taipei, taiwan: recommendations & photo journal

NOTE: as expected, this is a super image-heavy post, so please allow ample time for loading! :)

In the spring of 2015, I spent 4 months living abroad in Taipei, Taiwan and I must admit I became pretty well acquainted with the city during that time.  As you can imagine, I was able to experience so many things - some of which I would highly recommend to travelers, and others that are fun activities for locals.

my recommendations

When to go

Taipei is a very rainy city.  I did not know this before my arrival, but I quickly learned that they average about 300 rainy days per year.  It's one of the rainiest places in the world.  Sunshine is rare, but it does happen!  The weather is otherwise pretty mild except for the summers.  Here are my thoughts laid out:

  • February - April: best time to go. Weather is mild and the humidity isn't very intense at all.  Be aware that pretty much everything will be closed during Chinese New Year in February.
  • May - September: super hot, humid, muggy, and uncomfortable.  I would not recommend it.
  • October: good time to go.  Weather is mild and the humidity isn't very intense.
  • November - January: colder temperatures, less humidity.

What to do / See

.Great Areas in Taipei to walk around:

  • Shilin Night Market - great place to eat and shop, largest night market in Taipei
  • Zhongxiao Dunhua - great shopping area
  • Dongmen - great shopping / eating area

Day Trips / Half-a-Day Trips from Taipei:

  • Yeliu - takes an hour by bus from Tamsui MRT (bus #1262)
  • Bitou Cape & Long Dong - take the train from Taipei Main Station to Ruifang, then take tourist bus #791 (exit train station, turn left at main road, walk past police station almost to elevated highway to the bus stop).  Exit the bus just before the tunnel.  Check bus time tables so that you don't miss the bus on the way back!  Hike from Bitou Cape to Long Dong, then catch the bus in front of the giant white building.
  • Jinguashi - take bus #1062 from Zhongxiao Fuxing.  Get a map at the Gold Ecological Museum, also check out Shinto Temple, the Golden Waterfall, Quanji Temple, 13 Layer Heritage Site, Qitang Old Street. 
  • Houtong - take the train to Houtong from Taipei Main Station.  Walk around and pet all of the cats.
  • Jiufen - take bus #1062 from Zhongxiao Fuxing.  Walk around the old streets, have tea at the famous tea house.
  • Wulai - takes 40min by bus from Xindian MRT (bus #849).  Check out the old street, waterfall, gondola, amusement park (which was nearly abandoned when I went in 2015), go swimming in the river.
  • Shifen - takes 40min - 1hr by bus from Muzha MRT (bus #1076)

NOTE: I didn't include The National Palace Museum, which is one of the largest museums in the world and a huge tourist attraction in Taipei.  The reason I didn't include it is because I personally didn't love it.  I found it to be redundant, overwhelming, and I personally connect more with European art even though I love the history of Taiwan.  I found I was more connected with their architecture and way of life rather than their historical art.  To each his own.  If you love Taiwanese history and have a connection to Eastern art, you should definitely go.

Where to eat

Additional Tips

  • Always carry an umbrella with you
  • Bathrooms are everywhere and they're free - try the MRT stations, malls (ie: Taipei Main Station)
  • The underground portion of Taipei Main Station is really difficult to navigate.  Pay close attention to the signs to avoid getting lost.  I'm great at navigating and it took me 2-3months of constant visiting to finally know my way around the station.  It's a labyrinth.
  • Try to learn some Chinese or else it will be pretty difficult to get around
  • Google translate is your friend
  • Look up how frequently buses run and when the last bus is before you go out - you wouldn't want to miss the last bus and get stuck!
  • 7-11 has great quick snacks if you're looking for something to eat - I love their rice balls!
  • This is also a fantastic resource with awesome maps!  In addition, you can try Googling a lot of things - when I was in Taipei in 2015 there was hardly any information in English online.  It seems as though there is significantly more information in English online now!

Where to stay

  • Near an MRT station!
  • Near Zhongshan MRT
  • Da'an area

photo journal

It's difficult to compile 4 months of an amazing adventure into a "short" photo journal, but here's my attempt... enjoy! :)