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Taipei

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Asia : East Asia : Taiwan : Taipei
The National Concert HallThe National Concert Hall
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The National Concert Hall
Taipei's east side viewed from the hills behind the Grand Hotel.Taipei's east side viewed from the hills behind the Grand Hotel.
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Taipei's east side viewed from the hills behind the Grand Hotel.

Taipei (?? or ??) is the provisional capital of the Republic of China, otherwise known as Taiwan. It is located in the northern part of the island in a basin between the Yangming Mountains and the Central Mountains.

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taipei Travel Guide :

Taipei

Understand

In 1884 the governor of Taiwan decided to move the provincial capital to Taipei, and with the construction of government offices and the influx of civil servants, Taipei's days as a sleepy market town were over. As Taipei is located in the north of Taiwan (the closest area to Japan), the city continued to thrive when Taiwan was ceded to Japan in 1895. However, as Japan was in the throes of a 'modernize-come-what-may' period, little regard was paid to Taipei's traditional Chinese-style architecture and many of the old buildings, including the city walls, were demolished. During the Japanese period of colonial rule, several prominent buildings were however constructed, the Presidential Palace and National Taiwan University being among the most famous, but the city's architecture again suffered a major onslaught when the KMT government arrived from Mainland China in 1945.

In order to cope with the influx of millions of immigrants, temporary housing estates sprang up all around the city. Later, these were replaced by soviet-era style (or I should say, 'no-style') concrete apartment buildings. These buildings characterized Taipei's landscape until very recently.

In the 1980s, Taiwan's economy began to take off. Wages rose and in order to satisfy a wealthy and sophisticated market, Taipei began to change. Wide, tree lined boulevards were laid, high quality apartment blocks constructed and stylish restaurants and cafes established. The city was booming and has never looked back since.

The Taipei of today is a confident city of about 2,500,000 (about 7,000,000, with suburbs) inhabitants, and is characterized by its friendly people and safe streets. While it is not usually high on the list of tourist destinations, it is a fascinating place to visit and live. Furthermore, despite its size, Taipei does not have any rough areas that are considered unsafe, even at night - which in itself is attractive.

The downtown area is culturally divided into East and West. The West side, with its narrow streets and road side vendors, is considered the bastion of old Taipei life, whereas East Taipei, with its classy malls, chic boutiques, and stylish restaurants and cafes, reminiscent of those found in London, Paris or New York, represents the city's metamorphosis into a modern and international city.

Taipei City administers twelve districts (?). This article covers the downtown districts only. For other areas please see their specific articles:

Downtown districts

  • Daan (???)
  • Datong (???)
  • Songshan (???)
  • Wanhua (???)
  • Xinyi (???)
  • Zhongshan (???)
  • Zhongzheng (???)

Suburban districts - North

  • Beitou (???) - famous for hot springs and the Yangmingshan National Park.
  • Neihu (???) - center of IT industry in Taipei, home to many large shopping centers, and a great place for hiking and templing.
  • Shilin (???) - several museums are located in Shilin, including the world famous National Palace Museum. Also, Shilin is home to one of Taipei's largest night markets and the ex-pat enclave of Tienmu.

Suburban districts - South

  • Nangang (???) - many IT industrial complexies.
  • Wenshan (???) - home to the Taipei Zoo and many tea plantations in the hills surrounding the district.

Surrounding cities Taipei City is surrounded by Taipei County (???), which is an amalgamation of several cities and towns. The city and county are basically one metropolitan area, but run by different government authorities. Individual cities are listed on the Taipei County page.

Taipei

Get in

Taipei

International travel

Taipei's international airport (Chiang Kai Shek Airport - often abbreviated as CKS) is located about 30 km from the city. Freeway buses ply the route, picking up and dropping off passengers at most of the five star hotels as well Taipei Main Station and the domestic airport (Songshan Airport), which is located in the Taipei suburb of Songshan. Buses also connect to other cities in the area and Taichung City in the middle of Taiwan. Travelers to other destinations need to change transportation in Taipei.

At airport terminal 1: After passing through customs, you have the choice of exiting to the left or right. Turn left for limousine buses. There are several booths serving private bus companies 1 (http://ezgo.taipei-elife.net/Homepage/english/airportbus.htm), with each displaying a bus-route map for their particular service. The cost is between NT$120 and NT$145 to down-town Taipei. For destinations in West Taipei, avoid the Air Bus Company as their West Route bus (The East Route one is fine) meanders through local towns dropping off airport employees before joining the freeway. If, however, you wish to pick up complimentary maps and avail yourself of tourist information services, turn right after customs. This is also the exit for getting a taxi. Both sides have money changers.

Taipei

Domestic travel

Taipei is easily accessible by train, airplane, freeway, or bus from other cities in Taiwan.

Taipei

By plane

Sung-shan Airport (http://www.tsa.gov.tw/0069/index_e/index_e.shtm) at the top end of Dun-hwa North Road is the city's domestic airport, and there are flights arriving and departing for all major cities on the island every minute.

Taipei

By train

All trains to/from other cities on the island arrive and depart from Taipei Railway Station on Zhong-xiao West Road, sec 1 - opposite the 53 floor Shingkong-Mitskoshi Building. Tickets are purchased on the first floor, while the platforms are located in B1.

Taipei

By Bus

Private and government inter-city buses leave and depart from the Taipei Bus Terminal (also called Taipei Intercity Bus Terminal) - a few minutes walk to the west of Taipei Railway Station (to the left and behind the station when facing the building from Zhong-xiao West Road. It is the furtherest bus station of two when coming from the railway station). Generally, the buses operated by private companies are more comfortable and sport such amenities as wide reclining seats and individual game and video monitors. The govenment run buses are blue and white and called Guo Guang Hao. All inter-city buses are known as ke-yun and can be distinguished from the local city buses (called gong-che) by the fact they do not have a route number, only the name of the destination.

