The Taiwanese capital may sit low on the radar of many Australian travellers, but this vibrant city is one that will charm and surprise you.
If you’ve thought about Taiwan at all, it’s possible you associate it with cheap toys and clothes. Modern Taipei has great shopping – combining new department stores and malls with winding cobbled backstreets lined with trendy boutiques full of quality goods.
Getting around Taipei is cheap and easy on the MRT (Taipei Metro). Buy an Easy Card to avoid buying tickets every time you want to travel. Don’t miss the amazing interior of the Formosa Boulevard Station in Kaohsiung City, with its jaw-dropping ‘Dome of Light’.
The most famous temple in Taipei is the Longshan Temple, dedicated to the Goddess of Mercy. Join the crowds in the incense-filled courtyards and soak up the atmosphere. Other attractions include the Jianguo Holiday Flower Market and adjacent Jade Market with its gleaming wares and smiling traders, and the Chiang Kai-shek Memorial Hall.
The National Palace Museum, which has one of the world’s largest collections of ancient Chinese artefacts and artwork, is one of the top four museums in the world. But be warned, it is hugely popular with Taiwanese people and the queues are long.
On a clear day, head to the observation deck at the top of Taipei 101, the city’s tallest building. Then head downstairs for steaming dumplings and dim sum at Din Tai Fung. In the glass-walled kitchen, chefs work frantically to create the morsels that have made it one of Taiwan’s most famous restaurants.
For a lunch or dinner at one of Taiwan’s top noodle restaurants, head to Silks Palace (next to the National Palace Museum), in the luxury Regent Taipei Hotel. Indulge in a nine-course Imperial Treasures Feast or an elegantly simple award-winning beef noodle dish.
Families travelling with children can splash out with a night at Taipei’s Grand Hi-Lai Hotel, which has several Hello Kitty themed rooms and suites. Think pretty and very pink! There are even a Hello Kitty car and bikes to borrow.
Before your trip to Taipei
This app offers Apple and Android smartphone users direct access to information (in English) about attractions, accommodation ranging from five-star luxury hotels to Taiwan’s huge choice of B&Bs and homestays, dining, travel service centres and public transport. A Location Search gives directions and other information on places of interest. The app also features an augmented reality Goldfinger Direction Guide to help visitors find their way to nearby attractions, with the help of a virtual guide.
Download the free app
You can now also connect to free wifi all over Taiwan through 4400 hotspots around the country. Tourists can apply for an iTaiwan account at the Taiwan Tourism Bureau service counter on arrival at Taoyuan International Airport or at any visitor centre.