Taiwan Itinerary: the Ultimate Taiwan travel guide!
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Having completed our own amazing two week Taiwan itinerary exploring the cities, mountains and scenic areas of Taiwan we’ve put together our recommended Taiwan itinerary. From chaotic Taipei to the beauty of Taroko Gorge to the natural wonder of Alishan, Taiwan is breathtaking and one of our favourite places to visit in Asia. For those of you planning your own Taiwan itinerary, we wanted to share our Taiwan travel guide including the best things to do and what to see in Taiwan. Enjoy!
Taiwan Itinerary and Route
Most visitors touring around Taiwan either pick up a rental car and self-drive or use a mix of high-speed trains, tourist shuttles and taxis/private drivers to explore the country.
By rental car: With its excellent roads and good driving standards, Taiwan is the perfect country for a road trip. We followed a circular route starting and ending in Taipei, Taiwan’s capital city and the point of arrival and departure for most Taiwan travellers.
By public transport: this Taiwan itinerary can also be completed by a mix of trains and buses. On the west coast of Taiwan, the major cities are serviced by High-Speed Rail while tourist spots like Taroko Gorge and Sun Moon Lake are reachable by bus.
The Route: Taipei – Taichung – Alishan – Kaohsiung – Kenting – Taitung – Taroko Gorge – Taipei
Renting a car in Taiwan
Navigating Taiwan by rental car is relatively easy and we highly recommend renting a car if you are comfortable driving. The roads are high-quality, driving standards are generally good and fuel is extremely cheap (compared to the UK and Ireland anyway!). We rented our car through RentalCars.com and secured a great price on an Avis rental – check rental car prices here!
Taiwan itinerary tip: An International Driving Permit is mandatory when renting a car in Taiwan so make sure to get an IDP in your home country before departure if you are planning on driving a rental car.
We’re huge fans of road trips and have driven rental cars in over 40 countries so we have a lot of experience renting cars in foreign countries. We reserved our car through RentalCars.com and opted to rent through Avis. Book your car now with RentalCars.com, where you will find the best rental car prices.
Taiwan itinerary tip: Taipei is extremely well serviced by public transport and its subway is easy to navigate. As such, a rental car isn’t necessary in the city. If you are starting your Taiwan itinerary in Taipei, we recommend only picking up a car after you’ve explored Taipei rather than reserving at the airport on arrival. We picked up our rental car on our last morning in Taipei and left the city immediately for Taichung.
How long to spend in Taiwan
From the chaotic Taipei to the magnificent sunrises in Alishan, the peaceful Taroko Gorge and the colourful Taichung there’s a lot to squeeze into a Taiwan itinerary. We recommend budgeting around 14 nights to explore Taiwan at a leisurely pace. This will allow you enough time to visit all the major sights and explore each destination fully. You might wish to cut some things out if you have less time.
Best time to visit Taiwan
Depending on your tolerance to high temperatures, you may want to plan your visit to coincide with the cooler months! During the summer, temperatures are consistently over 30° and typhoon season is in full force. Spring and Autumn are a great time to visit Taiwan and its mild winters also mean the winter months are a good option.
Taiwan itinerary tip: We visited Taiwan at the end of September and we managed to experience a heatwave as well as some typhoons which luckily changed direction at the last minute! The temperatures in Taipei were stifling and we had to retreat to air-conditioned buildings until late in the afternoon.
Sim Card and Internet
As with most countries, having mobile data during a trip is invaluable for navigation and research. There are lots of options on arrival at Taipei’s Taiwan Taoyuan International Airport (TPE) – we reserved a Chunghwa Telecom 4g sim through Klook who offer a slightly discounted rate on the airport price – reserve your Taiwan sim card here!
Taiwan itinerary tip: the Chunghwa desk only opens at 8am so make sure your flight times will work if you reserve in advance.
Daily Taiwan Itinerary
We’ve outlined our day to day Taiwan itinerary as a starting point for planning your own Taiwan experience.
Days 1 to 4: Taipei
Taiwan’s capital city really surprised us with the wide variety of things to see and do. After arriving at Taipei’s Taiwan Taoyuan International Airport we recommend spending the next three or four nights in Taipei. This will allow you to explore the main sights and to enjoy everything that this fun and chaotic city has to offer.
