Weekends in Taipei

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Accomodations, Advice, Asia, Asia, Itineraries, Restaurant, Review, Story, Taipei, Taiwan, Uncategorized

I’ve grown to appreciate Taipei these past two visits of mine because its such an easy flight to get to, ideal for a quick weekend getaway just to recharge and replenish — with this I mean the “nom nom” type of eating 🙂

Although it doesn’t have quite the same energetic pace and aggressive attitude as other Asian Capitals, Taipei is still a fun, friendly city to visit.  Locals live a more laid back lifestyle than you’ll find in Hong Kong, Tokyo or Shanghai.

Tip: I normally prefer PAL’s flights because you can get in around 9AM Friday and leave around 7PM or 11PM Sunday.  Check their Flight Timetable.

It’s so easy to get around Taipei.  Whether its a food trip at night markets, walking on narrow alleyways of its old town, an easy hike or a quick escape to its mountainous towns, all these are doable within a day.  Its clean and efficient MRT allows one to accomplish a multitude of landscapes to enjoy thereby maximising even a short visit here.  With a good itinerary, Taipei surprises.  I personally enjoy its individuality infused with Japanese, Korean and Chinese influences thats most noticeable in their food, culture, history and architecture.

From Taoyuan airport, we took a 30-40min cab ride to our Hotel. Charge is about NTD1200 1 way. Almost like our taxi fare minus the traffic.  You can contact Dante Cho +886 955-588-563, a filipino driver who would be most helpful to take you around.

Our Taiwanese friends recommended Amba’s Chain of Hotels. It is a homegrown hip business hotel concept that inspires creativity among local artists, promotes Taiwanese culture through local products and local eats and, most importantly, provides fast wifi connectivity.  There are three Amba Hotel locations in Taipei—Ximending, Zhongshan and Songshan. You can hop from one location to another to experience the different neighbourhoods. So far, We’ve stayed in two of their properties, which were both very good!

Located in the Zhongshan commercial and shopping district of central Taipei, Amba Taipei Zhongshan hotel is a stylish address on tree-lined Zhongshan North Road, just a five-minute walk to Taipei Metro Zhongshan Station.  This felt more like a businessman’s hotel.  The rooms were spotlessly clean and comfortable but I didn’t like the idea that the whole bathroom including the closet, safe and refrigerator were enclosed.  For people sharing rooms, one has to wait for the other to be done in order to get things.  The breakfast spread was limited as compared to Ximending’s.  Maybe because of the on-the-go profile of most of their customers.
Amba Zhongshan is in the centre of quirky and trend. The hotel has a very youthful vibe.  The lobby alone boasts of a display of toy collectibles and fun art.  It even has a spacious lounge for guests to enjoy some live music. I actually liked our room here with its locker like feel.  And the open layout made it more convenient for guests to do their own rituals without disturbing one another.  Prepare to be entertained the whole evening as the neighbourhood comes to life in the later evenings.  A stark contrast during the day when all is quiet.  If you don’t mind walking a lot, do note that its about a 10-15min walk to the nearest station.
I enjoyed breakfast here more.  Maybe because we could take our time eating since the stores around open late anyway…. Loved their congee and rice rolls with a variety of toppings / fillings to choose from.  These were my daily staples 🙂

Friday Day 1:  After settling things in the Hotel, have a quick explore around your neighbourhood.

Lunch in Ximending District

                                       Don’t miss the Pork Ribs/Pork Chop rice at Jin Xuan Pai Gu
My husband enjoyed his daily dose of Brown Sugar Bobba. This was his favourite brand.  

Lunch in Zhongshan District

Shin Yeh is a household name in Taiwanese cuisine since 1977.  It specialises in authentic home-style cooking that seems simple, but requires scrupulous care – just try the egg omelette with dried radish, pan-seared pork liver and flatbread rolls. Even their almond tofu dessert is made by three chefs from scratch. Their Zhongshan Branch is in the same building as Mitsukoshi Department Store.  Finish off with a refreshing Bobba Milk Tea at a Tiger Sugar nearby.

