I would say i had many memorable experiences whilst in Taipei and i shall list just 10 of the things that i did which others could take as a reference too for their own trips to Taipei. Remember how i said some mainland Chinese and overseas Chinese were dissapointed with their Taiwan experiences? Well, if they did some of the must-dos i've suggested below, it may have brightened up their Taiwanese journey and given them an insight into another side of Taiwanese life. For mainland Chinese especially, there should be a focus on KMT era buildings, etc and going to nostalgic Taiwanese places and museums reflecting on life during the anti-red China era since mainland Chinese have a curiousity for these kind of stuff when they come over to Taiwan..so more emphasis should be put into bringing them to places like that instead of all the natural scenery places/historical monuments/shopping places which really even a determinedly proud Taiwanese can admit is no comparison to the emerging superpower China with its blessed natural attractions and thousand of years old history.
Well, anyways, below is my list of 10 Must-Do Things whilst in Taipei and which are just my recommendations from where i went whilst in Taipei:
1) Visit the Daan Forest Park 大安森林公园 and the Taipei Main Public Library 台北市立图书馆nearby and walk over to Yongkang St Food Circle.永康街.Above: View towards Daan Forest Park from the seats at the Taipei Municipal Library's stairwell...
I always visit Daan Park which is like Taipei's answer to New York's Central Park, except that its way smaller, and i mean much much smaller than like even the Penang Botanical Gardens. It was set aside for park usage during Taipei's early days and still remains one of the few green areas in Taipei CBD. I went to this park on this trip again too. There is a performance deck there too and a running track...it's a really nice atmosphere to go sit with friends, or just take a quiet walk. From there, you can go to the main Taipei public library nearby which has alot of books, a theatre showing free films on weekdays and weekends, including retrospective chinese classic films. One new addition is that now, after 4 yrs, one should take the stairwell at the public library as all the stairwells have glassplanes overlooking the Daan Park and highway and cityscape and have chairs and tables fitted there for you to take a book or two and just while away 1-2 hours reading ur book, pondering, writing u thought diary whilst watching the cars pass by on the highway below with the vast green expanse of Daan Park right in front of you:-)
From Daan Park you can walk to Yongkang street food circle. This is a v.famous Taipei food niche area and is well known for its foreign 'feel' and foreign cusine eateries clusted in the narrow lanes here...there's middle eastern, japanese, taiwanese, chinese, western, korean, south east asian, etc foodie eateries all available here....what's more the famous 'Ice Monster' crushed mango ice store is also here..this is a VERY POPULAR PLACE with locals and foreign/japanese tourists alike...i went here on my trip back this time too...yummy...the photo of my mango ice is posted in my post on taipei's food...The original store of world-famous Din Tai Fung is also around this area...just ask around and u'll be able to find it...it's xiao long bao, noodle soups, and ESPECIALLY my FAVOURITE 'Bak Chang' (glutinous rice filled with fatty pork meat wrapped in lotus leaf and steamed piping hot!) are highly recommended. The preserved eggs on soft tofu is another fav side dish of mine over there at Din's.
2) Visit the 228 Peace Park 228和平公园and the 228 Peace Museum 228纪念馆 and National Taiwan Museum 国立台湾博物馆within it then walk to the Taipei Main Station 台北火车站 commercial n shopping district and visit the well-done Taiwan Story House 台湾故事馆.
Above: Taiwan National Museum within 228 Peace Park and where the 228 Peace Museum is also located. Taipei Main Station is within mins of this place.
Above: Taiwan National Museum within 228 Peace Park and where the 228 Peace Museum is also located. Taipei Main Station is within mins of this place.
