Be charmed with the artsy, quaint Kaohsiung city before spicing up your palette with incredible Taiwanese dishes in Taipei, the city of food galore. The city embeds heritage of old laneways, glimmering lights of modern towers, untouched nature, and a quivering buzzing nightlife.
你好 Nĭ Hăo! Taiwan places a special memory in my heart personally: the warm hospitality from Taiwanese, breath-taking nature and sceneries, scrumptious food, and solid infrastructure. The country caters all kinds of travellers’ needs, whether it be an adventurous ride, cultural, artsy, or just simply wish to lay low. The itinerary below though, will focus on the artsy day-trip to Kaohsiung and a short foodie/historic exploration within Taipei. I will write more itinerary around Taiwan cities soon, so please watch this space!
Kaohsiung (高雄; Gāoxióng), located south of Taiwan, is known for the country’s largest port, it is second-largest city and the centre of the country’s heavy and petrochemical industries. It has been under the radar and slowly increasing its popularity for tourism compared to the northern side of Taiwan.
Taipei (台北 or 臺北; Táiběi) is the national capital; political, economic, educational, and cultural center of Taiwan. Located in the northern part of the island, home of local cuisines (small dishes – 小吃) that tantalise your tastebud in a whole new level. A walk through Taipei’s bazaars is a great way to experience the city’s vibe. They include the night markets in Shilin, Raohe Street and Liaoning Street. Each offers local dishes, such as vermicelli with pig intestines, accessories and apparel, and other entertainments. It is also home to various world-famous architectural or cultural landmarks and offers unbeatable natural scenic Yanmingshan mountain and hot springs.
Excludes transport flying in and out of Taiwan; souvenirs & other personal expenses. Assume hotel expenses is split between 2 people; Arrival point: Kaohsiung, Departure point: Taipei
Total damage to the Piggy Bank per person: NT4,500-5100 (USD$150-170)
NT30 (USD$1) Single KRTC: Kaohsiung Intl Airp – Formosa
NT50 (USD$2) Breakfast at Xing Long Ju
NT20 (USD$1) Single KRTC: City Council – Yangchengpu
NT150 (USD$5) Lunch at Lao Song Beef Noodle
NT400 (USD$15) Dinner & Snacks Ruifeng Market
NT1200 (USD$40) Accommodation at Hotel New Continental
NT30 (USD$1) Breakfast at Jinfeng
NT600 (USD$20) Taipei 101 optional
NT150 (USD$5) Lunch at Din Tai Fung
NT400 (USD$15) Dinner & Snacks Shilin & Ximending
HOW TO GET TO KAOHSIUNG & TAIPEI?
Taipei Taoyan International Airport is the main international entry point amongst other 5 international airports within Taiwan. Kaohsiung International Airport also serves international flights though limited airlines. For the list of airline operating in each airport, please check the websites directly.
Between Taipei and Kaohsiung, you can take the Taiwan High Speed Rail Train (HSRT), one-way journey costs approx. NT1,490 and the journey is approximately 2-2.5 hours. Ensure you reserve your ticket in advance, you might be able to get a 20% discount. The tickets are sold directly at the station, at convenience stores 7-ELEVEN, FamilyMart, Hi-Life and OK Mart, up to 28 days in advance.
Summer: March – May
Typhoon: June – September
Best period to go early April when the spring bloom is in full swing or November, late autumn and it is the driest month (tied with December) with warm, comfortable temperatures.
HOW TO GET AROUND IN KAOHSIUNG & TAIPEI?
The most economical option, both Kaohsiung and Taipei have solid infrastructure with clear English signs. They are air-conditioned, clean, safe, and on-time. Kaoshiung MRT details can be found here. The fare is distance-based, with a minimum of NT20 for trips within 10 km. The one-day pass costs NT150. The maximum fare on Red Line is NT60. Details on Taipei MRT can be found here. Depending on the distance, a single journey ride starts from NT20-65. The one-day pass costs NT150, 2-day pass at NT310, 3-day pass at NT$440, and 5 day pass at NT$700.
Taipei city has about 180 bicycle lease stations and riding a bike is a good way to see the city. You can use the EasyCard to rent or pay TWD 2,000 as deposit. It takes TWD10 every 30 minutes for the first 4 hours, TWD20 every 30 minutes for 4-8 hours, and TWD40 every 30 minutes after 8 hours. On the way, you can find clear route signs. What’s more, there are also detailed cycling maps for you.
