Taipei: “Better Than Heaven”
Taipei is best known as the capital of Taiwan, but the city has weathered a complicated and interesting history to become a hotspot for travelers. Whether they want to see historical sites, national parks or tourist hotspots, the city has what you’re looking for.
The city’s history dates back to 1709, when the Han Chinese settled in the Taipei Basin. It wasn’t until 1894 that the city was named the official capital of Taiwan. Some sites touch on this history.
National Taiwan Museum
The National Taiwan Museum opened in 1908, during the Japanese occupation of Taiwan. It is located in the 228 Memorial Park, near the Taipei Railway Park. Current exhibitions, like the Magic of Plants are open Tuesday through Sunday from 9:30 a.m. until 5 p.m. The museum offers two guided gallery tours for groups of up to 40 individuals who apply two weeks in advance. The museum is run by the Taiwan Central Government. Tickets range from $10 to $20, for students and adults. Preschool children and seniors get in for free.
National Museum of History
Taiwan’s National Museum of History is open Tuesday through Sunday from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m., and offers guided tours in Mandarin or English and Mandarin, twice each day. Current exhibits include “Auspicious Spring: Embroidery from NMH Collection,” “Galloping Han Horses: An Exhibition of the Pictoral Art of Han Bricks” and “The Museum’s Collection of Huaxia Artifacts.”
Yangmingshan National Park
Taipei’s Yangmingshan National Park is perfect for travelers who love wildlife, flowers and geology. The park offers biking and hiking trails, eco tours and spots for day trips. If you enjoy hot springs, there are two trails that will lead you to these sights. There’s also a spring blossom tour and a summer butterfly tour.
Taipei Confucius Temple
Construction of this temple began in 1884. A decade later, the Japanese occupied Taipei and in 1907, it was destroyed for construction of the Taipei First Girls’ High School. The temple was rebuilt in 1939. Visitors to the temple can explore Tuesday through Saturday from 8:30 a.m. to 8p.m., or Sundays from 8:30 a.m. to 5 p.m. The temple is located in Taipei City.
Longshan (or Lungshan) Temple was founded in 1738. Originally dedicated to the Buddhist Goddess of Mercy, there are three halls to honor Kuan-in and a variety of other deities. The temple is open from 6 a.m. to 10:20 p.m., at 211 Guangzhou Street in Taipei.
Shopping and Nightlife
The Shilin Night Market
This is one of the largest night markets in Taipei. It was built in 1899, and offers a wide variety of food and other items. Furniture, clothing and pet shops proliferate the market.
Wu-Fen-Pu Wholesale Market
This garment market is a must-visit for anyone who loves clothes. There are more than 1,000 shops in this market, located in the Xinyi District of Taipei. High fashion isn’t the focus here, but street fashions rule.
This nearly five-year-old nightclub has established itself as one of the most popular clubs in the city. Located in the basement of the Taipei 101 building, clubgoers can enjoy hip-hop, R&B, house and electronic on the glowing dancefloor or in the luxurious VIP area. Sunday through Tuesday and on Thursdays, the club holds lounge nights. Wednesdays, Fridays and Saturdays are club nights.
Open Wednesday through Sunday, Lava is in the basement of the Neo19 building in the Xinyi District. More like a concert venue than a nightclub, the disc jockeys interact with the dancers, putting on a show of their own.