Looking for a short getaway from your busy schedule? Like Hong Kong and Thailand, Taiwan is another country in Asia where you can always visit when you want culture, nature and food. I have always love visiting Taipei – the capital city of Taiwan because of the friendly people there and also because it is practically a foodie heaven with interesting street food and boutique cafes that you can visit.
Took the red-eye Scoot Airlines flight from Singapore Changi Airport to Taipei. The Scoot Airlines flight arrive in Taoyuan (TPE) International Airport at around 5.30 am in the morning. We had our cab driver waiting for us at the airport. Pre-booked the taxi for the whole day (around NTD3,500 – 4,000 for the whole day). As it was too early to check-in to the hotel, we got our cab to take us directly to Shifen instead so that we can start off the day early without wasting any time.
Day 1: Shifen (十分) / Jiufen(九分) / Taipei City
Shifen Waterfall Park
First stop is Shifen Waterfall Park. It took about 45 mins from Taoyuan International Airport to reach Shifen Waterfall Park by cab. Shifen Waterfall is a scenic waterfall located in Pingxi District, New Taipei City, on the upper reaches of the Keelung River. We reached the park at around 8.15 am in the morning. It was a bit too early as the park is open only at 9 am.
There was not many people at the park this early in the morning. We took our time to walk around the park while taking photos and videos of the natural environment. The air was really fresh with the good weather.
There is a small cafe at the entrance of Shifen Waterfall Park – which unfortunately as we were there a bit too early, the cafe was not open to allow us to get our caffeine fix for the day (considering we just took a red-eye flight from Singapore to Taipei). Took a few photos and proceeded with the scenic route.
There is two route at the Shifen Waterfall Park. The first route is in front of the waterfall i.e. you are facing the waterfall. The second route is at the side of the waterfall. We started with the first route and took some photos.
Afterwhich we walked back to the entrance and go through the second route where you will need to cross the river via the hanging bridge, cross the railway track and eventually reach the waterfall. This is definitely a more popular route as there are more things to see.
It was a good morning walk at Shifen Waterfall Park. There was practically no crowd at the park as we were there really early. By the time it approaches noon, the tourist crowd started appearing and we decided to leave and head towards Shifen Old Town to experience sky lantern (天灯).
Shifen Old Streets
Shifen Old Streets is about 15 to 20 mins walk from the waterfall park. For us, we had our trusty cab driver to take us there and hence the journey took only about 8 mins.
Located in the Pingxi area, Shifen Old Streets is a collection of lanes and alleys in and around the Shifen Railway Station. Originally built for transporting coal during the Japanese era, the station and track runs straight through the village. With the market place surrounding the train station and the openness in which people can freely cross the track running straight through the center of town, the marketplace area of Shifen is a great place to grab some snacks (小吃) and souvenirs.
For us, we are there more to experience the sky lantern (天·灯) and wish for good luck – hoping that what we wrote on the sky lantern will come true. There are so many shop along the railway track providing the service and you can see lots of people (locals and tourist) having their fair share of fun, writing their wishes on the lantern and setting the lantern to the sky.
After setting free the sky lantern, we proceed to Jiufen, which is on the route into Taipei City. It took us about 30 mins by cab from Shifen to Jiufen.
Jiufen is a mountain town in northeastern Taiwan, east of Taipei. It’s kn own for the narrow alleyways of its old town, packed with tea houses, street food snacks and souvenir shops. There are a lot more street food at Jiufen, which is where we will settle our lunch, nibbling at the delicious street food.
As we are there on a weekday (Friday), there is not that many people, hence it is easier to navigate through the old street at Jiufen. Some of the recommendations to eat over at Jiufen are the braised pork rice, meat ball, wrapped ice-cream with peanut candies, squid soup, etc.
There is also a lot of stores selling snacks which you can purchase to bring back home. Very famous here will be the thin crisp pork. The porks slices are thin as paper but super delicious (similar to the crispy thin pork in Thailand but this is done even thinner).
After lunch and having a good look at Jiufen, we proceeded with our journey back to Taipei City to check in to our hotel. This is after we had bought some snacks from Jiufen to be shared back at home. The ride to the city is about 30 mins on the cab.
Ark Hotel, Taipei
We booked Ark Hotel, Taipei – which is a budget hotel with excellent location. The hotel had very good review on TripAdvisor as well and the place is pretty well kept, considering it is a 3 star hotel. Rooms at Ark Hotel are pretty small ~ 20 square meters. Recommended to take the higher floor room as it is less noisy and have windows.
Location of the hotel is excellent for foodie as the hotel is located near Yong Kang Street – where there is lots of local delicacies along the street. The famous Din Tai Fung (Original Shop) is within walking distance from the hotel. Along Yong Kang street, there is also the famous Yong Kang Beef Noodles and the Snow Ice as well. MRT is also walking distance, Depending on where you want to head to, you can either walk to Dongmen MRT station or Daan Park MRT station – hence travelling around Taipei is a breeze staying at this hotel.
