- PRICES LIST
- HOTELS (BEST RATED)
- HOTELS (BEST VALUE)
- COFFEE & DRINK
- SIGHTS & LANDMARKS
- MUSEUMS & GALLERIES
- THINGS TO DO
- FESTIVALS & EVENTS
- THINGS TO KNOW
- STAY SAFE
Taipei, officially known as Taipei City, is the capital city and a special municipality of Taiwan.
Sitting in the northern part of the island in a basin between the Yangming Mountains and the Central Mountains, Taipei serves as the island's financial, cultural, and governmental center.
The city proper is home to an estimated population of 2,693,672 , forming the core part of the Taipei–Keelung metropolitan area which includes the nearby cities of New Taipei and Keelung with a population of 6,900,273.
Taipei is the political, economic, educational, and cultural center of Taiwan, and one of the major hubs of the Chinese-speaking world. Considered to be a global city, Taipei is part of a major high-tech industrial area.Railways, high-speed rail, highways, airports, and bus lines connect Taipei with all parts of the island. The city is served by two airports – Taipei Songshan and Taiwan Taoyuan.
The city is a tantalizing mix of Chinese, Japanese and Western influences, vibrant in its own right yet unhurried by global standards. Besides the architectural and cultural landmarks like Taipei 101 and Longshan Temple, the xiaochi (small snacks) in bustling night markets are an experience not to be forgotten by your stomach. The capital is also a great jumping off point for day trips to hot springs, old mining towns and national parks around the Northern Taiwan area.
|POPULATION :||City: 2,704,974 / Metro: 7,021,482|
|TIME ZONE :||National Standard Time (UTC+8)|
|LANGUAGE :||Mandarin Chinese (official), Taiwanese (Min), Hakka dialects|
|RELIGION :||mixture of Buddhist and Taoist 93%, Christian 4.5%, other 2.5%|
|AREA :||271.7997 km2 (104.9425 sq mi)|
|COORDINATES :||25°02′N 121°38′E|
|SEX RATIO :||• Male: |
|ETHNIC :||Taiwanese (including Hakka) 84%, mainland Chinese 14%, indigenous 2%|
|AREA CODE :||(0)2|
|POSTAL CODE :||100–116|
|DIALING CODE :||+886 2|
|WEBSITE :||Official Website|
Tourism is a major part of Taipei's economy. In 2013, over 6.3 million overseas visitors visited Taipei, making the city the 15th most visited globally. The influx of visitors contributed $10.8 billion USD to the city's economy in 2013, the 9th highest in the world and the most of any city in Greater China.
Sites and museums
The National Chiang Kai-shek Memorial Hall is a famous monument, landmark and tourist attraction that was erected in memory of General Chiang Kai-shek, former President of the Republic of China.The structure stands at the east end of Memorial Hall Square, site of the National Concert Hall and National Theater and their adjacent parks as well as the memorial. The landmarks of Liberty Square stand within sight of Taiwan's Presidential Building in Taipei's Zhongzheng District.
The National Taiwan Museum sits nearby in what is now 228 Peace Memorial Park and has worn its present name since 1999. The museum is Taiwan's oldest, founded on October 24, 1908 by Taiwan's Japanese colonial government (1895-1945) as the Taiwan Governor's Museum. It was launched with a collection of 10,000 items to celebrate the opening of the island's North-South Railway
The National Palace Museum is a vast art gallery and museum built around a permanent collection centered on ancient Chinese artifacts. It should not be confused with the Palace Museum in Beijing (which it is named after); both institutions trace their origins to the same institution. The collections were divided in the 1940s as a result of the Chinese Civil War.The National Palace Museum in Taipei now boasts a truly international collection while housing one of the world's largest collections of artifacts from ancient China.
The strikingly designed Shung Ye Museum of Formosan Aborigines stands just 200 metres across the road from the National Palace Museum. The museum offers magnificent displays of art and historical items by Taiwanese aborigines along with a range of multimedia displays.
The Taipei Fine Arts Museum was established in 1983 as the first museum in Taiwan dedicated to modern art. The museum is housed in a building designed for the purpose that takes inspiration from Japanese designs. Most art in the collection is by Taiwanese artists since 1940. Over 3,000 art works are organized into 13 groups.
Taipei 101 is a 101-floor landmark skyscraper that claimed the title of world's tallest building when it opened in 2004, a title it held for six years before relinquishing it to the Burj Khalifa in Dubai. Designed by C.Y. Lee & Partners and constructed by KTRT Joint Venture, Taipei 101 measures 509 m (1,670 ft) from ground to top, making it the first skyscraper in the world to break the half-kilometer mark in height.
The National Theater and Concert Hall stand at Taipei's Liberty Square and host events by foreign and domestic performers. Other leading concert venues include Zhongshan Hall at Ximen and the Sun Yat-sen Memorial Hall near Taipei 101.
Shopping and recreation
Taipei is known for its many night markets, the most famous of which is the Shilin Night Market in the Shilin District. The surrounding streets by Shilin Night Market are extremely crowded during the evening, usually opening late afternoon and operating well past midnight. Most night markets feature individual stalls selling a mixture of food, clothing, and consumer goods.
Ximending has been a famous area for shopping and entertainment since the 1930s. Historic structures include a concert hall, a historic cinema, and the Red House Theater. Modern structures house karaoke businesses, art film cinemas, wide-release movie cinemas, electronic stores, and a wide variety of restaurants and fashion clothing stores. The pedestrian area is especially popular with teens and has been called the "Harajuku" of Taipei.
The newly developed Xinyi District is popular with tourists and locals alike for its many entertainment and shopping venues, as well as being the home of Taipei 101, a prime tourist attraction. Malls in the area include the sprawling Shin Kong Mitsukoshi complex, Breeze Center, Bellavita, Taipei 101 mall, Eslite Bookstore's flagship store (which includes a boutique mall), The Living Mall, ATT shopping mall, and the Vieshow Cinemas (formerly known as Warner Village). The Xinyi district also serves as the center of Taipei's active nightlife, with several popular lounge bars and nightclubs concentrated in a relatively small area around the Neo19, ATT 4 FUN and Taipei 101 buildings. Lounge bars such as Barcode and nightclubs such as Spark and Myst are among the most-visited places here.
The thriving shopping area around Taipei Main Station includes the Taipei Underground Market and the original Shin Kong Mitsukoshi department store at Shin Kong Life Tower. Other popular shopping destinations include the Zhongshan Metro Mall, Dihua Street, the Guang Hua Digital Plaza, and the Core Pacific City. The Miramar Entertainment Park is known for its large Ferris wheel and IMAX theater.
Taipei maintains an extensive system of parks, green spaces, and nature preserves. Parks and forestry areas of note in and around the city include Yangmingshan National Park, Taipei Zoo and Da-an Forest Park. Yangmingshan National Park (located 10 kilometres (6.2 mi) north of the central city) is famous for its cherry blossoms, hot springs, and sulfur deposits. It is the home of famous writer Lin Yutang, the summer residence of Chiang Kai-shek, residences of foreign diplomats, the Chinese Culture University, the meeting place of the now defunct National Assembly of the Republic of China, and the Kuomintang Party Archives. The Taipei Zoo was founded in 1914 and covers an area of 165 hectares for animal sanctuary.
Bitan is known for boating and water sports. Tamsui is a popular sea-side resort town. Ocean beaches are accessible in several directions from Taipei.
Taipei is rich in beautiful, ornate temples housing Buddhist, Taoist, and Chinese folk religion deities. The Longshan Temple, built in 1738 and located in the Wanhua District, demonstrates an example of architecture with southern Chinese influences commonly seen on older buildings in Taiwan.