Taipei

Get around

Taipei

By metro

See also: Wikipedia:Taipei Rapid Transit System

Taipei City has a very clean, efficient and safe Mass Rapid Transit (MRT) system (http://www.trtc.com.tw/). The majority of lines are underground, though the Muzha line, which connects to Taipei Zoo, is a driverless elevated system. The last trains depart at midnight.

Stations and trains are clearly identified in English, so even for those who cannot read Chinese, the MRT system is very accessible.

Women and/or children travelling at night can benefit from the Safe Zones--sections of the terminal that are under heavy surveillance--located in some of the subway lines.

In addition to single journey tickets, the Taipei MRT also sells value-added cards called EasyCard. These cards hold amounts up to NT$5,000, and one only needs to swipe them past the barrier monitor to gain entry and exit. Value added cards can be purchased at station ticket offices or at vending machines. One great advantage of using the EasyCard is that there is a 20% discount on all MRT rides, and if you transfer from the MRT to an ordinary city bus, or vice versa, within an hour, the bus ride is only NT$7. The discount is automatically calculated when you leave the MRT station.

Taipei

By bus

Taipei City has a very efficient bus service, and because all buses display information (destination and the names of stops) in English, the system is very accessible to non-Chinese speaking visitors. Payment can be made by cash (NT$15) or Easy Card (see 'Metro' listing) for each section that the bus passes through. For local buses (All local buses have a number, but long distance buses do not) the maximum will be two sections with a total cost of NT$30. The confusion, however, arises by not knowing where the section boundaries are located. If you begin your journey at the first stop, you may travel for a long distance for only NT$15. However, if you get on just before a section boundary, you will have to pay for a two sections, even if you have only traveled one stop. When to pay: Above the driver, there is an electronic red sign. If the Chinese character for 'up' (?) is lit, then you pay when you get on. If the same sign is lit when you get off, you do not need to pay again. However, if the sign is displaying the Chinese character for 'down' (?) when you are getting off, then you will need to pay a second time. Finally, if the character for 'down' is lit up when you get on, then you only need to pay when you get off. Until you get the hang of the system, just let the locals go first and follow their action. It's really not as complicated as it sounds!

Taipei

By taxi

Taxis are the most flexible way to get around, and are extremely numerous. They are expensive in comparison to mass transit, but are cheap when compared to taxis in the rest of the world. Most taxi drivers speak very limited English, and it will be necessary for non-Chinese speakers to have their destination written down. Taxis are metered, with higher rates for night and rush hour journeys. Tipping is not necessary.

Passengers who sit in the front seat of the taxi are required to buckle their seat beat. Considering the aggressiveness of a Taipei taxi driver's technique, this may not be a bad idea.

Taiwanese taxi drivers are notorious for their strong opinions on politics as they spend all day listening to talk radio, although they will probably be unable to share any of this with you if you do not speak Chinese.

Taipei

Address system

The Taipei address system is very logical and user-friendly. The hub of the city is the corner of the west-east running Zhongxiao and north-south running Zhongshan roads. All major roads are identified by their direction in relation to these roads. For example, all sections of the north-south running Fuxing Road north of Zhongxiao are called Fuxing North Road. Likewise, those sections to the south are called Fuxing South Road. Those that cross Zhongshan road are similarly identified as either east or west. Sections (?-duan) numbers begin at 'one' near the two defining roads and increase at intersections of major highways. For example, Ren'ai Road (which only has an east location, and therefore does not have a direction suffix) section 1, will be close to Zhongshan South Road. The section number will increase as one moves further away from Zhongshan Road. So, for example, when Ren'ai Road reaches Dunhua South Road far in the east of the city, a typical address could be: 7F. 166# Ren'ai Road, section 4, Taipei. The house and lane numbers begin at zero every section. Lanes (?-xiang) lead off roads (?-lu) and streets (?-jie), while alleys (?-nong) branch off lanes.

Taipei

See

Taipei

Landmarks

  • Taipei 101 (http://www.taipei101mall.com.tw/) (?? 101). Officially known as the Taipei International Financial Building (????????), or sometimes as the Taipei Financial Center, this 101-floor, 508 meter high skyscraper is in the Xinyi District of Taipei. As of 2005 it is the world's tallest building, using three of the four standards designated by the Council on Tall Buildings and Urban Habitat. In addition to this superlative, Taipei 101 also boasts the world's fastest elevators, which, for NT$350, zip passengers up to the observation deck in matter of seconds. Needless to say, the views are stunning, especially at night when the city is lit up. The tower, which as the name implies has 101 stories, is rich in Chinese symbolism. It is built in eight sections, eight being a number associated with prosperity, and designed to give the impression of bamboo rising from the earth - Bamboo in Asian culture is recognized for its fast growth and flexibility, which, of course, are ideal qualities for a financial building. Attached to the tower is a large, up-scale-mall, which although unremarkable in that it has the same assortment of shops that one would find in any other major city in the world, its open and spacious design does give it a certain allure, and the bookshop, Page One (located next to the cafes on the 4th floor), has the largest selection of English books in Taiwan. It is a fifteen to twenty minute walk to the nearest MRT station, 'Taipei City Hall' (Bannan line). The internal architecture of Taipei 101 is awe inspiring. Standing on the 5th floor overlooking the mall, the supporting structure is like something out of a 1950's Buck Roger's movie. The ornate supporting beams are fantastic. One of the sub-street levels floor has a supermarket specializing in imported food items. The cost of the ride to the 88th floor varies depends on age but it is worth it. The best time to visit is in the late afternoon: hang around for a couple of hours so you can see both day and night views of Taipei. Don't forget to look toward the middle of the building... going in you'll get to see one of the huge dampers that keep the building steady. It is art in itself.
  • The Chiang Kai-shek Memorial 2 (http://www.orientalarchitecture.com/taipei/SHEKMEMORIAL08.htm) is the symbol of both Taipei and the R.O.C. It is here that the nation's flag is raised every morning, and the huge court yard in front of the memorial serves as a place for both national celebrations as well as a platform to voice one's disapproval of the government. Even if you are not into memorials, the gardens with their Chinese style ponds are definitely worth a visit. The memorial has its own MRT station on the Xindian line. The grounds of the memorial are also a favorite place for locals to gather to practice martial arts, though you'll have to be there early if you wish to see this. Most people begin their work-out at around sunrise, and will have left for the office before 8 a.m.
  • The National Theater and National Opera House -- located in the grounds of the Chiang Kai-shek Memorial -- are excellent places to see performances of a Taiwanese play or dance troupe, though they also host many international events. The building's neo-classic Chinese architecture is especially stunning when flood-lit at night.
  • National Taiwan University (http://www.ntu.edu.tw/): Taiwan's preeminent institution of higher education is located on the south side of Taipei. The campus grounds are surrounded by several blocks of stores, eateries, cafes and tea houses popular with students and scholars. Nearest MRT station: Gongguan (??) on the Xindian (Green) Line.
Taipei

Museums/Galleries

  • The National Palace Museum is an absolute must-see for anyone visiting Taipei. It is perhaps the world's finest collection of Chinese art and artifacts. To get there, go to the Shilin MRT station and take bus R30, 255, 304, Minibus 18, Minibus 19, or Culture Bus 101.

Note: The museum is currently undergoing expanson and renovation, scheduled to be completed June 30, 2006. To to make up for the inconvenience, the Museum is offering special discounts, including a two-visits-for-one-ticket-purchase deal, a 15% dining discount, gift-shop deals, free admission to the Chih-Shan Gardens, and more.

  • Hua Shan Cultural and Creative Industry Center - This former brewery has been transformed into a creative space in a park. The exhibitions here are well presented and imaginative and the theater performances, while less formal than at those at the National Theater, are still none-the-less first rate. The center also has a great cafe with outdoor seating -- an excellent place to watch Taipei at work and play over a cappuccino. The center is located at 1 Bade Road, Sec 1.
  • Fine Arts Museum - exhibits of local and international work - good gift shop - open Tues-Sun, 10AM - 6PM, admission NT$30. The Gallery is located near the Yuanshan MRT Station (Danshui line), 181 Zhongshan North Road, Sec. 3.
  • The former residence of the U.S. Ambassador has been transformed into an art center called Taipei House, which focuses on film. In addition to holding film festivals, the house also has great cafes and restaurants that spill out onto balconies and into the garden. The book store offers a good selection of hard-to-get art/independent film maker type movies on DVD, though for other movies, prices are lower at regular DVD rental stores. The center is open from Tues-Sun, 11AM - 10PM and admission is free. Address: 18 Zhongshan North Road, sec. 2 - nearest MRT Station: Zhungshan (Danshui line).
  • The Museum of Contemporary Art (http://www.mocataipei.org.tw/) was Taiwan's first art space dedicated to contemporary work. The red brick, former Taipei City Hall is easy to locate on an otherwise unexceptional road. The gallery is open from Tues-Sun, 10AM - 6PM, entrance fee, NT$50. Address: 39 Changan West Road, nearest MRT station - Zhongshan (on Danshui line).
  • Taipei Story House (http://www.storyhouse.com.tw/) - a tea merchant's 19th century European style house has been converted into a space for telling the story of Taipei and tea. There are permanent exhibits on these subjects as well as visiting exhibitions and the occasional traditional music concert. The patio serves as a tea garden, which offers pleasant views over the Damshui River and beyond. The facility is open from 10AM to 11:30PM, and admission is NT$30. The house is located in the same plot of land as the Fine Arts Museum (see above listing). Tel:2596 1898.
  • Taiwan National History Museum is located in 'Peace Park' (near Taipei Main Station) in a splendid baroque and renaissance style building. Opened in 1899, it was Taiwan's first museum and focuses on anthropology and the fauna and flora of the island. Address: 2 Xiang-yang Road. Tel:2382 2699.Nearest MRT station: 'National Taiwan University Hospital' on the Danshui line.
  • Miniatures Museum of Taiwan (http://www.mmot.com.tw/) is a small private museum that is a monument to patience and a steady hand. The 40 bulb chandelier the size of grain of rice is one of the many impressive pieces on display. Address: B1, 96 Jian-gwo North Road, sec. 1. Tel:2515 0583. Open Tues-Sun 10AM-6PM (last admittance 5PM). Admission: adults - NT$180, concessions - NT$150, children - NT$100. Buses from Taipei Main Station: 307, 527 alight at Nanjing East Road and Jian-gwo North Road intersection. The museum is located in the same building as Thai Airways.
Taipei

Temples

  • Longshan Temple (???) - This temple is where countless generations of Taipei citizens have come to pray and seek guidance at times of trouble. As the temple is dedicated to Guanyin (the Buddhist representation of compassion) it is officially defined as Buddhist, but there is a great amount of folk religion mixed into the fabric of the beliefs here. However, if you want to feel the real heartbeat of Taipei, one that is far removed from the skyscrapers and shopping malls of East Taipei, this is the place to come. It just oozes with character, though don't come expecting to find teachings on mation. The area around Longshan Temple, Wanhua, is one of the original districts of Taipei. And, while much of the traditional architecture has been lost, the area still maintains a traditional feel. It is here that the blind masseurs congregate to offer their skill. Likewise, this is the area where the Taiwanese come to learn who they should marry or what to name their son or daughter by consulting one of the many fortune tellers that set up shop along the roads and alleys around the temple. The temple is located at 211 Guangzhou Road (near junction with Guilin Road) and is open daily from 5 a.m. to 10 p.m. The nearest MRT station is 'Longshan Temple' on the Ban-Nan Line. Longshan Temple (http://www.lungshan.org.tw/)
  • Paoan Temple (???) - Paoan Temple (http://www.paoan.org.tw/)
Taipei

