Former Traveler researcher Emily Haile spent the past summer and fall in Taipei studying Mandarin, and she vividly described many of her Taiwan adventures in her blog, The Travel Telegraph. I came along vicariously on her excursions, and here are some of my favorites within an hour or so of the capital:
1. About 20 miles outside Taipei is Juifen, an old mining town with crooked streets, some of which are old mining tunnels, and it’s nicknamed the City of Steps for good reason.
Although today Juifen has a lively nightmarket and dozens of teahouses, the town nearly disappeared after the mining industry left. Moviemaking gave Juifen a second lease on life, when the epic film City of Sadness was filmed there in 1989. Now it’s considered a tourist town, but Emily saw only Japanese tourists, no Westerners, and her presence was such a novelty that several people wanted their photos taken with her.
2. One afternoon Emily’s new friend Fish drove her to the hotsprings at Yangmingshan National Park high above Taipei. They sampled pools of varying temperatures in the rain, and when it got dark they ate mushroom and tofu soup and steamed buns of many colors.
3. Danshui is a riverside town where Taipei families go on weekends. Emily traveled there by bicycle, and found that if you keep your eyes open and you’re not in a hurry, the journey can be as entertaining as the destination.
4. In Jinshan, about an hour outside Taipei on the spectacular north coast (“It’s like Route 1 in California!”), Emily discovered the Juming Museum with its extensive outdoor sculpture park, and on the way back stopped for cappuccino and lemon pound cake at a cafe overlooking the ocean.
Photo: Emily Haile