First published: 3 Dec 2018
Uncover quirky things to do in Taiwan like exploring a haunted hotel or paragliding — these underrated attractions will have you screaming “Tai-want!”
Time to see Taiwan from a whole new angle!
On the surface, a trip to Taiwan seems pretty standard — getting stuffed with street food, and hitting the trendy streets of Taipei. But beyond the Ximending buzz, we found a whole gamut of adventures, ranging from the crazy beautiful to just plain crazy. Where else can you get your fortune told by a bird? Or whizz down a slide into a warm spa?
Our trip from Taipei to Kaohsiung through Eastern Taiwan took us through neon-lit cities, coastal towns, and cultural icons, enjoying unforgettable experiences, mind-blowing sights, and crazy ways to dine. It was hard to believe these diverse experiences were all in the same country!
There’s more to Taiwan beyond night markets, so next time you’re there, why not put down that XL Chicken and try these 25 unique activities?
1) Visit Fortune-Telling Birds at Longshan Temple
Photo credit: Canadian Chamber of Commerce in Taiwan
Depending on whether you’re a believer, fortune telling can be a wacky experience in itself, but here’s something even more cuckoo.
Tucked in a booth at Longshan Temple Station’s underground bazaar, you’ll find the English-speaking Ms Chen and her feathered fortune-tellers, Big Luck Master and Big Fortune. The white java sparrows are purported to have keen psychic instincts and can provide guidance for the mysterious future.
After intense flittering, the birds will pick your fate from a set of intricate tarot cards, each carrying fortunes based on traditional folk tales. Definitely an authentic Taiwan experience to try for a lark!
Cost: Ranges around NT$1,000 to NT$2,000 (~S$43 – ~S$87) based on the number and complexity of questions
Opening hours: 11AM – 9PM
How to get there: Take the MRT to Longshan Temple Station, follow the signs for the Longshan Temple Exit and head to the Longshan Temple Underground Shopping Bazaar
*Pro-tip: For the most accurate reading, come prepared with your time of birth — the more specific the timing, the better!
2) Watch out for Ghosts at the Grand Hyatt Taipei
Photo credit: Klook
Maybe you should pay more heed to your fortune, especially if you’re braving a night at one of Asia’s most haunted hotels.
The Grand Hyatt Taipei may be the epitome of luxury, but isn’t known for providing a good night’s sleep. Rumour has it that behind the hotel’s chic, modern appearance lies a sordid history: a former prison camp where many were executed during the Japanese Occupation.
It’s all just hearsay, of course, and management is quick to dismiss any ghoulish gossip, but hey, you can only be sure by experiencing it yourself. 🙂
Cost: From ~S$363/night
How to get there: Take the MRT to Taipei 101/World Trade Center station and walk 2mins
3) Ride a Glass-Bottom Gondola Up the Maokong Mountain
Photo credit: Klook
Try the Taiwanese version of high tea with a glass-bottom gondola (cable-car) ride through Maokong, famous for its charming teahouses along the edge of the mountain.
The half-hour ride will take you over lush forest and tea plantations, and provides stunning views of Taipei city. At the top, sip on high-quality local tea, including the premium Tie Guan Yin, an Oolong brew. There’s no better way to relax away from the bustle of the city.
Photo credit: @leessaalove2 via Instagram
If you found the gondola ride a little too relaxing, opt for the minibus (NT$15) on the way down — just remember to hold on tight!
Cost: NT$120/trip (~S$5.20); EasyCard holders entitled to NT$20 (~S$0.80) discount on weekdays
Opening hours: Gondola service usually from 8:30AM – 9PM (Sun – Thu); 8:30AM – 10PM (Fri – Sat). Check weather conditions on the official website before going
How to get there: Take the MRT to Taipei Zoo station, then follow the signs leading to the Gondola. It’s three stops to Maokong Station
4) Wish on a Lantern at Shifen Old Street
Entering Shifen Old Street feels like stepping into a romantic movie of days past. The outdoor train tracks are lined with quaint shops, while paper lanterns float gently in the sky above.
People flock to this charming town just outside Taipei to experience this beautiful tradition: writing their wishes on colourful lanterns and releasing them into the heavens. The railway tracks make the perfect backdrop, with old-school trains passing through every little while.
Cost: NT$100 – NT$200 (~S$4.30 – ~S$8.70) per lantern
Opening hours: Most stalls open from 8:30AM – 6PM
How to get there: From Taipei Main Station, take a northbound train (except Keelung-bound trains) to Ruifang Train Station. Then transfer to the Pingxi Line Train and take the train to Shifen Station
5) Get Spirited Away at Jiufen
The former gold mining town of Jiufen is truly magical — packed with cobblestone pathways, pretty lights, and historical architecture. It’s no wonder that the mountainside village became the perfect inspiration for Miyazaki’s Spirited Away.
Wander the winding alleys while munching on delicious traditional snacks, like Wu Di Wild Boar Sausage and A-Zhu Peanut Ice Cream Roll.