Xinsheng South Road is known as the "Road to Heaven" due to its high concentration of temples, shrines, churches, and mosques.
Prior to the significant influx of Han Chinese immigrants, the region of Taipei Basin was mainly inhabited by the Ketagalan plains aborigines. The number of Han immigrants gradually increased in the early 18th century under Qing Dynasty rule after government permission to develop the area. In 1875, the northern part of the island was incorporated into the new Taipeh Prefecture.
The Qing dynasty of China made Taipei a temporary capital of Taiwan Province in 1886 when Taiwan was separated from Fujian Province. Taipei was formally made the provincial capital in 1894.
Japan acquired Taiwan in 1895 under the Treaty of Shimonoseki after the First Sino-Japanese War. Taiwan became a colony of Imperial Japan with Taipei as its capital, in which Taipei was administered under Taihoku Prefecture. Taiwan's Japanese rulers embarked on an extensive program of advanced urban planning that featured extensive railroad links. A number of Taipei landmarks and cultural institutions date from this period.
The Republic of China (ROC) took over Taiwan in 1945 following Japanese surrender. After losing mainland China to the Chinese Communist Party in the Chinese Civil War, the ruling Kuomintang (KMT) relocated the ROC government to Taiwan and declared Taipei the provisional capital of the ROC in December 1949. In 1990 Taipei provided the backdrop for the Wild Lily student rallies that moved Taiwanese society from one-party rule to multi-party democracy. The city is today home to Taiwan's democratically elected national government.
Taipei has a monsoon-influenced humid subtropical climate.
Summers are long-lasting, hot and humid, accompanied by occasional heavy rainstorms and typhoons, while winters are short, generally warm and generally very foggy due to the northeasterly winds from the vast Siberian High being intensified by the pooling of this cooler air in the Taipei Basin.
As of the rest of Northern Taiwan, daytime temperatures of Taipei can often peak above 26 degrees Celsius during a warm winter day, while it can dip below 26 degrees Celsius during a rainy summer's afternoon. Occasional cold fronts during the winter months can drop the daily temperature by 3 to 5 degrees Celsius, though temperatures rarely drop below 10 degrees Celsius.
Due to Taiwan's location in the Pacific Ocean, it is affected by the Pacific typhoon season, which occurs between June and October.
|Daily highs (°C)||19||19||22||26||29||32||35||34||31||28||24||21|
|Nightly lows (°C)||13||14||15||19||22||24||26||26||24||22||19||15|
Central Weather Bureau seven day forecast for Taipei
Taipei City is located in the Taipei Basin in northern Taiwan. It is bordered by the Xindian River on the south and the Tamsui River on the west. The generally low-lying terrain of the central areas on the western side of the municipality slopes upward to the south and east and especially to the north, where it reaches 1,120 metres (3,675 ft) at Cising Mountain, the highest (inactive) volcano in Taiwan in Yangmingshan National Park. The northern districts of Shilin and Beitou extend north of the Keelung River and are bordered by Yangmingshan National Park. The Taipei city limits cover an area ranked sixteenth of twenty-five among all counties and cities in Taiwan.
Two peaks, Cising Mountain and Mt. Datun, rise to the northeast of the city. Cising Mountain is located on the Tatun Volcano Group and the tallest mountain at the rim of the Taipei Basin, with its main peak at 1,120 metres (3,670 ft). Mt. Datun's main peak is 1,092 metres (3,583 ft). These former volcanoes make up the western section of Yangmingshan National Park, extending from Mt. Datun northward to Mt. Caigongkeng. Located on a broad saddle between two mountains, the area also contains the marshy Datun Pond.
To the southeast of the city lie the Songshan Hills and the Qingshui Ravine, which form a barrier of lush woods.
As the center of Taiwan's largest conurbation, Taipei has been at the center of rapid economic development in the country and has now become one of the global cities in the production of high technology and its components. This is part of the so-called Taiwan Miracle which has seen dramatic growth in the city following foreign direct investment in the 1960s. Taiwan is now a creditor economy, holding one of the world's largest foreign exchange reserves of over US$403 billion as of December 2012.
Despite the Asian financial crisis, the economy continues to expand at about 5% per year, with virtually full employment and low inflation.
Taipei and its environs have long been the foremost industrial area of Taiwan, consisting of industries of the secondary and tertiary sectors. Most of the country's important factories producing textiles and apparel are located there, other industries include the manufacture of electronic products and components, electrical machinery and equipment, printed materials, precision equipment, and foods and beverages. Such companies include Shihlin Electric, CipherLab and Insyde Software. Shipbuilding, including yachts and other pleasure craft, is done in the port of Keelung northeast of the city.
Services, including those related to commerce, transportation, and banking, have become increasingly important. Tourism is a small but significant component of the local economy. Taipei has many top tourist attractions and contributes a significant amount to the US$6.8 billion tourism industry in Taiwan.
Taipei is mostly built up and in various phases of growth and disrepair, though a park is never far away, especially in the more suburban areas. The downtown area is culturally divided into East and West. The west side, with its narrow streets and road side vendors, is considered the bastion of old Taipei life, whereas East Taipei, with its classy malls, chic boutiques, and stylish restaurants and cafes, reminiscent of those found in Tokyo, Paris or New York City represents its metamorphosis into a modern and international city.
The Greater Taipei metropolitan area beyond Taipei City boundaries includes the surrounding New Taipei City (新北市) and Keelung (基隆市), representing the largest urban cluster in Taiwan with nearly 7 million people, though run by three different government authorities.
|Old Taipei (萬華-大同)|
Wanhua and Datong make up the oldest parts of Taipei, home to many historic buildings, such as the Longshan Temple and the Red House Theater, although it has lost much of its economic relevance to theEast District. Ximending is the "Harajuku of Taipei", a shopping neighborhood centered around teenager fashion, Japanese culture and subcultures.
|Zhongzheng and Gongguan (中正-公館)|
Zhongzheng is the political center of Taiwan and the location of the Presidential Office and important government ministries. Its prime tourist attraction is the Chiang Kai-shek Memorial Hall. Gongguan, on the other hand, has a youthful feel thanks to students from the Taida and Shida universities thronging the area.
|East District (大安-信義)|
Daan and Xinyi are the modern commercial and financial districts of Taipei, and can be collectively referred to as the East District. Offering department stores, plenty of fashion boutiques, lounge bars, and atmospheric restaurants, and some of the most expensive real estate in the city, it is also home to Taipei 101, the Taipei World Trade Center, and the International Convention Center.
|Zhongshan and Songshan (中山-松山)|
Zhongshan has riverside parks, the Martyrs Shrine, the Fine Arts Museum, and a large pub and bar scene. Many firms and financial institutions are located in Songshan, which is directly north of the East District. Raohe Street Night Market is one of the oldest of Taipei's famous street markets.
This district is famous for hot springs and the Yangmingshan National Park.
A traditional area of the city that is known for its excellent museums, including the world famous National Palace Museum. Shilin is also home to one of Taipei's largest night market and the expat enclave of Tianmu.
|Neihu and Nangang (內湖-南港)|
Located in the eastern reaches of the city, Neihu and Nangang are hubs of the IT industry in Taipei, home to many large shopping centers, and a great place for hiking and 'templing'. A mouth-watering juxtaposition of local Taiwanese culture and modern shopping malls and restaurants. A definite must-visit, Neihu is largely a secret to the tourist world.
