Six More Questions asked on Quora by the Taiwan-Curious

1.What are the best souvenirs from Taipei?

The best thing you can take back home with you are great memories. They’ll still be around after the tea is gone and the amusing Chinglish on that t-shirt you bought has faded. But if you’re serious about tea and are only going to be in Taipei, you should head to Maokong and purchase some tea on a Tea Culture Day Tour. You’ll be able to not merely serve the tea to your friends, but also show off your newfound knowledge. (Read more: A day for tea – tea culture in Taiwan)

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 As for the goofy t-shirts, they’re kind of all over the place. If you walk around the Ximen neighborhood you’ll see tons. And if you feel the urge to buy them in bulk, the Wu Fen Pu Garment Wholesale Area is the place to do that. (Read more: A brief guide to shopping (and bargaining) in Taipei)

If you’re looking for a good balance of neighborhoods that are fun to explore and also have plenty of cool tourist stuff on sale, check out our article 15 suggestions for a day in Dadaocheng,  particularly numbers 4, great place to get your pineapple cakes , 8, DIY arts and crafts stuff that you can then give as gifts, 11, Traditional Taiwanese hand puppets; great gifts for kids and 13, tea, if you can’t make the tea tour. (Explore the Vintage Taipei in Dadaocheng with MyTaiwanTour)

dadaocheng tour, taipei
Dihua Street at Dadaocheng, Taipei

 

2. What are the best traveling hacks in Taiwan?

We’ll assume that you’ll be here for at least ten days and that you’re planning to do more than just visit Taipei. Without knowing your itinerary, We can’t get too specific.

First, we’ll get the obvious Taiwan Travel Hack out of the way. Buy a Metro Card and put at least NT$1000 on it (about $30 USD.) You can use it to get on any Metro (Taipei, Kaohsiung), almost any bus (more on this later), and to buy stuff at any 7–11 on the island (they are everywhere). From a purely time-saving perspective, the card is amazing. Even if you only use it on trains, it’ll save you from having to buy individual tokens for every trip, and allow you to get off on a whim. You can also use the card to rent Youbikes, but you’ll need to go through the extra step of registering your card. You can do this at most train stations. (Read more:Biking Tips around Taiwan)

Ubike station
Ubike station

Taipei’s bus system is challenging even for long-time expats. Unless your comfortable getting lost a bit, or the bus you’re about to board says the name of the place you’re going, take the MRT when possible. On the plus side, many buses have USB ports to charge your devices. (Many MRT stations throughout Taipei have USB charging stations.)

And on the subject of getting lost / MRT stations, you know how generally speaking maps are oriented so that up=north? In Taiwan, they do things a bit differently, by which we mean different from the norm and also different on a case to case basis. So when trying to orient yourself from an MRT station map, please note that the arrow on the map itself indicating north will be facing in whatever direction the cartographer that day chose to use. (Sorry about this!)

If you’re looking for restaurants with acceptably decent western meals a notch or two above fast food (and with English menus) a chain called Dante’s isn’t fancy but fits the bill. They’re all over Taiwan.

Nearly every coffee shop in Taiwan has free Wifi. Check out Coffee in Taiwan – How an Island of Tea-drinkers came to love the bean!  For some of our suggestions for coffee shops in Taipei, as well as some survival coffee shop Mandarin.

Finally, you’ll find a bunch of articles at Taiwan Scene’s Travel Tips section with plenty of useful information.

Check it out: Travel tips – Taiwan Scene.

 

3.Where is the best places in Taiwan to travel with a bunch of teens?

It depends on the bunch of teens themselves, and how much time you wanted to spend. Let’s assume you were asking us to customize a hypothetical ten-day tour around Taiwan for twelve teenagers from North America. Let’s say our group has an average age of 15.

We’d spend the first two days in Taipei getting over jet lag. These two days  would include a walking tour of DaDaoCheng to introduce them to local culture, followed by a trip to the underground mall stretching between Beimen and Taipei Main Station to check out the awesome Anime shops, Cosplay stuff, and other items that Taiwanese teenagers are pretty into. We’d also hit the Ximending district and Taipei 101. Unless the group was really into Chinese art, we’d probably skip the National Palace Museum, choosing instead a museum that teenagers will think is cooler. Maybe the Juming Museum, or the Museum of Miniatures? It depends on the group. (Read more: 6 things to do in Taipei that should be on every visitors bucket list

top 30 scenes of mytaiwantour_alishan forest

On Day three we’d take them down to Chiayi by High-Speed Rail, because a) Bullet Train! and b) Chiayi is the starting point for hikes in Alishan. We’d be met by a van in Chiayi, have some turkey rice and head on up to Alishan, encouraging the group to get to sleep early so we can get up before dawn to hike and watch the sunrise. We’d then spend the first half of day four hiking in the mountains, maybe having lunch at a tea farm and learning about tea culture before heading down the mountain and driving to Kaohsiung by nightfall. For dinner, we’d hit the Liuhe Night Market, which is a much easier night market to navigate as a group than anything in Taipei.  (Read more: A Fine Pair – Siraya National Scenic Area and Chiayi City)

 

Day five, down to Kenting, with a stop on the way to eat serious sashimi at the Donggang Harbor Fish Market. We’d get there by afternoon, hang out on the beach and spend the rest of day five and all of day six doing beach stuff, maybe taking stand up paddle-boarding lessons, and possibly even doing some hiking in the hills outside of town.

On the seventh day, we’d drive to Taitung and spend the rest of day 7 and the morning of day 8 with indigenous people at a tribal homestay. On day eight we’d drive up to Hualien and do a late afternoon hike in Taroko Gorge, either camping or staying at an area guesthouse (again, it depends on the group).

