The search for charming destinations, bustling night markets, and incredibly heartwarming people led us to a country that was once dubbed as Ilha Formosa or translated to as “a beautiful island” that is now Taiwan, the country most people know nothing about.
The sudden popularity paved the way for many to finally welcome the idea of flying to one of the underrated countries in East Asia. The uplift of visa requirement for Philippine passport holders opened the doors for many tourists and travelers from different nations. And as for the hopefuls, unlocking the reason why it’s called ‘beautiful’ is an adventure waiting to be discovered.
First stop is Yangmingshan National Park. A retreat to nature and a glimpse to one of the most popular tourist hub just north west of Taipei, Yangmishan hold its pride for earning a beautful array of landscapes that are bus stops away from another. Undoubtedly, a hikers paradise for its trekker-friendly trails and green pastures that are charming to many locals and tourists due to its proximity to the city.
A sight of a beautiful disaster awaits upon reaching the only open volcano residing in all of Taiwan, the Xiaoyoukeng. Located at the foot of Mt. Qixing, the volcanic fumes produces a sulfuric smell that is quite intriguing but the scenic view that surrounds the area is just magnificent not to give it a stop.
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Getting lost on my first day in #Taiwan was probably a blessing in disguise coz it led me to a place I never thought of visiting. By the time the bus halted in an unfamiliar bus stop and the driver and I couldn't understand each other, an old man step up to explain to me the reason why should I alight. He tried his best to speak to me in english only to find out he was about to show me an epic view of an open volcano which according to him, the only active in all of Taiwan. That was actually my first experience of how kind Taiwanese locals are. 📍Xiaoyoukeng Volcano, Yangminshan National Park 🇹🇼
When in Qingtiangang Grassland, trails to multiple hiking spot leads to a good vantage point. The easiest would normally take twenty minutes and the view from its peak is absolutely impressive. The grassland is home to local, tourist-friendly cows that feeds to the ground and even weirdly entertaining to watch.
Head over to Sun Yat-Sen Memorial Hall for a short time travel to Taiwan’s rich and colorful history. The myriad of art display and modern architecture enclosed inside a memorial hall will certainly not disappoint. This place is a haven for art, history, and culture enthusiasts so it’s worth to pay a visit. Take note, it’s also a walking distance from Taipei 101.
National Palace Museum is a 4 storey museum home to thousands of precious Chinese artefacts that made a significant contribution to Taiwan’s history. A mere handful are only on display and a walking tour does not allow cameras inside but that’s not the intention of most of the tourists. What’s really entices people about this place is the balcony and the white arch that makes a perfect backdrop for selfies and group pictures.
A daytour for sure is a lot tiring so might as well consider hopping to night markets such as Ximending Night Market. This local shopping district not only satisfy shop-a-holics but also their stomachs with delicious street foods that are installed in every corner. Sample some bite-sized fried chicken at Ji Guang Fried Chicken or drool over a face-sized one at Hot Star Fried Chicken. 50lan bubble milk tea and onion pancake are also a must try.
Early in the morning is the ideal time to visit Yehliu Geopark because the travel duration by bus would normally takes about an hour and a half. It is home to naturally carved georocks that dated hundreds of years ago which resembles some iconic figures. The most popular is the head of Cleopatra where visitors line up long queues just to get pictures. Try to walk pass by these formations and hike a couple of minutes to reach the viewing deck. Only few knew and attempt to get there but this secret spot is one of the most remote and remarkable.
Make use of public buses and head over to Keelung then Ruifang to access the oldest operational train system located at north east of Taipei, the Pingxi Line. Perhaps, the most visited station along this rail route is the Shifen Old Street. Formerly a village of coal miners, it is now a home to small businesses of souvenirs and street foods. What’s likely to do here is to fly lanterns with hopes and wishes written on it. Take a peek at the majestic Shifen Waterfalls by a thirty minute walk from the old street and the view at the end of the trail is a breathtaker.
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I only spend an hour at Shifen Old Street, one of the worth the visit tourist trap on the North Coast of Taiwan. I've wanted to stay longer but my time was numbered and I couldn'd find an excuse not to visit Jiufen after so I swift off early. But then again, there's not a place I've been to that left me unimpressed and never wanted to go back again. This one isn't different. 🇹🇼
Be inspired at Jiufen Old Street in Ruifang District, the birthplace of the award-winning fantasy anime “Spirited Away” by Hayao Miyazaki. The magical A-mei Tea House was the writer’s inspiration for the setting and has become the attraction people line up to. Hunt for some fancy souvenirs to unique street foods while doing a walking tour to make the most of it. And the best part? Stay a bit late to witness the splendid sunset along with the Japanese lanterns illuminating the streets. Truly is a sight to behold.
