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Flattening The Curve
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Credit: Pohtecktoes & Klook
August 2017

 

Taipei. One of our favourite travel destinations in Asia. Most of us visit for the shopping and food – sticking to the usual hotspots, not venturing far from places like Ximending (西門町), Shilin (士林) and the famed Yongkang Food Street (永康街). I must admit that this happened on my previous two trips to Taiwan too.

But after meeting a couple of Taiwanese friends on our travels, I realised there’s much more to Taipei and Taiwan than shopping and eating (买东西,吃东西). Eating is still a BIG part, but so are the scenic outdoors, culture, and stories behind the different towns on the outskirts of Taipei. Even for the touristy stuff, we found that there are often more interesting and local ways of experiencing them differently. 

 

 

So, here’s our 4D3N insider Taipei itinerary to make the most out of your trip here.  


Day 1: Rediscover Taipei City

Arriving in Taipei

We flew in to Taipei from Singapore via Jetstar, arriving at Taoyuan International Airport, at 6.00am, giving us a full day ahead to explore. 

 

 

 

WIFI/4G Connectivity:

While there’s free (but slow) Wi-Fi at the airport and numerous hotspots around the city, nothing beats having the convenience of Google at your fingertips. We used the 4G SIM cards which gave us unlimited data and connectivity even in the mountainous regions!

 

Getting to the city:

The most common and cheapest option is via the metro (NT$160 or ~S$7.20). But for just S$2 more, you can carpool from the airport to your accommodation directly in the comfort of a car – no need to lug your luggage around.  


Eating local in Taipei

Fu Hang Soy Milk 


The queue for this stretches to the ground floor 

 

First agenda of the day – food! We headed straight to Fu Hang Soy Milk (阜杭豆漿), a breakfast spot popular with both locals and tourists. The unique salty soy milk and crispy dough sticks are hot favourites, though we heard the egg crepes were pretty good too.

 

Fu Hang Soy Milk (阜杭豆漿)

Price: ~NT$25-60

Address: 100, Taiwan, Taipei City, Zhongzheng District, Section 1, Zhongxiao East Road, 108號

Opening Hours: 
5.30am – 12.30pm
Closed on Monday

*Protip: Arrive before opening hours if you can. We queued for 30 minutes (at about 9.00am) and heard it could have been longer.   


Lin Dong Fang Beef Noodles (林東芳牛肉麵)

 

Cool creative district with many galleries, cute shops, and photography spots.

 

After a short walk around Huashan 1914 Creative Park, it was back to eating as we hunted down one of the best beef noodles in Taipei. Most people go to Yongkang Beef Noodles, but we headed the other direction in search of a local friend’s recommendation instead.

 

 

Tucked in a shabby looking shop along Bade Road is Lin Dong Fang Beef Noodles (林東芳牛肉麵). All I can say is that we weren’t disappointed. The beef was rich and super tender, and I especially love how their chilli oil is made out of beef grease, which complements the broth super well. Don’t spend too long sitting around or taking pictures though. The shop auntie (大姐) will definitely get impatient with you – the hallmark of a local food joint, I guess.

 

Lin Dong Fang Beef Noodles (林東芳牛肉麵)

Price: NT$140-230 per bowl
(Note: The small bowl is a pretty big portion)

Address: No. 274, Section 2, Bade Road, Zhongshan District, Taipei City, Taiwan 10491

Opening hours:
11.00am – 4.00am
Closed on Sunday


Roji Shaved Ice (路地 氷の怪物 – 市民大道店)

 

Then we were off for some desserts at Roji Monster Ice (路地 氷の怪物 – 市民大道店). This snow ice joint took Taichung by storm and recently opened up a branch in Taipei. I mean with its Instagrammable too cute to eat shaved ice (please eat it, it’s delicious) and unique toppings, it’s no wonder why.

 

Roji Shaved Ice (路地 氷の怪物 – 市民大道店)

Price: NT$130-200
Min. of 1 order per pax 

Address: 106, Taiwan, Taipei City, Da’an District, 市民大道四段10號

Opening Hours:
11.00am – 11.00pm


Experiencing Taipei 101 differently

Taipei 101


View from the top of Taipei 101

 

No visit to Taipei would be complete without visiting the iconic Taipei 101. Instead of heading straight to the top, check out the highest Starbucks in the world.

 

 

Located on Level 35 of Taipei 101, this secret Starbucks even requires you to make a reservation a day in advance (by phone: +886 2 8101 0701) due to its recent popularity. I must say it was quite cool having a cup of coffee so high up.