The 228 peace park was much more wonderful than i thought it'd be. It is formerly called New Park and has a wonderful Chinese style pagoda within it as well as nice views of the Taipei city skies...another rare park in the centre of town in Taipei besides Daan Park. It is worth while going there and taking some pix and visiting the 228 Peace Musuem to commemorate the thousands killed my KMT forces in 1947 when local Taiwanese rebelled against oppressive and corrupt KMT rule on the island. This is a worthwhile history lesson to learn for many foreign visitors unaware of this facet of Taiwan's traumatic history. The Taiwan Museum located nearby within the park is my personal favourite museum of this trip back to Taipei, with its majestic building and lampposts, and the feeling it gives...worth a visit, definitely!
From the NTM exit from the 228 Peace park and right in front you'll be able to see Taipei Main Station area, this is traditionally Taipei's commercial district and always bustling with office workers and shop keepers. There are a multitude of restaurants to explore and try out so give anyone of them a try. The Taiwan Story House which was highly recommended by many bloggers and my relatives as well was one place i regretted not having the time to visit in the end. It is basically a museum located within the Tai-Mall (i forgot what the name is, this is a guess!)building next to Shin-Kong Dept. Store, the one opposite the main entrance/exit of Taipei Main Station. It aims to recreate the Taipei of an era gone-by with made-believe streets and stalls,etc all decorated to look like 1960's Taipei! It even has a restaurant inside serving taiwanese snacks. Pity i couldn't visit this time around!
3) Ever wondered on talking and mixing with the South East Asian labourers/domestic maids in Taipei on a Sunday near Taipei Main Station and Zhongshan Bei Lu or why not visit a gay club/gay bar and meet Taiwanese gay folks??
Above: The Indonesian 'hangout' place just nearby my godmom's apartment near Taipei Main Station. I wouldn't have known about this place if not for my godmom's information! Doesn't this look like somewhere in Malaysia or Indonesia??
I got a chance to meet two filipino maids on the bus to Zhongxiao East Road MRT Station. God knows i love the Philippines and the Filipino ppl after i discovered pinoy entertainment bck in 2007 and have been on my 'filipino goodwill fever' ever since...haha
I had picked up enough Tagalog from movies n dramas to pick up that they're filipinos (one of the joys of knowing abit of each and other languages is how u learn to recognise languages and differentiate b/w similar looking but yet different ppls...given i know malay/indonesian, am familiar with thai with so many thai ppl living in sydney n picking up the language from my brief stint with thai lakorns, i could tell they must be filipinos then esp. cos i could pick up certain words n definitely the distinct pinoy accent). I started a conversation by asking in English whether they were filipinos and got their confidence by immediately trying to bridge the gap saying how i loved star cinema and the filipino stars like Toni Gonzaga, Sam Milby, the movie, You are the One (one of my all-time fav romantic comedies of ALL cinemas, incl. chinese.hollywood.whatever!!!)....
We chatted about how they came to Taipei, how working conditions are like here, what the maids are demanding (a day off on Sundays like HK which is currently not a mandatory condition of contracts in Taiwan) , how they find Taiwanese ppl (apparently, from one maid whom worked in HK before being terminated abruptly then coming over, much kinder than HK ppl)..etc..it was nice..later on i wished them goodluck on their time in Taiwan and got off the bus...zhongshan north road and the area near Taipei Main Station has alot of filipino/indonesian workers on weekends...there's a church on zhongshan road where filipinos congregate on sundays..i visited the indonesian crowd near where my godmom lives in taipei main station area, and it was interesting, ppl looked at u cos taiwanese dun hang around there..but its definitely something diff for those in Taiwan who'd like something different. Heck, i even saw what looked like a drugged female with some labourers from indonesia and her female friend whom was eager to do business (u know what i mean) haggling prices with these men saying how much how much i'll "do" you and ur friend,etc...omg!
