It didn’t take me long to decide my last international trip from Japan: three days in Taipei was the perfect endnote to a travel list that has brought me joy over the last three years.
Living in Japan means I’ve been able to travel A LOT. I’ve knocked out six Asian countries – Thailand, Vietnam, the Philippines, South Korea, Hong Kong, and Taiwan (say what you will about the latter two’s relationship with China, but for my list, I’m calling them separate countries). I traveled back to Roatan for an entire month. I went to Canada once too, and also managed to swing a week in Hawaii.
This doesn’t even include the 25 prefectures I’ve visited inside Japan so far!
(And you can tell by the amount of links in the previous paragraphs that I am an excellent blogger who documents all my trips on here diligently…)
So when I knew I needed to wrap up my self-described “Asian Tour”, it came down to the final two countries I was itching to visit: Taiwan and Singapore. And when push came to shove, Taiwan was a cheaper trip, so that’s why I booked it.
Thanks to Japan’s emperor abdicating this year, we are celebrating with a historically unheard-of 10-day public holiday instead of our usual 5-day Golden Week. Traveling inside Japan is insane during this time of year anyway, so I wanted to get outta dodge. Three days in Taipei (plus a travel day on each end) sounded perfect!
The lazy traveler
I am kinda lazy, but not so much when I travel. However, the past year and half I have been dealing with an autoimmune disease. While things were under control for about a year, lately I have not been well and it’s been impacting my trips. I have a lot of joint pain and fatigue, so my usual walking 20km a day, exploring all the sights from morning till night has gone out the window.
I didn’t have the energy on this trip to do any hikes or day trips, which was a bit disappointing since Taiwan offers both of those in spades. I only spent about six hours a day out of my AirBnb.
This is one of the reasons I like traveling solo. My dietary restrictions are annoying, and I don’t want to push myself for other people or make other people feel like they’re missing out or don’t have a real travel buddy when I’m turning in at 7pm every day. So I go solo and do my own thing!
Anyway, this is a guide – well, not really, more of what I did and enjoyed and you can do it too if you want – for anyone who wants an easy, chill trip to Taipei.
Where to stay in Taipei
I decided to stay in the Ximending area, also called Ximen (after the MRT station) or Ximen Walking Street (self-explanatory), which is in the Wanhua District. This area is popular for budget hotels, hostels, street food, clothing shops, a tattoo street, arcades, and street entertainment.
Ximending is young, fun, and NOISY! No cars allowed for a several block radius in every direction means there are TONS of people out for a good time. It goes from 9:30am when the clothing stores start blasting dance music until well after midnight.
With earplugs I had a great sleep, but if you are at all even a medium sleeper or less, you should bring earplugs.
I stayed at a cute AirBnb (referral link, feel free to use for a discount on your first stay!) right in the heart of the walking street area. Now that I’ve stayed there, I’d probably choose something one or two MRT stops away next time. It’s nice being in the action, and it was convenient. My apartment was just a 3-minute walk from Ximen Station, which is a major MRT station so that was a plus.
But I think I’d stay in Daan district next time, as a lot of attractions were in that area and it had a much more chill vibe than Ximen. Ximen is like being in Harajuku in Tokyo or Myeongdong in Seoul! The atmosphere was a little too young and crazy for me.
The AirBnb apartment in Ximen was adorable inside, though getting up to it took me through a bit of a sketchy area. Once in, I was treated to a huge studio that was almost the same size as my apartment in Japan! While there was a full-size fridge that I appreciated for cool drinks, there was no kitchen. But are you really going to cook in Taipei when there are so many restaurants and street food stalls to enjoy??
My friends who overlapped at the tail end of my trip stayed at Meander Hostel, which was about a 10-minute walk from my AirBnb in a much quieter area. It looked really nice, so if you’re into that hostel life (or have a higher budget or a partner to share a private room with), I’d recommend it.
If you’re looking to splurge just a little bit more but still stay in Ximen, Via Hotel was almost next door to my Airbnb and it looked like a great choice too. Izzy over at The Next Somewhere has a lovely review of Via Hotel!
Arrival: Get oriented, get organized, get some sleep
I found the Taoyuan Airport to be very easy to navigate with great English signage. Since I’m from a visa-exempt country, I just had to fill in the immigration form I got on the airplane, go through immigration, and then I was out and onto the arrivals concourse. (I never check bags on the low-cost carrier flights I take – carry on only!)