Friday Day 1 Afternoon Option A: Maokong Gondola Ride

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Photo Courtesy of https://www.remotelands.com/travelogues/tea-for-taipei-maokong-gondola-to-taiwans-past/
Tea aficionados will enjoy Maokong for its wide variety of teahouses and high quality selection, while others looking for a relaxing break from the busy city can sit back with a cup of tea and nice dinner, all while taking in the beautiful views of Taipei.

Friday Day 1 Afternoon Option B:  Xiangshan (Elephant Mountain) and Xinyi District

Photo Courtesy of https://www.rtaiwanr.com/taipei-city/elephant-mountain
Also known as the Nangang District Hiking Trail and Xiangshan (象山), the hiking trail is located close to the Xinyi Shopping District and Taipei 101.
The best time to hike the mountain is during late afternoon, this way you can catch the sunset as well as a daytime view and stunning nighttime view of the city, however the trail can get relatively crowded during the weekend.
The hike takes a total of around 15-20 minutes to the top, and includes lots of stairs!
The newest area of urban Taipei, the Xinyi shopping district is home to the famous Taipei 101ATT4fun, the flagship Eslite bookstoreNeo19Shin Kong Mitsukoshi Xinyi PlaceBreeze Songgao as and  well as other entertainment, shopping, and dining complexes.

Dining Choices

Eat All You Can Hot Pot, Drink All You Can Sodas and Iced Tea and Feast All You Can on fruits and Haagen Dazs Ice Cream for Dessert at Zhou Ji.
Or Have some good ol’ dimsum at Dimdimsum.  Try to go off peak to avoid the queues.

Saturday Day 2  Option A: Head to Yang Ming Shan

Yangmingshan National Park is located in the north of Beitou. Yangmingshan was called Caoshan (Grass Mountain) during Japanese occupation of Taiwan, because it was covered with grass and seldom visited. After World War II, the KMT government renamed the mountain Yangmingshan and built a park here. Yangmingshan National Park is the only park in Taiwan that has volcanic geography and hot springs. It is next to Shamao Mountain and Qixing Mountain with Datun Mountain on the right and Guanyin Mountain in front. The magnificent mountainous scenery and comfortable weather have made Yangmingshan National Park a perfect summer resort. Total area of the park is 125 hectares, designed in traditional Chinese style. The natural beauty of the part has won it the reputation as urban forest and the Taipei garden.

Zhuzihu is a good place for lunch, especially in the flower season of Calla Lilies (middle March~middle April)

Tucked simply in this quaint local farming village is this popular local restaurant serving the freshest and most organic ingredients.  I’m not much of a vegetable eater but I enjoyed their vegetarian dishes heartily with the tasty sauces they paired each with.  Their duck soup was noteworthy as well.  We wouldn’t have known of this had it not been for the Tang Family.

Saturday Day 2 Option B:  Take a Scenic Day Tour 

In our previous trip, we drove to the northeastern region to marvel at the unique rock formations at the Nanya coastline, and strolled through the charming teahouse-lined streets of Jiufen Village.

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Read more about Jiufen Village (Chiufen), Nanya, and Pitou Cape from Taipai 2019 – Taiwan – https://www.viator.com/en-PH/tours/Taiwan/Chiufen-Village-Jiufen-and-Northeast-Coast-Half-Day-Tour-from-Taipei/d778-3071HG?mcid=56757

Lunch Sampling Local Flavours in Jiufen

Healthy Dinner Hot Pot

Wu lao Guo – Elixir Health Pot Is One Of Taipei’s Best Hotpot Restaurants.  Prices are a bit on the expensive side, but their naturally seasoned and tasty soups with signature pork and beef slices are worth the price tag.

Shilin Night Market

Shilin Night Market.  The Grand Father of Taiwan’s Night Markets.  It is quite an experience just to say you’ve seen it.

