Taipei is a tough little city whose beauty lies in its blend of Chinese culture with a curious fusion of Japanese, Southeast Asian and American influences. Taipei’s oddness is one of its charms. It may be inspired by the kawaii (cutesy) culture of Japan, but there’s a lot of home-grown humour in there too. In the puppet museum you will find a strip-tease marionette oozing knock-kneed naughtiness; the idea of chocolate sauce on a steak is accepted; themed restaurants transport you to a world where you eat hotpot from a toilet bowl or in a hospital ward for dinner; and one of the top souvenir items of the city is a larger-than-life cock-shaped pineapple sponge cake.
Changing the pace from exploring the history of Taiwan to the modern lifestyle of this vibrant city, we head out to the shopping landmark of Taiwan, Ximending. Located in the north east of Wanhua district and known as Harajuku or Shibuya of Taipei, Ximending is the first and the biggest walking street in Taiwan. This is where you’ll see the latest fashion trend and find anything from regular clothes, shoes, and fashion accessories to cosplay costumes, and electronic gadgets. It’s also a foodie paradise as there are hundreds of local favourite food stalls and restaurants to try. With everything in one place, you may need more than a day to explore everything Ximending has to offer.
How to get there: Ximen MRT Station Exit 6
CHIANG KAI-SHEK MEMORIAL HALL
Dive into the history of Taiwan at Chiang Kai-Shek Memorial Hall. The national memorial was built in 1976 at Zhongzheng in memory of Chiang Kai-Shek, the former president of Republic of China. The white marble memorial stands majestically in the center of Freedom Square with blue octagonal roof, which in Chinese culture, symbolizes abundance and fortune. The stairs consist of 89 steps which is the age of the president, and the memorial holds a gigantic 10 meters tall bronze statue of Chiang Kai-Shek inside with 24 hours military guard. The wall at the back displays his 3 pillars of his philosophy – “Ethics, Democracy, Science”. The lower floor of the memorial exhibits the biography of Chiang Kai-Shek, his photos, personal belongings, his office, and the development of Taiwan.
How to get there : Get off at Chaing Kai-Shek Memorail Hall MRT Station on the red or green line, and take Exit 5
Opening hours: 09.00-18.00 Free entrance
The newly founded city of New Taipei is an integral part of the Taipei Metropolitan area and surrounds Taipei City on all sides. Formerly known as Taipei County. New Taipei City (Taipei County) is also well-known for having a wide variety of sightseeing locations. Tourists may enjoy appreciating natural sceneries at Yeliou Scenic Area and Bitan Scenic Area, visiting historical landmarks. Most of New Taipei can be accessed conveniently by Taipei’s public transit systems, including the Taipei MRT metro system and various bus and train services.
Moving on to find a pretty sight at Rainbow Village. Rainbow Village wasn’t always pretty since the beginning. In fact, the village was originally a veteran village where Kuomintang soldiers took refuge in Taiwan. The village got old as time went by and renovation plan was put forward. However, during the demolition a veteran named Huang Yung-Fu started to paint the old building walls with colourful cartoons and pictures. His work caught attentions of young generation and artists across Taiwan who participated in the work. The village eventually became a famous attraction in Taichung and received government protection as a cultural landmark. Although there are only a few houses left in the village, Rainbow Village is still a unique destination visited constantly by visitors at Sun Moon Lake.
Discover art and tea, and feel spirited away at Jiufen. The city was a booming gold mine town in 1950s, but it started to decline as the mine ran dry. Although depleted of gold, the city still has its unique character that makes it a destination for tourists. Visitors love the nostalgic vibe of Jiufen with charming wooden homes and retro style teahouses with distinctive red lanterns in every corner. Some teahouses also offer traditional tea brewing session to give you the real Taiwanese tea drinking ceremony experience. Moreover, you can taste local specialties and buy local handicrafts without breaking your bank. Besides its nostalgic atmosphere and amazing teahouses, Jiufen also boasts fascinating views of the Pacific Ocean from several scenic points.
SUN & MOON LAKE
Experience traditional way of life and be surrounded by wonderful nature at Sun Moon Lake, the largest fresh water lake in Taiwan. Located in Yuchi, Nantou County, Sun Moon Lake is renowned for its distinctive terrain which look like the sun in the east and the moon in the west. Dubbed as “Switzerland of Taiwan,” the weather here is cool all year round, and that’s why Sun Moon Lake attracts a constant stream of visitors throughout the year. The region is home to Taiwanese native tribe called Thao before it was turned into a famous tourist attraction, covering 8 km2. Visitors will get to buy local handicrafts, taste traditional dishes, experience 360 degree views from the cable car, and visit Formosan Aboriginal Village. Another highlight event happens in spring where thousands of people join the annual “Sun Moon Lake Swimming Carnival” for an exciting 3 km swim across the lake.
There are a few landmarks to explore at Sun Moon Lake. Starting at Wenwu Temple or Guanyu Temple at the foot of a hill with spectacular views of the lake. Devoted to Guanyu, the God of War and Honesty, and Confucius, the God of Intelligence, the temple is guarded by 2 giant red lions at the entrance in front of 366 steps that lead to the main shrine where the statue of Guanyu and Confucius stand. The temple palace style architecture takes after the architecture of the Forbidden City in Beijing. Originally Sun Moon Lake had 2 temples along its shore, but after Japanese occupation of Taiwan, a dam was built in 1934 and the 2 temples were drowned. A new temple was built at the foot of a hill to compensate the loss of the 2 original temples, and it became the famous Wenwu Temple we know today.