Taipei, Taiwan

Taiwan is a small island nation 180km east of China with modern cities, traditional Chinese temples, hot springs resorts and dramatic mountainous terrain. Taipei is it’s capital up North. I was in Taipei for over 2 months to learn mandarin, ended up falling in love with the place so visited a year later making it extremely difficult for me to narrow down my top recommendations! But here goes nothing:

In Taipei:

  1. Climb Xiang Shan for a view of Taipei, in particular of the 101 tower. Of course, why not do this and watch sunset! Tip: Don’t pay to go up the tower, book your place in Starbucks for a free view since you just pay for your drink.
  2. Visit Yang Ming Shan both in the day and at night and have a meal up top, but be sure to book in advance as it always gets busy. Ride a scooter if you dare to, everyone has a bike in Taiwan!
  3. Visit Chiang Kai Shek Memorial, National Palace Museum and Sun Yat-Sen Memorial Hall. These are significant places and beautiful grounds. You can even see dancers practicing around the buildings if you’re lucky. I love how their government is extremely open about arts, culture and hip-hop.
  4. Taiwan is extremely famous for its night markets, my favourites in Taipei being Shilin night market and Roehe night market. Enjoy all the hawker foods, different types of noodles and make sure you try their mango ice dessert.
  5. Continuing on about food, try their most famous bubble tea in Gong Guan night market with the delicious Gua Bao (pork bao) stall opposite and also try the 2h buffet style Ma La hotpot!

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  6. The Chinese course I did was through the mandarin learning centre at National Taipei Normal University. However, my mandarin improved by joining HRC dance school where I got to interact with the locals on a day-to-day basis. If you’re into dancing, I highly recommend their studio which has two locations in Taipei. And of course, catch all the dance related camps/festivals/competitions that go on!
  7. Visit the upside down house in Hua Shan creative park which also has other exhibitions you can visit e.g. where is wally.
  8. Visit Yi Lan beach where I first tried surfing!13557666_10155269511323849_597601209174748538_n
  9. Visit Ying Ge famous for its pottery
  10. If you are into hiking, you’re visiting the right place. There are so many trails with amazing views and waterfalls in a lot of the places. 13615417_10155278469828849_3243686137910364284_n
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    绢丝瀑布, 冷水坑 & 擎天岗

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    Shifen Waterfall

Please see my other post about things to do outside of Taipei which are all accessible from Taipei, especially with their high speed rail system.

Ha Noi, Vietnam

Hanoi, the capital of Vietnam, is known for its centuries-old architecture and a rich culture with Southeast Asian, Chinese and French influences. At its heart is the chaotic Old Quarter, where the narrow streets are roughly arranged by trade. And I thought Ho Chi Minh was chaotic…

Heads up: Most restaurants had very low tables and stools, especially if you want to try local options, so if you’re a tall person, be prepared!

  1. Take a cyclo tour within the old quarter to understand the general structure, go around the main Hoan Kiem lake
  2. Try a food and walking tour. What better way than to get a local guide to take you to all the famous restaurants, covering all types of Vietnamese foods. I would suggest coming with an empty stomach because they are so generous with the portions and you have about 7 meals on the tour! http://www.hanoistreetfoodtour.com/
  3. Visit Ha Long Bay where you take a cruise trip to view a scatter of islands, towering limestone pillars and eroded grottoes.
  4. As part of your Ha Long Bay tour, you should stop by an organisation that helps disabled people who were affected by the chemical agent orange, come back into the work place through art. Here you can purchase some of their work to support them. 17201112_10156208050643849_2342946739179711639_n
  5. Visit Trang An caves in Ninh Binh Province. You can enjoy the traditional rowboats along the Sao Khe River through limestone caves and watch your boat rower do it with their feet! 19340123_10156614872953849_533667555_o19340067_10156614872913849_1093316059_o