The majority of my friends are well aware of my fascination with history and politics. I make it a point to delve into the historical and political aspects of any new country I visit. Interestingly though, even as the urban chaos becomes a tad wearisome, my fondness for the dynamic cityscapes and contemporary lifestyle remains intact (of course, contingent on whether these elements truly enhance the city’s essence more positively than negatively, hehe).
My quest for historical knowledge would lose all meaning if I couldn’t witness its impact on the current state of a city or country, don’t you think? That’s precisely why I ensured to incorporate a contemporary guided tour of Taipei, Taiwan into my itinerary when I visited the place.
During my research for my upcoming journey to Taiwan, I stumbled upon Like It Formosa. This remarkable organization offers complimentary (though gratuity-based) walking tours throughout Taipei. Their array of options includes the Historic Route, the Golden Age Route, and the Modern Route. Naturally, I couldn’t resist the allure of experiencing all three, so I eagerly enlisted for each one.
What stood out to me regarding the tours provided by Like It Formosa was the fact that they are led by youthful and highly astute guides. On this particular route, our guide was a remarkably intelligent woman currently pursuing her Master’s Degree in Data Science at Columbia University (shoutout to Viv!). The manner in which they convey insights about Taiwan is infused with genuine passion and an authentic local perspective.
Evidently, Taiwan, standing as a premier global economic hub, continues to grapple with a multitude of challenges and controversies tied to modernity. I found it intriguing how our tour guide regaled us with a plethora of tidbits, historical context, pointers for nightlife, and even a collection of ghostly tales! Below is the detailed schedule of the Modern Route tour. Notably, all these sites are conveniently within walking distance of each other, nestled in the heart of the Xinyi District. (Prepare for a spoiler: the iconic Taipei 101 structure graces our view from every spot we explored!)
Are you prepared to commence our tour of the Taipei Modern Route?
The first stop of our tour, which was just right at the Sun Yat-Sen Station of the Taipei Metro, is the Taipei Dome. The structure obviously looks unfinished, and there is so much story about it. Apparently, the construction is supposed to start in 2007 and finish in 2011, but a lot of controversies affected the timeline of its construction. In fact, in 2015, the Taiwan government ordered the suspension of the dome.
Among the issues include the overcapacity, absence/poor design of enough emergency exits, and how the ground floor of the dome was planned to become a commercial complex with hotel (which would affect the traffic situation of the area). Well, I hope this dome will be built to serve its original purpose and not for some commercial pursuits that are hazardous to the people and the city.
Sun Yat-Sen Memorial Hall
Sun Yat-Sen is considered as the “Father of the Republic of China” and this building was built in his memory. When we went there, a lot of students are doing dance and performance rehearsals (I found out that the building administration is under the Ministry of Education), and people are relaxing at the nearby Chung-shan Park. The said spot is a nice place to have a view of the Taipei cityscape.
We were told some things about Taiwan history, including Sun Yat-Sen not being present during the actual revolutions (sounds familiar! Emilio Aguinaldo, is that you? Charot.). The building design includes the basics of Chinese architecture and was a result of a contest won by a Taiwanese architect. A popular reason why tourist go here is to witness the hourly changing of guards of the statue of Sun Yat-Sen.
Taipei City Hall
This seat of the Taipei City Government is a very nice structure, but I would love seeing it more during the morning to appreciate how the movement of people and business usually go in this area. In this part of our trip, I learned more about how the Taiwan Parliament is notorious for brawls, and the most extreme one so far is the throwing of water balloons and chairs by the members of the parliament themselves (see here). Moreover, we were told some ghost stories from nearby hotels which served as a nice bonding point for the people joining the tour (in short, nagtakutan kami haha).
Eslite Bookstore (Xinyi Bookstore)
My happy place!!! This is Taiwan’s largest bookstore and is open from 11AM to 10PM! 🙂 There is one branch which even operates for 24 hours (the Dunnan branch), how’s that! I feel sad that I forgot some of the trivia that our guide shared us about this place, but it has something to do with the banning of some propaganda materials (oooh, smells political!). There are books in Mandarin and a few ones in English.
I found a big section for Asian History and I wish I have a lot of money that time huhuhu! I have no idea we’ll be visiting a nice bookstore like this. 🙁 It has a big food court at the basement, and the queue for the milk tea shop was soooo long! This place is definitely my heaven! And oh, in front of the bookstore building is a nice view of Taipei 101, which is our next destination.
Who does not know the beautiful and magnificent Taipei 101? It has been a dream of mine to see it in person because I’ve only been seeing it on TV every New Year’s Eve because of its magnificent fireworks display. It was the world’s tallest building upon its completion in 2004 until before Dubai’s Burj Khalifa was constructed in 2010.
This building is also known for its very fast elevator which can take you to higher floors in a matter of seconds. Moreover, the design looks very Asian, right? I really admire this building! However, our guide told us that more offices have been moving to newer buildings, but it does not take away the fact that Taipei 101 is still a building that can withstand disasters like earthquakes. Plus, it’s a very environmentally-friendly building.
How to End the Taipei Modern Route Tours: Eat at Din Tai Fung!
Eating is a perfect way to cap off your Taipei modern route tour. There is a Din Tai Fung branch at Taipei 101 Mall but it could get really crowded and the queue was usually long. However, since the tour ended up around 9PM and Din Tai Fung is about to close by 10PM, we chanced upon a time where there’s no more queue. Time for a legit xiao long bao!
There you have it! Who’s not gonna love Taiwan because of all these trivia and features? How much more if I mention the foooood? 😀 Taiwan’s current modern state is really interesting and I hope other developing cities can also try to duplicate Taipei’s practices. I never felt stressed the whole time I was in tour here. The train system was efficient, the Taiwanese people were so calm, and there are enough pedestrian lanes in the street. Definitely a perfect place to live in! So what are you waiting for? Plan your Taipei modern route tour now!
For accommodation options in Taipei, Taiwan, click on the banner below: