A taste of ancient Chinese culture
I hope the previous two posts Undercover in Taipei got your attention about this petite country in the east. Although it is not large, it has so much to offer, seriously! the multiple culture influences, simply addictive Chinese and Taiwanese food, friendly people there, I can’t thank enough for the treasure island I was growing up in. I have so much good stuff would like to share with you, and decide to make all the Taiwan trips nonstop going on series on the blog from now on since I will never get tired of going back! If you are happened to love Taiwan as I do, please feel free to join us by sign up the update of the blog post or following me at ＠gabbie_arciniegas & @betterthanauthentic on Instagram. You will never miss any post!
Alright, so what are we going to talk about today? Why Taipei is a treat even if you only have two days in the city? if you are tired of planning, the highlights for you are here:
Day 1- From ancient Chinese culture to trending night market
National Palace Museum 故宮博物院
The biggest museum in Taiwan from the collections and space. It’s a history buff paradise if you are interested in Chinese history. Since the ’30s the government imported national treasures from China because there are several wars happened in the mainland. Luckily, they preserve the huge amount of treasures that we can enjoy today. Every time I back to Taiwan I visit this place. It is an easy ride to the museum, both bus and MRT with short time. I highly recommend it. Fun fact: I studied at the nearby university- Soochow University, I passed this museum 4 years every day on the way to school. It was never a single day not crowded. why so? you must see it yourself!
P.S: I have heard people commenting on the lighting in the National Palace Museum is tend to dark side, I totally got it, since Western museum are mostly broad and bright. but the reason is those treasures been keep for hundred years, especially the Chinese paintings and calligraphy on the paper are really fragile, so they keep the light down to prevent causing the damage.
Btw, there is a beautiful garden- Zhishan Garden 至善園 is just right next to National Palace Museum, it’s a hidden gem of the museum, you will need to pay 20 NT to go in there. the scene is completely retro, fishpond, flowers, tree…etc. Will be a really nice place if you are into photography.
Night markets are so essential in Taiwan 夜市文化
So many people often ask me the first question is: How is the food in Taiwan like? and what is your favorite? Believe me, it is such hard, hard question to me and to a lot of Taiwanese… hehe 🙂 , because we have a lot of good food that hard to pick up the favorite. but the majority of good food is homemade style, not surprisingly grandma or mom is the good cook we admire. WIth a lot of influences from China, Hong Kong, and Japan, there are so many choices if you would like to try out either cuisine. And western food such as Italian and French restaurant also provides different choice. But if you really want to try the local’s favorite, a night market is the place to go. every city have its own night market, Taipei even has more. it’s actually a fun thing to do after work or school. We love to share different food, from seafood, fried chicken, stinky tofu, hotpot, braised pork rice, chumian, beef noodle soup, and stir-fried rice…etc. that’s one of the reasons I love Asian food, it provides an unspoken intimacy from sharing. Also, the famous boba milk tea plays a big part in the night market action, it’s totally common to see people drink and eat on street, feel free to doing so, please. about the boba tea, shop has a lot of option as well, you can choose from green tea or black tea, milk tea, or fruity version. every tea shop has their own style and signature so it’s never to worry about can’t find something you like. Also, the best part is you can tell the staff to adjust the sweetness and ice. personally like less sweet and just a little ice to taste the original flavor. be sure to mention it when ordering the drink, they will be very glad to help. The close one to National palace museum is Shilin night market 士林夜市, if you happened to be there, it’s really easy to treat yourself the whole day after the museum. take a bus to Shilin MRT station, then transfer to Jiantan station all on the red line. the key to finding local food in Shilin night market is to avoid the main building where all the vendors are, but go on the streets especially from the back of the market, where are much reasonable price and lot of cute boutiques can shop. Of course, if you want to go on a different adventure of trying further away night market, that’s also recommended too.