 

*Protip: Buy your Taipei 101 tickets in advance as it is cheaper than purchasing it on the spot. Get it online here


 Elephant Mountain

 

The part that many of us miss though, is the view of Taipei 101 together with the rest of the city. Just a couple of minutes by foot from Taipei 101 is Elephant Mountain (象山). It’s a bit of a climb up the hill (15-20 minutes from the bottom of the trail), but if 60-year-old uncles and aunties can climb those steps, I don’t see why we can’t! I assure you the views are worth it.

 

*Protip: Bring water. The only shops are on the road leading towards the start of the trail.  


Tong Hua Night Market – The local’s choice

 

 

After the short climb, it’s time to reward ourselves at the night market. We headed to Tong Hua Night Market (通化夜市), also known as Lin Jiang Street Night Market near Taipei 101.

It’s not as big as Shilin Night Market or Raohe Night Market, but it’s less touristy and more frequented by locals. I mean, it doesn’t matter how big a night market is. Even if you are in a group, there will be tons of shops selling the same food to cater to your limited stomach your limited stomach capacity. At Tong Hua Night Market, you get a similar experience with a more manageable crowd.

 

 

Be sure to try the unassuming and simple Ice Fire Dumpling (御品元冰火湯圓-台北總店). The refreshing hot sesame/peanut tang yuen on shaved ice is very popular amongst locals. Perfect after all the street food in the night market.

 


Ice Fire Dumpling – Tang Yuen on shaved ice

 

Ice Fire Dumpling (御品元冰火湯圓-台北總店)

Address: No. 31, Alley 50, Lane 39, Tonghua Street, Da’an District, Taipei City

Opening hours: 6.00pm – 12.00am (weekdays), 5.30pm – 12.00am (weekends)  


Accommodation in Taipei

Flip Flop Hostel Main

 

Flip Flop Hostel is the epitome of budget-but-not-too-shabby accommodation. Clean, modern, and an unbeatable location just 5 minutes by foot from Taipei Main Station. The dorms also have personal lockers so you won’t have to worry about your valuables. There are private rooms for those who want a little more privacy too.

People often ask why we prefer hostels, and the answer is simple. It’s cheaper so you can spend more on experiences (and eating) instead. Hostels are also a great way to socialise and get information too.

 

Price: 6-bed dorm at NT$600/night (S$27)

Official Website: Flip Flop Hostel 


Day 2: Exploring Shifen, Jiufen, North Coast

Motorcycle Tour

 

Day trips out of Taipei are common, but on a motorcycle? That’s a first! When we found out there was a motorcycle tour to the places we wanted to visit, we knew we had to make this the highlight of the trip. What better way to explore the outskirts of Taipei than on the locals’ choice of transportation? 

Note: You will be riding pillion with an experienced rider, so don’t worry about not having a motorcycle license.

 

 

When we saw our guides turn up at our hostel in the morning with their shiny customised bikes, we knew we were in for an awesome day. Turns out these guys are actually local bike enthusiasts who banded together to provide an alternative experience for the more adventurous.

To be honest, we were a little hesitant at first. But our guides Ah Wei, Darren, and Edward were very professional and always kept our safety in mind. Only after we were comfortable did they try to make our ride more fun.  

Find out more about the Taipei motorcycle tour here.


Charm of Shifen Old Street (十分老街)

 

Our first proper stop was at Shifen Old Street (十分老街), a marketplace near the train station where people can release Sky Lanterns with well wishes on them. The railway track between the two rows of shops are still in service, which makes for an interesting sight when the train approaches and everyone scurries out of the way.

It’s mainly a tourist town now, but we still found it charming with all the xiaochi (snacks) and mountainside scenery.

 

 

 

Nearby is the impressive cascading Shifen Waterfall (十分大瀑布), Taiwan’s widest waterfall, which some have nicknamed it Taiwan’s Niagara Falls.


Eating in Jiufen Old Street (九份老街)

 

We were then off to the village of Jiufen, a formal gold mining town which inspired the setting for Miyazaki’s 2001 film Spirited Away. This day it’s another popular day trip destination where people come to feast on Taiwanese snacks and food.

 

 

Wild Boar Taiwanese Sausage and the adorable shop owner at Wu Di Wild Boar Sausage (無敵黑豬肉香腸). Please try the double sausage and rice in sausage too. 

 

 

The queues can be long, but A-Zhu Peanut Ice Cream Roll (九份阿珠雪在燒) is another must-try here at Jiufen.


Scenic North Coast

 

 

It was then a nice scenic ride along the coast, with the sea on one side and mountains on the other. Eventually, we ended up at Shen Ao Elephant Rock (深澳岬角), which has a pretty distinctive feature that looks like an elephant’s trunk.