Another group of interesting people to meet or shopping to do may be the gays and gay products of Taiwan, with Taipei.Taiwan being arguably the most gay-friendly place in Asia (i'd argue even surpassing thailand largely due to the thai backwardness in the areas of media representations and political lack of interest). One can visit Gin Gin Bookstore (google it) which is Chinese society's first LGBT bookstore, or the area behind 'Red building' which is right opposite Ximending MRT Sta.and Ximending. This area has become a gay spot in the 4 yrs i've been gone. Although it was a missed opportunity as i didn't have a chance to visit any of the gay bars there, i did pass by n saw many cozy trendy bars with alot of trendy gay men inside..(though i'm not sure whether females are welcomed) for females whom are thinking of going..there's also the famous Funky nightclub, and a host of other news ones such as Fresh, 喜宴(which i really liked the concept and wanted to visit but forgot totally on this trip!) ,etc..of course for non-gay travellers, the best thing to do would be to hop over to the gay bars behind Red Building after shopping at Ximending cos its so convenient..gay tourists obviously could also go to the other ones.. Furthermore, testament to Taiwan being the leader in Asia in terms of LGBT stuff, gay films are shown at main theatre halls all the time, actors brought into promote gay films, and there're even regular exhibits on gay-themed movies/books in the Eslite and other mainstream bookstores,definitely worth buying if u're interested in LGBT stuff..i rem my surprise 4yrs bck to find a section devoted entirely to gay literature at a well-known mainstream bookstore..i didn't expect that in a Chinese society..besides, Taiwan is also now the world's biggest producer of Lesbian themed movies, there have been numerous in recent yrs, surpassing anywhere else in Asia or the West..so be sure to buy many chinese lesbian movies whilst here! The above are just some of the unusual encounters one can opt to have whilst in Taipei!:-)
4) Moca Taipei and nearby Zhongshan Bei Lu Commercial and Shopping District as well as heading over to Spot Taipei for a coffee, a browse of its specialised Eslite film Bookstore or catching an art film there.
Above: MOCA Taipei with Zhongshan North Road close by...
Museum of Contemporary Art Taipei is definitely one of the unexpected surprises of my Taipei trip...i must say i had not expected much of Taiwan's museums and art galleries and thought they couldn't match those in the West...boy, was i wrong, as mentioned in earlier posts..almost all the art/museums galleries visited in Taiwan were superb and world-class..i kid u not..they are on par with the standard of museums/art galleries i've been to in Tokyo and Sydney and Melbourne..definitely so..that surprised me..and i'm an avid museum/art gallery goer so i've been to not a few to be able to make that comparison and assessment!
Definitely check it out...it is a fantastic cozy museum, not big, v.small, but maybe cos i admire contemporary art much more than european/asian ancient artifacts, i loved the small feeling of the museum..from the window on the second floor, one can peer out to a highschool nearby which had an amazing european-japanese style architecture..it'd made a great photoshoot moment..a snapshot of the school thru the window of MOCA...they hold various exhibitions throughout the yr...the one i visited was really great...also by chance, i was the last patron on the last day of their 3 month long exhibition n received a complimentary ticket for 2 for their next exhibition and EVEN MORE, in Moca tradition, they interview the last visitor/visitors to their exhibitions and guess what?? I'm gonna be famous! haha cos they interviewed me and it was the first time i got interviewed by another i think...they say they'll put up the video of me on youtube under the exhibition review video..but i haven't checked yet...yeah, at last i'm on youtube...hehe...
Also check out the nearby Zhongshan North Road shopping district..alot of nice shopping malls are here...you can get there by Zhongshan MRT Station...there's a nice 600CC place which serves Taiwan's famous Papaya Milk Tea (well famous when i was growing up back in the 1990s..) and the mall are all a good shop...walk along the road as you find alot of nice restaurants all around here...the laneways here all have hidden rest,cafes,etc which gives a nice feeling similar to laneways of Tokyo...especially during the cold winter..nearby Lin Sheng Bei Lu used to be famous for cheap prostitutes for japanese businessmen back in the heydays of the 80s/90s but has now died down with mainly japanese rest.etc...i ate once here with my aunts at a japanese rest, just before returning to Sydney and the feeling was nice..with my two aunts, talking on life,their problems in life, my problems in life, as cars passed on the bustling zhongshan bei lu outside us and construction work was going on all along the boulevard as Taipei was extending its MRT lines and increasing its MRT network, once again bringing bck childhood memories of the non-stop construction work of the MRT lines back in the 1990s when MRT construction on the main boulevards and congested roads was a common sight in Taipei before it had the MRT system...now this scene appeared before me again...