Sunday Day 3:  Learn from the Past and Walk the Contemporary 

Chiang Kai-shek Memorial hall

The most prominent historical landmark in Taiwan, the CKS Memorial Hall was erected in honor and memory of Generalissimo Chiang Kai-shek, the former President of the Republic of China, and was opened in 1980 as part of a national park and gathering area.
The name of the square is officially Liberty Square , as seen above the front gate, however the name change was politically motivated and most people in practice still refer to the entire complex as CKS Memorial Hall.
The octagon-shaped white building rises 76 meters and is covered with blue tiles and red accents, echoing the flag of the Republic of China. The eight sides represent the Chinese cultural symbolism of the number eight which is traditionally associated with fortune and wealth. The two sets of 89 steps represent Chiang’s age of death and lead up to main hall housing a large bronze statue of Chiang protected by military personnel which change hourly.
The characters behind Chiang’s statue read “Ethics”, “Democracy”, and “Science”, and the inscriptions on the side read “The purpose of life is to improve the general life of humanity” and “The meaning of life is to create and sustain subsequent lives in the universe”.

National Palace Museum

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Photo Courtesy of Fodor’s Travel
Originally founded within the walls of the Beijing Forbidden City in 1925, the present-day National Palace Museum moved to Taipei’s Shilin District following the Republic of China government relocation in 1949 with an official opening for the public in 1965. Over 600,000 of the most precious artefacts within the collection were moved to Taiwan to prevent their desecration during and after the Chinese Civil War. The museum is currently celebrating its 90TH Anniversary.
Those interested in Chinese culture and history are highly encouraged to visit the National Palace Museum, as it hosts the largest number of ancient artefacts, even more than the Forbidden City in Beijing.

Lunch at Kao Chi

If you had been wondering which Dim Sum Cuisine to try in Taiwan (other than Din Tai Fung), I would suggest Kao Chi be on the top list. It has been specialising in Shanghai Dim Sum since 1949.  Have a taste and compare.  The rest of the dishes they served were excellent!

Ximending Youth Shopping District

The “Harajuku” of Taipei, this pedestrian shopping haven is one of the city’s culture centres, hosting a massive variety of fashion clothing shops, eclectic restaurants, clubs, and bars.

Make it a Food Crawl Kind of Dinner at Ximending

Ay Chung Flour Rice Noodle
Specialty Roast Goose and Noodle Soup at the Duck House
Mango Cha Cha

Monday Day 4: Immerse in all things New and Creative

Songshan Cultural and Creative Park

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Photo courtesy of https://guidetotaipei.com/visit/songshan-cultural-and-creative-park-
Set in a lush tropical garden, this old tobacco factory turned local art & design market can provide some pleasant treasure-hunting time for those interesting, conversation pieces.

Fujin Street

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Photo Courtesy of http://earthtoiris.com/fujin-street-shopping-guide-taipei/
A beautiful and quiet residential area full of coffee shops, interesting boutiques, workshops and local restaurants. Fujin Street offers a different side to Taipei’s growing creative and artsy choices.

Cantonese Lunch

The Dragon – Sheraton Grand Hotel serves the best Peking Duck.  Then of course, you can’t leave Taipei without a stop by Ice Monster.  Whichever shaved ice flavour you decide on, it will totally be worth the calories!

Early Dinner Choices

Ningxia Night Market is more known for local street food.  People really hang out there al fresco for real meals.  So go with the flow and have a bite of everything.  Enjoy the street party.
Addiction Aquatic Development (AAD) has become a must-visit for many travellers to Taipei, especially if they are craving for fresh and super affordable seafood, sashimi and sushi.  It is Taipei’s equivalent to Tokyo’s Tsukiji Market but in a more trendy scale.  It can get extremely busy during peak hours so go early or late.

Best Time to Visit:

  • The best time to visit the country is during “ber” months or every first quarter of the year. They also have Cherry Blossoms season, mostly around early February to late March.

References:

Guide to Taipei.com
http://www.furama.com/vanilla/insiders/7-fabulous-night-markets-in-taipei
https://www.amba-hotels.com

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