Taiwan is no stranger to Singaporeans, and there is no doubt that Singaporeans love to travel to this beloved beautiful island. Ask any Singaporean about Taiwan and he or say will probably say they have been to Taiwan more than once. When it comes to popular holiday destinations within Asian, Taiwan definitely tops the list of Singaporean’s favorite countries.
Less than 5 hours away by plane from Singapore, the favorable geographical location makes it easy for Singaporeans to visit Taiwan any time. Suffice to say, most people will be familiar with the usual must-visit places for tourists such as Taipei 101, Xi Men Ding, and Shilin Night Market in the capital. But if you are feeling adventurous and want to explore the lesser-known areas of Taiwan, you are in for a treat! I say treat because for what I will be sharing in this post some locals might not be even aware that such places exist. Here are some hidden gems of Taiwan you might want to include in your itinerary when planning a trip to Taiwan.
Meeting our Taxi Driver Mr. Matthew Wu
We ‘randomly’ caught Matthew’s taxi at Raohe Night Market to go back to our hotel. In his 7 seaters MPV Toyota Wish, I saw his photo gallery on his ASUS Tablet, and he is such a fantastic photographer. We briefly chatted, and I found out that he will help to take photos for you (almost like your personal photographer). I love all his pictures, and I told my boyfriend, “Yes, this is it. We should hire him to bring us around Taiwan.” His rate is very reasonable at NT4000 for a full-day tour with photography services. I had an excellent feeling that we will have a great time touring around Taiwan with him. True enough, he really surprised us.
Wei-Shui Hill 「渭水之丘」
On the first day, Matthew picked us up at our hotel in Xinyi District at 9.30am. He brought us to the first stop Wei-Shui Hill 「渭水之丘」, located in the Cherry Blossom Cemetery 「櫻花陵園」in Yilan county, Taiwan. I was wondering why we are here in a cemetery during the Chinese Hungry Ghost month. I can see why when we reach the latest famous hotspot「鷹石尖2.0」to capture Instagram worthy pictures.
After all, we have traveled for more than an hour on the road from Taipei to Yilan. If you did not share a photo of it on Instagram, were you even really there? This is definitely an Instagram worthy spot for your next cool picture.
Need I say more about our taxi driver’s skills? We did not have an itinerary for our Taiwan trip, and we are so lucky to meet him. He is truly a gem, and we can leave all these tedious planning to him. He knows where are the cool and unusual places to visit in Taiwan. More often than not, I am in such amazement, that you sure we are in Taiwan and not somewhere else?
Taiwan has a variety of themed restaurants and each with unique characteristics to itself. If you are ever in Yilan, you may want to visit A.maze兔子迷宫咖啡餐厅 to bring your dining experience to the next level of fun!
Just as its name suggests, you will first be greeted with these plush rabbit toys when you step into the café. Everything is the café is cuteness overload. It is a great place to explore together with your family and friends.
Surprisingly for a themed restaurant, the food is delicious! The serving is generous, the cafe is a perfect stop to refuel your energy before making way to the next Instagram worthy destination.
Cape Santiago Lighthouse 「三貂角灯塔」
This is all I want to do with you forever.
Another excellent photography spot is Cape Santiago Lighthouse 「三貂角灯塔」. Built in 1935 by the Japanese, Cape Santiago Lighthouse is one of the essential beacons around the Pacific area. The lighthouse has also earned the beautiful name of “Taiwan’s Eye.” The vast blue ocean, along with the pristine white lighthouse makes this place a perfect romantic photography spot for couples.
Releasing Sky Lanterns at Shifen「十分」
Writing our wishes on the Sky Lantern
A bucket list activity that I wanted to do in Taiwan was releasing sky lanterns in Shifen. I have heard so much, but I have never been to Shifen until this trip. Shifen is the less famous sibling of Jiufen, smaller but yet attractive in its own ways. The alluring old-school charms have made the quaint little town an equally worthy place of interest.
May all our wishes come true!
When in Shifen, releasing sky lantern is a must-do activity. There is plenty of shops in Shifen selling sky lanterns and each sky lantern cost between NT$150 to NT$200. Releasing the sky lantern is believed to be as a form of good luck. Like everyone, we wrote our wishes in Chinese and released the lantern to the skies.
Breakfast at Jin Feng Braised Pork Rice「金峰魯肉飯」
If you search for “Best Braised Pork Rice in Taipei” on google, Jin Feng Braised Pork Rice 金峰魯肉飯 will be one of the top listings. Jin Feng Braised Pork Rice is a popular Lu Rou Fan (魯肉飯) eatery in Taipei, and some say is “the best.” You cannot miss having the famous local Lu Rou Fan when you are in Taiwan.
The pork meat is flavorful and soft, and the sauce spread into the rice well. The Lu Rou Fan is sinfully delicious. All in all, this was good, but not the best. I am still hoping to find that bowl of Lu Rou Fan that can WOW me.
The environment at this eatery is a little chaotic. There is a bad smell and is quite filthy. This is definitely not the place to be if you are looking for something classy and clean. The business is good, and you can see many tourists from Japan coming here to try this local delicacy.
Hiking the Mt. Xiaozi Trail「孝子山」
If you will like to get your adrenaline pumping, there is a great activity to do when you are in Pingxi, and that is hiking the Mt. Xiaozi Trail. There are three peaks to climb - Xiaozi Mountain (孝子山), Cimu Mountain (慈母山), and Putuo Mountain (普陀山).
