This is a non-sponsored article of the Taipei Free Walking Tour Modern Route I had with Like It Formosa.
Most of my friends and followers know that I am such a history and politics geek, and I would not miss learning about a country’s history and politics whenever I visit a new one. However, despite the fact that I am getting tired of the bustle of the concrete jungle, little did they know that I still looooove the cityscapes and modernity (well, depends on whether it brings the city more good than bad hehe).
Well, my desire to learn about history won’t make sense at all if I will not be able to see how it affects the present state of a city or a country, right? That is why, I made sure to squeeze in a modern route tour of Taipei, Taiwan when I went there.
As I was researching for my Taiwan trip itinerary, I came across Like It Formosa, an organization that conducts free (but tip-based) walking tours around Taipei. Apparently, they offer three free walking tours around Taipei: Historic Route, Golden Age Route, and Modern Route. Of course, I cannot miss all of these and I joined all of them.
What I liked about the tours offered by Like It Formosa is that it’s led by young and very intelligent guides. For this specific route, we were guided by a very intelligent lady who’s now at Columbia University for her Master’s Degree in Data Science (hi Viv!). The way they share information about Taiwan is very passionate and really coming from locals.
Apparently, Taiwan, being one of the top economic hubs in the world, is still having a lot of challenges and controversies related to modernity. I liked how our tour guide shared us a lot of trivia, historical backgrounds, nightlife tips, and even ghost stories! Here is the itinerary of the Modern Route tour. Obviously, all of these are walking distance away from one another and all located at Xinyi District. (Spoiler alert: the magnificent Taipei 101 building is seen from all destinations we went to!)
(Please forgive my nighttime mobile photography skills. I was too lazy to take out my point and shoot camera, which I regret up to this day huhu!)
Are you ready to start our Taipei Modern Route Tour?
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 Free Walking Tour Modern Route: 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!
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