Hello everyone, I am Ethan Hsu (@ethanwchsu) from Taiwan. I am a freelance travel photographer and videographer. Chiayi City is the place where I grew up before I moved to Taipei. Chiayi City is located in southwest Taiwan where you can find the Alishan National Forest.
My passion for travel began with my first solo trip to Tokyo in 2016. I was nervous and excited because I had never traveled to another country alone before. I knew that it would be a great experience to step out of my comfort zone. During this trip, a new chapter in my life was opened.
The world is full of surprises with endless cultures, sceneries and foods to discover. I soon realized that the meaning of travel is to experience a journey which can make us rich and help us know ourselves better.
Speaking of photography, I have been obsessed with creating memories through photos since my childhood. Both travel and photography are perfectly intertwined for me to create many unforgettable memories.
Why Taipei is such an Amazing City
Taipei is an exciting city that has combined different influences together over the years – Chinese, Japanese, Southeast Asian and American – into an incredible blend of culture. This city offers endless activities. For example, during the day, you can experience the historical tours of Taoist temples, the National Chiang Kai-shek Memorial Hall and National Palace Museum.
Then you can head out into nature and embrace the surrounding mountains. Take transport outside of the city for wilder adventures near the beautiful ocean. When it starts to get dark, the city lights up like a shining jewel. Yes, nighttime in Taipei is when the fun really begins!
Get a belly full of local street food at one of the markets, gather with friends at bars and say “cheers!” with Taiwanese beer, and dance all night at the nightclubs. These are just some of the delights you can experience in Taiwan on your visit. I have been living in Taipei for over a decade and it must be obvious to you by now that I absolutely love this city!
Songshan is the district where I reside. Raohe Night Market is one of Taipei’s most famous night markets and it’s also located in Songshan. Other than that, Songshan is more of a commercial and residential area.
Favorite Places in Taipei – Temples
When I am in the temples of Taipei, the sacred atmosphere surrounds me with prayers and hope. Every inch of a Taoist temple is covered with stunning art. There are endless traces of history and many amazing stories to be told at each building. For these reasons, the temples and historical remains are my favorite places. I always feel at peace when I visit them.
Top 10 Things To Do in Taipei
1. Take the Elevator up Taipei 101 Skyscraper
The tallest building in Taiwan is hard to miss when you first arrive. Taipei 101 gets its name from having 101 floors. Taking the elevator from the fifth floor to the 89th where the observatory deck is located will be an exhilarating experience. The elevator is one of the fastest in the world and the views from the observation deck are incredible, especially at night.
2. Visit the 300 Year Old Longshan Temple
Longshan Temple is one of the oldest temples of Taipei (almost 300 years old) and has been declared a Secondary National Heritage Site. It’s located in the Wanhua District. This wonderful temple blends Taoist, Buddhist and Confucian faiths into a masterpiece of art – with many gorgeous decorations, dedicated sculptures and detailed wood carvings to see.
3. Explore the National Chiang Kai-shek Memorial Hall
The impressive National Chiang Kai-shek Memorial Hall was built in memory of Chiang Kai-shek – the former President of the Republic of China (Taiwan). It has a total area of 250,000 square metres. The front plaza of the hall is a major venue for democratic assemblies. Every year thousands of tourists and locals visit to explore and take photos.
4. Tour the National Palace Museum in Taipei
The National Palace Museum has the world’s largest collection (more than 700,000 items) of Chinese art and historical documents – which date from China’s nearly 5,000-year history. Book a private tour or join one of the free tours through the museum. A great way to spend the afternoon!
5. Relax and Sightsee at the Beitou Hot Springs
The Beitou Hot Springs in Taipei provide you with a fantastic way of relaxing for the day. This area also contains many historic monuments and scenic spots to experience including the amazing Beitou Hot Spring Museum, Taipei Public Library Beitou Branch and Beitou Hot Spring Park.
One of my favorite places in Beitou is the Thermal Valley or “Hell Valley”. It’s an open sulfur hot spring lake with incredible steam rising from the waters. Of course, be aware that swimming is not allowed in the lake and for good reason. If you don’t want to be totally cooked, please heed this advice!
