In the previous post I covered some basic information and first part of our Perfect trip to Taiwan: 15 days itinerary Here is the other part, that mainly focuses on our time in Kaohsiung and Taipei, with some of the places that are still on my Taiwan bucket list, and you might be able to fit them into your itinerary. I’ve seen even shorter itineraries that managed to get all around the island, but we just didn’t feel like packing and leaving every day, so we stayed longer in some of the places, but it is possible to squeeze in a lot more in that time frame.
DAY 8: FO GUANG SHAN MONASTERY
On out second day in Kaohsiung we went out of the city to Fo Guang Shan Monastery, that is an important pilgrimage destination for Buddhists from Taiwan and abroad. Since our knowledge of Buddhism was very limited and basic, it was an interesting place to visit, as we got to learn so much about it and being able to spend a day in a wonderful and peaceful surrounding.
We didn’t have many plans for the afternoon that day, so we went back to Kaohsiung, got something to eat at a little food place hidden among the skyscrapers of the city, wandered around the markets and checked out Central Park as it was getting dark. I love Taiwanese cities in the dark, as they light up.
DAY 9: ARCHITECTURE & ART, LOTUS POND
Some days we take very easy and don’t worry much about seeing everything, but rather focusing on experiencing different things and just wandering around. This was not one of those days.
We started our day by checking out how amazing 85 Sky Tower looks like, and then checking out the Kaohsiung Main Public Library. If libraries are not something you usually put on your list of places to visit, you should start doing that. They are calm, usually have wi-fi and air conditioning, seats to relax and books to check out (even though these were all in Chinese so I was just looking at pictures) and the architecture is amazing. Don’t forget to go to the rooftop, where you will find a lovely garden and great views, also over to the Kaohsiung Exhibition center which was next on our list of places to see for the day.
We then took a metro to Kaohsiung Arena Stations as we wanted to see the outstanding architecture of Guomao Community, where we enjoyed ice tea in the inner garden between two half circle shaped apartment buildings. And we came across these huge bad boys on the tree. Can’t imagine being too comfortable sitting under that tree.
Our bellies were calling and we hurried to the Lotus Pond to find something to eat there, before exploring this lovely place with temples and pagodas. We went to some local restaurant, where we faced another language barrier problem, but overcame it and got the best beef noodle soup we could ever imagine. It was so much easier to walk around the Lotus Pond and checking out firstly Dragon and Tiger Pagodas, where you have to enter through dragon’s mouth and come out from the tiger’s mouth to get rid of your bad luck and get some more of the good one. And who are we to fight against the ancient Chinese beliefs?
You will be able to visit many other temples and pagodas around the lake, it is also possible to do some water sports there or just enjoy walking around. Our next stop was Rueifong Night Market, but because we were too early we stopped in a corner cafe for some cake and ice tea, but ended up getting big black coffee, which we don’t drink. Language barriers are real things in Taiwan, if you don’t speak the right language, which is not English.
There were still two more places we wanted to fit in that day and one of them turned out to not be lit up, as we had hoped it will be (National Kaohsiung Center for the Arts-Weiwuying)and the other one, Dadong Arts Center, was and it was so amazing. If you have an opportunity to see this place come in the evening, when its getting dark so you will get to see colourful installations inside. You can also visit the library inside.
For more information and photos from Kaohsiung check out one my previous posts: Kaohsiung’s wonders.
DAY 10: PIER 2 CENTER, NEW TAIPEI CITY
We saved Pier 2 Art Center for our last day in Kaohsiung. I love searching for interesting street art in the places I visit and in Kaohsiung you will easily find some really cool ones at Pier 2 Art Center, a former warehouses, which is now turned into shops, galleries, walls are painted and there are some cool sculptures and installations. There is also one shop with cats living in it, and they are so adorable. We bought some postcards there as souvenirs.
With one last passing by the Dome of Light at the Formosa Boulevard metro station we took the Taiwanese HSR from Zuoying station to Taipei main station. At speed around 300 km/h we reached Taipei in 1h 30 min.
We were so excited about coming to Taipei, as we had booked 2 night in a Star Wars inspired capsule hostel, which turned out to be not so spectacular as we first thought. But it did make for a lovely way to take some selfies and we only had 2 night there and then we moved to a much more comfortable Airbnb.