Taxi is quite affordable and efficient in Taiwan. The flagfall rate for first 1.25km (0.8 miles) is NT70, then NT5 for every 250 metres (273 yards). Night surcharge will apply. A typical taxi fare from Taiwan Taoyuan International Airport to downtown city will cost NT1,000 mark.
48 HOURS ITINERARY IN A JIZZ!
0630-0830. Taipei – Zuoying or Arrive at Kaoshiung Airport
0830-0930. Breakfast at Xing Long Ju
0930-1100. Formosa Boulevard Station
1100-1200. Lunch at Lao Song Beef Noodle @ Wufu 4th
1200-1430. Pier 2 Arts Centre
1430-1800. Lotus Pond
1800-2400. Rui Feng Night Market, en route Taipei
D A Y O N E
06.00-12.00 – Formosa Boulevard Station
Post the smooth landing at Kaohsiung International Airport, we immediately made our way to the infamous Formosa Boulevard MRT Station via the KRTC metro. It took us approximately 15 minutes from the Airport. Ranked second-most beautiful metro station in the world, the Formosa Boulevard Station is definitely a site to be seen while visiting Kaohsiung. The station features artwork called ‘The Dome Of Light’, the largest glass ceiling in the world designed by Italian artist Narcissus Quagliata and consists of 4,500 glass panels. It’s vibrant colours and unique European church feel-y design cause many, tourists and locals alike, to simply stop, look up at the roof and admire the sophisticated artistry. It really is a sight to behold, felt like you are in one of those artistic European countries!
Formosa Boulevard MRT Station
12.00-18.00 – Pier 2 Arts Centre, Lotus Pond
We burned the lunch calories we just piled through as we head for a 20 minutes walk towards Pier 2 Art Center. Since 2000, what used to be 24 rundown general-purpose harbour warehouses have been transformed into a quirky outdoor and indoor art hub settled in the newly-named “Yencheng Passenger Wharf”.
The central building, Pier 2 warehouse, was once a sugar storage and now houses different contemporary art throughout the year. The surrounding grounds are full of modern art sculptures, statues and decorated buildings. There are miles of walking paths and a cycle path that cuts through the art district adding a fresh feel of the area. Pier 2 Art Center is now the best place in Kaohsiung for It is quickly becoming a haven for modern art fans, and the area is bustling with young art lovers and visitors all day.
We came across this realistic wall painting which features the city’s pride – the Kaoshiung Rapid Transit. Considered relatively new with service only 2 lines, it is the backbone means of transportation for the native Kaohsiung-ians and tourists alike.
Whip your camera ready for the all-time residents of Pier 2, the giant Bumblebee display from Transformers!
Most themes of Kaohsiung’s history and tradition are heavily depicted nicely on murals and through the cute colourful cartoon characters which the Taiwanese have an affection for.
The whole complex is pedestrian-friendly and every angle are decorated with imaginative 3D artwork and decorations overlooking the pier. Some of the decor will makes your head turns and spark your curiosity!
The vibe of the city is slow, quaint, and I felt like I’m in the alley of Japanese old town. We made a pitstop to cute characters spammed OK-Mart (ah, typical Taiwainese) to stock our snack supplies before heading out our way to lunch.
Pier 2 Arts Centre
Post the art-inspired walk and fulfilling lunch, you can take bus 219A to Lotus Pond, a man-made lake with lovely lotus plants scattered over the lake, surrounded by the venerated Dragon and Tiger Pagodas. Inaugurated in 1951, the most intriguing aspect about the pond is that there are more than twenty temples worshiping different deities around the lake. The four most representative ones are Confucius temple, Chunqiou hall, Dragon & Tiger Towers, and Pavilion of the North Pole.
The tradition is to enter by the Dragon’s mouth to visit the Dragon pagoda first, and then exit by the Tiger’s mouth in which the legend says luck will get away from you if you do it the other way. The interior walls of both pagodas are embellished with beautiful carvings and it consists of seven floors, which presumably represents the seven factors of attaining Buddha Enlightenment – mindfulness, investigation, energy, joy, tranquility, concentration and equanimity.
After these pagodas, the route to the North brings you to two Chinese palace-style Spring and Autumn pavilions, respectively dedicated to Kuan Kung ‘the God of War’ and Guan Yin ‘the Goddess of Mercy’. In front of the pavilions is a statue of Guan Yin riding a dragon, which according to local legend, appeared in the clouds and instructed followers to build icon as the form of its coming out between the Spring Pavilion and Autumn Pavilion.