6. Go Shopping and Eating in Ximending
Ximending is the most popular tourist spot in the city. You might be confused as to whether you are in Japan or Taiwan when you visit. Yes, Ximending is also called “Shibuya of Taiwan”. There are all kinds of shopping options which is why it’s a popular area, from clothes to food. It’s also a LGBT friendly area which is why you can see the rainbow crossing.
7. Eat Taiwanese Street Food at the Night Markets
One of the greatest pleasures in Taiwan is experiencing the night market scene. Night markets represent the food culture of Taiwanese people and most visitors are locals because eating out is a big part of Taiwanese life. Taiwanese snacks are not only enormously various but also cheap and tasty. Furthermore, each night market has its own traditions.
8. Wander around the Dadaocheng Neighborhood
The Dadaocheng neighborhood has been an important distribution center for tea, groceries, medicine and textiles since the 19th century. The history of Taiwan’s trade has been happening in Dadaocheng for decades and it still preserves this history in its street architecture. Dihua Street is the oldest street in the capital city and the main avenue of Dadocheng.
When Chinese New Year is coming, Dihua Street turns into the biggest street for New Year’s shopping. Vendors will shout out what they have or give you free samples for tasting. You will see an array of goods for sale. This street really only gets extremely busy during this New Year time.
9. Hike Elephant Mountain for Breathtaking Views
Elephant Mountain is one of the Four Beasts (Elephant, Tiger, Lion and Leopard). It’s the best place to overlook breathtaking views of Taipei. The entrance of the hiking trail is a short distance from Xiangshan MRT which is the last station of the red line metro. The hike is an easy climb up the stone stairs and takes around 15-20 minutes to get to the top. Go for sunset!
10. Discover Yangmingshan National Park
Yangmingshan is one of Taiwan’s national parks and is the closest one to Taipei. Its wealth of geothermal resources and diverse ecology attracts many tourists for great adventures. There are popular sights like Hsiao-you-keng, Ching-tien-kang and Leng-shui-keng. Yangmingshan provides the best outdoor experience for anyone who wants a break from the city.
Friendly People of Taipei
Friendliness and hospitality are the hallmark of Taiwanese people across the entire island. Cities are inseparable in Taiwan, so the culture is not different from city to city. But the diversity of the culture can be attributed to the impact of Aboriginal, Chinese, Western, Japanese and Southeast Asian cultures because of its long history and location.
In my opinion, the best way to meet locals in Taipei is through Facebook, which Taiwanese people often use. On Facebook, there are many groups and events such as language exchanges, meetups and outdoor activities. Another great way to meet locals is going to bars and making new friends.
Incredible Food Scene of Taipei
One of the biggest reasons eating out in Taipei is so popular is that many people live in apartments without kitchens. Therefore, there are various options for food in Taipei. Whether you are at one of the night markets for street food or you are enjoying international foods at a restaurant – both are cheap and tasty. For sure, don’t miss stinky tofu and Taiwanese beer.
I am not a very picky person with food. So I have tried many cafes and restaurants in the city. My favorite type of restaurant is Taiwanese rechao for sharing dishes with friends. When it comes to bars, I prefer going to a bar with good vibes to make new friends. Revolver Bar is the bar I met most of my friends at and is located close to C.K.S Memorial Hall.
Need to Know Before you Go
- Weather: The best time to visit Taipei is in spring (April to June) and autumn (September to October). The temperatures are cooler and more comfortable. Summer is hot and humid. Plus, summer is also typhoon season. Winter can get cold and wet – although the temperature is rarely below 5 degrees. It can be cold and windy!
- WiFi/Internet: There are plenty of WiFi hotspots covering Taiwan. It’s super easy to get a connection when you arrive in the city. However, it’s always a good idea to have a SIM card on your phone with mobile data.
- Transportation: Getting around Taipei is easy. The metro system and bus can take you anywhere in the city. Taxis are everywhere but always make sure you have your address in Chinese. Uber is also popular. For public transport, it’s convenient to have an easy card or tour ticket.
- Currency: New Taiwan Dollar (NT$) is the currency. Although VISA and Mastercard is accepted, cash is still required at markets and restaurants.
- Language: Most locals can speak some basic English. Language barriers shouldn’t be too much of a problem when you visit.
- Tipping: Taiwan doesn’t have a tipping culture.
- Safety: Taipei is extremely safe, even if you walk alone at night.