Another little note of interest was that i did meet this guy i met on the net though i never expected to actually, i had decided to not meet him cos i didn't know him that well (and i dun meet ppl i dun know well off the net) but i thought i'd call him just days before leaving for being kind enough to give me his mobile no and invitation to call him as i didn't wanna seem to be rude by leaving without even saying a word to him cos i had told him i'd be back in Taipei...but as it turned out, he was like incredibly nice and at last-min notice said he could definitely meet up with me the next day (although it was nearing cny now and i'd just called the night bef!)...we met up and he had brought along a colleague...as usual i was late...he didn't even have my number and waited for me didn't get mad, and took me to Shinyeh Table on Zhongxiao East Road, the trendy taiwanese rest/bar for lunch...he had brought along his colleague...they were so smart dressed i felt so inadequate having arrived with only a windbreaker and plain-looking hair (i usually make some effort to style my hair but being too lazy during my taipei days..) I hadn't expected him to be so stylishly dressed with his branded stuff, vest (who wears that anyways in Taiwan?!!) etc...cos i didn't really see his pix properly...i had just randomly emailed him...cos i read his diary and it was quite interesting..met on a taiwanese website quite well-known one..we had a lovely time talking about what he does,etc...his colleague was equally stylishly dressed...basically the two of them walking together n u'd notice them on the streets of Taipei cos Taiwanese men dun usually dress in a stylish sense...it;s just a different fashion sensibility, more japanese street fashion or just american plain t'shirt n pants kinda trend if ya know what i mean...anyways, it was nice knowin someone new in Taiwan and having a nice lunch with him...
Also, on the same day as that, as i was in Zhongshan Road with aunts, i came across this guy i used to have a slight internet crush during my silly early days surfin networking websites...i wouldn't admit it at first...but then stalking his blog must have been a sign right? Hahaha..i've since grown over that or internet crushes...i was amazed to be able to bump into him like that given the short time i was in Taipei and just days before i was to leave for Sydney...it was definitely him..he was hanging out with friends...he didn't look as good-looking as his blog pix...which is what u often find with internet pics..haha..or maybe my taste in guys had changed 3 yrs on?hehe..who knows..
I also visited the Spot Taipei which is this retro mansion refitted into a cafe, restaurant and art space area with an Eslite bookstore specialising in films and also selling DVDs as well as acts as an arthouse filmhouse all into one. It was formally the American Embassy apparently. This is a REALLY cool and chic place to go to if only to have a coffee with friends or read a good book at. The face overlooks a small garden and bustling Zhongshan Bei Lu is just outside with the noise,etc...The film auditorium usually screens artfilms, incl. famous ones, both foreign and Chinese and also holds special retrospectives or themed-based programs such as a showing of 'Love in Peach Blossom Land' (1993) or a Lesbian Film Program which was held there sometime last yr i think. I managed to find this book i desperately wanted after having seen it once in Taipei back in 2004 and regretted not buying it. Its limited edition only for those interested in niche topics like the actresses of Shaw House in the 50s/60s. I tried to find it at numerous bookstores but couldn't and FINALLY found it here at Eslite bookstore at Spot Taipei!!! I was overjoyed and my godmother bought it for me as a pressie and i was EXTREMELY touched cos she had been giving me things and allowing me to eat over at her place before n basically being very caring n hospitable to me during my entire time in Taipei...but i did treat her and my other aunt to Japanese dinner (read above) as repayment for the kind hospitality shown to me whilst in Taipei. So please do visit Spot Taipei if ever following my No.4 Suggestion when in Taipei...u'd like it!
5) Cheongsam shopping in Taipei:-)
Above: Hung Shing Cheongsam Tailor store near Moca Taipei and Zhongshan MRT Station...