Where to Stay in Taipei
There are many great accommodation options in Taipei.
- CityInn Hotel Plus Ximending Branch– we stayed in the CityInn Ximending branch and highly recommend both the location and the hotel. Rooms are compact but fantastic value, service is excellent and the hotel is just a few moments walk from the MRT, a Taipei essential – check prices now!
- Taipei Garden Hotel –another great option located close to Longshan Temple and Ximending – check prices now!
- Dandy Hotel, Daan Park –clean, comfortable and located across the street from Taipei’s biggest park, Daan Forest Park – check prices now!
Days 1 to 4: Explore Taipei
From toilet-themed restaurants to colourful temples, stunning nature and awesome day trips, there’s plenty to squeeze into 4 days in Taipei. Check out our round up of the best things to do in Taipei for more detailed information and photos on each of the attractions. If you are travelling with kids make sure to check out our guide to the best things to do in Taipei with kids.
Day 1: Taipei 101, Maokong Gondola and Shilin Night Market
Start the day with a trip to the observation deck of Taipei 101, Taipei’s most iconic building. The 101 story building resembles a giant bamboo stick and the 91st-floor outdoor observation deck offers amazing 360-degree views of the city.
We booked our tickets for Taipei 101 via Klook and highly recommend it. You can reserve your timeslot in advance and for the best price using the Klook app. It’s super simple and avoids waiting in extra lines when Taipei 101 gets busy. Taiwan activities were mostly discounted when we booked in advance – check prices now!
From Taipei 101 make your way to the Taipei Zoo MRT Station where the scenic Maokong Gondola cable car departs. The 30minute glass-bottomed cable car stops at the colourful Zhinan Temple before continuing to the quaint mountaintop village of Maokong known for its tea plantations and tea shops.
Taiwan Itinerary tip: We purchased combo tickets for the Maokong Gondola and an evening double decker sightseeing tour from Klook in advance and it was awesome value. The gondola is closed most Monday’s so make sure to plan your trip around the gondola’s opening hours – click here to purchase the gondola and night tour combo tickets!
Finish the day with a visit to Shilin Night Market, Taipei’s largest night market with over 500 stalls. There are some incredible Bid Gourmand stalls serving dishes such as Hai You Pork Ribs and Bin Small Sausage in Large Sausage, where the sausage wrapped in sticky rice is a huge hit. There’s a lot more to Shilin than just food and you can do everything from playing arcade games to praying in the temple located in the centre of the market.
Day 2: Elephant Mountain, CKS Memorial Hall, Ximending and Raohe night market
Start the day with a short but steep sunrise hike up Elephant Mountain which rewards with some of the best views of Taipei. The trail is well maintained with plenty of rest stops and some awesome viewing platforms.
After admiring Taipei from Elephant Mountain it’s time to explore the history of Taiwan with a visit to the Chiang Kai-shek Memorial Hall. The CKS Memorial is an important Taiwanese landmark erected in honour of the first president of Taiwan.
A themed cafe is a Taipei staple and a trip to the Modern Toilet Restaurant in Ximending is as novelty as they come. The entire restaurant is toilet themed. Meals are served in toilets, drinks in bedpans and the seats are full sized toilets! Having filled up on poo themed dishes take a stroll around Ximending, one of Taipei’s quirkiest neighbourhoods.
If you prefer a serious foodie treat, eat at the Fuhung Noodle Restaurant. The shop is located just north of Ximending and is home to some of the best noodles we’ve ever had.
Longshan Temple is next on the agenda. Longshan is Taiwan’s most famous and well-loved temple and is located in the historic neighbourhood of Wanhua.
If you still have some energy, the Raohe Night Market is a short MRT ride away and is perfect for an early evening walk through.
Taiwan itinerary tip: our favourite dish in Raohe was the Fuzhou Shizu Black Pepper Buns. They are not to be missed!
Day 3: A Taipei park, the world’s highest Starbucks and Beitou Hot Springs
Start the morning with a visit to one of Taipei’s parks. Our favourites are Daan Forest Park, Taipei’s largest park, the Huashan 1914 Creative Park, a repurposed art, design and cultural venue and 228 Peace Memorial Park, a poignant tribute to the thousands of Taiwanese who died in the February 28, 1947, massacre.