My first three stops in a new country are always the same:
- Exchange cash – Japan doesn’t do debit cards so I can’t use the ATMs in foreign countries. I’m not exchanging huge amounts so I don’t really care about losing $3 to exchange it at the airport. I’d rather have the cash straight away.
- Get a SIM card – at the international arrivals at Taoyuan, exit the baggage claim and turn right – follow the signs for “Telecommunication Services”. I got a 5-day SIM card from Chungwa with unlimited data and some voice credit for NT300/$10. I was really glad to have it, especially since the 4G ended up being faster than the wifi in my apartment, so I was tethering on my laptop a lot.
- Get a transit pass – an Easycard will get you all over Taipei and you can get one at the airport at a vending machine (follow the signs for the MRT until you get to the ticketing area). It costs NT500/$16 and includes the card (NT100) plus a NT400 top-up. You need exact change for this as the machine doesn’t give change. From the airport to Taipei Main Station is NT150/$4.80 and then getting around town depends on how far you’re going, but most fares are around NT20-50/$0.65-$1.60. You can get a refund on whatever is left on your card when you leave. BONUS: It works as a debit card at convenience stores like Family Mart and 7-11, and even some restaurants and retailers. Also, some vending machines!
I got to the right station as directed by my AirBnb host, but then I got lost in the maze of walking streets trying to find the entrance to the building.
Here’s a tip – if you have a tricky AirBnb and the host isn’t a fluent English speaker, offer to write up English instructions for getting to the apartment! I did, and my host was very appreciative as English is his second language so it was hard for him to write the instructions. He relied on photos but food carts are always moving here and businesses close and open as something else the next day, so it was hard to tell!
After finding the apartment, I walked around the walking streets to take in the sights and sounds a bit, but I was pretty tired so after half an hour I grabbed some snacks from 7-11 and went to bed.
Taipei sights and activities
I had three full days in Taipei, and I was very grateful for the cloudy weather that happened most of that time. It was the end of April and already well over +30C every day, and pretty humid. For two of the days there was a welcome breeze.
I personally would never, ever go to Taipei from May till September. I was a bit surprised that the weather at the end of April was already encroaching on Japanese summer temperatures (where people LITERALLY DIE FROM THE HEAT every year), but Taiwan is much further south than I thought. Anyway, I would go back in a heartbeat during the winter.
Fun fact if you’ve never met me in real life: I run hot. I sweat like a mofo. And I absolutely HATE being hot and sweaty. Ask me again why I lived in the Caribbean and Asia… ? (Actually, don’t ask. I have no idea why I do this to myself.)
All of these places were beyond easy to get to on the main metro lines + a bit of Google maps. Just search the place name.
Here’s what I got up to in three days in Taipei:
This was probably the most crowded place I visited in Taipei. It’s easy to see why though – it’s absolutely stunning. Very, very detailed and colorful architecture makes for a huge contrast with the modern city buildings surrounding it. The whole place has incense wafting around and fruit plate offerings everywhere.
I felt a little sorry for all the locals trying to pray here. After I saw them getting jostled by tourists, I stopped snapping photos and just walked around and tried not to be an asshole.
Bopiliao Historic Block
This area is just a short walk from Longshan Temple, and if you like history it’s worth a visit. It doesn’t look like much from the exterior of the block, but you can get inside the courtyard and then from there wander through empty rooms and some small museums. Everything is free! There’s also a kids play area (follow the signs for the toilets).
If you’re looking for a background for cool Instagram shots, this place is amazing. I saw plenty of Insta husbands around here!
From here, I walked to the nearby “Herbal Medicine Street” because I saw a sign and figured why not. I was definitely out of place in a very local area but it was interesting to wander through the area and see all the different roots and herbs. There’s some tea stands there too. I grabbed a detox tea for NT 50/$1.60 and I hope it worked cause it tasted terrible 🙂
C.K.S. Memorial Hall
This was the first memorial hall I visited in Taipei. I’m still not clear on why Taipei is obsessed with building memorial halls, but there are a lot.
They don’t look like anything crazy special in photos, but most of them actually took my breath away in real life. I cannot describe to you how absolutely MASSIVE these places are. The buildings are enormous!
