When you look up the word paradise, images of palm trees, beaches and waterfalls populate your page. For many, that is the epitome of paradise. And it is for me too… kind of. But really, my paradise lives in the undiscovered. Experiencing new things, meeting new people, and seeing new places.
So far, I’ve been lucky. I’ve traveled a lot. I’ve seen so many awe-inspiring places, met plenty of fun and friendly people and eaten plateful after plateful of exotic (at least to me) foods. One of the places I’ve enjoyed the most is Taipei.
It’s the kind of place that has something for everyone. If you like shopping, history, the arts, culture, nightlife, food or the great outdoors, you can find it in Taipei. And its easy-to-navigate public transportation system makes it easy, and cheap, to see and do it all.
We stayed at City Suites Taipei Nandong, which is in the Songshan district. The hotel was great! The rooms were spacious, modern and clean. The staff was friendly, the price was reasonable, especially with breakfast included, and the location was quiet. But aside from a night market a few blocks away, there weren’t very many attractions nearby. The metro station wasn’t far though, and it didn’t take long to get from one place to another. Cabs are fairly cheap too.
We only had five days to get in as much of Taipei as we could, and there’s so much to see and do, so sleep was on the backburner for the week. As usual, my first priority was food—spicy beef noodles in particular. After a little research, I set my sights on Yong Kang. We arrived to find a line half a block long of locals and foreigners alike waiting to get their serving of noodles. I was certain this meal would be legendary, and it did not disappoint. The noodles were spicy and flavorful, the beef tender and well-seasoned and the side dishes… well, there are no words. It only took one meal to know that Taipei would be everything I hoped for and more.
After dinner, we went for dessert and city views at Taipei 101—the tallest building in the city. Seeing how big Taipei is from up high inspired me to set a rough itinerary of how to spend the remaining four days. I’m the wing-it type, so I didn’t have anything planned. I like to do things based on my mood, and I hate rushing. But time was limited.
We spent the remaining time visiting parks, hiking hills, and mountains, checking out monuments and museums, exploring nearby cities, feasting on street foods, navigating through night markets and frequenting temples and art galleries. It was incredible. Taipei is clean and vibrant. The people are kind and warm. The food is unique and gratifying. And the fact that nearly everyone speaks or understands enough English to assist in getting around, made the experience that much better.
My favorite part of the trip was our excursion to Jiufen, an old mountain town about an hour from Taipei. We got there by bus and explored the area on foot. If you’re like me and like to walk everywhere, wear REALLY comfortable shoes. This isn’t a great place for those who struggle with stairs and hills; there are lots of both. This little city is totally a tourist attraction, but still very cool. Jiufen’s little alleys are crowded with tea houses, food stands, and gift shops. I devoured one of the tastiest cakes I’ve ever had and an amazing passion fruit drink that I will never forget. The views from the town are stunning. The temples, old theater, and gold-mine museum were fun to explore. But my favorite part of this day trip was going to Golden Waterfall and Ying-Yang Sea. The walk was long but worth it (you can cab it there if you’re not up for the walk). They are both just beautiful.
Shifen Old Street in Xinbei is another fun little place if you want to see more of Taiwan than just Taipei. It’s also very much a tourist spot, but creating and launching your own paper lantern is a great experience. I tried the traditional Taiwanese ice cream roll there. It was surprisingly good, cilantro and all. There isn’t quite as much to do here as Jiufen, but it’s very picturesque and enjoyable.
I could go on and on about how phenomenal this trip was and city is. Take my word for it, it’s worth the visit… even if only for the food.