I’ll admit, Taiwan was never on the radar for us. It didn’t make the list of countries we wanted to visit. When it came to the Far East, Japan was where we really wanted to go.
We were looking for a location to spend a few days in between Thailand and Indonesia and initially considered Cambodia. We were close to the border and it seemed like a good idea to cross over by land from Thailand. Well… that’s until we started reading about the border crossing. It was practically a novel and then there was the bribery to deal with. Argh, no thanks!
Taiwan became an option thanks to our digital nomad friend, Nataly and her boyfriend, who spent some time there recently and absolutely loved it.
We booked 10 days, thinking it should be plenty of time to explore the city. I wished we had spent a month! We fell in love with Taipei and it’s one place that I would love to return to.
We arrived in Taipei on New Year’s Eve. Every apartment we had looked at, increased their prices to about $300-$400 for NYE, so we decided to stay close to the airport for two nights and head into town after. It gave us a chance to catch up on sleep. We had flown overnight with a stopover in Manila at wee early hours of the night.
After 1.5 days of hanging out by the pool, ordering room service and watching TV, it was time to head into the city and get exploring.
We rented a cute but teeny tiny apartment in the Zhongshan District. It turned out to be a perfect area to explore on foot. We discovered a great breakfast place and coffee shop just around the corner from our apartment and ate there almost every morning.
The first night in town, we were at a complete loss on where to eat. Don’t expect any English signs anywhere! Feeling totally discombobulated, we just picked a place randomly. Oh boy, that wasn’t a good idea! We ordered a few different things to share. Tofu, Calamari, Fried Rice, etc. I think the only one we could really stomach was the fried rice. I usually like Tofu, but this one just turned my stomach. I had to close my eyes, pinch my nose and just force it down. haha.. Well, we didn’t go back to that place again!
The rest of our food adventure in Taipei was ok, once we settled in a bit. We tried street food, which was a challenge as they don’t have any pictures (that was very helpful in Thailand) – so you just point and hope it’ll be something edible. We found a great little place around the corner from our apartment that was buffet-style with plenty of veggies to make us happy and we did venture into other restaurants and had better luck.
We had about 7 days to explore Taipei since we’d spent the first two by the airport. We were excited to finally be able to get back to walking. They had sidewalks in Taipei! You must be rolling your eyes wondering why we were excited about sidewalks. After two months of India and Thailand and trying to not get killed while walking on the streets, it was definitely an exciting thing to see 😉 and not to mention all the parks. We were impressed by the number of beautiful parks and green spaces we came across during our walks.
This was simply just space in the middle of a large boulevard!
You may ask, what’s there to see in Taipei? Well, let’s get started on that 🙂
Fine Arts Museum Expo Park
Ok, we didn’t actually visit the museum and honestly, once you see the grounds surrounding the museum, chances are, you’ll skip it too. We had a great time exploring the park. There was plenty to see outside and for free!
This was a path leading to another very large park across the highway which eventually led us to the Lin An Tai Ancestral house. I can just imagine how beautiful this looks when the flowers are all in bloom. Unfortunately, not a lot of flowers in bloom during winter time.
Lin An Tai Ancestral House
In 1754, a man named Lin Chin-Ming, sailed across the strait to Taiwan with his family. His fourth son, being a very good businessman, made himself a fortune and hence built the mansion which is currently the “Lin An Tai Historical House and Museum”. It’s a beautiful place to explore and definitely should make your list if you are visiting Taipei.
Bit of randomness – Couple of these were placed inside these very traditional buildings. I guess they don’t want the kids to get bored.
We finished the walk by visiting the beautiful Xian Tian Temple.
Each day, we would choose one landmark to visit and walk to it from our apartment, as long as the walk was under 10 km or so. Some of the best places we came across were during these walks and not the actual intended destination.
C.K.S Memorial Park
This national monument was erected in memory of the former president, Chiang Kai-Shek. It’s an impressive monument surrounded by a park and framed by the National Theater and Concert Hall, which are just as impressive.
After visiting the memorial, we headed to the Botanical Garden. You can’t walk more than a few blocks without coming across a kid’s park. It’s one of the greenest, kid-friendly cities we’ve come across and of course, we made a couple of pit stops along the way. Unfortunately, we were there during winter and no flowers in bloom at the Botanical Garden. It was still a very nice walk through the greenery and we really enjoyed it.
Formerly known as the Taipei World Financial Center, it was officially classified as the tallest building in the world in 2004. It has the fastest elevator, that brought us to the top floor just over 30 seconds. Did you know the building is designed to withstand typhoons and earthquakes? It was designed to be flexible with a 660-tonne steel pendulum serving as a tuned mass damper. The pendulum sways to offset movements caused by strong gusts of wind. Pretty cool eh!
A Birthday To Remember
Not often you get a chance to spend your birthday on the other side of the world. I celebrated a birthday in London, England and Bruce turned 51 in Taipei. I decided to surprise him and bring him to a tea house but we made a stop along the way at Daan Park. The park is located in the center of the city and occupies 26 hectares of land. It is known as the “Lungs of Taipei City”
I was in awe of the trees here! They are gorgeous and the pictures don’t do them justice.
Beautiful view crossing the street from the park to our next destination, Wisteria Tea House.
Wistaria Tea House
Our second stop for the birthday boy was the Wistaria Tea House. First time to a traditional tea house where we were shown how to steep tea properly and tried two types of tea. It was also Kasm’s first time having tea 🙂
Feeling totally mellow after many cups of tea – you would think, we’d be pretty hyper but the tea had the opposite effect on us – we headed to the next location, a 24-hour bookstore.
This place is a must-see for all book lovers. The bookstore is open 24 hours and is stocked with every book you can possibly imagine and it’s beautiful! Boys each got a book and Kasm started reading his while we were at the bookstore 🙂
I think Bruce enjoyed this birthday outing 🙂 We celebrate the next Birthday in Japan. Someone is turning double digits 😉
National Palace Museum & Shuang-hsi Park
One of our last outings was to the National Palace museum. We did enjoy the museum but it didn’t have the wow factor and I probably would recommend skipping it. You can only look at so many pots! We were actually annoyed from the start as there were a lot of tourists by the bus load and incredibly rude. I was pushed out of the way couple of times. Kasm must have had a few tourists literally hovering over him for pictures! Seriously, how about waiting 5 seconds for the poor child to move ?!
What we really enjoyed was the Shuang-hsi park. The museum was a little too far to walk to so we took the metro to a station close by and walked the rest of the way. I didn’t know anything about this park and we just happend to come across it on our walk and it was so beautiful and serene.
On our last full day, I took Kasm to the Zoo to give Bruce a chance to get some work done. The Zoo really surprised us. It’s huge and beautifully set up. I think they have every animal you can possibly imagine. We spent a full day walking the grounds and being entertained by the animals. Kasm is already working on a post about the zoo and will have some pictures up 🙂
We had an amazing time in Taipei and look forward to coming back here again some day!