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The elevated village of Jiufen Old Street offers a magnificent view of the North Coast that is even more enthralling during the sunset. Found this temple by accident and surprisingly, not much of the tourists knew it exist. This is just one of the many Chinese temples in Taiwan. When you're at it, make sure to visit one. 🇹🇼 📍Shengming Temple, Jiufen Old Street
Raohe St Night Market is one of the most famous hangout in all of Taipei for its unending food scenes dominating the streets from side to side. The entrance was already filled with great choices, from Pork Pepper Buns, Shaved Ice, and Dumplings. Dive inside for some savory finds starting off with Oyster Omelette, Braised Pork rice, and a little bit of everything grilled. While the serving can satisfy more than one stomach, always leave a space for some Milk Tea experience. They never taste any better than in a country where it was invented. And in the middle of getting full, walk a couple of blocks and admire the Rainbow Bridge or be stunned by the Ciyou Temple back at the entrance before heading home.
The following day, go temple hopping at Longshan Temple located just beside the MRT station named after it. At first, there’s nothing to see here but few tourists and worshipping local elders installing incense until 9am where the daily ceremony begins. Just observing the religious gathering speaks so much of Taiwan’s abundant culture and intact beliefs. No wonder, the temple withstood a hundred years’ worth of calamities and wars. Making it one of the most memorable and insightful part of a trip.
Nobody can ever be considered “been to Taipei” without dragging their feet at the iconic Chiang Kai-Shek Memorial Hall. This historical landmark hosts the gathering of national events for its vast open area and park, making it a place worth visiting with plenty of things to do. From the elegant front gate to the 4 storey hall itself, to the National Concert Hall on the side and National Theater on the other, touring the site in an hour is nearly impossible. Attend the hourly change of guards ceremony or wander inside the hall museum and learn about the essential contribution of this landmark to Taiwan.
The Maokong Gondola takes a grandiose ride to the Maokong village that will pass by Taipei Zoo Station, Taipei Zoo South Station, and Zhinan Temple Station. Cable car ride can be on a crystal cabin that has a see-through glass bottom, or through the regular cabin. Either way, the end will meet the village that is famous for its tea shops, facing the green side of the city. A view of Taipei 101 and the cityscape can be seen from the elevated vantage point.
Once hailed as the tallest building in the world in 2004, the Taipei 101 now holds the record as the tallest green building in the world. This former world financial center has become an attraction that made Taipei a city to look up to, literally and figuratively. Hop on one of the fastest lift in the world all the way up to the Taipei 101 Observatory to be fascinated by the 360 degree view of the metropolis, standing from 89th floor above the ground. The hype of reaching this height invites visitors from all over the world and Taipei City excursion is not complete without having a visit.
One more not-to-miss food hunting experience leads to Shilin Night Market, the largest of night markets in the city. Expect an overwhelming variety of choices bombarded in every corner of the street that suits the budget. Grab some savory favorites like the Pepper Pork Bun, Prince Cheese Potato, or Torched Beef Cubes that are served hot and ready to eat while strolling or some authentic deserts like the candied fruits called Tanghulu or Deep Fried Milk. Either way, the best guide in discovering the delectable street food is to follow the queue. Nothing beats popularity.
Hiking the Elephant Mountain trail for catching the sunset is definitely a perfect way to end the day in Taiwan. This is particularly desirable to those who are into short outdoor activities since the trek takes about thirty minutes or less. Take the stairs to viewing platforms such as The Six Giant Rocks and at the top is the main site for an extensive view of the spectacular Taipei 101 and the rest of the city. This is considered as a modern photographer’s hotspot, where landscape and portrait enthusiasts always take home their souvenir shot of Taipei.
As many find themselves sitting at the airport, waiting for their flights of destination to be called, there’s no guarantee that Taiwan doesn’t satisfy an adventurous soul. The fulfillment to uncover its charm and believing that there is more to explore always gives a valid reason to go back and rediscover the unique taste of life that is nowhere else to be found anywhere in the world.
Do you find this article helpful in your next Taipei, Taiwan trip? Let me know in the comments! Cheers! 🇹🇼