Bright Lights, Big City: 15 Surprising Discoveries in Taipei (Part 2)
Before this trip, I didn’t really have any big expectations about Taipei. All I wanted was to just have some R&R with my friends in some nearby Asian city. All of us eventually agreed that Taipei was our best bet for a quick four-day April getaway. Aside from the famous Taipei 101 building, the yummy xiao long baos they serve in the original Din Tai Fung restaurant, and the F1-Meteor Garden craze happening back in the Philippines, I was totally clueless about the other must-do, must-visit, must-eat, must-buy and must-try in this city.
Thank god for Google, I’ve managed to create an exhaustive-and-exhausting and semi-unrealistic itinerary to cover the most exciting tourist spots and hangout places in town. Well, if you try grouping almost 10 tourist spots located in different parts of the city together and in just one day, that’s very much IDEAL but definitely UNREALISTIC, isn’t it? And due to the limited time that we had–Gosh Abelgus!–we eventually didn’t finish the whole schedule that I prepared. We skipped a couple of destinations here and there and opted for a more practical itinerary.
(I’ll share more about our 4D3N Taipei itinerary in the Part 3 of this “Bright Lights, Big City” blog series. If you haven’t seen the first part yet, you may visit this page: “Bright Lights, Big City: Taipei Lodging”)
Having very little expectations about Taipei as a nation and as a travel destination helped me open up to more discoveries I will find along the way. Here, I’ve listed 15 Surprising Discoveries I’ve stumbled upon while on an adventure in this buzzing capital:
|Photo taken at Yong Kang Street|
|Photo taken while waiting at the Taipei Main Station|
|Trash bins I found inside the Daan Train Station|
I still don’t get it why there are only a few trash bins around the city. There are a lot of food stalls, bakeries, and 7-Elevens in Taipei so you will always end up buying something while strolling around, but the trash bins are so scarce, you will need to carry your trash till you find a bin somewhere (like inside the train stations). Perhaps it’s also the government’s strategy to maintain the cleanliness of the streets and to train people to not litter around? Good move, I say.
|Photo taken inside the Taipei Metro Train|
|We spend about TWD 100 on a daily basis for our commute|
|Train Map of Taipei|
|Group selfie at Taipei 101|
|Taipei City taken from the Observation Deck of Taipei 101|
Don’t get a heart attack if your taxi bill ends up at around TWD1,200 (or around PHP1,700) with surcharge, tolls and all if you are traveling from the airport to the city at night. You have other options like airport buses that take you to certain destinations in Taipei that charge way cheaper. However, you may want to check their schedules because they only operate at certain timings.
|Photo taken at Ximending|
It’s pretty much a common sight to see people eating small bites while walking around the streets of Taipei unlike other Asian countries I know (ehem, Japan). You’ll probably see someone shopping in a night market while holding a sausage on one hand and a bubble tea drink on another. Can’t stop eating while in Taipei? Then do as the locals do…
|Photo taken at Shihlin Night Market|
Speaking of food, Taipei probably has one of the most unique street food offerings in the world. We’ve visited two night markets: the busy Shihlin Night Market and the scenic Tamsui Old Street Night Market with views of the Tamsui River. Both are equally remarkable with different food options to choose from.
And then there’s the Taiwanese version of our Pinoy isaw (chicken/pork intestines):
They’ve also got this cute chocolate-flavored ice-cream that looks like a plant in a pot:
|Photo taken while shopping at Wufenpu Shopping Market|
If you expect most Taiwanese to be stylish daily on the streets–just like the actors you see on on a TV series–well, you’ll probably get disappointed. This is not Tokyo, Seoul, or Hong Kong. I may be wrong, but what we’ve noticed is that they prefer simple, casual, comfy types of clothes such as jeans, jackets, and dresses over extreme glammed-up looks.
|My friends, Mrs. ASH and Jayps, while ordering food at Din Tai Fung’s Flagship Store in Taiwan (Yong Kang Street)|
If you are looking for excellent dim sums and noodles in Taipei, visit the Michelin star awarded Din Tai Fung, a resto that originated in Taiwan and is now located in different parts of the world such as Singapore, Hong Kong, Australia, and even in the United States.
|Din Tai Fung’s Xiao Long Bao|
|Steamed Crab Dumpling|
|Photo taken at Wufenpu|
Unlike Bangkok or even Manila where you’ll see a dozen of money changers in every corner of a shopping area, in Taipei you will hardly see them anywhere. We spent almost half an hour looking for a money changer around the Wufenpu fashion market, only to find out that there’s none. One of the store owners directed us to a local bank a few blocks away from Wufenpu. We eventually didn’t go anymore as we realized afterwards that banks normally close at around 3:30 p.m.
The money changers we only saw in Taipei are found in the 1) airports, 2) inside malls and that they are not usually found in small streets and in night markets.
|Photo taken at Chiang Kai-shek Memorial Hall Station|
Need to go to the toilet? All the Taipei train stations have clean loos so no need to worry about where to pee or take a poop while on a city tour.
If you find anything you want in a particular store, chances are you will find the same item in another store at a cheaper price. Try shopping at another night market in a different location, most likely you will see the same item again and you’ll be able to save a few more dollars. Try to also bargain as it’s an accepted practice in the Taiwan street markets.
My friend Jayps bought a bag at Ximending at TWD800, he later found out that Shihlin is selling the same bag at TWD400. Say what?
What’s the best way to cap off your busy shopping night-outs and long walks? A good body/foot massage! You will see these small massage shops everywhere. Plus some of them even offer 10 percent off for all walk-in guests after 9 p.m.
All photos taken by myself using a Canon 700D, basic lens + 50mm f/1.8.