Internet cafes are plentiful, especially in the maze of alleys between Taipei Main Station and Peace Park. However, you may have to wander around (and look up and down as many are on higher floors or in the basement) before finding one. Some computers are coin operated. Internet cafes are known as wang-ka in Chinese (a combination of wang, the Chinese word for 'net', and ka an abbreviation of 'cafe').
Taipei also has a city-wide Wi-Fi service called Wifly. For a small fee, you can buy a card that gives you unlimited internet access nearly anywhere in the city for a day or a month. The card costs NT$100 for 1 day of unlimited access and NT$500 for 31 days of unlimited access and can be purchased in Starbucks Coffee Shops, 7 eleven stores or online.
Taipei offers a free Wi-Fi network called TPE-Free. It is available in most public area in Taipei, MRT stations, city administrative district offices, city libraries... You need to register at any tourist information center with an ID. At the free Wi-Fi spots, you usually have an power plug and a USB plug to load your electronic devices. TPE-Free users can also enjoy the iTaiwan network available in some public buildings.
Prices in Taipei
MARKET / SUPERMARKET
|Milk||1 liter||$ 2.50|
|Tomatoes||1 kg||$ 2.60|
|Cheese||0.5 kg||$ 5.80|
|Apples||1 kg||$ 3.00|
|Oranges||1 kg||$ 1.90|
|Beer (domestic)||0.5 l||$ 1.45|
|Bottle of Wine||1 bottle||$ 12.00|
|Coca-Cola||2 liters||$ 1.40|
|Bread||1 piece||$ 1.45|
|Water||1.5 l||$ 0.90|
|Dinner (Low-range)||for 2||$ 20.00|
|Dinner (Mid-range)||for 2||$ 35.00|
|Dinner (High-range)||for 2||$ 56.00|
|Mac Meal or similar||1 meal||$ 3.80|
|Water||0.33 l||$ 0.55|
|Cappuccino||1 cup||$ 2.40|
|Beer (Imported)||0.33 l||$ 2.00|
|Beer (domestic)||0.5 l||$ 1.50|
|Coca-Cola||0.33 l||$ 0.80|
|Coctail drink||1 drink||$ 8.50|
|Cinema||2 tickets||$ 18.00|
|Gym||1 month||$ 49.00|
|Men’s Haircut||1 haircut||$|
|Theatar||2 tickets||$ 74.00|
|Mobile (prepaid)||1 min.||$ 0.24|
|Pack of Marlboro||1 pack||$ 2.50|
|Antibiotics||1 pack||$ 5.00|
|Tampons||32 pieces||$ 4.00|
|Deodorant||50 ml.||$ 3.65|
|Shampoo||400 ml.||$ 7.00|
|Toilet paper||4 rolls||$ 1.80|
|Toothpaste||1 tube||$ 2.45|
CLOTHES / SHOES
|Jeans (Levis 501 or similar)||1||$ 90.00|
|Dress summer (Zara, H&M)||1||$ 42.00|
|Sport shoes (Nike, Adidas)||1||$ 78.00|
|Leather shoes||1||$ 125.00|
|Gasoline||1 liter||$ 0.80|
|Taxi||1 km||$ 0.60|
|Local Transport||1 ticket||$ 0.60|
32 $ per day
Estimated cost per 1 day including:
- meals in cheap restaurant
- public transport
- cheap hotel
131 $ per day
Estimated cost per 1 day including:
- mid-range meals and drinks
Transportation - Get In
Taiwan Taoyuan International Airport
Taipei's international airport is officially called Taiwan Taoyuan International Airport(IATA: TPE). However, the name was changed only in September 2006 and the old name, Chiang Kai Shek International Airport (often abbreviated as CKS), is still commonly used. Many airlines fly to the Taoyuan International Airport. The airport is located about 30 km from the city and freeway buses ply the route, picking up and dropping off passengers at most of the five star hotels. It also stops at the Taipei Main Station and the domestic airport (Songshan Airport), which is in downtown Taipei. There are also bus services connecting the airport to nearby cities and Taichung in central Taiwan. Travelers to other destinations need to change transportation in Taipei.
There are four transportation options at the airport: bus, high-speed rail, taxi, and pre-arranged car. An MRT line is under construction, but it will not be operational until early 2016. Here are the options from cheapest to most expensive forms of transportation:
- Express airport buses cost between NT$120 and NT$150 depending on the bus company, 50-70 minutes depending on traffic and there are stops at both terminals. Most Taipei routes are divided into West and East, with each company operating a service every ten to fifteen minutes on each route. The western line bus terminates at Taipei Main Railway Station and also makes a stop at Yuanshan MRT Station on the Xindian line (NB: The Airbus company buses on the western line meander through local towns before joining the freeway and therefore take much longer than the blue and white Guoguang buses which enter the freeway directly). Buses plying the eastern route terminate at the Taipei Grand Hyatt Hotel and make a stop at Zhongxiao-Fuxing MRT Station on the Nangang and Muzha lines. There is also a bus connecting to the domestic Songshan Airport. Ticket counters display route maps showing all stops. In addition, there are some non-express buses which are slightly cheaper, but pass through towns such as Taoyuan (桃園), Nankan (南崁) or Kueishan (龜山) before arriving in Taipei.
- When returning to the airport, express buses can be caught at various stops throughout the city. One major one leaves every 15–20 minutes from 2 Taipei West Bus Station adjacent to Taipei Main Railway Station (near MRT exit M5 and underground mall exits K12 and Z3). Another is at the terminal at the Songshan Domestic Airport (松山機場). Other stops are outside major hotels and also in front of Minsheng MRT Station. For people taking early morning flights, the earliest available buses to the airport leave at around 4AM from the Far Eastern Plaza Hotel (台北遠東國際大飯店) (201 Dunhua South Rd Section 2).
- It is also easy to get to Taoyuan High Speed Rail station from the airport. There is a bus that runs approximately every 15 minutes from the airport to Taoyuan HSR station, slightly less regularly later in the evening. From there, you can catch one of the HSR trains to Taipei Main Station (where it is easy to take a taxi or MRT to your final destination). The bus is NT$30 and the train is NT$165. The total journey time takes 5-15 minutes waiting time, 18-25 minutes on the bus, and 19 minutes to Taoyuan HSR; roughly 1 hour in all. On the way back, there are check-in counters at the station for China Airlines, EVA Air flights.
- A one-way taxi fare between the airport and Taipei will cost at the minimum NT$900 (generally NT$1000–$1200 from the airport). In Taipei, don't make the mistake of asking a taxi driver to take you to the Taipei airport (Songshan) if you actually mean Taiwan Taoyuan Airport. The international airport is actually about an hour's drive from Taipei, while Songshan is in downtown Taipei.
- A one-way pre-arranged car fare between the airport and Taipei will cost at the minimum NT$1300–$1500. Generally these sedans are pre-arranged through your hotel and the car company or driver will meet you as soon as you exit baggage claim. Since the price is not much more than taking a taxi, it is usually recommended that you ask your hotel if they offer this service. This is a more comfortable half-hour ride to the hotel.
- Direct bus connections between the airport and other cities in Taiwan are also available. U-bus also runs shuttle buses every 15 min from both terminals to THSR Taoyuan station (15 min away), from where you can continue your journey by high-speed train.
In addition to the transit hotel within the airport terminal, there are several hotels located near the airport if you desire more comfortable quarters for an extended transit or for some other reason would rather lodge by the airport than in Taipei. The Novotel Taoyuan International Airport, located next to the China Airlines headquarters building, is mere minutes from both terminals and has commanding views of the airport's runways. Also nearby is the CitySuites Gateway Hotel, 10 minutes from the Cing-pu High-speed Rail Station and three minutes away from Taoyuan International Airport.
