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Top 5 places to go outside Taipei

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I went to Taiwan to take advantage of their extended no-visa policy on Filipino citizens. I will write a series of blogs about that trip soon. It was my first time in Taiwan and that trip made me fall in love with the country!
While I say that Taipei should be in your must-visit list, Taiwan is a vibrant country with a mix of delicious food, culture and natural destinations that there are a lot of places outside the capital that deserve to be visited.

Here are the top 5 places to go outside Taipei:

5. HUALIEN

The best thing that I was able to do in Hualien was biking. I went around the city riding a bike that I borrowed from my Airbnb host and on my first day, I went to Qixingtan Beach. It took me more than an hour to go there though the heavy rain made it difficult for me to go back to my hostel. There are bike lines all around the city so going back was a little bearable.

view of pacific ocean in hualien taiwan
View of the Pacific Ocean.

If it didn’t rain, I could’ve gone to a lot more places that day. Hualien is also the starting point if you go to the famous Taroko Gorge so it’s worth your while to stay there for a night or two.

rocky seashore beside pacific ocean in hualien taiwan
You can ride the bike going to Qixingtan Beach where rocks and pebbles are a common sight.

HOW TO GO TO HUALIEN:

From Taoyuan Airport (TPE)
Take the Airport MRT to Taipei Railway Main Station then take train to Hualien.

From Taipei
You can get on a train at Taipei Main Station. You can easily reach that station by MRT (metro). Two to four trains leave every hour.

The fastest trains:Puyuma and TarokoTravel time on these two trains is 2 hours. Ticket price for these trains is 440N$.

The slower trains: Tze-Chiang Limited Express and Chu-Kuang Express and will take 2.5 – 4 hours. A ticket will cost you 440NT$ on the Tze-Chiang, and 340NT$ on the slower, older Chu-Kuang.

4. TAROKO GORGE

Taroko Gorge is a 19-km long canyon and is called the “Grand Canyon of Taiwan”. I took a tourist bus at Hualien Train Station early in the morning so I could finish the trails for that 1-day tour but I didn’t finish everything.

beautiful stream in taroko gorge hualien taiwan
Part of Taroko Gorge that boasts of crystal clear water amidst rock formations and plants.

What’s special about this destination are the rock formations but it gets a little monotonous having walked the whole day and seeing the same site all through out. There are a lot of hiking trails in the canyon and each trail has a scheduled bus that will take you to your chosen trail. You can hop on and off the bus depending on which trails you choose.

Taroko Gorge is popular with group tours. There were a lot of tour buses parking along the stations with tourists from Mainland China and a lot of them were older people. I wonder how they were able to hike the whole day. Nevertheless, Taroko Gorge is worth the visit.

stream in taroko gorge in hualien province taiwan

HOW TO GO TO TAROKO GORGE:

From Taipei:
For a one-day trip, there’s no need to go all the way to Hualien City. Get on the train at Taipei Main Station to Xincheng. You can then take Bus #302 from Xincheng Train Station to Taroko Gorge and Tianxiang.

From Hualien:
In front of Hualien Train Station, there’s an orange-colored ticketing office where the tourist buses going to Taroko Gorge are parked. Also, Shuttle Bus 1133A runs between Hualien Train Station and Taroko Gorge all day long.

3. SHIFEN

I planned on doing Shifen and Jiufen for 1 day but I woke up late so I had to go there separately and did them for two days. I went to Shifen first.
Shifen in Pingxi used to be a coal town during the Japanese era but they converted the railway station into a commercial area. Shifen Old Street is a collection of lanes and alleys where lots of food are sold.

landscape view of buildings in shifen taiwan
The train station at Shifen where vendors sell various streetfood.

Shifen’s main crowd-drawer are the sky lanterns. In the Old Street, you can buy a lantern where you can write your wish and have it flown in the sky after.

I chose the better option, though. Food. My favorite in Shifen was the ice cream wrapped in lumpia wrapper (springroll). That was yummy!

group of people holding a lantern with their wishes in shifen taiwan
Write your wishes on a lantern and have it flown in the sky.

HOW TO GO TO SHIFEN:

From Taipei:
Take a TRA train from Taipei Main Station to any train that goes North except for Keelung because this is out of the way. Alight at Ruifang Station then from there, transfer to the Pingxi Line going to Shifen Station.
The trip is about 1.5 hours. From Shifen Station, you can follow the signs to Shifen Old Street where the sky lanterns are. The Shifen Waterfalls is about twenty minutes away on foot.

2. KAOHSIUNG

The third largest city in Taiwan is located at the southernmost part and can be reached fast from Taipei via the Taiwan High Speed Rail.

artistic windlmill sculpture and buildings in kaoshiung taiwan
The facade at Pier 2 where artistic sculpture graffiti abound.

Kaoshiung has wider streets than Taipei and going to different locations by foot can be taxing so riding the MRT is the best way to get around the city.

My favorite part of Kaoshiung is Pier 2 where they have a really nice but small stand-alone cinema. It has an artsy vibe as well with several street paintings and sculptures around the area.

sculpture of man and woman faces in a park in kaoshiung taiwan
A 3D sculpture of faces at Pier 2.

HOW TO GO TO KAOHSIUNG:

From Taipei by HSR
It only takes 1 hour and 30 minutes from Taipei to Kaohsiung via Taiwan High Speed Rail. You can take the high-speed train at Taipei Main Station.

From Taipei by regular train
The TRA (Taiwan Railway Administration) takes much longer to travel, around more than 3 hours via Tze-Chiang Limited Express train. Just go to Taipei Main Station.

1. JIUFEN

Jiufen is my favorite because of, well, “Sprited Away”. This place is the inspiration for the Japanese film and it gets more interesting as night falls. It was too crowded when I went there but I think it never runs out of tourists and locals who flock for the tea and variety of food sold there.

building in jiufen taiwan inspiration for film spirited away
Jiufen is the inspiration for the Japanese anime “Spirited Away”.

Jiufen used to be a gold mine but they converted it into a commercial area. My favorite find in Jiufen was the (hot) taro soup that I had – it was cold and raining when I went there. Japanese influence is apparent in the area and the merchandise there is proof of that.

You can travel to Jiufen and Shifen in one day but I think it would be better to just take the whole afternoon until night exploring Jiufen. The streets seem like an endless maze so either you just go with the heavy crowd or deal with claustrophobia.

roof of a buddhist temple in jiufen taiwan
Jiufen is located in a mountainous location so be prepared for cold weather.

HOW TO GO TO JIUFEN:

From Taipei
Take a TRA train from Taipei Main Station to any train that goes North except for Keelung because this is out of the way. Exit the station, turn left and walk down to Mingdeng Road. Take bus 827 or 788 to Jiufen. Travel time takes about 20-30 minutes.

Which of these places would you love to visit?

Here’s a video of the Top 5 places to go outside of Taipei in my vlog:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=19py956MxnE&t=44s

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