Taiwan is one of my all-time favourite countries, but what exactly is it about Taiwan that keeps me going back time and again? Y’all know that I like to stray off the beaten path a little when I can, and Scoot has challenged me to head back to Taiwan and unearth some of the most unique things to do in and around Taipei, all of which I will document in a series of blog posts and videos right here on The Occasional Traveller.
First up – some cool things to do in and around Taipei during the hot summer months. Many people avoid summer in Taiwan because it get so darn hot, but there are some things that are just better to do in summer. In this trip I checked out Taipei 台北, New Taipei City 新北市 as well as Yilan 宜蘭 for some interesting summer activities.
Watch the video to see what I got up to, and scroll down to see all the details in the blogpost to plan your own trip:
Follow the hashtag #TaiwanderingWithScoot on Instagram to stay updated on my travels in real-time and see what I discover while travelling around Taipei. First time travelling to Taipei? Check out the must-see highlights in my guide to Taipei in 48 hours.
Scoot has multiple flights to Taipei everyday as well as to Kaohsiung in the south 3-4 times a week.
Unique things to do during summer in Taipei and its surrounding areas
That’s not to say that you can’t do some of these things in other seasons, but some of these are either only open during the hotter months or are just best done when it’s warm.
Here’s a handy menu to help you navigate and a Google map to help orientate you.
- Yilan: Guishandao 龜山島 / Turtle Island – hike up to 401 peak
- Yilan: Nanfangao 南方澳 – eat super-fresh seafood
- New Taipei City: Wanli 萬里 – Paragliding with Mustang Paragliding Club
- New Taipei City: Wanli 萬里 – UFO Village aka abandoned Futuro Houses
- Taipei City: Datong 大同 – Local food experience Cisheng Temple Beer Garden
- Taipei City: Wanhua 萬華 – Rejuvenated spaces at Dongsanshui Market / U-Mkt
- Taipei City: Datong 大同 – Local night market at Yansan Night Market
- Where to stay: My personal budget private room recommendations for Taipei and Yilan
- Taipei in the summer
- Plan your trip with Scoot
Visit Taiwan’s only active volcanic island – Guishandao 龜山島 / Turtle Island
Turtle Island gets its name obviously because it looks like a turtle from certain angles, though it’s not quite apparent from where we started our journey at Wushi Harbour 烏石港. Guishandao is a volcanic island and possibly the only active volcano in Taiwan (last erupted in 1785). It is also home to over 300 species of flora and fauna and was once a military base as well, though it is currently uninhabited – the last villagers moved out in the 1970s, and there is restricted access to the island.
As the boat rounded the island to where the turtle’s ‘head’ is, we hit a patch of water where the dark blue sea water started turning a very milky light blue, accompanied by the smell of slightly rotten egg in the air. These are more signs of volcanic activity – the result of hot spring waters bubbling up under the seabed and mixing with the colder sea water. It produces an effect the Taiwanese called the Yuanyang sea 鸳鸯海 and while I thought it was quite an impressive sight from the boat, it is best seen from the top of the 401 Peak on the island which is where we were headed to.
The 401 peak is the top of the turtle’s ‘shell’, as its name implies it stands a lofty 401m high and takes a grand total of 1,706 steps to reach the peak. Now I’ve technically climbed mountains higher than this, but the humidity definitely wore me out – I was one of the slowpokes that took about 1.5 hours to make it to the top. The path to the top is made of concrete steps and is quite well maintained so seasoned climbers (like the group of mountaineering-loving uncles in my tour group) should have no problem getting to the peak quickly.
My advice is to pace yourself as it’s hot, but ascend as quickly as you can as the 401 peak can be pretty foggy especially towards the later part of the day. The peak was nice and cool but crazy foggy when I finally reached, so sadly I missed out on the spectacular 360 view of the yuanyang sea and the green stretch of the turtle’s head, but one of the nice mountaineering uncles shared his video with me so you can see what it’s like. Getting the view involves a bit of luck as well – the fog apparently came down just a few minutes before I made it up.
