I taught English in Changhua, Taiwan, a rural city with many friendly and curious faces. However, I used my weekends to stay in other parts of Taiwan. The first place I visited? Of course, Taiwan’s capital city, Taipei.
Whether you have a long layover, or just there for a weekend, the best thing about Taipei is its ease of navigation. Buy a sim card at Taoyuan International Airport with unlimited data (I believe it was CAD $30) and use Google Maps to effortlessly navigate through the city. And the best part? Don’t worry about renting a car. Taipei has a cost-efficient MRT (subway) and public bus system that will take you places quickly.
If this is your first time in Taiwan, read my post on the seven items you need to survive in Taiwan.
Some of these activities are located on the outskirts of Taipei, but if you’re adventurous and love to hike, you’ll appreciate this post. Funny story: it was raining throughout my first day in Taipei and two days later I was bed ridden with laryngitis and an eardrum-shattering cough. Possibly the worst illness that an English teacher can catch.
You’re in Taipei and craving adventure. Or you want to go for a morning jog and avoid the tourist crowd. Waimushan is your spot.
Here lies a quaint town, a fishing harbour and a jogging path where many Taiwanese go for a run. Waimushan lies along the northern coast of Taiwan. Blue waves crash against the rugged black rocks—there’s a spot to swim if you dare step into the rough waters. It’s beautiful. I didn’t see a single tourist here. In fact, when I mentioned Waimushan to the teachers back at my school, they had no idea this place existed. Boy was I thrilled to find such an off the beaten place so early on in my travels!
Travel time by bus/train from Taipei Station: 2 hours approx.
Due to the rain, the path to Teapot Mountain was closed. Fortunately, there’s the Gold Ecological Park museum, shrines, a few hiking paths to keep yourself occupied and the entire Jinguashi Village to explore. Perhaps it was the mist swirling the mountain peaks, but this place is profoundly dreamy—also there are a lot of stairs to climb if you’re going to hike. Unintentional leg day.
The stair cases are endless and although I was curious to see what lied at the top, I had to give it a rest at one point and turn around. Plus, the stone stairs were slippery because of the rain and I didn’t want to break my leg again.
Travel time by bus/train from Taipei Station: 2.5-3 hours
Travel time by bus/train from Waimushan: 3-4 hours
If I had a penny for every time a teacher at my school raved about Jiufen I’d be a few dollars richer. Apparently it was the cool spot back when they studied at the University of Taipei where they’d visit on their motorbikes.
Jiufen old street is a long alleyway with food stalls accumulating both your left and right. The stinky tofu stench wafts in the air. It was crowded, raining and I pushed along the squelching carpets, umbrella bumping into heads and other umbrellas. The huge, colourful Fushan Temple nearby is worth checking out.
Travel time by bus/train from Taipei Station: 1.5-2 hours
Travel time by bus/train from Teapot Mountain: 1 hour approx.
Here’s a map to guide you to the three locations:
Want a stunning view of Taipei’s skyline and the iconic Taipei 101?
The hike up Elephant Mountain consists of climbing numerous staircases. You’ll find an antiquated, but useable gym with equipment made of wood at the top. Fun fact: I forgot my camera lens cap up here, so I had to do this hike twice!
Travel time by bus/train from Taipei Station: 1 hour approx.
After seeing Taipei’s skyline that morning I wasn’t too keen on visiting Taipei 101’s observatory, so I wandered in and out of different stores. The interior is posh—think Yorkdale Shopping Mall in Toronto. There are several floors you can explore before making your way to the observatory.
Travel time by bus/train from Taipei Station: 30 min
Walk time from Elephant Mountain: 10 min approx.
Pingxi District/Shifen Waterfall
Pingxi District is a lively town located near Ruifeng. There is a suspension bridge, food vendors and a long train track which runs through the centre of the town. A popular activity is going down to the train tracks, purchasing a paper lantern, writing or drawing on it and letting it go in the sky, with the several other floating lanterns.
Shifen waterfall, known as the Niagara Falls of Taiwan, is a 20-minute walk from Pingxi District. It’s a gorgeous waterfall from all angles and worth the flights of stairs you need to climb to see it.
Travel time by bus/train from Taipei Station: 2 hours
Travel time by bus/train from Taipei 101: 2 hours approx.
Here’s a map to guide you to the three locations:
If there is one thing I regret not visiting is Taipei Mosque. I saw few hijabi Muslim women in Taiwan (besides the Malaysian/Indonesian tourists); it would have been nice to talk to Taiwanese Muslims so see what their life is like. If you have a chance, I recommend checking it out and letting me know how it is!
This is a jam-packed itinerary so wake up early to make the most of your day. Transportation time may seem long, but I felt I reached places rather quickly—the train rides offer scenic views of Taiwan’s landscape and I didn’t mind the time at all.
If you have anything to add to this list, feel free to leave a comment!