This memorial hall has three buildings and a huge gate laid out in a cross shape with a big courtyard in the middle. There were marching bands and dance teams practicing everywhere. Lots of room for everyone – it wasn’t crowded even though there were thousands of people on the grounds.
There’s also a botanical garden nearby but I forgot to go. It looked nice in photos!
My friend Stacy, who is from Taipei, recommended this place to me. It’s a bit of a hike from the closest MRT station (about 15-20 minutes walking) but it was a super cute little riverside area. If you’re renting YouBikes, this is a nice place to ride with separate bike trails.
The restaurants were adorable, though tourist-priced and there wasn’t actually anything I could eat. I loved their rooftop seating! There was lots of other seating though and I enjoyed sitting on a bench by the river munching on my dried mango and oolong tea from 7-11 (thankfully I stopped on the way). There were also people LARPing in the park, so some good people watching.
Dr. Sun-Yat Sen Memorial Hall
I tried to visit this place three times and almost gave up. The first time, when I put it in Google maps it sent me to a university building with the same name. Then the next time I got on the right metro line, but went in the wrong direction (always check which direction the train is going!) Finally, the third time was a charm.
I wanted to visit this hall just to do a little full circle moment. In Vancouver, I often visited the Dr. Sun-Yat Sen memorial garden for a little peace and quiet downtown. When I went to Hong Kong last month, I visited a museum exhibit about Dr. Sun-Yat Sen. I figured I might as well say hey to this guy in another country too!
It’s another massive memorial hall, and interesting to walk around and look at. I didn’t have the energy to go inside, so I don’t know what’s in there. I watched the hip-hop classes going on there for a while, and then grabbed a cold brew coffee from a vending machine and relaxed on a quiet bench in the outer garden.
From the Dr. Sun-Yat Sen Memorial Hall, I walked to Taipei 101 in about ten minutes. It’s easy to find – just look up. It also has its own MTR stop, so it’s easy to get there on transit, too.
This was the tallest building in the world from 2004 until the Burj Khalifa was built in Dubai. The observation deck at Taipei 101 is apparently one of the can’t-miss things to do in Taipei, so off I went.
The first few floors are all high end shops. I headed up to the 5th floor observation deck ticket desk. Waited in line just to be told that the visibility was less than 20%, and it was NT600/$19.40 to go up so I skipped it and decided to come back the next day.
I walked around the mall instead. There is a huge food court in the basement with several gluten-free options – MOS Burger, Pepper Lunch, teppanyaki, or DIY-style from Jason Supermarket. There were some more places you could probably cobble a meal together from. I didn’t eat, though. I got a bubble tea and watched a kids xylophone band performance.
Attempt #2, the next day was a HOT sunny day and I headed back to Taipei 101 on the train. Of course, it started raining as soon as I made it to the mall. No luck again on the observation deck, so I got some chips and some weird drinks at Jason Supermarket and sat around at some outdoor tables. I waited the rain out, but it was still cloudy so I gave up on Taipei 101!
National Taiwan Museum
This museum was highly recommended online but it was a pain in the ass to find on Google maps. There are lots of museums in Taipei, and every time I tried to search for this it took me to the wrong one. (This is the one close to the NTU Hospital Station on the Red Line.)
It was only a NT30/$1 entrance fee. There were exhibits on 1st and 3rd floor – everything else was closed. The exhibits themselves were well done. Though the building was old (and beautiful) the exhibits seemed new and modern. When I was there the first floor had a wing of microfossils and a wing of insects. It was interactive and lots of English. The third floor was a history of Taiwan. This would be a great place to take kids. I’d budget 1-1.5 hours with kids or 45 minutes-1hr without.
There were also a lot of other things to see in the park surrounding the museum, so you can definitely make an afternoon out of it.
Huashan 1914 Creative Park
Taipei is starting to bubble up with lots of “creative parks”, and I’m not sure exactly what they’re supposed to be, but it’s worth a visit. This one is open till 9pm, and you can get there from Zhongxiao Xinsheng Station on the Blue Line. It’s about a four minute walk from Exit 1 (follow the signs straight to the park).
This place seemed really random but had a fun and laid-back atmosphere. Lots of little stands selling baked goods, sake, craft beer, snacks, etc. There were endless long lines to see independent films, so I passed on that. Tiny little shops and restaurants were tucked into corners all over the place. There were several street performers entertaining the crowds. Tons of people milling around and enjoying it.
