We were both over the moon that some of the cheapest flights out of the Philippines were to Taipei – both of us had really wanted to visit Taiwan!
The whole country was such a huge contrast to our South East Asian travels of the last few months. The most striking thing was the weather, which was grey, cloudy and rainy – much like a British spring time – bliss! This really helped us feel very much at home – this was a country where we could imagine spending a fair bit of time. Interestingly, Ryan felt that in parts the country felt reminiscent of Czech Republic or The Netherlands!
We spent a total of 6 nights in Taipei, sleeping in the smallest room imaginable, reminding me of my stay in a capsule hotel in Tokyo a while back! We stayed in Ximending, which is a fairly young and cheap neighbourhood in central Taipei. Below are some photos of our first explorations in the streets of Ximending.
During our time in Taipei we had to visit Taipei 101, which is really impressive – standing like a tall brach of bamboo in the middle of the city. Budget minded as we are we didn’t pay to go up but spent time exploring the free mall areas inside (with lots of free tastings of pineapple cake!) and admiring the exterior.
We also got take away XiaoLongBao (Soup Dumplings) from Din Tai Fung – the famous michelin starred taiwanese restaurant, with locations all over Asia, but this being the original location at Taipei 101. The XiaoLongBao are supposed to be their highlight and the best around.
The dumplings are made by placing the filling (meat, fish etc) with a cube of solidified soup inside the dough and then they are steamed combining the soup and filling inside the dumpling. They also have a very unique way of being eaten, which we had fun practicing!
Another culinary excursion was to Modern Toilet! We had to sample some of the Taiwanese obsession with themed restaurants and I think the pictures speak for themselves….
Even the toilets in the MRT metro are taken very seriously with an electronic monitor outside so that you know how busy they are and of you have time for a quick visit before catching your train!
Another day trip was out on the MRT to Taipei Zoo. A fantastic trip and only £1.20 entry – a bargain in anyones books.
Our main reason for visiting was to see the pandas, which didn’t disappoint. They were so active and charismatic!
There were also a whole lot of other interesting things to see!!
The next day we took a day trip further out of the city towards the north coast of Taiwan (about a 1 1/2 hr trip). First stop was Juifen, a stunning old mountainside town which overlooks the pacific coast. It’s old streets were the inspiration for the film ‘Spirited Away’.
We really enjoyed wandering the streets, gazing at the views and stopped in a tea house to warm up and soak in the atmosphere.
The tea culture in Taiwan is taken very seriously and we were only to happy to join in!
Jiufen Old Street is the main draw to the town and we enjoyed sampling some of the culinary delights that line its narrow lanes.
We then caught a bus for about 30minutes to the neighbouring city of Keelung, which is famous for its night market. In fact, other than eating at Modern Toilet, all of our evening meals were spent in Taiwanese night markets!
Here was another night market we visited in Taipei – Raohe Street Night Market. It is most famous for its pork pepper buns – not too dissimilar from a cornish pasty – hurrah!
Our final day trip was 30 minutes on the MRT up to Beitou. This town was made famous during the Japanese occupation of Taiwan, when they noticed it’s hot waters and initiated a long running hot springs culture that has gone from strength to strength in the country.
Seeing as we had spent the entire previous day in hot springs (following our epic cycle ride… more on that in the next post) we didn’t actually take a dip, but we did visited the Hot Springs Museum…
…..and The Plum Garden (calligraphy museum)….
….and the Thermal Valley – previously known as ‘Hell valley’ due to the temperature of its waters at around 90°C. Crickey!
However, exploring Taipei wasn’t the only thing we did in Taiwan… more about that in our next post!