The best part of the tour though, wasn’t the sights. And it also wasn’t about feeling cool riding through the city and countryside. The best part was actually the warmth and sincerity of our guides. They’re a very fun bunch, always eager to accommodate, and have an interesting outlook on life. They showed us their life, and brought us to smaller spots along the way. There was even a secret photo spot recommended by our tour leader Ah Wei, where we had to ride slowly through the narrow winding roads up the mountain.

 


Secret photo-taking spot

 

It may sound like a cliché, but we met as strangers and parted as friends. I guess that’s the beauty of travel – meeting people from another part of the world, and leaving with a warm heart and more open mind. For those with an adventurous spirit, this motorcycle tour is something you definitely have to experience.

They have a couple of predetermined routes, but the guys are flexible and open to suggestions. For us, we booked their 8-hour Maniac Tour & 4-hour Dusk Tour, and combined it into a super long customised tour.

 

*Protip: Use the chat app LINE to work out the plan with the tour leader before your trip. You will receive the contact details after booking the tour. Do request for an English-speaking guide if your Mandarin isn’t too fluent! And if motorcycles aren’t your thing, there are cheap and convenient shuttle buses that can bring you to explore the outskirts of Taipei too.


Day 3: Beitou Hot Spring & Keelung Port City

Beitou – The local hot spring town


Lots of gas that day at Beitou Thermal Valley

 

Took a convenient MRT ride to Xinbeitou to explore the hot spring town. It’s a sleepy town, with key sights like Thermal Valley (地熱谷), the Hot Spring Museum, and Public Library to slowly explore.

The highlight though, was a visit to a local hot spring called Xinbeitou Public Hot Springs/Millennium Springs (新北投千禧湯露天溫泉). For NT$40 each, we soaked for 2 hours, alternating between the hot and cold pools - perfect after the previous day’s activities. Do remember to bring proper swimwear, as board shorts and FBTs are not allowed.


 Man Lai Hot Spring Ramen (滿來溫泉拉麵)

 We then had a late lunch at Man Lai Hot Spring Ramen (滿來溫泉拉麵), well-known for their Taiwanese-style ramen, hot spring eggs, and tofu. Avoid meal times if you don’t want to queue for too long!

 

 

 

Man Lai Hot Spring Ramen (滿來溫泉拉麵)

Price: Ramen NT$150-220, sides NT$30-150
Address: No. 1-8, Zhongshan Road, Beitou District, Taipei City, Taiwan 112
Opening hours:
11.30am – 9.00pm 
*Protip: Order the fried tofu and the staff will ask you to play a secret game for a small discount! 


Underrated Keelung

 

After half a day in Beitou, we headed back to Taipei for our bags and left straight for Keelung via a local train for NT$41 (~S$1.80).

Keelung is a port city that is probably past its golden days. A strategic fort in the past, it’s now better known for food and the 24-hour Miao Kou Night Market (廟口夜市) that rivals the night markets of Taipei. Most stalls close by 11.00pm, but the stalls have a rotation system to make sure there are enough places open to support the people in the fishing industry who work all night.

 

The beautiful Peace Island (和平島公園), which was a short bus/taxi ride from the town centre.   


 Keelung Lien Cheng Bakery (基隆連珍餅店)

 

Do also check out Keelung Lien Cheng Bakery (基隆連珍餅店) for their awesome yam balls as well. Taiwanese celebrity Xiǎo S visited once and said it was one of the best bakeries she had ever been to.

 

Keelung Lien Cheng Bakery (基隆連珍餅店)

Address: No. 42, Aier Road, Ren’ai District, Keelung City, Taiwan 200

Opening hours:
8.00am – 9.00pm


Keelung Midnight Fish Market

 

While most people visit Keelung for day trips, the real gem lies in what happens after hours. Kanziding Fish Market (崁仔頂漁市場) is the biggest wholesale seafood market in Northern Taiwan. Chefs from as far as Taichung supposedly come here for the best fresh produce.

Wanting to understand the culture and famous fish auction better, we went on a local midnight fish market walking tour that currently only runs every Thursday.

 


Checking out a secret alley

 

 The wireless earpiece was a nice touch as it allowed us to hear our guide even if we wandered off or the environment was too noisy.

What made the tour special though, was the interaction with the locals. Most tours usually bring you to places where people are trying to sell you things. However, the ones on this tour were very authentic. From a whiskey bar owner sharing local drinking culture, to the veteran fish auctioneer who showed us the nuances of the auction game, they simply wanted to share their knowledge and love for Keelung! 

Find out more about the Keelung Midnight Fish Market adventure here.

 


With our veteran fish auctioneer on the left

 

After the tour, we couldn’t resist getting some fresh sashimi at Zhutian (朱添鮮魚號).

