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*I spent 5 days in Taipei in August 2014 and I really loved it! In this blog post, I am going to give you an overview of the city, and provide travel tips and recommendations for things like culture, attractions, food, nightlife and more.
Everything you read is based off my own experiences.
Taipei definitely made the cut for one of the best cities in Asia. This place is crazy.
I felt like Taipei was a mix between Hong Kong and Saigon. It related to Hong Kong in regards to the advanced electronics, business craziness and similar heritage of people (most came from mainland China). And it related to Saigon with the various food dishes, millions of mopeds on the streets, and the frequent rainy weather.
And oh yeah, speaking of weather, Taiwan is REALLY hot and humid. I went in August (probably the worst month to go), and walking outside felt like a sauna.
What I really liked about Taipei was how safe everything was. I always felt comfortable in the environment, and that is very important to me as a traveler. It was also extremely easy to get around, as Taipei is known to have one of the most efficient public transportation systems in the world.
Taiwan, as an island, is pretty unique. It’s tropical. Taipei is situated in the very north of the island, but you can take a short hour long bus down south and it looks like you’re right in the jungle. I took a half-day trip to this pristine fresh water lake and it was amazing.
Much like Macau and Hong Kong, Taiwan is “technically” considered as part of China, but it really is its own country. Taiwan has it’s own currency, national flag, laws, unique dialect, and national pride. Don’t ever confuse Taiwanese people with mainland Chinese people, because they will be offended.
Alright, let’s dive into some quick facts:
– Currency: New Taiwan Dollar (TWD)
– Language: Mandarin Chinese
– Population: 2.7 million (city), 7 million (metro)
– Taiwan island is about the size of Massachusetts
– Taipei is the capital and largest city in Taiwan
– The metropolitan area is composed of 3 districts: Taipei, New Taipei and Keelung
– Taiwanese people are made up of 98% Han Chinese and 2% native aborigines.
– It was founded in the early 18th century for shipping and trade
– The Taipei 101 skyscraper has 101 floors above ground, 61 different elevators and is 509 meters tall
– Taipei has a large variety of Buddhist, Taoist and Chinese Folk temples
– The national sport in Taiwan is baseball
Culture and People
Taiwanese culture is pretty interesting. Most ancestry came from the Han Chinese- who are from the mainland China.
Only a very small percentage of people actually come from Taiwan island (less than 2% of total population). The language is Mandarin, so at first glance, you might consider Taiwan to be very similar to China. But it’s really not- even though they have many of the same traditions.
I noticed that the majority of young Taiwanese people are into Japanese and Korean pop culture. And Taiwanese are open and friendly to foreigners. They have strong national pride and consider themselves to be unique and separate.
The people were reserved, and surprisingly well-behaved. In fact, I think they were the most well-mannered Eastern asians that I came across. In almost every other big Eastern Asian city that I’ve been to, I’ve seen many people spitting big loogies on the street, puffing cigarettes like there’s no tomorrow, and other disgusting bodily habits. But in Taipei, I saw none of that.
Everyone was very friendly and polite. Also, Taipei is extremely safe, which is really nice to keep in mind because you never have to worry about anything. Taiwan is actually voted the second safest country to live in recent years.
I was a bit surprised to find out that not much English was spoken by the locals. For such a global and relevant worldwide city, English should be widely spoken and understood by everyone.
How is Taiwanese Food? Don’t even get me started… I ate myself full until I couldn’t breathe.
The food is authentic, dirt cheap and beyond tasty. I put Taipei in my “top 3” eating cities in Asia, along with Singapore and Hong Kong.
Taiwanese food is mostly derived from southern provinces of China. However, there is also a Japanese influence because Taiwan was under Japanese rule for a period of time. Most common ingredients to Taiwanese dishes are pork, chicken, seafood, rice, and soy. Beef isn’t as common, although one of Taiwan’s most notable dishes is beef noodles (it’s so good!).
And there are lots of seasonings and spices available, which add a nice flavor to your dish. You can find soy sauce, rice wine, sesame oil, chili peppers, cilantro and more.
Given that Taiwan is a tropical country, the fruit is particularly fresh and delicious. My favorite fruits that I had were papaya, bananas, citrus and watermelon. They are so cheap and you can buy them from any market or street vendor.
One of the best worldwide dishes that you can get is in Taipei, and it’s soup-filled dumplings. You can get them at a Michelin starred restaurant called Din Tai Fung. Some of my other favorite dishes were beef noodles, hot star fried chicken and baozi.
Oh, and bubble tea is from Taiwan! There are more bubble tea places than I can count around the city. I drank it twice a day everyday when I was in Taipei.
For a more complete list, check out my post on Top 8 Taiwanese Foods!
What to Do?
You can never run out of Things to do in Taipei! Shopping in this city is absolutely insane. So many stores, malls and markets everywhere.
The Taipei 101 skyscraper is spectacular, and worth going to the top to see the view. This building was the tallest in the world from 2004-2010, is the most LEED Certified building in the world and has the fastest elevator in the world. It’s mind-blowingly awesome.
But my ultimate favorite thing to do in Taipei was visit a night market!! There are a handful of world famous night markets that are packed with people on every night of the week. It’s like a carnival happens every night. I didn’t really shop much but walking around and experiencing the madness was a great experience.
Night markets are also street food paradise. I tried lots of new dishes, and I was incredibly satisfied.
For a complete list, check out my post 10 Things to do in Taipei.
The nightlife in Taipei was really fun!
Despite Taiwanese people not being known to be big drinkers, there were surprisingly lots of bars and clubs around the city. The main districts for nightlife are zhongxiao dunhua, ATT 4 Fun and some areas around the Shilin Nightmarket.
What I liked most about Taiwanese nightlife were the “all you can drink” lounges. You just pay a fixed price at the door (usually around $20USD) and you can get unlimited drinks at the bar! I went to one and it was a lot of fun. Also, many buffet- style restaurants have all you drink beer. Why doesn’t every city have this?!
Most places close around 3-4, so Taipei is not a “party until the sun rises” city. But nonetheless, it’s worth going to all of the fun bars and clubs around town! You will probably notice a large majority of venues are packed with foreigners, as opposed to Taiwanese people. I’m sure there are underground places where all the locals go, but I never found them!
Check out my Video that I made in Taipei!
*Thanks for reading, and don’t forget to book your hotels on this link 🙂