Photo Credit: Wikipedia Commons
It is not Paris, Barcelona, Shanghai, Vienna, or even San Francisco. It doesn’t have the halcyon feel of Melbourne, the wild charge of Hong Kong, or the timeless grace of Kyoto, but there’s something to Taipei.
You notice this on the train ride from the airport. You glimpse a strange lightness during the morning rush hour of scooter-packed streets, or feel an inexplicable sense of joy when wandering through a crowded night market. On overcast afternoons you can’t help but wonder if there is something more than the whisper of rain on banyan leaves. At times you startle at the flashes of insight that come with the first sips of a bubble tea or the bite of a steamed bun. The city feels right. It is contained in moments, in the sound of “Huānyíng guānglín” at 7-Elevens, the ease of the public transport system, and older citizens exercising in local parks. And there are even other times, when the feeling of living in a city that itself is alive strikes you viscerally. You might be crossing a street and look up to bear witness to a sunset or a moon rising or a framed outline of Tapei 101. There are certain days when the air can be almost crystalline in the morning and by afternoon be awash with storm clouds, and bearing witness to both sends a thrill down your spine. There’s an energy and a gentleness to Taipei that exists in the morning breakfast stands, the warm afternoon coffee shops, and the quiet evenings that still allow you to walk in the dark unafraid.
The Romans might have called it a Genius, Taoists would likely explain it in terms of Feng Shui, while others might use the term of a guardian or patron deity. Psychologists would likely diagnose it all as an over active imagination, and politicians and city planners are more than happy to accept the credit. However, and for a date, it is best to turn to the poets, artists, and romantics. We believe the secret to understanding Taipei, is to see it as a city patiently helping and waiting for you to fall in love.
Welcome to our world,
Taipei, and in a larger sense Taiwan, is practically one big opportunity for an incredible date. We want to warn you up front, however, it is not a tour bus type of romance. Don’t think in terms of “first stop Big Ben, then off to Buckingham Palace, followed by a spin around Kensington Gardens…” There’s only one Taipei 101 and there’s only so many times you can visit without it losing some of its magic.
We would encourage you to think, instead, in terms of smaller outings, wanderings, and explorations through different parts of the city. There’s plenty to see, and at the end of the day it is more about spending time and discovering new things together than it is about getting that Instagram shot of the Hollywood sign.
We have made a list below that is intended as a starting point, a way to get you thinking, and a means of beginning to see the opportunities out there. We have grouped them loosely in the categories of Explore, Fun, Art, and Food, but there is a great deal of overlap. Enjoy.
At night, with a picnic blanket and a beverage of your choice, the entire city spread out before you, and another person to share that with? Well, it’s tough to beat. Bring good shoes, an extra layer, and enough battery on your phone to use it as a flashlight if need be. Keep in mind too that there are plenty of other hills around Taipei that offer similar views and are often more secluded. On clear evenings stars and the moon should also be visible.
Make sure you both have downloaded the app and signed up for YouBike2 and get ready to take a spin. There are very flat biking paths along all major rivers that are very fun to explore. Keep in mind that there may also be other bikers and joggers so don’t take up the whole pathway.
We can already imagine you taking an afternoon to wander among some of the most beautiful flowers, ponds, and trees in the city. It is the first botanical garden in Taiwan and these days a photo shoot waiting to happen (and you will see people doing plenty of photo shoots here). We’d recommend bringing a bubble tea, a camera, and a book. June and July is lotus season. The Garden is free and generally open 6 am to 8pm. Located here.
They call it “Lovers Bridge” for a reason. Although attractions in downtown Taipei often get far more press, the sunsets from Tamsui are spectacular. Tamsui or Danshui is fairly easy to get to off the redline and can be a great place to venture on a clear evening. We are fans of preparing “subway playlists” and practicing our morse code, or playing games of Zut! whenever we ride that far.
Check out our blog post about Temples in Taipei. Some are off the beaten path, others are great to visit in the evenings or late afternoon and could easily be incorporated with a meal or a cup of coffee. Temples in Taiwan can be great for early dates or those looking to save money. We think of them as relatively neutral public space that offer interesting architecture to look at without the worry of needing to spend money.
Jiufen and Yangmingshan truly deserve their own section and are both phenomenal day trips from Taipei. However, for the purpose of saving space in this post we have lumped them together along with the suggestion that the North end of the Island is ripe for exploration (especially for those who have lived in Taiwan for a while and done some of the other things in the city).
A gondola ride, misty tea fields in the hills above Taipei, open air tea houses with good food, in the immortal words of Timon the meerkat, “I can see what’s happening…” Fair warning this is a popular date location so plan accordingly. Alternatively, and perhaps for those with a bit more of a Mandarin background, it can be fun to go shopping for tea at smaller tea stores around the city.
There is more in the way of food on this Island than could easily be eaten on a thousand and one dates. Nonetheless, consider the following as five of our Taiwanese Tales. For recommendations about restaurants see other Taipei based blogs.
These storage containers have been converted into open air food and drink stands with seating on their roofs. Perhaps not the best place for dinner, but a very neat spot to grab an ice cream or a beer. The sun sets across the river and often draws quite the crowd in the warmer weather.
