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Trip Notes: 2 Nights in Taipei

Old Jan 7th, 2018, 08:03 PM
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Trip Notes: 2 Nights in Taipei

We did a 2 night (about 48 hours on the ground) stopover in Taipei. Here are "trip notes" to help people who may be planning a future trip.
OVERALL THOUGHTS:
We chose Taipei for a brief stopover before we went on to Vietnam & Laos. It was a fun, relaxing and pleasant stopover. The food is great. The people are friendly and adorable. There are a variety of interesting sites to visit and things to do.
Taiwan lacks the top-tier “sites” that are found elsewhere in Asia and probably isn’t the best choice for a first-time trip to Asia. But it’s definitely an underrated destination that should be on everyone’s Asia list.
BASIC ITINERARY:
Day 1: 11am arrival at TPE. Ximending, Longshan Temple, Huaxi St Night Market
Day 2: National Palace Museum, Chaing Kai Shek Memorial, Maokong, Raohe St Night Market
Da 3: 2-28 Peace Park, Taipei 101, Sun Yat Sen Memorial. 7pm departure at TPE.
SITES:
- National Palace Museum: It’s the most famous site in TW. The collection is obviously impressive – jade, bronzes, paintings, gold, etc. Our visit was 2-3 hours. That was sufficient to get an overview of the major collections. It’s a fairly big museum, but not some labyrinthine museum (like the NYC Met or British Museum) where you can’t get a good overview in 2-3 hours. But one could easily spend a full day there or more. Unfortunately, the museum is full of unclouth PRC tour groups. Thankfully, the museum does a good job at crowd control and policing their behavior. Everyone was obsessed with the “jade cabbage” and the “meat stone” – apparently the two most famous works. It was amusing to see everyone swarm these pieces. We happened to arrive when the English tour started and decided to join; we found it really boring and didn’t much of the guide, so we ditched the group and went out on our own.
- Chaing Kai Shek Memorial & Sun Yat Sen Memorial: We saw both. The surroundings are pretty at both memorials. It’s probably not necessary to see both if you’re pressed for time and/or don’t have a keen interest in 20th century Chinese historical figures. The changing of the guards ceremony (on the hour) was pretty cool. It’s pretty similar to any other changing of the guards ceremony anywhere else, but why not see another one while you can? Lots of PRC tour groups stop at both memorials (shoving selfie sticks in your face and all). They a bunch of them showed for the changing of the guards, with plenty of pushing and shoving.
- Maokong Gondola & Tea Plantations: One of the highlights of our short time in TW. It’s off the beaten path and less mentioned in the tourbooks/forums/blogs. The gondola leaves from the Taipei Zoo and it’s a beautiful ~30 minute ride all the way up to Maokong. The ride is part of the MRT system and is dirt cheap at NT$125 (US $4), too. When you arrive, you can walk around the various trails and see the tea plantations and have tea/dessert one of the many spots. We wandered around the trails for a little bit, went into the tea shops, and then stopped for some tea and tea ice scream. We didn’t see a single other foreign tourist; this seems to be a quick city getaway for the locals. Definitely an underrated experience.
- Night Markets: We went to the Huaxi St and Raohe St markets on our two nights. Both had tons of amazing food. The most famous night market is apparently Shi Lin; we read that it’s too touristy and skipped it. To us, the night markets we visited were fairly similar. If you want the night market experience, it probably makes sense to go to whichever is most convenient for you.
- Taipei 101: We didn’t go up. The weather was cloudy, the price to the top seemed overly expensive for what it’s worth, and that’s not really our thing. But we wanted to stop by and see the building up close.
- 2-28 Peace Park: Very pretty and relaxing. There are several interesting points of interest in the park – a pagoda in the middle of a lake, a fish pond, various sculptures, etc. If you have the time, it’s a nice place for a stroll.
- Longshan Temple: It’s very pretty, but if you’ve seen a lot of Buddhist temples in Asia, it’s just another one. It’s a top attraction in the guidebooks, but it didn’t wow us.
- Ximending: Good people watching. Lots of fun shops to check out and see the locals just hanging out.
In our short time (1 full day and 2 half days), I think we comfortably covered the tourist highlights in the city of Taipei itself. If we had more time, we would have wanted to visit the Yangminshan hot springs area or the Yehliu rock formations.
One on a short stopover can easily see the highlights of Taipei in one full day. 2 full days in Taipei would leave plenty of time to see everything at a relaxed pace and even add in something off the beaten path like Maokong. With more than 2 full days, I think you’d want to start looking at day trips outside the city.
FOOD:
The food is obviously a highlight of Taiwan. Great food, snacks, dessert, bubble tea, etc. is everywhere. Street food seemed very clean.
We tried the stinky tofu. I kind of liked the flavor. Wife was repulsed.
We didn’t ever sit down at a restaurant for a full meal. We shared a bunch of little food items throughout the day. That way, we’d get more variety in our short time in TW.
We didn’t wait an hour for Din Tai Fung. They’re all over the world, and I suspect the ones in Taipei are no better than the one in LA.
We stopped by the “Modern Toilet” restaurant but didn’t eat there. It’s very amusing, and worth stopping by for a photo.
THE PEOPLE:
We thought the Taiwanese people were a big highlight of visiting TW. It’s a very “cute” culture – Hello Kitty stuff everywhere, signs with pandas or other animals on them, etc. It’s a bit similar to Japan in that respect.
Almost everyone we encountered was cheery, happy and helpful. No touts trying to hassle or rip tourists off. It’s a very polite, clean and pleasant city. We absolutely never saw any of the spitting and other nastiness that’s so commonplace across the strait.
The overall level of English was pretty good. Most young people speak English, and most restaurants / boba places have English menus. A little gesturing and pointing might be needed for street food.
ACCOMODATIONS:
We stayed in an AirBnB in Ximending. Ximending is a great area to be in. Tons of food options in both the day and night. Lots of locals around. Good people watching. Easy to get everywhere on the MRT from Ximending.
Our AirBnB was 2-3 minutes from the MRT. Try to be near an MRT station, wherever you book.
GETTING AROUND:
The MRT is a breeze. We each purchased an Easy Card. Each person needs his/her own; no sharing because you need to scan in and out each time you ride. It was a bit confusing and the internet seemed to have a lot of outdated info. For us, the initial purchase was NT$500, which gives you a card loaded with NT$400. So, the card itself comes out to a non-refundable NT$100. Any extra money you put on the card that you don’t use can apparently be refunded.
We took the Airport MRT to/from the airport for NT$160. It’s fast, easy, clean and comfortable.
We took taxis only from the Airport MRT station to/from the AirBnB. The drivers were professional and the metered fare was what locals told us it should be; no shenanigans. We paid NT$90-100 for a ride from the Airport MRT station to Ximending; no extras for luggage etc.
MONEY:
ATMs are everywhere. ATMs never charged “fees.” And credit cards can probably be used for most things other than street food.
The only site with an admission fee was the National Palace Museum. Food was surprisingly cheap. Food prices seemed much closer to, say, SE Asia prices than Japan prices.
If you have extra NT$ left over and try to change money back to USD/etc at the airport, you’ll have to pay a flat transaction fee of about US $3-4. We didn’t have much NT$ left and wanted to cash it out into $$, and this flat rate fee was rather annoying. Wish we knew about it beforehand.
LAX_Esq is offline  
Old Jan 8th, 2018, 01:49 AM
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Great info as I'll be there, for the first time, at the end of this month as I have booked 5 nights. It will be my first time in Taiwan as I spend most of my time in S.E. Asia where I am now. But, each year, I like to try to throw in a new destination for 5 nights, added onto the 6-week trip. On the last trip, I threw in Hong Kong for 5 nights, but Hong Kong and I didn't jell. But, I'm glad that I gave it a try.

