Taipei City is the capital of the beautiful subtropical island of Taiwan. The somewhat bike-friendly city has 4 inactive volcanoes bordering the downtown and lush landscapes with plenty of wildlife. Many people refer to Taiwan as The Bicycle Kingdom, mainly because the famous bicycle company Giant was founded in Taiwan and one of the country's main exports is bicycles.
Where to Go
If you need to step outside of the city for a quick reset in nature, hiking up Elephant Mountain is a great place for spectacular views of Tapei 101 and the city skyline with many winding paths and little chance of getting lost.
I also recommend visiting one of the city’s beautiful temples. Longshan is a popular destination for tourists and locals alike. If you are lucky enough to be in Taipei during Chinese New Year you will see the temples decorated with beautiful lanterns and you can listen to locals and monks chant traditional songs.
Yangmingshan National Park is relatively easy to get to on the city's inexpensive transit system though it takes a bit of navigating and asking for directions from locals. There are always flowers in bloom (no matter the season) and you can take a moment to relax near one of the park's sulphur waterfalls which are the most interesting shade of milky blue and not too smelly.
The Chiang Kai-shek Memorial Hall is also a large spectacular piece of architecture in the downtown core and a nice place to see some of the country's history.
Where to Stay
If you’re travelling on a budget the best option is to look for a hostel. Homey Hostel and Hostel 1949 are two modern and clean hostels located in downtown Taipei.
We stayed with Airbnb, which has plenty of options for rooms and whole houses or apartments so you can live just like a local while you’re staying in the city. Our spot was located right next to the Jianguo Holiday Flower and Jade Markets which are a must see for any traveller visiting the city.
Where to Eat
Luckily, we were travelling with friends who were serious about finding all of the best things to eat while travelling. Taipei is packed with excellent and inexpensive food choices but a word to the wise - plan ahead! Many restaurants close down between 2 and 4pm so that the staff can take a break to eat and rest between peak hours and many other spots close early in the evening.
Excellent places to get a quick bite to eat late at night are the many night markets scattered across the city. Try not to be put off by the smell of Stinky Tofu wafting through the streets (something that only the most adventurous travellers are willing to try). There are plenty of other delicious things to eat though! The night markets open in the early evening around dinner time and stay open until around midnight. Night markets are a great place to try interesting snacks like scallion pancakes, dumplings (so heavenly you will probably have to order seconds), sheets of warm pork jerky, and flattened fried chicken (the food stand with the longest line).
The Shilin night market is probably the most exciting market. It was packed full of people when we went late one Sunday evening. It’s a thrilling place with tons of shops, food spots, and excellent people watching.
Biking in Taipei
The most convenient way to bike around Taipei is the city’s popular bike share system, YouBike. Sign up at a station kiosk with a credit card or using the city’s metro Easycard and a local mobile phone number. You can rent a bike from one of 196 rental stations and use one of the system’s 6046 bikes. The rental cost is $0.42 CAD ($0.30 USD) for the first 30 minutes (up to four hours and then doubles beyond that). If you are familiar with other North American bikeshare systems like Sobi, Citibike, or Divvy you will notice that YouBike is a bit smaller and a little rougher-for-wear. I rode one for 12 miles one day though and I was comfortable enough.
The safest places to ride are the city’s 100km (62 miles) dedicated bike and walking river paths but many of the major streets have widely used bike paths on the sidewalk. Be careful to watch for cars and scooters when riding down the smaller alleys or roads (or anywhere really). Drivers in Taiwan do not necessarily give cyclists, other motorists, or pedestrians a lot of room.
If you are looking for a longer day ride into the mountains, the bicycle manufacturing company Giant (founded and based in Taiwan) has several stores in the city where you can prearrange to pick up a rental road bike. These rentals cost substantially more but are worth it if you're looking to do a longer ride. Each rental comes with lights, bike pump, tools and panniers.
Like all other places, it is impossible to imagine what it will be like until you visit. There is so much to do in Taipei that I know I'll have to go back another time!