Even though we did bring some snacks on a train, we were quite hungry when we finally reached the hostel and get settled so another food hunt began and we ended up ordering a huge hot pot with seafood and meat and we couldn’t finish it in the end. It was the most expensive meal we had there, I think it was around 30 EUR. It was great, we probably looked extremely silly, but enjoyed it a lot. Next time we would probably share that with some more people.
DAY 11: SONGSHAN CULTURAL AND CREATIVE PARK, HISTORICAL MONUMENTS, 2/28 PEACE PARK, LUNGSHAN TEMPLE, XIMENDING
First full day in Taipei was more or less all about the culture and history. The first place we went to was Songshan Cultural and Creative Park, which is cultural center in the old warehouses, where we once again stumbled upon another exhibition by architecture students. I guess that is just a thing in mid May, when they present their projects to public, which is really nice. Also this place is quite amazing, it is old, industrial with lovely garden and surrounded by modern buildings. Love that mixture in cities.
Our next stop was National Dr. Sun Yat-Sen Memorial Hall, a memorial to the founder of modern China Dr. Sun Yat-Sen, where you can learn more about his life and achievements. We also saw a guard change there and caught a lovely view of the Taipei 101.
Another important and beautiful place in Taipei is Liberty Square, where you will find National Chiang Kai-shek Memorial Hall, a memorial to Chiang Kai-shek, who served as a leader of the Republic of China between 1928 and 1975, first in mainland China and then in Taiwan until his death. On Liberty Square are also National Theater and National Concert Hall and magnificent Liberty Square Arch.
Next we went to 2/28 Peace Memorial Park that contains memorials to victims of the February 28 Incident in 1947, when there was an anti-government uprising in Taiwan that was violently suppressed by the Kuomintang-led Republic of China government. There you will also find National Taiwan Museum that has very amazing permanent exhibition on the top floor, called Discovering Taiwan, that traces an age of discovery of Taiwan’s natural history, naturalists, and the foundation of museum’s collections.
From there we went to see Lungshan Temple, which is almost 300 years old and is a wonderful mix of the Taoist, Buddhist, and Confucian faiths, whereas most temples are dedicated to one religion.
We stayed in the neighborhood as we wanted to experience the Ximending in the night. So we walked around, checked out shops, and came across another important part of Taipei history Bopiliao Historical Block that portrays some of the oldest and most historical architectures in the modern city life of Taipei. Another example on how traditional and old can easily go hand in hand with modern. So as the sun set, we got into the maze of shops and restaurants, stalls, food, people and lights. Ximending is a perfect place to get some food, do some shopping, be around people and just have a great time in Taipei. We even got our portrait done there.
DAY 12: BEITOU, TAMSUI, SHILIN NIGHT MARKET
Our day started with finally moving out of uncomfortable hostel to cozy Airbnb where we stayed until the end of our trip. From there we went to Beitou to the so called Hell Valley, water can reach up to 100 degrees Celsius and has an amazing turquoise colour.
We continued our way to Tamsui, a charming coastal town where we wandered around and chatted with a guy that sold Turkish ice cream about his life in Taiwan and had lovely and very delicious lunch. Being so close to Taipei it makes it a perfect town to escape the bustling streets of the city, if you ever need to.
On our way back to the city, we first stopped to see Taipei Performing Arts Center (OMA), which was still under construction, but you could already see the potential it has to be an amazing building. We walked to the biggest and most famous night market in probably whole Taiwan, Shilin Night market. It was such a maze of stalls with food, clothes, toys, gadgets, people, smells, noise… I loved it. It can be overwhelming at first with all the food you can try, so I suggest you walk around for a while, grab something to drink or a bag of juiciest fruit and then decide what will be on your menu this night. I tried my first ever and probably last stinky tofu, which turned out to not be as gross as I expected, but still didn’t taste too good.
DAY 13: SHIFEN, JIUFEN, KEELUNG
We spend the whole day out of Taipei, exploring charming towns such as Shifen, where you will find the widest waterfall in Taiwan, Jiufen, that is one of the most adorable towns in Taiwan and Keelung where we treated ourselves on their night market.
Read more about this day and our trips out of Taipei in one of my previous posts, where you will also find all the info on how to get to these places: 5 amazing trips outside Taipei.