After the climb down (ouch my calves were still aching days later), we took the next hour to tour the old village area near port which is at the turtle’s tai, checking out the temple, some of the old stone houses and a military post complete with cannon. There is also a brackish reservoir of sorts that we walked around, and a natural cold spring that supposedly has beautifying waters, before finally heading back to the boat and sailing back to Wushi Harbour.
Why visit Guishandao in Summer?
Guishandao is open for visitors from 1 March to 30 November, 9am- 5pm, but Summer season from June to August offers slightly extended hours 8.30am- 5.30pm. Wednesdays are reserved for schools and academic institutions, and the island sees much more visitors on weekends, so pick a weekday to visit if you can. Bring your passport with you for verification purposes.
How to get to Guishandao
Guishandao is best visited from the Wushi Harbour located in Toucheng 頭城, the northern tip of Yilan. Take the train to Waiao station and walk along Waiao beach to the Marina, or take a Kuokuang bus from Taipei bound for Luodong/Yilan and stop at Da’ao stop.
My tour was a combination of Island Landing + 401 Peak Climb – the 401 Peak climb requires an additional permit on top of the Guishandao island landing permit (with just 100pax allowed per day) and takes most of the day, starting from about 9am and ending about 3.30pm. This tour cost me 1,500 NTD (~S$70)
You can check out the permit numbers available for each day on the government’s NEYC website and even make your own permit booking (after you figure out all the things you have to click), but ultimately you still need to find a boat operator, so in the end it was easier to go through my Yilan guesthouse lady who helped me book the tour with Wushi Chuanqi 烏石傳奇號 directly and they settled the permits for me. This other website has some English and looks like it might be useful but I don’t have personal experience with it.
Indulge in the freshest seafood – Nanfang’ao 南方澳
During my last trip to Yilan, I visited the Su’ao Cold Spring in the south, but sadly it’s undergoing some major renovation this time around so I didn’t get to have my cold soak, instead I spent more time in nearby Nanfang’ao, a little fishing harbour along the coast with a reputation for super-fresh seafood thanks to the abundance of sea life in the deep waters around the area.
The Nanning Fish Market 南宁鱼市场 along Neipi Road is a great way to people watch and get a feel for local life – it’s most busy in the afternoons around 2-4pm when the fishing boats come in with their catches, and there are rowdy fish auctions. I reached a little late around 4-5pm, but there was still lots of seafood for sale, and the best part is that there is a restaurant right in the market itself that you can bring your freshly bought fish to and they will cook it for you for a very small cost.
Alternatively, there are plenty of seafood restaurants around the Yugang road area that you can check out as well. I was recommended to check out Chuncheng Seafood 春成海鮮, a small restaurant that has its own fishing boat and their own stash of live seafood everyday. I got to pick out my fish with the help of the restaurant lady – ordering seafood for just one person is always a little sad – but I got to eat a really freshly steamed Honghou (translates into Red Throat, I don’t know what the actual name is in English) fish and two great fish balls cooked in a soup alongside a braised mince meat rice bowl or luroufan for just NTD 350 (about S$15) which I thought was pretty good value and super tasty and fresh to boot.
BONUS: Look for Natural 天然手作,a little shop that serves up organic handmade ice cream and drinks. On weekends, they have the bizarre Squid Ink ice cream which is all black and spooky, but sadly I was there on a weekday so I had to make do with the much safer (but still extremely instagrammable and tasty) dragonfruit soft serve.
When to visit Nanfang’ao
Summer is great to explore Nanfangao, and while you can get seafood all year round (subject to seasonal availability), they are most famous for mackerel that is usually in season after summer from September to February. If you are there in early October, look out for the Mackerel Culture Festival, an annual affair started over 20 years ago involving parades, demonstrations and special fish auctions, all dedicated to celebrating mackerel.
How to get to Nanfang’ao
The closest train station to Nanfang’ao is at Su’ao station, where you can then take a local bus or taxi to Nanfang’ao. I have walked from Su’ao to Nanfang’ao before but it’s not particularly scenic so save yourself the trouble and hop on transport. Alternatively if you are in Luodong or Yilan, you can take the Kuokuang or Capital bus directly to Nangfang’ao stop.
