Sometimes when you are flying somewhere far, you don’t have a choice but to layover. A few years ago I decided it made more sense if I wasn’t going to fly direct, to try and find the longest layover possible in the given layover destination, so that I could explore that city if only for a day. I have done this in a number of countries so far and will be sharing my insights and itineraries for each locale. Here is the first in that series, exploring a stop in Taiwan en route back to San Francisco from Bali.
I really felt that Taipei was a relaxing place to do a 24 hour layover - the things to enjoy include nature and food and don’t require tons of tourist crowds. I felt I was able to safely navigate the city without speaking Chinese (though I did have my hotelier write down some addresses in it for me just in case). The international airport is also not far outside of downtown (30 minutes) which makes long layovers easy. The city was clean, the food safe to eat, and the people friendly. Though there is so much to see in Taiwan, I felt that 24 hours definitely allowed me to get my feet wet in the culture, leaving me with an itch to explore more.
I only had one night to explore Taiwan’s famous night markets, so I visited the Ningxia Night Market which was walking distance from the New May Flower Hotel where I stayed. I had flown in around 8pm and so it was pretty late when I finally made it out to the market, but lots of the stalls were still open selling their fried delicacies, fruit, and a wide assortment of unique seafood treats. There is definitely a fun culture surrounding night markets as a place where both young people and families go to hang out and have a good time with food as well as some carnival games.
- Another famous night market I wanted to visit was Shilin Night Market, which is supposed to be one of the best and largest night markets in the city.
Things to do:
Maokong Gondola and Tea Trail - You can pick up the Gondola off of the metro at the Taipei Zoo stop. The Gondola takes you up through the lush mountains and to an area where you can walk around and eat street snacks, enjoy tea shops, and visit some temples. With more time, there are some hikes you can take from the area.
Chiang Kai-shek Memorial - This is the main tourist center of Taipei, where you can visit the memorial of Chiang Kai-shek (where a regular changing of the guard occurs), wander around the vast courtyards and take in some of Taiwanese history. The area can be compared to the National Mall in Washington, D.C.
Views of the Chiang Kai-Shek Memorial and tourist area.
- Get a massage! - Taipei is filled with massage parlors, and something of unique interest are the blind massage parlors. I stepped into one and it was a relaxing experience.
With a little more time:
If I had maybe 12 to 24 more hours in the city, these are the things I would have done:
Taipei 101 - go up to the top floor observation deck to enjoy the views of the city!
Yangmingshan National Park - for some hiking to clear the mind after a long flight.
Longshan Temple - one of the largest and oldest temples in Taiwan.
A map of the above mentioned places can be found here.
What would you recommend on a 24 hour adventure to Taipei?