THE TAIWANESE CAPITAL gets a big a thumbs up from me. It balances old and new, busy and quiet, traditional and modern. Run-down back alley markets run into modern hotels. Old city temples sit in the shadow of Taipei 101.
A first-class subway system makes getting around easy- their subway station make Australia’s airports look like tin-sheds. Taipei is surrounded by hills and parks, which can be easily done as day trips. But two things stand out in Taipei. First is the array of night markets, street markets and restaurants, putting this city in the food Olympics final. Second is the stunning collection of Chinese art and artifacts housed in the National Palace Museum.
For most tourist, Taipei is the gateway to Taiwan, and a great introduction to the country (or renegade province if you prefer) it is.
Although settled by aboriginal people for far longer, Taipei is relatively new, with settlement and population growing from the 1700s onwards.
Old and new regularly collide.
The greater Taipei area has a population of about 7 million, and manages to feel spacious and compact at the same time.
Modern departments stores, hotels and office are found, as well as older traditional strip shopping streets, with goods spilling into the street.
Taipei Confucius Temple is just one of many varied and storied Chinese temples around.
The Japanese influence of youth culture is very evident.
And the food rocks. Night markets and day markets, street food, cafes, restaurants, hawkers. This pork belly, so good.
Taipei's temples and not just relics of a bygone era. They are active places, where busy people come and worship, and others come for quiet contemplation.
Another side of Taipei life can be seen at the baseball.
Lots of choregraphed cheering and dance moves in crowd. And of course, cheerleaders. It was as though some people weren't even there for the game.....
Taiwan's super modern train system makes it easy to get in and out of the city, and a subway system makes getting around a breeze.
Like many large Asian cities, scooters are part of life here, too. Taiwan makes some pretty awesome mid-sized scooters.
But not everyone has an engine. The humble shopping bike will probably never disappear.
One of the more popular day trips from Taipei is to the old gold mining town of Jiufen. Parts of it do feel like a tacky tourist town, but not all of it.
Gold has been produced here for over 600 years, but it didn't boom until the 1800s. These days, it's just a nice place to see some old stuff.
In among the back streets and souvineer stalls, small family businesses cook up local treats.
With mountain and sea views, Jiufen makes a popular weekend getaway for Taipei residents.
And return from Jiufen in the evening, and you can pig out at the Miakou Night Market in Keelung on the way back.
Miakou is one of the biggest and best in the country. It gets crowded, and some places have queues, but there is just so much good food there.
Spicy (really spicy) chicken bites.
Tender and delicious grilled beef.
I wonder how many satays this gent has served in his lifetime.
Some of the food is laid out ready to serve- just point and eat.
Not everything is on the street, either. Tucked away down an alley we found this northern Chinese lamb soup shop.....
....and this was the reward.
Taipei appears to take a liberal attitude to town planning and design. Some buildings would just never be approved in western cities.
Drab, grey apartment blocks surround the old Bo'an Temple. Personally I prefer that to endless sprawl of McMansions.
Some of the temples had some fantastic artwork, imaginations run riot.
Warriors in battle another common theme, along with everyday village scenes.
Pimped up rootops are a given of course.
Young men worship at the Confucius Temple, which was one of the most interesting in the city.
Others on the to-see list would be Longshan and just nearby the Qinshan temples.
If all that old stuff gets too much, head out to Ximending, to see what the kids are wearing or eat some rainbow cheese.
Taipei is certainly a city of contrasts. Some of the city's biggest hotels and shopping centres are just around the corner from this humble street of eateries.
It's an all-night city, with seemingly one food stall per person, but 30+ people (inc us) were queued at Yong Kang Beef Noodle Soup at 5pm!
And I would do it again and again. Words can't describe food this good.
Large, green spaces survive in the shadow of the once tallest building in the world.
Try Taipei. Just be prepared to put on weight.