Traveling to Taipei, Taiwan.
February 9, 2006 1:10 AM   Subscribe

TravelFilter: Taipei, Taiwan.

I'm being called to Taipei on short notice (as in, leaving this week) for business, and I'm convinced from my previous trips that I'm going to be miserable again -- I rather dislike the climate, culture, and language barrier there. I'm looking for some suggestions for making things better this time around:

1) Any Anglophone bars nearby where disgruntled expat types hang out? FWIW I'll be in the Chunghsiao Fuxing neighborhood. As a long shot, if someone in Taipei wants to throw an improptu meetup, I'd love some company. [If you prefer to converse in private, my email's in my profile.] I'm thinking that there's plenty of English speakers at ritzy hotel bars, but that's not exactly my cup of tea.

2) Good hangouts for street photography? I'm neither terribly interested in overt touristy "sights" and "destinations", nor in human-interest type impoverished neighborhoods. Somewhere where the locals go about their day-to-day business (although a small bit of tourist kitsch is fun and amusing), somewhere where photography wouldn't be too intrusive. For example, I like places like farmer's markets here in the states.

3) Camera shops? I don't have much of a budget to speak of, but maybe window-shopping for a digital point-and-shoot or fawning over some old Leica lenses would lift my spirits.

Thanks in advance!
posted by DaShiv to Travel & Transportation around Taipei City, Taiwan (4 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
Get a cab to Tienmu district, about 3 miles north of downtown. It used to be the foreign hangout, but is now a more mixed fun centre for shopping and nightlife, lots of english spoken and lots of ex-pat bars. About half way between you and Tienmu is the Shilin Night Market which can be fun. Taipei Fine Art Museum usually has some interesting contemporay works and is much better than you think it is going to be. At the weekend go to the Corner Chien Kuo & Renai Roads under the elevated highway and there is a market selling allsorts. There is a lot of Jade if you know what you are doing. If you fancy looking for computer bits & pieces at fantastic prices then go to the Kuanghua Market.
If you want a new experience buy a "binglan", they are betal nuts sold from neon lighted glass booths on the side of the road by underdressed woman. You chew it and then spit out a red liquid. You get a buzz and (it time) mouth cancer. If you are the guest of someone who wants to take you out and asks you what you would like to eat, then say you want to go to the Taiwanese restaurant at the Brother Hotel. It is reasonable priced, very good food and your host will be pleased as this is what they want to eat rather than some fake foreign slop.
posted by priorpark17 at 1:54 AM on February 9, 2006

Maybe I did Taiwan wrong, but there was very little built for Anglophones. There are the standard basic tours and such, but it wasn't at all a touristy place.

Visit Taipei's night markets. There are many of them, and you'll be surprised at the sheer volume of people, roaming the streets, making sales, buying and eating food, all at 2 am.

Smell the Smelly Tofu. If you're in a "food court" area of a night market, and something smells as foul as sin, chances are you've found it.

There's at least one night market specifically dedicated to electronics. They'll have plenty of fancy (and sometimes relatively cheap) cameras to look at. I was surprised that almost every single computer or electronic component I price checked (on, hurray GDSM, from my cell phone) came out about equal. So you might not find much of a deal there.

I took a tour to the natural hot springs. It was quite relaxing, included some *amazing* views and was relatively cheap, as long as you didn't buy anything at the last place on the tour.

A phenomenal restaurant is found here, although I don't read well enough to see their location in Taipei—the one I visited was in Taichung.

Here are my journal entries of my trip. I took a LOT of pictures, so if you're at all interested, you can definitely check them out. (They span multiple entries, both before and after that one.)

All in all, just try to enjoy yourself. Relax and wander around. I found the communication barrier fun, and using Google Translator on my cell phone to get specific words worked really well, and was a lot of fun, too.

Enjoy, and good luck!
posted by disillusioned at 3:32 AM on February 9, 2006

1.) Taipei has got quite a selection of bars and clubs. If you're interested in more of a 20-something sort of scene, you should head for the Shi-Da campus area. One of my favorite places there is Cafe Odeon, which has a huge selection of German and Belgian beers. For the slightly older, disgruntled expat crowd, there's Carnegie's, Citizen Cain, and the Tavern. You can find listings for them easily in the English-language Taipei Times (Friday editions usually have a weekend section) or online at Forumosa

2.) The Shilin nightmarket, the Danshui nightmarket, and Ximending would all be great for street photography and are all easily located right off the MRT. I don't know about any wet markets off the top of my head, but there are plenty (though I don't think there are any near Zhongxiao Fuxing) and you can just ask around to find one.

3.) There's a whole street of camera stores fairly close to Taipei Main Station all along Bo Ai Lu. To get there, go south from Taipei Main Station along the road by the Mitsukoshi and then bang a right on the street after the McDonald's. Tons of camera shops to window shop at (from digital point and shoots to nearly every Canon L lens to dusty old Hasslebacks), but I wouldn't bother buying anything; it's probably all cheaper back in the States.

For window shopping for computer stuff, you can go to the Nova right across from the Mitsukoshi. Or you can get off at the Zhongxiao Xinsheng MRT station and head just north. The Guanghua computer market used to be there (it was recently closed down) but there are still a bunch of computer stores there. Again, generally speaking stuff here is just as expensive as back home.

As to the climate, I can forecast the weather: it's going to be cold and rainy.
posted by alidarbac at 5:32 AM on February 9, 2006 [1 favorite]

One more thing. I can't tell from your question whether you'll be in Taiwan by this Sunday, but on Sunday night there's going to be a huge lantern festival in Pingxi (just an hour outside of Taipei.) There will be all sorts of activities in the afternoon and then at night they'll be releasing hundreds of sky lanterns into the air every 20 minutes or so. They had the same last week (here's some other guy's Flickr set from Pingxi)

There's a free bus from the Muzha MRT stop to get to Pingxi. Or just ask the people from your hotel how to get there. I'll be heading up there myself, but I live down in the east coast of Taiwan, so I'll be taking the train up.
posted by alidarbac at 6:01 AM on February 9, 2006

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