Bay Sands

Marina Bay Sands (or MBS as locals call it) is owned by Sheldon Adelson’s Las Vegas Sands Corp. Mr. Adelson is known for other tasteful establishments like The Venetian in Las Vegas and an entire strip of casinos in Macau. MBS provides the essential service of redistributing wealth from the bottom 99% to the top 1%, as well as populating Instagram with infinity pool shots which, by some miracle, manages to crop out the other 976 people in the pool trying to take the exact same photo.

Singapore Universal Studios

Singapore Universal Studios

3. Sentosa Island & Universal Studios

Sentosa contains two of our least favorite activities: paying a lot of money to wait in line for a two minute ride - and being anywhere in the vicinity of a casino.

Look forward to our full travel guide to Singapore over the next couple of weeks. We’ll update the link here as well once it’s live.



Origami Guides: Camping in Joshua Tree National Park

Jennie here!

It’s becoming a little tradition of ours to go camping during major fall and winter holidays. Last year, we went to Death Valley National Park and this year, we decided to get away from the city life and go camping in Joshua Tree National Park for Thanksgiving 2017. We got a bit of a reprieve from the frustrations of our daily life...while others spent time at large family dinners or shopping on Black Friday. Ignorance is bliss.


Who Should Use This

Joshua Tree National Park Guide?


This could be you at Joshua Tree National Park. AKA - BAMF..

This could be you at Joshua Tree National Park. AKA - BAMF..

This guide is meant for solo travelers and couples who are looking to do some digital detox from our crazy world.
Oh, and travelers who are really into scrambling, hiking, or star gazing.


WHAT ARE THE BEST TIMES IN THE YEAR

TO VISIT JOSHUA TREE NATIONAL PARK?


It depends on what you want to do.

Spring is best for checking out the blooming desert wildflowers and the Fall and Winter are best for cooler weather and stargazing. Scrambling and hiking is available year round.

Avoid summer at all cost. It’s the desert so daytime temperatures from June through August hover around 100˚F (38˚C). If you plan on going during the summer, just plan your activities early in the morning or late afternoons; drink lots of water.

Note: Thanksgiving weekend was crowded. Since most campsites inside the park are first-come, first serve, we lucked into a spot as a family was leaving. Keep that in mind if you’re planning on come out during the holidays.


HOW DO I GET TO JOSHUA TREE NATIONAL PARK?

Do I need a car for Joshua Tree?


Yes. Unfortunately, your only option is to drive. We came out from Los Angeles but the closest airports include the following:

  • Palm Springs International - 45 minutes from park headquarters

  • Ontario International - an hour and a half from the park

  • Los Angeles International, Burbank, and Long Beach Airports are all about two to three hours away depending on traffic

Regardless of where you come in from, you eventually have to hop in a car to get around.

Since we got rid our our car last month, we opted to rent a car from Sixt car rentals and only paid $178 for five days for unlimited mileage on a full-sized car. So, we spent about $35.60 per day on a car (split between four people).


WHERE SHOULD I STAY IN JOSHUA TREE NATIONAL PARK?


Going to a place like Joshua Tree means that you’re looking to reconnect with nature a bit. And there’s no better way to do that than straight up camping. Choose any available campsite in the park. Most of the campsites are either $15 or $20 a night and operate on a first-come, first serve basis.

Here are a few campsites to consider:

  • Campsites at the edge of the park can be reserved in advance: Black Rock, Indian Cove
  • Campsites inside the park are all first-come, first-serve: Hidden Valley, Ryan, Jumbo Rocks, Belle, Sheep Pass, White Tank, and Cottonwood. 

If you’re not that big into nature and prefer the comforts of city life, there are a ton of nearby motels, hotels, and Airbnbs that you can seek out on your own.


HOW SHOULD I PACK FOR CAMPING AT JOSHUA TREE?


If you’re camping, these are the things you should be aware of:

  • There are washrooms AND toilet paper. Unless you’re backcountry camping, most J-Tree campsites come with bathrooms with toilet paper. However, these bathrooms are basically glorified porta-potties, meaning there's no running water or sink. Hand sanitizer is an absolute must!

  • Showers are accessible for campers right outside of the park. If you want to camp but also need to shower, there’s a souvenir shop right outside of the west entrance of the National Park and and it offers quick showers for $4.00.

