I finished my stay in Taiwan the way most people start it: by spending a couple of days in Taipei and it’s surroundings. The weather forecast could have been better: it looked like I was gonna be stuck in the rain for my last 2.5 days in Taiwan! But…I wasn’t going to complain – after all I was travelling Taiwan in rainy season and had not had a single day of bad weather yet. And in the end, I actually only ended up having one greyish afternoon and one half day with fog and a few drizzles. Could have been waayyy worse!
So I arrived around noon from Tainan and quickly dropped my stuff at the hostel to go sightseeing as long as it was still dry. This was the greyish afternoon I mentioned and while it was not great photo weather, I was just thankful that it wasn’t raining! I first walked to Huashan 1914 Creative Park, expecting something similar like Pier 2 Art Center in Kaohsiung. It wasn’t though – much less interesting for the spontaneous visitor. I guess there are some cool shows on if you have time to check the agenda! Then I continued to the Chiang Kai-shek Memorial Hall – another famous building – and this one was massive! Unfortunately a big part of it is under renovation at the moment, but still…wow!
The rest of the afternoon I walked past some smaller sights in the area – temples, churches, memorial halls and passed through the busy central districts. I then visited the Longshan temple, one of the biggest and most important temples in the city. When I came there, a ceremony was just happening (or a mass? Not sure how to properly call it), there were loads of people and they were all singing… In those moments, while they are very special to experience, you just feel like a stupid tourist who shouldn’t be there. Lol. So I walked around a bit as discreetly as possible and snapped some quick pictures.
Then I left the locals to their ceremony and checked out the Huaxi night market nearby which was just starting and found a little chocolate snack. I needed some energy because my day was not over yet! I decided to still visit Taipei 101 tower, to get another city view from high up. Since the weather was not great, I went up late to rather see the city lights. Probably a good idea since there were actually more clouds and they were hanging deeper than expected. Ok, it was maybe not such an amazing idea to head up a viewing platform on a day like this! Haha, in hindsight you’re always wiser. Still, it was nice to see. Again, wish the windows would have been cleaner…! Since the Tonghua night market was just around the corner (my language: a 15 min walk), I decided to drop by after for dinner and found some nice chewy noodles.
Next day, I met up with my Couchsurfing host for the next few days – Paul. He lives nicely central, so we were able to start out sightseeing from there afterwards. He first showed me Dihua street and the Dadaocheng Pier. Then we walked up North to two very important temples of Taipei: the Baoan Temple and the Confucius Temple – two temples of very different styles which are located just next to each other.
I ended up liking the Baoan Temple more, but they were both pretty! After walking around a bit more in different areas, I continued on my own to Beitou. Beitou is famous for its hot springs, but it was far too hot for me to book myself a spa day! I just wanted to quickly see the thermal valley – where the water is literally smoking hot! It was cool to see, but more a photo stop for 10 min.
So I decided I still had time to continue to Tamsui – a place that had been recommended to me for late afternoon/sunset time. However, it being Saturday, I was not the only one with that idea! Haha. The whole place looked like a fun fair and crowds were pushing their way through the streets and along the corniche. It was fun to watch for a bit and I made an attempt to explore some streets and temples, but it was a bit too much for me at that moment!
Hence, I left after a bit over an hour and decided to have dinner at Shilin night market – one of the city’s most famous. Of course, this place was also super busy, but well. Night markets are supposed to be full and busy, right!?
On my last day, I had planned to go on a day trip to Jiufen and Jinguashi – about 1.5h bus ride away from Taipei. Unfortunately the closer we got, the worse the weather became. In Taipei it looked like it was going to be a rather sunny day – in Jiufen thick fog was hanging low, sometimes in the streets and it was drizzling out of the fog now and then. Luckily, a big part of Jiufen’s streets are covered market streets. Too touristy for my taste, but at least you were able to stay reasonably dry.
Jiufen was ok, but I was a bit disappointed. I had expected less tourists and more of a local village feel – totally not what I found. So after walking up and down the steep stairs a couple of times, I took another bus onward to Jinguashi – an old gold mining town. I had wanted to visit the Gold Ecological Park, but people didn’t seem to know about it, I couldn’t find it on Maps.Me and I also couldn’t find a lot of motivation inside me to keep looking in that weather. So I just went to the Gold Museum instead, which is actually more like an open air museum. It was not extremely interesting, but strangely enough, the gloomy atmosphere fitted quite well to that place and gave it almost a kind of ‚lost place atmosphere‘ even though it’s a museum of course!
Supposedly the area is really nice for hiking as well, but with no views and even the hilltops disappearing in the fog, there really wasn’t much of a point. I had a feeling that weather was gonna be better in Taipei, so took the bus back and right I was! Sunshine and heat, perfect for my short visit to the National Martyr’s Shrine, basically just to take some pictures as there was not much to explore or look at.
I spent the next hour or so at a little cafe, cooling down a bit and charging my batteries. Later, I took the metro outside the city to the point where you can hike up Elephant Mountain. While it’s more a hill than a mountain, the climb as such is quite exhausting, going up many steep flights of stairs. Luckily my knees are fine again, otherwise this would have been impossible for me to do! There’s many awesome viewpoints clustered around the hill, each providing really cool views over Taipei. It’s a popular spot also for locals at sunset, so I definitely wasn’t by myself up there… nevertheless it was amazing, probably my highlight of my time in Taipei!! Taiwan treated me to a last beautiful sunset – as if it was a goodbye present to me! 🙂
Taiwan, you’ve been amazing and surprising in so many (good) ways. Wish I would have had more time to spend in this small but great country!