Travel Diary: Three Cities in Taiwan / by Sarah Park

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Taipei, Haulien, Jiufen, TW

We were so lucky to experience a well-round trip around Taiwan from natural wonders in Hualien to busy city streets in Taipei.

Thanks to EVA Air, I had an opportunity to fly to Taiwan and explore for a full week. Another lucky strike made it a perfect timing for me to travel with a friend who had done so much more research for our trip. Without her, I don’t think my trip would have been the same and I am so glad she was able to join!

We wanted to make the most of our trip so we packed our most comfortable walking shoes and breezy clothes to get through the humidity. It was mid-November when we booked our flight but the weather in Taiwan was pretty warm, enough to get by without a jacket. A good chance of rain is also expected around this time of the year. As FYI, Taiwan in 2016 did not legally have Uber, though we were still able to somehow request rides and Google Maps did not allow us to download offline maps for easy navigation. The best way to get around is probably to invest in a pre-paid SIM card at the airport, Seven-Eleven (which they have around every corner of Taipei), or telecomm stores.

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We spent our first few days exploring around the different districts of Taipei, eating our way through the night markets and walking around to explore every nook and cranny. We also had exciting plans in Hualien to visit Taroko National Park and the Old Street in Jiufen later during the week.

In Taipei, the capital of Taiwan, there are 12 districts with distinct character and notable spots to check out. You can head to Songshan District in the northeatern corner of the city for some hipster vibes and shopping for unique trinkets. Ximending is the place to go if you’re looking for both good shopping at affordable prices and street food for a quick bite. I found myself a cute backpack and some packaged food to take back home for friends and family! If you have time, Fujin street is also worth checking out for cute, Instagram worthy cafes and boutique shops that are slightly higher in prices. Lastly, if you’re a foodie like me, you must head over to Da’an District for an unforgettable dining experience.

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As you may already know, Shilin Night Market is famous for the abundance of street food like Hot Star Chicken, stinky tofu, tropical fruit cups, and so much more. It’s an indoor food court located below ground, above a span of vendors full of toys, souvenirs, clothes, and accessories. The best time to visit is during the peak hours of 8PM - 11PM to catch the hustle and bustle of the nightlife here.

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Taroko National Park is one of nine national parks in Taiwan, located on the east coast in Hualien. The name is also very unique because it’s based on the language of the Truku indigenous tribe that once inhabited the area. The biggest attraction here is the Taroko Gorge, formed by the flowing waters of the Liwu River through this magnificent marble formation. It’s a six-hour roundtrip from Taipei and I highly recommend for you to book a tour like we did if you’re interested in going here. Some of the extra perks of this guided tour included a stop by the Silks Palace Taroko Hotel for a traditional lunch, Chi Hsing Beach, and the largest marble factory in the country.

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It is rumored that Jiufen was the inspiration behind the imaginary city in Hayao Miyazaki’s Spirited Away. It’s not very difficult to see the resemblence yourself which includes buildings lined with red lanterns, narrow streets that wind around in a seemingly endless maze, and food and gift vendors that tightly borders the streets.

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This small town tucked away in the mountains of Ruifan District is about a 45-minute bus ride from Taipei. When you get off at your stop, be sure to look for a vertical sign that reads “Old Street” to get started on your Spirited Away adventure! A wise word of advice from me to you would be to come here hungry to try everything you can get your hands on. You’ll find everything from tea eggs, grilled mushrooms, fish balls cooked in different broths, sweet and glutinous taro balls, cream puffs, and so much more.

When you get tired of eating and walking, you can take a rest at one of the many tea shops around the neighborhood. I highly recommend making a stop at Jioufen Teahouse for a chance to peep at their amazing interior decoration (that brings back nogstalic memories) and snag a seat on their rooftop patio for some afternoon tea with a view.

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Taking a short hike up Keelung mountain is a bonus if you’re looking to burn off some of the calories consumed. Located just around the corner from Old Street, you’ll get a breathtaking 360 view of the city below. It’s an extinct volcano chiseled with stone and dirt steps that takes about one to two hours to climb up a down. This just depends on how many stops you’ll need for breaks and photos! Once you reach the top, you’ll have climbed 1930ft (588m) on nature’s Stairmaster.

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