There are quite a number of places to visit in Taipei City, New Taipei City, Keelung City, and also the outskirts which can be 1~2hours away from the centre. Though there are accommodations available in each of these places, we decided to base ourselves in Taipei City and take day trips out to these attractions that we would like to visit.
It is quite a bit of a hassle to keep changing accommodations and you waste time spent on transferring. In addition, not all accommodations provide luggage storage service and if so, you would have to wait till check-in and that means half a day gone unless you want to drag your luggage around.
But before moving on to Taipei…..
Besides the breakfast served was delicious, our B&B in Hualien was really cosy. We had an en suite bathroom with bath tub, and a balcony where I sat in the morning watching the locals start their day.
Being such a food-loving nation, “must-try” food has definitely become one of the most researched topics by us, Singaporeans, on a destination and the results? *BAM* Hualien has a list longer than the train tracks; but we only tried one having ate our breakfast – the Scallion Pancake with Deep Fried Egg.
Based on my research, the famous scallion pancake should be the one located at 102 Fuxing St., but it was closed on the day we went. The one that we had (shown above) was delicious nonetheless. Then again, food deep fried in that golden liquid -that scares many yet making them happy at the same time with its ability to provide crispy texture and undeniable fragrance- can’t be bad.
Location of 老牌炸蛋蔥油餅: No. 2, Lane 110, Fuxing St, Hualien City, Hualien County, Taiwan 970
And some dumplings from 八方雲集 (Ba Fang Yun Ji) before we hop on the train to Taipei City. This dumpling store is available all around Taiwan and the dumplings come in flavours such as Kimchi apart from the original. Taste wise was okay but nothing to shout about.
Direction from Hualien city to Taipei city: There are a number of trains throughout the day 24/7 and depending on what type of train you choose to take, the prices can be NTD283~440 and duration from 2hrs~4hrs11mins. Note: the railway is different from high speed rail.
As one of the popular tourist spots, this place is not unfamiliar to many. Dubbed as Shibuya, Tokyo of Taiwan – Ximending is a huge shopping and entertainment district bustling with mostly teenagers and travellers shopping for the latest trend, indulging in food that will make you drool with just the look itself, or singing to their heart’s content at one of the karaoke bars. There is even a street that houses 3 or more cinemas side-by-side! Imagine having GV, Cathay and Shaw all in Plaza Singapura itself.
Since it was already late evening by the time we settled at our accommodation, we stayed in the area just taking a look and hunting shoes for myself. Fyi, if you have a bigger foot size than the average, eur size 38 and up, you might have a tough time searching for one especially in cities such as Hualien.
And not forgetting to try the famous Ay-Chung Flour Rice Noodle 阿宗麵線. Love it!
Just to clarify, I try to only include food I have tried and personally think they are delicious and worth trying unless stated otherwise, or highly raved food but have different opinion, so that posts will not be filled with ton of pictures of food.
For the next four days, we visited sights outside of Taipei and returned to the city centre at night, exploring different night markets.
[Ruifang – Jiufen – Pingxi – Shifen, and Raohe Night Market]
Jiufen used to be a prosperous gold mining town where mining activities are now discontinued. Today, tourist flocks to this place for the Old Street full of delicious snacks, and beautiful surroundings. And with a rather cool climate, it makes a perfect place to sip tea in one of its many tea houses. This quaint town is so charming that it has been the setting for several movies as well!
Note: Jiufen is not wheelchair-accessible and could be strenuous especially for people with physical disadvantage due to the flight of stairs that are present in this hilly area.
Taro Rice Ball is a popular local snack, and has probably become a symbol of Jiufen. If you are eating at Lai Ah Po Yu Yuan 赖阿婆芋圆 (one of the more famous taro rice ball), you will be pleasantly surprise by its dining area that provides a view of the Pacific Ocean. I was definitely mesmerised.
Option 1 by Train: Take the train from Taipei to Ruifang Station (price: ntd49~76 | duration: 29mins~1h4mins). After exiting the station, cross the street to the bus stop for buses to Jiufen, located next to Wellcome Minimart. Take Keelung Bus No. 1062 or 788 and alight at Jiufen Station (price: ntd21 on weekday and ntd15 on weekend/holiday | duration: approx. 20mins).
Option 2 direct bus from Taipei: Take Keelung Bus No. 1062 towards Jinguashi from Taiwan Adventist Hospital Station (Zhongxiao Fuxing Station, Exit 1) or from Songshan Station, Bade Road. Alight at Jiufen Old Street. Trip takes approx 1hr and cost ntd82~96. Timetable for this bus can be found here.
Other attraction(s): Though mining activities has ceased, if you are interested in getting to know more about gold mining industry, you can visit the nearby Gold Museum. They provide guided tours and can bring you to former mining spots, introduce you to mining equipment and transport systems. You even get to see a whopping 220.30kg pure gold brick here! But if you are visiting this site, you would most probably not have enough time to go on the Pingxi line, especially if travelling by public transport.
