Think Taipei and what comes to mind is a modern, bustling city mixed with world-famous night markets offering delicious fare to satisfy hungry and adventurous travellers. It is a place where you can find both modern skyscrapers and beautifully ornate Chinese temples.
Start your adventure in Taipei on a high note by hurtling into the sky at 1,010 metres per minute on Taipei 101’s pressure-controlled lifts. The architecture draws inspiration from Chinese elements, with the structure meant to resemble a bamboo stalk. The tower is also built in pagoda style, with eight sections as eight is the number symbolising harmony and prosperity. The observation deck on the 89th floor offers a stunning, if dizzying, view of the city.
If you are looking for an escape from the bright city lights, just hop on a bus and step off into the relaxing natural environment of Yangmingshan National Park. Take in the fresh air with a variety of hiking trails which lead to outstanding mountain views, sulfur lakes, hot springs and an abundance of both bird and plant life. The park is especially popular in the spring when the cherry blossoms are in bloom, and in the winter when the locals come for the hot springs. Reward yourself after a long hike by stopping in one of the little cafés or restaurants that are conveniently located within the park, or you can even extend your stay in one of the many lodging facilities.
No trip to Taipei would be complete without discovering a bit about the traditional beverage of choice – tea. There is no better place to start than the Maokong Tea Garden. Located on the outskirts of Taipei in the Wenshan district, visitors take the Maokong Gondola up to the Getou Mountain to reach the Maokong Tea Garden. According to legend, the original teahouses here were opened by tea farmers from southern China. After the teahouses decreased in popularity, the customers stopped coming, and even the cats ran away. That’s perhaps how it got its curious name of Maokong (which literally means ‘empty of cats’). These days, the teahouses are well-maintained and also highly popular with visitors who go to sample local tea harvested from the nearby farms. Enjoy a cup of the region’s famed Tie Guan Yin tea or Baozhong tea from the quaint teahouses, and enjoy the tranquil peace of the mountains which are equally delightful by day or night. If you are a tea enthusiast, you might enjoy seeing the tea farms where you can catch a glimpse of rustic country life, or check out the Taipei Tea Promotion Center where you can learn how to properly brew a cup of tea.
When the sun goes down on Taipei, the street market vendors start to set up shop. Experience the lively atmosphere and jostle with the crowds at the Shilin and Raohe Street Night Markets. There are plenty of bargains to be had here, but what most visitors look forward to are the endless rows of food stalls, with their array of delicious and inexpensive Taiwanese treats. Come with an empty belly and take your fill of grass jelly soup, milk tea, stinky tofu, oyster omelets, sausages with glutinous rice, scallion pancakes, Taipei’s XL Crispy Chicken Cutlet and more.
A short train ride from Taipei brings you to Kaohsiung, Taiwan’s largest port city. Take a jaunt to Cijin Island for a leisurely stroll along the beach before hitting the seafood street (also known as Miao Qian Road) for some freshly caught seafood. Also a short journey away is Tainan, Taiwan’s oldest city. Places of interest include Anping, where the original Dutch trading base was established. The Dutch-built Fort Zeelandia (also known as Anping Castle) is still standing today. You can explore some of Taiwan’s oldest streets and alleyways here, and enjoy the historic architecture, shopping and food.