There is night service, although it's really hard to find information about it. Best source is the airport website. As of 21Feb2012 there is overnight bus service to Taipei Railway station as follows: 1:30AM, 3AM for Terminal 1 (exit B5), add 10 mins for Terminal 2 (bus station, 1819 stand). Ticket is purchased from the driver - 165 NT$. Unconfirmed - one extra departs at 04:00, Wednesday & Saturday at Terminal 2 Without Detouring Terminal 1.From the Taipei Railway you can take overnight train to connect to other cities or bus from the adherent bus station. It takes about 55 min from the airport to the city (at night).
Songshan Airport(IATA: TSA), officially Taipei International Airport (台北國際航空站) at the northern end of Dunhua North Road is the city center airport. It serves a few domestic destinations as well as select international routes to regional destinations. There are numerous daily flights arriving and departing for the outlying islands and cities on the east coast of the island. The airport also serves flights to various destinations in mainland China, as well as "city shuttle" services to Tokyo-Haneda, Seoul-Gimpo and Shanghai-Hongqiao. The airport is served by the Taipei Metro Brown Line's (officially labeled the Wenshan-Neihu Line) Songshan Airport Station and can be reached in about 15 minutes from Taipei Main Station. Many city and long-distance buses also connect to the airport.
All inter-city trains, operated by the Taiwan Railway Administration(台鐵) and Taiwan High Speed Rail (台灣高鐵), arrive at and depart from 5 Taipei Railway Station on Zhongxiao West Road, Sec 1 - opposite the 53 story Shinkong Mitsukoshi Building (新光三越). Taipei Main Station is a huge facility. Ticket counters are on the first floor and platforms on B2. There is also a food court on the second floor, several underground shopping malls, and directly connects to Taipei Main Station on the Taipei Metro which is served by Tamsui (Red) line and Bannan (Blue) line. In addition to ticket counters, the first floor also has a tourist office, a post office, stores selling aboriginal handicrafts and several booths offering head and neck and full body massage (NT$100 for every ten minutes).
There are also three other train stations in Taipei city. Wanhua Station (萬華車站) is in the south-western part of the city and is within walking distance of MRT Longshan Temple Station and is only served by local trains. Songshan Station (松山車站) is close to Raohe Street Night Market and all trains operated by the Taiwan Railway Administration stop at the station. Nangang Station (南港車站) is on the eastern end of the city and is currently served by local trains and some express trains. It is directly connected to Nangang Station on Taipei Metro's Bannan (Blue) line and the Taiwan High Speed Rail is expected to operate into the station by the beginning of 2015. All train stations in Taipei city accept Easy Cards to enter the station in addition to tickets bought at the vending machines or counters.
The THSR stations and platforms are wheelchair-friendly and all trains include a wheelchair-accessible car (wider doors, ample space, accessible bathroom). Note that the official English guide for online reservations distinguishes between "senior or disabled tickets" and "handicap-friendly seats"; while it's possible to buy a ticket for the former online ("correct passenger ID" required), a ticket for the latter has to be reserved by calling the ticketing office on the phone.
- Lockers of different sizes are available at the Taipei Main Station. $20-50 per 3 hours, maximum 3 days.
- Taipei Railway Station carry-on baggage center (台北車站行李託運中心) (leave Taipei Main Station by the Exit East 3, cross the road at the traffic light where the taxis wait, walk down the road and turn left into the alley just before the parking lot entrance, the building is on your right side). daily 08:00–20:00. $70 per bag.
Intercity buses arrive and depart from the Taipei Bus Station, which is located on Chengde Road, behind Taipei Main Station. Generally speaking, the buses operated by private companies are more comfortable and sport such amenities as wide reclining seats and individual game and video monitors. The government run buses are blue and white and are called guóguāng hào (國光號). All intercity buses are known as kèyùn (客運) and can be distinguished from the local city buses called gōngchē (公車) by the fact that they do not have a route number, but only the name of the destination.
Transportation - Get Around
Taipei City has a very clean, efficient and safe Mass Rapid Transit system known most commonly as the MRT, but also called Metro Taipei (台北捷運). Fares are between NT$20 and NT$65 for one-way trips around town. Stations and trains are clearly identified in English, so even for those who cannot read Chinese, the MRT system is very accessible. All stops are announced in four languages: Mandarin, Taiwanese, Hakka and English. All stations have information booth/ticket offices close to the ticket vending machines. There is no eating or drinking while in the stations or on the trains. There are priority seats. If you need a seat, there are stickers offered at the information booth that allow passengers to identify those in need. Trains generally run from 6AM to midnight, with convenient bus connections outside the stations.
Women and/or children traveling at night can benefit from the Safe Zones - sections of platforms that are under heavy surveillance - located in some of the subway lines. Stations and trains (including the monorail) are wheelchair-friendly, but note that when there are multiple exits from a single station, usually only one of these is equipped with a lift.
In addition to single journey tickets, the Taipei MRT also sells value-added cards/smartcards called EasyCard or youyouka (as in 'yo-yo-ka', also 悠遊卡). These cards hold amounts up to NT$5,000, and one only needs to "touch" (sensor) them past the barrier monitor to gain entry and exit from paid areas. Value-added cards can be purchased at station ticket offices or at vending machines, and can be recharged at the stations or convenience stores. To purchase a new EasyCard you will need to pay NT$500 (including a deposit of NT$100 and NT$400 usable credit).
One great advantage of using the EasyCard is that there is a 20% discount on all MRT rides, and if you transfer from the MRT to an ordinary city bus, or vice versa, within an hour, the bus ride is only NT$7. The discount is automatically calculated when you leave the MRT station. Student cards with even deeper discounts are also available for purchase, but only upon request at a desk and a student ID. Major convenience stores such as 7-Eleven, as well as various other retail outlets and parking lots also accept the card as payment. It is also possible to buy day cards just for the metro system for NT$200 (refundable deposit of NT$50) and for NT$180 you can buy a card that works on both the metro and buses. Alternatively, the Taipei Pass costs NT$250 (no deposit) and covers travel on the metro and Maokong Gondola for one day, which is cheap and convenient if you take at least six trips.
Oftentimes limited-edition cards are issued by the transit authority depicting artworks, famous characters, landscapes, etc. These are quite collectible and are perfect souvenirs for your trip. Remember single-journey tokens are recycled when you exit the stations, so if you want to keep a particular one you should purchase an extra.
Taipei City has a very efficient bus service, and because all buses display information (destination and the names of stops) in English, the system is very accessible to non-Chinese speaking visitors. Payment can be made by cash (NT$15) or EasyCard (see "metro" listing) for each section that the bus passes through. For local buses (all local buses have a number, so do long distance buses) the maximum will be two sections with a total cost of NT$45. The confusion, however, arises by not knowing where the section boundaries are located and the fact that there is often a buffer zone to prevent people who get on one stop before the boundary from overpayment.
When to pay Above the driver, there is an electronic red sign. If the Chinese character for "up" (上) is lit, then you pay when you get on. If the same sign is lit when you get off, you do not need to pay again. However, if the sign is displaying the Chinese character for "down" (下) when you are getting off, then you will need to pay a second time. Finally, if the character for "down" is lit up when you get on, then you need to pay only when you get off. Until you get the hang of the system, just let the locals go first and follow their action. It's really not as complicated as it sounds, and bus drivers won't let you forget a second payment if you owe one!
Besides, if you are transferring from the MRT to a bus within one hour, there is a discounted bus fare when using the Easycard, vice versa.
