Northern Taiwan -Taipei City、Yangmingshan & Beitou、Danshuei、Wulai、Jioufen & Jinguashih、Yilan、Taoyuan & Hsinchu
Taipei is the biggest city in Taiwan , and Taiwan 's political, economic, financial and artistic center. Like many other cities in Asia , Taipei only started developing rapidly around two hundred years ago. Since the 1970s, Taipei has changed drastically due to its fast economic growth, turning the city into a modern international metropolis, with skyscrapers, modern housing developments and architecturally inspired shopping and cultural centers. Modern department stores and shopping malls with the latest fashions from London , New York and Tokyo have opened one after another. Fine restaurants serving world cuisines and romantic cafes line the city streets. After dark, night clubs, discotheques, and lounge bars are packed with trendy people. If you prefer a more quiet nocturnal activity, the 24-hour Eslite Bookstore is a perfect place to visit. The newly-opened Taipei 101 building, the world's tallest building, is another must-see in Taipei .
The west end of Taipei was where the city's historical growth started. Today there are still many old and historical buildings. The Longshan, Baoan and Confucius Temples in this neighborhood made it the religious center of the city in years gone by. Visitors can still see and get the feel of old Taipei here. Dihua Street is a popular destination, with old buildings, temples, and one of Taipei 's biggest markets for traditional dry foods, snacks and Chinese medicine. During the Chinese New Year it is always crowded with people shopping for the festival. Also in West Taipei is Simending, a center of youth culture. Street fashion boutiques and shops selling strange and interesting gadgets stand next to one another in the winding back-alleys. Here you can see young people dressed in the most eye-catching getups walking down the street, going to the latest movies and listening to the hottest music. On the weekend there are live street performances. Around every corner there is one surprise after another!
The east part of Taipei is the city's up-and-coming district, with new shopping and entertainment venues springing up all the time. Currently the district has five huge shopping malls connected by an elevated walkway, a multiple-screen movie theater, an international exhibition space, a theater and concert hall, and wide piazzas. The world's tallest building, Taipei 101, towers over this area. It looks like a soaring eight-section bamboo decorated with the arabesques and cloud patterns often seen in Chinese art. It is the perfect combination of western technology with an oriental aesthetic, and has once again brought Taipei to the world stage.
The Chiang Kai-shek Memorial Hall in downtown Taipei is famous for its snow-white octagonal building with blue ceramic rooftop. It poses a dramatic contrast with the nearby National Theater and Concert Halls, which are built in bright red and gold in the traditional Chinese palace style. At the National Theater and Concert Hall, concerts, plays and dances are performed all year round. The grand piazza is often full of troupes of dancers or drummers practicing in the open air in front of the public. The Sun Yat-sen Memorial Hall, based on the design of a Tang Dynasty palace, is another famous performance venue.
The National Palace Museum in the hills to the north of Taipei is ranked as one of the world's top four museums, along with the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York , the Louvre Museum in Paris and the British Museum in London . The National Palace Museum boasts a collection of around 620,000 pieces from China's five-thousand-year history, including painting, calligraphy, tapestries and embroidery, rare books, precious documents, bronzes, ceramics, jades and curios. Chih-shan Garden to the east of the museum is modeled after a traditional Chinese garden and well worth a visit after your tour of these treasures.
The Holiday Jade Market on Jianguo South Road is the biggest jade market in Southeast Asia. Visitors can find great shopping at the many stalls here selling all kinds of jade, crystals, other precious stones, antique furniture and curios. The Holiday Flower Market just down the road is another attraction. All kinds of plants, flowers, bonsai and orchids are sold here. A leisurely stroll through the market is always a great idea on a sunny weekend.
Taipei's Guanghua Market is a mecca for reasonable-priced computer hardware, software, digital cameras, and other electronic devices. Located in a cramped covered market under a freeway, it's a real Aladdin's Cave of electronic treasures!
Yangmingshan & Beitou
Yangmingshan National Park is located within 30 minutes by car from downtown Taipei . Yangmingshan is filled with dormant volcanos and is densely dotted with hot springs , fumeroles and craters, and other geothermal phenomena. Many hot spring spas are concentrated in the Beitou area. These resorts provide different kinds of spring pools and have wonderful restaurants. Cingtiangang is a popular spot for astronomers in Northern Taiwan. Its location high above the city allows for great stargazing on cold winter nights.
Yangming Academy was once a summer holiday residence of Chiang Kai-shek. Visitors can see historical documents, photographs, the offices, meeting rooms, private bedrooms and some personal belongings of the former president and his wife, Soong Mei-ling. In the beginning of spring, the vast calla lilies of Jhuzihhu on Yangmingshan are in full blossom; the lily farms are open and visitors are welcome to pick the flowers.
