Hey guys, today's post is a continuation of out Taipei in Seven Days series. Here's the article that I'm refering too, in case you missed it. Let me know if you have any questions below, and let us know about your experiences traveling in Taipei. Enjoy!
Getting to Taipei:
Congratulations, you're now in Taiwan, exiting your plane at Taoyuan International Airport. It's likely full of travelers(it always is when I travel) and just finding your way around can be a challenge. Luckily for you, there are English signs all over, so you should be able to find your way to customs with relatively little pain. Make sure you fill out the customs form(they'll want simple information, like the address you'll be staying at, and why you're visiting Taiwan, etc.), and get your passport ready. Some countries make it a real hassle to get through customs, but it's pretty easy in Taiwan. Once you've gotten your passport stamped go to luggage claim, grab your bags and head out into the terminal and exchange your cash for a Taiwanese money. So what's next? The first thing you're going to need to do after you pick up your luggage and exchange your currency for NT, is get to Taipei. Now, you have two options.
Cheapskate: take the 國光 bus from the airport terminal to Taipei city. This is definitely the cheaper of the two options, as a ticket will only run you around $95NT($3USD). If you go this route, I'd recommend that you get off at Taipei Main Station(your hub for transit around the city) as it's the last station, so you won't miss your stop.
Big Spender: hop in a cab and ride in style to your destination. Don't worry, the cab should only cost you around $1000NT($30USD). If you have reservations at a hotel, make sure you give your driver the address written in Chinese, as he may not speak English. You can translate the address using this website if you can't find it online:
I know, I know. You're in an exciting new city, and surrounded by all sorts of new and unusual sights, sounds and smells. It's only natural to want to explore, but unless you want to lug your suitcase with you through all of the crowded Night Markets and MRTs, then you'd better go check in at your hotel. As before, I'm offering you two options. But if you have already made other arrangements, skip on down to the next section and let's have some fun!
If you happen to be saving your funds up for an awesome souvenir, or if you just have a limited amount of money to vacation with, then I recommend that you stay in a youth hostel. It's cheap, you have the opportunity to meet new, interesting(or weird) people, and how much time do you really plan to spend in your room? You only have a brief window to see this beautiful country, so don't waste time sleeping in! If what I've said here sounds like what you're looking for, then why not stay at Taipei Hostel? They've been open since 1975, and they are in fact, the first youth hostel in Taipei. Their prices are reasonable at $300NT ($10USD) a night, which isn't bad considering it's very close to the transportation hub of Taipei: Taipei Main Station.
Here's the address in Chinese and English, along with contact numbers and their fax number. If you have any trouble finding the place, give them a call and someone will help you out. Don't worry, they have English speaking staff. It's located just down the street and around the corner from Taipei Main Station. They have a map on their website that can help you find it too. You can also make reservations online. Their website is: Taipeihostel.com.
6FL NO.11 LANE5 LIN SEN N. RD, TAIPEI, TAIWAN
TEL: +886 2 23952950 | +886 2 23952951
FAX: +886 2 23952952
Right across from Taipei Main Station is one of the nicest hotels in the area, Caesar Park Taipei. It's going to be a lot more expensive, but it places you in the perfect spot for taking advantage of Taipei's famous, and incredibly convenient MRT system. Do getting around the city to all of the destinations in this guide will be a lot less hassle, so you'll be able to further maximize your time. So the question is, what's more important? Your time, or money? Hmmm, tricky question indeed, since time is money. if you answered "time" then you've come to the right place. Plus with all the top-notch accommodations, and the plush decor, you can bet that your stay will be a comfortable one! A room in the Caesar Park is going to run you ~$4300NT+ (~$140USD+) a night.
Below is the hotels address and contact information, including their website, which you can check out for more information and to make reservations. This is where my family stayed when they visited me the first time in a Taiwan, and I would recommend them to anyone. The service is great, and it's a relaxing and comfortable place to stay. Remember, you get what you pay for. Check them out and make your reservations here: taipei.caesarpark.com.tw
Caesar Park Taipei
No. 38, Sec. 1, Zhongxiao W. Rd., Zhongzheng Dist.
