3 days in Taiwan...what should I do?
March 10, 2019 5:50 PM   Subscribe

I will be visiting Taiwan for the first time in mid-April, and will have three days (18th-20th) to explore....what are my must-do/must-see places and things? Any tips specific to getting around inside the country?

Home base will be Taipei, but I'm comfortable doing day trips on the train if there's a city or area outside Taipei that I definitely need to see. It's my first trip anywhere in the general area, and while I've done a fair amount of long-distance travel, this one is still a big deal. I don't speak Mandarin, but will be aggressively using Google Translate to get around (please disabuse me of this idea if it's a terrible one).

On the list thus far: Taipei 101, National Palace Museum, as many night markets as I can possibly hit (huge foodie, and will be nom-ing my way through the city as much as possible), possibly a hot spring. Specific suggestions of all sorts welcome.

My interests: food, technology, cool engineering, history. Help me have an amazing experience, MeFi!
posted by griffey to Travel & Transportation around Taiwan (6 answers total) 9 users marked this as a favorite
I am by no means an expert on Taiwan or Taipei (I went there for a week, once) but I forced everyone I knew to go to a bar I saw on my Maps app, because it was called “Tickle My Fantasy” and it turned out to be an incredibly cool Lynchian cocktail place and I ran into two friends there who I knew completely independently from separate European countries and I hadn’t seen or been in contact with either of them in several years, so that was weird. It has three elderly staff, a nice dog, one copy of their menu which they guard jealously, and (probably) some kind of weird estranged-friend-summoning vortex.

Also, Taipei is full of amazing restaurants. Don’t bother with Yelp or angthing like that, by far the best and most helpful reviews are via A Hungry Girl’s Guide to Taipei.

Daytrips-wise, I went on a really nice lonely bike ride on a peninsula nearby, where I’d intended to go surfing except it was typhoon season. Also you could go to the place that inspired “Spirited Away”?

Don’t forget to drink som Kavala whisky! (And say hi to your friends from me in Tickle My Fantasy!)
posted by chappell, ambrose at 6:28 PM on March 10, 2019

Don't miss the National Palace Museum. Many of the most prized historical artifacts and artworks made their way from Beijing to Taiwan in the 1940s during the war, and they still remain in Taiwan to this day. If you want to see the most prized artifacts, go early or late to miss long lines of Chinese tour groups.

Night markets are a must. Shilin is the most frequently recommended, but you can't go wrong with any of them. Keelung, about an hour outside of Taipei, is particularly nice because it's on the coast and has super fresh seafood.

If you like to hike or look at interesting geological formations, there's a bunch of options that are easily accessible. Yangmingshan has geologically active stuff; Yehliu geopark is pretty interesting too and easy to combine with a trip to Keelung.

Hot springs are great! The public one near the Xinbeitou metro stop is cheap and easily accessible (bring a swimsuit and a towel, or you can buy a towel when you're there for not much money). There are many fancier options as well, but I haven't tried them. This is close to Yangmingshan.

Jiufen (the "Spirited Away" teahouse) is a beautiful daytrip. If you go, plan on eating many snacks and stopping for a pot of tea at "the" teahouse, which will run you $10-25 USD.

And most of all, enjoy the food!
posted by asphericalcow at 6:46 PM on March 10, 2019

I've lived here since 1987. Here's a few suggestions for the Taipei area:

+ Raohe Night Market
+ Danshui via MRT
+ Lungshan Temple
+ Chiang Kai Shek Memorial
+ Dihua Street
+ Grand Hotel (Lobby)
+ Ximending
posted by rmmcclay at 4:58 AM on March 11, 2019

Any tips specific to getting around inside the country?

Firstly, grab yourself an EasyCard (I think you can get one at the airport). This card can be used to pay for MRT, buses, and buying things at 7/11 and some other convenience stores. I don't recommend the buses as a rule- I find them super confusing and stressful. If you're ever stuck, stick your arm out on the road for a taxi- they're cheap and reliable (though you're unlikely to find a driver who speaks English). Apart from MRT stations and big shopping centres, or internationally famous restaurants like Din Tai Fung, most people there probably won't speak English well enough to be able to help you (chances are they'll try). Basically it's a good idea to have printed out the names of the places you want to get to in Chinese to show people if you get lost. You'll be fine getting around to the touristy joints though, since there'll be English signs on the way there (and also they're well documented online on how to get there). MRT map here, and some tourist places you can go on the MRT here.