Chuncheng Seafood 春成海鮮 42 Yugang Road, 9am-7pm – go for lunch or have an early dinner
Natural 天然手作 129 Haibian Road, 10am-7pm (Closed on Wednesdays)
Soar over a beautiful bay – Paragliding at Wanli 萬里
I’ve been paragliding over a tea plantation in the rural Luye area of eastern Taitung, but I never realised you could do something similar right outside Taipei in Wanli District of New Taipei City. Most people heading to Wanli go straight to see the famous Yehliu rock formations and leave, but just east of Yehliu is Green Bay Beach or Feicuiwan Beach 翡翠灣海灘, and here is where you can do a little paragliding and admire the view of the bay from up high.
I paraglided with a group called Mustang Paragliding Club 野馬飛行傘俱樂部, and what’s interesting about them is that while they used to take off from the surrounding hills, nowadays they do a beach take-off and landing where you are hooked up to a jetski to help give you a bit of a lift and you take off over the sea. The instructor flies you over the bay and the surrounding hills, and the flight itself takes about 10 minutes altogether depending on the wind conditions, before you finally land on the beach – based on my video, my flight was about 8 minutes of actual flying, though I will say it felt longer!
You actually spend most of your time waiting around for your turn – when I was there, there were 2-3 instructors rotating turns and about 15 people in total? My advice is that if you want to fly asap and not spend all your time waiting, make payment as soon as you reach the little booth that they have set up by the beach to receive a queue number, and they follow that order to fly so the faster you pay, the faster you fly.
What’s awesome is that the ticket price comes with the use of a GoPro camera to capture your entire flight on video, and the 16GB SD card is given to you after the flight, so you don’t have to worry about bringing up your own gear.
My instructor was a young local guy called Ah Zhe who lived in nearby Keelung, and he was really friendly, pointing out how far they would fly on their own and some landmarks around the area.
Why go paragliding in summer?
You can fly any time of the year as long as it’s not raining and the winds are not too crazy, but summer is usually the best time because the winds are the most steady.
How to get to Wanli
If you are taking public transport, the easiest way is to take a Kuokuang bus 815 from Taipei that runs every 15 minutes (I took mine from the Taipei Main Station East, note that it’s a different spot from Taipei Main Station) and then press the bell to drop at Feicuiwan stop. Call the Mustang people from the bus stop and they’ll send someone to pick you up, or you can actually just walk directly to the beach, it’s 5 mins from the bus stop.
It currently costs 2,000 NTD to fly with Mustang (the price has gone up in recent years, my earlier research showed prices as low as 1,200 NTD).You don’t have to make any bookings with Mustang, but you do need to check in with them on the morning (9amish) that you want to fly to see whether the weather conditions are optimal for flying that day – like on the day that I wanted to go, there was a military exercise underway so I found out that I had to get there before 1pm. The best way to get a response is to either call them or drop them a Facebook message – I sent 2 emails and didn’t get any response (possibly because it was in English, they are mostly Chinese speaking), but got a pretty quick response via FB messenger.
Stroll through flying saucers – Wanli UFO Village
One of the more intriguing things that I found while researching cool things to do around Taipei is this Wanli UFO Village, a rather colloquial name referencing the weird flying saucer and rounded-box houses along Green Bay Beach in Wanli. Interestingly enough, they turned out to be located right behind the paragliding booth on the beach so it was easy enough to check out after paragliding.
The flying saucer like houses are called Futuro Houses, while the squarish ones with rounded corners are called Venturo Houses and they were conceived by a Finnish architect Matti Suuronen in the late 1960s, and were quite popular for a few years, though an oil crisis in the 70s made producing the houses super expensive and so they fell out of favour.