18.00-24.00 – Ruifeng Night Market, En route Taipei
From Lotus Pond, you can take either take bus 301A or 301B from Zuoying Market bus stop to Kaohsiung Arena Station, a total of 16 stops and takes approximately 20 minutes. From the Arena Station, follow the crowds to reach our next destination food haven, Ruifeng Night Market. Ruifeng offers an authentic night market experience – the large area is filled with little tents and stalls, crowded with locals and tourists alike, and ABUNDANCE of food, clothing and accessories, as well as arcade games. Navigating around the market can get pretty confusing, and with the truckload of people who went to night market on weekends and Friday nights, it can get really hard to walk around the night market.
It can get definitely overwhelming with all the choices of food and drink stalls in Ruifeng, so some of the food that I recommend you to try are: Crispy Angel Fried Chicken NT70, Deep Fried Cuttlefish NT70, Stinky Tofu NT60, Papaya Milk NT45, Seafood Crab Porridge NT45, Sweet Potato Ball NT30, and of course any Taiwan Bubble Milk Tea (NT35). (I think that should be enough to fulfill your belly no?)
One shall get Fried Stinky Tofu whilst in Taiwan. The tofu is doused with soya sauce that soak the sliced cucumber and vegetables mix. A bursting sweet & sour in your mouth, you can opt for the small size for NT40 or big NT55. You should also try famous Sweet Potato Ball or in Chinese we called it “QQ地瓜球” . Not overbearingly sweet yet crispy outside, you’ll definitely satisfy your snack cravings!
If you are still hungry and after some carbs, try the seafood porridge located at the edge of Rui Feng Night Market facing the road side, with metal tables and chairs by its side. The bowl consists of generous amounts of fresh seafood like cuttlefish, giant prawn, crab-meat, clams, a combination that produce sweet and gloriously delicious taste. Close your palette with creamy papaya milk!
Once you are satisfied, you can head your way down to Zuoying Station and catch the High Speed Rail Train en route Taipei. Make sure you reserve the tickets in advance so you are able to get reserved seat!
Ruifeng Night Market
D A Y T W O
06.00-12.00 – Chiang Kai-Shek Memorial
I have been to many memorials, castles, and government buildings, but the entryway to the Chiang Kai-Shek Memorial Hall is on the border stunning. Definitely mesmerised by the immensely open space, the boldness of the colours, and architecture.
The memorial hall was built in memory of Chiang Kai-shek, the first president of the Republic of China. Opened in 1980, the memorial is a distinctive looking building with a blue octagonal roof, located on the east end of Liberty Square. Ascend the 2 sets of white stairs with 89 steps (representing his age at death) to a bronze memorial statue, which is guarded by two soldiers dressed in white. The white marble inscribed Chinese characters written by President Chiang – Ethics, Democracy, Science. These are the essence of Sun Yat-sen’s “Three Principles of the People” and also President Chiang’s political beliefs and ideals that motivated him throughout his whole life.
On the ground level, you will also find the National Theater and National Concert Hall along with the library and museum documenting Chiang Kai-Shek’s life and career. You will frequently see marching bands or drill teams practicing on the many plazas surrounding the Hall. The memorial is encircled by a garden and pond with beautiful Koi.
Chiang Kai Sek Memorial
12.00-18.00 – Taipei 101
The most prominent landmark of Taipei, how can you miss breath-taking skyscraper Taipei 101! It held the world’s tallest building title until it was usurped by Dubai’s Burj Khalifa. Taipei 101 is an engineering marvel and the first building of its kind in the world. Spanning 101 stories above the ground at 508 metres, the building was designed as a symbol of technology’s evolution fused with Asian tradition. That explains the eco-friendly structure that imitates the shape of a bamboo, which is an auspicious symbol in the East of great flexibility and strength. The building features many pan-Chinese and Asian elements mixed with a postmodern style, and is designed to withstand typhoons and earthquakes common in Taiwan.
Besides the tower, the base of the building houses a multi-level Taipei 101 shopping mall, food court, various restaurants and stores and an international grocery store. You can easily spend half a day here.
Like any other skyscrapers, you can head to the top of 101 by purchasing a ticket inside the mall for NT600 or reserved online with Klook for NT510. This grants an access to the observation deck and museum where visitors can learn the technical and architectural wonder, as well as get a first-hand look at the fascinating technology on tuned mass damper located at the core of the tower that protects the building from Taiwan natural disasters ie typhoon and earthquake.
