A March 2001 trip
to Taipei by Scubabartek
Quote: Vacation in Taipei, although often overlooked by tourists, can be a wonderful experience (once you adapt to the weather). The city bustles with nightlife and culture (if you know where to look) and whether you’re looking to buy pirated CD’s or eat a snake, it can all be found here.
Anyone visiting Taipei should plan on visiting some of the numerous night markets here. Taipei Hwahsi Tourist Night Market (known affectionately as the Snake Alley) is a good starting point, but there are countless others you can drop by.
Also, no visit to Taiwan would be complete without visiting some temples: Lungshan and Shantao temples are some of the more famous temples in Taipei, but often the small, not so famous ones would contain some of the most striking architecture and paintings.
A few tourist spots worth mentioning are the Chang Khai Shek and Sun Yat Sen Memorials, Taiwan National Palace Museum and Martyr’s Shrine.
You can exchange money at any bank and in fact you will get a very good rate (usually within 1% of the official exchange rate). The only drawback: you have to fill out rather lengthy forms and go through two, sometimes three windows at the bank, before you have a fistful of Taiwanese dollars.
Try stinky tofu, one of the Taiwanese culinary secrets: this stuff smells unbearably bad (thoughts of barbequing in a sewer come to mind), but once you bite into it, it’s sweet, crunchy and delicious!
Also, instead of wasting your money at overpriced Starbucks, try the local alternative nai ca (milk tea). The little shops selling it are everywhere, and you can get it in every flavour (from almond to papaya) with or without pearl (now, we’re not talking jewels here, but sweet and chewy tapioca bits).
For out of the way spots, taxi would be the first choice. There are plenty and not too expensive (70 NTD for the first 1650 meters (1 mile) and 5 NTD for each 350 meters additional = it all comes up to meter drop and 75 cents per mile).
There are also plenty of buses around, but the signs are all in Mandarin and bus drivers usually don’t speak any English. So unless you can speak the local tongue, or feeling adventurous, stick to metro and cabs.
You can find details on the Taipei Rapid Transit Corporation (TRTC), including metro routes and maps and ticket prices at their homepage at:
The hotel itself was quite unremarkable. Our room was clean and pleasant, but rather small and without windows. Bathroom was quite nice, and as in most Taiwanese hotels, was provided with a shaving set, toothbrush and a toothpaste.
The rate (I believe of 2400 NTD for our double room) included breakfast, which was also unexceptional. Over-easy eggs, ham and toast (all a bit too greasy), juice and coffee or tea.
Taipei hotels tend to be on the expensive side, so this was not a bad deal, but I’m sure if you look around a bit, you can find something more memorable in a similar price range.
Member Rating 2 out of 5 on June 27, 2001
East Dragon Hotel
23 Hankou Road
The pub has live music that just didn’t seem very Irish to me (Aretha’s Respect? It’s Raining Men??), but was nonetheless very enjoyable. Watch out though: if you get too jolly and distracted, you might be entrapped by band’s lead singer and made to sing karaoke style. It’s not easy after a few pints!
Beer? Thank God for Guinness! But in all honesty, the selection was rather pathetic: narrowed down to Harp, Killian’s and our favourite Irish stout. Food? Well… like any other Irish pub, enough said. One unusual thing about Sean’s was the special glasses they had for your beer. You can get the smaller 0.7 liter or the larger 1.4 liter stein filled with your favourite cold one. All I can say is, you’ll pray that the bathroom was closer after downing the 1.4 liter monstrosity (builds up your biceps quite a bit).
Warning: booze is rather expensive in Taiwan (well… pub booze), so bring loads of NTD (New Taiwanese Dollars… Hello? You still don’t know?) I suppose being an Irish pub aficionado, I could see myself spending my weekend evenings here.
Member Rating 3 out of 5 on June 26, 2001
Sean's Irish Pub
133 Nanking East Road, Section 3
Attraction | "Taipei's night markets"
Hwahsi Jie a.k.a. Hwahsi Tourist Night Market or as it is affectionately known as Snake Alley is a good bet for starters. You can dine on barbequed rattlesnake here, have turtle soup or munch on a stir-fried mouse (or two). Funny enough, this type of food will most likely nauseate your Taiwanese friends, and if you dare to eat it, they’ll look at you like the alien that you are. It seems that most of the stalls offering these "exotic" foods are for the benefit of the tourists. Keep in mind, that if you really want to try "authentic" Taiwanese food, you should concentrate on the street vendors selling a variety of steamed buns or dumplings floating in broth. If you’re feeling VERY adventurous, you can order a set of alcoholic drinks in any snake restaurant which are various snake fluids like blood, bile or sperm (yes… you’ve read it right) mixed with a local liquor called gao liang. As unappetizing as it sounds, I’m sure the snake additives only improve the flavour of the liquor (which by itself has a flavour reminiscent of kerosene or bug repellant).