Danshuei was one of the first commercial ports in Northern Taiwan. Over time its glory faded due to the silting up of the river and the growing size of commercial ships. In recent years, however, since the building of the MRT Danshuei Line and the restoration of the historic area of the town, Danshuei has now become a famous tourist spot easily within reach of Taipei .
Next to the Danshuei MRT Station lies a riverbank park where many live performances take place. Visitors can walk along the riverbank and enjoy the gentle breeze from the estuary. In the historic district there are many old buildings, remnants of Danshuei's former glory. There is also a ferry service between Danshuei and Bali across the river. The riverside is lined with restaurants offering authentic local snacks like A-gei (bean curd with stuffings cooked in broth), fish balls and chewy “iron eggs”. You can also enjoy a fresh seafood barbecue at one of the seaside restaurants, and marvel at the view as the sun retires into the sea.
Fort San Domingo in Dansheui is over 300 years old. It was built by the Spanish and then seized by the Dutch, who renovated the fortress. The fortress overlooks the Danshuei River , offering a spectacular view to visitors. Fisherman's Wharf is another attraction–visitors can walk along the boardwalk next to the harbor and look at the yachts and fishing boats floating in the marina.
Wulai is the closest aboriginal township to Taipei City . Its residents are mainly the Atayal. In addition to the Atayal, Wulai is best known for its hot springs , waterfall, cable car and rail carts. The rail carts in Wulai were first used to transport timber but have now been transformed into a tourist attraction. Along the route visitors can take in the beautiful scenery of the gorges and valleys of Wulai. At the end of the railroad the visitors are taken to the Wulai waterfall. Visitors can take the cable car to the top of the fall, where Yun Hsian Holiday Resort is located. About 5 kilometers from the Wulai waterfall is the Neidong Forest Recreation Area, which is a great place for hiking, bird-watching, and water activities in the creek. Along the main street of Wulai Town stands a crowded market where visitors can sample authentic Atayal dishes such as bamboo rice, stir-fried wild boar, deep-fried creek shrimp and millet wine.
Jioufen & Jinguashih
Jioufen is an old hillside town of long narrow alleys, winding stone steps, teahouses and restaurants. Jinguashih used to be a gold mining town and nowadays is famous for its beautiful scenery and the remains of the gold mine. Both places have become very popular with film and TV commercial directors in Taiwan thanks to their old-world feel. The movie“A City of Sadness”by Hou Hsiao-hsien, winner of the Golden Lion at the Venice Film Festival in 1989, was shot in Jioufen.
Attractions in Jioufen and Jinguashih include Taiwan 's first theater, the Sheng-ping Theater, the Jioufen Museum of Stones, the Gold Mining Museum, and Fushan Temple, which is over 200 years old. Or you can just nip into one of Jioufen's many teahouses to try the fragrant Chinese tea and local snacks such as taro or yam cakes and herbal sticky rice cakes.
Looking down from Jioufen into the far away sea, you can see two distinctly different colors in the seawater. Local people call this “the Yin and Yang Sea ”, and it is caused by the mineral-rich water of Jinguashih Stream flowing into the sea.
Yilan is on the northeast coast of Taiwan. Famous scenic spots in Yilan include the offshore Gueishan Islet, an ideal surfing spot, Honeymoon Bay in Dasi, the Dongshan River Recreation Area, Suao Cold Spring, Jiaosi and Renze Hot Springs, the National Center for Traditional Arts, and the Taipingshan Forest Recreation Area.
Yilan is also known for its delicious local foods, which at first may seem a bit strange, even adventurous to foreign visitors. Four dishes in particular — Yanggeng (red bean jellies made with Suao cold spring water), Yashang (duck smoked with sugar cane pulp), Dangan (sun-dried marinated pork liver), and Mijian (candied fruits) — are called the four treasures of Yilan. In addition, Yilan has also become famous for its hot spring vegetables in recent years.
Taoyuan & Hsinchu
The CKS International Airport is located in Taoyuan, making the city the international gateway to Taiwan. Dasi in Taoyuan is where the Northern Cross-Island Highway begins. The Highway connects Taoyuan and Hsinchu counties with Eastern Taiwan. The route is graced with wonderful natural scenery and aboriginal villages. Dasi Old Street, Shihmen Reservoir, Ronghua Reservoir, Yeheng Terrace Fields, Baling and the thousand-year-old Taiwan False Red Cypresses in Lala Mountain are just a few of the famous attractions strung along the highway.
Hsinchu is known as the silicon valley of Taiwan. Many world-class computer manufacturers and high-tech firms are based in the Hsinchu Science Park Hsinchu is also best known among locals for its great-tasting rice noodles and meat ball soup. Hukou Old Street, the nearby tea farms and the Neiwan Scenic Area are all great spots for a leisurely stroll to soak up the nostalgic atmosphere of old Taiwan, have a rest, and enjoy some fine Taiwanese teas.