Taiwanderland: Guide To Taipei & Tainan

I have travelled to Taiwan for 3 times in the last 6 years and I can confidently declare it as one of my favourite places to return to. It's a country of rich Chinese culture, modern city life, and nature, all within close proximity. Earlier this year, I was extremely lucky to attend my very first press trip with Everrich Duty-Free Group along with many other Southeast Asian bloggers to experience this amazing country like never before.

Based on my travels to Taipei and Tainan, I have made a guide of places and things to do to help you make the most out of your trip. If you have special recommendations to share, leave it in the comments!

Stay tuned till the end of the post for a special treat for my Southeast Asian readers who are travelling to Taiwan!

First things first: transport. 

Taipei is one of those cities that has a super efficient and extensive transport network. Since the launch of Taipei Metro's airport extension earlier this year, commuting between Taoyuan airport and Taipei city is a breeze. Airport trains are spacious and equipped with wifi. The most impressive feature of Taipei Metro (which I wish we had in Singapore) is its in-town check-in kiosk that allows pre-check-in of baggage to your flight. This feature is incredibly convenient for people, including myself, who have a night flight to catch as I'm given the option to explore the city hands-free before making my way to the airport.

Duty-free shopping in Taiwan is equally effortless with Everrich duty-free downtown shop. Because it's a self-contained mall separate from the airport, it also has a much wider range of products to choose from. Completing my duty-free in advance has its perks as my purchase are packaged, delivered to and stored at the airport for collection on my departure day (after immigration). It's totally complimentary and a life saver as it spares me so much precious check-in luggage space! 

Now that we've got the basics to Taipei settled, let's explore the city! There are so much to love about Taiwan and tea is one of them. Tucked away in a small shop house, CHIAO Tea Salon is a perfect city hideout for a quiet afternoon.

Walking is a great way to explore a foreign city. Make it a point to check out the popular Yong Kang street and keep an eye out for street food, stylish boutiques, and candid urban life.

Just a stone's throw away from the Taipei 101 is South Village #44, originally a housing complex for soldiers that had since been converted into cafes and exhibition spaces. Its nostalgic vibes also make good photo backdrops.

Illustration by Mamo

Not many people know that you get a pretty unobstructed view of Taipei 101 from the complex. This trip also marked the first time I actually made it up to the skyscraper's observatory. Well, here is it, sharing with you how 101 floors look like from above:

If this is your first time in Taiwan, don't just stay in Taipei! The Taiwan HSR connects most major cities within the country. It was my very first visit to Tainan and it only took 2 hours to get there.

Tainan is the oldest city in Taiwan and a beloved destination for tourists and locals alike. It's said that Tainan preserves some of the most authentic food and culture which you may not experience anywhere else.

The boutique hotel where I stayed was an attraction in itself. It was a very unique experience to reside in a century-old building in an old town. Jia Jia West Hotel is conceptualised like a 'tree house', with its structure spanning across 3 major sections – the roots, the trunk, and the branches. Each section serves a purpose and guests are free to explore features of the 'tree house'.

Needless to say, the highlight of JJW Hotel was its thematic rooms conceptualised by designers and architects. Each room is drastically different from the other though they have one thing in common: the modern appearance of the hotel's interior is juxtaposed with restored antique furniture and fixtures. So soulful.

The top levels of the 'tree house' houses 2-storey concept rooms which require taller ceilings.

Night markets and street food are inseparable to Taiwanese culture. Grab some friends and check out Hua Yuan night market, which also happens to be the largest one in Tainan city!

The following day, as part of JJW Hotel's culture immersion programme for its guests, we toured the city in rented traditional Chinese dress and learnt to prepare local Tainan cuisine. To begin, we had to shop for ingredients from the market of course!

Back in the hotel, we made our own delicious and healthy Tainan-style lunch.

Don't forget to take plenty of pictures in picturesque Taian, especially on Hai An street, which is also referred to as the 'art street' by the locals. It must have gotten its nickname from its colorful streets that makes every angle Instagram-worthy!

When in Tainan, embark on heritage walking trails that will lead you to many historical sites that mark the early development of Taiwan. 

One of my favourite places in Tainan was the HAYASHI Department Store. The iconic landmark established in 1932 and prides itself as the second oldest department store in the country. Today, the store carries many local products unique to Tainan and is a popular destination for unique gifts among young people. The current management takes great measures to recreate its original floor plan and retains old furniture and fixtures to preserve its incredibly nostalgic atmosphere.

If you could only have 1 meal in Tainan, let this be it. The family-run Chih Kan Pedder's Noodle tops my list. The restaurant's signature dish, Dan Zai noodles, was traditionally a common street delicacy. The closest dish I can compare this to is Singapore's Ba Chor Mee but in no way I mean they're the same. I had an unforgettable meal here and I guarantee that you'll feel the same if you'd try.

The perfect beginning and end to your travels is the airport. 

The Taoyuan airport had revamped itself drastically since my last trip. Some of its noteworthy improvements include highly-thematic waiting lounges, art galleries, and the e-library. There are many facilities I love that the Taoyuan airport consistently refines to ease your travellers and promote local culture. For instance, I adore the wall mural at one of the departure lounges which captures the hustle and bustle of a typical Taiwan night market. Seeing it definitely made me relive those familiar moments and snap a picture for remembrance. 

As I've mentioned earlier, Everrich is offering a special promotion for my Southeast Asian readers who are travelling to Taiwan! All you have to do is to show this blog post when claiming the respective offers below. 

Have fun and I hope you'll love Taiwan as much as I do!