The small island nation of Taiwan, perhaps best known for its tense relationship with neighboring Mainland China, may well be one of the most overlooked and underrated travel destinations in Asia. Taipei, the bustling capital city of nearly three million people, has some of the best shopping opportunities around. Whether you're a seasoned luxury shopper on the hunt for the next designer handbag or a budget traveler with a knack for bargain hunting in the chaos of sprawling outdoor markets, Taipei has it all.
But the city is more than just hustle and bustle. Taipei and the surrounding mountains are home to many geothermal hot springs. Weary backpackers laze away in the public springs while luxury travelers can enjoy the many world-class spas and resorts catering to Taiwanese and foreigners alike. Drawing from the rich Chinese culinary tradition, Taipei serves up some of the best of what China has to offer as well as its own signature flavors. As tourism begins to thrive, the city is quickly becoming a foodie's paradise with high quality international and fusion food popping up all over the city. Some of the best bites aren't found in restaurants, but in the street vendor stalls peppered throughout the city.
As the day draws to a close, the city comes to life as the youth head out to the swanky lounges and chic night clubs offering the VIP experience and some of the best entertainment around. Small jazz bars tucked down quiet alleyways or thrumming, strobe-lit dance floors equal a nightlife experience to rival Shanghai or Tokyo. Just a stone's throw from one of the most wired cities in the world, you'll find the lush woods and mountains of the country's many national parks. Mountain biking, coastal rock climbing, trekking… all on the Northern coast of Taiwan, just outside the capital.
While Southeast Asia may get all the glory when it comes to beaches, the coasts of Taiwan offer the same white sands and crystal clear waters without the hordes of backpacking tourists. Fulong Beach on the northeast coast offers windsurfing and sailing, while Kenting in the south is perfect for a whole range of water sports, including scuba diving. Head out by boat to some of Taiwan's outlying islands and you'll have stretches of sand all to yourself.
Beitou: The northwestern district of Beitou is home to a majority of Taipei's hot springs, including the famous Hell Valley sulfur pits. Nearby Yang Ming Shan National Park is a great place to go hiking before or after your soak in the springs.
Datong: Datong district has long been home to merchants hailing from Europe and China. Today, this district maintains that atmosphere of old China with its many temples and traditional shops selling dried goods and herbal medicines.
Shilin: Home to the Shilin night market, this district straddles the Keelung River and is home to many expats and international schools.
Zhongshan: "Zhong" means "middle" in Chinese, and the Zhongshan district splits the city in half. Here you'll find one of the biggest red light districts, as well as an assortment of more G-rated bars and shops.
Wan Hua: Wan Hua, the oldest district of Taipei, is also home it its oldest temple, Longshan and well as the bustling XiMen Ding shopping area and Snake Alley.
Songshan: The commercial center of Taipei, Songshan district houses all the big corporate headquarters as well as a sizable expat population and plenty of international restaurants.
Zhongzheng: The political district of Taipei has many of the city's most famous landmarks, including the National Theater and Concert Hall, 2-28 Memorial Peace Park and the Chiang Kai-Shek Memorial Hall.
Da'an: Da'an district is quickly becoming the place to be at night in the city. Many of Taipei's best clubs, bars and international restaurants make their homes in Da'an.
Xinyi: The Xinyi district houses some of the newer residential and commercial development in the city. The Mitsukoshi and New York New York department stores are located in Xinyi, as well as the Warner Village movie complex.
10 Zhongxiao East Road Sec. 5
Sec. 5 Xinyi District
No. 8-2, Lane 40, Sec. 3, Zhinan Rd.
Chung Shan North Road, Section 4,Taipei,111
B1 #177 Heping E. Rd Sec. 1