May 23, 2013
Top 10 things to do in Taipei - part 1

Top 10 things to do in Taipei - part 1

After a rather long hiatus, the blog is back! So to start off the next round of blogging, I thought it was time for top 10 list. This is completely subjective and based on the things I have done recently, and if you disagree or want to suggest your own list, please get in touch.

In no particular order, here are the first five:

Din Tai Fung restaurant The winner of many awards, Din Tai Fung now has branches all over the world and all over Taiwan. Although not always raved about by the local Taiwanese, it is incredibly popular and even Anthony Bourdain loves it. Due to the popularity, you will probably have to wait a while for a table (see also Taipei 101 on this list). I have to say that the level of service has gone from, brusque, to outstanding. The original restaurant is still open (Xinyi Rd., Sec. 2, No. 194) and is supposed to be the best.

Maokong Maokong is a very popular area due to the great views of Taipei (especially on clear nights), cooler climate (especially in the summer), and the many tea houses where you can sit and drink tea overlooking tea plantations and the aforementioned views of Taipei. Hiking and biking are popular in the area as well, but it's quite a climb if you cycle up. The easiest way to get there is the Maokong Gondola which is a trip in itself. You can take it by going to the Mucha Zoo station of the MRT and following the directions to the Gondola (although it is closed until May 31st for maintenance).

Tamsui Tamsui (also spelled Danshuei) is a way out of Taipei City on the northwest coast, but easy to get to by MRT. Situated where the Tamsui River joins the South China Sea, there is often a pleasant breeze and on clear days great views of the setting sun. You can take short boat trips to Bali (not that one) and up to Fisherman's Wharf where there are enough open spaces to let the kids run around in relative safety while you sip a coffee fro your favourite coffee shop. There are a number of good seafood restaurants right by the river, and an "old street" for shopping and snacks. Fort San Domingo is also well worth a visit. You could easily spend a day in Tamsui, and if the concrete of the city gets a bit much, it is highly recommended.

Jade market The Taipei Weekend Jade Market is an earthy weekly bazaar located under the elevated stretch of Jian Guo at Ren Ai Road, and is a great place to spend an afternoon searching for trinkets, oddities and more than a few hidden treasures. With a bit of shrewd bargaining, you can find a sleigh-full of holiday goodies without draining your bank account. Like the nearby flower market and antique market, the Weekend Jade Market is something of a Taipei institution. Vendors begin staking out their spots in the wee hours of Saturday morning, and by sun up, the cave-like interior of the market is filled with shoppers and so it will remain until after sunset. There is more to the Weekend Jade Market than jade. Sure, the semi-precious gemstone is the star attraction, but that's not all that can be found. Antique coins, silk bags (perfect for storing that new jade bracelet), crystals, turquoise, glass and wooden beads, and more await the weekend treasure hunter.

Yamingshan National Park Yamingshan National Park is situated to the north of Taipei City and can be seen from almost everywhere in Taipei. On a clear day there are amazing 360 degree views of greater Taipei, and you even see the ocean. It's a great place to escape the hustle and bustle of the city, and it is usually cooler than the city. You can hike up Qixing (7-star) Mountain, which is the tallest point in the park, and is a good place to test your fear of heights. The fumaroles of Xiaoyoukeng are a reminder that this used to be an active volcano, although long extinct. Hopefully. Qingtiangang is a kind of flat plateau with long grass and water buffalo roaming freely. There is also a cold water pool on the mountain that uses only mountain spring water to keep the pool filled. The best place to start is the Park Welcome Center which will be able to give you all the info you need. The website is worth a look as well (http://english.ymsnp.gov.tw).

*All images used by permission of the Taiwan Tourism Bureau.


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