Things to Do – Taipei, Taiwan
January 1 is a national holiday. The whole nation will be celebrating the coming of the New Year; typically, what happens is that every city will have its own countdown party at certain location. If you wish to participate, ask around!
Taiwanese people still use the lunar calendar in their daily lives. The following three major family holidays are celebrated in Taiwan. Usually people will have days off from work or school to be with their families.
Taiwanese people still celebrate Lunar New Year. The Spring Festival is from New Year’s Eve and the two weeks after that. It is usually the end of the January or early February. During the Spring Festival, many businesses will be closed, but there will be a lot of activities arranged by the government and private organizations. Usually the New Year’s Eve, people spend time with their families so there won’t be too many things happening on the streets, but many restaurants will have special dishes for the day to celebrate the coming of New Year.
Before the New Year’s Eve, people also go to Chiang Kai Shek Memorial Hall to get red banners (Chunglien) written by contemporary well-known calligraphers so they can post for the Lunar New Year. During the Spring Festival, many events are planned by various organizations to celebrate Lunar New Year. When I used to go to those activities, I often felt that everyone who lived in Taiwan came to Taipei. There was one time I was so pissed by the traffic and I walked two hours home from the City Hall. One highlight during the Spring Festival is that people can get Hongbao (red envelope with money in it) from elders, and sometimes you can get a Hongbao from businesses that are open during the Spring Festival. They symbolize the luck, wealth and happiness!
The last day of the Spring Festival, January 15 on the lunar calendar, is the Lantern Festival. Each year, the Mayor of Taipei City hosts a big party with numerous lanterns at the Chiang Kai Shek Memorial Hall. Some are old-fashioned, some are new designed. The main lantern is a joint image made by the Chinese astrology sign of the year and other motifs for the excellence. City Hall distributes free lanterns to people who come to celebrate the Festival. The amount is limited so if you wish to get one, you need to arrive early!
Dragon Boat Festival
Dragon Boat Racing is the biggest event on this day. The Festival is May 5 on the lunar calendar. Taipei hosts one of the International Dragon Boat Racings at the Danshui River. (Same competitions are ongoing on the same day in many other cities, but if you choose to hang out in Taipei, this is where you will be going to take part in this event.) Ride the Metro Danshui Line to Danshui station and follow the crowd and noise. There are also many traditional customs that need to be done on this day, and they usually happen in the temples. Sometimes walking down the streets, you can smell Zhongzi (rice cake wrapped in bamboo leaves) – the traditional food for the Festival.
Moon Festival is another important family holiday in Taiwan. It is August 15 on the lunar calendar. Moon cake is an important food for the day, as well as shaddocks. Barbeque has become another major activity for Taiwanese people on this day. Believe it or not, the tradition began with a TV commercial for Barbeque source. Basically, the idea for Moon Festival is getting together with family members and hanging out all day and then watch the moon at night. The moon should be the roundest and brightest of the year on this day and symbolize the wholeness. There are many legends about the moon in Taiwan. I remember when I was little, my grandparents usually tell the moon stories on this day and we will camp on our front yard where usually used for drying the grains.
In Taipei, there are many places are prominent for diverse reasons. People who traveled to Taiwan said they are must-sees. Visitors can use the public transportation system to get to all the following locations. The three must-see spots in Taiwan are Chiang Kai Shek Memorial Hall, The National Palace Museum and Longshan Temple.
Chiang Kai Shek Memorial Hall
Chiang Kai Shek is the first President of Taiwan. This monument is to display the honor and affection for him. The building is Chinese style with the white walls and blue roofs. There are exhibition rooms underneath the building where visitors can learn about his rich life. Soldiers on guard at the Memorial will change shifts every hour. The procedure also attracts tourists for photo shoot. Except from the main building, the whole area will function as a park for people who live in the neighborhood on a daily basis. In the morning, there will be people doing Tai Chi, learning folkdance and jogging. There are also beautiful gardens in the Memorial. In the afternoon, some families will come for a walk after a day at work, and some teenagers will come to skateboard or roller blades. Sometimes, there will be people in their wedding gowns taking picture at the Memorial.
In 1985, the Taiwanese government listed Longshan Temple as a national historical site. The Longshan Temple was finished in 1738 during the Ching dynasty. The Temple was built with three different halls. Currently, 24 different gods live in Longshan Temple to guard the nation. To serve the visitors better, except from the old temple, the new additions include the library, exhibition room, gardens and lighting system. Social service is available at the Longshan Temple; there are various programs to help the public because it receives a lot of donations each year. National Palace Museum.
