Taipei is the capital of Taiwan. It is situated on the Danshui River, almost at the northern tip of the country, about 25 km southwest of Keelung, which is its port on the Pacific Ocean. Living Taipei was an interesting experience. I had a lot of fun and I think Taipei is a great city, even if I wouldn’t live there again. Some cities you click with, some you don’t. However, Taipei has a lot to do and I would certainly go back to visit.
Taipei sprawls out into the Danshui valley. Thousands of years ago, this was all covered in water but now, with the valley empty, it makes an excellent place for a city. I found Taipei to be very unwestern when compared to Bangkok. English is not spoken as well, there aren’t as many foreigners living here, the international cuisine is not as good or abundant, and the city is a lot more mellow. All of which aren’t bad things. In fact, though Taipei is a sprawling and crowded city, you never really feel like you are in chaos as you do when in Bangkok. I found the city to have a lot of open and green space, and to be very clean. In most of Southeast Asia, you get used to controlled chaos. I never got that feeling in Taiwan and it was very refreshing.
If you find yourself in Taipei and are looking for some things to do, check out these tourist and non-tourist activities to occupy your time:
Visit Taipei 101– This was hands down the best thing I did or saw my whole time in Taipei. I love Taipei 101 and it is by far the most impressive modern thing I have ever seen. I only saw it once but I wish I went more. Go see it a few times.
See Longshan Temple-The Longshan Temple was finished in 1738 during the Ching dynasty. It’s one of the most famous temples in the country and a major tourist site. There are three big halls to look at and you can also check out the nearby snake alley.
Visit the Shinlin Market– This is the largest night market in Taipei and is famous for its size and chaos. It get’s busy around 9 p.m. and is open until about 5 a.m. You’ll find lots of great things here but the real reason to come is for the amazing food stalls that serve up a wide variety of Taiwanese food.
Enjoy free beer at Roxy 99– This may be a college bar but you get four free beers on Wednesday night. If that’s not you thing, go drink for free at the Brass Monkey on Thursday night. It’s a slightly older crowd.
Check out the serenity of Chiang Kai Shek Memorial Hall at night– An under rated area, at night you’ll find groups of people outside utilizing the space for yoga, dancing, and music. The park is very big and it is really quiet. Dimly lit, I found the area near the pond to be the most serene and relaxing. It’s a great place for a late night stroll.
Head to the hot springs at Danshui– Relax and enjoy the warm hot springs just 30 minutes north of the city by train. The MRT will take you there. Taiwan is mostly volcanic so it’s blessed with a lot of natural hot springs.
Enjoy all your can drink at the clubs in Warner Village– I’ve never been to a place where it is all you can drink but you can bet I took advantage of it often. This area is right near Taipei 101 too.
Visit the Taipei Zoo– This is a major attraction and the lines get very long on the weekend, especially if you want to see the Giant Pandas. Go on a weekday.
Check out the Botanical Gardens– You would think this would be a popular thing to do but, even on a beautiful Saturday, the gardens were empty. It was mostly families on walks with their children.
There’s a lot to do in Taipei and you can easily fill a week or two here. If you do plan to stay longer, make sure you hike the surrounding mountains and visit the eastern coast.