I wandered around taking a look at everything and then stopped in a natural food store. I got a pretty butterfly pea flower + white ginger popsicle for NT80/$2.60 and sat in the green area and people-watched for a while.
In the Daan district, this is a highly photogenic area with chill vibes. I literally went here because I saw a cute photo of a shop called Soyo on Haute Cuisine Life’s Taipei blog, and I wanted one for myself. #truth
Yongkang has and lots of coffee shops. There were Japanese tourists everywhere trying to get a shaved ice and buying trinkets in the shops. Get one block off the main street to avoid the crowds and find some cool shops and alleyways. I wandered around here for a good 45 minutes, and then sat in the park with an osmanthus bubble tea.
This was a little trickier to find than the main tourist attractions I went to. To get here, take the Red Line to Dongmen Station and go out Exit 5. For Yongkang Park, go straight out the exit and take your first right. The area starts in a block or two from there and just wander. If you want to eat at Din Tai Fung (the famous xiolongbao place), don’t take that first right – just cross the street (straight from the station exit, not across the main road) and it’s right there on the corner.
Where I Ate in Taipei
Food is my favorite thing in the world, but traveling now gives me a bit of stress if it seems like it’s going to be difficult for me to eat. I have a lot of dietary restrictions (no gluten, dairy, soy, corn, or beans + I try to steer clear of sugar) so yes, I am annoying to eat with.
Taipei is famous for a lot of really delicious food, like beef noodles and big pieces of fried chicken. Both were a no-go for me. What else is famous there? Oh yeah… it’s the freakin’ birthplace of bubble milk tea. So, as you can see, I was a little worried about what I’d be able to eat.
All that being said, Taipei is a major metropolis, and has all kinds of food. I worried for nothing! There was lots to eat. Although I had to pass on most of the Chinese food (hello wheat flour and soy sauce in EVERYTHING) there was all kinds of other things to eat.
Although I am the opposite of a vegan now (I used to be one for many years, no hate on vegans here!) most of the restaurants featuring gluten-free food were also vegan. So if you’re a vegetarian or vegan heading to Taipei, don’t worry. Also, these places had great reviews from vegans and omnivores alike, so don’t be afraid to take your travel buddy!
If you don’t have these kinds of restrictions, I recommend checking out Lao Shandong Homemade Noodles (name is weird on TripAdvisor, use the way I wrote it here for Google maps) to try the famous Taiwanese beef noodles. This place was recently mentioned in the Michelin guide, and according to my friends who went, is worth the hunt to find it.
One thing I want to mention is the service at restaurants. Service is a little slow but people please remember this is Asia, servers aren’t working their asses off trying to get a tip (you don’t tip in Asia) so they don’t hover and check on you 20 times the way North American servers do. Honestly, I prefer the style in Asia. In Japan it’s even better – there’s a call bell on the table at a lot of restaurants, and you just press it if you need service.
Simply catching the server’s eye with a “please come here” smile and nod is almost always enough to have them come over and help you with whatever you need. All my servers were really friendly and helpful.
Taipei Metro (MTR): all directions for the restaurants below use the color name of the subway lines. They all have proper names and people don’t really call them by their colors, but I found that easiest both for typing this and for just getting around generally. But for reference, the line names are as follows, and though this is the official map from the MRT the colors are kinda garbage – Line 1 is brown and line 4 is orange.
Ooh Cha Cha
Ooh Cha Cha came up over and over on every “Taipei gluten-free” search that I did. The photos at this vegan cafe looked good on Google, so I headed off there first for coffee and brunch. “Cha” is how you say tea in Chinese and Japanese, so I thought this was a funny play on words for a name.
As usual, Google Maps got me lost and wandering in circles. On the plus side, I headed down a residential side street and met this cat:
I was the only customer in there on a Saturday at 11am, which was nice. The staff were really cheerful. Everything there is vegan, and they have allium-free and gluten-free choices clearly marked on the menu.
I had a wild mushroom bowl with quinoa, brown rice, garlic kimchi, sprouts, lettuce, pickled onions, seaweed salad, and dressing. It was delicious and really filling! The garlic kimchi was some of the best I’ve ever had – super garlicky with a bite. I could have had a whole plate of just kimchi.
I may have also had a slice of key lime pie, and two (!) lattes, because they were just that good.