  • There is NO, I repeat NO cellular service once you enter Joshua Tree National Park. Yeah, let that one sink in. Just let the smartphone go.

Most of my items for Joshua Tree camping are fairly similar to my Death Valley camping list

Here are a few items I recommend you pack:

For Your Comfort:

  • Fleece or vest jacket
  • Hand sanitizer (!)
  • Baby wipes (one pack for the face and one for...the nether regions)
  • Climbing gloves (for scrambling) - we bought cheap pairs from Daiso
  • Light blanket/throw for cooler evenings
  • Camping chairs or lightweight folding chairs
  • Wine because you don’t need to keep it cold
  • Ingredients for S’mores

Packing Food:

If you don't feel like cooking - we found the following food items worked:

  • Pita chips
  • Bagels
  • Instant oatmeal
  • Bananas or apples
  • Granola bars

J-Tree Necessities:

  • Lots of water. At least 1 gallon per person per day
  • Sunscreen
  • Sunglasses
  • Hats

Note: If you don’t have everything - don’t worry. There’s actually a Walmart Supercenter in the neighboring town. It’s less than 10 minutes away from the western entrance of the national park. And you can easily purchase any camping necessities (e.g. firewood) or modern conveniences (e.g. batteries) you might need.


HOW DO I USE THIS JOSHUA TREE GUIDE?


For simplicity’s sake, this guide assumes that you’ll be based mainly inside Joshua Tree National Park and you’ve got a car to get around.

The map is divided into the following color-coded areas:

  • Outdoor activities are in Green

  • Foods spots are in Blue

  • The Yellow markers are for optional, more obscure sites

  • Camping sites are in Purple


Outdoor Activities in Joshua Tree National Park (in Green)


  • Rock scrambling and climbing. One of the park rangers at Joshua Tree mentioned that Joshua Tree should actually be re-named “Jumbo Rocks” because that’s what is really unique about the area. Many people from all over will come out just to spend the entire weekend scrambling or climbing at this rock “mecca”.

    Here are a few suggested areas to do some light scrambling:

    • Skull Rock: Often crowded but still cool for some beginner’s scrambling (and family friendly).

    • Hall of Horrors: Steeper drops but supposed to be pretty thrilling…

    • Hidden Valley: A ton of scrambling and climbing spots.
       

  • Hiking all over the park. The terrain is significantly flatter than I’ve seen at other places but still a pretty pleasant hiking experience. We saw lots of families hiking together along several paths. For the full list, check out the National Park Service website or ask a park ranger when you get there.

    Here are a few notable hikes you shouldn’t miss:
    • Fortynine Palms Oasis: Fortynine Palms Oasis Trail is 3 miles round trip with 350 feet of elevation change. Once you get into the canyon, you’ll see a cluster of Californian palm trees with boulders and pools of water threaded throughout this strange oasis. It’s a strange sight to see.

Note: We also did the Lost Horse Mine Loop...but the payoff was not worth it. It was a pretty flat and dull trail for the majority of the hike.

Because sunsets in Joshua Tree are that gorgeous. #nofilter

Because sunsets in Joshua Tree are that gorgeous. #nofilter

  • “Garden” viewing at the Cholla Cactus Garden. I actually found this view to be the most breathtaking outside of the sunsets at Joshua Tree. There’s something unexpected about seeing a vast stretch of these prickly cacti at J-Tree. Walk through it and tread lightly. You’ll probably get some needles stuck at the bottom sole of your shoes.
     
  • Sunsets at Joshua Tree National Park. My favorite moments were sitting on some large rock/boulder and just watching the sun slowly set after a long day of hiking and running around. And with no internet or cell service, I felt even more relaxed about the entire experience. It’s the type of beauty that makes you think about the big questions in your life.
     

  • Stargazing in the winter and spring months. If you can plan your trips around meteor shower events, I highly recommend spending it at Joshua Tree. There are also guided stargazing experiences at the Sky’s the Limit Observatory & Nature Center on most Saturdays. Check out the NPS website for their tips and tricks on stargazing at Joshua Tree.


Where To Eat At Joshua Tree (in Red)


We came during Thanksgiving so...unfortunately for us, nothing was open on Thanksgiving day. Our group ended up eating out at IHOP when we arrive and cooking food the rest of the trip.

Here are a few notable spots that came highly recommended:

  • Joshua Tree Coffee Company: Organic coffee roasted in only small batches. From what I’ve read this cafe is the perfect way to kickstart your morning. Sip your cup of joe on the attached patio deck as you get caffeinated and plan for a full day in Joshua Tree.