Parks

  • Da-An Forest Park {??????) is the largest green space in the downtown area, and as the name implies, much of the area is covered with trees. In addition, there is a lake, gardens and an amphitheater, and tucked away on the northwest corner is a statue of Guanyin (aka Avalokitesvara), the Buddhist representation of compassion. The park is bordered by Xinsheng South Road, Xinyi Road, Jianguo South Road and Heping East Road. Buses: 15, 52, 235, 278, 284, 20, 22, Xinyi Main Line.
  • 228 Peace Park (formerly known as 'New Park') is one of Taipei's oldest parks, and houses the Natural History Museum and a memorial to the 228 incident, named in reference to the date (February 28) when a dispute between a female cigarette vendor and an anti-smuggling officer triggered civil disorder, and the uprising and crackdown that followed in 1947. The main entrance to the park is on Gongyuan Road, near Taipei Main Station. Nearest MRT Station: NTU Hospital.
  • The Botanical Gardens - these beautiful gardens have inspired the citizens of Taipei for over one hundred years. The lotus ponds are a hallmark of the park and are especially captivating when the these symbols of peace are in full bloom and swaying in the summer breeze. Address: 53 Nanhai Road, Nearest MRT Station: CKS Memorial. Buses: 1, 259, 204, 242.
  • The Zhongshan Fine Arts Park is a gentle green space interspersed with ancient trees, outdoor sculptures and art exhibits. It is located between the Fine Arts Museum and Yuanshan MRT Station.
Taipei

Learn

Taipei

Buddhism

  • The internationally acclaimed Chan (Zen) Master Sheng-yen has a monastery in Beitou where there are regular mion meetings with instruction given in English. See Beitou page for more information.
  • In recent years, Tibetan Buddhism has become very popular in Taiwan, and the Taipei area alone boasts more than fifty centers. So, on any given night there will be teachings and rituals being held in the city, and Taipei has become a regular port of call for many of the well known rinpoches. While most teachings are given in Tibetan with translation into Chinese, some are given in English. For information on teachings, check notice boards at vegetarian restaurants. (For purchase of Buddha statues and other Buddhist artifacts, see 'Potala' under listings for 'Buy')
  • The international Buddhist foundation The Corporate Body of the Buddha Educational Foundation has its headquarters in Taipei. The foundation publishes books on Buddhism in various languages (including English) which it offers for free. For detailed information check the foundations web site: 3 (http://www.budaedu.org.tw/en/)
Taipei

Language

  • Center for Chinese Language and Culture Studies (http://www.mtc.ntnu.edu.tw/), National Taiwan Normal University (Shi-da), 162 Heping East Road, sec. 1, Taipei (2321 8457 & 2391 4248, fax: 2341 8431, e-mail: mtc@mtc.ntnu.edu.tw). This school, which is part of Shi-da University, has seen generations of students passing through its doors and it remains one of the most popular schools in Taiwan for serious students of Mandarin.
  • International Chinese Language Program (http://ccms.ntu.edu.tw/~iclp/), National Taiwan University (Taida). This program, which used to be called the IUP program, has a long history of Chinese language training, especially for advanced learners and primarily targeting graduate students, scholars and professionals studying China and Taiwan. It has very small classes, very high quality instructors and texts, but may be considerably more expensive than the alternatives. Only students who expect a very intensive experience, usually with a year or more of time to dedicate to study, should consider this program.
  • Mandarin Daily News Language Center (http://www.mdnkids.com/learn/), more commonly known locally as Guo-Yu-Ri-Bau, 2F. 2 Fu-zhou Street, Taipei (2391 5134 & 2392 1133 ext. 1004, fax: 2391 2008). Along with the Center for Chinese Language and Culture Studies, this is one of the most popular schools in Taiwan for serious students of Mandarin.
  • Maryknoll Language Service Center (http://mkflanigan.homestead.com/locations.html) Rm. 800, 8 Fl., Chung Ying Bldg.2 Zhongshan North Rd., Sec. 1. Tel:2314-1833-5. Conveniently located near a Taipei Station MRT stop exit, the Maryknoll Language Service Center offers Mandarin, Taiwanese, and Hakka classes. This is *the* place to study Taiwanese. Mostly one-on-one tutorials although you may be able to arrange a group class.
Taipei

Taichi

  • Unless you have a recommendation, the best way to find a good teacher is to visit a park at sunrise and check out the scene for yourself. If you spot a group that impresses you, approach one of the students and inquire about joining them. Most teachers will be happy to have a new student, though some old masters may 'play hard to get.' In the latter case, persistence is required. Most teachers will expect some sort of fee for their tuition. However, as it is considered impolite to directly ask the teacher this question, use a fellow student as mediator. Furthermore, when offering the money on the alloted day, place it in a red envelope (hong-bau - available at all convenience and stationary stores) and slip it to the teacher subtly. Offering cash openly to a teacher of a traditional art or religion is considered undignified and demeaning. Most parks host tai'chi groups, but the most popular places are the grounds of the Chiang Kai Shek Memorial Hall (nearest MRT station - CKS Memorial Hall) and Sun Yat Sen Memorial (nearest MRT station - SYS Memorial Hall) as well as Peace Park (formerly known as New Park - nearest MRT station - National Taiwan University Hospital).
Taipei

Do

Taipei

Hot Springs (??)

