Taiwan is an island nation just east of China, rich with its own culture and food. From San Francisco to the Taoyuan International Airport takes about 13 hours of flight time, but luckily, nonstop flights are available through EVA Air so you can reduce the hassle. Once you arrive, you will have to take a bus or a taxi to Taipei’s city center, which takes about 25 minutes and will cost you around $31 USD. It’s much easier to exchange your money for the Taiwanese currency (New Taiwan Dollar) at your local bank in the US than searching for one within the country or at the airport for a higher exchange rate.
You can find all the helpful tips down below in our TL;DR summary!
TAIPEI – THE MAIN ATTRACTION
Taipei is the capital of Taiwan and the city alone has so many districts with distinct character for you to explore. Shilin Night Market is famous for the array of Taiwanese street food found at the indoor foodcourt, but you can also indulge in a shopping experience for gifts and trendy fashion. It’s best to visit during it’s peak hours from 8PM – 11PM to get the best experience. During the day, Ximending is also a popular area to go for shopping and good food. I ended up going here twice to get myself a nice backpack for exploring and a ton of snacks to take back home.
You can experience the Taiwanese hipster culture in the Songshan District located in the northeatern corner of Taipei. Fujin street is known for Instagram worthy cafes and boutique shops for clothes and homegoods. When you get hungry, head on over to the south of the city to the Da’an District for an unforgettable dining experience.
JIUFEN – OLD STREET & KEELUNG MOUNTAIN
Jiufen is a small town nestled in the mountains of Ruifang District, about a 45-minute air-conditioned bus ride from Taipei. The bus will drop you off across the street from the main entrance of the Old Street, a maze of tea houses, charming gift shops, and street food vendors. You must come here on an empty stomach to get the full experience of all the food available from tea eggs, fish balls cooked in various broths, sweet and glutinous taro balls with red bean, taro cream puffs, stinky tofu, grilled foods (sausages, mushrooms, and clams), and so much more!
The Jiufen Old Street bears a close resemblance to the imaginary city in Hayao Miyazaki’s Spirited Away. Buildings lined with red laterns and narrow streets that wind around in an endless maze of food stalls all take you back to scenes from the animation.
There’s also a ton of tea shops you can stop by to relax and admire the view from their roof top patios. I recommend the Jioufen Teahouse for their incredible interior, complete with an indoor pond, wooden furniture, and an old school vibe. The rooftop patio overlooks the pacific ocean and it’s a perfect spot to enjoy the warm breeze while sipping your tea.
Before you leave Jiufen, be sure to check out a breathtaking view from the top of the Keelung mountain. It’s an extinct volcano chiseled with stone and dirt steps that takes about one to two hours to climb up and down. You can stop by the three pavilions for a break as the stairs can be pretty steep and it gets very windy as you get higher. To reach the top, you must climb a total of 1930ft (588m), talk about a major butt workout! However, this is all worth it once you see the amazing 360 degree view of the city below and burning off half of what you ate in the Old Street.
HUALIEN – TAROKO NATIONAL PARK
You can explore the Taroko Gorge through Taroko National Park, one of nine national parks in Taiwan. The gorge is named after the aboriginal tribe that lived in the area and the power of the forging Liwu river helped to create the deep valleys between marble mountains. You can plan a daytrip yourself or look into an informative guided tour like this one to help you experience the park. I highly recommend the guided tour if it fits in your budget because the six-hour roundtrip train ride is booked in advance for you, a van and a tourguide awaits you when you arrive in Hualien, and extra perks. We stopped by Silks Palace Taroko Hotel for a traditional lunch, Chi Hsing Beach, and the largest marble factory in the country.
Ready to head to Taiwan? Here’s the TL:DR version:
- Taxi ride from the Taoyuan International Airport to Taipei’s city center will cost about $1000 NTD ($31 USD) and takes 25 minutes without traffic
- Exchange currency at your local bank before you travel to minimize hassle and worry
- Check out Shilin Night Market for lots of good Taiwanese food and trend shopping, peak hours are between 8PM – 11PM
- Ximending is also a great neighborhood to stop for gifts and snacks during the day
- Taipei districts to check out:
- Songshan District: Fujin street is filled with Instagram worthy cafes and boutique shops
- Da’an District: unforgettable dining experience for foodies
- Take a comfy 45-minute bus ride to Jiufen to experience old school charm of Taiwan, an endless array of street food options, and quaint tea houses
- Burn off what you consumed along Old Street by taking a 2-hour roundtrip hike up Keelung Mountain for a glutes workout + amazing view
- Book a guided tour to Taroko National Park for a day filled with adventure and wonder, surrounded by natural slabs of white marble and lush forests
Thank you to EVA Air for sponsoring this trip!