Shifen & Pingxi
There are 3 popular stops along the Pingxi Line (one of the 4 branch lines left in Taiwan), and 2 of them are Pingxi and Shifen station, the other one is Houtong also known as Cat Village (cat lovers would be happy to learn about this place).
These 2 towns are famous for putting the Chinese Lantern which wishes are written on all four sides of the paper and set free to float towards the sky like a hot air balloon. During the Sky Lantern Festival, these 2 places draws an immense number of people to write their wishes and set their lanterns into the sky creating an impressive scene. Though there are other places to do the same thing, Pingxi and Shifen furnish the experience with a picturesque background as tourists can let go of their Chinese Lantern on a train track, and it might have gained its popularity now due to a popular Taiwanese movie – You Are The Apply Of My Eye.
Other attraction(s): Both Pingxi and Shifen have their own marketplace which is just beside the train track. Another popular attraction in Shifen will be the Shifen Waterfall which is approx. 20mins walk away from the station. The waterfall look magnificent, but to call it the Niagara Falls of Taiwan might be exaggerating.
Direction(s): To explore the Pingxi Line, you can purchase a one-day Pingxi Pass for ntd52 which allows access to all stations on Pingxi Line for unlimited hop on and off. But take note that trains are not that frequent so it would be better to pick a few stops which you most like to visit. What we did was Taipei-Ruifang-Jiufen-Ruifang-Pingxi-Shifen-Ruifang-Songshan, Taipei City (Ruifang is the transit point therefore crossing it a couple of times).
Returning to Taipei City: Go back the same way by bus or train to Taipei City and if you are thinking of where to have dinner, take the train from Ruifang Station to Songshan Station and walk to Raohe Night Market.
Raohe Night Market
One of the older night markets in Taipei, Raohe Night Market is packed with street vendors selling innovative and popular snacks, carnival games and massage parlour (brothel at the back or not, I don’t know). But it also houses many restaurants and our favourite would be Cow Boss Steakhouse for its value.
[Wulai District and Taipei City]
One of my favourite places to be at as there are wild hot springs! Wulai is a small town surrounded by mountains, famous for its hot springs and aboriginal culture of the Atayal Tribe. Arriving at Wulai, we were immediately welcome with a view of river of turquoise water.
I would recommend to explore the old street first, where there is delicious Taiwan sausage, refreshing Aiyu Jelly drink and hot spring egg, as they close early. Then walk towards the waterfall where the Atayal Museum is also located. Shortly after the old street, there is a split road that leads to the river. The water was so clear and we could not resist to dip our feet into it and sat there to enjoy the view.
Having watched too many documentaries where they dig up natural resources from these places, using it as a scrub, we followed along without knowing for sure if it was something normal or magical. Whatever it was, my skin did felt smooth after.
Moving on again towards the waterfall and museum, along the way are the tracks of the scenic train which seems to have ceased operations but I am glad they did not remove the tracks however as I feel that it adds a nice touch to the place.
Being surrounded by mountains, Wulai provides a peaceful environment and was pleasant to explore. The weather had turned chilly too as the sun sets and there is no better way to enjoy all of these – the scenery, the weather, the day – than to soak in the hot springs. Wulai hot springs is well located being next to the river and visitors can alternate between the cold river and the hot springs. As the day gets darker, the hot springs got hotter as well and I was soon turning into a cooked lobster.
Due to strong typhoons during the summer of 2015, I found out that Wulai was not accessible when I visited in August 2015 as roads were ruined. And as for the hot springs, the locals were still working on it then. Hopefully the source of the hot springs are not covered up and that it has been recovered.
Directions: Take Xindian Bus No. 849 from Xindian MRT Station. Duration is approx. 30mins and cost ntd15.
On this same day, a Taiwanese friend whom my cousin got to know on his travels invited us for dinner as she learnt that we were visiting. This cousin of mine was not even there with us. Surprised by this gesture but even more so at what she and her family treated us. They even brought us around the area after dinner even though it was late. Talk about the hospitality of Taiwanese.
Food and hospitality was top-notch. Can’t remember where exactly is this though sadly. But now I know how I want each & every of my hot spring experience to be, and how to do it better – to feast after! Thankful for such a wonderful day~
[Yangmingshan National Park and Shida Night Market]
Yangmingshan National Park
Spring is a good time to visit Yangmingshan National Park when most of the flowers have bloomed, surrounding visitors with sea of flowers. We visited in March and the park had been incredibly decorated with colourful flowers. It is also the season of Sakura (Cherry Blossom) thus attracting a large number of crowds.
Direction(s): Getting to and around the park was not as difficult as I thought. From Jiantan MRT Station in Taipei City, Exit 1, city bus R5 or small bus S15 and S17 all leaves to Yangmingshan Station – the main transfer station to other attractions of the park. Journey takes about 40mins and cost approx. ntd15. And to get around the park, take the park’s shuttle bus.
Calla Lily field at 竹子湖 Zhuzihu stop, Yangmingshan
Apart from lily fields, visitors can expect to indulge in local products and take a break with a cup of hot coffee.