Hotsprings come in various brands in Taipei, ranging from basic, free 'rub and scrub' type public baths run by the city to plush spas at five star hotels. Most hotels offer the option of a large sex-segregated bathing area that generally consists of several large baths of various temperatures, jacuzzi, sauna and steam bath and also private and family rooms (NB: the law in Taiwan states that for safety reasons, individuals are not allowed to bathe in the private rooms, and there must be at least two people). Some hotels also have outdoor baths (????), which offer restful views over the surrounding country-side. Prices range from around NT$300 to NT$800.

Public hot spring etiquette requires that bathers thoroughly wash and rinse off their bodies before entering the bath, do not wear clothing (including swim wear) in the bath and tie up their hair so that it does not touch the water. Finally, people with high blood pressure, heart disease or open wounds should not enter the baths.

There are three main places to have a soak in the Taipei area:

Taipei

Festivals

Taipei hosts numerous festivals throughout the year, but as many follow the lunar calendar the dates according to the Gregorian calendar are inconsistent. Unless you possess a lunar calendar, it is therefore recommended to check the Taiwan Tourist Bureau's events section (see 'external links' below) before planning to attend an event.

  • The Taipei Golden Horse and its sister film festival The Golden Horse Awards are recognized as two of Asia's most prestigious film festivals. Both festivals screen international films, though the latter festival emphasises Chinese language flicks. The Golden Horse Festival is held at the end of each year, while the Awards are held in the Spring.
  • Taiwan Gay Parade is a colorful event that takes place every November in Taipei.
  • The Lantern Festival is a dazzling display of lanterns and lasers which runs for several days around the fifteenth day of the lunar new year (23 Feb. 2005, 12 Feb. 2006). While the main city event is held at the Chiang Kai Shek Memorial Hall grounds, Ren-ai Road perhaps offers the most elegant display, with the whole tree-lined boulevard transformed into a delicate tunnel of lights. Pingsi in Taipei County celebrates the festival with the release of huge lanterns that float serenely across the night sky, carrying with them the dedications and aspirations of those who release them.
  • Dragon Boat Festival commemorates the death of the Chinese patriotic poet Qu Yuan (born 340 BC), who drowned himself in a river out of despair that his beloved country, Chu, was being plundered by a neighboring country as a result of betrayal by his own people. The festival falls on the 5th day of the 5th lunar month (11 June 2005, 31 May 2006), and is marked by races of colorful dragon boats at various locations throughout the island. One of the best places to view a boat race in the Taipei area is at the Bitan River in Xindian. Special sticky rice balls called dzongdz are also eaten on this day.
Taipei

Buy

It is often said that L.A. has no center. In contrast, one could say that Taipei is all center, and as such it has been given the epithet - "the emporium without end." Basically, however, the main shopping area can be divided into two districts: East and West. West Taipei is the old city and is characterized by narrow streets crammed packed with small shops. The Western district is also home to most government buildings and the Taipei Main Station. East Taipei boasts wide tree lined boulevards and the four main shopping malls are located in this area:

