Our Taiwan trip is coming to an end…
It took us 10 days to visit the west coast of this magnificent island: Kaohsiung, Kenting, Changhua, Taichung… All were great, beautiful places where we had the chance to learn more about local traditions, local culture and local food 😉 Each city had a positive impact on us. What a country! 🙂
Therefore, we couldn’t finish our Taiwan adventure without visiting the capital of the country: Taipei (and some other places nearby… We love to discover!).
Taipei is the most inhabitant city of Taiwan with an estimated population of almost three million people, as well as the most modern city of the country. Here visitors can enjoy fascinating attractions both modern and historical. And while a three-day break is nowhere near enough time to see it all, here you can find some of the “must-dos” on a short trip to Taipei:
Located in Manka district, this temple was founded in 1738 and dedicated to the Buddhist Goddess of Mercy. Today, Lungshan Temple is no longer the original building constructed at that time. In fact, many deities of Taoism have been included in the temple structure among years.
The present temple consists of three halls: the fore hall, the main hall and the rear hall. The first one is used as the entrance and the space to worship. The second one, located in the center of the whole complex, is home to a statue of Guan-Yi, the main God of the temple. The third hall was added at the end of the 18th century.
Something that fascinated me about this place was the waterfall located at the right corner of temple´s main entrance. This is known as the Waterfall of Cleaning Your Heart.
Tradition says that when visitors come to the temple, they must first clean their hearts with the spring water. In this way they can clean their minds and dignify their bodies, so that they are in a good position to worship the Buddha and learn the wisdom.
Taipei Liberty Square
This magnificent square known as Liberty or Freedom Square, is a massive 240.000 square meter plaza located in the Zhongzhen District.
This place is dedicated to leader Chiang Kai-Shek and it hosts many of Taipei´s public gatherings. In fact, the National Theater and the National Concert Hall are located in this complex and they host over 8000 different events each year.
Bopiliao Old Street
Bopiliao Old Street is located in Wanhua, one of the oldest districts in Taipei. This area has undergone different historical periods during his 200 years of history, starting all the way back in the Ching dynasty period, running through the Japanese occupation to the post World War II period.
Between 2000 and 2009 the government repaired the buildings, built a Culture Center and invited artists to decorate the street. Today, Bopiliao Old Street is full of creative paintings, as well as of stores such as a barbershop, a Chinese medicine store, clock stores and a tea house.
This part of the city got its name due to its position outside the west gate of Taipei City. During Japanese times, this was a wilderness area through which there was a road connecting the west gate and Bangka (now called Wanhua). Later, the Japanese decided to set up a business and entertainment area.
One building which perfectly represents this area – as well as one of the oldest buildings in this part of the city – is the Red House Theater, built in 1908. The inside of this building consist of two remodeled floors full of Taiwanese indie, modern art galleries and fashion stores. It is really interesting to take a look around!
Nowadays, Ximending is known as the shopping district of Taipei. In fact, young people like to meet here to enjoy tasty food, have some tea, go shopping or enjoy the last blockbuster at the movies.
What can you find at Ximending?
- Tattoo Street – One of the most interesting things you can find in this area is its famous Tattoo Street, where you can get a nice, high quality tattoo.
- Penis cakes – Yes, you can find thousand of different flavours
- Claw machines – Since I arrived to Taiwan I was impressed because you can find claw machines all around the country (even in some Buddhist temples!!). There are probably dozens of these machines all around Ximending, so you won’t have to look far to find one.
- Graffiti Lane – Also called America Street, is full of incredible graffiti-works made by famous Taiwanese graffiti artists.
- Nice cocktails – Just behind the Red House, you can find the city’s largest LGBT district, which is a welcome-all environment and Taipei’s best collection of outdoor bar patios.
- Tasty Sushi – Have you ever thought about eating sushi from a Conveyor Belt Choo Choo Train? In Taipei it is possible! In fact, if you like sushi this is a nice place to enjoy some fresh row fish.
Memorial Sun Yat Sen
Located in Xinyi Distric you can find a memorial to Sun Yat Sen, the founder of the Republic of China.