Ooh Cha Cha makes their own in-house non-dairy milk. When I asked about it, the staff told me they use a blend of coconut milk, oats, and almonds. It was, hands down, the BEST vegan latte I’ve ever had, including my own. (And I make a mean latte.)
This was a pricey meal by Taiwan standards, but I was happy to pay it for a) food I could actually eat without stress, b) food I liked, c) food I can’t get in Japan, and d) a quiet, peaceful location. For my meal, dessert, and two lattes, I paid a whopping NT550/$17.
Compare this to my gluten-free vegan cafe adventure in Hong Kong where I paid almost $30 for one cupcake and one tiny latte!
If you’re visiting Ooh Cha Cha’s Guting location (they have two), take the Green or Orange Line to Guting Station and head out Exit 2. Walk straight out and keep going straight. Take your first right (it’s not far from the exit), and it’ll be on the left at the end of that first block. Don’t follow Google Maps bullshit walking directions, it had me going in circles for 15 minutes. It’s like a 2 minute walk from the exit.
Similar to Ooh Cha Cha, Plants Eatery is a 100% vegan gluten-free cafe and restaurant that comes up time and time again if you’re searching for gluten-free food in Taipei. These are the main two places you’ll see recommended for either vegans or people who are gluten-free, since Chinese food doesn’t lend itself well to gluten-free eating.
It was a little taste of Vancouver as soon as I walked in the door. Clean with a Kinfolk industrial aesthetic (and, of course, an abundance of green plants), I was immediately greeted with a smile and presented with a huge bilingual menu.
Plants offers a full roster of cafe drinks, from coffee with their in-house activated nut mylk to Ashgawanda Golden Lattes to healthy smoothies. There’s also an alcohol list, including gluten-free cider! They have breakfast bowls, salads, soup (this day was a Thai Coconut + Kale soup), sides/snacks, and “wholesome meals” to round out the menu. There are treats in the cooler at the front to take home, and a few small shelves of specialty natural food items. They also had organic kale for sale by the pound!
It was hard to choose, but I went with a latte and the Macrobiotic Tempeh Bibimbap. I usually avoid soy, but I never see tempeh in Japan and I love it! Plus it’s fermented so I feel like maybe it’s not as bad, and the tempeh here is organic and non-GMO. Both were great, and I was full after even though I got the bowl with half rice.
The apple cider vinegar sauerkraut was my favorite part, besides the tempeh. It was really fresh and healthy! My only negative was the seaweed – it was clearly just rehydrated and not given any further love after that. The latte was quite large (which was good, because it was still NT150/$4.85 after the discount I got on it for ordering a meal) and was good. Ooh Cha Cha’s is still the winner for me, though.
Total was NT572/$18.50 including 10% service but I had table service so that’s fine. Right amount of contact and super friendly.
From Daan Station on the Red Line, take Exit 6. Go straight out of the exit, turn right at the clothing store on the corner with the purple sign. Look for red lanterns – that’s the right street. It’s about a 4 minute walk.
From Zhongxiao Fuxing Station on the Blue Line, take Exit 3. Make an immediate u-turn (put Sogo on your right), take the first left at the major intersection, then left again at the corner with purple sign/clothing store. It’s about an 8 minute walk from the station.
Another vegan cafe that shows up when you ask Google to find you gluten-free food in Taipei!
I saw a beautiful photo of a colorful vegan bowl on For Gluten Sake, and decided I needed to pay Flourish a visit. (Side note: if you’re a gluten-free traveler, you need to check out Carrie’s gluten-free city guides. They’re a lifesaver!)
Flourish is really pretty inside. The interior is all light wood and white and feels very airy. There’s large batches of in house kombucha fermenting by the tables, smiley staff, and a small natural food store inside with some specialty items. They also have homemade soy milk and desserts for sale.
There were no foreigners in here…? At noon it started to get busy with locals but still lots of space. It can probably seat close to 100 people. The staff have sharp uniforms, with everything very white and clean and professional – the look was very Japanese-style and for a second I forgot I was in Taiwan. (Top tip: Japanese front door – push it sideways not in/out.)
I had to get the colorful vegan bowl! It was a fresh combination of mashed purple taro, broccoli, beets, sliced almonds, red quinoa, kabocha, tempeh, sprouts, and cauliflower, all on a bed of lettuce with a creamy tahini dressing for NT270/$8.70. I also got a rose kombucha which was a sparkly light refreshing kombucha with actual rose petals on top in a good sized glass for NT160/$5.15.
