Taiwan is often described as a blend of Chinese and Japanese culture, which fascinated me as I have visited (and loved) both those countries. Known for its foodie culture (Taiwan is filled with bustling night markets lined with street food vendors), modern cities and stunning landscapes, I was thrilled to be able to discover this amazing country.
How to get there
EVA Air flies twice a week (Wednesdays and Sundays) direct from Brisbane to Taipei. It’s an overnight flight, departing at 10.30pm and arriving in Taipei at 5.30am the following day.
How to get around
The Taipei Metro is clean, efficient and reliable and can get you to pretty much anywhere you need to go in Taipei! For single rides, purchase a token at one of the machines (they are in English too). Scan the token to enter the station and then deposit the token in the coin slot when you arrive at your destination. So simple and easy!
Where to stay
Regent Taipei – No.3, Lane 39, Section 2, Chungshan North Road, Taipei
Located in the Zhong Shan business district, Regent Taipei boasts large rooms (with an Aeron chair!) and impeccable service and amenities.
The bathroom featured a Japanese toilet with heated seat, bidet features and music. There was also a giant spa bath which I wish I had more time to take advantage of (I did manage to squeeze in a quick soak the morning of my departure, priorities).
I do appreciate a good fruit and treat layout. I received a bowl of fruit every morning as well as a few chocolates after house keeping.
The Regent offered gorgeous views of Taipei, and they have an amazing buffet breakfast each morning. Don’t miss that!
What to do
Taipei 101 was officially the world’s tallest building until the opening of Burj Khalifa in Dubai in 2010. At 101 floors tall it offers amazing views of Taipei.
…unless it’s smoggy that day and.. um. Well.
While the distance was obscured by smog, you could still view the immediate areas below. I would love to return at night.
Chiang-Kai Shek Memorial Hall
The CKS Memorial Hall was erected in memory of Chiang Kai-shek, the former President of the Republic of China. It’s a great way to learn more about the history of Taiwan.
The stunning ceiling inside the CSK Memorial Hall.
Every hour, there is a changing of the guards, where the guards do a synchronised performance.
Shilin Night Markets
The biggest night market in Taipei is Shilin, a bustling market filled with food stalls, clothing and arcade games. It opens from 4pm and stays open until the wee hours of the morning. I visited at 11pm on a Monday night and it was still packed!
Possibly one of the stranger pastimes I have encountered, I head to Zhishan Road where there is a series of shrimp fishing establishments. You pay by the hour and in return get a fishing rod, tray and unlimited bait. And then what?
Well you plonk yourself down on a chair by the big shrimp pool and start fishing, of course!
Here’s a large shrimp caught by one of the punters.
After your hour is up, you take your shrimp and tray over to the BBQ area. They are speared individually with sticks (whilst alive, yikes) tossed in salt and then cooked through over hot coals. Wash the shrimp down with a beer or two and you’ve got yourself a fun Saturday night!
The aftermath. These shrimp establishments are open until the wee hours of the morning and are popular with locals of all ages. It was definitely a unique experience!
Visit novelty cafes
Modern Toilet Restaurant is a.. you guessed it, toilet-themed restaurant. Located at 2F, No.50-7 Xining South Road, the decor, seating and even menu is inspired by the humble bathroom appliance.
It was great fun wandering around the multi-level building to discover all the unique decorations on offer. And despite being renowned for a gimmicky cafe, it was busy!
The most popular dishes being eaten by guests was this chocolate soft serve served in a squat toilet and a giant ice shaving dessert served in a larger toilet. It’s probably not going to win any culinary awards, but it sure was entertaining!
Another popular novelty cafe in Taiwan is the Hello Kitty Cafe, located at No.90, Sec. 1,Da’an Rd. The decor is predominantly pink and kitschy, the waitresses are dressed in pink Hello Kitty aprons and even the food is shaped in Hello Kitty’s head!
What to eat
Food is such a huge part of Taiwanese culture. Taipei is home to many options, from food courts to night markets or high end eateries -there is a huge range to suit everyone’s taste and budget.
On our first day in Taipei, we went to the food court under Taipei 101 to sample some local dishes. I’m consistently blown away by the standard of food court meals in Asia! Here we tried oyster omelette, Taiwanese pork chop, and fish ball soup.
Some other dishes to try:
Beef noodle soup – this local dish is available pretty much everywhere for only a few dollars made of stewed or braised beef, beef broth, vegetables and Chinese noodles.
There was a huge buffet of animal parts (mainly offal) you could add to your soup if you so desired. I did not.
Bubble tea – invented in Taichung in the 1980s, bubble tea stands are everywhere throughout Taiwan. Don’t let the Chinese menu put you off – there is nearly always an English menu they can show you, and icons you can point at to indicate the level of ice and sweetness you want.
My original experience with bubble tea in Australia always involved sickly sweet and milky versions. As it was so hot and humid in Taiwan, I would always order a green tea and passionfruit blend with 30% sweetness and 50% ice. It was perfect! I love that you can tailor-make your own drink. Plus the cups have cute decorations.
Hot Star Fried Chicken – for a giant fried chicken schnitzel the size of your head, go to Hot Star. I’m familiar with this brand as it’s on now in Sydney and I’ve eaten it several times. Oh so delicious, always.
Peanut roll – this food cart was serving a dish that involved peanut brittle shavings, 2 scoops of ice cream and coriander, wrapped in a spring roll wrapper. The coriander was such a unique flavour when paired with the sweet dessert, but it worked well.
Chinese food and dumplings – we were served a huge array of Chinese dishes at Celestial Restaurant (3/F, 1 Nanjing West Road) including several stir fried dishes, shallot pancakes and xiao long bao (soup dumplings).
I also ate my fair share of steamed dumplings, these were pork and chive.
The highlight at Celestial restaurant was the divine Peking duck. I am salivating just staring at this photo!
KFC egg tarts – when my friend recommended I try the egg tarts from KFC in Taiwan, I must admit I thought she was a bit mad. But it was late one night and I had a sugar craving, and lo and behold, there was a KFC. And the verdict? Amazing! The buttery and flakey pastry paired well with the rich custard centre. A few patrons giggled at me taking a photo of my egg tart, but it deserved a shot!
Street food – I will go into more depth on Taiwan’s street food in subsequent posts as a lot of my street food experiences were in other cities, but here are some things I sampled in Taipei itself:
This vendor was selling what I thought was toffee-covered strawberries. I wasn’t really paying much attention when I bit it in half and it exploded all over me. What was it? A toffee cherry tomato! And it was delicious.
Black pepper buns – made up of a spiced meat (usually pork) and spring onion mixture and then wrapped in dough, these buns are baked in front of you and are a tasty on the go snack.
Egg cakes – there are egg cake stands scattered all around Taipei serving up piping hot treats in the shape of (unlicensed) characters. Of course I had to ask for Hello Kitty!
And lastly, a penis-shaped waffle. Why do they make these? I don’t know. But it sure gave everyone a giggle.
I hope you enjoyed my roundup of Taipei, and stay tuned for my next post on some of Taiwan’s other cities featuring more food (obviously) and adventures.
Love Swah travelled, ate & stayed courtesy of Tourism Taiwan