Taxis are the most flexible way to get around, and are extremely numerous. They are expensive in comparison to mass transit, but are cheap when compared to taxis in the rest of the world. Taxis are metered, which meter starts at NT$70(an additional NT$20 is added over the meter for the taxi rates at night ). Most taxi drivers cannot speak English, and it will be necessary for non-Chinese speakers to have their destination written down in Chinese. Tipping is neither necessary nor expected.
Since 2012, all passengers are required to buckle their seatbelt. Women and/or children traveling at night are advised to use one of the reputable taxi companies. The toll free taxi hotline is 0800-055850 (maintained by Department of Transportation).
Taiwanese taxi drivers tend to be more honest than in many other countries. They are notorious for their strong opinions on politics. A large majority of them support Taiwan independence as they spend all day listening to talk radio. They will probably be unable to share any of this with you if you do not speak Chinese. Avoid any potential political discussion.
It is not advisable for lone women at night to hail a random taxi from the street - it is best to have the number of one of the bigger taxi companies and to call for a cab. Taking a taxi at night in Taipei is more dangerous than walking.
Even though motorized traffic is very heavy in Taipei, bicycles are still legitimate vehicles to get around. There are long cycle paths beside most rivers in the city. Bicycles can also be carried on the Taipei metro but only at Saturdays, Sundays, and National Holidays and via certain stations - bicycles aren't permitted in larger interchange stations such as Taipei Main Station and Zhongxiao Fuxing, and bicycles are only permitted in the first and last carriages. Properly packaged folded bicycles are exempt from the restrictions upon ordinary bicycles. There are not many segregated bike lanes but on some busy streets cycling on the pavement (US English: sidewalk) is permitted where signed or marked, as in Japan.
Taipei has a great bike sharing system - YouBike. It is very cheap if you register through their site - first half hour is NT$5, which is enough for most every ride you need. You use EasyCard (the same as for the subway and buses) to rent them. It's all very easy and the bikes are modern and convenient. Check each bicycle for defects before you use them; bike seats are turned backwards to signal some form of maintenance is required.
Renting a car is not only unnecessary, but not recommended in Taipei unless you are planning to head out of the city. Traffic tends to be frantic, and parking spaces are expensive and difficult to find. Most of the main tourist destinations are reachable by public transport, and you should use that as your main mode of travel.
The Taipei address system is very logical and user-friendly. The hub of the city is the corner of the east-west running Zhongxiao (忠孝) and north-south running Zhongshan (中山) Rds, however while the north/south divide is made at Zhongxiao here, further east it is made instead at Bade (八德) Rd, something which confuses even people who have lived in Taipei for years. All major roads are identified by their direction in relation to these roads. For example, all sections of the north-south running Fuxing (復興) Rd north of Bade are called Fuxing North Rd (復興北路). Likewise, those sections to the south are called Fuxing South Rd (復興南路). Those that cross Zhongshan road are similarly identified as either east or west. Section (段; duàn) numbers begin at 'one' near the two defining roads and increase at intersections of major highways. For example, Ren'ai (仁愛) Rd (which has only an east location and therefore does not have a direction suffix), Section 1 will be close to Zhongshan South Rd. The section number will increase as one moves further away from Zhongshan Rd. So, for example, when Ren'ai Rd reaches Dunhua South Rd (敦化南路) far in the east of the city, a typical address could be: 7F, 166 Ren'ai Rd, Section 4. The house and lane numbers begin at zero every section. Lanes (巷; xiàng) lead off roads (路; lù) and streets (街; jiē), while alleys (弄; nòng) branch off lanes.
- BEST RATED -
- BEST VALUE -
It has been said that Los Angeles has no center. In contrast, one could say that Taipei is all center, and as such it has been given the epithet - "the emporium without end." Basically, however, the main shopping area can be divided into two districts: East and West. West Taipei is the old city and is characterized by narrow streets packed with small shops. East Taipei boasts wide tree lined boulevards and the biggest shopping malls are located in this area.
The busiest part of East Taipei is in between MRT Zhongxiao Dunhua Station and MRT Sun Yat-Sen Memorial Hall Station (Bannan Line). The axis of this shopping area is Zhongxiao East Road, Sec. 4, which is surrounded by numerous of department stores. SOGO has three branches in this area, mainly sales various of boutique. Another notable one is Mingyao Department Store which has the flagship store of Uniqlo in it. East Taipei is also famous for the small stores inside the alleys. On the other hand,Daan Road in the other side of the area, has more elegant clothing shops.
Xinyi is arguably the premier shopping area in Taipei, if not all of Taiwan, and is anchored by a number of department stores and malls. Key among them is Taipei 101 Mall, as part of the larger Taipei 101 complex. Eslite Mall is an upscale market-style shopping center with a 24 hour bookshop (with a good English selection) on the second floor and ethnic music store in basement. For absolute luxury, try Bellavita Shopping Mall or Breeze Center.Songshan has some shopping malls with distinctive architectural features, such as the 'Death Star'-like Core Pacific Living City and the Miramar Entertainment Park, which sports a giant ferris wheel along with an IMAX theater.
For trendier fashion catering to youths, check out Ximending (西門町) in Wanhua just west of Downtown. If it's pink, plastic, and imported from Japan, you can probably find it on sale in a store. Sneakerheads will also find shoe stores with the latest limited releases here in sneaker-crazy Taipei, though you need to get a number and wait in a queue buzzing with anticipation. Several night markets don't just sell food but also have a large variety of clothing, handbags and more, like Shida Night Market near the university areas in Gongguan and Shilin Night Market.
As the sales headquarters for many homegrown multinational electronics manufacturers (including Asus, Garmin and Acer among others), good bargains and unique models can be found in Taipei. Those interested in picking up inexpensive electronic goods and cameras should wander the lanes and alleys around Kaifeng Street and Zhonghua Road, as well as the malls connected to Taipei Main Station.
Computer buffs will enjoy a visit to Guanghua Digital Plaza (光華數位新天地). Specializing in computer and electronic goods, this market has the largest number of stalls selling hardware and software under one roof in Taiwan, and all at very competitive prices. K-Mall, located in the former Asiaworld department store on the east side of Shinkong Mitsukoshi, specializes in electronics of all kinds and is a location for large companies such as Asus, Samsung, Benq, and Acer to showcase their newest products. The Taipei Zhongshan Metro Shopping Mall (Easy Mall) is a long underground shopping area that houses several stores selling all manner of items, not necessarily limited to electronics. A few stores in the Easy Mall carry current and vintage video games, hardware and software.
For jade, flowers and jewelry in one central location, check out the Jianguo Holiday Market in Daan. There are actually three different markets, the Weekend Jade Market, Weekend Flower Market and Weekend Handicrafts Market in this same location. As the names suggest, they are open only on weekends until 6PM. TheChinese Handicraft Mart in Zhongzheng is also good for handicrafts.
Wanhua's Dihua Street, Bopiliao Old Street and Snake Alley night market are throwbacks to the older days of Taipei, back when herbal remedies and aphrodisiacs were extremely popular. Pottery enthusiasts will enjoy a visit to Yingge in New Taipei City. Its old street is a crescent of beautiful pottery shops interspersed with coffee shops and tea houses.
Zhongshan North Road (中山北路) is a tree-lined boulevard featuring numerous international and local brands. Gucci and Louis Vuitton are among the brands who operate stores along this street. This road, particularly along the second section, is also famous for its numerous wedding picture studios and gown boutiques. It is possible to find a great deal for wedding portraits here as competition is stiff.
