During the barbeque, I was lucky enough to meet Peter Lin who works as a tour guide for Topology (topologytravel.com), a Taipei based tour guide company that prides itself on the unique and one of a kind experience it offers to travelers. I’m definitely a people person so I was ecstatic to meet such a funny and talkative individual. Peter spent six months studying in the states so it was really fun and interesting to exchange stories about our various travel experiences.
Fortunately for another guest and I, Peter was kind enough to offer his services as a tour guide. A few days later, we met Peter near the famous Shilin Night Market and he drove us to Wulai, a town located in Taipei’s countryside. The drive was only an hour long and Peter entertained us the whole way by sharing some of Taiwan’s history and Wulai’s aboriginal culture.
Upon arrival, we were fortunate to snag the last vacant parking spot near the beautiful waterfall. For convenience, we hopped on the little train to another part of town. However, taking the train is not necessary. I saw several people strolling alongside the tracks heading towards the same direction.
After the quick train ride, we walked over to a small market with a museum, some shops, and restaurants. After visiting the museum, we stopped for a quick lunch at one of the restaurants and enjoyed the fantastic view of the river. Peter’s food recommendations were great and I definitely enjoyed tasting the local dishes.
Afterwards, we bought tickets for the cable car which took us past the waterfall and up the mountain. The views were fantastic and I was impressed that such a beautiful scenic resort was located within the bounds of a metropolitan city. Although there were various activities along the pathway that led us up the mountain, our trio just chatted among ourselves, shared more stories, and enjoyed the scenery. And don’t worry about rough terrain because the pathways are completed paved!
Apparently, Wulai is famous for its hot spring. We were on a bit of a time constraint so we were unable to stop by. However, I would definitely return if I ever have the chance to do so.
After our day trip to Wulai, Peter drove us to the National Chiang Kai-shek Memorial Hall. We arrived just in time to watch the guards exchange places. Lucky for us, our tour guide led us to the best standing area with a perfect view of the elaborate ritual.
I booked my impromptu trip to Taiwan on a limb and arrived in the country with virtually no plans. With only two full days to explore the city, I expected myself, like many travelers, to organize my itinerary by the number of major tourist sites I could jam into my schedule. However, I am happy to have had the opportunity to visit such a beautiful and culturally rich city like Wulai, an opportunity unknown to most visitors.
When traveling alone, I feel it is crucial to find good companions who are friendly, open-minded, and easygoing. I feel so fortunate to have met such people in Taipei. I only hope to one day return the hospitality that Peter has shown me during my visit to Taiwan.
Enjoy the great view of Taipei from high up the mountain in Maokong while sipping a cup of Chinese tea.
There are many traditional teahouses here, and some actually own the tea farms in the area.
Maokong becomes alive at night and during the weekends, as ppl in the city like to get out to enjoy the fresh air in the countryside. There are walking trails in the area.
The Maokong Cable Car was opened in 2007. It is much easier to get to Maokung as it's directly connected with the MRT network. There is additional info on how to get there on the website below.
When I went there in early 2003, I had to get off at Taipei Zoo Station, then took minibus #10. And you could tell the driver to let you off anywhere you like on the mountain.
Jiufen used to be gold mining town in early 20th century. Things have changed and it's a nice get-away for city dwellers over the weekend.
The village is built on the side of the mountain. The main street is made of stone steps going all the way up from the bottom of the village.
There are quite a few tea houses, with a nice view of the ocean. Specialty food is the hand-made tapioca dessert, served hot or cold.
Details on how to get there is shown on the website.
Wulai is a small aboriginal village in Taipei County. It features a free public hot spring, beautiful waterfall and aboriginal culture and food.
There are 3 pools in the public hot spring with different temperatures. They are all by the riverside. The hot spring is actually about 86c from the source, so the water temperature is adjusted. You can also enjoy the hot spring in the many hotels in the area.
There is a mini-train running between the main village and the waterfall. Walking there is about 15-20 minutes, and you can enjoy the scenery better than taking the train.
To get to Wulai, take the bus from Hsintien MRT Station. Details below.
You can find tofu made in all kinds of way on this street in Shenkeng in Taipei County.
Unlike other places, the tofu here is handmade and free of plaster powder, which is why Shenkeng is well-known for its tofu. You can try it from the street vendors, or dine-in.
Don't forget to try the stinky tofu, they are the best!
The unusual rock formations from erosion created this beautiful scenic park, located near Keelung.
The most famous rock is the Queen's Head. Currently, there's a debate on whether to preserve it from falling with chemical as erosion continues to make her neck smaller. Some estimate that the Head will fall in about 20 years without any preservation - so go see it while it's still there.