18.00-24.00 – Shilin Night Market, Xi Men Ding
One of the largest, most popular night markets in Taipei, nobody leaves Shilin Night Market without having the famous Hot Star Hao Da Ji Pai (large fried chicken): crispy and delicious fried chicken cutlets that go best with bubble tea. Nothing beats the combination of greasy ji pai and bubble tea. Despite the rain and high humidity weather, it is still packed with foodies around the world filling their bellies with scrumptious Taiwan delicacies.
Some of the recommended items are: Orh ah jian (fried oyster omelette) NT65, ru rou fan (braised pork rice) NT30, sheng jian bao (pan-fried pork bun) NT30, Guan Cai Ban (coffin shaped bread) NT30, Shanghai fried meat dumplings NT30, and BBQ Squids NT65.
Shilin Night Market
After satisfying your belly (make sure it’s only half as there is more to come!), take the blue line MRT and alight at Xi Men Station…you will arrive at XiMenDing. The “Harajuku” of Taipei, this pedestrian shopping haven is one of the city’s culture centres, hosting a massive variety of fashion clothing shops, eclectic restaurants, clubs, and bars. Ximending was founded during the Japanese colonisation era as a recreation district, and today has grown into a cultural icon with inspiration drawn from its Japanese roots.
I literally just baffled when I saw this stall that sells dicks waffles / pancakes. I’m adventurous, but I’m not sure if I have balls to purchase and eat this in public! HAHA. Surprisingly though, there are a lot of tourists queueing to buy this penis shaped waffle. I suppose its uniqueness will provoke some instagram-worthy shots. Ahhh, Taiwan~ you truly precedes your reputation.
Make a pit stop to Ah Zong Mian Xian, one of the most famous stall original Mian Xians in Taiwan. It lives up to its name and queue with its savoury rich oyster soup and soft silky Mian Xian (flour-rice noodles). Highly recommend to try with the vinegar and chili as the condiments enhance the seafood zinc-y taste of the soup.
Xi Men Ding
WHAT TO EAT?
Get your traditional Taiwanese breakfast at Xing Long Ju, stall famous for its crispy fried doughnuts (燒餅油條) aka you tiao. Dip it in the fragrant, warm, silky soya bean milk. At NT25 for one fried doughnut and NT12 for one cup of warm soy milk, amazing
food is highly affordable for sure.
Get your Taiwan’s Beef Noodle Soup fix, made with a lovely stewed beef, an incredulously fragrant beef broth with either thin or thick noodles. Lao Song’s Beef Noodle Restaurant on Wufu 4th Road is definitely a place to visit. Get off at Orange MRT Yan ChengPu.
Stuff yourselves with all kinds of street food from Ruifeng Night Market. Recommended dishes are Crispy Angel Fried Chicken NT70, the thick chicken chop is crunchy on the outside, but super juicy on the inside. It tastes almost like nugget but, tender and well seasoned.
A must go dish if you are a pork fan – Get the lu rou fan (braised pork rice) NT30 at Jinfeng Braised Meat Rice 金峰魯肉飯. Immerse yourself with a succulent, soft, juicy pork meat that will leave you breathless. Like literally. Oh be prepared, you may be asking for seconds!
Must-eat dish is the xiao long bao NT200 from the very first original Din Tai Fung Xin Yi branch. The skin was thin, meticulously wrapped and there was no leakage of broth. Slurp that warm and tasty soup enclosed within a delicate pocket, topped with some slices of ginger and vinegar.
Get your local Taiwanese fix at Shilin Market. Some of the recommended items are: Orh ah jian (fried oyster omelette), ru rou fan (braised pork rice), sheng jian bao (pan-fried pork bun) and guan cai ban (coffin shaped bread), Shanghai fried meat dumplings, and BBQ Squids.
WHERE TO STAY?
We stayed at Hotel New Continental, an affordable 3-star hotel which costs us $80 per night for 2 twin beds room. The hotel is decent, clean, and extremely close to major MRT lines. Closest MRT is Taipei Main station.
RANI’S TRAVEL TIPS:
- Eat in small pieces is necessary SURVIVAL skills. Taiwan is famous for this, so make sure you have enough compartments in your belly to fit all those mouth-watering Taiwanese food.
- Try to avoid typhoon season. Trust me on this, you don’t want to get blown up by the wind.
- Book your HSRT from Zuoying – Taipei vice versa in advance.