What we did in Taipei

(updated Nov 2017)

We had a long layover in Taipei on our first trip and we got to try a whirlwind 72 hours of recommendations from friends who'd been before. We loved that visit so much we actually went back again in 2017! Here's a few of our Taipei tips:

First off, the airport is quite far from the city and traffic can be horrendous. The subway to the airport opened in Spring 2017 and you can get a deal online for airport rail fare + 48 or 72 hour Taipei Metro pass. We've also taken the bullet train into the city.

Download and watch Anthony Bourdain's video about Taipei on the flight there. He's always good for a laugh and a tip or two. 

Subways and bullet trains are cheap. If you're going to be there for more than a couple days, get an Easy Card from the staffed window at the subway station. You can also use it to pay at most convenience stores. If you're not, single-ride tickets are actually plastic RFID "coins" that you tag at the faregate when you enter, and then drop into the faregate slot when you exit. 

Eat breakfast at Fuhang Soymilk. (華山市場 阜杭豆漿) The line is long, but do it anyway. I don't care if you "don't like soymilk" – this isn't hippie crud, it's savory and delicious and perfect. Go do it!

Ride the gondola at the Taipei zoo. There's lovely teahouses with a view at the top. Choose a gondola with a glass bottom if you're looking for some terror with your tea.

Eat Beef noodle soup (Nu Ro Mein – 牛肉麵), the national dish. This place is legendary.

Go to a night market and eat Hujiaobing (胡椒餅). You're totally not going to be able to wait for it to cool and will scald your face when you bite into it but it's so delicious you won't care.

While you're at the night market, eat some Stinky Tofu (臭豆腐). Trust me, it smells way worse than it tastes. Make sure to get it with the pickled cabbage.

Also at the night market, eat the giant fried chicken breasts. I absolutely loved these and I'm a total dark meat girl who normally won't touch a chicken breast with a 10 foot pole.

Kill two birds with one stone - Go to Taipei 101 in the morning and then queue up for the Din Tai Fung in the lobby about 15 minutes before they open. The lines are supposedly much shorter here than at the original one closer to the city center. Their soup dumplings (小籠包 - XLB - Xiao Long Bao) are fantastic. 

Eat ALL the fruit. I'd never eaten a custard apple before and it was insanely good (it's not really an apple). Eat dragon fruit, wax apples, mango, guava... it's all delicious!

Eat mango shave ice. This one had panna cotta on top!

Go to the national museum. You know a country is obsessed with food when the two most popular items (like there's a separate queue for them inside like there is for the Mona Lisa in Paris) are a piece of jade that looks like a cabbage, and another that looks like a piece of pork belly.

Take the red line to Beitou and then take a bus or an Uber to one of the many hot springs. Bring your own towel and a water bottle. Like Korean spas, not good if you're shy about being naked. We went to Emperor, which seems to be popular with the bearish guys in the evenings. (This spa is gender-separated)

If you're a train nerd like us, you can also collect station stamps from the MRT subway and bullet train stations.

We stayed at the Tango ChangAn and it was perfection. A mood-lit jetted tub with a TV in it and NHK showing cycling championships? Yes, please! Plus fast wi-fi, espresso machine on site, full breakfast, and Toto Washlets!


Take a day trip to Jiufen

Jiufen and its famous tea house are rumored to be the inspiration for Miyazaki's Spirited Away. Even if it isn't, it's a beautiful tea house in an old town with narrow street full of shops and, unfortunately, lots of other tourists. I was shocked – despite how packed the town was, there was no wait to get a balcony table at the tea house. The ceremonial-style preparation of the Tieguanyin was beautiful.

One caveat: it's a VERY popular attraction
Make sure you get one of the ice cream and peanut rice crepes!

Some other things

  • Bubble tea is from Taiwan. I didn't try any, though
  • The oyster omelettes are another Taiwan classic we didn't have time to try
  • Eat Tianbula (similar to Japanese Oden)
  • Jade Market
  • Visit the KaVaLan whisky distillery – it's been winning lots of world whisky awards lately

Other links


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