The Best Things To Do In and Around Taipei
by Megan Bowden
I moved to Taipei to teach English at the beginning of 2017 and stayed for a year and a half. Those 18 months were some of the best times I’ve experienced in my life, and some days I regret leaving that very comfortable life for a life on the road.
Taipei is the capital city in Taiwan, an island country that sits about 180km away from China. It is about the same size as the Netherlands, and about a third of the size of New York, with a few more million people than both those places. The throngs of people are easy to get used to because it is such a friendly, warm, welcoming place. It hardly ever feels overcrowded, unless you happen to be on a bus or the MRT (the extensive metro system) at rush hour.
Taiwan has so much to offer visitors as a country and is a country that needs to be explored. I lived and worked in Taipei, and with the strange hours and days off that come with teaching English, I found myself with time to explore, but not enough time to go very far. Luckily, there are ample things to see and do an hour or two outside the big city. These things include mountains and beaches and hot springs and tea fields. And if you want to stay in the city, there are plenty of things to keep you occupied as well.
Taiwan/ Taipei need to know
Taiwan is a first world country, with an extensive and very good public transport system that basically covers the entire island. For the parts that are uncovered, or for when you want more freedom, a scooter is the best option for further exploration. In the towns, a driver’s license is required to rent one, but often in the very touristy areas, some sort of identification is all they require. There is a high-speed rail that goes down the west coast, and it lets you go from the top to the bottom in about two hours. A normal train takes four or five hours to do the same.
The language most commonly used is Mandarin. They want English to become their official second language, so most signs and notices in the MRT, trains and bused are in both languages. More and more people are able to communicate in English, but in the smaller towns, there is almost none spoken.
1. Sights in Taipei
Taipei is an amazing city and very easy to see on your own in a day or two, depending on how many temples you want to visit. The most popular must-see sights are Taipei 101, Chiang Kai Shek Memorial Hall, Sun Yat Sen Memorial Hall, the National Palace Museum, Daan Forest Park, Longshan Temple and, if you have a free afternoon, heading to Tamsui for the sunset is definitely worth your time.
Taipei 101 was once the tallest building in the world but now is the tenth tallest, standing at 508m with 101 floors. A chance to go up costs about 600NTD (20USD), but if you don’t want to spend that, simply make a reservation at the Starbucks that resides in the building the day before you want to go up and see almost the same views as you would from above. Going to the top is worth it to see the ball that balances the building during typhoons and earthquakes.
Chiang Kai Shek and Sun Yat-Sen Memorial Halls pay tribute to two men that helped formed the Taiwan that is today. Both halls host a museum and a statue that help commemorate the two men. Both have free entrance.
The National Palace Museum holds an abundance of treasures and artifacts from Taiwanese history and offers a glimpse into the country’s past. Entrance is about 250NTD (8USD). Take a look at the strings that hold the artifacts and art off the ground, so if there’s an earthquake, nothing is damaged.
2. Sandiaoling Waterfalls Hike
Sandiaoling waterfalls are situated about an hour and a half outside of the city. Simple take the train and get off at Sandiaoling station. From the station follow the path that leads to the small village and climb the steps that lead to the trail.
The trail leads three waterfalls that get increasingly bigger as you go higher. The hike is lovely in itself and leads you through lush green typically Taiwanese bush. The third waterfall is the most spectacular and a relief to see after climbing up a long set of steep stairs. Here is the perfect place to relax and admire the view of the waterfall, or the view over the valley that holds the river. If you’re feeling up for it, you can take a dip in the water that collects at the bottom of the waterfall. And if you have the energy, you can climb to the top of the waterfall and continue on a longer hike. I prefer to turn back to keep it as a relaxing spot.
3. Fulong Beach
This is another sight situated less than two hours out of the city, and my favorite place in the country. Fulong beach is on the northeast coast and is the most popular beach in the north. Again, it just takes a train to get here. There are two beaches here, the official Fulong Beach which charges a small entrance fee and a smaller free beach just to the one side. I prefer the free beach to avoid the very large summer crowds, plus it doesn’t close outside of the season. Just behind the free beach sits a restaurant serving the best ice cream in the country. If you can only manage a half day in the sun, rent a bike and follow the set route to see the magnificence of the coastline.
Don’t miss out on an opportunity to explore this hidden gem of a country, and definitely do more than described here, but don’t miss these unmissable sights in and around Taipei!