  • Taipei 101 Mall (see above listing)
  • Eslite Mall - an upscale market-style shopping center with 24 hour book shop (with good English selection) on the second floor and ethnic music store in basement. 245 Dunhua South Road - near intersection with Renai Road.
  • Breeze Center on Fuxing South Road, near intersection with Civic Boulevard.
  • The Living Mall (Jinghua Cheng), reportedly Asia's largest shopping center under one roof, has many stores open 24 hours, plus a large food court and cinema complex, located on Bade Road, near intersection with Guangfu South Road.
  • A main shopping area is also located around the Sogo Department Store on Zhongxiao East Road, section 4 (nearest MRT Station: Zhongxiao - Fuxing), and the lanes and alleys around Da'an Road (behind Sogo) have an interesting array of small shops and boutiques. Buddha Statues, prayer flags and other artifacts associated with Tibetan Buddhism can be purchased at Potala, 2F, 2-4, Lane 51, Da'an Road (2741 6906). The staff speak English and the prices are reasonable.
  • Those interested in picking up cheap electronic goods and cameras should wander the lanes and alleys around Kaifeng Street and Zhonghua Road (near Taipei Main Station).
  • Computer buffs will enjoy a visit to Guanghua Market (Guanghua Shangchang). Specializing in computer and electonic goods, this market has the largest number of stalls selling hardware and software under one roof in Taiwan, and all at very competitive prices. While there, check out the enormous DVD selections and used bookstores. The old location on Bade Rd. under the Xinsheng overpass is scheduled for demolition in January 2006, and all the shops are moving to a new location at the southeast corner of Civic Blvd and Jinshan Road, a short walk from the old location.
  • A jade and flower market is held under the Jianguo Overpass near Xinyi Road. In addition to jade, many other kinds of handcrafts and articles of jewellery can be bought.
  • For handcrafts, visit the Chinese Handcraft Mart, 1 Xuzhou Road (on corner of intersection with Zhongshan South Road). Pottery enthusiasts will enjoy a visit to Yingge in Taipei County (Take train, and get off at Yingge Station). Old Street is a crescent of beautiful pottery shops interspersed with coffee shops and tea houses.
  • Art Asia, 436 Jen Ai Road, Sec 4 (opposite the Sun Yat Sen Memorial Hall) Tel:8780 1242, has some very fine antique and contemporary pieces of art, cloth and carvings from all over Asia.
  • Mountain Hard Wear, 7 Lane 284, Roosevelt Road, sec. 3, Gongguan (nearest MRT - Gongguan) Tel:2365 1501, plus a few stores (all within a few doors of each other) just north of the junction with Zhongxiao West Road on Zhongshan North Road, sec 1 (west side of the road) are professional trekking and backpacking stores offering a wide range of high quality equipment.
  • Taipei has great book shops, and roads such are Chongqing South Road are packed with stores specializing in Chinese language books. For books in English, Eslite offer a good selection at most of their branches, though the 24 hour flagship store at 2F, 245 Dunhua South Road (2775-5977) and the huge Eslite Book Store and shopping mall at 11 Songgau Road, which incidentally is the largest book store in Taiwan, have the greatest selection. The Songgau Road branch is located next to MRT Station 'Taipei City Hall'. Page One on the fourth floor of the shopping mall at Taipei 101 (8101-8282) also has a a very large and varied selection of English titles. Caves is one of the original book stores in Taipei specializing in English titles, and although it has been surpassed by the newer arrivals, it is still a good place to pick up a popular novel and English language text books. Caves has two branches - 103 Zhongshan North Road, Sec 2 (2537-1666) and 5, Lane 38, Tianyu Street, Tienmu (2874-2199). Lai Lai bookshop has a small but unusual selection of English material - 4F, 271 Roosevelt Road, Sec 3 (2363-4265), while English teachers will be interested to check out the selection at Crane Publishing Company, 6F, 109 Heping E Rd, Sec 1 (2393-4497, 2394-1791). For English literature, Bookman Books, Room 5, 2F, 88 Xinsheng South Road, Sec 3 (368-7226) has an excellent, albeit, expensive collection.
  • The Station Front Area (??), a section of Downtown just south of the Taipei Railway Station is a bustling area filled with shops and stores of all kinds, but is especially well known for it's high concentration of bookstores, and in recent years, stores specializing in electronics and computer hardware. Electronic and computer junkies take note, some smaller vendors will allow you to bargan down prices on large purchases (i.e. a custom built PC). Popular places in this area to shop for computer hardware and software include:
    • Nova, a four story collection of small computer and electronics vendors that can only be described as a high tech bazaar, located across the street from the railway station on the west side of the Shinkong Mitsukoshi department store.
    • KMall, located in the former Asiaworld department store on the east side of Shinkong Mitsukoshi, this trendy mall specializes in electronics of all kinds, and is a location for large companies such as Asus, Samsung, Benq, and Acer to showcase their newest products.
    • The Taipei Easy Mall is a long underground shopping area that houses several stores selling all manner of items, not nessecarily limited to electronics. A few stores in the Easy Mall carry current and vintage video game hardware and software, and perform hardware modifications on consoles. The Easy Mall is accessible through the basement of Taipei Railway Station.
  • The Ximending (???) is the trendy shopping area just west of Downtown popular with students. If it's pink, plastic, and imported from Japan, you can probably find it on sale in a store here. To get to Ximending, take the MRT Blue (Bannan) Line and get off at Ximen Station.
  • Zhongshan North Road (????) is a tree-lined boulevard featuring numerous international and local brands. Gucci and Louis Vuitton are among the brands who operate stores along this street. This road, particularly along the 2nd section, is also famous for its numerous wedding picture studios and gown boutiques. It is possible to find a great deal for wedding portraits here as competition is stiff. This road runs parallel to the MRT Red (Danshui/Beitou) line.

NB: In order to protect the environment, a government policy rules that plastic bags cannot be given freely at stores in Taiwan, but have to be bought - bakeries being an exception as the items need to be hygienically wrapped. Re-useable canvas and nylon bags are sold at most supermarkets.

Taipei

Eat

Taipei probably has one of the highest densities of restaurants in the world. Almost every street and alley offers some kind of eatery. Of course, Chinese food (from all provinces) is well represented, but in addition, Thai, Vietnamese, Japanese, Korean and Italian cuisine is also popular. Basically, East Taipei, especially around Dunhua and Anhe Roads, and also the expat enclave of Tienmu is where to clash chopsticks with the rich and famous. Whereas West Taipei offers the more homely small restaurant. Vendor food is generally safe to eat and a cheap way to sample delicious Chinese 'home cooking.'

Vegetarian food (??) is also common fare, with the city boasting more than two hundred such restaurants and vendor stands. Another Taipei speciality is vegetarian buffets. They are common in every neighborhood, and unlike the 'all-you-can-eat' buffets listed below (which charge a set price, usually ranging from NT$250 - NT$350 including dessert and coffee/tea), the cost is estimated by the weight of the food on your plate. Rice (there is usually a choice of brown or white) is charged separately, but soup is free and you can refill as many times as you like. NT$90 - NT$120 will buy you a good sized, nutritious meal.

Due to the sheer amount of restaurants, it is almost impossible to compile a thorough list, but below are a few recommended restaurants catering to specialist tastes.

Vegetarian

  • Lotus Pavilion Restaurant, B1, 153-155 Xinyi Road, sec.4 (entrance in alley behind Changhwa Bank - 2703 5612) - up-scale all-you-can-eat buffet.
  • Heart of the Lotus Garden, 2F. 108 Xinsheng North Road, sec 2 (near intersection with Jinzhou Street - 2560 1950) - up-scale all-you-can-eat buffet.
  • Om Ah Hum, 6, Alley 18, Lane 60, Taishwun Street (off Shida Road - 2362 3919) - menu style - located in traditional wooden building.
  • For a special Taipei street experience, check out the veggie vendor stand outside 30, lane 216 Zhongxiao East Road, sec. 4 (in the alleys behind the Dunhua South Road Eslite Mall and book store) - The rice noodles are especially delicious and cheap and a plate of their dougan (dried tofu) makes a great side dish.
  • Fei Chang Su, 19-3, Lane 107, Fu-xing South Road, sec.1 (alley behind Jung-xiau East Road Sogo - 2731 5089) - menu style - inexpensive and delicious Thai cuisine.
  • Shui-Ge, B1, 270 Jung-xiau East Road, sec. 4 (2711 1871) - up-scale all-you-can-eat buffet.
  • Armillydo, 13, Lane 170, Xin-sheng South Road, sec. 1 (enter from Lane 243, Xin-yi Road, sec 2 - 2358 2677) - an organic restaurant with Zen style decor.

