What to do in Taiwan?
May 2, 2007 8:49 PM   Subscribe

Please give me Taiwan travel suggestions.

I'm traveling to Taiwan for work in a couple weeks, but have scheduled some time off while I'm there. I would appreciate suggestions for interesting places for a visitor with a week of free time. My work is in Taipei, but I'm happy to travel to other places.

I often enjoy typical touristy stuff, but would love to hear your suggestions for things to do that I won't find in the guidebook. Ideas for where to find good food (especially vegetarian food) are very welcome.
posted by medusa to Travel & Transportation around Taiwan (11 answers total) 6 users marked this as a favorite
I haven't much in the way of travel tips as I stayed with friends on my one visit, but it was a vegetarian paradise due to all the Buddhist restaurants that do serve yourself buffets charged by the weight of food you select, so I am sure you will eat well.
posted by Abiezer at 9:00 PM on May 2, 2007

Supposedly the National Palace Museum is amazing. It basically consists of all the stuff the Nationalists stole/liberated/saved (choose your favorite depending on your politics) when they left the mainland. And last I heard there's a big exhibition going on right now where they've taken a lot of the super-rare private stash out of the vaults and showed it to the public, so this is a good time to go.

All of this is secondhand info from my boyfriend, but definitely look into it.
posted by crinklebat at 10:31 PM on May 2, 2007

Best answer: Ask the concierge at whatever hotel you're staying at about the hot springs tours available... (Nudity is involved if you soak, generally.)

The springs are gorgeous and... hot.

Oh, and um... there was a national park that was amazing, but I can't remember its name...

Explore Taipei at night. Find the night markets. They have different specialties, from electronics to food and the like.

Stay away from stinky tofu unless you want an... interesting culinary experience. (The smell is SO vivid and disgusting, but *apparently* it tastes amazing. My father tried it, I would not go near it. He seemed to think it was pretty awful.)

Taoban was an absolutely FANTASTIC restaurant, though I went to the one in Tai-chung, and I don't know where the Taipei one is. I'm also not 100% sure they have a vegetarian menu, but the items I had were mostly... It's a fixed-price menu, and for $15, it was an amazing meal. I *still* remember that steak I ate (first image on the site).

Walk the streets of Taipei at 2 or 3am on a Tuesday or any weekday night. You'll see each of the stores, including clothing boutiques OPEN FOR BUSINESS. It's... intriguing.

I felt *very* safe, and whenever I found someone who didn't speak english, we had good times working around it.

The night markets are fun, and you'll be amazed at the sea of people. Watch out for scooters.

If you go on any standard tours through your hotel, they'll likely bring you some place to shop towards the end. No purchase necessary, but you might find some neat stuff. I found a lot of cool things in downtown.

Your hotel will likely serve hot breakfast. American breakfast. If you're a vegetarian, it might not be as fitting, but it's a nice bonus that we had in every single of the four hotels we stayed in.

Enjoy yourself. It's a great place, absolutely gorgeous, with nice people and a thriving nightlife!

Email me direct if you have any questions, but I'm sure others on the board would be better suited for that. (I've only been once, after all.)
posted by disillusioned at 1:44 AM on May 3, 2007

Best answer: The Palace Museum was fantastic. I say do try the stinky doufu - smells like babies' nappies being boil-washed but tastes great. I think the Hakka cuisine on Taiwan is also fairly well thought of, though not so much veggie I think.
We'd ride up to the tea gardens in the hills round Taipei to spend lazy afternoons brewing fresh green tea in little pagodas out in the quiet with a great view and better air.
Also went down to Kenting National Park at the very southern tip of the island, which was very pleasant and easy to get to. The actual town was a bit of a hippy/surfer type hang out back then, but this was some years ago, and not the worse for it anyhow.
posted by Abiezer at 2:03 AM on May 3, 2007

Best answer: Thirding the Palace Museum. Fifty-fifty on the chou doufu—I would characterize the smell more as 'horse manure' and the flavor as indifferent, though I like the kraut they serve with it.

