After Singapore, I was eager to get back to a more temperate climate. While Taiwan was most definitely not cold, being 5-10 celsius cooler and less humid enabled the trip to be more enjoyable. I spent two weeks touring the country with the highlights being Taiwan’s famous Night Markets. I had explored some in other countries in Asia and SE Asia, but none compare to the smorgasbord of sights, sounds, and smells that Taiwanese Night Markets entail.
My itinerary started with a couple nights in Taoyuan:
- December 3rd: Arrived in Taiwan late evening and grabbed the bus into Taoyuan. Decided to spend a couple nights there as it would let me get some laundry done and would help me get acquainted with the country before heading into the main part of touring.
- December 4th: After laundry and chilling, headed out to meet up with the lady who runs the hostel to check out the only full Shinto Shrine left in Taiwan. After an interesting and fun tour, I headed to my first Taiwanese Night Market and strolled through Jingfu Temple at night.
- December 5th: Hopped onto the train down to Kaohsiung. After checking into the hostel, toured Liuhe Night Market.
- December 6th: Early morning bus to Fo Guang Shan Buddha Temple and Museum. Managed to get in just as they opened and had some excellent photography opportunities before the tour groups started to arrive. After being dropped off by the bus at the train station, I instead walked over to Lotus Pond and strolled around it, exploring the various statues, installations, and temples that circle the lake. Finished off the afternoon at the Museum of Fine Arts Kaohsiung. Dinner ended up being from the Rueifong Night Market (best fried chicken ever at a stall called Angel Wings.
- December 7th: Caught the ferry to Cijin Island. Toured the old street and the beach before hiking along the shoreline and up to the lighthouse and Cihou Fort. Getting back on mainland, I explored the nearby Takao Railway Museum along with the various trains and carriages outdoors before continuing on to the Pier 2 Art Center district.
- December 8th: A short trip up to Tainan gave me more than enough time to tour around. Ended up visiting Tainan Wu Garden, Chihkan Tower, God of War Temple, Tainan Grand Mazu Temple, and the crafters locale of Xinmei street.
- December 9th: First stop was the National Museum of Taiwan History before hitting the old fort and Anping Tree House (where several trees have overgrown an old stone and brick warehouse). I finished off my touring at the Eternal Golden Castle. Dinner once again was at a night market, this one named the Garden Night Market.
- December 10th: Made it up to Taichung and checked into my room for the one night stay. While the day was a bit rainy and dreary, I still managed to enjoy Taichung Park and Paochueh Temple.
- December 11th: Checked out the Museum of Fine Arts which had some interesting exhibits, but was glad it was free. Met up with a friend and had lunch at the original bubble tea shop. We ended up strolling over to Painted Animation Lane to enjoy the street art. Next couple nights I ended up staying with my friend and his parents at their place. Very welcoming and helpful!
- December 12th: A day of exploring my friend’s neighbourhood as well as some tasty eateries.
- December 13th: Headed out to Taipei with the same friend. Fantastically comfortable bus! Dinner ended up being at the original Peng Garden restaurant where General Tso’s was invented! If you haven’t seen it yet, I highly recommend the documentary “Searching For General Tso”. Also, we ended up at an impromptu tea tasting of some high end leaves as well as strolling through Ningxia Night Market.
- December 14th: Spent the day in Jiufen. Was quite rainy, but still managed to enjoy the small winding streets, interesting terraced views, as well as some local specialties. Headed to the original Din Tai Fung location for a fantastic dinner of xiaolong bao amongst other tasty items.
- December 15th: Toured around Taipei hitting various spots which included Longshan Temple, the Chiang Kai-Shek Memorial Complex, 228 Memorial Park, National Museum of Taiwan (disappointing, skip this), Taipei Confucius Temple, and finally Dalongdong Baoan Temple.
- December 16th: Last full day in Taipei, I was up early to catch the train north with a stop at Guandu Temple before continuing along to the end of the line at Tamsui. Explored Tamsui starting from Fort San Domingo and then walking to the old Customs House (the White House). I ended up at Tamsui Old Street where I sampled some local delicacies such as Grandma’s Iron Eggs and Fluffy Cheese Cake. Was also going to visit the Old Ministry of Railways building back in downtown Taipei, but it was closed for renovations.
- December 17th: Head to Kuala Lumpur!
This was quite the lengthy itinerary that I managed to cobble together and of course I ended up staying at various hostels and Airbnbs throughout.
The first place I stayed at was Your Homes hostel in Taoyuan. It was comfortable, clean, and all the basic amenities were provided. On top of that, the hostess sometimes takes out those staying on tours of local landmarks. Only thing to note is that the room with bunk beds is the main area but I stayed in the queen bed room which is separated from the rest by Japanese style sliding doors.
The next location I stayed was in a hostel down in Kaohsiung called Trip GG Hostel. It’s location was perfect for sightseeing around Kaohsiung but a couple things detracted from me wanting to come back including the insects.
After Kaohsiung, I stayed at Tie Dao Hotel in Tainan. It’s a great traveller’s hotel located by Tainan Train Station. It was clean and cheap and had all the basics done well.
I spent one night in Taichung at a small rooming house called Shape House. Accessing it was via an alley in the back of a row of shops, but it was surprisingly well secured. The room itself was perfectly functional and clean and would be a good point to stay at while exploring Taichung.
The final place I stayed at was the Meander 1948 hostel. It’s located near the central area train and bus stations as well as some fantastic eateries and street food. My only qualm is that AC is controlled by anyone which someone cranked up the heat. AC at hostels should probably be set by owners (standard comfortable levels are usually 22 or 23°C) and the remote locked away.
Taiwan is served well by public transportation with a variety of rail and bus options to get you around. There seems to be two different main rail systems (one express and one semi-express) that serves the western part of Taiwan where most of the major cities are located. Bus service is also a good option as it is almost as fast as most rail, much cheaper, and definitely comfortable. Some buses come with the 3 seat wide configuration (seat on either side and one seat in the middle with an aisle separating each seat). Best thing to get is an EasyCard which is a cash card that allows you to use many of the transit systems in the country. There is another type of card called HappyCash, but it isn’t accepted in as many locations.
Overall, Taiwan is a relatively safe and convenient place to travel with an excellent variety of food options as well as decent lodgings. I definitely recommend it but don’t take my word for it – instead, check out these photos!