Friday, June 6, 2014

A Taste of Taiwan: Four Not-to-Be-Missed Spots

On a sunny spring day, people stood in a queue to wait for a sizzling plate of oyster omelet: a savory dish of small oysters, egg batter, sauce, and green leafy vegetables. A few feet away at another small booth, a large group eagerly awaited a light snack of peanut brittle shavings, ice cream, and cilantro, in a thin burrito wrap. All around the festival site, people held colorful cups of bubble tea and aiyu jelly as they explore arts and crafts and watched exciting traditional dances.

Last week at Union Square in Manhattan, the 13th Annual Passport to Taiwan Festival celebrated Taiwanese-American heritage and introduced hundreds of people to the island nation’s brilliant culture, art, history, and mouthwatering food. That afternoon, I sipped on a boba drink while walking around the venue with a friend. We both spent last summer interning in Taipei, and the sights, food, music, and performances at the festival reminded us of our exciting adventures in Taiwan.

Here are four fun destinations in the nation’s capital that I really enjoyed last summer!

1. Chiang Kai-shek Memorial Hall (中正紀念堂/”Zhongzheng jinian tang”)

Chiang Kai-shek Memorial Hall-taipei-taiwan

The place I worked at last summer, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, was right near this well-known monument erected in memory of the former president. During lunchtime, my colleagues and I would stroll to the large public square leading up to this memorial building and explore the area. Sometimes we’d watch the changing of the guard, which is an hourly ceremony conducted in a strict military fashion.

2. Yongkang Street (永康街/”Yongkang jie”)


Though I’ve been to Taipei a few times before, last year was the first time I visited this street, known for its famous restaurants, cafes, and small shops. While working at the Ministry, my coworkers and I would bike here to try out various delicacies: I really enjoyed Yongkang Street’s quaint noodle and dumpling restaurants and shaved ice booths.

3. Elephant Mountain (象山/”Xiangshan”)


Hiking up stairs to reach the top of this mountain gives you a magnificent view of the Taipei skyline. It only takes about 20 minutes to get to the top, and the stairs aren’t too difficult to climb. The mountain is a particularly popular place to visit during sunrise and sunset, with tourists ascending alongside locals and photographers.

4. Ximending (西門町)


This shopping district is famous for its youth culture and its restaurants, fashion-forward clothing shops, and all types of entertainment: theaters, salons, KTV venues, trendy bars and clubs, and food stalls. Ximending is always packed on weekends, with young people enjoying this happenin’ district.

There are abundant options of stores and places to eat, and you’ll find foreign restaurants in addition to unique eateries, including the infamous toilet-themed restaurant. Whether it’s seeing a live performance, getting a new haircut, or buying a snack, Ximending is an unforgettable must-see if you’re ever in Taipei.

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