One can get around Taipei easily using the metro, buses and taxis. If you plan to travel extensively on the metro and public buses, get the stored-value EasyCard. It gives a 20 per cent discount on metro fares plus a discount of NT$8 (US$0.27) for transfers to and from buses within one hour. Taipei’s metered yellow taxis are widely available in the city centre and easy to flag down on the streets. Fares start from NT$70. For cycling enthusiasts, there’s a bike sharing scheme YouBike with stations at more than 50 locations. Non-members can rent a bike at NT$10 for every 30 minutes and pay with a credit card.
The famous peaks of Yangmingshan (above) – where you can hike along mountain trails and visit quaint teahouses – are less than an hour’s drive from the city. Another enjoyable option for a day out is to cycle along Danshui River to Fisherman’s Wharf where you can walk along the Lover’s Bridge and have a meal at one of the many restaurants on the wharf.
Taipei has a buzzing night scene. Check out the beautiful people at Club Myst or relax to jazz music at Brown Sugar. Book lovers, head to the 24-hour Eslite Bookstore in Xinyi district (245 Dunhua South Rd, Section 1) where you can sit and read all night if you wish. It has books in Chinese, Japanese and English.
For international brands and luxury products, visit Breeze Center (39 Fuxing South Rd, Section 1); Dunhua South Road between Xinyi and Zhongxiao East Road; Taipei 101 (right) and Shin Kong Mitsukoshi’s four buildings, A4, A8, A9 and A11, in the Xinyi district. If you prefer a place frequented by locals, try the busy underground Taipei City Mall (B1, 100 Civic Boulevard, Section 1), where you can find everything from apparel and gadgets to blind masseurs, or the Ximending area, which is popular with trendy youths. For electronics, Guanghua Digital Plaza (8 Civic Boulevard, Section 3) is the place to go but remember to compare prices and bargain!
The Top restaurant at Yangmingshan National Park provides a romantic setting and awesome views on a clear day. Alternatively, take a high-speed elevator to the indoor observatory on the 89th floor of Taipei 101 (admission fee NT$450) for panoramic views.
Taiwan has great Japanese restaurants and one of my favourites is a cosy place called Everyday (No. 22, Lane 156, Song Jiang Rd). Give the owner a budget (minimum NT$800) and he will prepare an excellent meal with the freshest ingredients available. Advance reservations of two to three days are recommended. For Italian food, I like Osteria by Angie for its seafood linguine and Italian-style steak. Traditional Goose Meat (70 Xingan St) was a surprise find for me. In this nondescript shop, I had not expected the smoked goose meat to be so succulent and best of all, it is served boneless. Also not to be missed are the pepper prawns from Golden Coast Fresh Prawn House (Original) (182 Fuhe Rd).
Have a breakfast of dan bing (egg pancake roll), dough fritters and warm soya bean milk at one of the streetside breakfast stalls found all over Taipei. Or bite into your extra-large fried chicken cutlet as you stroll around a night market with the “scent” of smelly tofu (right) in the air.
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This article was originally published by Singapore Press Holdings.