Taiwan is an interesting blend of Japanese and Chinese cultures. The island has switched hands over the centuries creating a special mix of Japanese courtesy with Chinese hustle. Exploring our 60th (woohoo!) country, we enjoyed the best of Taipei as well as the mountainous countryside. Enjoy the highlights of Taiwan!
Must Do Highlights of Taiwan
Shop, Eat, and Enjoy the Views at Taipei 101
Exploring Taipei 101 is a nice escape from the heat on a hot day. There are loads of stores, restaurants, and an observation deck with amazing views. Ride the 2004-2015 world record holding fastest passenger elevators to the 89th floor where you can see the entire city and surrounding mountains. Check out the huge damper that holds the skyscraper steady during strong winds.
Din Tai Fung Every Day
If you’ve never had soup dumplings, you’ll be spoiled for your first taste, by the best xiao long bao at Din Tai Fung. The now-famous chain started in Taiwan in 1972 and attracts long lines of visitors daily. Watch the chefs prepare the dumplings and enjoy a feast. The green beans are amazing as well, so get your veggie fix with an appetizer!
Hike the Elephant Trail at Sunset
Not far from the Xinyi district is a nice set of stair-laden trails which overlook the city. Sunset is beautiful to watch as you explore. Make sure to bring some water and load up on bug spray for this hike!
Explore Tan Sui
Take the train to Tan Sui and spend some time exploring the sea views, restaurants, and local shops. This is a great area to do some shopping at cheap prices and try the local street food. You can also rent city bikes from various stations and take a ride along the coast. Avoid the super tall ice cream cones as they taste like plastic, but feast on a piece of “cake” if you get hungry. The fluffy egg bread comes in slices the size of your head!
Fuel Up with some Pearl Milk Tea
Did you know that boba tea is a Taiwanese drink? We tried several refreshing fruit teas, but the classic pearl milk tea was my favorite!
Try Strange Foods with a Night Market Food Tour
Sampling street foods in a foreign country can be intimidating and sometimes unsafe for tourists, but we had great luck with a Night Market Food Tour by Tung (Urban Adventures) The small group tour covered only a small area but provided such a vast sampling of traditional dishes. Embrace the jelly. So many Taiwanese dishes feature jelly as an ingredient. From the oyster omelet to the citrus drink, jelly is ever present. My favorite dishes were the horned water chestnuts fresh off of the grill and the Michelin star rated deep-fried taro balls with fermented egg yolk.
Drive the Scenic Yilan Peninsula and Hike Taroko Gorge
The rocky cliffs, tunnels, and golden statues leading from Taipei to Taroko Gorge make for a beautiful drive. You can rent a car for a day and enjoy cruising the picturesque coast and stretch your legs with a hike inside Taroko Gorge National Park. Beware of venomous wasps!
Highlights of Taiwan – Where to stay
W Taipei Hotel
The W Taipei is located near Taipei 101 and has great access to the city via walking, trains, and Uber. My favorite part of the hotel, by far, was the incredible breakfast. As one of our SPG/Marriott Platinum benefits at the W Taipei, we were treated to fresh pressed juices and an insane variety of fresh local and international food at the daily breakfast buffet. The full-fledged ice cream bar was just the icing on the proverbial cake ;). Other platinum benefits included complimentary tea time by the pool or lobby lounge, happy hour at the top floor bar, and self-parking.
Highlights of Taiwan – Tips:
- There is a ton of great shopping in the city, but beware, prices are around 30% higher than in the USA.
- Drivers in Taiwan are extremely passive. While driving is easy, practice your patience as you get used to the passivity.
- Carry plenty of water as you explore because the city is hot and humid. Bug spray and sunscreen are also a must.
Taiwan was an amazing adventure that marked our 60th country visited. The food was as unique and pleasant as the friendly people. Come hungry (for food and culture) and leave happy. For more inspiration, check out our other Asian adventures!