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Checked into the Royal Biz Hotel on August 6th for 6 nights. They organised a car from the airport for NT$1400, which was handy after a long flight from London, although I was surprised by the authentic Bee Gees music coming out of the car radio. Staff at the check in desk were friendly and efficient, and the hotel room on the 7th floor was extremely clean, large and comfortable. The rain shower is excellent, and the TV features some western channels. The view was rubbish - just looking over the backs of other nearby appartment blocks. But the room was peaceful (no noisy guests) and the free wifi was fast. The Royal Biz is a 10 minute walk away from the nearest MRT station (feels longer in the mid-summer heat, but that's the clock time on my watch). Taipei has a 7-11 for essential supplies on every street corner. Breakfast was nice, if unspectacular, with a live egg-cooking station and a range of Western and Taiwanese foods. Overall I'd recommend this to the business traveller, but the sticky walk to the MRT might put some people off.
After purchasing an 'Easy Pass' from the MRT station (NT$200, half of which is a refundable deposit), the metro was a pleasant air conditioned experience. On my first day in Taipei I rode the MRT all the way to the end of the red line to the estuary of the Tamsui river to the city of Damshui. Don't fall for Lonely Planet's description of a fishing village, this place has lost the majority of any quaint charm it may have had. Walk the Old Street (food vendors, gift shops, large crowds), explore the riverside path, past the George Mackay statio and up to the 1642 Dutch Fort San Domingo and the adjacent Victorian British Consolate (both free to enter). I also found the small Qing dynasty Yinshan Temple near the MRT station, and was completely alone inside as I explored.
Travelling south on the metro from Damshui to Taipei, I got off at Guandu for the 15 minute walk to the Guandu Temple, a beautiful Taoist temple built into the side of a mountain overlooking the Tamsui river. Tunnels underneath the temple feature deities enshrined in multiple alcoves, and the steep steps to the mountain top give panoramic views over the stunning temple (with ornate dragons and animals on every roof) and the city of Taipei. You can also see across to the Guandu Nature Reserve (wild bird sanctuary). Overall extremely impressed.
First night out in search of food, walked south from the Royal Biz Hotel into the Shida district. Yongkang Street looked rather busy, and with plenty of eateries and shops. As a confirmed coward, I found a restaurant with a picture menu and spicy pork noodles, although I'll never be able to tell you the name of the restaurant.
Trip to the Longshang MRT station, and then a short walk to the temple itself. A reasonably small setting, but a pleasant half-hour diversion to sit observing the day-to-day happenings of the temple. Recommended, but only if you're passing by.
Fabulous open space in the heart of Taipei, with a grand sweeping plaza leading up the the memorial hall itself. The statue of Kai-Shek sits above a museum to his life (at the time I visited it wasn't all that obvious how to get in - head for the lifts down to the ground floor). Stand out exhibits were the sedans he used to get around in later life.
A huge, overwhelming museum that's best seen with a tour guide. I signed up for the free English tour, where only 6 of us were led around by an extremely knowledgeable guide. Know what you want to see before the guide asks, though, otherwise you could lose hours in the jade section of the museum!
Impressive tower, well worth the visit. Exhibits on the top floor describe the various views from the top of the skyscraper, and the engineering that went into making the structure sturdy to winds, earthquakes and other natural disasters. I went up there at sunset (hazy over Taipei after a rainstorm), and waited for the lights of the city to come on - highly recommended.
Near to the Taipei city hall, this memorial hall is talked-up in some tour books, but with no English signs and no well-defined attraction, I spent very little time here before moving on. Only visit if you're passing.
Superb day out in the southern suburbs of Taipei. Ride the MRT all the way south to the Taipei Zoo station, then use the EasyPass to ride the gondola up into the tea plantations on the hill side. Great half-hour ride with views of the rainforest below and the city skyline to the north. Then you can follow one of the numerous trails around the hillside through the plantations (bring plenty of water, it's extremely hot!), followed by lunch and endless locally-picked Oolong tea in one of the restaurants on the hillside. If you're lucky you'll get to see an incredible rainstorm engulf the city and Taipei 101, while you're cosy inside one of the tea huts. A great day out.
The largest and most famous of the night markets, I visited on my last night hoping for a culinary adventure. Sadly I found mostly clothing stalls, shoes, bags, and none of the authentic (or tacky!) gifts and trinkets that I was hoping for as a tourist. The food I tried was nothing special, I'd had far better meals in Taipei restaurants for similar prices. An interesting excursion for a wander, but nothing special.