So by long layover, I mean, a day and a half, but you’d be surprise by all you can see and do in that short of time! Since we had already been to Taiwan, to Kaohsiung specifically (CLICK HERE for that recap) my sights were set on getting out of the city and taking in more green and less smog! Btw, Koahsiung is known for heavy smog and we masked whereas Taipei presented no issues for us, thankfully.
Long weekend itinerary:
- Arrive in evening, potentially hit up a night market for dinner, try Raohe night market & check into Cafe Nihao hotel
- Klook Bus tour to Shifen waterfalls/lantern old street, Jiufen, and Keelung night market
- Chiang Kai Shek Memorial hall, head to aiport
- additional options: taipei 101, Huashan 1914 Creative Park, Din Tai Fung for dumplings, and Maokong gondola for tea plantations with zoo
For our one full day in Taipei, we grabbed a bus tour, my fav. It proved to be a great idea, we saw a lot in very little time and received such a tremendous bird’s eye view of Taiwan, making me want to return again. My take on Taiwan and the two short trips I’ve taken there…..once you get over the city smog, congestion, and sheer amounts of people (picture size of the state of Maryland with 28 million people) Taiwan truly grows on you. The people are warm and kind, the scenery outside of the city is breathtaking and the food and culture are fun fun.
Our bus tour took us to Shifen waterfalls which was incredible, so much more than I bargained aside from the waterfall. The grounds were all scenic surrounding the waterfall area complete with a suspension bridge that bounced and other nature trails. And of course we indulged in the snack and fruit shops!
Next stop on the bus tour was Shifen old street just around the corner from the waterfall area. This was the moment I had been waiting for….to release a lantern into the sky in Taiwan. Except one thing. We ran out of cash unknowingly, scrambled for an atm and got to launch our lantern just in the nick of time before our bus left! Phew. Hello stress. Bring TWD cash!
Jiufen was the city we stopped in next, about 40 minutes from shifen via bus, this is a windy drive so heads up if you get carsick. Jiufen is known as the Santorini of Taiwan, set high in the cliffs with incredible view, tea, street food, and shops. I was so ready. Also note, it is a high traffic tourist areas with many buses bringing in hoards of people, best to visit on a week day if possible. Two things I would recommend- climbing the stairs into the windy market areas, it may be shoulder to shoulder, but this is Taiwan and grab tea in any of the teas houses. We accidentally went into a cave which serendipitously led to a tea house named “sweet potato tea house” with incredible views, thank you Lord. Here’s a list of all the Jiufen tea houses, including the most famous, Amei. Lastly, top your time off with a sweet peanut ice cream roll- peanut brittle with cilantro wrapped in rice paper burrito at A-jou. Trust me.
Last stop of this full day bus tour was the Keelung night market. We loved Kaohsiung’s night market and felt the same way about this one. Full of great street food, carnival games for the kids, and fresh fruit. Don’t miss the vegetable burrito, black pepper pork buns, and spicy squid!
Our last day in Taipei was a half day so we could’ve done another bus tour and jam it all in but we were beat. Our Taiwan time followed 5 days in Thailand, so the family voted and we just decided to do one thing before we headed to the airport. So the Chiang Kai Shek Memorial Hall it was, but looking back I would have added Din Tai Fung. If I had a full day it would have included Taipei 101, Din Tai Fung, Huashan 1914 Creative Park, and maybe Beitou hot springs too! But listen the Memorial Hall had me smitten, I LOVED it do not miss it. The buildings are so grandiose, the changing of the guards is not to be missed (top of every hour) my kids were hooked, and the gardens are stunning. I was blown away. Also the resemblance to Washington D.C’s mall was so close!