Nonetheless, Snake Alley is great place to load up on souvenirs, music and videos and a variety of other trinkets. It once used to be notorious for prostitution, but in the last few years Taiwan’s government cracked down and cleaned up the place. To access Snake Alley take the metro to the Lungshan Temple station.
There are plenty of other night markets to be found in Taipei. Location information can be found on Taipei City Government’s homepage at
Member Rating 4 out of 5 on June 26, 2001
Taipei Night Markets/Snake Alley
Attraction | "Taipei's Temples"
The two main religions in Taiwan are Buddhism and Taoism, but Christianity and native folk beliefs are present as well. One goddess who is particularly venerated is Matsu, the Goddess of the Sea (I suppose she has a very special meaning to the locals, since Taiwan is surrounded by the sea).
Religion plays a very important part in daily life of the Taiwanese; worshipping one’s ancestors, praying for good luck or rather to ward off bad luck, paying respect to deities are all intertwined with daily living activities. We visited Taipei during the festival of the dead (Grave Sweeping or Tomb Cleaning Day), and you could see street vendors burning incense and offerings to the dead, while tending shop. If you’re interested in reading up more check out:
http://www.asianinfo.org/asianinfo/taiwan/pro-religion.htm for some additional information.
There are literally thousands of temples all over Taiwan. In stark contrast to Japan where you can easily distinguish between a Shinto shrine and a Buddhist temple, in Taiwan the temples are rarely mono-religious (if there is such a phrase), but rather a place where mixture of Buddhist, Taoist and folk deities are all being worshipped under a single roof. People come in, light up incense sticks (always in odd numbers) and pray to the gods. Temples’ architecture varies widely and no two are alike. In fact, you can see some of the most striking temples on the side of a road, or hidden deep within some shopping district.
Taipei’s most famous temple, Mengchia Lungshan Temple, is located in the Wanhua district (211 Kuangchou Street: you can take the metro to the Lungshan Temple station – Snake Alley is also in the vicinity). The temple was built in honor of Goddess of Mercy, Kuanyin. Wonderful architecture and sculptures, although due to its crowded design, it is extremely difficult to take photographs here.
Taipei’s largest temple, Shantao Temple is located at 23 Chunghsiao East Road, Section 1 (you can also get here by metro). It has a very modern, seven-story design, and is primarily used to pray to and worship the dead (translation: do not take your Taiwanese date here).
There are lots of other interesting temples around, so you can pick and chose depending on how much time you have. Check out http://www.asianinfo.org/asianinfo/taiwan/taipei_temples.htm for more information.
Member Rating 4 out of 5 on June 27, 2001
The hall is surrounded by acres of Chinese-style gardens with ponds, and there is a long promenade, with a great three-door gate (which is color coordinated with the hall) leading up to the main building.
You can get to CKS Memorial Hall by metro (CKS Memorial station) as well as by several different busses (check the TRANSPORT link on CKS Memorial Hall’s web-site). It is open everyday from 9 am until 5 pm.
Member Rating 3 out of 5 on June 27, 2001
Chiang Kai-shek Memorial Hall
Zhong Shan South Road
Taipei, Taiwan 100
+886 2 2349 1635
Attraction | "Martyr’s Shrine"
The changing of the guards is performed hourly at the main entrance of the shrine, with a more ceremonial one happening on Sundays and national holidays. The parade starts at the main gate to the site, and the guards march towards the main building where the changing ceremony occurs. Tourists are kept away from the marching guards by plain-clothes security guards. Be warned: Taiwanese are very protective of their places of honor. They will order people to take off their hats, and escort tourists out of the restricted areas without looking too apologetic.
The shrine is located close to the Grand Hotel (if you can afford to stay there): it is less than 1 km east of the hotel along the Peian Road. It’s impossible to get here by metro, so from other parts of Taipei take a cab, or any one of the buses: 208, 247, 267, 287.
Member Rating 3 out of 5 on July 2, 2001
139 Bei-An Road
Taipei, Taiwan 104
+886 2 2885 4162
Entrance fee is 100NTD and the museum is open between 9AM and 5PM everyday. There is a wonderful Chinese garden next to the museum (entrance fee is nominal, I believe it was 10NTD) in which you can relax and enjoy feeding carp or let your kids (if you have any) run wild.
To get to the National Palace Museum, you’re once again doomed to take a bus or a taxi cab. MRT, Taipei’s metro system, does not have a line anywhere close to the museum. Take the Tamsui Line to the Shih-lin station and transfer to bus 304 or 255.
National Palace Museum
221 Chih-shan Rd. Sec 2