Visit the world’s highest Starbucks which is located on the 35th floor at Taipei 101 and offers spectacular views of Taipei. A visit to Starbucks at Taipei 101 requires a reservation and the coffee shop has a minimum spend for visitors.
Taiwan itinerary tip: The Starbucks at Taipei 101 requires a telephone reservation. Ask you hotel desk to make the reservation as you will likely need to speak Mandarin.
Spend the afternoon at the Beitou Hot Springs which are just 30 minutes outside Taipei and accessible via the MRT. There is a wide range of options for bathing in the hot springs: there are less expensive public hot springs as well as private baths and upscale hotels and resorts. As well as bathing, the scenic Beitou Hot Spring Park is beautiful to explore together with the Hot Spring Museum and Library which are located within the park.
Day 4: Jiufen, Shifen and Yehliu Geopark
Taipei is surrounded by amazing natural beauty and a day trip outside the city is an essential addition to any Taipei itinerary. Shifen, Jiufen and the Yehliu Geopark are a great combination to discover a taste of Northern Taiwan.
The Yehliu Geopark contains a fascinating collection of unique geological formations in an otherworldly landscape created by sea erosion. It’s a beautiful coastal walk and a very popular stop outside Taipei.
The old street in the charming town of Jiufen is a tourist magnet with visitors indulging in local specialties such as glutinous rice cakes, peanut ice cream and fish balls in between souvenir shopping. The A-Mei Tea House is one of the most prominent landmarks in Jiufen and offers both great tea and great views!
Shifen is famous for both its old street and its scenic waterfall. The old streets of Shifen, located around the railway track, are where visitors congregate to release colourful lanterns bearing their wishes in life.
Taiwan itinerary tip: we visited Jiufen, Shiefen and Yeuhliu Geo Park using our rental car. If you prefer to use a tour, Klook offers a great shuttle bus options which ferries passengers between the key sights of Jiufen, Shifen and the Yehliu Geo Park on the North East coast of Taiwan – click here to reserve shuttle bus tickets!
Days 5 to 7: Taichung and Sun Moon Lake
After a few days of exploring Taipei, it’s time to head south to Taichung, Taiwan’s second largest city. Taichung is busy and colourful and was a surprise hit in our Taiwan itinerary! It’s also the gateway for the immensely popular Sun Moon Lake, one of Taiwan’s most popular tourist attractions.
Where to Stay in Taichung
Taichung is a surprisingly large city and choosing where to stay can be tricky. We recommend:
- CityInn Hotel Plus – Taichung Station Branch – we loved the CityInn brand in Taiwan. Located in east Taichung beside Taichung’s main train station, the CityInn Hotel Plus is a great option. Rooms are clean and modern and the extra facilities like free common areas with coffee/refreshments and on-site laundry are invaluable – click here to book now!
- La Vida Hotel – Regularly rated as one of the best hotels in Taichung, La Vida Hotel is a great option for those who want easy access to the Feng Chia Night Market. With European designed rooms the hotel is super comfortable and great for a stay in Taichung – click here to book now!
- The Hung’s Mansion – where we chose to stay in Taichung and it’s a great option if you are driving like we were. With free parking, large comfortable rooms and great food, Hungs Mansion is also a short walk to the incredible Feng Chia Night Market – click here to book now!
How to get to Taichung: it takes one hour to travel by High-Speed Rail between Taipei and Taichung. It took us around 2 hours to drive between the two cities.
Taichung deserves at least one full day to explore and, if we were to return, we’d allow two days! Start the morning at Rainbow Village, Taiwan’s most colourful neighbourhood before heading north of the city to the beautiful Zhongshe Flower Market. As well as a sea of flowers, props such as pianos, swings, and tractors make for great fun and great photo opportunities.
Taiwan itinerary tip: tour buses arrive at Rainbow Village shortly after its 8am opening so we recommend arriving as close to 8am as possible. Zhongshe Flower Market tends to get busy in the afternoon when families congregate for barbeques.
Animation Alley is a great pit stop with its cartoon and Magna themed street art.
The 921 Earthquake Museum is a poignant place to visit: it is located on the site of a former junior high school and crosses the fault on which the earthquake occurred. The exterior remains as it did after the earthquake on Tuesday, 21 September 1999.