Seconding Kenting with enthusiasm: Beautiful scenery, swimmable oceans, extra-friendly people.

If you only want to go as far south as Kaohsiung, there's also a nice beach near Sun Yat-Sen National University, and the former British Consulate in the same general area is a nice historic site now.

Of course, the next major city north from Kaohsiung is Tainan, and that's got some attractions too. I was there last weekend and saw the Museum of Literature (don't read a lick of Chinese, but it was interesting anyway), an old Confucian temple of some sort, an old Dutch fort, the Tree House (an abandoned salt warehouse being devoured by strangler figs, absolutely lovely in a clearly post-apocalyptic way), and Tainan's justly well-reputed tourist market. They have a local specialty kind of like a square pot pie, don't know if you can get it veggie or not.
posted by eritain at 5:49 AM on May 3, 2007

Oh, and Kaohsiung has Monkey Mountain, too. Nature preserve, formerly a military reservation. Feeding not allowed, but dummies do it anyway.
posted by eritain at 5:50 AM on May 3, 2007

Best answer: In Taipei: Longshan Temple (on the blue line of the MRT) and visiting the nearby night-market with the snakes and other exotic foods, seeing 101 and watching the sunset from Elephant Mountain (not really a mountain, but more of a hill), wandering around the markets at Danshui (end of the red line on the MRT), drinking some damn good tea at the Wisteria tea house.

Just outside of Taipei: Jiufen, the Japanese POW camp nearby, the various sites at Keelung/Jilong (check the Lonely Planet)

Further away: Tainan is probably your best bet to see the temple culture in Taiwan. It's about a 3-4 hour bus ride from Taipei, but it would definitely be worth a couple of days and it'd be easier to get to than other towns like Lugang.

Personally, if you're American, I wouldn't bother with too many of the natural sites. Kenting, Sun Moon Lake, or Taroko Gorge are OK, but they pale in comparison with the natural sites back home. I'd stick to the cultural sites.

I wouldn't bother with the hot springs since it's already summer weather here.
posted by alidarbac at 7:22 AM on May 3, 2007 [1 favorite]

Ah, to hell with the busses, get on the trains and travel around the country. Everyone else does.

As an American who's been to a lot of national parks in the States, I think Taroko Gorge is still well worth the trip. And seconding Tainan. Wandering around in that town at night offers all kinds of adventure.
posted by Mercaptan at 8:42 AM on May 3, 2007

Response by poster: Thanks for all the answers so far - these are great suggestions! If others wish to chime in, feel free.
posted by medusa at 10:57 AM on May 3, 2007

Best answer: National Palace Museum is a must, as is walking around the night markets. Some of the parks around there are also very interesting. The seafood is pretty amazing. If you like Japanese food, you should definitely try it while you are there. Taiwanese breakfast food is also really tasty, with lots of veggie options, so make sure to try that. Going up the 101 is ok but don't bother if the weather isn't clear (although if you run out of reading material, there is a good english book store in the attached mall.) If you like dumplings, Din Tai Fung has amazing soup dumplings, but you have to either get it to go or make a reservation.

I would also recommend taking a day or weekend trip to Tainan - lots of really good local food there, along with some interesting historical sites (although it would definitely help to have a Chinese speaking guide for these). It is only a few hours on the train. It is fun to walk around and try out the special dishes from the street vendors. Don't be afraid to try out the food!

If you have enough time, a weekend trip to Hualien is also nice. More laid back, on the eastern coast, and some truly amazing scenary nearby in the Taroko gorge.

I'm sure you will have fun as long as you get out and try some different things!
posted by babar at 9:56 PM on May 3, 2007

Just a tip: In Taipei make sure you know what happens on the ground floor of the place you stay at night. Lots of locales look like ordinary shops by day, but as the sun sets and the air cools they become extremely noisy night markets. Fun for exploring, bad for sleeping.
posted by Pollomacho at 1:08 PM on May 4, 2007

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