Taipei is the capital of the sweet potato shaped island of Taiwan, located in the northern part of the island in a basin between the Yangming and Central Mountains. The weather is cool and perfect for sightseeing, which is ideal, because there are plenty of things to do in this bustling city.
The first thing to note is that the Taiwanese speak Mandarin, and signs and road names will mostly be in the Chinese language. However there is no reason to panic, Taiwanese are basically a helpful bunch and are more than willing to help when approached.
One of the first things to check out are Taipei’s legendary night markets which sell an assortment of street foods. With influences from China and Japan, the food in Taipei is both mouthwatering and inexpensive. Be sure to try the oyster omelet – juicy oysters fried in an egg and flour batter and oyster mee sua, savoury slivers of noodles topped off by a few plump oysters. For the more adventurous, try stinky tofu or chou dou fu in Mandarin.
For the shopaholics, make sure you head down to Wufenpu market. There are many markets and department stores for shopping, but none as cheap and extensive as Wufenpu. A bewildering labyrinth of stores, it is easy to get lost in this huge market. Shop till you drop and pick up souvenirs for your loved ones back home. One tip, don’t forget to bargain for the best prices and take care of your belongings – it’s a really crowded place!
After a tiring day of shopping, relax your stiff and sore muscles with a trip to one of the many hot springs. There are two options when it comes to hot springs, either private or public. Private hot springs can be found in some hotels and are either in your room, or limited to hotel guests. Though not any less fun, public hot springs are of course a little more crowded, especially during the weekends.
To see fantastic views of Taipei, visit Taipei 101, one of the tallest buildings in the world. Pick a clear, sunny day and go up the super-fast lift to either the 89th (indoor observatory) or 91st (outdoor observatory) floors for sprawling views of the city. There are also many luxury stores in the mall of Taipei 101 so definitely check those out if you’re thinking of getting the latest branded items.
Finally, don’t leave Taipei without acquainting yourself with the history of the beautiful city. Visit either the Chiang Kai Shek or Sun Yat Sen memorial halls (or both) to give you an insight into Taiwan’s history. Often, there are also dance or musical performances taking place in the square outside the Chiang Kai Shek Memorial Hall, so be sure to stop and see the traditional dances and listen to the music of Taipei.
How to get there
Search Skyscanner to find a flight from New Zealand to Taipei’s Taoyuan Airport. Once there, the best way to get around is by MRT or Mass Rapid Transit system. Buy an Easy Card, which is a stored value card, and simply wave it over the card reading device before boarding the MRT or the bus.
Taxis are also relatively affordable in Taipei. Buses and Trams are slightly more difficult to navigate because there are significantly more lines, but there will be signs in English, so the trip is not so daunting.