There are endless food and drink options in Taichung: our three favourites are Chung Shiu Tang, the touted home of Taiwan’s famous bubble tea, Miyahara for its Pineapple Cakes and I’m Talato, an ice cream shop with an ice cream floatie filled pool.
Round up the day with a trip to Feng Chia Night Market where the food is good and the clothing unique.
Sun Moon Lake
How to get to Sun Moon Lake: Sun Moon Lake is a 1hour 15 minute drive from Taichung and is easily accessible by bus from both Taichung (approximately 2 hours) or Alishan (up to 3.5hours).
The cycle path surrounding the turquoise blue waters of Sun Moon Lake is one of the most popular ways to explore the Sun Moon Lake area. There’s also a scenic gondola cable car which offers beautiful views of the lake and connects it with the Formosa Aboriginal Cultural Village.
Our other favourite stops were the Ci-En Pagoda and the Wen-Wu Temple. The 8 story Ci-En Pagoda requires a short uphill hike and is renowned for its views over the lake while the Chinese style Wen-Wu is vibrant and loud and there are lovely views of the lake over the burnt orange rooftops.
Finish the day with some street food at Ita Thao before returning to Taichung for the night.
Taiwan itinerary tip: the drive between Taichung and Sun Moon Lake takes about 75 minutes so we preferred to base ourselves in Taichung. Sun Moon Lake accommodation tends to be more expensive given its tourist draw and we were happy to drive.
Where to stay in Sun Moon Lake
If you wish to stay in the Sun Moon Lake area, some good options are:
- Fleur de Chine Hotel Sun Moon Lake: expensive but excellent with beautiful views over the lake – check prices now!
- Mei Jen House: homestay with great rooms, a vegan breakfast and an awesome sunrise tour. A great small but budget-friendly option in Sun Moon Lake – check prices now!
Day 8: Alishan
A mix of wilderness and tea plantations characterize the mountainous Alishan National Scenic Area. The Alishan sunrises are legendary in Taiwan and our time in Alishan was a highlight of our trip. From chasing the ‘Yun Hai’, the coveted sea cloud sunrise, to the historic railway and the stunning hiking trails Alishan is an excellent addition to any Taiwan itinerary.
Where to Stay in Alishan
- Alishan House/Alishan Hotel– the best hotel in the Alishan National Scenic Area and where we spent our night in Alishan. Rooms are expensive but the location is outstanding. It is worth the extra for the upgrade from the dated standard room in the old building to a superior room in the new building. Guests are not allowed to drive into the Scenic Area but the hotel runs a regular shuttle bus between the car park and the hotel – check prices now!
- Wankou Hotel: 5 minutes walk from the train station, Wankou Hotel is a good less expensive option to Alishan House. Nice views, clean rooms and good value accommodation – check prices now!
- Cing Shan Hotel: basic option located close to the train station, rooms are compact – check prices now!
How to get to Alishan: The High-Speed Railway takes less than 40 minutes between Taichung and Chiayi Station and, from Chiayi, the bus takes 2 hours. Direct buses from Sun Moon Lake take up to 3.5hours. The drive from Taichung took around 3 hours in total.
There are 5 Wonders of Alishan and, although luck and weather dependent, most visitors strive to see them all. The 5 Wonders of Alishan are:
- Alishan Forest Railway
- The forest trails
- The sea of clouds
Taiwan itinerary tip: With some planning it’s possible to see Alishan’s Wonders during a one-night stay. If you wish to explore more extensively or at a more leisurely pace then extend the stay to two nights.
Aim to arrive in Alishan in the afternoon and take advantage of some of the stunning hiking trails in the area. Our favourite hike was to the Sacred Tree, estimated to be 3,000 years old before it collapsed in 1997. It’s located at the Sacred Tree (Shenmu) Railway and the trails pass giant red cypress trees which are over 1,000 years old.
After exploring the Alishan trails make sure to catch a famous Alishan sunset – we watched it from the amazingly located observation deck at the Alishan House Hotel, one of the best sunset spots in the Alishan Scenic Area.
It’s an early start in order to catch the legendary Alishan sunrise. We arranged our shuttle bus to the train station through the Alishan House Hotel on arrival the previous afternoon. After a 4:30 am wake-up call, we boarded the train to Chusan and watched the sunrise from the viewing platform.
After checking out we stopped by the Alishan Post Office and posted a traditional Alishan wooded postcard before leaving for Kaohsiung.