 


Fresh from the seafood market

 

Zhutian (朱添鮮魚號)
Address: 200, Taiwan, Keelung City, Ren’ai District, Rensi Road, 45號號
Opening hours: 3.00am – 6.00pm 


Accommodation in Keelung

Yung Feng Hotel (永豐旅店)

 

Yung Feng Hotel is pretty basic. But at just two minutes on foot to Miao Kou Night Market, and five minutes on foot to the Fish Market, the location is perfect for exploring Keelung.

Price: Quadruple room at NT$1780 or NT$445/pax (~S$20)

 


Day 4: Yehliu Geopark & Taipei City

Touristy but spectacular Yehliu


Booked a 4-seater but got upgraded!

 

The next day, we headed back to Taipei and dropped our bags at the lockers in Taipei Main Station. Before taking a 4hr private car charter to visit Yehliu Geopark and its surroundings. This was perfect as it allowed us to maximise our last day in Taipei instead of wasting time taking public transport.

 

 
The famous Queen’s Head Rock

 

 
Can you figure out what this is?

 

 

 Some of the rock formations do require some imagination, so come with an open mind. Nevertheless, it was very scenic.

 

*Protip: Try to visit when the park opens at 8.00am in the morning to avoid the crowds. We arrived too late and many of the tour buses were already there. 


Day 5: Rounding up Taipei

San Ho Yan

Lunch at San Ho Yan (參和院), a local chain restaurant that serves Taiwanese and Chinese dishes with a twist at a reasonable price.

 

 
Top left to bottom right: Ma Po Tofu, Lu Rou Fan, cute Dim Sum, Fern with egg, sweet potato and fried chicken, porcupine char sau bao

 

 

The food looked and tasted good. Especially loved the cute dim sum dishes.

San Ho Yan (參和院)
Address: No. 14, Lane 101, Section 4, Zhongxiao East Road, Da’an District, Taipei City
Opening hours: 11.30am – 12.00am


Tamed Fox Cafe

We then visited Tamed Fox Cafe for a break and some really Instagrammable food (looks better than it tastes). The cafe has a very nice vibe, and you can easily spend hours chilling there.

 

 

Tamed Fox

Address: No. 56, Lane 122, Section 4, Ren’ai Road, Da’an District, Taipei City
Opening hours: 
Monday - Wednesday & Friday: 8.00am – 5.00pm
Saturday - Sunday: 10.00am – 6.00pm
Closed on Thursday
*Protip: Buy a donut and drink to make your own Instagram creation

 


Snow King Ice Cream

 Finally, we ended our Taipei food hunt at the famous Snow King Ice Cream (雪王冰淇淋), which serves some really unique ice cream flavours. Their pork floss ice cream, really tasted like pork-floss in ice cream. Ask the staff for the popular flavours. Please don’t make the same mistake as us.

 

 

Snow King Ice Cream (雪王冰淇淋)
Address: 100, Taiwan, Taipei City, Zhongzheng District, Section 1, Wuchang St, 65號
Opening hours: 12.00pm – 8.00pm


It was then off to the airport by carpool, before collecting the food souvenirs we pre-ordered online at the airport. I liked how it was already packed into a box (we removed them for photos), so you can easily check the entire box in without having to worry about repacking. The more brittle snacks were also bubble-wrapped for extra protection.

We got Chia Te Bakery’s Pineapple Tarts, Kuai Che’s dried and crispy pork, and nougat from Sugar & Spice.


 


Cheap direct flights from Singapore to Taipei

 

There are many flights to Taipei from Singapore, but Jetstar offers pretty good value with its price and flight timings. They have up to two flights a day, and we chose the early morning flight there (arrives in Taipei at 6.00am), and an evening flight back (leaves Taipei at 8.20pm) to maximise our time in Taiwan. Annual leave is often in short supply, so such flight timings are very ideal! It’s also a direct flight, so there’s no time wasted changing flights or transiting in another country.

Useful Phrases (Taiwanese Min / Taiwanese Mandarin)

Most Taiwanese speak Mandarin, though the older ones speak the Taiwanese Min dialect — similar to Hokkien spoken in Singapore.
Hello/Greetings 你好 (lí-hó) / 你好 (nǐ hǎo)
Thank you 感謝 (kám-siā) / 謝謝 (xiè xie)
Cheers! (toasting) 呼乾啦! (ho͘ ta là!) / 乾杯! (gān bēi)
Sorry 歹勢 (phái-sè) / 對不起 (duì bù qǐ) or 抱歉 (bào qiàn)
Goodbye 再見 (chài-kiàn) / 再見 (zài jiàn)


Other Useful Information

Time zone of Taiwan: GMT +8 hours (Same as Singapore)
Telephone code: +886
Currency: NT$ – Taiwan New Dollar (NTD)
Power plug & socket outlet: Types A & B – 110V 60Hz

We hope you find our Taipei Itinerary useful!


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