If you’re wondering how Finnish architecture ended up in Taiwan, apparently a rich businessman imported several pods to Wanli, intending to set up a fancy seaside resort, but unfortunately the houses were badly hit by the extreme typhoons and these days are mostly abandoned and derelict, though there are a few units which have been cleaned up and are inhabited today.
I mostly poked around in the abandoned houses, and was particularly intrigued by the rounded Futuro interiors. A Futuro house makes for quite a cosy spot – about half the house is made out of a curved living room and a nice kitchen-bar, and the other half is a bedroom and a toilet. The Futuro pods are raised above ground and some had stone benches directly underneath the pods.
It was pretty fun just wandering around the area and it does make for some intriguing photos – do note that some of these houses are inhabited so I’d avoid those and generally keep a low profile to not piss off the few residents, but it makes for an interesting walk wondering what life might have been like if these houses weren’t abandoned.
How to get to Wanli
Refer to the Wanli paragliding section for more info – the UFO village is located right on the Feicuiwan beach on Riguang Road.
And when you’re done exploring Yilan and New Taipei City, here are some undiscovered gems in Taipei City itself for you to check out before you catch your flight back home.
Unwind in a 150+ year old temple courtyard in Dadaocheng 大稻埕
Taiwan’s street food culture is well known, but this particular eating spot is a bit unusual as it is located in the courtyard of the Cisheng Temple 慈聖宮 dedicated to the sea goddess Matsu, and it is quite common to see groups of older men sitting around tables and chairs just chilling out with a Taiwan Beer and chitchat under the shade of the giant Banyan trees.
The stalls were originally set up for labourers around the area where there was a labour market and is apparently popular with taxi drivers today as well – you can read more about that in this post by Jodie’s Kitchen, she also offers a Dadaocheng walking tour that ends at this spot, useful for non-Chinese speakers who might be a bit nervous about what to eat.
The food here is simple Taiwanese fare, no hipster twists or avant garde food, but I really liked the local flavour of the area. I got myself a bowl of pork rib soup with winter melon, and when I said I was eating here, the stall ladies just waved me to the back to find a table, and then called me over to pick up my food from the back of the stall when it was ready.
I would have liked to have a nice cold beer in the afternoon, but I was on my own, had a busy day of filming ahead and I usually prefer some company when I drink. There isn’t a drinks stall per se in the row of food stalls, but the stall owners will either get you some beer or point you in the right direction.
How to get to Cisheng Temple
The temple is located in the Datong district. The closest MRT station is Daqiaotou 大橋頭站 on the Orange line, and Dihua Street, the main thoroughfare of the Dadaocheng area, is a short 5-10min walk away.
Cisheng Temple 慈聖宮 – No. 17 Bao’an Road Lane 49, Dadaocheng. Open 9am-5pm.
Experience old and new at Taipei’s first modern public market – Xinfu Market 新富市場 / U-Mkt
Most people only know about Taiwan’s famous night markets, but their day markets are quite a sight to see as well. If you are looking for a local market without the tourist crowd, head on over to Sanshui street in the Wanhua area and you’ll find two contrasting markets side by side.
First, take a walk along Sanshui Road, home to Dongsanshui Market東三水街市場, a covered narrow road lined with stalls on both sides selling food, produce, meat and all sorts of sundries. I love how untouristy this market is, and you can grab food, produce, meats and some sundries along this narrow covered lane. There’s apparently a famous Grandma’s glutinous rice dumpling stall here that I walked by but didn’t try.
But just off Sanshui road is where you can find Xinfu Market 新富市場, these days also known as U-Mkt, a reference to the unusual U-shaped building. It started life as the Shintomicho Market back in 1935 while Taiwan was under Japanese rule, and was Taipei’s first modern public market with proper sanitation and ventilation. It was prosperous for some time but declined in the 90s until the local authorities decided to completely overhaul the space into a very art-deco modern space in 2017.
Today, U-Mkt is many things ¬– you can grab a bite in the MOT café or Hoshing 1947 located in the old administrator’s office just outside the U-shaped building, and it is also an event, exhibition and co-working space. Look out for upcoming events or just take a moment to escape the summer heat in the air-conditioned space.