Indian

  • Out of India, 26, lane 13, Bucheng Street (second lane on right off Shida Road when travelling from Heping East Road) - 2363 3054
  • Himalaya, 20, Alley 6, Lane 170 Zhongxiao South Road, sec 4 (near intersection with Dunhua South Road, sec 1 - 2777 2292) - excellent value lunch time set. This restaurant is very popular, so it is good to make a reservation if you coming as a group.
  • Tandoor, 10, Lane 73, Hejiang Street (2509 9853)
Taipei

Drink

Taipei

Tea House and Cafe Culture

Taipei

Coffee

While traditionally a nation of tea drinkers, in recent years the Taiwanese have really embraced the cafe culture, and all the usual chains can be found here in abundance. For cafes with more character, however, roam the back streets near National Taiwan University (between Xinsheng South Road and Roosevelt Road), and also in the Ren'ai Road, section 4 - Dunhua South Road area. Also, Bitan River in Xindian (see Xindian entry) has a wide range of cafes, all with restful views over the river and mountains beyond.

Taipei

Tea

  • For those who prefer something more traditional, Wisteria Tea House at 16, Xinsheng South Road, sec. 3 (near the corner of Heping East Road, sec 1) is a must. Wisteria is set in a traditional house, complete with tatami mats, and is a great place to spend an afternoon relaxing with friends and soaking up the atmosphere of Taiwan (2363 7375).
  • Located next to the small and verdant Yongkang Park, Hui Liou is a more modern style tea house, but equally pleasant. In addition to serving Chinese tea, Hui-Liou is famous for its organic vegetarian meals - 9, Lane 31, Yongkang Street (2392 6707).

Taiwan's speciality teas are:

  • High Mountain Oolong (???? Gau-shan wulong) - a fragrant, light tea.
  • Tie Guan-yin (???) - a dark, rich brew.
Taipei

Local and Taiwanese delicacies

  • "Fried Chicken Chop"
  • "Hua Chi Geng" or squid stew
  • "Fried Oyster Egg Omelette" (??? - o a chen in Taiwanese)
  • "Oyster & thin noodles" (???? - o a mi sua in Taiwanese)
  • "Stinky tofu" (??? - chou doufu in Mandarin)
  • "Meat Stuffed Crystal Dumpling" (?? - ba wan in Taiwanese)

These are all availabe at night markets.

Taipei

Sleep

Taipei

Hostels

  • Amigo Hostel is an old favorite, though it is no longer in its old location. US$7/night. Address: No. 14, Lane 157, Yonghe Rd. Sec. 2, Yonghe. Closest MRT: Dingxi. Tel: 2929-7583, 2929-7596 Web: http://www.0808.net/hostel
  • World Scholar House is a clean and new addition to the Taipei hostel scene. Dorm and private rooms available, with the rates running from NT$350 to NT$500. Address: 8F, No. 38, Lane 2, Songjiang Road. Tel:2541 8113. Web: http://www.worldscholarhouse.com
  • Taipei Hostel. Dorm: NT$300 (NT$1500/week). Single bed room: NT$500 (NT$2500/week). Address: 6F, No. 11, Lane 5, LinSen N. Rd. Phone: 2395-2950, 2395-2951. Web: http://www.taipeihostel.com
  • Happy Family Hostel 1 & 2 are old favorites in the city and are managed by the very friendly and helpful John Lee. A shared room goes for NT$300 per night, while rates for a single run from NT$400 - NT$700. Cheaper rates are available for long term stays. Address: No. 2, Lane 56, Zhongshan North Road Sec. 1 (Tel: 2581-0176; Mobile: 0937-195-075). For directions, Google for "Happy Family Hostel, Taipei".
  • Mandarin Hostel is a hostel that caters specifically to the needs of people coming to Taipei to look for jobs teaching English or to study Chinese. It is very comfortable. NT$3000/week for a single room (with double bed). Ensuites are also available. For more information see http://www.mandarinhostel.com
  • Taipei Key Mall Traveler Hostel is opposite Taipei Main Station on the 15th floor of the building where the K-Mall is located, next to the tall Mitsukoshi building. NT$490 per night per person + breakfast; NT$250 for children under 12. Address: 15F-2, No. 50, Zhongxiao W. Rd. Sec. 1. Tel: 2331-7272, 2381-2550
Taipei

Budget

Taipei's budget hotels run at a rate of about NT$1,000 - NT$2,500 per night (discounts can generally be negotiated for stays of over a week). Hotels within this price range are too many to list. Here is a random assortment:

Taipei

East Taipei

  • Royal Best Hotel, 385 Xinyi Road, sec. 4 (2729 5533) e-mail: royalbes@ms.hinet.net
  • Ever Green Hotel, 73 Xinyi Road, sec. 2 (2394 4796).
  • Charming City Hotel, 295 Xinyi Road, sec. 4 (2704 9746).
  • Fu Hau Hotel, 9 Fuxing South Road, sec 2 (2325 0722).
  • Donghwa Hotel, 156 Nanjing East Road, sec 4 (2579 6162) e-mail: donghwahotel@hotmail,com
Taipei

West Taipei

  • New Mayflower Hotel, Chongqing South Road, sec. 1 (2311 0212).
  • YMCA, 19 Xuchang Street (2311 3201).
  • Hotel Flowers, 19 Hankou Street (2312 3811).
Taipei

