5 days 4 nights for first visit to Taiwan
March 1, 2014 8:43 PM   Subscribe

Hi MeFites, Here's the deal. I booked the tickets but have done nothing yet about actual planning. I tend to favor seat-of-the pants arrive and go with the flow, but that works for longer trips. Mrs. Gotanda prefers an itinerary and reservations, and we really have 4 actual days. So, we need a happy medium.

Arrive Taipei mid-day on Monday the 17th
Depart Taipei afternoon on Friday the 22nd

Vague plan so far is a northern loop.

* Monday Tuesday night in Taipei one in university district one in Beitou for hot springs. Do the museums. See some architecture. Night market. etc.
* Wednesday night at Sun Moon Lake
* Can we go from Sun Moon Lake to the east and Taroko Gorge, or do we have to backtrack?
If so, continue on to Taroko Gorge and Thursday night in Hualien
* Then on the train back to Taipei for a half day and back on the plane

Is that reasonable? Or, someone have a better itinerary? We like food, drink, and moderate outdoor walking hiking (no trekking). I could spend all day in a museum, but Mrs. Gotanda has a limited quota for that, so we need to break it up.

Or, some other AskMefi threads suggest that Sun Moon Lake and Taroko not really worth it. Anyone have a take on Sun Moon Lake?

Any specific hotel or restaurant recommendations? Yes, street food, but one really nice sit-down dinner might be nice.

Any and all help much appreciated.
posted by Gotanda to Travel & Transportation around Taiwan (8 answers total) 4 users marked this as a favorite
I was at Sun Moon Lake about 7 years ago and it was not worth the trip. Taroko Gorge was beautiful but really it was our taxi driver that made it a good time. We went river rafting down there somewhere and it was really an experience. The guides go in separate outboard motor boats and they just push the rafting boat into the line in the rapid that they want you to take. We really loved this part of our trip south. Rafting in warm muddy water was very different from what we are used to, of course rafting is not for everybody.
posted by cairnoflore at 8:53 PM on March 1, 2014

Best answer: I live in Taipei. So welcome to Taiwan! My recommendations are:

Beitou Hot Springs would be good. There are cheap public ones and very expensive 5-star springs. Frankly I would suggest strolling through Peitou Park, where you'll pass a few of the public springs, then stroll through Hell's Valley (15 minute walk through), then go to the stream that leads out of Hell's Valley back into the park. There is a place where you can soak your feet in the flowing hot springs. Very nice and free.

You might consider taking the MRT to Danshui. Very nice in the early evening. Lights on the river. New riverside park. Funky Taiwan.

National Palace Museum. Chiang Kai Shek Memorial.

Finally, Taroko Gorge. Definitely worth it. Get a taxi out of Hualien. There are places in the gorge where there are some of the original tunnels that have been replaced with newer ones. Ask the driver to meet you on the other side and then you can walk through the tunnels. There are many openings in these tunnels that look down into the gorge (which is very narrow).

If you have a bit of energy, at the top of the hill where the hotel is and the bus stop, you can walk up the hill about 20 minutes and there's a long straight tunnel walkway that leads to another gorge, from there, 30 minutes up a level easy trail, there are some very nice waterfalls and wonderful views.

As for Sun Moon Lake, that would be better in the summer time. Not so much this time of year.

Hope you have a nice visit.
posted by rmmcclay at 9:54 PM on March 1, 2014 [4 favorites]

Allow more time than you think you'll need for the National Palace Museum; it's one of the most amazing collections I've ever seen (they have so much stuff they regularly change what's on display), and you'll probably never get the chance to see it again. And enjoy the food—I still miss the steamed dumplings and ma po doufu.
posted by languagehat at 12:10 PM on March 2, 2014 [1 favorite]

Your original itinerary seems quite rushed, so I'd definitely skip Sun Moon Lake. Taipei has some interesting places to visit, depending on your interests.

Besides the places already mentioned, you might want to visit:
- a traditional teahouse, my favourite in Taipei is Wisteria teahouse. If you're serious about tea, you may want to visit Maokong in the hills outside Taipei
- one of the computer markets
- Ximending - a fun area with a Japanese pop vibe to it (and perhaps visit a KTV (karaoke) while you're there)

And yes, enjoy the food!
posted by Gomez_in_the_South at 3:38 PM on March 2, 2014 [1 favorite]

I am usually in Taichung, but I'd think whatever Taichung has, Taipei would have. I can second the night markets, street food, and National Palace Museum. If you're into milk tea at all, my favorite is 50 Lan because the drinks are customizable. My boyfriend prefers Shiny Tea for its more tea-y flavor. Probably also eat some spicy beef noodle soup and stinky tofu, although the latter is a very acquired taste.
posted by madonna of the unloved at 6:35 PM on March 2, 2014

Best answer: Was in Taipei for a couple of weeks at the beginning of the year.

I'd suggest considering Jiaoxi for hot springs instead of Beitou -- the Beitou ones can be pretty sulfurous. There's a spa in Jiaoxi called Art Spa, on Deyang Rd, that we really enjoyed. You can get a bus from Taipei Central Bus Station to Jiaoxi -- it takes about 40 minutes, is really cheap, and has wifi the whole way.

Get an Easycard for getting around -- the deposit is refundable when you leave. You can use them for trains, buses and bicycle rental in Taipei.

Go up Taipei 101 -- it's taller than many of the mountains around, and you get a great view of the whole area. Try and choose a day when there's not a heap of pollution blown over from China.

Eat things. Eat lots of things. Food in Taiwan is just awesome.

Have fun!
posted by nonspecialist at 1:09 AM on March 3, 2014

Response by poster: Thanks all. We'll skip the Sun Moon Lake and stay in Taipei for a more leisurely wander. Maybe a side trip to Taroko. One more short ask if anyone is still tuned in. Mrs Gotanda just cannot handle the caffeine anymore. And I really can't handle her when she accidentally ingests any. I swear, meth would make her mellow out after unintended caffeine ingestion. The tea culture sounds great to me, but do any places have herbal alternatives, or is it all buzz-buzz?
posted by Gotanda at 5:54 AM on March 11, 2014

Response by poster: Thanks all. Just back from an amazing trip nothing like the original plan. But did we ever hit a lot of night markets! Ning Xia was maybe the biggest and best for us, but Beitou was really good and much more leisurely and relaxed. We loved it.
posted by Gotanda at 7:34 PM on March 22, 2014 [1 favorite]

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