A recent visit took me to Taipei, a city that I quite enjoyed. Lively, cuisine-oriented & ripe with tradition, Taipei has something for everyone. Here's a guide on how to make the most of what the vibrant city has to offer:
Where to stay
Luxe: Mandarin Oriental - stay here if you want the five-star experience.
Business: Grand Hyatt - stay here for a great location along with excellent luxury amenities.
Boutique: Eslite hotel - stay here if you are keen on shopping.
Where to eat
Shin Yeh: Opt for traditional Taiwanese cuisine in Zhangsan; or the fancier white table cloth version located on the 85th floor of Taipei 101. A local favourite, Shin Yeh is always packed with businessmen and merry families.
Must-try dishes: Gua Bao, a delicious braised pork Bao with pickled veggies topped with peanut dust. Simply scrumptious!
Mume: This is gastro-chic at its best. This modern European restaurant boasts of a casual fine dining fare. The decor is minimal, simple, wooden and welcoming. The food is exquisite & the chefs’ team boasts a mix of multinationals with past experiences from NOMA and Per Se.
Must-try dishes: It is a seasonal menu but I enjoyed the beef tartare and the snow shrimp.
RAW: Modern haute French cuisine with locally sourced Taiwanese ingredients sums up the menu. The concept is interpretational Taiwanese ingredients with an international flair. "Where food meets art,” as described by Chef André Chiang.
Must-try dishes: The seasonal menu is not to be missed!
Din Tai Fung: Renowned over the world for its soup dumpling Xiao Long Bao. If you plan on visiting this Jinshan district restaurant, do go early as the queues are massive.
Must-try dishes: Crab, pork dumpling and Xiao Long Bao of course.
Yong Kang Beef Noodle: A couple streets’ walk from Din Tai Fung is this incredible beef noodle spot. Known for its sweet-spiced broth and hearty beef noodle bowl, this one’s definitely worth a visit if you're in the area.
Where to indulge your sweet tooth
The Taiwanese Mango Ice is a shaved ice dish topped with fresh mango and mango ice cream. Although this dish is the most famous Taiwanese local street kitsch dessert, I reckon you can give it a miss as the mangoes are not as balanced and flavourful as the multiple choices you get in India. It's very one-dimensional on the palate, too sweet and therefore, not recommended. Instead you could walk the night markets and pick up fresh fruit like peaches, guava, apples, pickled strawberries and pear which are real treasures.
What to see
National Palace Museum: This place is a national treasure filled with artefacts from the Imperial Chinese dynasty. Dating back to the Neolithic Qing dynasty including an enviable collection of jade, lacquer, bronze, coins, costumes, snuff bottles, calligraphy - book and tapestry. It is worth a visit to appreciate the vast cultural heritage of the Chinese empire.
Taipei 101: The tallest building in the world for a while, the Taipei 101 is Taiwan’s most famous landmark. Checking out the gorgeous view from the 89th floor observation deck is a rite of passage for all tourists!
The night markets: Shilin and Rahoe are a lot of fun to visit. Be prepared for crowds, in an orderly manner nonetheless. You can buy mini-electronics, fruit, street food and various knick-knacks.
Where to shop
The Elslite Spectrum: This building offers the best of Taiwan, all in one spot. Floors 1 & 2 are filled with indigenous designers who show off the best of Taiwan; either with use of fabric or cut and design. It also houses many tea bars, record collections, gorgeously wrapped food items (perfect for gifts and souvenirs) and of course, a masterful collection of books on the uppermost floor.
Fujin Street: A street filled with cafes, décor stores and local designers - Funfuntown, Haveanice, Fujintree and 3.co to name a few. It's a quiet, well-manicured street that is nice for a stroll. All the shops and cafes show off the subtle Taiwanese aesthetic. Also, pay a visit to Beams, a modern Japanese everyday brand with basic clothing.