Keelung (Taipei), Taiwan
The main port serving Taipei, Keelung is about a half-hour from Taiwan's capital city. Choose to head there or take off in other directions for natural wonders, like the hot springs at Yangmingshan National Park. The port has basic facilities, including Wi-Fi, currency exchange, and cab drivers waving cards with photos of potential destinations.
What We Love
Lungshan Temple: Get to this place of worship, built in 1738, early in the morning to hear chanting. Or wander among the buildings anytime and have your fortune told, a popular activity here.
Maokong Gondola: Take this gondola on the south side of Taipei up to great views and teahouses where you can sip the local brews. (Taiwan has its own ceremonial way of serving fine tea.)
Best Known For
Taipei 101: At 1,667 feet, this towering building was once the world's tallest. It still offers spectacular panoramas from the observation level, while its attention-getting design echoes pagodas and bamboo stalks.
National Palace Museum: This grand building north of Taipei houses all of the art that Chiang Kai-Shek's army could take with them when they fled mainland China. Dodge the tour groups to see works including ancient ceramics, superb jade carvings, and magical brush paintings.
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Who It's Best For
History Fans: Taiwan's history has many intrigues — starting with the prehistoric era and coming up through Spanish, Dutch, Japanese, and Chinese rule.
Foodies: Taipei vies with Singapore and Bangkok for street food and produces some of the world's top teas. Keelung's street scene comes alive in the late afternoon, with vendors hawking local favorites like oyster omelets and stinky tofu. Taipei also has a huge night market.
Don't Say We Didn't Warn You
Beware the Tour Mobs: Major sights, like the National Palace Museum, can be clogged with tour groups, primarily from mainland China.
Bargain for a Ride: Don't accept a taxi driver's first price to get into Taipei unless there are literally no other cabs around.
Gayle Keck is a San Francisco-based contributor to ShermansCruise who has also written for The Washington Post and Los Angeles Times.