2 days isn’t exactly the most decent amount of time to really immerse yourself in a new city like Taipei, but there is definitely enough time to get a good feel for it…
Two days is all it takes to fall in love with a city (theory tested by yours truly).
Taipei is a busy mix of Chinese, Japanese and Taiwanese culture. It is fast paced, the air is sticky, the food is intriguing, and it is unlike anywhere I have ever been before… I just loved it! After our two-full-day trip to Taipei with AirAsia in May, I have made a pact with myself to get back there to further explore what we didn’t have time for this time around. Although a short little trip, we did manage to get a good grasp of what the city was about, and how to tackle it the next time we visit.
If you are heading over soon, or if you have plans to one day make the 5 hour flight from KL, I have put together a little guide on some of the things that we found (and loved) while we were in Taipei.
WHERE TO STAY
With only 3 nights and 2 days to explore, we opted for a simple yet beautiful AirBnB in Da’an. The last thing we wanted to do was absorb all of our time in Taipei by trying to utilise the hotel amenities. Da’an is typically known as an expat area. As such, you can find a lot of cool bars, funky restaurants and cute little boutiques about. Being a more residential area, you can really get a feel for living like a local, all with the convenience of being only 2 metro stops away from Taipei 101 in Xinyi.
Xinyi is a great area to stay if you are looking to be right in the thick of all the hustle and bustle. This district is high-end and expensive, much like a Marina Bay or Bukit Bintang. Home to the iconic Taipei 101 building, Xinyi attracts a lot of tourists. It is boasts a huge luxury shopping centre, and also a younger, more lively shopping and food precinct. If you have plans to hike up Elephant Mountain, Xinyi is just one stop away from the MRT station at the base.
If you are after some hustle and bustle without quite the same price tag, Ximending may be a good option. Ximending has always been known as a bit of a hub for budget shopping, and it is full of cinemas, theatre and karaoke. It is also not far from Tamsui Old Street and the old ports of Taipei.
WHERE TO SHOP
If you are wanting the full luxury experience, there is no denying that the Taipei 101 Mall is where you need to be. They have every luxury brand under the sun covered, as well as a Zara for good measure.
For something a little younger (and more affordable), ATT 4 Fun is a great place to stop. There are 11 floors of fashion stores, food and bars to explore, and a heap of fun entertainment on the ground floor. It was super fun to walk about on Saturday night!
The Sogo department stores (yes, there are two of them across the road from each other!) are another main shopping destination in Taipei. Again, there are around 11 floors in each building, selling everything from electronics and kidswear, to ladies and mens fashion.
If you are looking for some real bargain buys, the night markets are the place to be. As the night markets aren’t just for the tourists (most locals eat out and shop at the night markets too), you can find some real winners in the stores lining the streets. There are a lot of phone case stores (with the cutest cases ever!), but there are also clothing and shoe stores worth taking a gander in. There are night markets all about Taipei, but the Shi Lin and Tonghua markets are the most popular tourist markets.
WHERE TO EAT
On the topic of night markets, you absolutely can not miss paying them a visit for a meal! There is so much on offer at the markets – including the infamous stinky tofu – that you could easily eat there every night if you please. Unsurprisingly, it is also one of the cheapest ways to eat while you are over there.
For a traditional Taiwanese breakfast – read: fried bread sticks, soy milk and pancakes – you must pay YongHe Soy Milk a visit. Unfortunately there was very little that I could actually eat there myself (the glutard life!) but you could see just how popular this unassuming place was with the locals. Watching them prepare all of the dough before your eyes had to be the highlight of this little spot!
For more traditional Taiwanese food (the beef noodle soup) and Chinese dumplings, don’t miss Din Tai Fung.
Another spot I really wanted to visit but missed out on (you must book all restaurants well in advance if you are going out over the weekend) was San Ho Yan. There are a few San Ho Yan stores about Taipei, and they are known for their incredibly instagrammable dumplings and steam buns. If steam buns that look like toadstools are your jam, then please go and see this place for me!
As with all major cities, there really are a million and one places that you can go and eat – from street food to high end. Some of the most noted fine dining restaurants in Taipei include RAW, Nomura and Mume… and you guessed it, we missed out on these ones too as you have to book about a month in advance! Had the trip been not so last minute, we might have had the time to book in, but there is always next time!
Bars worth mentioning (for those who love a good quality tipple)…
Ounce – A speakeasy style bar that you definitely need to book to get in to!
MoD – For the Japanese whisky enthusiasts
Alchemy – A gorgeous cocktail bar just across the road from Taipei 101
WHAT TO SEE
There is literally SO much to see in what seems like such a small city! In the space of 2 days, we managed to fit in visits to some of the shopping precincts I mentioned, the night markets, Tamsui Old Street, Taipei 101, Huashan Creative Park and the Lin An Tai Historical House – all well worth the visit. Some of the destinations we didn’t quite get to cross of the list were The Grand Hotel, The National Palace Museum and the Chiang Kai-shek Memorial Hall. If I had the time, I would have loved to do a day trip out to the Kavalan whisky distillery (out in the lush green country side of Taiwan), and Fulong Beach or Kenting.
I could literally go on for days about what there is to see and do in Taipei!
Of all of the places we did get to see, the Historical House, Creative Park and Tamsui Old Street had to be my favourite. The old street was full of so much history and culture, and it was fun to trawl through all of the different herbs and medicines they had for sale. It did get a little repetitive after a while though, so strolling through the weekend market was a fun break!
Although obviously both very different from one another, the historical house and creative park were beautiful, lush spaces in the middle of an urban environment. The greenery and architecture was all very calming, even if there were aeroplanes flying right overhead at Lin An Tai! It was some welcome greenery in a built up city.
HOW TO GET AROUND
Taipei is actually a very easy city to navigate. They have a sprawling MRT system that will take you from one end of the city to the other, and another MRT set up to service Taoyuan airport. Most of the signs at the stations have English translations too, just to help out those who can’t read traditional Chinese characters!
The bus network is a little harder to navigate than the MRT, but if you have google maps you can easily plan your bus journey out. HOT TIP: Get a 5 day unlimited data simcard at the airport when you land ($300TWD = $13.50) so you can easily access your maps if need be. If you are really feeling like an adventure, you can hire a Ubike from any of the Ubike stands around the city to get you to your destination.
You can pick up an Easy Card from any of the MRT stations for $100TWD ($4.50AUD) and top these up with credit to use on the MRT, bus, UBike and even the 7Eleven! It is far easier than counting out coins at every station, and it saves you a percentage on your fare at the gates too.
Of course, if public transport isn’t your thing, Uber is well and truly alive in Taipei too!
Phew, so there you have it, a quick guide to what I got to see, do and learn in 2 days in Taipei! I would love to hear anyone else’s recommendations or stories for next time I visit!