Shihlin Night Market
One of the trademarks of Taiwan is the vendor food on the street. Many also said that Taiwan is a sleepless country. The development of the night market is the product causing by the factors. Usually it gets busy after 9 p.m. and lasts until 5 a.m. Night market is not only for eating but also shopping. I couldn’t think of any must-buy merchandise at the Shihlin Night Market because it has so many stores with all kinds of products. The center of the Night Market is the Yangming Cinema. The area includes Wenlin Road, Jeeho Road, Datong Road and Danan Road. I spent a lot of time, energy and money at Shihlin Night Market while I was in high school. My high school is only about 20 minutes away from the Night Market so my friends and I often hung out there after school. Another reason that I like about Shihlin Night Market better than other Night Markets in Taipei is because of its authenticity. Many other markets are restructured by the government to give them more organized looks, but I prefer the generic style. Many places here only accept cash so one time I spent all my money and had to walk to where my mom worked at and asked for a ride home!
Presidential Office is an important symbol for the people in Taiwan. It is a five-story structure built in European Renaissance style with a double court-yard plan. Important ceremonies are held in front of the building on the New Year’s Day and National Day. On non-holidays, the Office is open to the public from 9 a.m. to 12 p.m. On certain opening days, the Office is open from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. They are first Sunday of February, April, June, August and December. The opening day in October is usually the third Sunday because of the National Day. If you decide to come in on a regular day, taking photos is prohibited.
Yangmingshan National Park, founded in 1962, is a popular place all year. There is flower season in the spring, hiking season in the summer, maple season in the fall and hot spring season in the winter. On casual days, people will come for sunset and night view. Yanmingshan has extraordinary volcano landscapes. Together they bring about two million people to Yangmingshan each year.
Shing Tien Gong
The temple is located at the intersection of Mingchuan East Road and Sungjiang Road. The area is about 7,000 square meters. It is dedicated to the Kuan Yu, the God of War and the patron god of merchant. The temple signifies the harmonies in society and promotes Confucian and Buddhist beliefs. Many business people worship here as well as people in the entertainment business. When foreign celebrities come to Taiwan, they usually come to Shing Tien Gong too. Shing Tien Gong is also famous for not burning paper money because it causes air pollution so people use sweet rice cake to substitute this ritual. The rice cake tastes pretty good too!
Add: Taipei, No. 34, Guan Cheng Road
In Taiwan, singing is a pastime for all generations. KTV is a transformation of Karaoke; instead of singing on a stage in front of friends and some random people. KTV is done in the customers own rooms so there is more privacy if they feel a little uncomfortable to sing in public. Going to KTV is Taiwanese style of partying! The most famous KTV companies in Taiwan now are Cashbox KTV and Holiday KTV. While staying in your own room, you can order food and beverages or bring your own food to have a party here. They usually have tasty food with reasonable prices. My family sometimes goes together because we all love singing and being together. Now my uncle has his own Karaoke system at home so we don’t go as often, but with friends, we pay it a visit now and then. The Cashbox KTV and Holiday KTV Web sites do not provide information in other languages than Chinese, but many English and Japanese songs are available too. So if you are in Taiwan, try KTV and experience the Taiwanese lifestyle.
Peitou Hot Spring Museum
Taipei, No. 2, Zhong Shan North Road, Peitou District
Taipei, Chung San Road, Peitou District, next to Hisn Peitou Park
Peitou District has many hot spring restaurants. Usually, if you order food, using the hot spring is free. If you just want to use the utility, the cover charge is from NT$50 to NT$150 per person. Just to give visitors a rough idea about the prices, a dinner for four will cost about NT$800. Because the locations are in the mountains, the restaurants in the area offer special dishes. Hell Valley is famous for its sulfur scent. There are natural hot springs, but the temperature is over 100 degrees Celsius so my family used to go and boil eggs. For a hot spring bath, we often drive around the area and choose the one that looked good to us. Then, have a great dinner and take a relaxing hot spring bath!
Mao Kon Tea Houses
Tea is the most popular drink in Taiwan, and Mao Kon is a great place for tea and relaxation. It is not far away from the city, only about 30 minutes to an hour by bus from Taipei Railroad Station. I prefer to go at night with friends, make tea and hang out after a long day after work.
Qingxin Tea Garden
Qingxin Tea Garden is in the mountain of Muzha District. Visitors can ride the bus to the National Chengchi University and walk to Qingxin. Please follow the street signs, and find the Alley 38 and Alley 40. The garden is between the two alleys. Qingxin has a history of 14 years. Among all the places in Mao Kon, Qingxin is my favorite tea garden. Qingxin means a place to clear the heart. Located in the mountain, Qingxin gives the visitors an illusion like they have entered another world. My favorite tea is high mountain oolong. The first sip and the second sip taste so different and refreshing! My favorite dishes are lemon chicken soup and bamboo shoots and chrysanthemums soup with herbs. During the Spring Festival, people frequently emerge to Qingxin for the cherry blossom season. Tel: 29394050