I'm flying from my expat home [Taiwan] back to my native home [the USA] right now. since I already got a little misty-eyed reflecting on my time as an expat last week, it seems like now is an appropriate time to share this post of my favorite things to do in Taiwan. I'm spending a few weeks in the states and plan to enjoy every minute. but the past three years have built a special place in my heart for Taiwan, and I know I will be feeling at least a little homesick in a few weeks.
that's just a part of expat life I think - you'll create so many "homes" around the world that you always feel a little homesick for somewhere.
but back to the point: what should you do when you visit Taiwan? the options to explore can be overwhelming. Taiwan is a small island jam-packed with amazing temples, gorgeous mountains, and incredible food. I still haven't been able to explore everything in 3 years.
one of my favorite things to do in Taiwan is play tour guide when friends and family come to visit - giving me a chance to be a tourist too! this little island is surprisingly full of things to do, see, and eat. I've compiled a list of 8 of the things that are always a hit with my visitors, and should be on your "must-do" list if you ever visit Taiwan.
Go Dragon HuntingTaiwan is known for having the highest number of temples per capita in the world [also - convenience stores, but I think that's unrelated.] there are plenty of famous temples you can visit, such as Longshan Temple in Taipei or the Confucius Temple in Kaohsiung. but with temples around every corner, my favorite way to show them off is to simply walk around the neighborhood and see what we can find. as many temples in Taiwan are topped with colorful dragons made of ceramic tiles, I have dubbed this activity "dragon hunting."
Wander through a Night Marketnight markets are a big deal in Asia, and Taiwan is no exception. these markets are not for the faint of heart - massive crowds, winding alleys, and overwhelming smells abound. but the market is the perfect place for buying souvenirs and late-night snacks. the most popular [and crowded] is the Shilin Night Market in Taipei, but if you're a seafood lover you may want to hop a train north to the smaller market in Keelung. pro tip: most of these markets are open during the daytime on weekends as well.
Hike Taroko GorgeTaroko National Park is one of the most beautiful places in Taiwan [gorgeous even, if you'll allow the pun!] Taiwan is actually a very mountainous little island, and this marble gorge is my favorite place to hike with visitors. I would advise renting a scooter or car, and driving back into to gorge past the main tourist sites for a hike on the Baiyang Waterfall trail. the further into the park you go, the fewer tour buses you will see and the more blue the water gets.
Eat Dumplings at Din Tai Fungdumplings are available on every corner here, but if you want to impress your visitors with the best, take them to Din Tai Fung. the signature dish here is the soup dumpling. otherwise known as xiao long bao, these special dumplings have a soup paste tucked into them when they are formed, which melts to form a delicious broth when the dumplings are steamed. chefs train for years to perfect the art of making these dumplings, each of which have 18 perfect folds to seal them shut.
Climb Taipei 101or really I should say: ride the world's fastest elevator up to the top of Taipei 101. this isn't the world's tallest building anymore, but I'm still impressed at the engineering they devised to keep 101 standing through typhoon winds and earthquakes we experience here. Taipei doesn't have an impressive skyline, but I love they way the buildings blend into the surrounding mountains.
Attend a Taiwanese Baseball GameAmerica claims baseball as it's national pastime, but the fans in Taiwan are truly fanatical. imagine being in a packed stadium, where the crowd chants and cheers and waves flags and noisemakers... for the entire nine innings. each team has a designated cheer-leader who screams into a megaphone from atop the dugout. my favorite cheer? jiayou - literally, "add gas!"
Ride the Maokong GondolaTaiwan is known for its tea plantations, and the Maokong area to the southeast of Taipei is easily accessible by the subway system. want an afternoon escape from the hustle of Taipei? take the Hello Kitty themed gondola up to the top, wander the hillside trails [and temples], sample the local brews at a a teahouse, and watch the sunset over Taipei on the ride back down.
Explore Yehliu Geoparkvisiting this geological park on Taiwan's northern coast feels a bit like a trip to the moon. the various rock formations here have been shaped over time by the winds and tides of the Pacific Ocean. some of the rocks have become famous for their shapes - the Queen's Head and Fairy's Shoes to name a few. I would also recommend hiking further back into the park for ocean views and fewer tourists.
if you ever find yourself in Taiwan [and I hope you do!] be sure to add these items to your must-do list. of course, this is only the beginning of what you can explore here. I'm sure that during the next few years of living in Taipei and exploring more of Taiwan, this list will be expanding!
if you are interested in learning more about these locations, check out my Taiwan travels page for a list of related posts.
this post originally appeared on the Overseas Escape