A guide to Taipei!
Updated: Oct 2, 2018
After being in Bali for some time and surrounded by areas that are saturated with tourists and Instagram spots, we wanted to go and explore somewhere we'd never been or seen much of on the internet. We were also craving a culture shock and that's exactly what we got when we landed in Taiwan! We've been to a few Asian cities but Taipei has now become my favourite and I wanted to share with you why!
We flew to Taipei from Denpasar airport in Bali with China Airlines, with a flight time of 5 and a half hours. On a UK passport, you do not need a tourist visa which was ideal as we had actually forgotten to check before we left, that could have been a nightmare! One of my favourite things about Taiwan is that hardly anyone there speaks English which was so so refreshing! It was great being somewhere that wasn't westernised and made us have to communicate in a different way, through facial expressions, body language, and gestures! The city itself was so pleasant, super clean with cute streets lined with food trucks, bright orange lanterns and bubble tea shops at every corner. It's super easy getting around as they have a train/ metro service and the taxis are cheap and are always there to hail down when needed.
Places to eat:
Being a vegetarian with an allergy to dairy isn't easy, let alone when traveling to Asian countries as vegetarian food isn't really a thing there, they all are big meat eaters. With a bit of research and asking around, we managed to find some really good vegan spots. I have included where we went for food during our stay and its a mixture of Western and Asian cuisine.
Vast Cali Eatery- Located in the Da'an district, the area where most of the good food spots seem to be, this restaurant gave us an unexpected taste of California. With a huge variety of smoothie bowls, vegan tacos, and steak salads, this is the place to be if you're craving healthy Western food and if you have a group of you with different dietary requirements.
Untitled Cafe- This is a super simple but amazing cafe, the BEST avocado toast I have ever had, they also offer an extensive coffee list including a charcoal latte and it's also one of the only placed I found that offer nut milk as well as whole milk.
Din Tai Fung- Now for the best Asian food I have had in a long time. Located in the Taipei 101, Din Tai Fung was clearly the place to be as we did have to queue for 30 minutes for a table, as soon as you walk in you can see them freshly preparing the dumplings right in front of you! The menu is never ending and they had plenty of vegetarian options to choose from. We ordered a bunch of food to share between the four of us, this consisted of dumplings, bao buns, pickled cucumber, rice, sautéed spinach, taro buns, and delicious chocolate buns. We only ordered one chocolate bun each but I could have sat there all day eating them!
Dualing Bubble Tea- Taiwan is where Bubble Tea originates from and this was obvious as you can find it at every corner, it was such a godsend when I finally found a place that uses soy milk! 90% of the other stores only use fresh whole milk so when I could finally have a tea I was so happy!
Hoshina- A Japanese vegan restaurant that is known for its Udon Soup and it's clear why! Located in the Da'an district, it is the perfect refuel for lunch in-between all the boutique shopping.
Lemongrass Thai Bistro- A perfect spot if you want to dip into a different cuisine, from Curries to Pad Thai and also one of the only restaurants that allowed me to alter my dish and add tofu!! Win Win.
Shilin Night Market- The market is a great place to explore your taste buds! They have many different and quirky typical Taiwanese delicacies like stinky tofu, which lives up to its name, fermented chicken eggs, Bubble Teas and a lot of deep-fried goodies.
What we got up to:
Huashan 1914 Creative Park- Being in Taipei with a bunch of creatives, it was obvious that we had to hit the famous creative park. It's a super cool area with some boutique shops that sell various things from crystals to drip coffee machines. In the midst of all the streets, there were 6 different exhibitions all showcasing different art projects. They were all so much fun, we wandered around them messing and playing around.
Night Market Shalin- If you want to experience the real Asian culture then head straight to this famous market. As soon as you walk into the market you are greeted by stalls lined up either side filled with random food to taste, people shouting at and calling you over to try all they have to offer at their stool and games after games after games. We got stuck straight in from shooting balloons and darts to basketball hoops and hook a duck! It was actually super fun and we all somehow managed to win a prize!
Shopping at Taipei 101- The main shopping mall, based surrounding the 101 Tower has every kind of shop you could want, from high street shops to designer and also many different food places. You could end up spending an entire day here.
View from 101- When you're in the 101 shopping mall, you can go straight through to the ticket area for the viewing deck, tickets are $600NT per person. There's usually a bit of a queue but it doesn't seem busy when you're at the top so don't panic! Taking one of the fastest elevators up to the 89th floor you are greeted by a magnificent 360 view over the city. You can see the contrast of the busy built-up city surrounded by the calmness of lush, green mountains. Such a unique view and one that you should definitely take the time to see!
Xiangshan Hiking Trial (Elephant Mountain Hike) - The hike is super easy to find as its only a 15-minute walk away from Taipei 101, on the edge of Xiangshan park.This hike is not hard, it's around 400 steps to the top but I can guarantee you will sweat. Walking up that many steps in the humid heat of Taiwan and you will look like you've just had a shower, but the view is very rewarding! There are three separate views points that you can go to. I'd recommend going for sun set, it may be busy but there's a reason for that. The sun sets straight below the skyscrapers and with the mountains surrounding this, it makes for a beautifully unique sunset.
Jiufen- We wanted to visit this small village in the north of Taipei for so long and it only took us an hour and a half drive from central Taipei. The drive was beautiful as the village is up high in the mountains surrounded by the ocean which made the journey all that bearable. On arriving at the main strip in Jiufen you soon realise you have walked into organised chaos. With food stalls lining the thin alley, different smells hitting you and big crowds of people wandering around, it was such a surreal experience. We wandered up and down the tight alleys trying all the different freebies they offered to taste, buying little souvenirs like a traditional fan and stopping to take pictures of the cute lanterns lighting up the way. It's a great place to visit for a real cultural experience out of the city.