Taipei City, 100, Taiwan
Morning to Afternoon:
First thing you're going to see in Taipei is Taipei 101. Taipei 101 was formerly holder of the "worlds tallest building" title, but has since been overtaken by Dubai's Burj Khalifa, but at a height of 1,667 feet(or 508 meters for my non-American friends), it's still probably the tallest building you'll ever see(that statement holds true for me at least), and it is still credited as the tallest "green" building in the world, due to its unique, energy-saving design, and to his credit, architect C. Y. Lee took the "green" theme over board by designing the building to represent a bamboo stalk reaching to the heavens, hence the tiered appearance of the building. You may have noticed that there are also eight tiers to the building, well, that's no coincidence. Readers of my blog will know from my previous writings on Chinese culture that the number "8" and the number "4" have an inverse relationship in Chinese thought. The number "8" (Chinese character "八" pronounced ba, and very similar in pronunciation to the Chinese character 爸 which means father) is a lucky, or auspicious number, thought to bring prosperity and wealth, and for this reason Chinese Fathers Day is August 8th, or 08/08, which is a very lucky day. The number "4"(Chinese character 四, pronounced si, and very similar in pronunciation to 死, the Chinese character meaning "die"), on the other hand is a very unlucky number, and this is why Chinese people, being extremely superstitious leave the fourth floor off of hospitals and hotels, and soTaipei 101 doesn't have a 44th floor, which would be twice as bad! It's called Taipei 101 because there are 101 floors above ground, but there are also 5 floors below ground, so you could technically call it "Taipei 106", but that doesn't sound quite as good, does it?
Anyway, I could keep on heaping the facts on you, and tell you about things like the impressive wind dampener, and other architectural features of the building that make it stable standing so tall in a country that is no stranger to earthquakes and typhoons, but that's not really the point here. Like I said, It used to be the tallest building in the world, but alas, no more…it's still a must-see destination for anyone who goes to Taiwan though.
Taipei can be tricky to navigate at times if you're unfamiliar with the layout of the city, but 101 has got to be the easiest place to find in the city hands-down. For obvious reasons, you can't miss it(I mean, it's kind of hard to miss the gigantic monolithic structure towering over the rest of the Taipei cityscape, and you can see it from practically anywhere in the city!)! How you get there is up to you though, but I'll lay out the options for you down below.
Gotta love Taipei's MRT system. You can get anywhere in the city, and mist of Taipei county even in a real hurry. And the massive network of MRT routes are only going to grow. These days, since the MRT system has grown out so much you can just take the subway to the World Trade Center Station and from there just walk to 101(it's really close, and like I mentioned, you can't miss it!). When you first enter the MRT station, you will have to get yourself an easy card. You have to pay a $100NT($3USD) deposit and then load it up with money. Start with $500NT($17USD) and you can always put more on it later. You'll be using this all week to pay for your bus and MRT fares. Alternately, you can just pay for a one-time use token. It'll save you money for now, but in the long-run, you'll want an easy card. Plus, you can always return your eazy card at the end of your vacation to get your deposit back. Or keep it as a souvenir, the choice is yours.
Or if you want to steer-clear of the crowds on the subway, you can always grab a cab. There are plenty of cabs to choose from around Taipei Main Station. Dont worry about speaking Chinese to the driver. Just tell him "Taipei 101" and if he doesn't understand that, say "Taipei yi-ling-yi", and if he still doesn't know what you're talking about, show him this Chinese sentence. 司機，我要到台北101。謝謝你。
There's no lack of options in the entertainment department. But ultimately different things will appeal to different people. Stores galore, Page1(the best bookstore in Taiwan, hands down, for buying English language books), an international grocery store, and tons of other ways to kill time(and money!). And price is always a factor. Let's check out what Taipei 101 has to offer!
There are lots of things to do here. It all depends on how much you are willing to spend, and if you're cheap like me, you might want to play it low-key. They quite often have interesting sculptures and art exhibitions, which are fun to check out for free! During one Christmas, season they had a "Christmas Village" set up, with several DIY craft stands, and elves to boot! There's also a large fountain on the ground outside the building which intermittently sprays water, and children can always be found darting through, laughing and shouting. There's plenty of window shopping to be done, and a great food court in the basement with plenty of international selections, though you should eat Chinese food, after all you're in Taiwan! You can also go to the top observation deck, order a coffee and look down on the ants…I mean people of Taipei. They have lots of cool things to see up there, including solid gold sculptures from a famous Taiwanese artist, Zhu Ming, and intricate sculptures carved out of coral. Plus, you can really see everything from up there! It's $400NT($12USD) for a ride to the top, but it's really worth it, and the ride is half the fun! You don't have to spend a dime on anything else if you don't want to, though a coffee or tea might be nice, either way it's your choice. The elevator up is so fast that you feel like you've just gone up 3 floors, not the close to a hundred floors that you've actually traveled, and be prepared for your ears to pop! Heck, if you're here for NewYears Eve, then you could always watch the world-famous firework display, as brightly colored missiles of light shoot off the sides of Taipei 101 into the midnight sky. Bottom line is there's something for everyone, so check around, you'll probably find something interesting!