How to get to U-Mkt
Dongsanshui market and Xinfu/U-Mkt are right next to each other. They are a short walk away from Longshan Temple station in the Wanhua area, and also very close to the Bopiliao Historical Block.
U-Mkt: No. 70 Sanshui Street, Wanhua District. 10am-6pm, closed on Mondays.
Check out a local favourite night market – Yansan Night Market 延三夜市
Taipei’s famous night markets include Shilin, Raohe and Ningxia, but in the Datong area near where I stayed is the Yansan Night Market 延三夜市 or Yanping North Road Tourist Night Market, a spot recommended to me that Datong residents love and quite low-key compared to the more popular night markets – many locals in Taipei have never even heard or visited this place.
It’s quite different from the other night markets in that it’s not a pedestrianised area – it’s a mix of stalls and small roadside carts that line both sides of Yanping North Road, and it’s not very big – most of the stalls can be found in the stretch from Minquan West Road to Changji Road, but what you get is some pretty good Taiwanese street food without the crowds and gimmicks that you often get in other night markets.
The perils of solo travelling is that you can’t try all the food on your own especially when you have a pretty small appetite like I do, but some recommendations on what to eat at Yansan Night Market based on my experience, research and asking the locals:
- Shijia xianrou tangyuan 施家鮮肉湯圓: this came highly recommended by my hostel staff and it’s such an interesting food – I thought it was going to be a normal soup dumpling stuffed with meat, but the outer skin is like mochi so it definitely made for some unusual textures in my mouth. It’s also more filling than you would think.
- Baoji Xiaolongbao: Another local recommendation, you can get as many (or as little) soup dumplings as you want, but if you are used to the dingtaifung style of dumplings, note that these are different. Not as soft and soupy, but still yummy of course.
- Shantou Beef Noodle: I didn’t have a chance to try this local rec, but my hostel lady said to try this one over the other beef noodle stall.
- Xiangji Chuntangmashu : This is a combination of all the things I love especially on a hot summer day – freshly boiled mochi rolled in ground peanut eaten with a pile of shaved ice. I definitely have this on my list of things to eat.
Why visit Yansan Night Market in summer?
If you rather not squeeze with the crowds and have a bit more breathing room, Yansan Night Market is perfect for you. Many of the stalls have their own sitting area or chairs and tables so you do have the option of indoor seating for many of the spots as compared to most other night markets where you have to walk and eat.
How to get to Yansan Night Market
Yansan Night Market is a short distance from the Daqiaotou MRT station on the Orange Line. It’s also north far from Dadaocheng and Dihua Street.
There are some Yansan Night Market food tours available, these might be suitable if you want some guidance on what’s good to eat
Yansan Night Market: Yanping North Road Section 3, Datong District. 6pm-12 midnight
Where to stay
This time around I stayed in 3 different spots and though I usually stay in hostels, I needed the space for work so I mostly did private rooms this time around, and my range was about $45-75 per night, which is pretty decent and if you come in a pair, equivalent to getting your own hostel bed. The most important thing you want during summer? AIR-CONDITIONING. Also, having your own ensuite shower is great too because you can bathe as many times as you need and wander around sans clothing in the privacy of your room to cool down.
Affiliate links below, which means I may get a small % of bookings you make through the link but at no extra cost to you.
Taipei [near Taipei Main Station] – Taipei City Home / CT House
Taipei City Home is technically in Datong but hands down the most convenient location you can stay in Taipei, with Taipei Main Station (MRT, train and bus stations) right within walking distance. The hostel itself is a little bit hidden in an alleyway so it’s relatively quiet, and it does feel like someone’s home, a narrow walkup with 3 levels that’s clean and run by a really friendly guy Chunky who’s happy to chat and gave me quite a lot of tips on things to check out in Taipei.
There are dorm rooms and two private rooms – I had a double room on the 3rd level (no lift) with a shared bathroom, but I was there on a weekday so I had the space to myself. The room was nice enough but there are no windows and it’s mostly a bed and a lot of cupboard space. If you’re looking for a homey sorta space that’s super convenient to getting around Taipei, this is a nice option.