You can take a long distance bus from Taipei to Yehliu, or from Keelung. Details on website below.
Taroko Gorge is actually located in Hualien County. But if you got a day or two to spare, you shouldn't miss this great national park. You'll really be amazed by how the forces of nature can create such a beautiful scenery: marble gorge, the sheer cliffs and the turquoise blue river.
It's only about 3 hours of train ride from Taipei.
Visit my travel page for more info on the park (see link below).
About 2hours ride north of Taipei city and right by the sea is Yeliu archaelogical park with its weird "alien soil". Eroded stacks, strange rock formations and the beautiful sea makes the trip worthwhile.
Look out for fossilised remains of leaves and sea creatures (forgot the scientific term)imprinted on the ground near the patch of "ginger like" rock formations on your way out.
Good buys from the locals pitching their movable stores outside the park are dried sea produce such as cuttlefish, dried scallops and shrimps.
Wulai is an aboriginal village about 40 minutes by bus from Xindian station, at the end of the subway line.
It's nice to stroll around, have a look at the waterfall, sample various types of food and if you have time, take a dip in a hot spring.
Chiufen was once a gold mining center and was referred to as Little Shanghai for its prosperity and colorful night life. In 1890, someone struck gold near Chiufen. The poor village with only nine families soon attracted prospectors of 4,000 families. However, with the decline of gold mining activities, Chiufen fades. Situated in mountains and face the ocean, Chiufen is a village with magnificent view of natural beauty which attracts several movie directors to shoot here. The movie “The Sad City” won the first prize in Venice Film Festival and thus awakened people's memory of Chiufen. Now, there are many unique teahouses and snack shops in Chiufen. These teahouses are best stops during visit to this mountain village.
The Historic Commercial District of Chiufen consists of a series of stores and restaurants running along Jishan and Shuchi Streets, which are built into the side of the coastal hills. The area is known for its collection of historic businesses, eateries, and teahouses, allowing visitors to relive the past while sampling local specialties and purchasing handicrafts and other knick-knacks. The area also provides spectacular views of the harbor and the Pacific Ocean below.
To get to Chiufen, take a guided tour from Taipei. If you are an independent traveller and can speak and read Chinese, take the train north to Ruifang Station. From Ruifang take the Keelung Transit bus from the bus stops in front of the train station to Chiufen. The bus trip is roughly 15 minutes. Alternatively, take the Chiufen bus from the Adventist Hospital bus stop on Bade Road, east of the intersection with Fuxing Road.
Cycling in Taipei...
There are few places Taipeians go on the weekends: Danshui, Yangmingshan, Bali, and Jiofen. Thanks to MRT Danshui line, a small township across river find its on way to prosperity after being silent for centries, and it is Bali. (Ba1 Li3) This place is famous for its local snack like fish ball, plum juice, fried calamary and so on. Take a ferry from Danshui Quay and pay NT40, you can enjoy your trip here. This is one of few places where you can cycle near Taipei. Roads are flat, scenery is good, alongside the road, there are also a lot of activities to do, such as paint ball. Or ypu can make a short trip to Shi-san-hang Anthropology Museum.
Take MRT to Danshiu Station, the terminal station, take a ferry, within an hour, you are there from downtown Taipei.
If you are going to Jiufen, remember to buy the Taiyang bing, the pineapple tarts and mochi from this shop there ont he main street. It's much cheaper than in Taipei. And much fresher too, since these are handmade daily. if you buy more, the boss will give you a discount or throw in a few more foodstuff for you. Cost: taiyang bing (10 for NT100), pineapple tarts (24 for NT220), all handmade daily so it's quite fresh. I saw those in Taipei going for much higher prices and they're factory made. And most importantly, doesn't taste as nice as the ones I got in Jiufen.
A couple of weekend ago we went hiking here in Tao-yuan valley. It wasn't a easy hike for people like me who Doesn't do hiking as much. ( Felt like I climbed thousands of steps to reach half way of the mountain.) I almost gave up when we finished the steps. I'm glad I didn't though, coz when we finally reach the top. The view were so worth it. Air was fresh and view was awesome.
It's located in Shuang-Si, the north-east of Taiwan.
Take the train from Taipei Main to Ruei-Fang station. And either catch the bus up to the mountain or take a taxi ( $150). We took the taxi coz it was just faster and more comfortable.
The night view is what this place is famous for but we didn't hang around so long. We went up to the mountain at around 11:00am and left the place at around 3:00 pm. Lucky us, cos that way we didn't hit the traffic.
Wu-Lai in located in Taipei county. It's famous for its hot springs and beautiful scenery. Find a hotel or a resort to stay then either walk around or drive around this place. you will have a very relaxing time here.