I never really knew what sights were in Taiwan. I just knew that while in Taiwan, one must eat, eat, eat as it’s a glutton’s paradise. I didn’t really research ahead on things to do and places to see. I just left it all up to our pre-arranged itinerary. I was pleasantly surprised as it turns out Taiwan had so many places to visit and many other things to do besides eat. I’s not all about the food and night markets and temples – it’s also about nature, culture and so much more. Here are the 7 places and things to do that stood out for me.
1.)Scenic Cable Car Ride in Sun Moon Lake
A few hours drive away from Taipei is Sun Moon Lake. It used to Chiang Kai Chek’s favorite vacation spot. It really was a beautiful place and the lake scenery changed with the different lighting and times of the day. You can also take a cable car ride up the mountains. It’s actually more of a scenic ride – the cable car doesn’t take you up to a viewing spot to see the lake and mountains - you will be viewing all that while riding. The scenery is gorgeous and also the cable cars are clean and modern. You just can’t beat the views you get from this ride.
Another gem of Taiwan. Yehliu is the third or fourth highest rated attraction in Taiwan. It’s personally my favorite. It is located less than an hour away from Taipei. It is basically a Geological Park that has the most interesting shaped rocks – all naturally formed due to sea erosion. It’s mostly limestone on the surface. The great thing about limestone is that it’s very easy to navigate - you don’t slip when it’s raining and the ground won’t turn into mush either. The weather was pretty much psycho while I was in the park so it was a relief not to be slipping and sliding. The shapes of the rocks resemble so many objects/persons/animals. There’s a fairy shoe, bird, dragon, mushrooms, and the most famous one : the Rock that they call “The Queen”. There are also the candle shaped rocks – these rocks are unique to Taiwan, you can’t find any rocks shaped like these anywhere else in the world. You can also spot some fossils on the ground plus some interesting colored patterns. All these factors make the whole place look like it’s in Mars or something. It’s pretty amazing.
Taiwan is pretty much known as a glutton’s paradise. Meaning one of the main things to do while you’re there is to eat,eat and eat! There is SO much food everywhere. Most notably, in their night markets. There are so many different kinds of food combinations and creative concepts that you only see in Taiwan. You must spend a few hours in the night market or go back several times while you’re there just so you can try as many things. There’s squid balls, rice stuffed sausages, blow torch beef cubes, fried paos stuffed with meat, omelets with different toppings and flavors, “coffin” sandwiches, candied fruit and tomatoes (yes they eat tomatoes as dessert), wraps that have a combination of, get this : chopped nuts, two scoops of ice-cream AND cilantro. Sounds weird right? But it was actually pretty good. There were so,so many other things to try but I think my stomach could only stretch so far.
Like I mentioned, night markets in Taiwan are a must visit. Mostly for the food but you also get to shop for other things like bags, wallets, electronics and etc. Some of the shopping streets like Danshui, or the street near Lungshan temple and the streets of Sun Moon Lake were also pretty interesting. Though these shopping streets had some commercial goods for sale, I was once again drawn to the food and most especially the snacks. They had so many different kinds of snacks and a lot of these you could bring home. Taiwan is known for nougat and of course the famous pineapple cake. There were so many different looking snacks, I literally bought some without even knowing what half of them were. Most of them were nuts (with flavors like wasabi and charcoal), cookies that had different flavors like taro. Of course If you were a serious shopper (and not a snack shopper like me), you can always head on over to Ximending District, which is as they say the “Harajuku” of Taiwan.
This building is definitely one of the prettiest in Taiwan! It’s a skyscraper and I was expecting it to be just a really tall building where you can go up and take in some views of Taipei. The design of the building was really pretty, it has these details that look like they came from a Taoist temple design template. I love the contrast of those details with the glass. The view above is also great. If you’re a jewelry lover there is a huge shop on top that had mostly red corals – Taiwan’s specialty.
Another must see. The Martyr’s Shrine had a changing of the guards every hour. It’s a really nice experience while in Taipei. It’s so interesting to watch the ritual. The shrine is also huge and a great place for good photo opportunities.
If you’re a movie buff then you would know that Chiufen is actually Hayao Miyazaki’s inspiration when he made the animated film ‘Spirited Away’. It’s a village tucked in the mountains of Taiwan and it had the most interesting little shopping streets. These streets had red lanterns all over and again so much variety of shops and food stalls. It really did feel like a scene out of a movie – or like stepping back through time. It also had gorgeous views of the Northern coast of Taiwan.
For those visiting Taiwan soon – I hope you check out one or all of these attractions. I know there are so many other things to do – even just staying in Taipei and not venturing out to the other parts of the country should should be pretty interesting already. Just make sure you pack a lot of loose clothes - you will definitely be eating a lot in Taiwan!