Hot springs at 冷水坑 Lengshuikeng stop, Yangmingshan
There is a free hot spring bath at Lengshuikeng stop and I was more than ready to have a second round. Did not expect it to be nude bath though and went in with my camera in hand to a group of bared aunties and grannies whom turned, looking shocked as I was. Ran out in my embarrassment and ditched my plan without say. There is a hot spring area outside the baths (separate women’s and men’s bath) though where visitors can soak their feet.
Yangmingshan National Park is huge with many attractions and hiking trails scattered around. Factor in the time needed to wait for buses around the park, at least half a day is required to explore YMS and 2~3 of its attractions.
Shida Night Market
Back to Taipei City, we explored a different night market this time round – Shida Night Market. Coming from YMS, head back to Jiantan Station and take the MRT to Taipower Building Station, 9 stops away. Night markets are more or less the same except that each has its own best/ popular food that are recommended and for Shida Night Market, 阿諾可麗餅 Arnor Crepe will not be missing from the list. Portion is huge and crepe is fragrant and crisp.
[Yehliu Geopark and Keelung Miaokou Night Market]
A park of unique natural formations sculpted by wind and water, a visit to Yehliu Geopark brought me back to Geography class in Secondary School and had all the theory about how potholes are form and all running in my head. Some of the popular rock formations are Queen’s head, Eagle Head, Sea Candles, Fairy Shoe among many others. We were blessed with good weather that day and pictures turned out extra fine. You either get burn from the sun or your hair stand from the cool sea breeze, so bring a jacket along. Admission fee: ntd80 (adult) ntd 40 (children age 6~12).
Option 1 by direct bus from Taipei City: Take KuoKuang Bus No. 1815 from Taipei West Bus Station (Taipei Main Station) and alight at Yehliu Station. Stop will be on the main road and is approx. 15mins away from the park’s entrance. Duration is about 1hr30mins and cost ntd96.
Option 2 by Train from Taipei City: Take the train to Keelung Station from Taipei or Songshan Station in Taipei City for ntd32~64 and trip is approx. 27~53mins. Transfer to Keelung Bus No.1022 towards Jinshan or No.1262 towards Danshui and alight at Yehliu stop. Price for bus is ntd47 and is approx. 30mins. Total cost/time = ntd79~111/ 57mins~1hr23mins.
Keelung Miaokou Night Market
Close to Yehliu Geopark is the famous Keelung Miaokou Night Market. Okay. You might be thinking that there are a lot of famous night markets in Taiwan and you have probably seen enough BUT! If you are a seafood-lover, you can’t miss this night market particularly!
Located close to the port, Keelung is the centre of Northern Taiwan’s fishing industry and the night market surrounds itself with fresh seafood to offer, this is the place to feast on seafood! Think fresh sashimi, sushi, grilled squid etcetera.
Other recommendations as below:
There are two Pao-Pao Ice stall. No.41 & No.37. Both taste great and the difference is probably the texture of the ice.
Directions from Yehliu Geopark: Take the same bus No.1022/1262 or any bus that goes to Keelung station from Yehliu stop. Keelung Miaokou Night Market is approx. 5mins away from Keelung station.
[Wufenpu Wholesale Market and Formosa Chang]
Wufenpu Wholesale Market
Wufenpu – maze built for shoppers, and on the 9th day after the elders left back to Singapore first, it was time for crazy shopping but we got tired soon as there were countless of lanes after lanes. Shoppers might be disappointed though as, there are wholesale markets that sell clothes at lower rates even if you are buying just one piece, but businessmen in Wufenpu focus on wholesaling and if you are thinking of just getting a few pieces then expect rates similar to retail price. Wufenpu is accessible from Songshan Station or Houshanpi MRT Station, and is in close proximity to Raohe Night Market.
We tried the famous Formosa Chang Lu Rou Fan as well. Personally, was quite disappointed with the taste and the plate of braised meat was tough to chew. Which means to say, the hunt for best Lu Rou Fan is still on.
And this is all we did during our 5 full-days in Northern Taiwan. I have had people asking me why I spend so many days in Taipei but the truth is there are actually a lot more to see here and I don’t find it a boring city with so much to see within 2hrs from the centre. We did not even visit Danshui, Beitou, Maokong etc.
Accommodation: 365 Homestay at NTD2380 for a room with 2 double bed & 1 sofa bed. And BabyHome 寶貝客棧 (Ximen Branch) at NTD1500 (double room), NTD1800 (triple room), NTD2200 (2 double bed). These two service apartments are located under the same building and are close to the MRT Station – Ximending. Both apartments have washing machine, kitchen and are clean. REMINDER: do inform the owner if you will be late for checkout to prevent getting shock from unexpected visits.
Planning what to do in Taiwan? Check out what other places can you visit on a 10D9N Trip!
Day 1: Exploring Taichung City
Day 2: Misty Green Green Grassland + having steamboat up on the mountain!
Day 3: How to Plan a Road Trip from Cingjing to Hualien, travelling through Taroko Gorge
Read further: How to Plan a 10D9N Taiwan Trip with just SGD500!