Taiwan has a lot to offer, like, a lot. It has awesome cities, beautiful beaches, luscious jungle, marble gorges, and rolling hills. And that doesn’t even touch on the food. Ohh the food. Enough of this, lets get to the good stuff.
Din Tai Fung
I didn’t know it at the time, or really what it even was, but I ate at a Michelin Star restaurant. I guess that’s exciting. I was more concerned about the heavenly XiaoLong Bao. I ate so many of those delicious little pork dumplings. And I could eat so many more if I was close to one. (Update 2020: I still haven’t been able to eat these again and I want to SO BAD)
- Go with a few people and get a bunch of stuff to split. Or go alone and still get a ton of stuff to try.
- Mix the soy sauce and vinegar in the little dish they give you, let the ginger soak in it. Dip the dumplings in this and add some ginger if you like it.
- Try everything.
- The Taipei 101 location is just as good as the original on Xinyi Street in Taipei.
Ughhhhh. I can smell the garlic heaven that is the hot pot restaurant across from Meander Taipei. It was SO GOOD. After seeing it crowded no matter what time it was for two weeks, I finally caved and went. It was expensive, but SO WORTH IT. You just go to the restaurant, pick out what you want in your hot pot, wait for the lady to come over and mix it all together, then enjoy! And experiment with mixing sauces and stuff for dipping. YUM.
I don’t have any hot pot picture because I was busy enjoying it, so I hope you like these instead.
- Go when it opens, it probably won’t be as busy. If you don’t want to go that early, wait. It’s worth it.
- It’s expensive. Try going with three or four people to cut costs. If you can only find one other person, go anyways.
- Don’t be afraid to try things. If you don’t know what something is, get one of that plate just to try it.
- Plate colors represent price. red=$1 green=$2 and so on, but not necessarily those prices and colors. Keep that in mind when you’re in the grabbing frenzy.
When I first faced using the MRT I almost cried. For reals. I was so frustrated because I didn’t know how to do anything. This is when I learned that if you look confused enough, people will help you. Once I got my token, I had no problem navigating my way around under the city. It was actually super easy and not something to cry over. But if you do, don’t worry, it gets better.
- Find the pay machines. Look at the map above it of the MRT lines. Find where you want to go. There should be a number by it. That’s how much it costs. Put your money in and a chip comes out. Keep that, you need it to get on and off the MRT.
- Make note of any stops where you have to change lines.
- Also, make sure you’re going the right direction. There’s usually a map of the line on the wall, or close by, so you can tell where it’s going.
- If you are going the wrong way, just get off and go to the opposite direction, it won’t change the price.
- Trains are a little more confusing, if you look like you need help, someone will help you.
I actually liked using chopsticks. And Din Tai Fun was actually the first time I ever used them successfully. It was actually a little hard to find a pair I liked enough to bring home, though.
- Even if you don’t know how to use them, try. I know I don’t hold them right, but whatever I do still works.
- If you can’t figure it out, don’t give up. Ask someone to show you, even though that never helped me, but it’s worth a shot.
- If you’ve never used them, dumplings (like at Din Tai Fung) are a great first thing to try and eat because the dumplings stick to the chopsticks.
I loved this street. That’s why it’s on this list. It has delicious beef noodles. Wonderful ice cream. The original Din Tai Fung is right around the corner. There’s a vintage museum cafe thing. It’s only a few blocks from Da’an Park. And you can walk to Taipei 101 easily from here. It’s a great area to just spend a day or afternoon wandering around.
- If you know somewhere you want to eat there, check the hours ahead of time to be sure it’s open, especially during Chinese New Year.
- If you need directions somewhere, bring them up on Google Maps ahead of time, or in the MRT station because they all have wifi. I just used the map with the blue dot of where I am and followed it towards the destination.
- Go to For Good Cafe and 8% Ice Ice Cream Shop and Yong Kang Beef Noodles.
I thought you would be able to see Taipei 101 from pretty much anywhere. That’s false. You can’t. But whenever I could see it, I couldn’t help but take pictures of it. So. Many. Pictures. This is where I ate at Din Tai Fung a thousand times. It has an observation deck, which is cool, but not totally necessary. It’s nice to wander around to get away from the cool rain, too.
- The area around Taipei 101 is enjoyable to wander around. I couldn’t tell you which direction for sure, but it’s all pretty cool.
- To get to the Din Tai Fung, take the MRT to Taipei 101, I think it’s World Trade Center on the maps, and take the exit towards the shopping or observatory. I can’t remember exactly what it goes to.
- If it’s rainy, don’t go to the observatory. Look at it from the outside on a cloudy and sunny day.
