I fell head over heels for Taiwan upon my visit in April this year. While I am convinced one could easily spend 10 days in Taipei alone and still find ways to entertain oneself thoroughly, this itinerary will guide you through a little taste platter on what is on offer in Taiwan.
This post will guide you through
notes on budgeting
a ten day itinerary completed with accommodation options and activities
— To keep this post a bit in the brief, most of the days have links to previous more diary-like entries with directions on how to get there and suggested vegan eateries along the way.
How is Taiwan for vegans?
With a long history of Buddhism in its backpack, you will be spoilt for choice when it comes to vegan establishments in Taipei. The city was even titled “Asia’s Most Vegan Friendly City” in 2016 by PETA. Food markets without any written menus might be a little trickier. I was lucky enough to have a Taiwanese friend help me translate. There are however plenty of useful nightmarket guides available online. You can also look out for these two signs above - indicating Vegetarian food - or try using the app Vegan Passport, that translates the concept of veganism into 78 different languages.
Like most of Asia, there will also be 7-Elevens scattered across the country. Even nested up in the national park of Taroko. You can always bunker up on snacks, steamed rice or steamed sweet potatoes at these.
EasyCard - this works like a suica-, myki- or oyster card more or less. You can purchase and top up your card at any railway station and it can be used on any mean of transport (including the Maokong Gondola!)
Pocket Wifi - while wifi in Taiwan is pretty much accessible whenever, having a pocket wifi was an absolute lifesaver for me as a vegan in Japan. Better safe than sorry (or hungry), was my reasoning. I rented with a company called Klook that is located at the airports terminals for pick up and return. At $2.7 a day it was definitely worthwhile for me.
Maps.Me - if you do not wish to splurge on a pocket wifi, the app Maps.me is well useful. It downloads local maps as soon as you have a valid internet connection and you can then use them offline.
HappyCow - no travel itinerary for vegans is complete without a mention of app HappyCow. Your guide of whatever vegan grub is available in your neighbourhood.
Notebook - Taiwan is HEAVEN for us who enjoy our journaling, as there are stamps with local motives to be used pretty much anywhere from hostel receptions, to starbucks, to train stations.
Daily Budget for accommodation, food + transportation
For 10 days in the country I ended up spending TWD4080 (£102) on dorm-style accommodation, TWD5290 (£132) on eating/coffeeing out, TWD 2399 (£60) on transportation.
The only activity I paid to do was the entry to Beitou Hot Springs (TWD40, £1). Counting the Maokong Gondola and Taroko Bus Pass under the “transportation” category.
— That comes down to a daily budget of about £30.
I would say, be a bit mindful at the night markets. I know it all seems dead cheap compared to a sit-down restaurant meal but with all the delights on offer it can easily accumulate into quite the price tag.
10 day slow travel itinerary Taiwan
Day 1: Arriving to Taipei, Ooh Cha Cha + explore Guting
After picking up the pocket wifi device and my bags at the airport terminal, I made my way to Eight Elephants & Dreaming Dragons - a hostel located in a secluded backstreet of the Guting area. Both staff and interiors of this small hostel was lovely. They have two dorms of 6 beds (dreaming dragons) as well as eight individual rooms (eight elephants).
Just a stone’s throw away from EE&DD you will find vegan restaurant Ooh Cha Cha. As it turned out it this evening would be the first of many visits for me, working my way through their many sandwiches and bowls.
Day 2: Chiang Kai-shek Memorial Hall, Maokong Gondola and Ximending Night Market
Starting the morning off with a bit of sightseeing. Make your way to the Memorial Hall of Chiang Kai-shek - a huge complex to honour the former Chinese president with the same name. If you are into men flaunting guns about, you might be lucky to arrive in time for the frequent guard swap of C.K.S. statue. Personally, I am more into dumplings so I head to minimalistic restaurant of Tai Lai for lunch.
Fed and satisfied, it is time to take the MRT out to Taipei Zoo. From there you can catch the gondola (some with glass floors so you can see the tree tops right at your feet!) up to Maokong; an area known for its tea cultivation. Enjoy an (expensive!) cuppa while adoring the sights over Taipei.
In time for dinner, head to Ximending - the “Harajaku” of Taipei. There is a night market on (of course there is, you are in Taipei) but to be on the safe (vegan) side - look out for Chuan Zhen Vegetarian. A restaurant located in a tiny back alley that offers typically Taiwanese dishes like hot pots and sizzling plate noodles in veggie versions.