  • Crossroads Cafe: I got several recommendations for Crossroads Cafe from several trusted Angelenos. This place is right outside the west entrance of the park and offers filling meals, friendly service, and great options for lunch or breakfast.

See the shared map for a few more food suggestions. 


Stranger, More Obscure Activities

Near Joshua Tree National Park (in Yellow)


Everything I’m listing below are just free experiences because...why the hell not?

  • World Famous Crochet Museum: Essentially, a small shrine dedicated to the cozy art of crochet.

  • Noah Purifoy's Outdoor Desert Art Museum: 7.5 acres of "Environmental Sculptures". There’s something extremely sad and strange about the entire experience in the middle of nowhere.

  • Desert Jesus Park: A 3.5 acre sculpture garden park; I only found out after but the statues were moved here in 1951 by the local church. Words I’d use to describe this place: eerie, odd, creepy, strange...

  • Bob’s Crystal Museum: An eclectic “cave” with decorated crystals by Bob Carr in the middle of the Sky Villages Swap Meet. Worth a gander.

  • Cactus Mart: Eclectic and you can create your own mini-cacti garden at $0.59 a piece. A steal if I ever saw one.

* * *

Have you been camping at Joshua Tree National Park before? 

What did you and your group do differently?

Did you come across any unique experiences?



 

 

Death Valley Camping Essentials (Winter Edition)
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Jennie here.

Ivan and I are headed out in a few days to Death Valley for some winter camping. Seeing as we spent the majority of our travel budget for the year on our wedding, we figured it would be a great way to still get a “vacation” in.

And yes, we’re perfect aware that we’re going to a place with the word ‘death’ in it -- doesn’t sound promising but who knows? Also, bear in mind that “winter” in Death Valley is pretty mild. We’re headed out in late December and the temperatures during the day are a mild 60-ish degrees fahrenheit and 35 degrees in the evening.

When I put together this list, I was thinking about necessities that would make our entire road trip and winter camping trip comfortable and relaxing. To be clear, Ivan and I are not avid campers -- in fact this is the first time we’ve gone camping in over a year. But fortunately, we’re staying at a camping site that will have running water.

hiking-1385937_1920.jpg

Here is our (tentative) list of packing essentials for our upcoming camping trip in Death Valley:

Camping essentials:

  • Tent
  • Sleeping bags (warm enough for 30 degree weather)
  • Sleeping mats (or a yoga mat will do)
  • Camping chairs/folding chairs
  • Portable gas stove
  • Cooking pan/pot
  • Flashlights
  • Headlights
  • Cooking 
  • Utensils
  • Paper 
  • Plates
  • Trash Bags
  • Disposable Cups
  • Disposable eating Utensils
  • Ice cooler
  • Firewood
  • Matches
  • Roll of toilet paper
  • Hand sanitizer
  • Lighter fluid
  • First aid kit
  • Binoculars (we couldn’t find a pair to borrow in time but I’d highly recommend this)

Food essentials:

  • Water (at least 1 gallon per day, per person) 
  • Granola bars
  • Mixed nuts
  • Hot chocolate packets
  • Coffee
  • Tortillas
  • Spam (yup, mystery meat in a can)
  • Eggs

The other important things we’re taking -- for comfort-sake:

  • Body wipes and cleansing wipes (for non-shower days)
  • Moisturizer (unscented)
  • Sunscreen
  • Hats
  • Boots
  • Hiking shoes
  • Extra blanket (for warmth)
  • Towels
  • Camera
  • Waterproof jackets/vests
  • Long-sleeved heat-tech shirts (for potentially cold evenings)
  • Extra socks
  • Airplane pillow
  • A book or two

Contingency essentials after plans A, B, and C fail:

  • A few filled gas containers (for when we run out of gas in the middle of nowhere)
  • Tweezers (for cacti needles)
  • Saline nasal sprays (to avoid a bloody nose)
  • Artificial tears (for the super dry climate)
  • Duct tape (for any potential issues)
  • Eyeglass wipes

And of course, there needs to be contingency items such as extra cash, printed maps of the Death Valley area, and external batteries.

Stay tuned for our next post! We’ll let you know how our trip went and make some alterations to this list if we’ve left anything out.

Happy holidays from the desert!

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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