Staying up too late
I stayed up until it was light out in Taipei more than I have in the last, well, maybe ever. It just kept happening, but it was totally worth it and always really fun. It always included a 7-Eleven trip, which is also honorary on this list.
This was what I ended up planning my trip in Taiwan around. I didn’t actually know about it until after I booked my ticket there, and that’s why I ended up staying there so long. If you’re there for Chinese New Year, definitely go to this.
- If you go, take the MRT to the Taipei Zoo, then the shuttle. Take the train if you want a crowded, definitely local experience.
- If you do take the trains, give yourself lots of time.
- How to get there by train: Take the MRT to Taipei Main Station, take a train to Ruifang, then take a train to Pingxi. Once you get to Ruifang, it’s super easy to find the right way.
The East Coast is super pretty. It’s got mountains and beaches and gorges. Taroko Gorge is the most famous east coast attraction, but I wasn’t there very long. Most of my east coast time was spent in Hualien, Taitung, and Lanyu. Definitely, make time for visiting the east coast if you visit Taiwan.
- Base yourself in Hualien if you want to explore Taroko Gorge or one of the hotels right outside the park.
- Go to Taroko Gorge on your own, if you go with a tour, look around to find the right one for you, that suits your interests. I wish I saw more of it.
- Spend a day just wandering around Hualien and Taitung if you visit them, which you totally should.
Who doesn’t want to eat at a toilet restaurant? Ok, a lot of people. But for those of us who love wired quirky things, this is the place to go. You sit on toilets. You eat out of toilets. The food looks like poop. The lights are poop. The walls are toilets and poop. It’s quite the place.
- Modern Toilet is in the Ximending pedestrian area.
- Bring your camera because toilets.
- If you want to eat out of a mini toilet, get the hot pot. If you want a flat toilet thing, pasta comes on that. Dessert comes in a squatty potty.
This was my favorite little coffee shop not too far from Meander Taipei, the hostel I stayed at my whole time in Taipei. The design of it is really fun and design-y. The drinks are all pretty and they gave me postcards to write that they would send out. I spent a few afternoons reading here out of the never-ending rain.
The Ximending Pedestrian area is really cool. It’s pretty busy in the evenings, and during the day sometimes. It has little food carts, all kinds of restaurants, and shopping. I spet a few afternoons wandering around here and always got confused about where I was, but I still enjoyed it a lot. I don’t really have much for pictures of Ximending, but these are close by.
I loved Hualien, other than Taipei, I think it was my favorite city in Taiwan. I spent three or four days just wandering around the city, drinking coffee, exploring the market, getting lost. The usual things. Of course, it was rainy, but that didn’t stop me from seeing the city. I saw hardly any other tourists while I was there, too, probably less than 10.
- If you want to do day trips to Taroko Gorge, base yourself here. There are hotels and guesthouses closer to it if you really want to be nearby.
- Rent a bike to get around easier. I didn’t because it was my first time trying to figure out the traffic and I just wasn’t up for it.
- Just wander around with no destination in mind. You’ll see all kinds of cool stuff, especially on the smaller streets.
- Go to the Hualien Cultural and Creative Industries Park. It’s a great place to get things to bring home for people, or for yourself, that aren’t the usual tourist things. They have tons of local artists selling their products. I wanted to buy a lot more than I did or should have.
This was where I spent a good portion of my time in Taitung, in this area and near the beach, even though the weather wasn’t very good. The Music Park is full of sculptures and lanterns and all kinds of cute shops and things in the area. There is a temple nearby, but watch out for the dogs.
- Stay until it’s dark to see the lanterns lit up.
- Wander around to see all the sculptures.
- If dogs don’t freak you out (like me), go to the temple a few blocks away. You can see it from the park, just walk towards it, it’s easy, I promise.
- Wander around the market a few blocks away. I found this on accident, but it was enjoyable to walk around.
Last but not least, and on every list I’ll ever make about Taiwan, night markets. These are so fun to walk around, try new food, see how it’s made, all things night market. Every market is different. Some have more of a stuff focus, like toys or clothes, others are all food. There is a Dihua Street Chinese New year Market in Taipei every year with supplies for Chinese New Year. They’re all over the country, so you can go pretty much anywhere.
- Go with a few people and split dishes so you can try more things.
- Or just go on your own and still try everything.
- They usually start in the late afternoon, early evening, and go fairly late, maybe until 11 or 12. Ask around if you don’t know if it’ll be open when you want to go.
- Try everything, even the stinky tofu. It’s fun to try things that you have no idea what it even might be.
Have you been to Taiwan? What did you think of it? Where did you go? Do you want to go?