Ark Hotel Taipei
No.255, Sec. 2, Xinyi Rd., Zhongzheng District, Taipei, Taiwan, 100
We were all tired as we did a red-eye flight from Singapore to Taipei. Decided go back to our individual room to freshen up, and have a nap before heading out again for dinner.
Try some local delicacies for Dinner
Gain back some energy after taking a short nap. YongKang street is just opposite our hotel, so we decided to have our luck over there for dinner and have a go at the famous stalls in Yong Kang street (Tips: For a list of good food on YongKang street, you can visit UpNixt and bookmark this GoList – YongKang Street Food Guide).
We went across the road to have our luck at Din Tai Fung – which is the original store. There is just too many people (local and tourist) queuing so we decided to give it a miss. Remembering that UpNixt had a guide on eateries on Yongkang street, I launch the UpNixt app and check out that golist. Yong Kang Street Beef Noodles is just round the corner and we decided to have that for dinner instead (since it was raining and it was a bit cold).
Yong Kang Beef Noodles – This is an institution in beef noodles so we can’t just leave Taipei without having a try at this. There was a short queue outside the store but we were lucky as we did not have to wait too long for our table. Order the shop speciality beef noodles and some side dishes for sharing. Service was fast and soon we were slurping away on our hot beef noodles.
Dessert at Smoothie House (思慕昔) – On our way to Yong Kang Beef Noodles, we spotted another famous stall at Yong Kang Street selling the famous snow ice dessert. We decided to not miss that as well after our beef noodle dinner. Smoothie House is just at a corner of Yongkang street. Its outdoor free seating with a small shelter so it was extremely cold on a rainy day and eating snow ice. Ordered two different snow ice to be shared. The dessert is definitely worth it as the ice is very finely shaved (unlike the ice-kacang sold in Singapore). Mangoes on the dessert was also very sweet and the portion was huge. After finishing the dessert, we were already shivering as the weather was cold and it was drizzling.
Chatted a while at Smoothie House with my Taiwanese friend before heading off to do some exploration around to hotel to familiarised ourselves.
Ark Hotel’s location is definitely very convenient and I would recommend to anyone who travel to Taipei to stay here. There are many shops around the hotel, from bakery to Watsons, tea houses, eateries, etc. You will definitely find lots of things to do around and can easily get around Taipei via MRT as there is 2 MRT stations within walking distance from the hotel.
After walking around for an hour or so, we decided to head back to the hotel and end Day 1 of our trip.
Day 2 : Shopping and Eating in Taipei
Woke up pretty early on the second day and it was drizzling and was quite cold outside. Did not expect to have such weather as it was in the middle of May and the weather was supposed to be approaching hot season. We had to bring our umbrella (which we bought over at 7-Eleven) to go out. Again, we decided to head opposite to Yongkang Street to try our luck to see if there is any place that is open for breakfast. At around 8.30 am in the morning and not many stores were opened. We saw a corner shop in Yongkang street selling burgers with the vendor frying the burger patty on the hot plate and decided to just eat that for breakfast as we where hungry.
After having our breakfast, we took the MRT to Songshan Cultural and Creative Park in Taipei. We alight at Sun Yat Sen Memorial Hall Station and then took a 10 mins walk to the park.
Songshan Cultural and Creative Park was positioned as the “Creative Hub of Taipei”. Its purpose is to provide art and exhibition space for those wishing to showcase artistic and creative ideas. These could be arts shows, exhibits, and even music concerts. It hopes to become a creative stage with an international focus in Taipei.
Set in a former tobacco factory (or more accurately an industrial village) from the 1930s, this lovely park is part lush gardens, part frog-filled lake, part industrial chic, part workshop and part design studio. The place is dotted with pop-up creative shops, cafes and galleries.
We took a walk around the park and also visited some of the exhibition area to look at the exhibits. The Eslite Hotel and Mall is just adjacent to the park, hence if you want to get some food or coffee, you can also head over to the Eslite mall.
Our next stop in Taipei is Addiction Aquatic Development (上引水产) for lunch. As it was still drizzling, we decided to just hail a cab instead of taking the MRT. Taking cab in Taipei is pretty easy as there are lots of cab here and commuters are spoiled for choice. We had pre-arranged to meet another Taiwanese friend for lunch at Addiction.
Addiction Aquatic Development is a massive space that houses fresh seafood and aquamarine products, a large Japanese-style supermarket, and many themed restaurants and food kiosks under one roof. Sitting near the Songshan Airport, and what used to be the old Taipei Fish Market, it is now an upscale and classy market with Addiction Aquatic Development. This is a must-visit place for seafood lover as the place serve some of the freshest seafood in town.
There is several restaurants here and some of which you need to make reservations before going as the restaurant is very popular. We did not make any reservations so decided to just head to the seafood counter at the ground floor and eat sushi.
