Soaking in hot springs, staying in a haunted hotel and eating (a lot) are just a few of the cool things to do in Taipei. It really does have something for everyone – even those who might feel the need to win a fluffy penis at some point in their life!.
Things to do in Taipei 1: Soak yourself in Beitou Hot Springs
About a 30-minute metro ride north of Taipei centre is Beitou Thermal Valley – a small town in a volcanic crater that’s teaming with hot springs and all the hoo-ha that goes with them. There’s spa hotels, a huge steaming pool of gorgeous green water to look at (but not touch) and, just as you come up the hill, a public spa that you can sit in – for as little as NTD40 (£1 or AUD$1.70).
This is where I spent my time. Called Millennium Hot Springs it consists of three pools – nicely warm, a bit hot and oh my god I’m going to faint.
If you want to add this to your list of things to do in Taipei, note…soaking here comes with a few rules: you must shower first, you have to immerse your whole body, not just dangle in your feet and THE most important rule is that to enter the springs you must wear proper swimwear and for women this means a full swimsuit, for men it’s cycling short style swim shorts – no speedos or boardies. You will be refused entry – or asked to buy new bathers if yours aren’t right.
Don’t despair if your togs don’t make the grade, you don’t need any special kit to just soak your feet in the springs in nearby Fuxing Park.
I did that and it was really cool to see everyone here catching up with the local gossip, reading the paper, there were even some people nearby practising their ballroom dancing. Do make sure you clear off your drips when you lift your feet out though or you’ll get told off by an old lady with a towel on her head. I may have learned this the hard way.
How to get to Beitou Hot Springs: Take the Red Line to Beitou and then change to the ‘sauna themed’ offshoot line to Xinbeitou. Sessions run 5.30am-7.30, 8-10, 10.30-12.30 and so on until 10pm
Things to do in Taipei 2: Stay in the ‘Haunted’ Hotel
Part of my trip to Taipei was for work and I was lucky enough to be put up for my last night in the Grand Hyatt hotel – this is where celebs, royalty and politicians stay when they are in town and I was excitedly googling all the loveliness when I saw the words ‘Taipei’s haunted hotel’…erm, say what now.
Rumour has it that the Grand Hyatt was built on land once used for a prison camp- and this past incarnation has left a few souls behind. Reviews on Trip Advisor talk about uneasy feelings, some people have even checked out in the middle of the night.
Sadly (well for the sake of this story if not my sleep patterns) I didn’t see anything spooky – I do admit that I slept with the nightlight on though!
If you want to channel your inner Ghostbuster, here’s where to find more info and booking details for the Grand Hyatt Taipei.
Things to do in Taipei 3: Eat a Sugary Tomato on a Stick
Taipei is famed for street food, particularly in the night markets of Shilin and Raohe which are normally top of any list things to do in Taipei for foodie folk.
I’d researched list after list of what people suggested I should eat within them – but after I tried the Pepper Pork bun that people queue ages for and wasn’t keen at all – I decided to go on my own quest, finding the oddest thing at the market to eat.
I had plenty to choose from – giant squid on sticks, stinky tofu (definitely a contender), a bitter green jelly drink called Frog’s Eggs (which I quite liked) and deep fried milk – but the winner was the above…cherry tomatoes on a stick covered in hard sugar – think of it as like a toffee tomato. I admit I could only eat half of it before I worried for my fillings – but it was rather nice.
Where to find Tomatoes on Sticks: I had them at Raohe Night Market which you get to via the Green Line to Shongshan station. The stall was about three-quarters of the way up the market on the left-hand walkway if walking away from the Ciyou temple.
Things to do in Taipei 4: Behold the Super Big Wind Damper
The Taipei 101 skyscraper is one of the big attractions in Taipei – in draw and size – and I admit, the views from its 89th floor around 380m above the city, are spectacular, but one of the most intriguing elements of it for me, is inside the building not outside – the giant gold ball called the Super Big Wind Damper.
Suspended in mid-air by eight giant steel cables this is what keeps this tall building steady during high winds or earthquakes. If something causes the building to rock, the Super Damper starts to sway in the opposite direction counteracting the movement and keeping everything stable.
