Dynamic and diverse Taipei

A Vibrant Blend of Tradition and Modernity

Shereen Shabnam

Taipei, the capital of Taiwan, is a dynamic city that seamlessly blends ancient traditions with cutting-edge modernity. From towering skyscrapers to serene temples, bustling night markets to tranquil parks, Taipei offers a rich tapestry of experiences for every traveller. I had ventured into Taiwan for the famous lantern festival, but my journey started with exploring the vibrant parts of Taipei.

My hotel was close to Taipei 101 so naturally this was my first stop. Once the tallest building in the world, Taipei 101 is an architectural marvel. Visitors can take the high-speed elevator to the observation deck on the 89th floor for breath-taking views of the city. The skyscraper also houses a shopping mall with luxury brands and gourmet restaurants.

Next was the Chiang Kai-Shek Memorial Hall. This iconic landmark is dedicated to the former President of the Republic of China, Chiang Kai-Shek. The grand hall, surrounded by beautiful gardens, features a large statue of Chiang and a museum detailing his life and Taiwan’s history.

The National Palace Museum is another information filled attraction. Home to one of the largest collections of Chinese art and artifacts in the world, the National Palace Museum is a must-visit. The extensive collection includes ancient jade, ceramics, calligraphy, and paintings. Taipei also has The Museum of Contemporary Art (MOCA) and the Taipei Fine Arts Museum to showcase a wide range of contemporary and modern art from Taiwan and around the world.

If you like temples, the Longshan Temple is one of Taipei’s oldest and most famous one and it is a stunning example of traditional Taiwanese architecture. It serves as a spiritual centre for locals and a fascinating cultural site for visitors.

For shopping, there are many options but my guide highly recommends Ximending. Often referred to as the “Harajuku of Taipei,” Ximending is a lively shopping district known for its trendy fashion boutiques, street food, and entertainment options. It’s a popular spot for young people and tourists alike.

The  Taipei 101 Mall is also ideal for luxury shopping, as an upscale shopping center that features high-end international brands, designer boutiques, and fine dining establishments. The Shilin Night Market is also a must as it offers a wide array of goods, from clothing and accessories to electronics and souvenirs. The market is also a foodie paradise with numerous stalls selling delicious street food.

Taipei is a cultural hub with numerous theatres and performance venues. The National Theatre and Concert Hall host a variety of performances, including traditional Chinese opera, modern theatre, and international concerts.

Taipei’s cultural calendar is filled with festivals that celebrate traditional and contemporary culture. The Lantern Festival, Dragon Boat Festival, and the Taipei Film Festival are just a few examples of the city’s vibrant cultural scene.

For dining, a visit to Taipei is incomplete without trying Din Tai Fung’s famous xiaolongbao (soup dumplings). This Michelin-starred restaurant is renowned for its delicate dumplings and other Taiwanese delicacies. Taipei is a haven for street food lovers. Raohe Night Market and Ningxia Night Market are great places to start your culinary adventure. For a taste of traditional Taiwanese cuisine, visit local eateries and restaurants that serve the three-cup chicken and Taiwanese hot pot. These dishes offer a rich and flavourful experience of the island’s culinary heritage.

Taipei is surrounded by natural hot springs. Beitou Hot Spring is the most famous, offering a range of hot spring resorts and public baths to relax and soak in the therapeutic waters. For nature enthusiasts, Taipei offers numerous hiking trails with stunning views like the Elephant Mountain (Xiangshan and Yangmingshan National Park, offering beautiful landscapes and diverse flora and fauna.

Taipei has a rich tea culture, and a visit to a traditional tea house is a must. Maokong, located on the outskirts of the city, is famous for its tea plantations and offers scenic views along with a serene tea-drinking experience.

I left Taipei for the Lantern Festival, a journey into a world of mesmerizing light and cultural wonder. Held annually during the first full moon of the Lunar New Year, the festival transforms the night sky into a tapestry of glowing lanterns, each meticulously crafted and often adorned with intricate designs, carrying wishes and prayers for the coming year. Attending this festival was an unforgettable experience and I returned to Taipei with great memories.

Taipei is a city that captivates with its vibrant blend of old and new. Whether you’re exploring its historic temples, indulging in its diverse culinary scene, shopping in its bustling markets, or enjoying its natural beauty, Taipei promises a memorable and enriching travel experience.

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