Taiwan, tagged as the Heart of Asia, is a surprisingly charming country. The country’s capital city, Taipei, is filled with very accessible and relatively cheap (if not free) places to visit and explore. Being my first ever trip abroad, I was very much eager to be able to see end experience as much of the country as I can in order to maximize our visit. Although my friend and I stayed for four days, I was able to come up with itinerary suggestions should you ever have the pleasure of being in Taipei, Taiwan for at least one day. Check out the following places and activities listed below:
World Trade Center, Taipei 101 Mall, Taipei 101 Observatory
Along Xinyi Road in Taipei, you’ll easily find the World Trade Center, the Taipei 101 Mall, and the Taipei 101 Observatory almost right beside each other; all of which are architectural and industrial wonders in themselves. If you’re trying to save up some money just like we were, there’s no need to worry since no necessary expense when seeing these three buildings unless you want to get into the observatory. As with many parts of the city, there are eco bikes you can rent our for NT$10 (approximately around US$o.33) for every 30 minutes. You can opt to do this as a cheaper alternative activity to admire the sites and explore around the vicinity.
However, if you’re looking to experience world class shopping, Xinyi is also the right place as it is dubbed as Taipei’s shopping district. Aside from the mall, the observatory on the building’s 89th floor is open to tourists and on the way there, you can experience the Guiness World Record breaking high speed elevator that travels at around 60KPH.
Chiang Kai-shek (C.K.S.) Memorial Hall (中正紀念堂)
The Chiang Kai-shek Memorial Hall, located in the Liberty Square in the Zhongzheng District, was the first tourist spot we spent some time at. Aside from being a must-see for first timers, the location is easily accessible through the Taipei MRT (Mass Rapid Transit). It even has its own station, so I don’t think getting lost once you alight should be a concern.
From the station, you’ll be hit with a distant view of either the National Theater or the National Concert Hall which are also located in Liberty Square. Because of this, a visit to the C.K.S. Memorial Hall is pretty much hitting not just two, but three birds with one stone. Aside from being able to admire magnificent traditional and historical architecture that just seems to physically ooze decades of stories, these structures are incredibly photogenic and highly Instagrammable.
Since Liberty Square is also commonly used for community activities and events, it’s also a great destination to be able to see and observe the locals. Since we went on a Saturday afternoon, there were multiple groups using the area; there were drum rehearsals, dance rehearsals, and rifle drill rehearsals. There was also an early Mothers’ Day fair at the time near the C.K.S. Memorial Hall.
The Taipei Maokong Gondola
Although the Maokong Gondola was kind of on the outskirts of Taipei, the scenes you will get to see from great heights is surely priceless. Similar to the Ngong Ping 360 in Hong Kong, the Taipei Maokong Gondola is a cable car ride that costs between NT$70-120 (around US$2-4) one way. Having a total of six stations, the journey travels a total horizontal distance of 4.03km and takes you to and through multiple mountain peaks.
Since I’m a little bit of an adrenaline junkie, I wasn’t afraid to spend some time in a cable car moving from mountain to mountain. I’d advise taking this ride around 4 in the afternoon in order to be inside the car at a prime time and outdoor temperature. If you end up spending more time around the Maokong Station that you expected, you’ll also be able to see the nighttime, high altitude view of Taipei.
Tea in the Wenshan District
After we rode the Maokong Gondola to the Maokong Station (the end of the line), we inquired at the tourism office and were informed that the area was famous for its tea.
Although there are many charming and unique teahouses to visit, we decided to spend some time in this place called the Red Wood House along Zhinan Road. This teahouse lives up to its name as its design is pretty much made of wood or red bricks giving off a very warm, yet traditional ambiance.
If you’re a little tired from an activity-filled day or being on your feet exploring the city, a good way to unwind is to spend some time in the mountains drinking quality tea while you enjoy a quiet and balanced view of nature and the city.
Taipei Street/Night Markets
I left this destination a little non-specific as there are so many night and street markets around Taipei that you can choose to visit. Were able to visit the Ningxia Night Market and the Xichang Street Night Market.
Try not to go to these markets on an empty stomach as you’ll most likely impulse buy, but make sure that you have some room for a great variety of traditional and exotic delicacies. Be ready to spend a little more than you’re probably willing to as the food available more often than not comes in small servings. Dropping by street or night markets are also a great opportunity to look for gifts to bring home for friends and family as markets are also usually near to or surrounded by packed food and novelty stores. You’ll also be able to see various, sign-filled streets that are also great for photos.
Taipei, Taiwan: A Worthy Visit
Having Taiwan as my first international trip was definitely a memorable experience. We were able to keep our expenses at a minimum all while enjoying ourselves. However you decide to visit Taipei or however find yourself in Taiwan, it’ll surely be worth the visit.