As anyone can tell from my blog, i'm a huge cheongsam fan..so when i knew i'd be heading towards hk and Taipei, how else could i miss the opportunity to make a chinese style clothe?
I researched alot but as the popularity of cheongsam/chinese clothing has waned to virtually being the exclusive domain of movie costumes, beauty pageants, high-society women of status or wealth, and a few schools in hk..there were really not alot of affordable places to make a cheongsam...in hk, i asked around, everyone said go to Shenzhen/Lowu cos they didn't know where to make one in hk...of course the cheap ready made ones are readily available but for any self-respecting cheongsam historian/enthusiasts...these ready made ones were not the 1960s versions i wanted...the body-fitting high stiff collared ones u see Maggie Cheung wearing in 'In the Mood for Love' is something i adored...HK only had really expensive ones...i found tailors in Peddler Street and Shanghai Tang where it costs like at least $500 AUD as a MINIMUM for a tailored made one...way out of my budget...so unless i wanted to say that i got one made in Lowu which doesn't sound very appealing, i opted for Taipei.
Now, i came to realise that Taipei has quite a few Cheongsam Tailor shops...many more than in HK, and i mean affordable tailorshops specialising in chinese clothing...it has the expensive ones too...i can't rem the brand, called Hsia..something..like Hong Kong but they had normal street ones...and they made typical 1960s cheongsams with the stiff collar which was my number one requirement!
I can only remember the names of three which i came across being 1)荣一唐装旗袍店 (theres a few more tailor shops specialising in cheongsam around the immediate area of this tailor shop) 2)鸿星旗袍店 3)京沪唐装旗袍店. I made one using my own cloth and gave SPECIFIC instructions to the tailor...i kept empasizing what i wanted but cos it was in a hurry, he did a poor job, and this was at No 3 King Hu Tailor shop above...i was so upset but i had to pretend to like it cos i didn't have time to correct it anymore cos i was leaving so sydney..the only consolation was that it was indeed th stiff collar i wanted...a type of material which is difficult to find in western countries as its used primarily for cheongsam collars..i'd recommend Option 2 above being Hung Shing..Anyways, it;d be a unique and cheaper way to obtain a traditional chinese cheongsam in taipei! So why not consider it? (Of course, for those going to china, i'd suggest getting a cheongsam made in china cos its bound to be even cheaper...but hk is definitely not an option cos its way too expensive for much of the same thing...) An average cheongsam costs around only 150AUD for workmanship without the cost of the cloth which you should provide yourself.
6) Visiting the Taipei Municipal Art Gallery and Taipei Story House as well as the nearby park and green cycling paths.
Above: Taipei Municipal Art Museum and Taipei Story House is just beside it...
Above: Taipei Municipal Art Museum and Taipei Story House is just beside it...
I really enjoyed the Taipei Art Gallery and Taipei Story House which are besides each other. The feeling is really nice going there..its very quite and not bustling, and not really in the centre of town, more on the edges...but the vast expanse of parkland there being Yuanshan and Zhongshan Gardens with plentiful space for cycling besides the moat surrounding the Grand Hotel (Yuanshan) and the MRT passing by every few mins is great...the nearby Sungshan Airport with planes arriving and leaving mere feets from the ground was an incredible experience as i had never been so close to a plane flying overhead before me before!! As i stood there on the field just outside the Yuanshan MRT station, it was surreal as you see the sky start to darken and the plane flying VERY close as they're landing nearby and with Yuanshan Hotel glittering in the distance...
7) Visiting and going for a walking or cycling route along Dunhua-Renai Road Area and spending some quiet time reading books at the world-class Eslite 24 Hr bookstore. (or chatting with a friend at the late openin Eslite Cafe)
The Dunhua Nan Lu and Renai Lu area is very well-known for their upper-class environment and having one of the highest real estate prices in the whole island of Taiwan. (Second only to the new Xinyi district where Taipei 101 is located apparently.)
