Our Top 10 Taiwan Experiences

We were fortunate to get to travel to Taiwan this year and it was amazing on so many levels.  Until recently, Taiwan was not a place you would find on our travel list.  The company Leah and I consult for launched in Taiwan last year so traveling there peaked our interest and Taiwan quickly moved to the top of our list.  So we found a few Taiwan contacts, set the dates, and boom we were off.  Our goal when we left was 50% business, 50% pleasure, which turned into about 10% business, 90% pleasure and we were absolutely ok with that.  We quickly realized there was so much we wanted to see and experience and we were not going to miss out on anything.  In our opinion, these are the top must experiences on the island.

1.)  Shifen Old Streets

Lantern release, Old Shifen Street

This place was the biggest surprise for us and in our opinion, an incomparable experience.  The atmosphere is full of positive energy, trains are slowly coming and going dropping off people from all over the world, people are writing down their wishes, lanterns are being released into the sky, and you leave there feeling good about life.  Some things you need to be prepared for though.  First, the train ride out from Taipei is going to be packed, and I mean packed.  We have never been on a train stuffed with so many people.  Second, Shifen Street is busy.  Between the trains, people, shopping, and food it gets crowded real quick.  Do not let any of that deter you though, just prepare yourself, it is an amazing experience.

 

 

 

 

2.)  Jiufen 

Coastline view from Jiufen Street

An old gold mining town built into the hillside that is now a street maze full of food, vendors, and amazing views of the coastline.  I recommend you arrive before sunset so you can see it daylight, then be there as it transitions to night, the lights and atmosphere is amazing.  Also make sure you stop and get a Taiwanese Taro Ball dessert which we were told by the locals is the best on the island.  There are also some pretty nice places to stay if you want to make it more than a day trip.

 

 

 

3.)  Elephant Mountain

Taipei 101 view from Elephant Mountain

By far the best view of the Taipei 101 and the city.  The trail to the top is known as Nangang District Hiking Trail and is a relatively short walk, just go left when it forks going up or you will hit the steep side.  Plenty of stairs so you will surely get your steps in for the day.  Also plenty of people on the trail so be prepared for that.  Catching it on a clear, sunny day or sunset would be awesome.  Make sure you see this view.

 

 

 

 

4.)  Busy Night Markets

Shilin Night Market

There are plenty of night markets to keep you occupied that is for sure, and they are so much fun.  In my opinion, the night markets are best place to eat, so many food options.  My favorite part is they are every night and you are never far from one.  Some are open during the day, others only open at night.  Most usually start up at dusk then end around midnight.  Weekends and holidays can be pretty busy so be mindful when going.  The Shilin and Raohe Markets were our favorites in Taipei.  Visit both, and eat at both.  You will not regret it.

 

 

5.)  Creative Food

Sweet potatoes, hot spring eggs, dan bing, taro ball soup

Taiwanese are certainly creative when it comes to food.  Dumplings are a must, dan bing (Taiwanese egg crepe) is our favorite.  We tried Stinky Tofu to ensure we checked that block.  If you are adventurous then there are plenty delicacies to keep you occupied.  In our minds we were adventurous, but I am sure Anthony Bourdain would disagree.  Bottom line, eat what you think looks good.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

6.)  Beitou Thermal Valley 

Beitou Hot Springs

This place is beautiful and tranquil valley that just so happens to have a turquoise thermal pool of naturally heated spring water and lots of smoke.  It first became an attraction in the 1800s when Taiwan was under Japanese rule.  It is now surrounded by hot spring resorts and inns that pump in the spring water so you can enjoy a natural spring spa treatment.  You will be doing a lot of walking from the train stop so be prepared for that.

 

 

 

7.)  Guguan Hot Springs Park (Taichung)

A little Guguan tradition before hiking the Shaolai Trail

This park was a lot of fun.  The scenery is amazing and experience is unique.  We first had our feet bathed and “cleaned” by fish in the fish ponds before hiking the Shaolai Trail (that was interesting).  Took about an hour to hike the trail which did get pretty steep in areas but resulted in some awesome views of the entire Guguan Valley.  The drive from Taichung up to Guguan is also fantastic.  Pretty much a jungle countryside all the way.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

8.)  Maokong Gongola ride up for an afternoon tea

Tea stop at the top of Maokong

Never really been a fan of gondola rides but this one has a pretty sweet destination.  When you get to the top of Maokong there will be street with a market on your right.  If you walk through the market and up the road there are tea houses with some pretty ridiculous views of Taipei.  The tea is made at your table and it is awesome to just sit back, sip tea, and enjoy the view.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

9.)  Shifen Waterfall

Shifen Waterfall

 

Yes, it is a waterfall and Taiwan has plenty of them, but I love waterfalls and this one did not disappoint.  You will walk from Shifen Old Street and it is a bit of a walk, but nice to escape the crowded streets a bit.  It is not majestic or awe-inspiring but serene and still a must see if you are anywhere near Shifen.

 

 

 

10.)  Houtong Cat Village (For cat lovers only)

A town full of cats that even has its own train stop

This place is a cat lovers dream.  It used to be an old coal mining town but is now owned by cats.  The bridge crossing over the train tracks is even shaped like a cat.  I personally am not a cat person and would have been ok passing by it, however, Leah is a cat lover so this became a must stop, and self-admittedly I enjoyed it.