“I can do this on my own,” I slurred to my partner, who was halfway out the door to a 7-Eleven to buy food, when I abruptly stood up from the bed, ran to the bathroom, and began to hurl in the toilet. He slammed the door, pulled my hair back, and rubbed my back as I heaved on the toilet bowl. It was 3 a.m., I had too many whiskeys, and this rather uncommon scenario in our wild and wicked ways found its way to our lovely airbnb in Taipei—which actually doubled as an art gallery.
Days before, we had arrived in Taipei with a loose itinerary. We made a unanimous decision to leave out all the temples and look for all the artsy places. But we put aside a day for a touristy itinerary to the Northern part of Taiwan.
Four full days, one nasty hangover, wet shoes, and three bowls of bing tsu later—here is a rundown of what we managed to do in Taiwan. We liked it a lot, and would probably visit for a second time. But I’d probably ease on the whiskey on that next trip.
1) Have breakfast at the Da’an District
We started off with the famous beef noodle soup at Yongkang street in the Da’an District. The area is filled with small coffee shops and old eateries, like a cute little neighborhood that always takes its grub seriously. There’s an onion pancake stall by the corner that’s become quite famous, across a bing tsu shop that always seems full. And hidden in quiet alleys are the hip coffee shops where you least expect it. Just follow your nose…or your stomach.
2) Take the Northern Tour
The day tour to the northern part of Taiwan is worth it. You can wing it and take the public bus, but we decided to go easy on ourselves and do the touristy thing by booking through klook.com. The tour includes stops at Yehliu Geopark, the Jiufen village, the place that inspired the movie Spirited Away, and the Shifen village, where people can cast their paper lanterns and wishes unto the sky. A peek at these villages, although already modernized, gives you an idea of how their culture was and how it has evolved.
3) Raohe Night Market
There are a couple of night markets all over the city, so look for the one nearest to you. But Raohe was a winner on our list. Try everything that catches your eye—even if you’re not sure what it is. But our favorite was the fried dumplings: pork and green onion steamed inside a dim sum wrapper, then fried on its bottom so it has a crunchy texture. Everything else was an equal second: baked beef buns, grilled octopus, wagyu cubes, and Chinese sausage inside a sticky rice bun.
4) Shop at Dunhua
Dunhua is the place to be if you’re looking for the best in street wear. Drop by Juice Taipei to see some of the hottest items. Dunhua has a mix of shops from the big brand names, to specialty stores, to boutique shops with the trendiest styles borrowed from Japan and Korea. This place is also brimming with coffee shops and wineries, plus the beautiful bookstore VVG Something can be found here.
5) Fujin Street
Take an afternoon off to stroll through Fujin Street. It’s a little bit more upscale and residential, but there are interesting design finds that makes the experience pleasurable. You’ll find places like Beans & Beats: a vinyl store and a coffee shop; 3,CO: a handmade ceramic store, and Botanica: a flower shop.
6) Mall hopping at Xinyi District
If you’re in Xinyi, and you look up, you will always find the silhouette of the tallest tower, Taipei 101, in the midst. It is known as the business district/club scene of Taipei, which we likened to Makati. A Google search will tell you that Alchemy is one of their top speakeasy bars, and it was nearby, so we grabbed a drink. It was pricey, but definitely delicious. And if you leave with a buzz, be careful, because it’s also great place to do some mall hopping.