DAY 14: WHITESTONE GALLERY, NATIONAL TAIWAN UNIVERSITY, TAIPEI 101, ELEPHANT MOUNTAIN
First on our list for the day was an Whitestone Gallery, which is a beautiful art gallery with stunning wooden interior. From there we went to see National Taiwan University and wandered around the campus, checked out few buildings and library.
When you are in Taipei, you cannot miss Taipei 101. We first saw it on our second day in Taipei, and it looks so fascinating. On this day, we went to check it out from close, we checked the ground floor I think, where you can find restaurants and shops, but we didn’t go up to the observatory, because we had something better and free planned for the day. If you want a great view of Taipei with Taipei 101 included, you should go up the Elephant Mountain and see the city from above, while sun is setting. Of course we went very early and spend few hours up there, first waiting for sunset and then wait for the city to light up in the night. It is an easy and short walk uphill, bring water and maybe some snacks if you want to stay up there for longer. There is also a rock on which everyone wants to take a photo, but the line was already so long, we preferred to just save a spot and watch the city from there.
You can end your day in Taipei without some food, so on our way back to our Airbnb we stopped at Linjiang Street Night Market for some food and mandatory ice tea.
DAY 15: TAIPEI ZOO, RAOHE NIGHT MARKET, XIMENDING
Our last full day in Taipei we went to Taipei Zoo, which was at the top of my list ever since I learned you can see pandas there. I so wanted to see these animals, we had to stop at Panda house few times before going on with our day. Zoo is huge, in some places it felt like you are walking through the jungle and it seemed like animals had enough and appropriate space to move around. Plus I was so amazed when I saw how they are watering orchids, that were growing in some parts of the zoo by the paths – with hoses! I suggest you plan to visit zoo on a week day and in the morning to avoid all the crowds.
Another place we wanted to visit that is close to Taipei Zoo is Maokong, but the cable car was in renovation so it will just need to wait for another visit. We went to our Airbnb for a while to rest and pack a bit and then for the evening we went to another famous night market in Taiwan, Raohe Night market, where we also went for a little walk by the Keelung river and saw Rainbow bridge (what is it with naming so many things rainbow in Taiwan?), grabbed some drinks and snacks and headed to Ximending to spend our last night in the busiest part of the city, stuffing ourselves with some more of delicious Taiwanese food.
DAY 16: BYE BYE TAIWAN
We had an early morning to get to the Taiwan Taoyuan International Airport. We took the train from Taipei Main station to the airport, had some not so good food there, before boarding the plane and hoped for the best. Why? There were strikes at the airports in France and we ended up having our plane delayed for more than 4 hours. It was tiring, but so worth taking this trip.
Taiwan has turned out to be such a lovely country and I sincerely hope to return there one day, because there is still so much more to discover and eat.
WHAT IS STILL ON MY TAIWAN BUCKET LIST?
- Maokong: I so wanted to visit this place when we were in Taipei Zoo, but they were just renovating the gondola, and it would take us way too much time to figure out how to get there without the gondola. This area is known for tea plantations and it is supposed to have some stunning views.
- Taipei Performing Arts Center (OMA): we did visit this place, but it was still under construction, so we didn’t get to see that much of it. It would be so amazing to be able to go in there and maybe see a performance there next time.
- Jiufen: even though we did visit this charming village, I would very much love to spend the night there the next time.
- Yangmingshan National Park: Taiwan has some incredible nature and even though we did see some of it while in Sun Moon Lake and Alishan, I would still very much like to see more of it and luckily if you are in Taipei you don’t need to get that far to get some escape from the city.
- Taroko National Park: this was a part of our very first itinerary, but we soon figured out that it wouldn’t be possible to go here, with everything else we wanted to do. So beautiful Taroko gorge will just need to wait until next time.
- Kenting National Park: Taiwan has lots of national parks, and this one has a beach and seriously amazing views, but we thought it would deserve more than just a day trip it was left for another time.
- Tainan: is known to have some of the best food in Taiwan so I was very sad we didn’t include it into our itinerary.
I have one more Taiwan post planned for now (maybe I will get some inspiration and write some more, or if you have some suggestions, let me know) where I write about the things that surprised me there the most.
Is Taiwan on you travel list? What is it that makes you wanna visit it more, nature or cities? For us it was a lovely combination of both. We both really love cities, especially big cities, as we don’t have those in Slovenia, but love to mix it up with some stunning natural sights and luckily Taiwan had everything we were looking for in a destination at that point.
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