Day 2- old town of Taipei
Lungshan temple 龍山寺
There are hundreds of temples in Taipei, big or small, they all have some historical background and have different worship of gods. most of them are built back in the 18th, it was a hard time, as north Taiwan used to be a wild, wild place… an old saying “ Three people stay, six people go back, and one died.“ that shows the immigrant population pattern. Facing those odds, Immigrants from China bring their religion into Taiwan, believing the deity’s power will protect them. Longshan Temple is one of them with very beautiful architecture. Be sure to look at every stair, pillar, ceiling, roof, lantern, there are a lot of stories and art painting of each. the front pillar of the temple was made and carved in bronze, which is the only temple with this style in Taiwan, a must see!
Qingcao Lane (Herb lane) 青草巷, 224 Lane, Xichang Street
Right out of the Lungshan temple, the left side is an old lane called Qingcao Lane, also has a nickname: Lifesaver lane, since it was a place you can find all sorts of herbs, and Chinese medicine in old time. Though you may not think of buying fresh herbs in a trip, you can give a fresh herbal tea a try, every store has a different mix with their own tea, may have Chinese mesona, mint, which helps cool down, relieve from heat. a completely different taste to Western tea, why not give it a try?
Bopiliao historical block 剝皮寮
Few blocks away from the Lungshan temple, there is a historical reserved area Baopoliao, Bopiliao means Flaying skin shack, several theories behind this name, and most well-known is they used to peel off the tree here so named it with. the place will get you an idea of old time the stores and buildings look, from tea house to hotel. at the end of the block, there is a Heritage and culture education center of Taipei, where has some retro games can try on with kids, a family friendly place. It’s not a big place overall, will suggest spending about half an hour in Bopiliao historical block, sometimes they will host a traditional show at weekends here.
Massage, why not?
Another great thing about traveling in Taiwan, there is always a massage place nearby. After a long day walk, a little treat to your feet is the savvy traveler should not forget. there is a block around the Boppilliao has a lot of massage stores, in general, they are all very affordable and good service, but be careful of choosing the legit store, some stores are providing “adult service”, staff dress up kinda differently… there is not a surprising scene in the old town in my opinion. However, I like a massage store Six star massage center 六星集按摩會館, they have five stores in Taipei, providing excellent service with very reasonable price, and most of them speak English and Japanese.
Eslite book store 誠品書店
One of my happy places in Taipei. Eslite bookstore is the biggest chain bookstore in Taiwan. Bookstore culture still big in Taiwan, since the digital book like Amazon Kindle is not so huge yet here. people still buying tradition paper books, magazines…etc. the best thing is they have nice lighting and a place that you can just cuddle in a corner and read all day. The book selection is huge, you can buy all sort of books in a different language. and lovely collection of stationery, and trending, fun stuff. Especially Eslite Xinyi bookstore, Eslite Spectrum Songyan Store and Eslite Dunnan store, they even have the vinyl selection that hipsters will be happy about, also they have mall provide foods, kids’ area, and fashion shopping, definitely a nice place to all family! There are many stores in Taipei, but one of them 敦南誠品店 is open 24 hours which give sleepless bookworm the best place to go. Although it’s gonna closed in 2020 with the renovated plan, Eslite bookstore promised will open another 24 hours store.
Shopping malls in Xinyi neighborhood 信義區商城
So you love shopping, you have seen the night markets before, but now you are tired of getting driving or taking another bus to somewhere. no worries, there are the most intense malls gather together in Xinyi neighborhood. which is on the metro blue line- Taipei city hall station. once you are out of the metro, get up to the ground, you can see the Taipei 101 is just a few blocks away. and often they will surprise you with some light signs on the window, like “I love you” and “happy new year”, to get on the 89 or 91 floor observatory (fee is about 20 USD) to see the whole Taipei is not a bad idea, especially a treat afterward down to floor B2, Din Tai Fung, the best soup dumpling is await! if you love shopping somewhere else, there are at least ten department stores here. so get your wallet ready! hehe!
Although two days can only cover a few parts of Taipei and I still recommend spending at least 4 days in Taipei to enjoy food and culture nicely this will hold you over if you only have two days. And then you’ll be back because, believe me, you will like the city in no time!
Hope you like the post, have you been to Taipei yet? tell me about your favorite place to go and how do you like it! cheers!