Happy Travels!
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Old Jan 8th, 2018, 09:19 AM
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Thanks for the report.
Reading54 is offline  
Old Jan 10th, 2018, 04:04 PM
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Originally Posted by Guenmai View Post
Great info as I'll be there, for the first time, at the end of this month as I have booked 5 nights. It will be my first time in Taiwan as I spend most of my time in S.E. Asia where I am now. But, each year, I like to try to throw in a new destination for 5 nights, added onto the 6-week trip. On the last trip, I threw in Hong Kong for 5 nights, but Hong Kong and I didn't jell. But, I'm glad that I gave it a try.

Happy Travels!
Thanks, Guenmai. Not sure your reason for not liking HK, but I find it a bit sterile and boring. Nothing against it; I just don't get what there is to do for 5 nights there. TW has a lot more character than HW, in my humble opinion.
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Old Jan 10th, 2018, 06:50 PM
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Thank you for the report, LAX. Interesting how much you saw in your time there, as TPE is a perfect stopover point. Now wish i'd seen more than the airport on way to/from VN!
I look forward to a Taiwan visit some day--combining with HK which I loved and found not at all boring . Had 4 full days and wanted more! Left the center, to one of the outlying easily reachable areas . Sai Kung, went to a farm in the new territories, took local bus on one of the outlying islands. Different strokes , and all that!
Thanks again.
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Old Jan 31st, 2018, 07:26 PM
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So interested to read this as I've been considering flights that route through Tapei and would allow for a stopover. The food sounds fantastic and I appreciate all the other details/suggestions. Thanks for posting
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