Go to just north of the junction with Zhongxiao West Rd on Zhongshan North Rd, sec 1 (west side of the road) for trekking and backpacking stores selling a wide range of high quality equipment, and you'll be ready for all the outdoor hiking that Taipei and Taiwan offers.
Taipei has great book shops, and roads such are Chongqing South Road, are packed with stores specializing in Chinese language books. The Station Front Area(站前) is a section of downtown Taipei just south of the Taipei Railway Station. It is a bustling area filled with shops and stores of all kinds, but it is particularly well known for its high concentration of bookstores due to the bloom of bushibans (as known as cram schools).
The following book stores all have good selections of English titles:
- Eslite, . (誠品) – Eslite offers a good selection at most of their branches, although the 24 hour flagship store (2F, 245 Dunhua South Rd. has the best selection. Eslite Book Store and shopping mall (11 Songgau Road), which incidentally is the largest book store in Taiwan, have the greatest selection. The Songgau Rd branch is located next to MRT Station 'Taipei City Hall'.
- Caves Books (敦煌) has two branches (54-3 Zhongshan North Road, Sec 2, near Yuanshan MRT Station. tel +886 2 2599-1166). This is a temporary location, while the old store is demolished and rebuilt. The other branch (5, Le 38, Tianyu St, Tianmu. Tel:+2 886 2874-2199) is one of the original book stores in Taipei specializing in English titles. And, although it has been surpassed by the newer arrivals, it is still a good place to pick up a popular novel and English language textbooks.
- Lai Lai (來來), 4F, 271 Roosevelt Road, Sec 3, . This shop has a small but interesting selection of English material.
- Crane Publishing Company, 200 Section 2, Jinshan S Rd, Da’an District, . Specialists in English language textbooks and teaching material.
- Bookman Books, Room 5, 2F, 88 Xinsheng South Road, Sec 3, . This is an excellent collection of English literature books, albeit a little expensive.
- Mollie Used Books, 12, Alley 10, Lane 244, Roosevelt Road sec 3, . You'll find a reasonable selection of English titles here.
NB: In order to protect the environment, a government policy rules that plastic bags cannot be given freely at stores in Taiwan, but have to be bought (NT$1) - bakeries being an exception as the items need to be hygienically wrapped. Re-usable canvas and nylon bags are sold at most supermarkets.
Taipei probably has one of the highest densities of restaurants in the world. Almost every street and alley offers some kind of eatery. Of course, Chinese food (from all provinces) is well-represented. In addition, Thai, Vietnamese, Japanese, Korean and Italian cuisines are also popular. Basically, East Taipei, especially around Dunhua and Anhe Roads, and also the expat enclave of Tianmu are where to clash chopsticks with the rich and famous, whereas West Taipei offers more smaller, homey restaurants.
Several night markets (夜市) are located in each district. Some are open during daytime, and all are open until around midnight. Night markets consist of restaurants and stores at the permanent locations and little booths along the center. Every night market has a huge variety of food, so a visit to any one is a good bet for good food.
A lot of Taiwanese street food hasn't actually originated from Taipei, but any popular xiaochi(small snack) eventually makes their way up to the capital. Some of the best known night market snacks are: oyster vermicelli (蚵仔麵線; ô-á mī-sòa), oyster omelet (蚵仔煎; ô-á-chian), fried chicken fillet (雞排; jīpái), stinky tofu (臭豆腐; chòudòufǔ) and aiyu jelly (愛玉冰; ài-yù-bīng) among a long list of others. Because of the vast selection, the recommendation is to go with a few people and share the food. Otherwise, honestly the best way to eat is to join the longest queue in the market, or just buy whatever catches your eye! Vendor food is generally safe to eat, but use common sense though if you have a sensitive stomach.
The most famous one in Taipei is the Shilin Night Market (士林夜市). It is easily accessible via the MRT at either the Jiantan (劍潭) or Shilin (士林) stations. Locals in Taipei view Shilin as touristy, with food catering to the tastes of mainland visitors. Another excellent option is Ning Xia Night Market (寧夏夜市) in Datong located near theTaipei Circle (建成圓環) and accessible via the MRT at Zhongshan (中山) station. Raohe Street Night Market (饒河街觀光夜市) is also a viable option. It is a mere stone's throw away from the TRA-administered Songshan (松山) railway station.
While it might be possible to spend all your dinners at night markets, Taipei also has plenty of sit-down restaurants with more substantial dishes. For upmarket Taiwanese cuisine, which revolves around the mild yet flavorful trio of basil, garlic and chili, in addition to white rice or sweet potato congee (no wheat-based products for example), try Ching-yeh Aoba in Zhongshan or Shinyeh Table in Daan. But for more down-to-earth experiences, don't forget to go to one of the many "hot fry" (熱炒) restaurants in Taipei where the locals go to eat Taiwanese food and drink beer and kaoliang. Be prepared for a noisy atmosphere, tiny seats, lots of empty beer bottles and excellent food at a low price.
The influx of KMT migrants perhaps makes Taipei one of the easiest places to sample a quality spread of Chinese provincial cuisines. Xiaolongbao (小籠包) or soup dumplings is a Shanghainese dish made famous by Din Tai Fung, whose first storefront at Xinyi Road remains heavily patronised by fans of the world-wide franchise. They have many branches all over the city too, though their branch at Taipei 101 is also extra crowded. Around the corner from Xinyi Road is Yongkang Street, which boasts quite a mix of old and new restaurants like Kaochi or Jin Ji Yuan. Both serve xiaolongbao, along with other dishes such as fried chicken, good alternatives for when the queue to Din Tai Fung is an hour long.
Beef noodle soup is a national icon; Taipei even holds a yearly judging event every September to appraise competitors. There are two main types: hongshao (紅燒牛肉麵), a strongly flavored dish derived from Sichuan spicy bean paste and soya sauce braised beef, and qingdun (清燉牛肉麵), a clear light broth, although there are even tomato varieties popping up around the city. On Yongkang St alone, there're already two beef noodle shops, Yongkang Beef Noodle and Lao Zhang, which have their own regulars. Those more game to get to hard-to-find places can reward themselves at Lin Tung Fong in Zhongshan or the one at Taoyuan Street near Ximending.
Vegetarian food (素食) is also common fare, with the city boasting more than two hundred vegetarian restaurants and vendor stands. Another Taipei specialty is vegetarian buffets. They are common in every neighborhood, and unlike the 'all-you-can-eat' buffets listed below (which charge a set price, usually ranging from NT$250 - NT$350 including dessert and coffee/tea), the cost is estimated by the weight of the food on your plate. Rice (there is usually a choice of brown or white) is charged separately, but soup is free and you can refill as many times as you like. NT$75–120 will buy you a good sized, nutritious meal. Note that many of these veggie restaurants are Buddhist in nature and so meals do not contain garlic or onion (which traditionalists claim inflames passion).
- Minder Vegetarian. This is a restaurant chain offering the above-mentioned vegetarian buffet. Aside from the usual line of vegetarian dishes, contemporary cuisine such as rice rolls, tempura and a range of desserts, all entirely vegetarian, are offered as well. Major branches in Taipei are available at Taipei Main Station 2F, Breeze Taipei Branch, No. 3, Beiping North Road, Eslite Bookstore B2, Xinyi Branch, Xinyi District, No. 11, Songgao Road and Eslite Bookstore B1, Dunhua South Branch, Da-an District, No. 245, Dunhua South Road, Sec. 1.
- Lotus Pavilion Restaurant, 153-155 Xinyi Rd B1, Sec. 4 (entrance in alley behind Changhwa Bank), . An upscale all-you-can-eat buffet.
