Taipei city is situated in the Northern tip of Taiwan and is an oriental metropolis that houses Japanese colonial streets, contemporary architecture, Taipei 101, national museums, art galleries, buzzing streets, night markets and a whole lot more.
As I pen down this blog post, I feel transported back to the city(nostalgic) I fell in love with from the moment I landed. From of its jaw-dropping beauty to its picturesque landscape and vibrant energy it holds – Taipei is a world of charm! The perfect time to travel to Taipei would be from Oct-March. I travelled during the second week of Jan and couldn’t have asked for better weather. With monsoon taking a back seat and temperatures holding up to 20 degrees it was the perfect time to visit.
Flight: The flight time from Dubai to Taipei is approx 14 hours with a stopover at Hong Kong if you are flying with Cathay Pacific. Enroute Dubai to Hong Kong is 8 hours with a layover time at Hong Kong airport for 4 hours and an onwards flight to Taipei that touches down in about 2 hours time. There are flights that operate directly to Taipei as well if time is a constraint.
Taipei Airport: From the time you land its a 10 min walk towards the immigration counters. You will spot sim card kiosks on your right that sell affordable and amazing packages with data + mins and I ended up buying one from the kiosk that had the longest lineup. As I knew it would guarantee a certain level of service and is probably a top choice among the tourists. The package was for a total of NTD 300 for 5 days of unlimited data and 6 mins of local calling – honestly, it was a great decision as it kept me connected to my friends and family throughout the trip with no hassles. The line up at the immigration is never ending and will take about 30 – 40 mins of wait time on any given day.
Airport To The Hotel: The airport transfers were organized by the tour company (I will mention down below). The drive to the city centre is about 45 mins. The exotic landscape is worth addressing as you’ll find lush green mountains, well laid out road and public transport network, and a smooth drive all the way to the hotel.
Hotel Check-In: I arrived at the Riviera Hotel situated in the Zhongshan District, Taipei. Conveniently situated 1 km away from the Zhongshan Meishu Park, Yoanshan MRT Station and the fine arts museum. The neighbourhood is safe and there are a host of restaurants/eateries available at walking distance. The staff was extremely efficient and friendly. I instantly felt a sense of belongingness and at home – quite important considering this was my first solo trip. The staff at the front desk ensured I got a room with a view of the Grand Hotel(One of the oldest hotel in Taipei) and on one of the higher floors.
Day 1: I decided to head to Taipei 101 after a quick nap around 5.30 pm to catch the gorgeous sunset and the nighttime view from the observatory deck. I could not contain my excitement and I think like most travellers I also decided to head there as my first stop. Known as the iconic landmark in Taipei and once the tallest building in the world in the year from 2004 until 2010 after which the Burj Khalifa took over the status of the world’s tallest. The building has a unique architecture that sort of looks like a box of noodles stacked one on top of the other – probably just a way to look at it. 🙂 Hop on over to the 5th floor to purchase your tickets and get going on the top to get a bird’s eye view of this vibrant city. It consists of an observatory deck on the 87th floor that offers panoramic views of the entire city – makes it to a travellers bucket list and also a great vantage point for some stunning photos. Access to the 91st floor offers open space and limited view of the city through the safety bars.
Day 2: The pickup time was at 1:30 pm – an afternoon start to the trip. Its almost an hour’s ride into the Northeast Coast of Taiwan. The drive is extremely scenic with stunning views of the lush green mountains and the roads are carved through to the high mountain villages. It’s a fascinating sight to the first time visitors as you get a glimpse of the Taiwanese houses, culture, tradition and an overall tranquil feel.
First stop was at the BAY OF TWO COLOURS located at the Yin Yang Sea. Quite an intriguing and distinct view where the colour of the water is in two different shades – a huge patch of yellow towards the front and blue as it goes deeper into the sea. This awe-inspiring scene draws a perfect backdrop for a photo opportunity and a realization that the forces of nature are interconnected. Keeping the Chinese concept of Yin & Yang i.e. Good & Bad in mind this sea is a perfect representation of the principal. However, its also said that the colouration of this bay was caused by extensive chemical runoff. Although, many years later the hue still persists and after close examination, it is concluded that the colouration is caused by a heavy concentration of pyrite.
Second stop was the NANYA ROCK FORMATIONS that are located at the shore of the Yin Yang sea and the fishing village. A bit of rock climbing and you’re in for a spectacular view of the sea. One of the rock formations is in the shape of an inverted ice-cream cone and attracts tourists from all over for its unique formation. You can spot other fascinating shapes with a closer look. The formations are a result of the weathering and wave action – that’s truly phenomenal. The location also serves as a perfect backdrop for a pre-wedding shoot and I got to witness one while I was there and it was a moment to capture and remember. You might want to be extra careful while on your way up and down the rock formations as it can get quite slippery. If you’re with a tour guide – follow their instructions.
