We spent 8 days in Taiwan this August, and here's all the stuff we did. Note: we were silly enough to book a trip to Taiwan during typhoon season. My suggestion would be to visit anytime that's not typhoon season. However, we got very lucky with the weather and it only rained 1 of the 6 days we were in Taipei but both days we were in Alishan. Deets below!
Day 1: Checked into our AirBnb - I was in charge of booking our rooms so you can only imagine the fun I had. Images from the site below:
I KNOW RIGHT?! Anyway, Taipei is a great city for public transport so I highly recommend you get an EasyCard when you're there to take the bus/MRT. All train stations and 7-elevens sell these. We took a bus to Sabrina House for brunch. It's a very cute place with 3 floors and a menu almost as big. The food was good and vegetarian friendly - I definitely recommend going here at least once and getting a roast egg pie. Their cream cheese was the only disappointing part as it was sweet.
We then headed to the National Palace Museum. Now they say it's the Louvre of Asia, but I'll tell you if you're not super into history and artifacts, give this one a skip. We did manage to only see one Exhibition Hall so maybe the other had the mind blowing stuff, but I'd have been alright not have spent time on the museum. It does make for pretty pictures though!
We then went to Playing Hookah Bar which was a bad idea. The shisha was average (don't get the ice pipe!) and very expensive. For dinner we went to the Din Tai Fung near Taipei 101. We're big fans of DTF our here in Singapore so obviously needed to try the OG version. Let's just say we still haven't found a DTF to beat Singapore's. The XLB are as good, and I quite liked the veggie dumplings too, but nothing else came close really. We then went to check out Barcode. Now this is a bar for you to check out on a Saturday night! You have a little view of Taipei 101 but the real killer is the music. We were stoked to hear from great hip-hop and RnB from the DJ that night. Drinks are on the expensive side (as are tables) but it is worth the experience for a good Saturday night out.
Day 2: We started the day with a hike at Yangmingshan National Park. We took the Miaopu trail which is about 2.4km of pure stairs up to the summit of Mt. Qixing and the same route back down. This is not an easy climb but it's doable and worth it for the views/experience at the top. By the time we made it to the top, we were in the midst of a cloud with strong winds blowing. That meant we had 0 views, but wow, what an experience it was!
Note: if you despise stairs, DO NOT DO THIS TRAIL.
After quick showers back home, we headed to The Diner for brunch (if you can't tell already, we're suckers for brunch). The eggs here were really good - we got the poached and a build-your-own omelette - but the real show-stopper was the Spicy Devil beef burger. Since shisha has been banned in Singapore for some years now, we vowed to make the most of the freedom in Taiwan. So our next stop was Turkish Kedi shisha.
This is a really small, cosy place. So if you're in a big group, give it a miss. We were a bit cramped as a group of 4, but because it's so small, you have all the attention from the owners! This means we made our shisha strong, and also got to play Bollywood music (because, why not). We're also told there's a cat that sometimes hangs around - so keep a lookout!
Since we had such a great time at Barcode the night before, we decided to head there again. Barcode on a Sunday night could not be more different than on a Saturday. Instead of pumped up music, there was jazz all around. We only stayed for a couple of drinks before we decided to head to Partyworld for some good ol' karaoke. It was so much fun, we only ended up heading home at 6am.....
Day 3: Brunch this day was at ACME breakfast club. Their truffle grilled cheese is quite delicious and the other food didn't disappoint as well - the chicken shnitzel, french toast, avo toast... all will leave you satisfied as only breakfast can. However, the coffee was pretty below average, which was a real shame! We then took an Uber to the nearby town of Jiufen.
Jiufen is great for it's amazing views of the sunset, mountains, and ocean, and also for it's tea ceremonies. We had tea at Amei tea house. There's also an old street known for food and trinkets, but the market was very crowded and the smells quite vomit-inducing at times, so unless you're a fan of the smells of seafood, I'd give this street a miss and head straight for the tea houses! We then tried the next shisha lounge on our list - Nahala. While the shisha wasn't great, Nahala had good Thai food and also really good music!
