(N.B: the following list is by no means a ranking hierarchy.)
1. Family Mart, 7-Eleven, and other convenience stores have everything.
One of the highest per capita concentrations of convenience stores on earth. Where else can you pay your college tuition, eat dinner, print Mayday concert tickets, send express mail, and buy a handle of Johnny Walker at 4:30 a.m.?
2. Before every election, the streets look like this:
The perils of democracy and advertising.
3. Taipei has the coolest cafés.
Eat it, Seattle. Boomers worry that today’s Taipei kids don’t want to conquer the world — they just want to open cafés with their friends. Coffee shops are basically bars in Taipei. Check out Sugared n Spiced for some choice spots.
4. Eslite Dunnan is the world’s only 24-hour bookstore.
Saturday night people-watching at Eslite Bookstore Dunnan is never a bad way to sober up. Time magazine named it Asia’s best bookstore in 2004.
5. Karaoke is a 24/7 sport too.
A 12-floor palace devoted to karaoke? Sure. Cashbox Partyworld does brisk business on typhoon holidays.
6. Shrimping’s also 24/7.
Possibly the weirdest gastro-sport ever. Time to bust out your jorts and six-pack (of delicious Taiwan Beer).
7. You won’t recognize 50% of the things sold at your local market.
Is that a crab or a cursed alien slipper? Why is that chicken blue?
8. Beef noodle soup is Taipei’s official religion.
Taipei hosts a Beef Noodle Soup Festival every year. Everyone swears a blood oath to their favorite shops. If you don’t like beef noodle soup, you are a disgusting pervert and I don’t want to know you.
9. Yonghe has the best breakfast.
Sweet soy milk and fried Chinese doughnuts forever.
10. There’s a great bar called That Fucking Place.
“You have checked in to That Fucking Place on Foursquare.”
11. There’s a toilet-themed restaurant.
Please kindly invite your friends to eat shit. Modern Toilet offers enticing fare like “baby’s explosive diarrhea” (actually just green curry) served in mini toilet bowls.
Keep Taipei weird, yall.
13. Yongkang Street is a great place to get your Asian retro-chic on.
Antiquing central. And James’ Kitchen is arguably the best Taiwanese restaurant in town.
15. Taipei is the Chinese pop/indie music capital.
From C-pop megastars to symphonic metal, hip-hop, post-rock, and folk singer-songwriters, Taipei exports the best Mandarin pop music in the world. You’ll also catch bands like Neutral Milk Hotel at surprisingly small venues (The Wall and Legacy). For schedules, check GigGuide Taiwan.
16. There’s always some design or music festival.
17. The clubbing scene’s no slouch either.
Decidedly less douchey than clubbing in many other big cities. Every year there’s a new club du jour, but Luxy was your first fake-ID love.
18. There’s a whole street devoted to wedding photographers.
Chungshan North Road Section 2. I have never seen this in any other city. Keep. Taipei. Weird.
19. Yangmingshan National Park is a bus ride away.
On the rare occasion the sun’s out, you can take day hikes on a whim.
20. Ximending is cosplayers and otakus galore.
Get your gothic loli on.
21. The garbage trucks sing to you.
22. If you piss off the students, you WILL hear from them.
Flawed democracy is still democracy. Read.
23. GuangHua is basically a Tatooine junkyard of electronic bargains.
Brave the clouds of nerd-sweat at GuangHua for a steal on a new computer. Bring your haggling A-game. (Also, RIP old GuangHua.)
24. Night markets. All of them.
Imagine hundreds of street-food carts and pop-up stores crammed in 10 city blocks. Everyone goes to Shilin, but Shida has the coolest stuff. Too bad the government’s scaling it down.
25. Beitou has great hot-spring spas.
The northern suburbs appeal to the geriatric in us all.
26. Sick of the rainy north? You can get to Kenting Beach in four hours…
…on a Cartoon Network-themed bullet train.
27. Taipei 101 has the best New Year’s fireworks.
Camping out at a park near Taipei 101 with your friends, drinking 7-Eleven whiskey, watching fireworks, then seeing the flag-raising ceremony at sunrise at the Presidential Palace = best way to start a year.