Jiufen (the place that inspired Spirited Away) is quite nice but usually absolutely crowded with tourists and is a pain to get to (not disrecommending it, just letting you know). Seconding everywhere that's been mentioned above, and want to add that another good place for tea (plus a ride in a gondola- potentially glass bottomed)(there's a line for the glass bottomed and one for the regular) is Maokong.

Mister Donut, Din Tai Fung, 7/11 (a lot of people like Taiwan's Apple Sidra and Taiwan beer). Maybe try the bakeries- Taiwanese bakeries are pretty different from western bakeries- mostly everything is sweet and has milk in it (if you walk into a bakery and you see mostly stuff you might get at a western bakery - baguettes for example - it's not a Taiwanesey bakery). You definitely need to try Taiwanese breakfast- Yong He Dou Jiang is the classic (usually run by an older generation, who won't speak English. you should probably print out a list of what you want and just show them and pass them coins and just let them deal with it. they might seem abrupt or impatient to you but they don't mean anything by it, it's just matter-of-factness). Other classics are diced fatty pork on rice (ru rou fan) and beef noodle soup (I don't know any specific places, but if you're stuck on where to find specific foods chances are the food court at the bottom of 101 might have it). Mango shaved ice (Taiwan is famous for their mangoes). Taiwan has a lot of unique fruit- try and get yourself to a traditional market for them (you may get ripped off at a night market for fruit). Bubble tea of course. At the night markets (or sometimes at daytime stalls) see if you can find the ice cream burrito (point and indicate number will work fine. they may or may not ask you what flavour of ice cream you want, but if they find they can't communicate with you they'll likely just give you one of each). With the bubble tea and the shaved ice stores- if they look modern, you may be able to communicate with them in basic/broken English. Also, the food stalls at the bottom of 101 may have vendors who can speak some English. No guarantees though.

Guanghwa Digital Plaza is a fun techy complex to wander around in.

At most places (especially the night markets) you can point and indicate with fingers how many, but beware that some fingers mean different numbers in Taiwan. Don't mix up three for eight, frex. Here's a guide.

I think you might be hard pressed to find bins while you're walking around. You'll find bins probably at 7/11s and at MRT stations.

Toilets in Taiwan can be a bit of a pain. A lot of older places have squat toilets only. If that weirds you out (no prob. I'm a background-Taiwanese and I can't stand squat toilets), plan around it. Big departments stores often have stunning toilets, and MRT stations will all have decent toilets. If you see a bin next to the toilet (some places), that's where the toilet paper goes. Not in the toilet, the plumbing can't handle it. Department stores/MRT stations/tourist places like 101 won't have that problem though, you'll be fine there. Oh, some old places (old public gardens, say) might not even have tp so bring pocket tissues in case. But if you're mainly going around touristy places you should be fine and probably none of this will be an issue.

Food and drinks aren't allowed on the MRT. If you have food and drinks with you, stow it in your bag until you're past the barrier to the outside.
posted by womb of things to be and tomb of things that were at 8:26 AM on March 11, 2019 [1 favorite]

Heads Taiwan is super hot, which means you can get amazing fruits. The mango there is the best I've ever had. Check out some of Shaved ice spots. Also coffee is huge (you may get a $10 coffee, which is kinda nuts since its price wise like a cheap American city.)
posted by sandmanwv at 1:05 PM on March 11, 2019

Totally forgot to reply to this, but hey! I live in Taipei! I have a google maps of my favorite places here, and if you want any specific recommendations or to meet up for food at some point during your trip, definitely hit me up.

If you like history, I'd definitely recommend walking around Dadaocheng for a little while. It's got some really cool old buildings, and more than a few historic businesses.
posted by storytam at 8:11 AM on March 14, 2019

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