Day 9: Kaohsiung
Kaohsiung is a large port city in Southern Taiwan. Although we used it as a stopover between Alishan and Kaohsiung, we soon discovered it is vibrant and charming in its own right.
Where to stay in Kaohsiung
- Grand Hi La – one of the best hotels in Kaohsiung. With a perfect location in the centre of the Sanduo shopping district, Hotel Cozzi has luxurious rooms and high-end furnishings which make for a truly amazing stay – check prices now!
- Hotel Cozzi – this large luxury hotel is conveniently located above a shopping mall right in the centre of Kaohsiung and is a great option for exploring the city. There are lots of restaurants close to the hotel – check prices now!
- Hotel Dua– great transport connections via the adjacent MRT station the Hotel Dua is a great location for exploring the city – check prices now!
How to get to Kaohsiung: take the bus from Alishan to Chiayi Station (journey time is around 2 hours 10 minutes) and, from there, take the train to Kaohsiung, a further 2 hours 10 minutes. Our drive time was around 3 hours in total.
We didn’t have much time to explore Kaohsiung as we used the city as a stopover on our journey between Alishan and Kenting. If you are staying in the city, some of the best things to do in Kaohsiung are:
- Kaohsiung Night Markets: the Ruifeng Night Market is considered one of the best night food markets in Taiwan and its stalls serve up a mouth-watering array of local delicacies.
- Lotus Pond and the Dragon and Tiger Pagodas: visitors to Kaohsiung are encouraged run into the mouth of the dragon and out of the tiger’s jaws at the 7-story twin Dragon and Tiger Pagodas. The reward is a reversal in fortune and a turn from bad luck to good.
- Cycle Cijn Island: Cijn Island is a black sand beach on a narrow strip of island in the city. The island, accessible by ferry or bridge, is a popular day excursion in Kaohsiung.
- Dream Mall: Kaohsiung’s Dream Mall is the largest in Taiwan and East Asia and even boasts an amusement park with a Ferris Wheel on its rooftop!
- Pier 2: once an abandoned warehouse site, Pier 2 now houses a large scale open air public art display. The quirky sculptures and artworks are a real treat and the area is vibrant and lively and one of the best places to visit in Kaohsiung.
Day 10 and 11: Kenting
The seaside town of Kenting is located at the southern tip of Taiwan and is famous for its picturesque beaches and lush green national park.
Where to stay in Kenting
Accommodation in Kenting is a mix of resort-style beachside hotels and smaller, boutique style options.
- Caesar Park Hotel– resort hotel with direct beach access and an abundance of kids activities including a kids recreation centre in the basement – check prices now!
- Chateau Beach Resort– located by the beach, just 5 to 10 minutes from Kenting Main Street. The hotel has stunning ocean views and a nice pool area – check prices now!
- Amanda Kenting– we opted for the smaller Amanda Kenting Hotel. The Moroccan themed hotel has great rooms, a lovely indoor pool and free exotic costume rental for photos! – check prices now!
How to get to Kenting: take the Kenting Express Bus from Kaohsiung’s Zuoying HSR station to Kenting. The journey time varies between 2 and 3 hours. The drive time is less than 2 hours.
Kenting is the perfect spot for some rest and relaxation. While we didn’t follow a strict itinerary, our favourite activities included:
- a ride on the Kenting Hai World Semi Submarine with its glass-bottomed panoramic views of the Kenting coral reefs
- paddling in the tidepools and shallow swimming spots
- visiting Baisha White Sand Bay, a beautiful beach which featured in the movie The Life of Pi
- exploring Kenting National Park and its lighthouse
- standing at the southernmost point in Taiwan which is marked by an observation station
- indulging in the street food, clothes and carnival games at the Kenting Night Market
- Snorkeling in Wanlitong Beach
Day 12: Taitung
Taitung is a sprawling, coastal town and a popular stopover between Kenting and Taroko Gorge. It is home to the Beinan Cultural Park, one of the largest and most important cultural sites in Taiwan. Taitung also acts as a gateway to the volcanic islands of Green Island and Orchid Island.
Where to stay in Taitung
- Kindness Hotel– clean and comfortable option with good breakfast and evening night snacks in Taitung city – check prices now!