Day 3: Day trip to Hscinchu and 'Tour Me Away'
Get an early morning train from Taipei Main Station out to Hscinchu. This is definitely a bit off the tourist trail, but I so recommend a visit to secluded Pu Tian Temple. Its garden houses an absolute abundance of statues from all parts of the world. There is no end to the things you will find here!
If you have more time to spend in town, there is also a gorgeous amusent park called Leofoo Village Theme Park.
In the evening, I met up with my friend Alice that has planned for us to do a city walk with donation-based Tour Me Away. This was definitely a pleasant surprise for me, one that I would highly recommend! We did the Longshan Temple Tour (<— A temple you absolutely must visit in the night time, the way that it sparkles!) Real interesting with local, English-speaking guides showing you around the ancient neighbourhood of Wanhua before ending up at one of the nearby night markets. Depending on the night of the week, there are different tours on offer.
Day 4: Spirited Away in Jiufen and Keelung Night Market
Jiufen is an old colonial seaside town. Studio Ghibli fans might recognise it as the backdrop of Spirited Away. The thing you must really prep yourself for here are the crowds. The tiny Old Street is packed with tourists arriving by the bus load, walking through it feels like walking through town during Christmas rush. If you are staying in Jiufen over night I would advise you to head out after 9pm as most of the tour buses will have departed by then. We stayed at hostel On My Way Jiufen.
If weather permits there are some nice hikes to be done around the town. I got Tea Pot Mount recommended to me by a guy in Taipei, but when Alice and I went it was too misty for any hiking activities. Instead we had tea in one of the many tea houses on the “shelf” of Jiufen.
As night falls, make your way to Keelung for its foodie night market. For fellow vegans, keep your eyes peeled for this food stall. The two signs read "vegetarian" and "food", and it is on a DIY basis that you make your own soup.
Day 5: Houtong Cat Village and Shifen Waterfall
Houtong should be on the itinerary of any crazy cat lady. You can read more about this adventure in this post. Continue on the same train line to arrive at Shifen - titled 'the Niagara falls of Taiwan'. Of course, they are a little bit more modest than the Niagara, yet it is the broadest waterfall in all of Taiwan.
From here you can either continue to Hualien or return back to Jiufen another night. I prefered the latter so I would not have to carry my backpack around while exploring Houtong and Shifen.
— Read more: A Cat Village called Houtong.
Day 6 + 7: Hualien + Taroko NP
Make the journey from Jiufen down to Hualien. Depending on if you get the fast or regular train it will take about 2,5-3,5hrs (not a huge difference if you ask me). I stayed at Mini Voyage which might just be the nicest hostel I have ever stayed at, merely a few minutes walk from the train station, super sleek look to it and felt very private despite sharing room with 5 others.
While Hualien is full of quirky coffee shops, the main reason travellers go down here is to explore the marble wonders of Taroko Gorge.
— Read more: A Day in Taroko (or ‘why they call it Gorge-ous’)
Day 8: Return to Taipei - Elephant Mount/Taipei 101/Vegan Heaven
Make your way back to the buzzing, green capital. After dropping the bags of at the hostel, head out to Taipei 101/WTC on the MRT. Pick up the vegan version of the traditional pineapple cake (or some other plantbased delight!) at Vegan Heaven before taking the MRT to its last stop on the red line Xiangshan. From here, follow the signs leading up to Elephant Mount. It is a steep walk up the hill (bring plenty of water!) but you will be rewarded with gorgeous views over the city skyline.
Day 9: Beitou Hot Springs/Vege Creek
After all this exploring, time to relax at the hot springs in Beitou. Once back in the city, seek out one of the Vege Creek restaurants around. It is basically a DIY soup concept - you grab a little shopping cart, fill it with whatever ingredients you fancy and bring it to the counter where they cook it up to a soup. And don’t worry, all that wrapping is made from biodegradable material!
— Read more: A day trip to Beitou
Day 10: Departure time
All good things come to an end, and that unfortunately includes a holiday in Taiwan. But fear not, best to start plotting your next visit already en route to the airport. I sure did!
Have you been to Taiwan?
If so, do you have any gems to add to the list?
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