It is definitely where the most rich people live in given that Xinyi district is a relatively new area whereas this dunhua area has been traditionally wealthy and upper class since decades ago..this is where traditionally rich people live including many celebrities including the family home of one of Taiwan's most famous actress Brigette Lin-Hsin Hsia. It has tree lined boulevards, a very quite feel and is minutes away from the traditional premier shopping district of Zhongxiao East Road which is still the No.2 shopping district in Taipei after only the newer Xinyi District of New York New York and Taipei 101. I have been here or driven past this area countless times and did so again on this trip back and i'd suggest people go for a walk here as the environment is really quiet, tranquil and upper-market..T
The location is convenient and one can catch the MRT to Zhongxiao East Road and shop around and walk along all the way to the juncture of Dunhua Nan Lu and then having dinner at one of the multitude of restaurants and hip cafes serving western food, shabu shabu, thai, chinese,etc cuisine along the lanes of off Dunhua Road..i cannot remember where this place is now but i remember a few alleys around the Dinghao area off Zhongxiao East Road and near Dunhua South Road are filled with nice restaurants serving all kinds of food and having a tokyo 'feel to it..v,nice...there're also foodstalls there for those after a cheaper and more taiwanese fare...
Then after dinner, one can walk to the nearby Eslite 24 hr bookstore (one of the rare bookstores open 24 hrs in not only Taiwan, but around the world!) It has a cafe open late and music sections, foreign imported mags of all sorts, japanese mags and literature, photography,etc, and also halls for movies and lectures and talks and a regular arts program of films, talks,etc...It is very cozy and world class...better than any bookstore in Sydney or Melbourne in terms of opening hrs and the cozy feel...even Tokyo bookstores can't compare from my memory...it's DEFINITELY a must for visitors to Taiwan..i wonder whether tourist groups are brought here??? It's something that u can truely find quite possibly only in Taiwan in terms of class, opening hrs, atmosphere,etc..
After reading or chatting with friends, you and your friends might like to walk just a few mtrs along to the Yuanhuan Roundabout which according to mom was where many Qiaoyao movies of the 70s and 80s were filmed at with Briggette Lin and Chin Han, Lin Feng Jiao,etc..this used to be a high class (and still is) area. The aroundabout allows you to walk pass over to Renai Road which has nothing interesting but is well known for being THE road to live in if you're wealthy (along with Yangminshan, Tianmu,Xinyi being the other suburbs known for being upper-class residential districts). From Renai, you could walk all the way towards the Presidential Palace which is an amazing photo opportunity.
The new Eslite Bookstore Xinyi Branch is also well worth a visit and definitely a must go besides the main Dunhua 24hr Branch. This is as the entire building is Eslite-owned and it has way more shops (oh, did i mention there're shops selling cool kitcsh stuff and stationery at Dunhua store too??)and even a food court. It also has an entire Japanese books section, Simplified Chinese books section, movie-related books and DVD section, and something i've only seen on American TV shows, it actually has a cooking class kitchen within the bookstore too!!! Like Martha Stewarts! It is top notch and placed within the cooking book section and has regular programming teaching housewives and others how to cook the latest dish..
Below: Eslite Bookstore Xinyi Branch...as you can see, the entire building belongs to the bookstore, something unique to Taiwan of which it can be proud of:-) There's a foodcourt, alot of design/creative shops, high-fashion, books, music, etc in the building:-)
One should also walk towards the Far Eastern Plaza Hotel Shangri La on Dunhua South Road and visit the shopping mall there, being a different feeling, v.upper class...and cross the road to the other side and visit the wet market on morning on weekends..a nice experience...the big square in front of the wetmarket surrounded by public housing is said to be the most expensive public housing estate in taiwan, being built before the boom of dunhua/renai area but now situated inside it. I usually like to walk and did once on this trip to the public estate from my home and towards the wetmarket and then towards Shangri-La and towards Dunhua-Renai...i live conveniently close to dunhua/renai area and zhongxiao east road road area as well as daan park and yongkang street precinct, all of which are are walkable distance from my place, which is a great thing:-)
8) Visiting the National Taiwan University campus and then heading over to Gongguan Shopping District.