I really did not expect to scale a
mountain, and that explains why I am not in workout clothes. However,
spontaneous me is enough. Climbing Mt. Xiaozi is not seemingly effortless as it
seems. We had to climb up the steep flight of stone steps to ascent to the
The most thrilling route when climbing Mt. Xiao is the final ascent to the peak on the suspended steel ladder. This was also when I begin to feel overwhelmed with anxiety, but at the same time, I was determined to reach the top. If you are like me with fear of heights, do not try to look down the sides of the cliff. Once we were at the top, we can see the other two peaks nearby and the vast green valley of Pingxi.
Cycling through Fulong Old Caoling Tunnel「舊草嶺隧道」
The Old Caoling tunnel was built in the 1920s to connect northern Taiwan with the eastern coast by rail. It is now used as a tourist-friendly bikeway, and the bicycle rentals are very cheap. We rented the electric bicycles to ride through the 2,167-meter long tunnel.
Riding through the tunnel, you can hear this familiar Taiwanese folk song, “Diu Diu Tong” (丟丟銅), broadcast by the tourism authorities. You will love the rustic charm, and inside the tunnel, the lamps are equipped with oil lamp shades to create a vintage atmosphere. I have cycled in many countries, but this is my first time cycling through a tunnel. The tunnel is cooling, and with the Taiwanese folk song playing in the background, I felt that we were transported back to the past.
One interesting sight about this Old Caoling tunnel is the gateway to Yilan county. I find it amusing to be crossing New Taipei City to Yilan County underground. The ride is fun and nostalgia. What better way to experience the past than to cycling through this Old Caoling tunnel.
Elephant Truck Rock「象鼻岩」
The Elephant Truck Rock is about 5km east of Keelung City and is one of the popular photography destinations in Taiwan. The giant rock formation looks like an elephant drinking from the water. Be careful as the rock surface can be slippery. There are cases of people falling to their deaths, and visitors are no longer allowed to climb uphill onto the top of Elephant Truck Rock.
Surrounding the Elephant Truck Rock is the mushroom rock galore, there is a lot of photography opportunities to take some creative cool shots.
Zhengbin Fishing Port「正濱漁港」
A must-visit Instagram worthy spot is Zhengbin Fishing Port. I personally think this fishing port has striking similarities to the Italian island of Burano. I have always wanted to visit Burano and this is the closest I could get. The houses are painted in bright colourful colors and yet seemingly coordinating. Do not miss out on checking Zhengbin Fishing Port to stir up some Instagram envy!
Agenna Shipyard Relics「阿跟那造船厂」
Another Instagram hotspot to check out is Agenna Shipyard Relics. Agenna Shipyard is next to Heping Bridge that connects Keelung and Heping Island. This place has been abandoned for years and attracted many photography enthusiasts to sneak in for some great shots. The famous Hollywood star Captain America Chris Evans has come here to shoot commercials revealing this dilapidated ruin to the world.
The ‘Hollywood’ Keelung Sign
When our driver Matthew said, he is going to bring us to the “Hollywood” in Keelung, the first thing that came to my mind - It must be seeing those iconic Hollywood-style letters on a hill. My instincts were right, we went up to a hill overlooking Keelung Port. The ‘Hollywood’ Keelung sign is one of the significant landmarks in the port city.
This is a great place for a little bit of seclusion on the peak of a bustling city. The location is also incredibly scenic to bring your date for a romantic night that will not break the bank. Having a romantic evening with your loved one does not always mean dining at the fanciest restaurants.
There are times I will also like to have a simple meal with my boy. It is the person who is with me that truly matters. We enjoyed a hearty Lu Rou Fan dinner together which we bought from Miaokou Night Market that is close by. Somehow I felt that it is extra special to dig in our dinner at the top of Keelung Sign than our usual expensive dinner dates.
Yangmingshan National Park「陽明山國家公園」and Datunshan View Point「大屯山」
Our driver has a pocketful of surprises, and it is a surprise after surprise. When you thought maybe he has no more tricks up his sleeves, there is yet another better surprise. I never know that there are such magnificent panoramic views on Datunshan’s viewpoint in Yangmingshan National Park. Datunshan viewpoint is where you can see Taipei city from above but only when there are clear skies and perfect visibility. This hidden Datunshan's viewpoint is more than 1000 meters above the city.
Seeing the beautiful night scenery is an unforgettable and memorable way to end our trip in Taiwan. I had a wonderful time with my boy, and this was also our very first YOLO trip together without an itinerary. The reasons why I cover up my boyfriend’s face are because firstly, he leads a very private life and has zero social media footprints. Secondly, he is not as comfortable like me in sharing his photographs on public space like social media. Thirdly, I love adorable piggy-related things, and so I used this pig face emoji.
From this picture, you can possibly tell that it is a challenging route up to Datunshan, the highest road elevation in greater Taipei. I will strongly recommend hiring our taxi driver Matthew if you want to see the views of the Pacific Ocean and Taipei City.
I do not receive any benefits for sharing his contact details, but I felt that he deserves more attention from Singaporean tourists traveling to Taiwan. He is truly a gem to find in Taiwan, 100% dedicated to his work, and super friendly to talk to. We will never know that we can enjoy our holiday in Taiwan in such a way without our local driver Matthew planning this fantastic itinerary. He has gone the extra miles to work overtime without asking for any additional charges. Wow, where to find such a good driver? Thank you, Matthew! You are awesome!
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