posted by Vicki in Gypsetters Guide
Why go: It’s only a few hours away from Manila but as an option for Easter break or a long weekend it has great cool weather, which is definitely a nice change of pace from our humid tropical climate. It’s both fun to immerse in its cultural sights and entertaining to visit its interesting restaurants and night markets. Best of all, it lacks the maddening crowds predominant in more popular Asian cities. Its people are really friendly, too.
What to pack: It’s best to bring layers in case the sun decides to hide behind the clouds and the wind chill factor rises (except during its summer months of June to September). Wear comfy clothes and shoes as you will be doing a lot of walking around, such as dresses with tights, jeans and t-shirts under a sweater, jacket or cashmere cardigan, shawls, flat shoes or boots. Bring something dressy for evenings out. The men should bring layers as well such as trousers, shirts and sweaters and a blazer.
Love/Lust: Love the quaint pedestrian alleys and electric vibe of shopping in Ximending. On my lust list is a stay at the W Taipei. I also didn’t have time to visit the National Museum, which is a must on my next trip as well.
Stay: When unsure of where to stay while in Taipei, you can rely on the amazing service and comfortable rooms that the Shang never fails to provide. Shangri-La’s Far Eastern Hotel is a bit more toward the conventional hotel but you can be assured of a good neighborhood, spot on concierge services and fantastic in-house dining establishments, such as the Cantonese restaurant Shang Palace.
Eat: Visit the original branch of Din Tai Fung on XinYi corner Yong Kang Streets – aside from the usual fare, they have interesting combinations and their truffle xiao long bao is to die for! Yong Kang Beef Noodle isn’t much in terms of ambiance but there’s a long line out the door because the spicy beef noodle soup is amazing with its firm, homemade noodles, melt-in-your-mouth beef and warming soup. Order it with different condiments like pickled cabbage or tofu and wash it down with Taiwan beer. Off Ximending is Mala Yuanyang Hotpot, with its rows and rows of fresh veggies, noodles and seafood that you cook yourself. Be warned though, the spicy broth is incredibly spicy – too spicy even for me! Opt for the natural broth and up your spice level by mixing chili into your sauce concoction where you will dip your meat in. For those who love street food, visit any of the night markets such as Shilin and get your fill of stinky tofu, oyster omelets and bubble tea. For somewhere special, eat at L’Atelier de Joel Robuchon for an interactive gourmet dining experience, delicious food, the best mashed potatoes you’ll ever have in your life and oh, that bread: even Cohen die-hards would convert for it.
Drink: Tea, fresh juices, Taiwan Beef o beer and trendy cocktails. For those who enjoy it, bubble tea is everwhere. After all, this is its homeland.
Do: A visit to Taipei in incomplete without a visit to Taipei 101 – it stands head and shoulders above the city and was the world’s tallest building until 2008 when Dubai’s Burj Kalifa knocked it down to second place. Check out the Museum of Contemporary Art to see what the modern Taiwanese are creating today. You must go shopping at Ximending, its pedestrian streets are hip and trendy and on the weekends you can see street performers. Try to peek at one of Taipei’s themed restaurants such as Toilet Bowl or A380 In-Flight Kitchen. A must-visit is the incense-scented Long Shan Temple, which is super busy with people paying homage to their ancestors or praying for blessings. Night markets such as the Hua Xi Night Market abound here, selling everything from local trinkets to the more exotic souvenirs. Last but not the least, walk the grounds of the national memorial hall of Chiang Kai-shek – a majestic structure in memory of the former president of China. Have a drink at one of the trendy nightclubs such as Marquee.
Shop: Whatever your heart desires. From Chinese-made bags and shoes and knockoffs to the trendiest brands found in high end shopping malls. The night markets sell local products like silk robes and hand-painted fans.
Book: The Generalissmo: Chiang Kai-shek and the Struggle for Modern China by Jay Taylor.
In the know: Bring a foldable umbrella in case it rains. Bargain at the night markets. The Taiwanese eat an early dinner so best to follow their schedule otherwise you will find your restaurant closed for the night.
Season: Best to go in early spring or fall for the cool, temperate weather.
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We are two friends who were former magazine editors. Having moved onto other things, we both realized that the creative flow the publishing world used to offer us was missing from our lives. Armed with a common love of travel to the exotic and familiar, a penchant for the bohemian, an obsession with food and a lust for writing, we decided to collaborate our unique and fashionable journeys through life together in one passion project.
We are The Gypsetters.