Despite being internationally recognized as merely a territory or province of the People’s Republic of China, Taiwan has many traits which distinguish its culture and people. Having heard nothing but good things from friends who have traveled and/or lived there, it easily earned a spot on my must-visit list. Thus, with two companions, I set out for a short and jam-packed adventure.
Getting There and Around
Peach has a flight departing from KIX at 20:50, which is fairly convenient (and at least in my case, required no 年休). Once you arrive, there are buses that will take you to central Taipei and which cost something around $100NTD (approximately 400円; how dreadful). For your return flight, MAKE SURE YOU GO TO TAOYUAN AND NOT SONGSHAN!!! Somehow (I blame the metro for having the airport on the line), I got it into my head that the nearby airport was what we needed and didn’t bother to check until we were already there. Had our taxi driver been ever so slightly less insane, we probably would’ve been locked out of check-in.
Happily, the metro is great for traveling around the city. It’s intuitive and inexpensive. If you want to leave Taipei, bus is the best way to get to Jiufen, the city Spirited Away is modeled after, while train is great for Houtong, the cat village (and possibly my future home).
Where to Stay
Taipei CT Home was well-located and Chunky, the owner, is awesome. As long as you notify him in advance, you can check-in practically anytime (even if your flight is delayed to even further past midnight). Additionally, beverages and toast are provided to kick-start your days, and sometimes Chunky will bring in other snacks to be had by all. Be wary of the 2nd floor shower, though: None of us could figure out how to make the water come out the shower head. Being stubborn, naked, and committed, this resulted in my taking one of the jankiest “showers” of my life.
What to Do
Originally, we were going to head out to Houtong and Jiufen the first day we were in Taiwan. However, the weather had other plans. Upon waking to thunder, one of my companions queried “Is that what I think it is?” to which the sky answered with a crack of lightning. Sufficiently deterred, we instead scrambled to find things to do around the city.
First, we stopped by a nearby gyoza restaurant called Bafang Yunji, which was cheap, filling, and delicious. After acquiring bubble tea, we then waited in line for a while for the Museum of Contemporary Art. Their featured exhibit at the time was the photography of a Japanese woman named Mika Ninagawa. The tickets were very cool! Following this, we went to Huashan 1914 Creative Park, where we waited even longer for entry into the upside-down house. To save our sanity, we resorted to crude humor and Charades (sometimes at the same time!).
Once the sun goes down, there are so many things to do. Taipei 101 is an option to look at the city (and ride the fastest elevator in the world!), but we found it a little too expensive, especially after we’d climbed Elephant Hill. Located at the end of the red line, the aforementioned hill has a steep hike of stairs, but you are well-rewarded with a breath-taking view of the cityscape. I felt like I’d died, but I’m glad I went. To revive ourselves, we ventured to the Shinlin Night Market and ate, arguably, too much food. Other nights, we ventured to the Raohe and Ningxia Night Markets. Of these, I found Shinlin the most entertaining.
The morning after, we ventured out to Houtong, which is where I’ve decided to retire. The cat village has taken their unofficial moniker rather seriously and have plastered the train station, shops, and stamps with feline faces. Many of the kitties were so friendly that it was nearly emotionally traumatizing to leave them behind. Should you for some reason need a break from the cats (or just want consumables), there is a noodle shop on the ground floor of the station with delicious food. We didn’t try it, but they even have beef noodle soup with no beef! On the north side of the station is 旭町COFFEE, which has Wi-Fi and an evidently amazing tiramisu latte.
Jiufen has been covered by nearly every Taiwan travel review ever, so I’ll not say much of it. There are some incredible stamps for those of you with a growing collection. Also, keep in mind that Jishan Street is overwhelmingly packed. So packed, in fact, that I lost my umbrella and was forced to buy perhaps the gaudiest, most entertaining replacement ever.
Last Minute Points
-Nearly everything is dirt-cheap. I was concerned about not having enough money, but it was more than enough, even with the frantic taxi ride to the proper airport we had to take.
-You will not escape the Japanese. From food, to special art exhibits, to hearing snatches of conversation walking down the street, it’s everywhere.
-Should you have more time, Takoro Gorge is evidently incredible. A friend recommends Tiffany as your guide. Be forewarned this will drive up your budget.
Go to Taiwan. With the delicious food, beautiful sites, and low cost, it’s a perfect getaway. You’ll not regret it.