Mid Range

Taipei

East Taipei

  • Baguio Hotel, 367 Bade Road, sec. 2 (2771 8996).
  • Dynasty Hotel, 41 Fuxing South Road, sec. 2 (2708 1221).
  • First Hotel, 63 Nanjing East Road, sec. 2 (2541 8234)
Taipei

West Taipei

  • Cosmos Hotel, 43 Zhongxiao West Road, sec. 1 (2361 7856) - in front of Taipei Main Station.
  • Fortuna Hotel, 122 Zhongshan North Road, sec. 2 (2563 1111)
Taipei

Splurge

Taipei

East Taipei

  • Taipei Grand Hyatt, 2 Songshou Road (2720 1234) - next to Taipei World Trade Center.
  • Howard Plaza, 160 Ren'ai Road, sec. 3 (2700 2323)
  • Rebar Crowne Plaza, 32 Nanjing East Road, sec. 5 (2763 5656)
  • Sherwood Hotel, 111 Minsheng East Road, sec. 3 (2718 1188)
  • Far Eastern Plaza, 201 Dunhua South Road, sec. 2 (2378 8888)
Taipei

West Taipei

  • Ambassador Hotel Taipei, 63 Zhongshan North Road, sec. 2 (2551 1111)
  • Caesar Park Taipei, 38 Zhongxiao West Road, sec. 1 (2311 5151)
  • Grand Formosa Regent, 3 Lane 39, Zhongshan North Road, sec. 2 (2523 8000)
  • Hotel Royal Taipei, member of the Nikko Hotels International group, 37-1, Zhongshan North Road, sec. 2 (2542 3266)
  • Ritz Landis Hotel, 41 Minquan East Road, sec. 2 (2597 1234)
  • Sheraton Hotel Taipei, 12 Zhongxiao East Road, sec. 1 (2394 4240)
  • Westin Hotel Taipei, 133 Nanjing East Road, sec. 3 (8770 6565)


Taipei

Contact

Taipei

Dialling code

  • The area dialling code for Taipei is 02. From overseas, dial +886 2 XXXX XXXX
Taipei

Tourist and emergency numbers

  • Tourist Information Office: 345 Zhongxiao East Road, section 5 (near junction with with Guangfu North Road) Exit 5 at Sun Yat-sen (SYS) Memorial MRT Station - 2769 8787. There is also a branch tourist office next to the ticket purchasing counters at Taipei Main Station.
  • Tourist Information (emergency number):2717 3737
  • English-Speaking Police:2555 4257 / 2556 6007
  • Emergency numbers:
    • Police: 110
    • Ambulance, Fire brigade: 119
Taipei

Hospitals

  • Chung-shan Hospital - a small hospital popular with ex-pats. 11, Lane 112, Renai Road, Section 4, Taipei. Tel: 2708-1166. Nearest MRT: 'Zhongxiao-Dunhua' (a fifteen minute walk)
  • Buddhist Tzu-chi Hospital - a very friendly and efficient hospital with an especially caring environment. Jianguo Road, Xindian City. Tel: 6628-6336, 6628-9800. Nearest MRT 'Dapinglin' (Xindian Line) a ten minute walk from exit 1.
  • Yang-ming Hospital - popular with the Tienmu ex-pat community. 105 Yusheng Street, Shilin.
  • National Taiwan University Hospital - one of Taiwan's largest and most famous hospitals. 1 Changde Street. Tel: 2312 3456. Nearest MRT 'NTU Hospital' (Danshui Line)
Taipei

Major airlines

  • Cathay Pacific - 2715 2333
  • China Airlines - 2715 1212
  • Eva Airways - 2501 1999
  • KLM Asia - 2711 4055
  • North West - 2772 2188
  • Singapore Airlines - 2551 6655
  • Thai Airways - 2509 6800

For up-to-date information on cheap flights, check the advertisement pages of one of the three local daily English newspapers (see media below)

Taipei

Media

Taiwan has a very free and liberal press. There are three daily local newspapers available in English:

  • the China Post (http://www.chinapost.com.tw/),
  • the Taipei Times (http://www.taipeitimes.com/News/)
  • the Taiwan News (http://www.etaiwannews.com/)
  • This Month in Taiwan is a free magazine that lists events and has an exhaustive directory of useful numbers in Taiwan. It can be found at tourist offices and major hotels.
  • POTS  (http://en.pots.com.tw/) is a free weekly where you can find out what is going on in the Taipei art, club, and bar scenes. There is a eight page English supplement every week with extensive listings. Pick it up at bars like Bobwundaye, The Living Room, or Odeon 2.
  • Forumosa (http://www.forumosa.com) is Taiwan's largest expatriate-oriented discussion board. Here's where you can learn about mysteries like how to get a work permit or meet people at the site's real world happy hours.
  • FTV English ion (http://bobby.ftv.com.tw/ftvn/EnglishNews/index.asp) - hour of English news shown on Channel 53 (2005) on local TV station Formosa TV (FTV) at 11:00pm every night. The program features 30 minutes of local news as well as cultural events' features. The show is archived online.
Taipei

Internet cafes

Internet cafes are plentiful, especially in the maze of alleys between Taipei Main Station and Peace Park, although you may have to wander around (and look up and down as many are on higher floors or in the basement) before finding one. Some computers are coin operated. A clean, efficient and cheap internet cafe can be found in the basement of a building on the corner of Shi-da Road and (Shi-da Road) lane 117. It is a two minute walk from MRT station Taipower Building, exit 3 (just past the Wellcome Supermarket). Internet Cafes are known as wang-ka in Chinese (wang meaning 'net' and ka from the word 'cafe'.)

Taipei

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