The hall contains displays of Sun´s accomplishments and today it is a meeting ground for social, cultural and educational activities.
At the main entrance there is a statue of founding father for the public to pay their respect. Outside the main building there is a nice park which includes decorative historical walls and beautiful gardens.
Probably you have already heard about the tallest building in the world until 2010, year when Burj Khalifa succeeded to the throne. This dramatic building is one of the most photographed spots in the whole Taiwan. We decided to spend one day visiting Taipei 101 and the surroundings, which were built to support the tower´s feng shui and to prevent positive energy to escape.
Although the construction of Taipei 101 started in 1999, it was not until 2004 when it finished. This magnificent, full of symbolism building incorporates a steel pendulum – the largest and heaviest in the world – that sways freely to offset the movement of the building itself. In this way, this enormous pendulum can counteract and help Taipei 101 tower to survive potentially destructive nature forces such as typhoons and earthquakes.
Some other interesting facts about Taipei 101
- Height – 508 meters, from which the highest occupied floor is at 438 meters
- Owner – Taipei Financial Center Corporation. There are many companies based on the tower as well as five floors underground which are home of brand stores and restaurants.
- Elevator – Inside the tower you can find 61 elevators, which have atmospheric controls to keep passengers´ears from popping. The two fastest elevators (Toshiba Ultra Speed Elevators) inside the building move at a speed of 1.010 meters per min. They are considered one of the fastest elevators in the world since they just need 30 seconds to travel from the ground to the roof.
- Sundial Tower – This enormous tower is known as the tallest sundial in the world. A circle-shaped park surrounding the building was built to support the tower’s feng shui, as well as to reinforce the sundial effect idea.
- French Spiderman – French climber Alain Robert climbed Taipei 101 legally on Christmas Day in 2004
- Tower colours – The tower lights up in different colors depending on the day of the week.
- Observation decks – Taipei 101 has both indoor and outdoor observation decks. I have been there with people suffering from vertigo, so do not worry if you are one of them. You can do it! 😉
- New Year´s Eve – Since 2005, Taipei 101 is the place-to-be in New Year´s Eve. Fireworks at Taipei 101 attract thousand of locals and visitors every year.
Officially known as the Xiangshan Hiking Trail, the Elephant Mountain is the perfect place to have the most amazing view possible of Taipei 101 – and of Taipei city in general-. This hiking trail is a very straightforward path. The entire trail is 1.4500 meters long and it takes about 1 hour to complete it. If you do not have so much time, or motivation, you should at least reach the top of the mountain to enjoy the view.
From the beginning of the path – it is a climb full of stairs and Taiwan weather can be really hot, so please do not forget to take some water with you – you can make it to the top in about 15-20 minutes if you are in good shape, if not, do not panic! There are plenty of rest stops and seats all around the path.
If you decide to continue on this path, after getting awesome shots of Taipei´s skyline, you will reach a trail down and some facilities.
Traveller hint: I recommend you to do it or early in the morning or in the late evening, to avoid both tourists and hot weather.
Located less than one hour away from Taipei you can find this picturesque city called Jiufen. If you are able to spend more than one day in Taipei, I highly recommend you to spend some time in Jiufen and to get lost in Jiufen Old Street.
Check the post I wrote about what to visit in Jiufen and discover more about this place – and how to reach it from Taipei.
Must do in Taipei
Mango Shaved Ice
There is one great refreshing snack that we should import to Europe 🙂 and that visitors should try – it is traditional from Taipei.
The mango shaved ice is a bowl of shaved ice topped with fresh mango, mango ice-cream and sweet mango sauce. The bowl is huge and I recommend you to share it (unless you are super ultra hungry 😉 ).
Have you ever been to Taipei?
The capital of Taiwan is a city full of contrasts and nice surprises.
Taipei 101 is the main attraction of the city, however, other parts of the city have also some special charm that makes the visitor fall in love with it.
I highly recommend you to spend a couple of days walking around and discovering the different areas of Taipei. You can find really cool traditional galleries and stores hidden among modern buildings!