What to do in Taipei, Taiwan
Hot springs come in various brands in Taipei, ranging from basic, to plush spas at five star hotels. The basic free ‘rub and scrub’ type public baths are run by the city. Most hotels offer the option of a large sex-segregated bathing area that generally consists of several large baths of various temperatures, jacuzzi, sauna and steam bath and also private and family rooms (NB: the law in Taiwan states that for safety reasons, individuals are not allowed to bathe in the private rooms, and there must be at least two people). Some hotels also have outdoor baths, which offer restful views over the surrounding country-side. Public hot spring etiquette requires that bathers thoroughly wash and rinse off their bodies before entering the bath, do not wear clothing, including swim wear (though this is not the case for mixed-sex public areas) in the bath and tie up their hair so that it does not touch the water. Finally, people with high blood pressure, heart disease or open wounds should not enter the baths.
There are three main places to have a soak in the Taipei area:
- Yangmingshan National Park
Festivals & events
Taipei hosts numerous festivals throughout the year, but as many follow the lunar calendar the dates according to the Gregorian calendar are inconsistent. Unless you possess a lunar calendar, it is recommended you check the Taiwan Tourist Bureau’s events section before planning to attend an event.
The Golden Horse Chinese Language Film Festival. This is often referred to as the Oscars of the Chinese film world, and while films in the awards section are all in Chinese, they have English subtitles and, there is also a large non-competition foreign language section.
The Lantern Festival is a dazzling display of lanterns and lasers which runs for several days around the fifteenth day of the lunar New Year. While the main city event is held at the Sun Yat-San Memorial Hall and Taipei City Hall grounds, Renai Road perhaps offers the most elegant display, with the whole tree-lined boulevard transformed into a delicate tunnel of lights. Pingxi in Taipei County celebrates the festival with the release of huge lanterns that float serenely across the night sky, carrying with them the dedications and aspirations of those who release them.
Dragon Boat Festival commemorates the death of the Chinese patriotic poet Qu Yuan (born 340 BC), who drowned himself in a river out of despair that his beloved country, Chu, was being plundered by a neighboring country as a result of betrayal by his own people. The festival is marked by races of colorful dragon boats held at various locations throughout the island, with one of the best places to view a race in the Taipei area being the Bitan River in Xindian. Special sticky rice balls called zongzi (pronounced like “dzongdz”) are also eaten on this day. The festival falls on the fifth day of the fifth lunar month.
Taipei International Travel Fair, Taipei World Trade Center.
Taipei Film Festival. An international festival with two award sections – Taipei Award Nominees and International New Talent Nominees. Films are shown at several venues throughout the city.
Taipei (and Taiwan in general) has very good sports infrastructure. There are plenty of bike trails, parks, tennis courts, etc. around the city, especially along the riverside parks. Every district also has sports centers that have indoor pools, squash courts, tennis courts, badminton, basketball, etc.
The riverside parks in Taiwan have a connected bicycle path system that stretches far beyond the city to the suburbs of New Taipei City. You can bike all the way from Tamsui in the north to Xindian in the south without ever having to leave the bicycle paths. Bicycle rental points are stationed at various points along the route. Ask for a bicycle map from any tourist/visitor information point.
Yangmingshan National Park. Hiking is a popular exercise in Taipei. The main hiking spot in Taipei is Yangmingshan National Park. There are dozens of hiking trails in the park. The most famous peak is Mt. Qixing in the national park. Mt. Qixing is the highest peak in Taipei City. Standing on the peak you can see all the city center embraced by the mountains, and the northwest coast of Taipei.
Elephant Mountain Hiking Trail. A short walk south from Taipei 101 in Xinyi District or from the Xiangshan MRT station. Steep steps lead up into a shaded, forested hill overlooking the city. From the MRT station and at Zhongqiang Park, signs lead to the Xiangshan Hiking Trail. Elephant Mountain, about 200M high, is one of the Four Beasts Mountains and paths from here go up to higher peaks in Nangang. After approx. 15 minutes of hiking up, a view platform offers spectacular views of the Taipei 101, and 5 minutes further up, a big rock gives the same view from an even higher position.
Maokong Hiking Trail. This is the same mountain where the gondola goes up to. You can also hike up or down the path, with the two endpoints being the gondola station at the top and the start of the trail in the University below. Great views of the city from the top on a clear day. Also passes by several temples and rice fields along the way. Biking up is also possible on the vehicular road.
Trapshooing/Clay Pigeon Shooting – Similar to the shooting games like Duck Hunt from the original Nintendo. Taipei has shooting ranges where you can learn how to shoot clay pigeons.
Paintball – Paintball fields can be found in various locations around the city for a military sim experience.
Virtual Reality – The Syntrend building offers various virtual reality experiences, including military sim shooter experiences.
Children’s Recreation Center is an amusement park located on Zhongshan North Road Sec. 3, nearest MRT station is ‘Yuanshan’ on Red Line. The center was created by city government in 1991. It has old-fashioned rides, folk art museum, IMAX Theater and more. This place is great for younger kids.
Taipei Water Park 1 Shiyuan Street is situated in Gongguan area and was newly opened in 2007. The park is built around the Museum of Drinking Water. Many facilities are all about water. The most popular are water slides and swimming spas. But the facilities are open only in summer (entry included with the museum ticket)
Taipei Zoo, 30 Xinguang Rd Sec. 2. Nestled in a tight, lush valley, Taipei Zoo has all the leisurely charm of a large park where you get the enjoyment of wandering through trees and along lanes with a variety of animals and birds. Unlike many traditional zoos, the animals here are not confined to cages, but allowed to roam freely in open paddocks, and it is a very clean and well maintained facility. Furthermore, due to the city government’s education policy, the zoo is very much an integral part of Taipei life. So much so in fact, that when an old elephant, Lin-Wang, became ill and died several years ago, several generations turned up, many with tears in their eyes, to say their farewells. The zoo is in the suburb of Muzha. The entrance is just outside the terminal stop on the Muzha MRT line, ‘Taipei Zoo’.