Right after landing at Taoyuan Airport, we got ourselves some very decent airport coffee, and an unlimited data card on our phones @ 300 NTD for 3 days – totally worth it! My phone was pleasantly surprised at the internet speed, something it hasn’t seen in China, what with the VPN and all. Also, bought an EasyCard – super convenient.
Next step was to figure out cheapest way to get to Taipei City (we were staying in Ximending) and avoid paying upto 1500 NTD for taxi. We opted for the U Bus from airport that takes you to the High Speed Rail (HSR) station, from there, took the train to Taipei Station, where you get into the MRT and get off at the next station which is Ximen. That EasyCard gave us access to buses, MRT, 7 Elevens, Family Marts (my favorite place) and more.
After checking into our AirBnb, we had to get hold of some Taipei style beef noodles. We headed to Luoyang street looking for this restaurant called Fuhong – easy to find really, very local, authentic and cheap. Each table here had a set of condiments you can use to enhance your dish. The orange stuff is rendered beef fat, its called tallo. The darker bowl is called black tallo, same stuff. Then there’s raw garlic, chilli oil, black and white vinegar bottles completing this condiment set. Best bit was the delicious aroma of meat in the air.
One of the best things we did in Taipei was going to the Miniatures Museum of Taipei (Tuesday – Sundays: 10:00am till 6:00pm. Mondays and public holidays off), apparently it’s the only one of its kind in South East Asia. I have always had a thing for miniatures, and felt I could live in this place, gazing at the awesome exhibits. The detail, perfection, etc that I saw simply blew my mind. I still can’t believe this photos are of miniatures (standard scale 1:12/ half scale 1:24).
After that, we wanted to walk, so chose a random direction and end up at this crazy store that stocks pretty much everything – like everything! Random amazing stuff like those in these pics… and stuff here was cheap so go if you have a chance, and shop for things you may have to pay a bomb for elsewhere. This shop is at Lane 77, ZhongXiao Rd., Sec. 4.
National Palace Museum, of course, was on our list of things. We took the MRT then the bus to get here. First impression is obvious – it’s huge and if you really want to immerse yourself then be ready to spend 3-4 hours straight. Carry something warm as the AC is blasting at sub zero (same with Taipei cabs – they love their cold). Try to go early in the day to not get caught up in one of those Chinese tour groups. We went in the afternoon and that quite ruined our time in the museum, getting pushed and shoved, surrounded by shouting visitors.
I have to say though that I found the museum quite boring, and that’s ONLY because I’ve been to several others in Shanghai and Guangzhou. So felt this was nothing awesome and if I had known, I’d have given it a miss altogether.
MUST EAT – Offal sandwiches at this tiny street-side joint called 3 Cows. If you’re like me and love offal this is the place. Their tripe sandwich (90 NTD) was truly one of the best I’ve had. Their beef sandwich was sadly sold out by the time we got here (4pm). They add some yummy spicy chilli sauce and a cooling mint sauce and also dip the bread in the broth for added flavor and juiciness. So good!
The Shilin Night Market – a gem! Should have gone here the first night itself, but anyway.
The night market is of course crowded, very brightly lit, and offers you with endless options for eating and cheap shopping. I recommend that be sure to pick up t shirts here, they are cheap, prints are fun! Walk around and take it all in. Head to level B1 for the food and be ready to be shocked by the variety. So many food stalls – my dream actually. We ate like kings at several stalls, even at a Teppanyaki stall. About 600 NTD should get you stuffed.
I was a bit shocked though, to see this massive python stuffed in a glass enclosure, available for photo opps @ 200 NTD per pic. Is this even legal??!
- People are really sweet, most speak English
- Escalator etiquette is A-class, no jostling / pushing
- Cabs are expensive, Uber is super convenient and slightly cheaper than cabs
- Fast internet!! 🙂
Overall, the city felt a bit old, run down and dim (Taipei 101 is not a bright shining beacon as one would expect – Shanghai, Tokyo and Guangzhou have spoiled me). The biggest disappointment was the definite lack of a bar / pub scene. I heard that Taipei is the go-to for partying, so I guess that must be expensive clubs only. Bars are few, and far apart, so 25-30 mins from each other (by taxi). And not that happening either… The shopping and the night markets are the reasons to visit Taipei I feel, and of course that miniature museum! 🙂