The Taipei Economic and Cultural Office earlier confirmed that Filipinos—along with nationals of the nine other member states of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations and India—may visit the island nation of Taiwan visa-free until July 31, 2018. Of course, the grant has its necessary provisions, but if you could keep to it, now’s about the perfect time to book that long-awaited trip. When you’re set and ready to go, this quick itinerary will allow you to cover sufficient ground in the capital in just 48 hours.
9 a.m. Perk-me-ups
Welcome the day at Taiwanese chain 85C Bakery Café, which has become a popular stop for sea salt iced coffees, in particular, paired with their wide selection of cakes and pastries. You won’t miss this particular café—it operates over 400 stores across Taiwan alone so you’re bound to chance upon a branch as you take the streets. For a cheaper alternative, side street vendors (or vendo machines that abound in the city) offer a range of drinks, which you can pair with freshly made waffles or egg rolls. This option is a scene straight out of a typical Taiwanese side street.
10 a.m. Back to basics
Start your sightseeing spree with the Chiang Kai-Shek Memorial Temple, a popular tourist attraction built in honor of Chiang Kai-shek, the former President of the Republic of China. To get there, take the Taipei Metro green line and get off the “Chiang Kai-Shek Memorial Temple” stop, which immediately leads to the memorial’s sprawling grounds. You may spend quite some time in this area just because the grounds are huge, carrying doses of culture and pockets of greens here and there. When you’re up for lunch, do a quick Google Maps search of Hang Zhou Xiao Long Bao, a hole-in-the-wall nearby, known for their selection of dumplings, noodles, and buns. The lines can get pretty long at this joint, so try as much as you can to get there before noon.
1 p.m. Top of the city
After lunch, head over to modern fare by taking the Metro’s red line, and then getting off at the “Taipei 101” stop. In a few moments, find yourself amidst the city’s best bet for a cosmopolitan scene. This particular area is a vast haven for more sightseeing, shopping, and dining, but to pin down a starting point, do make a beeline for the Taipei 101 Observatory for the best view of the Taipei skyline. Before leaving the observatory, stop by the Vigor Hobo stall just by the exit for your fix of pineapple and red bean tarts. Then, roam the floors of the adjacent Taipei 101 Mall, which carries a good mix of retail and luxury goods. If you’re up for more shops and cafes, the Commune A7 Food Park and the Shinkong Mitsukoshi Mall are located within a few kilometers of Taipei 101.
4 p.m. Scenic views
Shrug off those extra calories by taking on the Nangang District Hiking Trail, known more popularly as the Elephant Mountain. Here, you can take in a nice sunset view of the Taipei skyline (fronted by the Taipei 101). The hike takes around 20 minutes to reach the top, so do prepare those comfortable walking shoes!
7 p.m. Nightcap
End day one with a Taipei must: the Shi Lin Night Market. Simply take the red line to the “Shi Lin” stop, and you’ll be steps away from the famed night market. This popular market is filled to the brim with shops that sell everything from toys to ceramics to clothes, and food stalls that line it end to end. Make sure to have a bite of the bestsellers: fried ice cream, stinky tofu, and extra large chicken fillets.
7 a.m. Early start
Since the Jiufen/ Pingxi areas take a bit of time to reach from the city center, it’s advisable that you take any of the tours that depart from the Taipei Main Station. These tours include a bus ride to the Jiufen Old Street, tagged the Santorini of Taipei. The picturesque town is home to temples, museums, tea houses, specialty shops, and food stalls. Of their diverse gastronomic offering, keep your eyes peeled for taro balls, snails, and pork buns. Nearby is the Shifen Old Street, best known as the place where you can fly those colored paper lanterns that carry your heart’s wishes. At this area, be on the lookout for the Pingxi Train Station where several other Taipei goodies abound: lantern-inspired memorabilia, grilled chicken barbecue legs, and Yakult shakes. End your short tour of this area with a visit to the Shifen Waterfalls.
3 p.m. Hustle and bustle
Head back to the heart of Taipei with a quick Metro ride on board the red line. Destination: Ximen. Upon arrival, a busy commercial center will greet you. Welcome to Ximending, one of the major stops you ought to include in your itinerary. Here you will find lines of shops and cafes, the Red House complex, the Modern Toilet restaurant (remember those meals served on toilet bowls?), and tons of tourists and buskers. When you’ve exhausted the Ximen area, go on back to the red line to get to Longshan Temple, a populous pit stop for locals and tourists alike. Just by the station, there are plenty of underground shops for your pasalubong needs.
6 p.m. Gadgets and gizmos
A big fan of electronics and toys? Then head back to the red line and get off the “Zongxiao Xinsheng” station, which will lead you to Taipei’s take on Tokyo’s famed Akihabara. This is where you will find the Syntrend Creative Park and the Guanghua Digital Plaza, multi-floor malls that offer a vast selection of cameras, laptops, tablets, phones, toys, books, and more. It’s every geek’s dream!
8 p.m. Cap it off
Cap off day two with another night market, this time a relatively smaller one in the Banquiao district. Take the blue line to the “Fuzhong” station, saunter a few side streets, then enter the NanYa Night Market. The culinary selection of this hangout may overwhelm, but if there is anything to try immediately, it would be their takoyakis, fruits and shaved ice combinations, and watermelon shakes.
7 a.m. Caffeine fix
Trendy and hip Fujin Street ought to be a stop in your Taipei getaway if only for the eclectic mix of lifestyle boutiques and cafes that you may not find elsewhere. They say this creative community is Taipei’s version of Singapore’s Haji Lane. To get there, take the metro and get off the “Songshan Airport” stop. Don’t miss out on Beans and Beats, Kyushu Pancake Cafe, or Fujin Tree 353 Cafe by Simple Kaff for your fix of brunch grub. Here, you can also find Sunny Hills, where you can hoard away on those scrumptious pineapple tarts.