This trip has been by far the least organised… I think only as we were on our way to the airport we started checking if we had all the documents. Basically the only thing we planned was buying winter clothing. It was also somewhat sad to leave our apartment for holidays. Perhaps we didn’t know what to expect from spending Christmas in Taipei, but everything turned out just great! We were on our feet allllll the time, so we made a list of things to do in Taipei.

post-image-0190First impressions

Free umbrellas.

At metro stations there are umbrellas free to borrow. You just have to return them (who knows who borrows?) to any metro station when you’re done.

The people.

They’re super super friendly. We were at Lee’s Sandwiches quite early in the morning and the manager made some phone calls to find where we could get free wi-fi! Also whenever we asked for directions, people even tried to walk with us to make sure we got where we wanted to! We also asked what was the best way to find vegetarian food, so they wrote our exact request in Mandarin and I think Simplified Chinese. We wouldn’t have found most of the veggie foods if it wasn’t for that note!

The food and coffee shops.

Apparently their cuisine is world-famous, which we didn’t know, but we sure found it a lot tastier than Thai food, with a wide range of vegetarian options (we wrote a separate post about Taipei vegetarian food and coffee scene).

The transport.

There are many options including metro, buses, trains, etc. However some metro stations are so grand and connected with different transport hubs, it felt like an underground world. We got lost twice. It was easier to find places, and cross 8-lane roads, rather than searching for certain exit signs underground. However once you find your best option, it’s organised, affordable, and all in English! The metro carriages were never really crowded. Bus to the airport goes every 15 minutes. It takes just 30 minutes or so from town. It costs around 125 NTD (New Taiwan Dollar) one-way to Taipei Main Station.

post-image-0079

Money.

If coming from Thailand, don’t convert baht to NTD at Don Mueang airport. The rate was 16,000 baht to 12,400 NTD, whereas in Taipei it would have been around 15,000 NTD, which is a big difference. There are loads of ATM’s and money exchange shops in town. Food and transport is slightly cheaper than in Western countries, or at least similar, but street food is definitely cheaper. Prices are comparable to Thailand.

Weather.

As soon as we landed, it didn’t feel like China, or at least it didn’t reflect our expectation of it (since we hadn’t been before). Cold, cloudy and grey – just as we remember England. This was the climate that we missed, so it felt extremely satisfying wearing layers. Auste even bought gloves (at +16). Cute though – red with reindeer patterns. It was our perfect Christmas, just without snow. And it didn’t rain all that much, there was a drizzle a couple of times.

I told you those gloves look cute:)
I told you those gloves look cute:)

Bunk-beds for couples.

Double bunk beds! That’s an awesome option, and there were only couples staying in the room! I’m so excited about this I’m using exclamations in every sentence! There were three double-decker double-bunk-beds in the room, with safety lockers operated by a key card. The room was also operated by a key card. The bathrooms were conveniently located just outside the room. They weren’t all that cold, but coming out of the warm room you could feel the contrast. I wanted to exercise even for just a few minutes without disturbing the roommates, and luckily there was a shower cabin big enough to do push ups, yaay for weirdos like me!

There was also a cosy communal area on the top floor with a fully-fitted kitchen, a lounge, TV shown through a projector, and a spacious balcony/smoking area. Downstairs they had a free machine for coffee/milk tea, and complementary umbrellas for borrowing! It was a good way to start the day just strolling along, sipping on a coffee. The room was well priced too, just under 1,000 baht per double-bed per night. We would definitely recommend the place/stay there again. (Backpackers Inn, Taipei)

Airport issues.