I couldn’t pass up dessert either, as all their desserts were vegan and gluten free! I had a lemon and pineapple cake for dessert for NT140/$4.50 and WOW. I actually made a noise when I took the first bite, which was very embarrassing. It was the best cake I’ve ever had. It had a chewy pineapple base, lemon cake layers topped with cashew cream lime zest, and candied lemon peel. I think about this cake almost every day.
You can pay with a credit card here! My total was NT627/$20.30 including 10% service.
Near Zhongxiao Danhua station on the Blue Line. Take Exit 3. Take your first right. Walk two blocks and right again. It will be on your left halfway through the street.
I found this place on Instagram, and it was easy to see why when I got there. It’s so cute!! The staff were so friendly, and chatted with me for ages and gave me recommendations in the nearby areas.
Nice Cream boasts 100% vegan ice cream, and I was thrilled to find both almond milk and soy milk bases since I avoid soy. Many flavors were also gluten-free. I tried a few flavors, but settled on the mint chocolate chip. One scoop is NT100/$3.20. I was very sad to find this on my last day – I could have gone here again and again.
I took a walk around the neighborhood with my ice cream. Picturesque old streets – vintage hipster cool. Tons of cafes and restaurants and shops! This was a great area for photos.
Take the Blue Line to Zhongxiao Dunhua Station. Take Exit 1 and do a u-turn at the ground level exit. Hang your first left at the adidas store. From there you can follow Google maps – just go straight for a few blocks then left and it’s on your left. About a 4 minute walk. You can get there from Green Line too but it’s a longer walk. Opposite side of the main road from Flourish, so if you want to hit both while you’re in the neighborhood you can!
Ximen Walking Street
Finding gluten-free street food was not as difficult as I thought!
I had bubble tea from Coco daily. I was addicted to the Tropical Special passionfruit boba + coconut jelly for NT50/$1.60, and horrified staff every day when I kept ordering bubble tea with zero sugar.
One fun discovery was A&T Fried Chicken. I didn’t realize that many places in Taiwan use sweet potato starch for coating their popcorn fried chicken. I also may or may not have made a daily pilgrimige to A&T for their small size chicken bites (NT70/$2.25).
Stinky tofu! Brave eaters cannot leave Taiwan without trying this awful-smelling dish. I don’t know why this smells so bad but tastes so good, but if you’re one of those people who likes durian then you know what I mean. I got this one for NT50/$1.60 and sadly couldn’t finish it too because it was too spicy but I LOVED IT! Smells awful but I liked the taste and the crunchy pickled cabbage they serve with it. I got it again at the night market with no spice and devoured it.
Ximen Walking Street is directly outside of Exit 6 at Ximen Station. You can access Ximen Station on the Blue or Green Line. There are massive signs all over for it, plus like a million people – just follow the crowd.
Ningxia Night Market
Skipped touristy Shilin Night Market for this smaller, more local market. I met up with Emily and Cindy here and we slowly made our way through the stalls. (Also please enjoy this as the only photo actually of me on my entire trip – the joys of traveling solo!)
Even though between us we had me with my dietary restrictions, Emily as a vegetarian, and Cindy happy with anything, we all were able to get something to eat.
I had lots to choose from. First I went for a box of grilled king oyster mushrooms for NT100/$3.20 with smoked rose salt on them. Then I crushed round 2 of stinky tofu for NT50/$1.60, and for dessert went for the brown sugar bubble tea (no milk) for NT50/$1.60 and finally a fresh watermelon juice for NT40/$1.30 for the walk back to the train station. The girls ate green onion pancakes, taro balls, some peanut ice cream burrito thing with cilantro in it (??) and more.
I wanted a chicken and veggie mixed thing too, but as I walked up to order the vendor coughed all over the food. Literally just all over it. Not even a show of trying to cover her mouth. I’m not THAT adventurous so I passed.
Less than a 10 minute walk from Exit 5 of Zhongshan Station on the Green Line. Hang a right at the station exit then go straight till the big traffic circle. Take the traffic circle exit where the 7-11 is (keep 7-11 on your left). Go a couple more blocks and there it is.