Day 4: After days of surviving on just eggs at brunch, we decided it was time to eat some Asian food and so we went to Chili House for dumplings and noodles. We did struggle a bit with language here but the food is so worth it! All flavours of dumplings were great and I really liked the chili oil noodles and toon tea noodles too. On our way across the city over the past days, I noticed signs to an Astronomical museum so I somehow convinced my friends to make a detour - yay! I'd have liked to have spent more time at the museum, but it's definitely not worth visiting just for the sake of. The dome movie was a joke, and a lot of sign boards are only in Chinese. After a quick two hours, we made our way to the Maokong gondola (cable car). I'd recommend to take this at sunset too, just because the sky looks pretty from so high up, and if you're lucky, you see a moon-rise along with the sunset. The ride costs TWD 100 by EasyCard (one-way) and lasts about 15-20min. However, there isn't much to do at Maokong other than more tea houses so we just hung out for 15min before taking the gondola back to Taipei zoo station. We then took a bus to Taipei 101 to check out the observation deck. Taipei 101 was a comforting sight wherever we were in the city so it was really nice to finally get to the top floor and see the city below. Our final stop (you guessed it!) was a restaurant called Mayur's Indian Kitchen for some Indian food and shisha. NOTE: they have paan flavoured shisha - go go go!!!
Day 5 and 6: These two days were spent in the mountains at Alishan. Getting to Alishan can be quite challenging so here's what we did. If you plan to get there on the same day, take the 6.26am Taipei to Chiayi high speed rail, then take a 20-30min cab ride from Chiayi HSR to Chiayi train station from where you can catch the 9am Alishan forest railway train (book this out 12 days in advance here!) to Fenqihu. From here you will have to wait for the bus up to Alishan. I hear Fenqihu is also a great place to spend a day or at least a few hours, but we didn't. We unfortunately missed the HSR and so missed our one and only train ride for the day to Fenqihu. Instead we took a bus all the way up (2 hours) and checked into our hotel. As with all hotels in Alishan, our was overpriced. However the staff were very friendly. Unfortunately, it rained the whole time we were there and so on the second day we decided to cut our visit to Alishan short by a day and head back to Taipei. Instead, we caught up on lots of sleep and played several card games at the hotel.. at least we made the most of an overpriced stay! The food at Alishan was good, but vegetarian options are limited. It's also harder to get by with English out here than in Taipei so have Google translate handy!
Day 7: This was the day we headed back to Taipei. Since I was awake anyway, I decided to try and catch the sunrise, despite the incessant rain. While I didn't manage to see the sunrise, I was glad to have taken the train through the forest. It's quite an experience and I recommend it highly! We took the same route back to Taipei and checked into another AirBnb we got for the night. We ate lunch at a place called Twinkeyz Tacos (having had enough of Asian food up at Alishan!). However, the tacos were very disappointing. The nachos were decent enough and the real surprise was that they had Arnold Palmers! We took the day to sleep in and headed to Lungshan temple after dark. It's worth a quick stop if you have the time - especially because of the street where it's located. We then headed to the last and best shisha lounge of our trip - 1001 Nights Taipei. The place had a cover charge but the best shisha we found in Taipei. The drinks, music, ambiance, and belly dancers were very good (yup, belly dancers!). They also had pretty decent hummus and felafel, so we were more than content.
Day 8: Surprisingly our last day in Taipei ended up being the most packed. We got brunch at Good Cho's. I cannot recommend this place enough. It has a good view of Taipei 101 from outside, and even had a cute little market happening for a Saturday afternoon. Their bagels are amazing (why can't Singapore have good bagel places?!?!) and their coffee is even better. They also have a cute little shop from where you can buy organic and homemade products. Did I mention they use metal straws? (I love them).
Our first stop for the day was Shifen Waterfall. There's a 10-15min trail that leads to the waterfall which is absolutely gorgeous, and takes you across two bridges. Unfortunately, it began raining almost the minute we got off our cab and didn't stop till we got out of there nearly an hour later! We got drenched to our bones but I can't say it wasn't worth it... I mean, look at it!
We then took an Uber to Yehliu Geopark which was about an hour away. It's famous for it's rock formations that resemble mushrooms, but I was more keen to be close to the sea. There's a short trek at the park as well that takes you up the summit (about 20min uphill). It's not tough, and definitely worth the view at the top. I am in love with Taiwan's landscapes and especially here at Yehliu were the mountains were juxtaposed with the sea.
Gallery of all pics used below: