Nature Scenic Spots
Xinbeitou – Yangming Moutain Hotsprings Area (MRT Tamsui Line)
Living in Xinbeitou, I am fortunate enough to have one of Taipei’s most prominent natural scenic points right in my backyard: Yangmingshan National Park. Overlooking Beitou, the park consists of several wooded mountain peaks, populated with hiking trails, historical sites, and of course, hot-spring spa resorts. In terms of hiking, the highlight is climbing Mount Qixing, the park’s highest peak; this route takes about two hours to hike. The top offers a spectacular view of the Taipei basin to the south and the sea to the north. A historical highlight of the park isYangmingshuwu, one of Chiang Kai-shek’s official residences, which is open to tours. Built in 1970, it became Chiang’s last residence as his health deteriorated.
A short 20 minute walk from Yangmingshuwu is Yangming Park, a popular site that features Yangmingshan’s famed flower gardens; in particular, springtime’s cherry blossoms attract countless tourists to admire the park’s natural beauty. Other highlights in the park are the Juansi Waterfall and the Lengshuikeng natural hot springs.
The latter are free, but bathers are expected to be naked. If you plan to splurge, Yangmingshan Park also offers luxury hot spring resorts like the Landis Resort, where one can either spend an evening or even just rent a private room for a few hours. If you don’t want to spend a lot of money, you can always return to Xinbeitou, which features outdoor public hot springs, known as the Millenium Hot Springs, for only 40 NTD per person. After a day of hiking, relaxing in the soothing waters is a welcome experience.
Lengshuikeng natural hot springs Juansi Waterfall
Muja Maokong Gandola (MRT Brown Line)
Maokong, a looming valley at the southeastern edge of Taipei, is another site well worth visiting. Maokong is well-known for its tea houses and picturesque views of the Taipei night skyline. The Maokong Gondola cable car allows visitors to travel between Maokong, Zhinan Temple, and Taipei Zoo.
Zhinan Temple is a religious complex that brings together elements of Taoist, Confucian, and Buddhist traditions, and it features an eclectic pantheon of deities and saints. Some of the most significant parts of Zhinan are the Lingxiao Shrine (the first one encounters after entering), the Chunyang Shrine (the complex’s original place of worship), and the Daxiong Hall, the largest stupa which features golden statues of the Buddhas. Maokong Valley itself is sprinkled with charming traditional tea houses.
Yuanxuyuan and the Yaoyue Teahouse are two of the best ones. These days, Maokong’s tea industry is more tourism-driven than production-driven, but sitting with a steaming pot of Tieguanyin or Baozhong oolong tea and admiring the Taipei basin below is an indelible experience of Taiwan.
New Taipei City
New Taipei City also offers several day trip possibilities for hiking enthusiasts. My personal favorite is Chahu (Teapot) Mountain nearby the old gold-mining towns ofJinguashi and Jiufen. The towns themselves are interesting historically—Jinguashi features the Gold Ecological Park, a complex that includes several Japanese occupation-era gold mining buildings and museums.
Visitors can even touch the world’s largest bar of gold, which weighs 220 kg. But the highlight is the hike up Chahushan, offering a breathtaking view of the area’s twisting hills opening up onto the Pacific Ocean. Due to the area’s past mining operations, the bay is sprinkled with rock sediments that appears in golden brown streaks across the water’s surface, a beautiful (albeit polluting) sight that distracts somewhat from the peak’s otherwise natural appeal. Still, between the gold mining historical sights and the relatively easy hike, Jiufen and the surrounding area deserves a place on your itinerary.
1. Huasha n Cultural Park
One of my favorite places to go in Taipei is the Huashan Cultural Park. Every weekend, there seems to be a brand new exhibit there. Moreover, there’s a bunch of little coffee shops as well as souvenir shops that are fun to peek in to.
2. Tourist Spots
Of course, you have the go-to tourist destinations like Taipei 101 (it’s hard to find a better view of the layout of Taipei), the National Palace Museum (I find this absolutely fascinating, though it is admittedly overwhelmingly large), Chiang Kai-Shek Memorial Hall (be sure to catch the changing of the guard. And if you haven’t brushed up on your history relating to Taiwan/CKS, do so before coming here… I find the place more fascinating when I consider how CKS actually ruled Taiwan).
One place that might not be in your sights is the Taipei Fine Arts Museum. I personally find this to be a really cool place… They change their exhibits periodically, and each one brings its own character to the museum. I highly recommend checking it out. If you like it the first time, try checking the website to see when they have new exhibits.
Taipei Fine Arts Museum Chiang Kai-Shek Memorial Hall
I think my favorite temple that I have seen in Taiwan has got to be the one near my school, Longshan Temple. This was bombed out during the Second World War and rebuilt (renovated?) thereafter. It is a really cool place with a neat fountain. The surrounding area is interesting to see because there are a bunch of cheap clothes sold in the area, and there is a large community of older Taiwanese people who go there to play Chinese chess or try their luck at the lotto. It’s worth seeing, if only to walk through it. A very interesting cultural sight.