Lots of buildings have super dampers – most don’t make a big fuss about them. Taipei 101 is different – they’ve even made it the official mascot of the building! Take a moment to appreciate it’s shinyness – and how safe it’s keeping you. Prebook your Taipei 101 tickets here to save queuing.
Things to Do in Taipei 5: Visit the Toilet Themed restaurant
This wasn’t just on my list of things to do in Taipei, it was the primary reason I wanted to go. Called Modern Toilet it’s a theme restaurant based around everything lavatorial – food comes served in toilet-shaped bowls, you drink out of specimen bottles, your ice cream is brown and poop shaped – it’s a weird travel lovers dream.
Where is the Toilet Restaurant?: The one I visited is in Ximending, a lively shopping area nicknamed Taipei’s Harajuku. Nearest metro is Ximen
Things to do in Taipei 6: Try and win a Fluffy Penis
This is a thing at the night markets. I have no idea why but fluffy penises were everywhere. You could win them by shooting things, by popping balloons with darts and in the little grabby hand machines.
Oh, you can also buy penis shaped waffles, hot dogs and ice pops, but I was travelling alone and while I’ll do many things solo for this blog that put me out of my comfort zone, eating a phallic ice cream with no-one to laugh with just seemed a bit sad!
Where to Win a Penis: Shilin Night Market had the most games, but they were in the arcade at Raohe too.
Things to Do in Taipei 7: See the Gate with the Brilliant Name
I had limited time in Taipei and just wanted to wander the city so the obvious tourist sights weren’t top of my list of things to do, but I was really glad I found time to visit Chiang Kai-shek Memorial Hall – which is a monument erected to the former leader. The hall itself was interesting, but the gate outside it blew me away. Pictures don’t do justice to its scale (it’s 30 metres high and 80 metres wide and that’s only a tiny bit of it below) – and until I went there I also had no idea of its brilliant name. It’s known as The Gate of Great Centrality and Perfect Uprightness. That makes me extraordinarily happy.
How to Get There. Take the green or red metro Chiang Kai-shek Memorial Hall: If you do walk though be very careful when you put this in google maps. I decided to walk from my hotel only to discover after about 45 minutes strolling that there is a very similarly named lecture hall at Taipei University. Do not make this mistake – it’s annoying!
Things to do in Taipei 8: Eat Noodles with Intestines
I’d always said there were two things in life I would never eat – brains and intestines. But after a trip earlier this year saw me eating brains twice in a week, I decided I might as well conquer the last hurdle too – and the famed Ay-Chung Flour Rice Noodle in Ximending gave me a chance.
The stand was easy to find – look for the huge number of slurping people. 30TD ( £1 or AUD$1.25) bought me a small bowl and liberally dousing it with chilli oil I tucked in. I can see why everyone raves about these noodles – they were full of flavour, super filling and very cheap. And as for intestine – it wasn’t bad, it doesn’t have a strong flavour, it’s just kind of chewy. It was a bargain dinner thought – and the people watching was great.
Where is it? Ay-Chung Flour Rice Noodle is at 8-1 Emei Street. Just look for the queue.
Things to do in Taipei 9: Just wander enjoying how chilled it is
This was probably the strangest thing I found to do in Taipei. I was expecting the normal sensory overload you get in a city in Asia but my overwhelming feeling of Taipei was how calm it was.
There’s not the frantic madness of mopeds and traffic you find in Vietnam or Bangkok, it’s missing the relentless bustle of people you find in Tokyo, there’s none of the hawker hassle you get in Hong Kong, Walking down the street is positively peaceful – it’s easy to cross the road, you can see who is coming towards you, and often notice that they are working up to saying Good Morning in English – I was surprised at how many people did.
I loved the city and really enjoyed my short trip hours there. There’s a lot more I’d like to see in Taiwan – here’s hoping I get another chance to go back.
Where I stayed
Before my night in the Hyatt, I picked the Amba Zhongshan as it was close to a metro station and pretty much in the middle of all the things to do in Taipei that were on my list. It was a great choice – clean, quiet and relatively inexpensive.
Have you been to Taipei? Is there anything else strange people should check out? Let me know in the comments. Also, if you like this post, you can share it on social media with the buttons and pins below.