Six years ago, D visited Taipei for only two days. Three years ago, we met and since the first date as we chatted about our travels over dumplings, he’s raved about Taipei and how he dreams of returning someday.
“It’s just such a cool city,” he’d say. But he couldn’t really tell me why. And he didn’t have any pictures to show me either, aside from some blurry ones taken from the top of the Taipei 101. And so I never believed him.
Taipei doesn’t seem to be on the radar for a lot of people, myself included. Maybe because there isn’t any famous landmarks (besides Taipei 101, but who travels to a country just to see a tall building??). It seems to get passed over on Southeast Asia itineraries for the beaches in Thailand, the ancient temples in Cambodia, or the bustling city of Hong Kong. I admit, I didn’t see the draw of Taipei either.
But as soon as we arrived in Taipei and started exploring, I understood. And after two weeks in the city, I was in love. Maybe D had a hard time putting into words how cool Taipei is, but I can, and with pictures to help!
I have so many specifics I want to share about Taipei, but first, I thought I’d introduce the city a little. So here are 17 big and small reasons why Taipei is the coolest Asian city (in no particular order):
1. Bakeries | Taipei may have the best bakeries in the world! Bakery runs quickly became a daily habit. Make sure you try the pastries with an Asian flare, like the ones topped with dried pork bits or scallions!
2. It’s very orderly | People queue up neatly and wait their turn. When it comes to escalators, everyone understands the concept of standers on right, walkers on left. Cars stop for pedestrians. Is this really Asia??
3. Night markets | This is the most fun part of Taiwanese culture! We lived right next to one and I loved grazing my way through it for dinner almost every night, trying staples like pan fried dumplings or more adventurous eats like pork blood cake.
Hmmm… that lady holding her nose… is it possible that she smelled…
4. Stinky tofu?! | This is a must try night market snack! Don’t worry, even if you can’t read the Chinese signs, you don’t have to search very hard for them. Just let your nose guide you, provided you don’t mistaken it for a sewer!
Stinky tofu is fermented which gives off its famous stench. But don’t let that stop you! I promise they’re much tastier than they smell! As pungent as the smell is, the taste is actually quite mild. A good one is fried up until it’s perfectly crispy on the outside, but soft and airy on the inside. Accompany it with a hot sauce and pickled cabbage! Delicious!!
5. The cutest pets | Immaculately groomed frou-frou dogs with clothes = cute overload. These little cuties are everywhere! It seems that the designer pet trend is alive and well in Taipei.
6. Friendly locals | Everyone was so genuinely nice and helpful. I was able to speak the language but not read the words a lot of the time. Everyone was happy to go over menus with me or to help me read something. The only disadvantage I see for other travelers is that most people don’t speak English. :(
7. Amazing public transportation | Taipei’s metro system is extensive and so easy to use that even someone who’s severely directionally-challenged like me can understand it.
8. It’s safe | It was nice to not constantly be in fear of getting pick-pocketed, or of getting run over by cars or scooters.
9. Enviable street fashion | As a full-time traveler who lives out of a carry-on, being fashionable is the least of my priorities. But with such cute clothing styles and cheap prices, never have I been more tempted to fall back into my old shopaholic ways.
10. Tea eggs at convenience stores | A warm pot of tea eggs (hard boiled eggs made in tea infused water) can be found in every convenience store (like Seven-11). At only 25 cents each, these are the best snacks!
11. Bike friendly city | With bike lanes and bike rentals dotted all around the city, I love that Taipei encourages this environmental friendly activity. We didn’t get to use it this time but I would love to explore the city by bike next time!
12. Some of the best teas in the world | Taiwan is a famous tea-producing area. D is a hardcore tea lover (fun fact: he even tried to have a tea shop once!) so this country is tea-paradise to him. We left with a large bag of tieguanyin, one of Taiwan’s most popular teas.
We already knew about Taiwan’s excellent tea, but we were completely surprised by all the…
13. Quirky coffee shops | I absolutely die for vintage, whimsical decor like this! D says the coffee is outstanding too. Cheap, smooth, and strong.
14. Egg tarts | If I had a list of “things worth getting fat for,” egg tarts would be at the top of that list.
15. Cutesy culture | Sparkly hair accesories, big bows, lace, patterned tights, and ruffles are a huge part of Taiwanese fashion. It’s completely acceptable to wear hair clips with bunny ears. It’s totally my kind of place! (And yes, I’m almost 30.)
16. Street art | Taipei has an edge to it. I’m never quite sure what I’ll run into. We discovered some great street art around Ximen (often thought of as the Harajuku of Taipei).
17. The food | I mentioned a few food items, but you didn’t think this would be off the list, did you?? Taiwan is filled with EVERYTHING I love! Noodles! Dumplings! Spicy foods! Pork belly! Buns! Of course we did away with the diet and ate everything in sight!
And lastly, I rate Taipei as one of the highest value destinations I’ve ever been to. This may come off as sounding politically incorrect, but I see Taipei as an advanced modern society with developing world prices. After traveling to a few other Southeast Asian countries, I really think Taipei gives the best value for what you get.
A meal costs approximately $2-4 US per person (and trust me, if you eat $4 worth of food by yourself, you will be STUFFED). We were hard pressed to spend $20 a day and we ate out every single meal, including milk teas and bakery treats. It’s true that Vietnam and Thailand are similar in terms of cost of food (though quality of food is higher in Vietnam and Taipei, I find), but in comparison, Taipei is a modern society with modern infrastructure and conveniences. I would say that Taipei is almost as nice as Singapore, but at a fraction of the cost.
Have you been to Taipei? And if not, have I made you want to go?? If not, then I truly suck as a blogger!
This post is linked up to Travel Tuesday.