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Taipei - Attractions

Open spaces of the National Theater with the Mitsukoshi skyscraper in the background

Botanical Gardens

When the bustle gets too much, Taipei has a few leafy green sanctuaries. The Botanical Gardens, on Nanhai Rd just south of the central city area, has a beautiful lotus pond and is a pleasant retreat from the noisy city.

Lin Antai Old Homestead

In the rush to develop, Taipei has knocked over most of its lovely old residences: Lin Antai Old Homestead is one of the few to have been preserved, and for this reason alone it is remarkable. Built in 1783, the building was dismantled brick by brick when a freeway was built through its original location in 1978. Six years later the graceful old structure was rebuilt in its current location in Pinchiang Park. It's the oldest of the few remaining traditional residential buildings in Taipei - the others are mostly run down.

National Palace Museum

This extraordinary collection was begun during the 10th century, when Chinese Emperors began to annex art treasures. In the 20th century, thousands of artworks were ferried in crates from city to city, and finally to Taiwan, to escape invading armies. Miraculously, most of the collection survived.

The massive collection remains a testament to Chinese tradition, culture, ingenuity and packing methods. From 960 the growing collection spent 500 years moving between Beijing and Nanjing until being housed for another 500 years in Beijing's Forbidden City. In 1931 the collection was sent to Nanjing, then Shanghai, in order to avoid falling into invading Japanese hands. Avoiding the Japanese invasion of Shanghai by only a few weeks, the collection moved back to Nanjing. By 1939 it was hidden in the remote southern village of Emei. Ten thousand crates were also kept in a boat moored on the Yangzi River until the war ended and the collection was reunited. Back again and on display in Nanjing, it was all packed up once more in 1949 and shipped off to Taipei to evade the Communists. This final move was so hasty that about 700 crates were left behind.

Snake Alley

The tourists have moved in and the prices have gone up but it's still worth visiting the Huahsi Night Market to see snake handlers playing with live cobras, to sample snake soup or a cup of snake bile, or to pick up an aphrodisiac made from powdered cobra's gall bladder.

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