Above: Gongguan Area opp. NTU...lots of cheap student eats here...
The NTU is the premier university in Taiwan, akin to Hong Kong University in Hong Kong, Tokyo University in Japan, and Seoul National University in South Korea. My cousin studies there and i asked him to take me around the campus. I walked from my place to NTU and it was a good walk. NTU discovery walk is something i'd suggest as something unique to do in Taipei.
I'd suggest the itinerary to visitors to take the MRT to the Gongguan MRT Station and walk around Gongguan area which is the buzy eating/hanging out place for NTU university students with alot of cheap eats available! I had this pasta for only NT$12 and it was a huge plate and definitely money for value....hang around Gong Guan and you'll definitely find something interesting to visit...i bought mantous at this specialty mantou (chinese buns) shop which is the first time i've seen mantous being sold at a nicely decorated store..haha..visited this wetmarket called Suiyuan as my cousin led me there and it was a nice place to visit...
9) Fav. Nightmarket in Taipei....Shida Nightmarket!! Another good food place for traditional taiwanese food...the Nanmen Market!!:-)
Above: One of the more popular unique restaurants in the Shida Nightmarket, brought by my cousin KJ...i didn't eat 'Cart Noodles' in HK but ate it in Taipei! Hahaha...
This is where i like to go for my nightmarket taiwanese gourmet.....i know Shilin is the must-go famous tourism spot but i personally prefer shida nightmarket as THE best nightmarket in taipei due to its much smaller size, the university feel of the place being located and intended to serve Taipei Normal University students whom live and study on campuses minutes walk away from the nightmarket and also having these nice cozy restaurants and cute shops selling cool stuff in its alleyways along with the usual nightmarket stuff...of course any first-time visitor to Taipei should visit Shilin first, but if you have the time, head over to Shida Nightmarket for something different...i visited this nightmarket all the time on childhood trips back and its the one i go to the most every time i'm in Taipei...i love the 抓饼 ,煎肉包 and 粉圆冰 there amongst other stuff like 鱿鱼羹沙茶麺 which i love greatly!!!!
There's also bookstores selling chinese books for a cheaper price compared to the Elite Bookstores as they serve the student population. I managed to buy a book i saw on the tv ad screens at the Xinyi Eslite Bookstore being on the Chinatimes 2008 Top 10 Chinese books list at this famous bookstore opp. the Shida nightmarket called '水准书局 ’。It is well-known amongst those in the know in Taiwan to sell THE CHEAPEST books in entire of Taiwan...my aunt brought me there and it was indeed very cheap, the book i wanted which was a new book was being sold in Eslite for something like 10-15NT more than here!It's like damn cheap..haha..so for those whom are looking for chinese books (not the photography or cool mag kinds) which are fairly popular, have a look here first..google taipei and the bookshop name n u should be able to get directions...
A good place selling traditional chinese/taiwanese foods to buy for takeaway is the Nanmen Shichang which sells 南北货 and all kinds of traditional food goodies such as mantous, taiwanese side dishes to be taken away for eating with rice, shanghainese tangyuan, chinese legham,etc...i love this place, so many mouth-watering things to buy, i took alot of photos discretely..hehehe..worth a visit definitely!
10) MRT trip to Beitou Public Library, the Beitou hotsprings Museum, wandering around Beitou's streets before continuing your journey via MRT to Danshui.Above: The Beitou Public Library made entirely of wooden structure...a first in Taiwan and possibly in Asia too....