Check out Taipei City Home on booking.com [affiliate link]
Taipei [Datong District] – Mudanhouse
Mudanhouse is located north of Dadaocheng, a short walk from Daqiaotou station and right next to Yansan Night Market. It’s not as central and in the midst of the main attractions in Taipei, but at least you can hop on to the MRT pretty easily. You can take the airport MRT at Sanchong station as well, but note that this is the slower train that stops at every stop (i.e. not the express one that goes to Taipei Main Station).
Mudanhouse has more of a serviced apartment feel than a hostel or hotel – there’s a lift but no real front desk so if you’re coming in at an odd hour you definitely need to let the staff know. The room was spacious and the ensuite toilet was also nice. I was facing the road so it was a little bit noisier but not too much. Breakfast is prepared every morning by the owner’s auntie.
Check out Mudanhouse on booking.com [affiliate link]
Yilan [Wujie] – Delise’s House 香屋
Delise’s House was one of my favourite places to stay, mostly because Delise herself is such an excellent host. Effectively bilingual for those worried about not knowing the language, she knows just about everything there is to know about Yilan and gave me lots of great recommendations on things to do and see. She even answered all my questions before arrival and helped me book my Turtle Island tour.
The room itself was really comfortable – since there wasn’t anyone else there on my first night, she let me have my pick of rooms so I ended up with the balcony room which was very comfortable and spacious, the only thing is that the toilet position flanking the main entrance might be a bit weird but overall I had a very comfortable stay and wish I could have stayed there longer.
Check out Delise’s House on booking.com [affiliate link]
Taiwan in Summer – what you need to know
There’s no denying that Taiwan is swelteringly hot during the summer months from June to August. Singaporeans will probably be quite used to the weather as it feels like it does right here at home – temperatures averaging 30ºC and high humidity especially during the day, so pack your lightest clothing and pile on the sunblock if you are going to be outdoors. Or do as the locals do and throw on a light long sleeve top or bring an umbrella.
But on top of the heat, summer in Taiwan often brings typhoons as well, and these are pretty unpredictable – there was supposed to be one during the week I was there and I was really concerned it would blow up all my outdoorsy plans but ultimately it petered out and didn’t happen. So keep a close eye on weather reports during this period, especially if you are along the coast or taking a small flight/boat ride.
Plan your trip with Scoot
Scoot has a myriad of flight times to Taipei, but the flight I took from Singapore to Taipei to really maximise my time was the red-eye that departs about 1am and reaches Taipei about 5.30am. If you are trying to save leave days, this is an option worth considering as you probably have some time to run home from work and grab your bags.
A red-eye is great if you’re the sort who can sleep anywhere, but consider paying for a seat with more legroom so you can sleep on the plane – Scoot’s Super and Stretch seats are closer to the front of the plane so you do get more room and off the plane more quickly. The 787 Dreamliner planes also have a ScootinSilence zone near the front that restricts children under 12, so that’s an option if you need some peace and quiet as well.
Alternatively if the flight isn’t too full, book a seat close to the back as most people prefer to sit nearer the front so you might score an empty row if you are lucky.
Food-wise, I got to try the nasi lemak on the way up and the beef stew on the way back – I definitely recommend the beef stew with the curly pasta, and I’m pretty sure I was making my seat mates hungry.
I’m looking out for more off the beaten track things to do in Taiwan, particularly in Taipei and its surrounding districts that you can daytrip to. Hit me up if you have any recommendations on places for me to check out.
See the full series of my unique experiences in Taiwan here or follow me on Instagram @jac_theocctrav and check out #TaiwanderingWithScoot for updates of my trip adventures. If you have more time to spend in Taiwan, why not check out all my Taiwan posts to see what else the other parts of Taiwan have to offer.
This trip to Taiwan and blog post was sponsored by Scoot. Scoot flies to Taipei every day and Kaohsiung 3-4 times a week – visit the Scoot website for more.