If you really want to go all-out, there are quite a few fine dining establishments here, in addition to the food court. The fancy places are all on the upper floors. And instead of window shopping, why not get yourself a new Gucci bag, or an Armani suit? All of the name brands in fashion have stores open here, and you could easily drop a fortune shopping. You could also buy yourself some fancy coral jewelry and artwork at the top of 101 if you wanted to take home a truly unique souvenir. You could also always take home one of Zhu Ming's lavish sculptures too, if taking them in with your eyes isn't enough. I remember last time I was there seeing a really sculpture if a human skull, all in gold of course, that would look awesome on my desk. Or take home something a little more mass-produced, but equally enjoyable from the souvenir store. There's also plenty of opportunities for photo ops while up top, so be sure to charge your camera batteries, and bring an extra while you're at it! If you're feeling adventurous and have a problem with authority(and can afford trouble with said authority figures), then why not parachute off the uppermost, outdoor observation deck? There was a guy that did that back several years, and I'll bet he had a very memorable trip to Taiwan, as the police were waiting for him when he landed! It's obviously not a very good idea, but who am I to tell you how to spend your time and money? I just hope you have lots of noth if you go down that path.
After spending what amounts to the last day of your life either onboad an airplane, or waiting around in an airport terminal, I'm pretty sure you're tired of "air-food". You may or may not have had Chinese food back home, but don't expect the local cuisine to be the same. It's time to get you your first authentic Taiwanese meal, and you're in for a treat. Come on, grub's on, let's eat!
The food court has it all. Anything from Subway, to McDonalds, to your Taiwanese chain store. If you want to eat on the cheap, then I recommend going to 鼎泰豐 or 南雞飯. They're famous chain stores, and they've got some really good food. There's a lot more to eat and drink too, including a juice bar if you're in the mood for some freshly blended juice, an Indian restaurant with really delicious Indian style flat-breads among other dishes(the bread is my favorite though!), and tere's also a great Korean restaurant that sells an awesome stone bowl rice. Or you could try out a selection of Taiwanese baked-goods(my favorites are honey-covered mini-croissants, bolo bread, loaves of garlic bread, sun cakes and pineapple cakes…you can't go wrong with any of it!). A few more dishes I recommend are curry rice(you can choose to have it served with either a fried pork steak or fried chicken steak, they're both good, so I'll let you choose), 滷肉飯(Chinese pork-stew over rice, a traditional meal that tastes great and is really super cheap), any kind of noodles, and 小南門's delicious 豆花(a soft, delicious desert made from soy beans) for desert. Anyway, look around and find something that you like. Expect to spend $120-200NT($4-6USD) for a meal. Not super cheap by local standards, but by American standards, I'll take those prices any day! What about you? Try it out, and let me know what you think!
If you have the funds and really want to make a lasting memory, then check-out Diamond Tony's Observatory Restaurant. It's on the 85th floor of Taipei 101, so expect to enjoy a spectacular view while you wine and dine. Make sure to make reservations, as it's a popular location. It's comparable to Wang Steak as far as quality goes, as well as cost. So expect to spend a fair amount, around $3000NT($100USD) per person. Like I said, it's not cheap, and I've never personally eaten there, but if you enjoy a fine steak dinner, and your not worried about the cost, go for it. There's plenty to choose from on their menu, such as crab, lobster, and steaks. Enjoy a bottle of their fine wine with your meal if that's your style, or a cold beer if you prefer, and enjoy the live entertainment and the view of the city. You only live once, and you're on vacation! Another option, more traditionally Chinese, would be Shinyeh which is also on the 85th floor. Check them out to get a taste of Taiwanese family style meals, with all of your friends seated around one of their big, round, dining-tables, and everyone sharing dishes in the middle of the table. It'll be an interesting experience for you culturally, and for your taste buds! You can find out more about each of these fine establishments on their websites. Go to www.diamond-tony.com.tw for more information on Diamond Tony's, and here www.shinyeh.com.tw for Shinyeh. Bon appetite!
That's it for today's installment. I'll be ofering ideas for how you can spend your free time after checking out 101, and before heading to our next stop in our next update. Stay tuned, and let me know what you think!