Now we know you’re thinking “duh,” but we are proposing a version of night market grazing that will up the ante. We suggest picking a food that you both enjoy and doing a comparative analysis of the various night markets in the city. You can choose the criteria (flavor, appearance, cost, etc.), but the goal should be to sample that food at each of the different night markets in the city. It can be something that you get your friends in on too. And if it works you can thank us for helping plan one of the dishes that you’ll be serving at your wedding.
We all fall into that trap of ordering from the restaurant downstairs or that place just around the block. And when you’re dating or in a relationship, consistency can be nice but it definitely is important to change it up at times too. One idea for a date night might be selecting a subway stop neither of you are terribly familiar with and planning to wander till you find something that looks good. Alternatively, and we are very big fans of this, plan for a breakfast date (even if you have to get up a little early to eat before work).
Yes, you read that correctly. Dress up a little, find one of the nicer ones, with good seating, and the goal becomes to design the best or best and cheapest meal possible. There is a three course minimum and we recommend the condition that you get one item that you have never tried before.
*And only for those willing to go all out, we suggest bringing your own table cloth, and plastic candles. You will get a wonderful amount of attention.
If you are a fan of seafood or if you are a fan of neat dining venues, the Taipei Fish Market is not to be missed. Think like a high end seafood IKEA, or a fresh fish mecca-mall meats beer garden meets sushi bar meets great dining. It’s fun, it’s different, it’s a sensory experience, and for those who love the ocean and all that comes out of it, it is paradise. It is also a phenomenal place to eat out with friends or those who are new to Taipei.
Given the fact that our Mandarin is largely on par with a preschooler’s, it is not often our first instinct to step into a bookstore in Taiwan. Nonetheless, It can be a great experience, especially if you are with a partner who is from Taiwan or is fluent in Mandarin. We have included this one here also as the general category of exploring different shops in the city. There are so many places that we walk by or would not begin to explore on a day-to-day basis. Use time with a significant other to begin to broaden those horizons.
“Buy us some peanuts and Cracker Jack and we won’t care if we never go back!” In all seriousness though, check out our blog post on baseball games in Taiwan. It is definitely worth catching a game and has the potential to be a very fun venue for a date (it’s as much about the food, fans, cheerleaders, and band as it is about the baseball).
Something about underground malls with the florescent lights and lack of navigational horizons have always made us a little claustrophobic. So you while you likely won’t catch us on a date in one of these anytime soon, we did hear of a very fun scavenger hunt idea that a few of our friends did with the Taipei Main Station Mall and Zhongshan Mall. The idea was that these places are mazes anyways, so why not turn it into a game that might in fact help familiarize one with their rabbit-warren or labyrinth-like layout? Make it a double date race and well it could get downright competitive.
Perhaps we are alone in finding airports meditative, but once we are past security, we often find ourselves reveling in the confluence that takes place in an airport. Perfect strangers moving in momentary sync before traveling on to the furthest reaches of the globe. You have everyone from the crying kids to the businessman to the broke backpacker off to find spiritual enlightenment. It’s a study in humanity and a space between worlds which lends greater insight into our own. One reason we suspect we are not alone in this sentiment is that both Taoyuan and Songshan airports have observation decks that are open to the public. Songshan’s is just off the brown line and practically counts as “down town.”
If you and your partner really want to be brave, go in the evening or early morning and bring a speaker and then begin to dance as the planes take off and land around you. The feeling is akin to Elizabeth Bennet and Mr. Darcy spinning in lone ballroom.
So Trivia and Karaoke can be great to do with friend groups in Taipei, however, when we say “Karaoke” in this case we have something slightly different in mind. The TianShui Temple (天水宮) near Yangping Riverside Park has weekly events for its community and public Karaoke and dancing happens to be one of the offerings. It is honestly more fun than we can put into words here and you are guaranteed to make some middle to older age Taiwanese friends in the process.
Now we are not telling you to go jump off a cliff, but if you are looking to spice things up a little, there is a great paragliding center in Wai’ao. It’s cheap, a quick flight, and great views.
A day or part of a day at Wai’ao beach in Yilan is worth every penny. It is very easy to rent a surf board and even chairs and an umbrella should you wish. The bus to Wushi Harbor leaves from Nanggang station almost hourly.
Now museums are not everyone’s choice of fun, however, the National Palace Museum and the Taipei Fine Arts Museum are truly world class. Even if it is just in the summer for the air conditioning, we would highly recommend going. There is an importance to seeing and spending time with your partner in multiple spaces and settings. Alternatively bring sketch books and make it a drawing or writing exercise. Or, spread out within a room and find the piece that most reminds you of your partner — keep in mind you will likely need to explain why.
Located in the north of the city. Check out our blog post about how to get there and what to expect if you have not been there before.
Well we hope we have given you a few ideas for your next date in the city. Again, this is by no means an exhaustive list and really only meant to get you started. We did not begin to get into concerts, city-wide events, college lectures, comedy shows, DIY art and cooking classes, fall leaves or spring flowers. In the end, it is still our contention that Taipei does most of the work in pushing us towards romance. It makes it easy and it is a city that we can’t help but falling in love in time and time again.