To Indonesian travelers, Taiwan might be a less popular destination compared to its Asian neighbors – Mainland China, Hong Kong, South Korea or Japan. Japan has been a popular tourist destination for so long, while South Korea are beginning to grow its popularity thanks to K-Pop culture boom. Of course, Hong Kong is famous as a shopping destination, while Mainland China .. well.. I guess is famous for its scenery and culture.
Now let’s talk about Taiwan. Before I made a proper research on this country, I only knew two cities – Taipei and Kaohsiung. That’s because some of my uni friends are from there. So basically I had zero knowledge. But, since the last two years, Taiwanese food are getting more common in Jakarta – there are more and more Taiwanese food restaurants opening here, especially dessert house and boba tea joints. They are mushrooming in Jakarta, and very often you have to queue to get a seat.
So how did I end up going to Taipei? Well, early this year I went to a travel fair in Jakarta – wanted to find cheap airline tickets for my next travel. There were a lot of booths from different tourist agencies and travel agents, including those popular Asian countries I mentioned before. Then there was a Taiwan booth as well. My initial reaction was.. “Well wouldn’t it be nice to go to Taipei where I can eat authentic Taiwanese food? It must be nice to have boba tea all day long!” Hahaha, not exactly like that but I was interested to go , I wanted to try authentic Taiwanese food. Plus, with my valid US tourist visa, I don’t need to apply for Taiwan Visa, just need to register online as they have some exceptions program. Long story short, I bought the ticket (50% off with China Airlines!), and was scheduled to go in May for 3 nights.
Then came May. The trip was scheduled right a week after my Derawan trip, but I was so excited to go. Though I was traveling alone, I have made some arrangements to meet with my university friends who live in Taipei. I arrived Sunday afternoon after a 5 hour flight from Jakarta, and went straight to my hostel – Mr. Lobster’s Secret Den Hostel which is located within walking distance from Taipei Central Station. I’ll probably write a separate blog post about this hostel but I would gladly recommend it if you’re traveling to Taipei on a budget like myself.
After I checked in and had quick shower, I went to Taipei 101 mall to meet with my university friends for dinner at the famous Din Tai Fung restaurant. The restaurant is famous for its Xiao Long Bao (soup dumplings) and although it has chains all over the globe now, still worth to try when in Taipei.
The next day, I traveled across town – by foot and by their excellent MRT system. It was sooo easy to get around despite being a non-Chinese speaker. No worries, almost all directions I saw are written in both Chinese and English language.
My first destination that day was Chiang Kai-Shek Memorial Hall (tip: they have changing of the guards parade every hour – similar to the one in Buckingham Palace!), then Dr.Sun Yat-Sen Memorial Hall which is not far away. Besides having pretty architecture, I enjoyed visiting both sites for quick history crash course! 😀
Afterwards, I went to Taipei 101 building again to have lunch and went to the observatory deck. Did you know that Taipei 101 used to be the world’s tallest building until there’s Burj Khalifa in Dubai? It was fun to be able to see beautiful Taipei scenery from the indoor observation deck at the 89th floor. There’s also an outdoor one at 91st floor but I only managed to make it to the stairs hahaha.. too afraid to went outside!
Now, as you can see from the picture above, Taipei has both tall buildings and hills as well as mountains. So.. my next destination was to hike Elephant Mountain! It’s not far from Taipei 101 and it’s included in almost Taipei travel guide I read. The trail is not too long.. I finished it in around 35 minutes one way. They said it’s best to go there in the afternoon, close to sunset time as you would be able to see magnificent Taipei view. Too bad it was cloudy when I was there.. So I did not bother to wait for sunset nor did I managed to get a spectacular shot of the city view I saw. But still, it was worth to visit. And if you decided to visit, hopefully you’ll be able to take a better shot than what I got here…
From Elephant Mountain I went back to my hostel, had a quick shower and managed to browse the neighborhood real quick before going to my next destination. Here’s a picture I took :
My next destination was Ximending. I met another friend from university and she took me for a sightseeing/window shopping around the area. Popular to teens, this place is similar to Shibuya in Japan or Times Square in New York (never been to New York but I think it is indeed similar from the pictures I saw!), full of shops and neon lights. There are a lot of shops selling cute accessories and clothes.. also Taiwanese snacks. Do visit for a little shopping spree 🙂
My day did not end there as before I went back to the hostel, I managed to find Eslite 24 hour bookstore.. just because I’m curious to see if people really visit bookstores after 10 PM. Turns out they still do! It was still crowded even when I got there at past 10.30PM! Wow!
The next day was my last day in Taipei. I visited MOCA Taipei which is located near my hostel then traveled far north to Tamsui District… still using MRT – a 40 minutes ride only. I visited the old street and waterfront, as well as the fisherman’s wharf. Again, weather was not on my side as it was cloudy – even raining for a bit! However, I loved wandering around the area, which I think has a perfect mix of culture and modernisation.
In the afternoon, I had an appointment with my friend as I asked her to take me to the best beef noodle soup in town. Her choice was Lin Dong Fang‘s beef noodle soup and I could not agree more with her! The restaurant was small, basically people just come there to eat. My friend told me that during lunch time and after working hours, people would have to queue to eat there. Lucky we came there at 5 – right before people got off from work so there was no queue at all and we could eat happily 😀
From there we traveled south to ride Maokong Gondola to went up the hill. My friend told me it’s a nice place to sit and drink some tea as there are a lot of tea houses. The interesting part about my gondola ride is that they are decorated in Hello Kitty theme, plus some of them has crystal cabins!
After spending some time in the hill, we went to Shilin Night Market. I think I don’t need to explain much about this place as the name sort of explains itself. Of all the night markets in Taipei, I think this one’s the most popular.. especially for hawker food. Trust me everything I had there is super delicious.. and cheap. Going there was definitely a feast! Lucky as I went there with my friend and she understands that I don’t eat pork , she chose only the foods that do not contain pork for me. If you don’t speak Chinese and don’t eat pork as well – it might be handy to write down some phrases to be asked to the food seller before you buy something.. as the sellers there speak very limited English, if not at all.
So that concludes my 3 nights in Taipei, as I left the city very early in the morning the next day. I really love Taipei for its perfect mix of modernisation, traditional culture and nature. I went there only for the food but was able to see so much more even in my short visit. Definitely will go back at some point! 🙂