Getting to Taiwan was a hassle free experience, however we encountered a problem with our travel tripod on our flight from Taipei to Hong Kong. The tripod was longer than 25 cm (by like 3 cm) and we were told to either forget it, ship it, or put it in the checked baggage. Apparently these were the Taipei airport requirements, and not the airlines’. We were time strapped, so quickly ran to check-in desks. Fortunately we had complimentary checked-in baggage (Hong Kong airlines offer it for free, on top of your free cabin baggage), so we were able to use it, even though our aim was to only carry our 35L Ospreys (Air Asia only allows 7kg cabin baggage, which we fit into!). We ran back skipping the queue and made our next flight.

header-0941post-image-0997Taipei things to do

National Taiwan University (NTU)

We spent ages actually walking inside MRT again, which took up a chunk of our time in Taipei each day. One day we went to NTU – a proper cosy university with nice architecture and loooooads of people with bikes. There were small pockets of eateries within the campus, and lots of them outside – it is a big city after all.  We explored the buildings, some faculties, and kind of felt like students ourselves! It was nice and cold outside, which made it a great day out.

post-image-1109Taipei 101

Later in the afternoon (around 5 PM) we went to Taipei 101, queued to get in and used the complementary wifi in the queue – such a smart idea to keep everyone occupied. The lift was super quick, but the open space was closed due to the weather, so we just enjoyed the view of the city from the 89th floor. It was very cosy and quiet, even with tour groups around. Windows of one side of the tower were dirty and not suitable for taking pictures though. In general we enjoyed our time up there, and the money was well spent. There wasn’t as big of a queue to get in as we saw at Marina Bay in Singapore.

post-image-1220Elephant Mountain

Definitely for photographers! After leaving the tower we couldn’t figure out whether to take a bus or not. It was only a quick walk to the Elephant Mountain though. We walked through quiet residential areas, and a nice park with people playing basketball. It was windy and cold, but we nearly broke a sweat going up quite a few steps. At the top we were surprised with a stunning view. Up there we saw many people and couples just hanging out, like it’s a thing, and it reminded me of teenage school nights. We climbed up the big rocks to enjoy an unblocked view of the city skyline with Taipei 101 right in the center and sat there for a bit. It was very nice. If you take a lot of drinks with you to complement the experience, there are toilets in the nearby park (not sure if there are any at the top).

post-image-1225Cable Cars

It got dark just after 4 pm, but we still went to cable cars (gondolas) and ended up having lots of fun. The views were stunning, even the sound of the wind howling outside the gondola (we were the only two inside of it) was strangely beautiful. Beware that once you go all the way to the end, there is a massive queue to get back on (they do not allow you to stay in the car, so you have to get off at the end). We walked around the ‘recreational area’, and once we came back, there were hardly any people, and we shared the gondola with a loud Chinese family. We got back very tired and had a crappy beer with some salted broad beans at the rooftop terrace lounge watching Korean drama. Good times Taipei style.

post-image-0479Taipei Puppet Museum

We had plans to hit the puppet museum… the one we’ve seen on Youtube with live puppet shows. We had asked different people how to find the right bus and so on, but ended up walking as we couldn’t find the right bus number at any of the stops. It felt nice just strolling along the streets and alleys with a refreshing drizzle going on. When we got to the puppet museum, we found out they only do puppet shows for organised tour groups. Sad face. The museum itself was interesting though, the entry was cheap, and we had a few snacks along the way and enjoyed the sights.

Night Market (Liaoning Street Night market)

After visiting the Puppet Museum we walked around the area and ended up at the night market, bought some well-priced quality things, a few tasty snacks, and just watched locals doing their shopping. I was going to say it felt like Christmas, but it WAS Christmas. LOL. Outside the market we saw lots of puppies and kittens in pet shop windows, took a walk back through the market and got back to the hostel.

post-image-0209post-image-0206Confucius & Baoan temples

They were both “very Chinese” with lots of people praying, lighting scents, etc. For photographers, or people-watchers that’s a good site to visit. In the Confucius temple there was a small shop where you could buy wooden cards, write your wishes, and hang them on designated wooden hangers. It made a nice gift for our friends.

post-image-0197

In general we both agreed that we could live here, and that it’s probably the nicest city we’ve been to in Asia. Lovely, clean and organised, without tourist or in fact any crowds. Singapore ranked 2nd only because it’s “too European”. Taipei is beautiful, not too busy, with good infrastructure, well-priced amenities, it has lots of vegetarian foods, and people are super helpful and polite. They are also very stylish, and rather good-looking. The weather is cool, perhaps a bit too cloudy and misty, but 7 years in England did its job so we didn’t mind.

auste-meskinas