In recent years, Oli and I have been trying our hardest to slow our travels down. Rushing through a country means you have less down time (exhausting), more time spent in transit (no fun) and everything begins to blur into one, which defies the point in visiting so many places in the first place!
So, the title of this blog post may seem like our recent trip to Taiwan was a slip-up on our slow travel plan. But, despite travelling to four very different destinations we had an incredibly chilled trip, saw so much and really fell for this little island nation.
Here’s where we went and what we did in Taiwan in 1 week.
2 Days in Taipei
We nabbed direct flights from Hanoi to Taipei for a little over $100 (perfect for a visa run!) and subsequently missed our train from Da Nang to Hanoi and thus our flight… Thankfully, there were also super cheap and last minute direct flights from Da Nang, so crisis averted and we arrived a day early and super fresh without the night train.
We booked an Airbnb in the Da An neighbourhood and spent our first afternoon wandering over to the Dr. Sun Yat-sen memorial hall and caught a glimpse of Taipei 101. That night we got our first taste of Taipei’s famous night markets at the local Linjiang Night Market.
The next day we caught the subway to the historic area between Zhongzheng district and Wanhua district and visited the Chiang Kai-shek, Lungshan Temple and the bustling Ximen Walking Street. We spent the evening wandering up and down Yongkang street and eating everything in sight! Taipei’s street food is seriously some of the best we’ve ever had.
1 Day in Jiufen
The reason it’s so easy to see so much of Taiwan in a short space of time is due to its small size and fantastic transport options. We decided to take a day trip to Jiufen, 35km away on the North coast. This place is amazing for so many reasons. Steep winding streets with sweeping ocean views are lined with ancient teahouses and endless street snacks – it is the perfect place to get lost, camera in hand.
A day trip to Jiufen is perfectly paired with a visit to the Riohe Night Market, which is within a minutes walking distance of the bus stop at Songshan station. This was our favourite night market as there was such a huge selection of food and you could take your snacks to the riverside to eat and look out over the city. Make sure to stop at the Songshan temple too.
1 Day in Hualien
Halfway through our trip we took a 3 hour train South to Hualien where we would base ourselves to visit Taroko National Park. We arrived around lunchtime, rented a scooter from this rental agency and went exploring. We drove out to Qixingtan Beach and wandered around the cliffs, then grabbed a beer from 7/11 for a cloudy sunset with the locals.
Another must do in Hualien is to wake up early for dolphin-spotting! Hualien is surrounded by a deep bay that attracts large pods of dolphins and smaller pods of whales and you can pretty much be guaranteed a sighting of the former each and every day. We didn’t see whales but we did see pods of over 100 dolphins and it was absolutely breathtaking. We did this one morning before heading into Tarkoko National Park.
2 Days in Taroko Gorge
We had heard wonderful things about the stunning national parks in Taiwan and chose Taroko because it was easy to get to from Taipei. It turned out to be one of the most beautiful places we’ve ever visited.
With our rental scooter we drove the 23km out to Taroko National Park from Hualien and road up and down the park’s astonishing cliff-cut roads for 2 days. How they built these roads is mind-boggling and provides unbeatable views of the deep gorge and rushing, grey river at every turn.
Each evening, we road back in the dark after a full day exploring and feasted on fresh seafood and local specialities at the Dongdamen Night Market in Hualien.
1 Day Back in Taipei
Our final day in Taiwan was spent making our way back to Taipei from Hualien and exploring a new area. My mum had booked us into an Airbnb near Ximen station as a birthday gift and it was fun to see this busy shopping district at night. There was fantastic street food here too so we had plenty of last minute street snacks.
We had one extra day in Taiwan thanks to our train mishap and took another Taipei day trip out to the Maokong tea fields. While the Maokong Gondola was pretty cool and afforded amazing views of Taipei 101, the tea fields were slightly disappointing. I think we had too high expectations really and were surprised to see very little tea growing in the area. We also packed no water and then ended up on a pretty long walk with no shade. But, hey, that’s totally on us.
We stayed in 3 different Airbnbs in Taipei and cannot recommend this one enough. It was in a fantastic location and really comfortable.
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In Hualien we stayed at the WOW hostel across from the train station and we had a lovely double room with an amazing view of the city. The staff at check-in couldn’t be more helpful and the breakfast was pretty decent too.
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