Now, to think about it, Taipei has alot of interesting public libraries and well equiped and top-notch on par with those of Sydney's and Melbourne's I'd say in many respects...Besides the one with the view over Daan Park Taipei Municipal Main Library earlier mentioned, another very well known one is the Beitou Public Library. It is famous for being the first library in Taiwan to be constructed entirely out of wood. It also views to the park it is located and sunlight can come in during the day. My recommendation would be to this suggested recommendation of mine along with No.6 option above in a day. Basically, wake up early in the morning and head to Taipei Main Station. From there, take the MRT journey (Danshui Line) towards Danshui. Stop at Yuanshan MRT and head over to the Taipei Art Gallery/Taipei Story House. Spend 2-3hrs here and then cycle around the vast parklands of Yuanshan Park here whilst admiring the view of The Grand Hotel Yuanshan. Then continue on MRT on the Danshui line and stop at Beitou Sta. to transfer to Xinbeitou Sta. Here is where the Beitou Public Library is located and as it's already late afternoon, try out any of the multitude of cheap eateries/streetside food/ or my recommendation taiwanese 'biantang' (bentou) here...after lunch, wander bck to the station area and visit the Beitou Hotsprings Museum and the Beitou Public Library which are close to each other...after that return to MRT Sta. transfer bck to Beitou Sta and continue up to Danshui Sta.
Here, one can visit the Old Street for fantastic street snacks and then also head over to Fisherman's Wharf for the amazing scenery and possibly a short coffee. It should be nighttime by now and so one should take the MRT back to Jiantan Sta. where Shilin Nightmarket is situated or alternatively stop at Shipai Sta and take a bus to Tienmu for dinner or even go bck to Taipei Main Sta. and visit any of the bustling eateries behind and around the Station for dinner.
Of course, this itinerary is for those whom can enjoy places fast and not spend ages at one place, if its too rushed, split it into two days!!
Of course i have focused on some of the things i did during this trip bck to Taipei as well as on previous trips and recommended my personal experiences...i have chosen off-the-tourist-books itineraries (in terms of the usual fare of Chiang-Kai Shek Memorial Hall,etc..but definitely most of the suggestions above can be found in many top-notch tour guides...they're just not available on most packaged tours which have to squeeze the top tourist spots in and have little time to go to these other places in the usual 3-4 days which tourists on tours usually come to Taipei.) but i definitely recommend the following popular tourist attractions for 1st time visitors:
1) Chiang Kai Shek Memorial Hall
2) The National Palace Museum
3) Jiufen Mining Town
Yangmingshan and Maokong and other places are not must visits but if you have extra time, it'd make a good experience going to some of the teahouses up there with friends for a cuppa whilst chatting...Tianmu is also a nice place to visit known for its previous reputation as the expat suburb with the American and Japanese schools both located there...I found Shilin district to be really nice. Also simply taking the MRT or bus and stopping at random stops to explore the local area is a good idea too...the MRT takes you outside Taipei City into Taipei County and so its a fun thing to do as well...furthermore, cycling is all the rage nowadays in health conscious Taiwan, so one can also go cycling around Taipei and its suburbs to experience something different..
As one can see, Taipei (and indeed Taiwan!) must be truely experienced not by joining group tours or sticking to only major tourist attractions with only a few days in Taiwan, but the need to experience its simple pleasures, go for a walk or cycle on the various bike paths readily available, read a book at it's unique public libraries, eat at one of the niche suburbs like Yongkang Food street precinct or restaurants of alleyways off Zhongshan Bei Lu and Dunhua South Road or simply have a chat at Eslite's Cafe on the 24hr Dunhua Branch...
I will have many wonderful and warm memories of the time spent with relatives and friends and rediscovering Taipei and Taiwan on this trip back , taking my very first Taiwan Round Island Tour and visiting places i've never been before such as the Dihua Street 24hr CNY bazaar, as well as celebrating CNY in Taipei after many many years away...hope my series of post on my experiences in Taipei and Taiwan have provided a good source of information for any future trips of readers or just as a good read of my memories of Taipei and Taiwan:-)
PS: more photos (i took tons of pics in hk, macau,and Taiwan, but the ones on my online photo album make up only 1/4 of them cos there were too many to put up anyways!!) at my online photo album here: