A Love Affair with Taiwan
Maybe it was the “melting pot” culture that pulled me in. Or maybe just the fabulous breakfasts and plethora of coffee stands. Or was it the live music along the wharf? The festival-like night markets? Taiwanese people certainly played a large role. But so did the lifestyle. The museums, and the architecture.
Top 5 Taipei
I can’t pinpoint the exact reason why I fell for Taiwan. The often-overlooked island south of big-brother China, Taiwan, was by far one of my favorite countries to visit along my Tour-de-Asia. I spent 8 days exploring the tiny island, and honestly wish I had allocated another week or so. Taiwan is that much fun.
A great chunk of my time in Taiwan was spent in Taipei, exploring as many districts as I could and tasting all of the food my stomach could handle. Here’s a quick and dirty guide to all of the “must do’s” and the “can’t miss’s” in Taipei:
#1 2-28 Peace Memorial Park (and museum)
I didn’t realize quite how dark Taiwan’s past was until visiting this memorial park and museum.
The Peace Museum was a sobering experience. The museum details the dark years of Taiwan, where the death of a woman lead to years of bloodshed, disappearances, and hardship. Some museums in Taipei seem to display a different sentiment about the affiliations with China….which to my surprise, my friends said were placed there intentionally by the Chinese government. The Peace Museum was very unlike those.
The park surrounding the museum is full of art and gardens, meant to remind visitors of those victimized during Chinese martial law.
#2 Longshan Temple
Step in through the Longshan Temple gates and transport yourself into a different time period. Just inside, a large waterfall creates a serene atmosphere. As you walk deeper into the holy space, the architecture unfolds around you, giving you something to look at no matter where you turn. Longshan is stunning!
#3 DIY City Bike Tour or Hiking
Taiwan is covered in large national parks. Even in Taipei, its not hard to find green. If you rent one of the U-bikes at any location around Taipei (for roughly 10 cents USD/hour) you can ride around and through the parks in Taipei.
Consider riding through Daan Park, the Taipei botanical garden, Dohu park, 2-28 Memorial Peace park, or any other one in between.
If you do choose Daan Park, there is a wonderful tea house right nearby that I must recommend. I would be doing you a huge disservice not to. The Wisteria tea house has been in operation since the Japanese occupation of Taiwan, and you can feel the influence in every aspect of the establishment.
If hiking is more your thing, check out Yangmingshan National Park for some great sights, or Elephant Mountain Park. Some of my Taiwanese friends also recommend Bitan, a nice easy stroll along a gorgeous lake.
#4 Old Street Night Market (Tamsui)
I’m a total ice cream addict, so this place stole my heart. If you don’t care for sky-high cones like I do (um, what’s wrong with you?!) then you can snack on traditional Taiwanese food or check out the various shops along Old Street. Behind Old Street just up the road is the wharf, with tons of restaurants and live music areas.
#5: Taipei 101
Even if you don’t climb the Taipei 101 tower (don’t worry, I didn’t), I would certainly make sure I made a trip to the area at least once. The shopping mall below is full of high-end retailers, and there are tons of unique art galleries, including some interesting ceramic work (below) and coral pieces on display.
The shops in the surrounding areas of the Taipei 101 building are lively, and include a lot of fun bars and restaurants to entertain yourself at.
I could ramble on about how great this city really was. It’s the first one since I left my post in Japan that I felt I could find a home in. Taipei really is a melting-pot of the East. Without a doubt, a must-see city.
Have you been? What was your favorite part? Let me know!!