In all honesty, Taipei has never been a destination that was remotely on my radar. But when a friend moved there and I was planning a trip to Asia, I figured, why not tack on a few days in Taipei and check it out. I started my trip off in Hong Kong and then headed to Taipei.
The first day I arrive in a new city, I prefer exploring alone, and heading wherever the wind takes me. So that’s what I did for my first day in Taipei and I wasn’t disappointed. I wandered through neighborhood after neighborhood, sampling taro cakes and bubble tea.
And then it hit me. I had fallen in love with Taipei in just a few hours. You’re probably wondering, why? What’s so cool about this city I can’t even pinpoint on a map (for your information, it’s the capital city of Taiwan, a small island of the coast of China, north of Hong Kong and the Philippines but south of Japan and South Korea)?
With the intention of being brief, here’s a whole bunch of reasons why Taipei is simply awesome.
I saw almost no Westerners there, but still felt completely welcome and at home.
I have absolutely no issue being the only blond little minority assuming I’m in a country that respects women in general. However, the way the world is today, I’m not often in scenarios where I notice I am really different than everyone else. The coolest thing about Taipei was that I was more than often the only Westerner, but never really felt out of place. The other times I’ve noticed this, everyone else around me has noticed it too, and I’ve become the center of attention (for better or for worse), in places like Morocco, Senegal, Myanmar etc. Not in Taipei. It was really cool feeling like I was in a place not many Westerners visit, or at least in very non-touristy areas of town. If you’re looking for a spot where not many have been, head to Taipei.
Locals are incredibly friendly.
Although not everyone speaks English, Taipei locals are really friendly and always try to help you. I didn’t think I’d have an opportunity to interact as much with the locals as I did, and I ended up meeting some truly awesome people. One example is when I stumbled into this amazing local breakfast joint — a complete hole in the wall. I walked in and the whole restaurant looked up and stared at me, waiting to see what I would do next. When I said good morning to the lady at the counter, she smiled, patted my hand and then grabbed her phone, said a few words in Chinese and handed me the phone. She’d called a friend who spoke English who kindly took my order and then told the lady in Chinese! My breakfast came out and was completely delicious (of course — I have no idea what it was) and the total cost for food and service with a smile? About 40 cents!
People are obsessed with their dogs and I am obsessed with their dogs.
It’s no secret I love dogs, and I was in love with all the pets I spotted in Taipei. People dress their dogs up and treat them like little people (BECAUSE THEY ARE LITTLE PEOPLE). Locals paint their dogs’ nails, draw eyebrows on them, put them in strollers and all sorts of weird yet totally awesome stuff.
The city is full of character.
There’s nothing I love more than some epic street food, and the night markets (and day markets) around the city are fun to explore. The city is full of interesting neighborhoods that highlight Asian and international culture. Neighborhood-y cities are the best to explore, it’s like so many cities in one. Hong Kong was rather disappointing in this realm, but Taipei made up for it.
Everything is cheap.
I love cheap spots where your money can really stretch. Taipei is extremely cheap, much more so than it’s neighboring Tokyo, Seoul or Hong Kong.
One of the reasons I adore Asia so much in general is the quirkiness. Taipei is definitely a place was some wacky habits. The city has all sorts of funny things that make it special, like the fact that music plays when the garbage truck passes or the subway comes to a stop. Taiwan is a country that doesn’t take itself too seriously — I mean come on, they have a Hello Kitty jet! The designer of Taipei 101, one of the world’s tallest buildings, shaped the building like bamboo! My hotel had a tiny midget bathtub, and the list goes on.
Taipei now occupies the place for my second-favorite Asian capital city, and the the Top 3 now reads as such:
***I would also like to note that these top three were compared to: Tokyo, Hong Kong and Kuala Lumpur, which I don’t dislike, but I really feel like the other three have something truly special.