We were too greedy as everything looks really good here that we over-ordered. The place was crowded with both local and tourist looking for a good deal. We had to quickly grab a standing table when available just to have a place to stand and eat our lunch.
After lunch, we decided to take a cab to the nearest MRT station to head to our next stop – Wufenpu Clothes Market.
Wufenpu Clothes Market (五分埔) is an area best know for garment wholesale market and is located at Xinyi district. The nearest train station to Wufenpu is Songshan MRT station or you can also alight at Houshanpi MRT station. Takes about 10 mins slow walk to Wufenpu Clothes Market
Unfortunately for us, it started to drizzle and we had to head for shelter. Luckily Wufenpu Clothing Market is “sort of” sheltered in a way as each shop will put out their canvas shelter to weather the customers from the sun and rain. However shopping in rainy weather was not an easy task as we had to carry our umbrella and the shopping bags. For the guys, we headed to the nearby mall to have a cup of coffee and letting the ladies do their round of shopping. We met back at Wufenpu Clothing Market after an hour and a half to see if the ladies are done with the shopping.
The rain got a bit heavier and we decided to head back to the hoteland before that,biding farewell to our Taiwanese friends. Dropped our bags back at the hotel and had a rest before heading out for more food during dinner time.
Dinner options, we decided to head to the night market to try the local street food as this is the last night in Taipei before we had to catch our flight back to Singapore the following day. Instead of the more well known night market, we decided to head to Ningxia Night market instead.
Ningxia Night Market is more know to the local Taiwanese and more local head there for food. It is a much smaller night market compared to the rest and there is only stalls selling food along the streets. There is quite a variety of offerings, and both tourists and locals are here for its Fried Yam Balls, Oyster Omelette, Pork Liver Soup, Chicken Rice, Braised Pork Rice, Fried Bee Hoon and Mochi Balls. The whole stretch is about 150 metres long, with stalls lining on both sides.
While the crowd can be overwhelming, and walking spaces cramped during dinner hours, navigation up and down would still be relatively easier. It was still raining when we got to Ningxia Night Market so imagine us carrying our umbrellas and trying to navigate through the cramped spaces and fighting with other customers carrying umbrella – totally not very comfortable experience. I have been to Ningxia Night Market before and food there was excellent, but unfortunately for this trip, it was quite hard to enjoy due to the rain.We had to weather the wetness of the rain while tasting the food. Can’t take pictures as our hands were full carrying umbrellas and trying to eat our snacks while walking.
We tried a few stalls and were already full – so time for dessert, that is a separate compartment in our stomache. We walked across the street to 豆花庄 that serve excellent soya bean curd. This store specialised in bean curd and it is not really the traditional bean curd that we gets in Singapore. It is actually bean curd upgraded – where you can add other ingredients like sweet potatoes, grass jelly, topioca balls, etc to the bean curd. I had a cold bean curd plus topic balls. Chatted for a while in the shop while enjoying our dessert before heading back to the hotel to end the night. Not much places we can go as it was already pouring heavily.
Day 3: Last Minute Shopping before night flight back to Singapore
Day 3 is the last day of our very short getaway in Taipei. As our flight is at 8 pm, we have a whole day to spend in Taipei before we head to the airport to board the flight back to Singapore. We woke up pretty early in the morning so that we can maximise our time. Head for a quick breakfast at Yonghe Toujiang 永和豆漿店 near Da-an MRT station. We had the famous Yonghe oil fritters 油條 and soya bean milk with some Shaobing 燒餅. Either our expectation was high or I had tasted better soya bean milk and oil fritters in Shanghai, I find the standard at this outlet not as good – was not what i was expecting.
After our breakfast at 11am, it is time to shop for some goodies to bring back to Singapore. There is a shop near Da-an MRT station St. Paul’s Bakery 聖保羅餅店 that sells very nice Q-biscuits Q餅. This is something that not many tourist or even local knows about it but it is definitely something I would recommend to buy. They have the traditional Q-biscuits, Cheese flavour and vegetarian version. For me, I bought the traditional and the cheese flavour.
We are on a mission in the morning – get Q餅 from Saint Paul and then move to ChiaTe 佳德糕餅店 to buy the famous pineapple biscuits. This is a very famous shops that is frequent by tourists and locals alike. It’s traditional pineapple biscuits recipe and hence the biscuits is slightly sweeter unlike SunnyHills (another famous brand in Taiwan). We were lucky that we arrived early to the shop and can enter the shop directly as there was no queue outside. Inside the shop was crowded with customers making their purchases. We selected a mix of biscuits instead of just pineapple biscuits. As I have limited luggage, I did not buy a lot – since i am often back in Taipei for work. By the time we finished paying for our goodies, there was already a very long queue outside the shop with customers waiting to get inside.
Headed back to the hotels after that to check-out of the hotel (check-out time is 12 noon).