1. Eating stinky tofu. – It smells like sweaty feet or socks that have been balled up and stuffed in a rubber shoe never to be laundered again. But if you want to say that you’ve really been to Taipei and make your stay here an extra special one, conquering a serving of stinky tofu must be on your to-do list. For those who dare to take on this challenge, I recommend getting those fried tofus which can be surprisingly good. So good that you might end up discovering that the stink is all worth it.
2. Drink milk tea – Tea is like water for the Taiwanese. One of the authentic food stuff you will be able to enjoy here is tea and of course, milk tea. There’s a reason why Taiwan is presumaly the milk tea capital of the world. Most shops would allow you to choose either using powdered or liquid milk with your naicha (Nai = milk, cha = tea). There’s also an assortment of add-ons that you can try like egg pudding and of course, the “frog eggs” or tapioca balls to go with your order. The tea that is used here is also authentic black tea. Green tea and oolong tea are also a must for you to try.
3. Ride the Maokong Gondola – Getting an awesome view of Taipei is what riding the Maokong Gondola is all about. It’s a 10-15 minute cable car ride that gives you an amazing chance to see how the urban landscape of Taipei blends fluidly with its surrounding natural attractions. The cable cars also come in two options: the crystal cabs and the regular cabs. The crystal cabs come with a glass floor and is recommended for those who want to feel like they are flying on top of the tea farms at Muzha.
4. Eat xiao long bao from Din Tai Fung – Xiao long bao is practically everywhere in Taipei but if you want to have the best, then go to Din Tai Fung. There’s one in Sogo mall, Tianmu and another one near Chiang-Kai Shiek hall. Din Tai Fung is a Michelin-starred restaurant and even though you might find it hard to get a seat to eat there (they don’t do reservations, only a first-come first-serve basis for dine in), you can order their xiao long bao as take out. Must try: truffles or chicken–the flavors just burst inside your mouth as you bite into the xiao long bao. The juice inside sends a sensational flavor coating on your tongue.
5. Shop at the night market. – I think Taiwan also deserves to be the night market capital of the world. Taipei alone has so many of these shopping hotspots that I suspect I haven’t exactly seen or heard about them all in the two years I’ve been here. The notable ones are: Shilin, Ximending, and Tamsui. You can also try to visit Raohe night market near the Hongshulin MRT for really affordable branded stuff. Night markets are also very popular among locals because they can haggle products here that you would typically find in shopping malls. It’s a smart alternative source for finding and buying branded items such as shoes, bags, and clothes.
6. Bike along the riverside. – Biking is probably the most underrated activity for tourists in Taipei. Aside from the greatness of the MRT system, it’s also notable to see the effort that Taiwan has put into building the bike paths of Taipei. They are systematically placed along the Keelung and Tamsui river, somewhat finding themselves crossing each other and providing an alternative means of transportation for its people. The bike paths offer a grand view of Taipei on any day and most especially in the evening, as the LED lights dance and highlight the freeways and bridges you will pass by. Bike rentals are also available in every bike path and you can also opt to use the YouBike if you have an EasyCard.
7. Take a photo of Taipei 101. – This landmark building was once the tallest building ever built on our planet, until the Burj Khalifa was built. When you say Taipei, this building is always going to pop up at any given travelogue or discussion. It’s what the Eiffel tower is to Paris and the main tuned mass damper (or harmonic absorber) is one of the reasons behind its being grandiose. The design of the building resembles that of bamboo–swaying to every earthquake and withstanding the powerful typhoons that mother nature sets off on Taiwan.
8. Shop for gadgets. – Taiwan is known for it electronics and manufacturing industry and this fact accounts for cheap yet original gadgets available in Taipei. There’s no Apple or Microsoft or any other brand war here because all of them are notably cheaper when you buy here. It’s only a matter of preference and you will also be surprised that some shops would even allow you to haggle when buying gadgets. So the next time you wanted to buy a new mobile phone, or a laptop, or get your hands on a DSLR, might as well try to make that purchase right here in Taipei.
9. Go for a hike at Yangmingshan. – Would you believe me if I say that it only takes 2 hours max to go on a hike here in Taipei? Well, you better say yes because it is possible and is a highly recommended activity for all you nature-loving outdoorsy tourists out there. You can always go for a day hike in Taipei and you simply ride a bus going to Yangmingshan to do it. The trip to Yangmingshan’s trails are just under an hour from the city and you can also take a cab going up there. There’s a total of eight mountains that you can hike and all of them have their own level of difficulty and hiking can be done for free. Each of these mountains already have trails that you can easily navigate and follow, made safe for tourists and locals alike.
10. Catch the lantern festival at the end of Chinese New Year. – The lantern festival is the Chinese official celebration for the lunar year’s end. It often happens around February. It’s always a dreamy event to witness as you see hundreds of traditional paper lanterns being released and light up the night sky like stars dancing their way up above. In Taipei, select locations also showcase lantern exhibits for free.