Initially I thought that staying in China for the Chinese new year was an absolute no brainer, experiencing Chinese New Year in Hong Kong is something that most people can only dream of. However, the warden of my hostel strongly advised us to use the week off school to travel instead – as it turns out apart from a parade and some fireworks the Chinese New Year holiday could be compared to our Christmas, meaning most things shut down so that people can spend time with their families.
So we went to Taiwan!
The tragic earthquake that struck southern Taiwan on the 6th February fortunately, though surprisingly, had no noticeable impact on our trip to the northern capital city of Taipei, and my thoughts go out to the 115 people that passed away as a result of this disaster. We were also fortunate enough to miss the Mong Kok riots in Hong Kong that erupted on the 8th February over the government crackdown over unlicensed street hawkers; so we were very fortunate
The people of Taipei are some of the nicest people I have ever had the good fortune of meeting. Nothing is too much trouble, and we found that complete strangers would often go out of their way to help us. A lot of people would also come up to us and tell us how beautiful we were and would ask for a picture with us, which was definitely an experience. To add to this food is absolutely incredible! The local students told us we would come back fat but I’m not sure i fully believed them. Our hostel was positioned above one of the largest night markets in the city and, whilst the fruit is a total rip off, the rest of the street food was amazing.
Taipei is a definite must visit if you ever get the opportunity, we spent a week there comfortably, I wouldn’t recommend a much longer trip but you could also see a lot of the slights if you just traveled there for a few days.
Must do’s in Taipei:
- Shilin Night Market – Go hungry and just eat everything you can. And don’t worry, that thing you can smell is just the stinky tofu.
- Taipei Zoo – The zoo is absolutely massive, a lot bigger than we anticipated, we got lost in bird world for an hour. They also have pandas, but pandas like to sleep.
- The Cable Cars – Amazing views over the city and the mountains with lots of trails, temples and tea rooms to explore on the other side.
- Elephant Mountain – So many steps! But a cheaper and sunnier way to get great views of the city, rather than visiting the viewing deck of Taipei 101. There are also hidden temples and statues along the way and I wish we had taken a picnic.
- Hot Springs – Look on in awe as locals who are old enough to be your grandparents calmly soak in water that is hot enough to make a cup of tea, before heading into the 4th hottest pool, which you have to exit every 10 minutes in case you die. You become immune to the egg smell after a while too.
- Pingxi Lantern Festival – I don’t know if you can send up lanterns all year around but this was honestly one of my favourite parts of our trip. There’s a series of small towns to explore with lots of good food too, just make sure to ask for advice on the trains beforehand.
- Asia’s Niagara Falls – In the same place as the Lantern Festival and absolutely beautiful.
- Eat at Din Tai Fung – The wait is always horrendous but the dumplings are 100% worth it. Can be found at the bottom of Taipei 101 at the MRT entrance.
- Eat Beef Noodle Soup – Find a place with minimal white people and a line to get in, I promise you won’t be disappointed.
- Experience a Taiwanese massage – Just do it, I can’t even.