- King Join, No 18 Shin-Wei Rd, . Traditional Chinese setting.
- For a special Taipei street experience, check out the veggie vendor outside No. 30, Lane 216, Zhongxiao East Road Sec. 4 (in the alleys behind the Dunhua South Road Eslite Mall and book store). The rice noodles are especially delicious and cheap and a plate of their dougan (dried tofu) makes a great side dish.
Coffe & Drink
Taiwan's speciality tea is High Mountain Oolong (高山烏龍, a fragrant, light tea) andTieguanyin (鐵觀音, a dark, rich brew).
The mountainous Maokong area of Muzha in the Wenshan district of the city has dozens upon dozens of teahouses, many of which also offer panoramic views of the city. Its especially spectacular on a clear evening. A Maokong Gondola (cable car) system services the Taipei Zoo MRT station to Maokong. The S10 bus comes up from the Wanfang Community MRT station.
While traditionally a nation of tea drinkers, in recent years the Taiwanese have really embraced the cafe culture, and all the usual chains can be found here in abundance. For cafes with more character, roam the back streets near National Taiwan University between Xinsheng South Road and Roosevelt Road in Gongguan. More cafes are located in the area around Renai Road, Section 4 and Dunhua South Road. There are also some interesting and characterful places between Yongkang Park and Chaozhou Street, and in the alleys around Shida Road. However, for a particularly impressive range of styles, visit Bitan in Xindian, where all the cafes offer restful views over the river and mountains beyond (though can be noisy during weekends).
Sights & Landmarks
Those who take the time to visit and look around will soon find that Taipei is just as vibrant as any other major city, and is full of a certain charm which makes it unique in its own right. Just spend a day wandering around Taipei's streets and you will start finding many surprises.
Several memorial halls like theChiang Kai-shek Memorial Hall in Zhongzheng District and Sun Yat-sen Memorial Hall in Xinyi commemorate the most recognized leaders of the Nationalists to the lesser known war dead in theMartyrs' Shrine in Zhongshan District. All three have honor guards which change at set hours, demonstrating military precision and solemn respect for the ROC leaders and soldiers before them. Built in the middle of large parks, the memorial halls are also good places for some quiet reflection.
While Taipei is largely secular, the elaborate Taoist and Buddhist temples such as Longshan Temple and Bao'an Temple in the older districts of Wanhua and Datong still draw locals who maintain the old rituals and traditions. On the glitzier side of town, Taipei 101 may have relinquished its tallest building status but remains a very popular attraction for its architectural style and observatory deck. On New Year's Eve, Taipei 101 becomes a beacon of lights and fireworks.
Parks and outdoors
If the cityscape gets a little dreary, there are plenty of parks to escape to. Daan Park is one of the largest in the city, earning the moniker of Taipei Central Park. 228 Peace Parkin Zhongzheng was named to remember the bloody 228 Incident of 28 February 1947 and also holds the National Taiwan Museum and the 228 Memorial Museum. A few green spaces can also be found along the banks of the Keelung River, such as Zhongshan District's Dajie Riverside Park.
Visit the Taipei Zoo in Wenshan to see giant pandas, brown bears and gorillas for a low, low price. It's more akin to a walk in a leafy park, where animals are free to roam around in their open enclosures. Combine it with a ride up on the Maokong Gondola, which has a few special glass-floor carriages, to relax further in the hilltop teahouses.
Even though very little ancient architecture remains in Taipei, four of Taipei's five original city gates still stand. The city walls which surrounded the old city and the West Gate were demolished by the Japanese to make way for roads and railway lines. Of the four gates still standing, the Kuomintang renovated three of them in its effort to "sinicize" Taipei and converted them from the original southern Chinese architecture to northern Chinese palace style architecture, leaving only the North Gate (beimen 北門 or more formally Cheng'en men 承恩門) in its original Qing Dynasty splendor today. This gate sits forlornly in the traffic circle where the Zhonghua, Yanping and Boai roads meet.
Museums & Galleries
Anyone with even the slightest interest in Chinese history should visit the National Palace Museum in Shilin, which holds the singular best collection of historical artifacts from China, expertly curated by its staff. It is large enough that only one percent of what it owns is displayed at any one time, chief among them ancient paintings, scrolls, books and ceramics that span over 5000 years. The National Museum of History in Zhongzheng also holds valuable relics. There are other quirky little private museums such as the Miniatures Museum and Museum of Drinking Water for more off-beat exploration.
Art in classical and contemporary forms can be appreciated too, in the Taipei Fine Arts Museum and the Taipei MOCA. Local artists have gathered in various artist villages to find inspiration and cultural centers like Huashan Cultural Center are interesting informal spaces for a creative spark. Taiwanese auteurs dream of becoming the next Ang Lee, displaying their independent films in the Spot-Taipei Film House. All these can be found in Zhongshan.
Things to do
Hot springs (溫泉) come in various brands in Taipei, ranging from basic natural pools, to plush spas at five star hotels. The three main places to have a soak in the Greater Taipei area are: Beitou (北投), Wulai (烏來) and Yangmingshan National Park (陽明山). The basic free 'rub and scrub' type public baths are run by the city. Most hotels offer the option of a large sex-segregated bathing area that generally consists of several large baths of various temperatures, jacuzzi, sauna and steam bath and also private and family rooms. Some hotels also have outdoor baths (露天溫泉), which offer restful views over the surrounding countryside. Prices range from around NT$300 to NT$800.
The law in Taiwan states that for safety reasons, individuals are not allowed to bathe in the private rooms, and there must be at least two people. Etiquette requires that bathers thoroughly wash and rinse off their bodies before entering public baths, do not wear clothing (which includes swimwear, though this is not the case for mixed-sex public areas) and tie up their hair so that it does not touch the water. Finally, people with high blood pressure, heart disease or open wounds should not enter the baths.
The mountains around Taipei make hiking is a popular exercise in the city. The main hiking spot closest to the city is the Four Beasts Mountain which border Xinyi and Nangang. One of the most rewarding walks is on Elephant Mountain, where steep steps lead up to several different viewpoints that give a striking contrast between Taipei 101 and its neighboring low-rise buildings, especially against the orange hues of sunset. Continuing on separate trails will head towards the remaining 'beasts' of Leopard, Lion and Tiger, and Nangang mountain and Jiuwufeng beyond them.
Yangmingshan National Park (陽明山國家公園), just north of Beitou is also a favorite destination, particularly during spring when thousands of calla lilies, peonies and cherry blossoms bloom in the valleys. There are dozens of hiking trails in the park, most marked out on maps from the visitors center. Qixingshan is the highest peak in Yangmingshan, and looks out over the Taipei Basin and the north coast.
There are a few amusement parks around Taipei. One is the Children's Recreation Center in Zhongshan, great for younger kids, though a little old-fashioned. The Taipei Water Park is also a good place to spend time during summer, with its water slides and swimming areas.
Festivals and events
Taipei hosts numerous festivals throughout the year, but as many follow the lunar calendar the dates according to the Gregorian calendar are inconsistent. Check the Taiwan Tourist Bureau's events section before planning to attend an event.
- The Lantern Festival is a dazzling display of lanterns and lasers which runs for several days around the fifteenth day of the lunar new year. While the main city event is held at the Sun Yat-Sen Memorial Hall and Taipei City Hall grounds, Renai Road perhaps offers the most elegant display, with the whole tree-lined boulevard transformed into a delicate tunnel of lights. Pingxi in New Taipei City celebrates the festival with the release of huge lanterns that float serenely across the night sky, carrying with them the dedications and aspirations of those who release them.