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Zhuilu old trail

On day nine we’d drive back up the beautiful east coast, stopping along the way to check out temples and other cool stuff, definitely stopping for either a hot spring dip in Jiaoxi (if it’s cool) or a cold spring dip in Su’ao (if it’s hot), making it to the Keelung Night Market for dinner before heading back to Taipei.(Read more: Four Taipei hot spring getaways

On day ten, assuming it’s our last day and we’re heading back on a midnight flight (Why not? It’s hypothetical!), we’d take the group shopping for suitable Taiwan knick-knacks for the friends back home (Jianguo Market if day ten falls on a weekend) and decide on a few last spots by group consent / weather / etc.,). Naturally, dinner on night ten would be a traditional Taiwanese feast at an excellent restaurant before bringing the group to the airport to get them checked in before their flight.

This seems like the sort of ten-day adventure that most teenagers would consider deeply memorable.

Interested in taking a customized tour of Taiwan? Let MyTaiwanTour create one for you! Check out how MyTaiwanTour creates customized Taiwan Tours.

 

4. I’m planning to travel around Taiwan. How many days should I allocate?

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Look over the Taroko Gorge

It depends on how you’re getting around. If you’re just driving, you could circle the island in a day, but you won’t see much. (There’s actually a bicycle race that circles the island in 48 hours, but it’s strictly for crazy-serious cyclists. An average cycling group might take ten days, maybe skipping the west coast (by taking the high-speed rail from Taipei to Kaohsiung) in order to spend more time in the most beautiful parts of Taiwan including the road down the west coast to Kenting, across the southern mountains to Taitung, up through the Rift Valley to Hualien and Taroko Gorge, maybe cutting through to Lishan and down to Yilan before heading back by van to Taipei. (Read more: Gorge Soaring – The Views of Eagles along Taroko Gorge’s Trails)

Check out Taiwan Scene’s Action, Sports & Adventure section for stories about cycling in Taiwan!

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Obviously, non-cycling trips are a different matter, so if you’re planning to either drive or do a bus/train combination, your time/mileage may vary based on where you’re going and what you want to see as you circle the island. MyTaiwanTour does an eight-day tour called Around Taiwan in 8 days  that’s pretty much designed to hit the highlights in as relaxed a fashion as possible.  

 

5. What are the best coffee shops in Taipei?

Up until the late 1990s, the only places to get coffee outside of a handful of specialty coffee shops (think stores selling trading card games today – I mean, they exist in Taipei, but you aren’t going to find them unless you know where to look – also this is before Google!) was McDonalds (awful but cheap) and good hotels (good, but expensive).

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RUFOUS CAFÉ (RESOURCES:RUFOUS CAFÉ FACEBOOK)


These days, you can’t swing a dead cat in Taipei without hitting a good coffee shop in Taipei. But since swinging dead felines is a terrible way to find anything (and is, in any event, immoral, unhygienic and prohibited under ROC law), we wrote this article at Taiwan Scene to fill readers in on the history of coffee in Taiwan, offer to share our readers favorite spots for coffee in Taipei and teach you a few phrases of coffee-survival Mandarin. (Read more: 
Coffee in Taiwan: How an Island of Tea Drinkers Came to Love the Bean)

As far as some of our favorite coffee shops, if we’re in a hurry and are looking for a quick caffeine fix on the way to work, our three favorite chain shops are Louisa, Cama and 85° for reliably good, quick chain shop coffee. If we’re looking for a more sit-down, local experience, Rufous coffee has a hip environment, and  Tò-uat Books x Cafe Philo has a very cool political vibe to it.

 

6. What should I see and do as a tourist in Taiwan?

Pretty broad question without knowing what you’re into and how long you’ll be here, so we’re going to answer this one mostly with suggestions of the “things you could do” sort, and a few links to articles on our website that should point you in the right direction.

If you’re just in Taipei for a short time and want to get the most bang for your buck, you could take our Ultimate Taipei Day Tour , which allows you to sample 5000 years of Chinese art, history and culture at the National Palace Museum, the religious culture of Longshan Temple (one of Taiwan’s most visited religious sites), the natural splendor of the Yamingshan and Beitou hot springs, and the culinary culture of chaotic, exotic Shilin Night Market in one day. It’s our most popular tour, earning consistently high reviews from guests. ( Read more: Seven Star Mountain, a hike you cannot miss while in Taipei)

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If you’re in Taiwan for a short time but want to get out of Taipei (for an even shorter time), we have a tour called Taroko Gorge in a Day that’s specifically designed for visitors pressed for time wanting to experience the majesty of one of Taiwan’s most iconic, scenic spots in (as the name suggests) a single day. So you can wake up in Taipei and be stretching your legs beneath the towering Qing Shui Cliffs by 9, exploring Taroko Gorge in the afternoon, eating an early supper at the Dongdamen night market and having a nightcap Taipei by 9:30 pm.

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If tours aren’t your scene, check out  Activities – Taiwan Scene  for tons of ideas about stuff to do in Taiwan.

July is Taiwan’s hottest month, so to embrace the heat Taiwan Scene is giving our readers a discount code good for 5% off any MyTaiwanTour order priced USD$70 or above.

Click over to MyTaiwanTour, choose your tour and enter the code MTT2018SUMMER during the booking phase.

*The fine print:

  1. MTT2018SUMMER promotion valid for tour order valued at USD$70 or above;
  2. MTT2018SUMMER promotion valid between 07/01 and 07/31;
  3. MTT2018SUMMER promotion valid for tours beginning before 12/31/2018.