- Papago International Resort– although one hour outside Taitung it is a great location for a stopover between Kenting and Taroko Gorge. Lovely outdoor pool, hot tub and hot springs with a children’s playground – check prices now!
- Inn by the Village– located close to the railway, rooms are modern and spacious and the breakfast decent – check prices now!
How to get to Taitung: take the bus from Kenting to Fanglaio (journey time 1 hour). From there, take the train between Fanglaio and Taitung (90 minutes). The drive time is 2 hours 30 minutes.
If you have time to explore Taitung some of the best things to do are:
- Beinan Cultural Park: the largest and most important cultural site in Taiwan. It was excavated in the 1980s when thousands of slate coffins were unearthed together with jewellery, pottery and tools.
- Brown Road: home to the famous Mr Brown Taiwanese Coffee and surrounded by rice fields and mountains.
- Orchid Island and Green Island: volcanic islands off the coast of Taitung famous for snorkelling, hot springs, coastal scenery and strong Aboriginal culture.
Day 13 and 14: Taroko Gorge
Taroko Gorge is another stunning stop in Taiwan. Taroko means magnificent and splendid and the mesmerizing scenery makes it more than deserving of the name. The steep mountains are covered in thick forest and a deep gorge carved out by the Liwu River, winds through the forest floor.
Where to stay in Taroko Gorge
Visitors to Taroko Gorge can stay in the Taroko National Park, close to the entrance to the park or in nearby Hualien where the trains from Taipei arrive and depart. We recommend staying in the park for both the close to nature experience and the convenience for sightseeing.
- Silks Place Taroko: we treated ourselves to a gorge view room in the luxury Silks Place Taroko which is located in the heart of the Taroko National Park. The facilities are amazing: there’s a rooftop outdoor pool (where we enjoyed a movie screening in the evening) and hot tubs, an indoor pool and tennis courts – check prices now!
- Taroko Village Hotel: located less than 1km from Swallow Grotto, the Taroko Village Hotel is a less expensive option to Silks Place for guests wanting to stay inside the Taroko National Park – check prices now!
- Chateau de Chine Hotel Hualien: if you opt for Hualien the Chateau de Chine Hotel is a good choice with its colourful exterior and spacious themed rooms– check prices now!
How to get to Taroko Gorge: we drove from Taitung to the Taroko National Park (around 4 hours). Public transport services the nearby city of Hualien, a 4-hour bus journey from Taitung. If you are arriving from Alishan you can take the bus to Taroko Gorge. If you are arriving from Taipei, an express train serves Hualien.
How to get around Taroko Gorge: there are a few options for navigating Taroko National Park. We used our rental car to explore. Many guests use a taxi/private car or rent a motorbike. If you are based in Hualien, it’s easy to join a tour – reserve a Taroko Gorge tour here!
Taroko Gorge is all about nature and most visitors spend the day hopping between its best short trails, bridges and viewpoints!
Begin the day with a hike through the relatively easy 4km Baiyang Trail which rewards with a stunning water curtain as well as magnificent views of the gorge along the way. Start early to avoid the crowds, bring a flashlight to navigate the tunnels and beware of the monkeys! Due to loose rock visitors are only allowed to the entrance of the first Water Curtain.
The next stop is the ever popular Swallow Grotto, one of the best places from which to view the gorge. It is a short and flat footpath in the middle of the park and the surrounding river walls are lined with swallow nests
The Taroko Eternal Spring Changchun Shrine is one of the most popular sites in the park. The stunning temple sits atop a natural spring and was built in honour of the many who lost their lives building the highway through Taroko National Park.
We also loved the Chingxi Suspension Bridge and the Cimu Bridge. On the way out of the park make sure to stop at the stunning Qinghui Cliffs where visitors have the opportunity to admire the three distinct color tones that make up the Pacific Ocean
Taiwan itinerary tip: some of the trails in Taroko Gorge are closed due to weather damage so make sure to check the official website for the latest trail availability. There is a Visitor’s Centre at the entrance to the park which also provides trail information.
Day 15: Depart Taipei
Day 15 is a day of leisure until it’s time for your flight from Taipei.
How to get to Taipei: take the bus from Taroko Gorge to Hualien or Xincheng Station and then hop on the train to Taipei. The drive took around 3 hours.
For more on Taiwan
- Check out our round up of the best things to do in Taipei!
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