Here’s what we did in Taipei, Taiwan!
Travel Dates: 4-7 July, 2014
We really only had 2.5 days there and it was a good amount of time.
If you want to visit the Taroko Gorge, I would recommend 1 more day since it’s a few hours south of Taipei. Look up reviews on the Taroko National Park. It’s highly rated by other travelers, but we didn’t want to spend the time traveling there and dealing with the logistics. (There is a high speed train from Taipei to Hualien, but it can be hard to time the bus from Hualien to Taroko. Once at Taroko, others recommend taking an organized tour, renting a private taxi, or renting a moped.)
Airline: TransAsia $300 per person, round trip Okinawa to Taipei (Taoyuan International Airport)
We booked through IACE Travel (TransAsia) because it was last minute trip and the inexpensive Peach Airlines flights were sold out. I would have preferred to book through Peach. I’ve seen Peach offer fares as low as $120 per person round trip.
TransAsia had excellent service. For only being an hour long flight, we were served a light meal (1/2 sandwich and rice cracker/pea snack).
Taoyuan International Airport is about 1 hour outside of the city. You can take the Evergreen Bus directly from the airport to a variety of MRT stations in the city. It was about $140 New Taiwan Dollars ($4.67) per person, one way. It runs from 0500-2100 from downtown to the airport, and 0600-00:30 from the airport to downtown. (Look up their website to check for changes: www.evergreen-eitc.com.tw)
We left at 4am on Monday to catch our return flight, so we took a taxi. It was $1,100 TWD ($36 USD) and took about 40 minutes.
Visa: Not required for U.S. citizens. Always check with the U.S. State Department before travelling to foreign countries to verify if Visa requirements have changed.
Exchanging Money: We stopped at the booth in the airport. The exchange rate was 29.52 TWD for $1 USD. The hotel also exchanged money for 25:1. We used the ATM on the weekend when the banks were closed.
Hotel: Beauty Hotels Taipei – Hsuanmei Boutique
We loved the hotel! It’s always hard for me to pick the hotel. I look at many factors and many websites, and sometimes it’s a gamble! I used Orbitz, Priceline, and Expedia to search 4 and 5 star hotels that were under $100 in certain districts downtown. A few came close on price and location. The reviews were very good, and breakfast was included, so we settled on this one. I was pleasantly surprised. It was a bit of a walk from the Songjiang Nanjing MRT station, but mainly because our feet were so tired from walking around all day!
Price – I got it for $85.90 on Orbitz.com. I always try to stick around $100. Sometimes different sites vary in price drastically, so always check Orbitz, Expedia, Priceline, Hotels.com, etc. (there are too many to list)!
Friendly staff – very helpful with directions and booking the taxi back to the airport.
Nice rooms – view of Taipei 101. Bath & shower. Fairly clean. Free mini-bar (water, soda, and crackers).
Decent buffet breakfast – Fun to sample Taiwan local food such as dumplings, doughnuts, fruit, hot dishes, and more.
Transportation: MRT Metro
Very easy to use. Grab a map at the airport, in the MRT lobby, or at your hotel. Only 20-40 TWD ($1 usd) per trip (depending on location). There’s a 24 hour unlimited pass too. We just paid per purchase and we think it was about even.
Before you leave the MRT station, look at the maps on the wall to find the correct exit and walking directions to where you are headed!
Itinerary: 2 1/2 days
- Shilin Night Market – Jiantan MRT Station
Easily the biggest, busiest, and grandest of all open-air shopping in Taipei. It was really fun to walk through all of the stalls and sample a variety of foods. We enjoyed the foods here way more than Thailand. We tried the famous chicken steak (you’ll likely see very long lines), pearl milk (aka bubble tea), bacon veggie wrap, various dessert/shortcake rolls, and a veggie dumpling. It was all very tasty. I wasn’t a fan of the chewy tapioca balls in the pearl milk, but others loved it.
- Ningxia Night Market – Shuanglian MRT Station
Delicious food. Not nearly as big as Shilin, but we enjoyed walking through it. We ate pork dumplings and bought some fun metal chopsticks. (My husband has been wanting metal chopsticks for a long time and we haven’t found them in Okinawa yet.)
Day 2: Sightseeing Day! Look up these sights on TripAdvisor/Google for more information!
- Longshan Temple (ornate, detailed, temple)
- Chiang Kai-shek Memorial Hall (very grand!)
- Lunch on Yongkang St. by the Dongmen MRT Station (This was on accident, but we found our favorite dish, Banh Xeo (a Vietnamese pastry omlet). This is also where the original world-famous Din Tai Feng restaurant is. The line was over 70 minutes and there’s no seating, so we ate at the Taipei 101 location.
- Maokong Gondola – Taipei Zoo MRT Station
- Taipei 101 & Din Tai Feng Restaurant
Put your name in for a table at the restaurant and then go up Taipei 101. We decided not to go up, but we looked around the mall and took some pictures. It was about 90 minutes for our table. Apparently it’s the only Asian restaurant on the New York Times Top 10 list. We enjoyed delicious dumplings and beef noodle soup. Pretty decent prices too.
- Raohe Tourist Night Market – Houshanpi MRT Station (Don’t get confused by the market right near the MRT, that’s the Wufenpu Market (for cheap, nonsensical clothes). Raohe is pretty cool. Lots of good food and a pretty temple right at the start of it.
Day 3: Hiking and More Sights
We debated going to Taroko Gorge or to another National Park today, but it was SOOO hot and we didn’t want to spend too much time traveling. I read great reviews about a hike up to Elephant Peak, so we decided to stay in Taipei.
- Beitou Hot Springs/Geothermal Valley – Xinbeitou MRT Station
The mineral composition of the rare green sulfur spring waters can only be found in two locations in the world, here in Beitou and in Akita, Japan. We decided not to go in the hot springs because we were so hot/soaking/dripping wet just from walking around. Very pretty park, but small…only takes about 30 minutes to see the area.
- Xiangshan Hiking Trail to Elephant Peak – Xiangshan MRT Station
There are a lot of stairs! We decided to just go to the 1st lookout point because of the heat. It was about a 20 minute hike up. Great views of the city and Taipei 101.
- Sun Yat-Sen Memorial Hall – Sun Yat-sen Memorial Hall MRT Station
Another huge memorial hall. Not as pretty on the outside as the CKS memorial. Inside is another huge monument (similar to the Lincoln Memorial in D.C.) and we saw the changing of the guards.
- Xichang, Huaxi, Wuzhou, & Guangzhou Night Markets – All right near Longshan Temple MRT
Not impressed. Maybe we were just tired, but they felt dirtier and not very appetizing. We found our favorite pastry omlet, but then we left.
- Ximending Walking District – Ximen MRT Station
Awesome! This is like night market meets big city. It has a NY Times Square feel to it. Definitely a popular night destination. Lots of shopping and restaurants. The Red House is here too, but that wasn’t really anything special for us to see.