Next up was a drive up to the JIUFEN VILLAGE that’s located high up on the mountain in the Ruifang District, New Taipei City. It surely was the most exciting part of the trip as the drive up the mountain was almost as though I was in the clouds and could barely see anything below from the top of the mountain. On your way up you will see the most incredible views of the sea and the little villages and houses constructed during the Gold Mining era. For the most part, the village has a lot of Japanese influence on architecture and culture which remains unchanged to this day.
The name “Chiufen” now called “Jiufen” means nine pieces. During the Qing Dynasty, the isolated village housed 9 families and the village would request “9 portions” each time the shipments would arrive from town.
The village is accessible by a shuttle bus or the public transport system(MRT or the Bus). Makes it to a good 2-hour round trip and its a place where you can spend ample time for shopping, exploring, tea time or photography. It can get overwhelming after a point but look for an open spot where you can get some time to breathe, relax and head back to the village. The village is extremely rich in culture and Oolong tea stalls are available after every few shops. As you walk down the narrow alleyways and cobblestone streets of this quaint village you will find Chinese street food and pineapple cake shops, artefacts, cafes and souvenir shops.
Day 3: The pickup time was at 9am – an early start to the day trip to KAVALAN whiskey distillery situated in Yilan, Taiwan. Kavalan has won many prestigious awards for its Single Malt Whiskey production in the past and is the only distillery in Taiwan. It is located about an hours drive from Taipei city and has a hot/humid and sometimes mild climate. The location at which Yilan district sits makes ideal to age whiskey.
The distillery is owned by the King Car Group and I also learned its one of the major producers in beverage production – they also produce their own coffee known as Mr.Brown and also have cafes around town with the same name. As you walk down towards the main area of the distillery on your left, you will find cooperages that blend ex-bourbon and ex-sherry casks that are imported from US and EU are reconditioned before its deployed to age. Further down as you walk into the main building you will find a section that showcases different stages of whiskey ageing that’s stored in a set of bottles for easy understanding. The most exciting area of the building is the barrel storage room where whiskey is kept for a certain amount of years to age and result in a selection of fine spirit and then classified into different categories depending on the taste profile and notes.
I also had the opportunity to blend and taste whiskeys after which I could create my own blend, sign and bring back home for the husband(primary reason for this tour). If you do plan to visit the distillery and if whiskey is something that is totally up your alley then you should probably make a note of the Kavalan Distillery tour and enjoy your DIY session at the end of the tour. Quite a lovely way to end the tour and a souvenir to carry back home.
Towards late afternoon I decided to visit the most historic Buddhist temple – Longshan. It’s a Chinese folk religious temple that was built in 1738 by Fujians settlers and served as a gathering place for Chinese settlers. Longshan temple is a place of worship and the entire architecture speaks volumes about the time it was built, the bronze walls feel as though they’re embedded with the hymns/chants and the entire temple has an unforgettable spiritual vibe. The smell of the incense and the fumes inside the temple are believed to have a calming effect and help to cleanse your aura. There is a large golden bowl in the middle of the main square and the incense sticks are placed there after the prayer. The energy is quite intense and I almost stood still while I heard the sound of the prayer bell and realized that this place has a very grounding feel to it.
The outside structure of the temple is quite colourful with hues of red, orange, blue and pastel green on the pillars with sculptures of phoenixes and dragons carved intricately. On the right, before you entire inside the temple prayer area, there is a waterfall and cleansing pool where devotees can cleanse their mind and energy metaphorically before entering to pray.
The entry to the temple is free and you can get there by taxi or the MRT which is a few metres away. Unlike most of Taipei, there were quaint cobbled streets lining the crowded and chaotic roads with a rush of locals and tourists. There are vendors right outside the temple that sell offerings and incense. This area feels quite ancient and dates back to 100’s of years – if you’re keen to know how old Taipei city sort of looked like back in the day then the Longshan temple area will give you the perfect feel to it.
To sum up, this was my first solo trip ever and probably the best decision to take the plunge and jet set. It was exactly how I imagined it to be and the place was far more gorgeous than anyone could put in words. I’m up for travelling to Taipei anytime again. I think I can never get over the fact how this country made me feel from the first go and is a true Asian gem that needs to be explored at length.
Travel Company & Taiwan Tourism Board: Here’s a BIG thank you to Musafir.com & Taiwan Tourism Board for the opportunity! Get in touch with an efficient team to plan and customize your dream trip to your next destination.
Airline Partner: Cathay Pacific for making the trip an unforgettable one with access to an award-winning business class and the lounges at Hong Kong airport.
Tour Company in Taiwan: Edison Tours – efficient and timely service with informative tour guides.
Hotel: The stay at the Riviera Hotel in Taipei was brilliant. From hotel rooms, staff, service, food, cleanliness and the ambience every detail was on point and I would highly recommend booking this property if your travelling alone or with children. One of my favourite bits at the hotel was the gorgeous little coffee shop that made some delish cakes and the breakfast spread in the morning. It was a lavish spread that served sumptuous oriental and continental options.
Currency: New Taiwanese Dollar (NTD)
*USD is not widely accepted in Taiwan except the Duty-Free at the airport. Banks are the only places you can exchange your home currency. Visa/Master Card is accepted at most places including taxis.