- Dragon Boat Festival commemorates the death of the Chinese patriotic poet Qu Yuan (born 340 BC), who drowned himself in a river out of despair that his beloved country, Chu, was being plundered by a neighboring country as a result of betrayal by his own people. The festival is marked by races of colorful dragon boats held at various locations throughout the island, with one of the best places to view a race in the Taipei area being the Bitan River in Xindian. Special sticky rice balls called zongzi (pronounced like "dzongdz") are also eaten on this day. The festival falls on the fifth day of the fifth lunar month.
- Golden Horse Chinese Language Film Festival. Often referred to as the Oscars of the Chinese film world, while films in the awards section are all in Chinese, they have English subtitles and there is also a large non-competition foreign language section.
- Taipei Film Festival (台北電影節). An international festival with two award sections – Taipei Award Nominees and International New Talent Nominees. Films are shown at several venues throughout the city.
- Taipei Pride Parade.
The nightlife in Taipei runs from boisterous night markets to equally exuberant clubs and bars, and indeed the city comes alive with glittering lights after the last rays of the sun leave the grey buildings.
Bars and clubs
Xinyi is where the biggest and most flashy clubs are, especially the ATT4FUN Building which has an excellent view of Taipei 101, while smaller shophouses around the Taida and Shida university areas host live music gigs (although lessened after noise complaints). The "Combat Zone" in Zhongshan used to be the go-to district for USsoldiers in the Vietnam War and remains fairly gritty with quite the collection of dive bars. The area around Red House Theater near Ximending has a large number of outdoor bars which are generally known to be gay-friendly. Visit the Taiwan Beer Bar, also known as Taipei Brewery, in Zhongzheng if you fancy trying cheap and fresh brews of the local favorite Taiwan Beer.
Cover charges are usually required for entry, but these will include a free drink at the very least, with some places even offering free flow of house pours for the whole night after payment. Wednesday nights are ladies' night in most venues.
Things to know
Taipei is a city of people from many different origins, and you can find a good mix of Chinese (people whose families migrated to Taiwan from 1949 onwards) and native Taiwanese (people whose families had been in Taiwan since the Qing Dynasty). While Mandarin is the lingua franca, and is spoken and understood by most people under the age of 60, other Chinese "dialects" are commonly heard as well. Among the native Taiwanese, while speakers of Minnan form the majority, there is also a significant number of Hakka-speaking native Taiwanese living in Taipei.
English is compulsory in all Taiwanese schools, and most people under the age of 40 will have at least a basic grasp of English, though few are fluent. Nevertheless, it goes without saying that learning some Mandarin and/or Minnan will make your trip much smoother.
- The internationally acclaimed Chan (Zen) Master Sheng-yen (who passed away in Feb 2009) has a monastery in Beitou where there are regular meditation meetings with instruction given in English.
- In recent years, Tibetan Buddhism has become very popular in Taiwan, and the Taipei area alone boasts more than fifty centers. So, on any given night there will be teachings and rituals being held in the city. Taipei has become a regular port of call for many of the well known rinpoches. While most teachings are given in Tibetan with translation into Chinese, some are given in English. For information on teachings, check notice boards at vegetarian restaurants.
- The international Buddhist foundation The Corporate Body of the Buddha Educational Foundation has its headquarters in Taipei. The foundation publishes books on Buddhism in various languages (including English) which it offers for free. For detailed information check the foundations web site: [www]
- National Taiwan University (國立臺灣大學) [www] – Taiwan's uncontested number one university. Colloquially known by the shortened Taida.
- National Taiwan Normal University(國立臺灣師範大學) [www] – Colloquially known by the shortenedShida, one of the oldest universities in Taiwan. NTNU runs the Mandarin Training Center, an excellent program teaching several levels of Mandarin Chinese in semester-long segments.
- National Taiwan University of Science and Technology (國立臺灣科技大學)[www], is the first technical university in Taiwan.
- Mandarin Training Center. National Taiwan Normal University (Shida), 162 Heping East Rd, sec. 1. Tel+886 2 2321-8457 & 2391-4248. Fax:886 2 2341-8431, e-mail: [email protected] This school, which is part of Shi-da University, has seen generations of students passing through its doors and it remains one of the most popular schools in Taiwan for serious students of Mandarin.
- International Chinese Language Program National Taiwan University (Taida)[www]. This program, which used to be called the IUP program, has a long history of Chinese language training, especially for advanced learners and primarily targeting graduate students, scholars and professionals studying in China and Taiwan. It has very small classes, very high quality instructors and textbooks, but may be considerably more expensive than the alternatives. Only students who expect a very intensive experience, usually with a year or more of time to dedicate to study, should consider this program.
- Mandarin Daily News Language Center, more commonly known locally as Guo-Yu-Ri-Bau, 2F. 2 Fu-zhou Street. Tel:886 2 2391-5134 & 2392-1133 ext. 1004. Fax:886 2 2391-2008. Along with the Center for Chinese Language and Culture Studies, this is one of the most popular schools in Taiwan for serious students of Mandarin.
- Maryknoll Language Service Center Rm. 800, 8 Fl., Chung Ying Bldg.2 Zhongshan North Rd., Sec. 1. Tel:+886 2 2314-1833~5. Conveniently located near a Taipei Station MRT stop exit, the Maryknoll Language Service Center offers Mandarin, Taiwanese, and Hakka classes. This is *the* place to study Taiwanese. Mostly one-on-one tutorials although you may be able to arrange a group class.
- Unless you have a recommendation, the best way to find a good teacher is to visit a park at sunrise and check out the scene for yourself. If you spot a group that impresses you, approach one of the students and inquire about joining them. Most teachers will be happy to have a new student, though some old masters may 'play hard to get.' In the latter case, persistence is required. Most teachers will expect some sort of fee for their tuition. However, as it is considered impolite to directly ask the teacher this question, use a fellow student as mediator. Furthermore, when offering the money on the alloted day, place it in a red envelope (hongbao - available at all convenience and stationary stores) and slip it to the teacher subtly. Offering cash openly to a teacher of a traditional art or religion is considered undignified and demeaning. Most parks host tai'chi groups, but the most popular places are the grounds of the Chiang Kai-shek Memorial Hall (nearest MRT station - CKS Memorial Hall) and Sun Yat-sen Memorial Hall(nearest MRT station - SYS Memorial Hall) as well as 228 Peace Park (formerly known as New Park - nearest MRT station - National Taiwan University Hospital).
- Jodie's Kitchen Cooking School offers Taiwanese and Chinese cooking classes. 2F, 29-1 Zi Yun St. Tel: +886 2 2720-0053
- Many community colleges, such as Zhongzheng Community College and Tamsui Community University offer weekly cooking courses. These include Chinese, Italian and Thai cooking, for example. The classes are in Chinese or Taiwanese language only. The prices are quite low because the colleges are government-funded.
Teaching English (or to a lesser extent, other foreign languages) is perhaps the easiest way to work in Taiwan. Work permits will be hard to come by and will take time. Consult your local Taiwan consulate/embassy/representative as far in advance as possible.
It should be noted that anyone staying in Taiwan for an extended period of time can FIND English teaching work, albeit technically illegally. If you are staying as a student or for some other long term purpose, it should be noted that many people are teaching English (or some other language) for pay without a permit in Taipei and elsewhere in Taiwan.
Safety in Taipei
Taipei is one of the safest cities you will ever visit, and violent crime is extremely rare. However, as in many large cities, pickpockets operate in crowded areas, and so you should be vigilant in night markets.
Local police are a resource you can turn for help, and many officers speak at least basic English.