7may-deactivated20120404 asked: hi emma!
i love your insightful posts, but actually i was wondering if i could ask you a travel question. My parents are going to taiwan in a few months (sadly without me!) and i just wanted to ask if you knew any good scenic spots they could visit?
I've been looking around on the net, but its hard to get a good idea since i've never been. I would really appreciate your help if you have time, thanks!
Thanks for dropping by—I’m honored that you trust me enough to seek my travel advice :) Sadly I haven’t had the chance to explore Taiwan much myself yet, but there are quite a few spots that come up often in my conversations with locals and other foreigners here. So to answer your question, I’ve compiled a list of popular travel destinations around Taiwan, organized by region:
Yehliu Geological Park (野柳)
I’m listing this one because I’ve personally been here and was pretty impressed by it! It’s basically what the name states—a scenic area near the water with lots of geological formations—pretty amazing, in my opinion, even if you typically aren’t into that (by “that” I mean rocks, and stuff…) Note that the entrance fee is NT$55.
If your parents are into street food, the Miaokou night market in Keelung is supposedly one of the biggest food night markets in Taiwan and because Keelung is a port city, their seafood should be pretty fresh! Aside from that though, the city itself seems to house some amazing sights (i.e. Heping Island looks beautiful!)
Taipei (台北) & New Taipei City (新北市, formerly Taipei County)
There is quite a lot to experience in Taipei alone and Maokong definitely tops my list of places I hope to visit before I leave. If your parents are staying in the city, this place is very easy to find: it’s literally the last stop off the brown Wenhu line (Taipei Zoo) and impossible to miss once you exit the MRT. You have to line up first to get a ticket to go on the cable cars and wait until they call your number to line up again to go up the mountain. My friends went on a random Saturday morning though and said they only waited about 20 minutes; also, once you get to Maokong, you can walk around and find a teahouse to relax and eat in and soak up the sights.
Similar to Maokong, Yangmingshan is a mountainous national park just outside of Taipei city. If your parents are traveling in the spring, I hear their cherry blossoms are beautiful and the hot springs are superb (and free!)
Just several minutes MRT ride away from the city center off the red Danshui line, this town is situated next to the water. I can only imagine how beautiful it must be at sunset! It’s a great place to spend a lazy afternoon: I recommend walking along the harbor and sampling the street food along the way. Also, I didn’t know this before, but you can take a ferry from there to the Bali district, which is the newest tourist destination in the New Taipei City (!)
This historic town is roughly an hour bus ride away from Taipei City and is widely known for its historic commercial district. Again, if your parents are staying in Taipei, this town would be perfect for a day-trip. I would, however, try to avoid it on the weekend if possible, as I heard it gets extremely, claustrophobia-inducing crowded along the tiny streets during that time.
Sun Moon Lake (日月潭)
As the biggest lake in Taiwan, Sun Moon Lake is a pretty popular destination for tourists and, according to Wikitravel, newlyweds. I’ve heard it’s a nice area to go biking as well. You can also take a boat tour or go paddling in the lake—and if that doesn’t scream romance, then I don’t know what does…
I’ve heard that this region is basically one huge national park and according to some sources, the most beautiful, scenic region of Taiwan—great for sightseeing, hiking, biking, and other outdoor activities. In particular, Taroko Gorge seems to be a huge attraction—and if your parents are super adventurous and brave, I’ve heard they offer great river tracing (if you don’t know what it is yet, it’s basically an obstacle course… along the river in the forest! Taiwan is one out of five countries in the world that offer it.) Also, I’ve heard that the white water rafting along the Xiuguluan River is fantastic, though it does look like a pretty strenuous activity as well!
Kenting National Park (墾丁)
If your parents are visiting during a warm season, Kenting is one of the most famous beach areas in Taiwan. However, in order to get around the area, you will need some form of personal transportation. If your parents aren’t down to rent a scooter or car, I would actually recommend talking to a cab driver upon arrival and asking him if he can drive them around the area for a day on a fixed fee (maybe around NT$2500-3000, or even less if your parents are great at haggling). My friends did this when they visited and their cab driver ended up being like their tour guide since they didn’t know their way around the area; he even took them to a restaurant to eat “THE freshest seafood ever” (according to my friend!)
Penghu (澎湖) and Green Island (綠島)
Though Taiwan itself is an island, the country also encompasses other smaller islets that have become recreational spots over the years; among these are Penghu and Green Island. According to my research and the knowledge I’ve gathered from talking to locals, you can reach both of these islands via boat, although Penghu is bigger (and farther!) than Green Island and many prefer to get there by plane (last I checked, a roundtrip ticket from Taipei to Penghu averages NT$3,000 or about $100 USD.) Boat transportation is cheaper but obviously more of a hassle since it usually requires you to take a train to the harbor and then boarding the boat from there (and I’ve heard the boat ride is extremely tumultuous and rocky!) I advise visitors to do their research and purchase travel packages which include transportation, lodging, and even recreational fees with a local B&B—it’s usually more cost- and time-efficient that way. On Penghu and Green Island, there is a ton of sightseeing along the coasts and water-related activities such as scuba diving and hot springs. I have heard also that you need a scooter to get around both islands, although I do know they have buses that run every 30 minutes or so (I’ve heard it isn’t convenient though.) If all else fails, you may be able to hire a cab driver to take you around all day, although I would need to ask someone to verify this.
Also, some tips for traveling around Taiwan:
- Don’t drink the tap water. Ever.
- Always, always plan in advance, especially if traveling during a peak season (i.e. public holidays and school breaks.) Lodging and transportation get booked… fast.
- Expect higher rates for lodging during peak seasons and weekends.
- When street shopping, always ask for a lower price than originally stated—but don’t be rude or aloof. That might work in China, but Taiwan is a different story. If you want a discount, be nice, smile, and ask politely—but firmly and with confidence. One of my local friends, a superb haggler, even told me that she’ll sweet talk the salesperson and get to know him or her a bit before she makes a purchase—people are more willing to settle on a lower price if they like you (it’s called human nature!)
- Don’t be afraid to ask the locals if you have a question. Taiwan is a very foreigner-friendly place and the people are honestly the kindest I’ve ever met in the entire world. I have discovered though that Taipei is generally more English-friendly than the other cities. If you go to the countryside, you’ll find less English translations and more non-English-speaking locals—so be forewarned.
Phew—that list turned out much longer than I expected! I hope it helps you a bit though and if you have any specific questions or need clarification, feel free to ask me again and I’ll do my best to help you out!
Know any other spectacular attractions in Taiwan?
Drop me a line and let me know—I’ll add it to the list!