Overall Taipei Thoughts
I would absolutely visit Taipei again, though I’d like to go to Taiwan when I have more energy to do day trips and visit different parts of the island. There were so many places outside of Taipei that I wanted to see! Worth another visit for sure.
- Lots of English, friendly people, relatively clean, really safe, great transportation, tons of things to do.
- I was pleasantly surprised how many things I could “read”/understand on signs, menus, etc. since I know most basic kanji from living in Japan. Though I couldn’t tell you how to pronounce any of it in Mandarin, I could understand the meaning of a lot of it without having to check the English version. That was kind of fun!
- Wish I had more time for day trips outside of the city but even within Taipei there’s loads to see and do and eat.
- Cheap, especially if you can or want to eat Chinese food.
- Busy without being Tokyo levels of insane. Never had anyone touch me on the train. Locals always tried to offer me a seat if one was open.
- Random strangers very friendly and eager to help tourists. Shopkeepers relatively friendly even with a language barrier.
- Trash cans were a nice touch after being in Japan and carrying my fucking garbage home.
- Paying with Easycard at convenience stores, museum, some shops and restaurants was beyond convenient. Vending machines too! (Bonus: they were very cheap, like 30 cents for a bottle of water.)
- Saw loads of Taiwanese carrying reusable bags and water bottles, charging for plastic bags, even reusable bubble tea mugs!
- LGTBQ+ open and friendly. Though I am from Canada, one of the more LGBTQ+ friendly places, in Japan this is a “don’t ask, don’t tell, don’t show” thing and I seriously have not seen LGTBQ+ open people just living their lives on their terms in quite some time. Very refreshing.
- Technically potable tap water! I didn’t drink it, because the issue is with old pipes/lead/metal etc. getting in the water and not germs, but at least you don’t have to worry about getting sick from brushing your teeth or showering.
- Accessibility isn’t 100%. There are massive lines for the elevators at most stations. Grounds are uneven and changes in height unmarked.
- Popular tourist attractions aren’t marked on the maps at some of the stations which made figuring out the exits a bit difficult.
- Wet bathrooms. Do I need to say more? (Asia people, you feel me?)
- People continuing to do the “used toilet paper in the garbage” thing despite Taipei’s campaign to flush.
- People belching right in my face was not cool at all. I know this is a cultural thing in some parts of China and maybe these were mainland tourists, but I thought it was just when you finish a meal, not on the train or randomly standing in line. Sorry if this makes me not a good traveler, but I think it’s fucking disgusting. I don’t want to smell your burps two inches from my face. End of story.
- Begpackers in Ximen – I think begpackers are scum. This seems like more and more of a trend these days. If you can’t afford to travel, stay home until you can. Asking people in countries you’re visiting to help fund YOUR travels (when many of them can’t even afford to travel) is just gross.
- Bubble tea creates tons of non-recycled waste, so I didn’t love that. Food stalls creates tons of waste too. The only reusable stuff was at Ningxia Night Market and that was only for some of the stalls.
- MRT top up machines not giving change. You had to use exact change, and they didn’t take credit cards.
- Exiting the country at the airport was cool/strange – I used an automated gate with a fingerprint scanner thing but it doesn’t give you an exit stamp in your passport so I hope I don’t run into any trouble with that elsewhere in the future where I need to prove that I exited the country.
- Random 10% service on some restaurant bills.
- I was the only white tourist in a lot of places which was a little strange for me. Maybe a lot of the tourism here is from other Asian countries? I saw/heard lots of Japanese, Korean, and Filipino tourists. But even at major tourist attractions there weren’t many Caucasian western tourists. (It was kinda nice to not see noisy North Americans barging around everywhere #sorrynotsorry)
- QR code receipts! No long-ass itemized receipts. Every receipt I got was just a short one with a QR code on it. Apparently it started to encourage businesses to do business properly and pay tax. I’m not sure how it works but you’re encouraged to scan your receipts and I think you can win something. It was good to avoid waste though.
- Speaking Japanese with old people: I met an old lady in a park who wanted to talk to me and we struggled in Mandarin and English until we realized both of us could speak enough Japanese to communicate. I felt sorry that she knew it because of Japan’s colonial history with Taiwan, but I was glad I could talk to her.
So that was Taipei! I loved it and would go again without a second thought. (In fact, I don’t know anyone who didn’t love Taiwan.) Have you been there? What did I miss on my list?
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