So Patrick and I try to keep busy on our weekends off from teaching and often just leave our apartment without a plan of anywhere in particular to go. Some of these places in this blog post are where we tend to find ourselves wandering around and absorbing city life, others are conscious day trips we have made and really enjoyed.
Ximending – (Ximen MRT)
This is definitely one of my favourite places in Taipei. It’s like the Times Square of Taiwan, with great big, bright advertising screens, street performers, vegan protesters and stylish retail. While some of Taiwan still seems ‘behind the times’, Ximen area is contemporary, edgy and artsy. There’s multiple cinemas (that we visit often) and hundreds of shops to explore. My favourite thing about it are the hidden underground vintage shops that have the coolest styles for such cheap prices!
While there’s not an official night market, there’s always plenty of street food vendors with their carts. However, when the police come by you will catch them all running away to hide in alleys to avoid fines, its very funny to witness, but also annoying when you’re waiting for your pancake. We always find ourselves here on Saturday night and wander the back streets to find huge displays of graffiti. Last weekend we spent 5 hours doing absolutely nothing here except looking around and having a great time.
Taipei Riverside Park
While Taipei isn’t exactly a beautiful city, there are places to go to escape the scooters and grey buildings. There’s a great cycle path that follows all the way along the river through the city. Rent a U-Bike and you’ve got yourself a day trip. This is something we’ve done on multiple occasions when we’re looking for something to do. When the weather is dry its lovely to get away from the streets and take a peaceful cycle along a safe track. There’s a lot of sports courts along the path too so its cool to pull over, have a break and watch a bit of baseball or basketball. One day we cycled all the way along the river from Taipei City to Tamsui.
Tamsui (End of Red MRT Line)
So as I said, we decided to cycle all the way to Tamsui which took about 3-4 hours (including breaks) but normal people can just take the train to the end of the line. This takes you all the way out of Taipei city and to the edge of Taiwan to meet the sea. Although there is no beach, its a really nice town with a tourist feel about it. It was very busy with families and people escaping the city but this creates an atmosphere of respite that you don’t feel in Taipei. There’s a night market and sea front area lined with restaurants and stores. One thing we thought when we were sitting here was that the air actually felt much more fresh than Taipei.
Bitan Scenic Area (Xindian – End of Green MRT line)
At the opposite end of the city is Bitan, which is about as beautiful as Taipei gets, unless you’re on a mountain. They’ve created a ‘Scenic’ area along the green river edge that gives a really enjoyable stroll away from traffic and over the very shaky foot bridge. The paddle boats are fun and cheap to rent, NT$300 (£7.50) for an hour on the water and to forget about city life. There’s a modern promenade area that has some good restaurants overlooking the water, a scene that is not commonly found in Taipei.
Maokong Gondola & Taipei Zoo (End of Brown MRT line)
The mountain Gondolas are a fantastic and affordable trip to make. The gondolas cost about NT$100 each way. You take an ascending ride above the tree tops and view the city disappearing behind the clouds. When you get the the very top you can take a little walk along a small road with food vendors and restaurants.
I’m aware that every capital city has a zoo which cannot really vary that much. But I feel the need to mention Taipei Zoo just because it’s so cheap! It only cost NT$60 (aprox.£1.50). So you literally have no excuse not to go here. While some of the enclosures were a little bit too small for my liking, we had a really great day here! We were lucky to see all the animals out and about, including one of the beautiful panda.
And even got to see this huge guy face-to-face!
There’s many other great areas to explore in Taipei, including the many night markets that come alive every evening. Our favourites are Gongguan and Shilin because there’s so much to do there! They’re an easy and really cheap outing to enjoy. Gongguan is a student area so its full of sports shops, international restaurants and boutiques. In honesty one thing I dislike about Taipei is that its very difficult to find a nice little cafe where you can just sit and chill outside under an umbrella or porch in a small open area. That’s the European inside me who is still adapting to populous Asian city life. But good things are always there, you just have to find them.
Other good places to visit are;
Chiang Kai-Shek Memorial Hall
National Palace Museum
Songshan Ciyou Temple and Raohe Night Market (Songshan MRT)
Taipei 101 and Mall
Elephant Mountain Hike
Lungshan Temple of Manka