Cost: Food prices average around NT$50 (~S$2.20)
How to get there: From Taipei Main Station, take a northbound train (except Keelung-bound trains) to Ruifang Train Station. Upon exiting, face the Wellcome Supermarket, turn left and head 200m down Mingdeng Road. Next to the police station, you’ll see the Local Residents Plaza (區民廣場) bus station. It’s a 15min bus ride via routes 827, 788, or 1062 to Jiufen Old Street
6) Slide into a Spa at Art Spa Hotel Yilan
Renowned for its underground hot springs, hotels with spas are a dime a dozen in the Jiaoxi township of Yilan. Art Spa Hotel, however, takes things to another level — specifically five storeys, with a 360° spiral slide that launches you into a warm pool.
It’s an honestly thrilling ride which saw us returning for seconds, before cooling (heating?) down in the standard, relaxing hot springs. As for the latter, we were spoilt for choice with 50 indoor and outdoor springs, and even a hot spring tub in each hotel room!
Cost: From ~S$164/night
Opening hours: The hot springs are open daily from 7:30AM – 10:30PM. Slide operates hourly at 10AM, 2PM, 4PM, 7:30PM, and 9PM
How to get there: 4min walk from Jiaoxi Station
*Pro-tip: Swim-caps are a must to enter the springs, so bring your own if you’d rather not purchase one (NT$50, ~S$2.20) from reception.
7) Visit Taiwan’s First Whiskey Distillery
Taiwan’s first whisky distillery was a long-held dream of its founder, who believed that Yilan’s spring water and fresh air would be perfect for whisky-making. Turns out he was right — Kavalan Whisky Distillery is now internationally-acclaimed and is even crowned the ‘World Whiskey Producer of the Year‘ for three years in a row!
At Kavalan (named for the indigenous name of Yilan county), take a tour of the whisky-making process, or enjoy a whisky-tasting session (NT$800)! Each session entitles you to claim a trio of pre-packed 20ml bottles — there’s no sweeter souvenir!
To get the most out of the day, we recommend taking a Yilan day tour which includes the Kavalan Whisky Distillery and other cool activities in Yilan.
For instance, visiting the aesthetically-pleasing Lanyang Museum, The National Center for Traditional Arts for old-school craft shops and a hilarious Zodiac-themed performance, and Tangweigou Hot Spring Park for a relaxing dip.
An entertaining (and free!) zodiac-themed performance at The National Center for Traditional Arts
Our driver, Ben, was super helpful and friendly — even bringing us to local gems when we told him we were craving dessert and lu rou fan (braised pork rice)!
Cost: ~S$86.80/pax for a 7hr tour (incl. admission tickets), min 4pax
Pick-up & Drop-off: Taipei Main Station
8) Paraglide over Palm Trees and Paddy Fields
Hands down one of the best things I’ve done in my life. There’s no better feeling than looking at the natural wonders of Taiwan from a bird’s eye view.
You know all those crazy nature drone shots you see in travel videos? That’s what you’ll get, from all angles — insane views of endless greens, winding blue rivers, and the Taiwanese mountains stretched across the horizon.
P.S. Toward the end of the 15-minute flight, your instructor might ask if you want to ‘spin’. Don’t hesitate, hang tight, and say YES!
How to get there: Take the free shuttle provided by the operator from Wanrong Railway Station to the meetup point.
9) Go River-Trekking
Photo credit: 溯溪王Riverking Facebook
Refresh yourself with a dip, splash, and slide along Hualien’s crystal streams. The river-trekking adventure begins with a quick trek through the forest, before emerging to cyan waters so clear, you’ll just want to get right in.
Photo credit: 溯溪王Riverking Facebook
And get right in you will — jumping off cliffs and rushing down natural water slides! The water is so cool, clean, and refreshing, you’ll feel brand-new right after. We were given steaming hot bowls of noodle soup when we were done, which were simple but so delicious to slurp while waist-deep in water.
We took the 4-hour tour (including transport), but were told that the full-day option comes with far more adventure, as well as pretty waterfalls! It also includes a full camp lunch of veggies and chicken. We’d definitely have opted for that if we had more time.
*Pro-tip: Attempt only if you’re in good physical condition as the rocks can be difficult to traverse when wet. And the tours were conducted in Chinese so best to have someone with you that can translate!
Photo credit: 溯溪王Riverking Facebook
After, download your photos for free off the Facebook page, so the fun memories don’t get washed away!
Cost: NT$1,200/pax (~S$52) for 4hr half-day tour, NT$2,400/pax (~S$104) for 8hr full-day tour
Pick-up & drop-off: Any location in Hualien
10) Cycle Along the Pacific Ocean
The coastal city of Taitung is famous for its bike trail, with gorgeous views of open skies, mountains, and the enormous Pacific Ocean. The towering blue waves are truly a mind-blowing sight.
We rented bikes for free from Inn by the Village (~S$145/night), our accommodation in Taitung, and went for an easy, relaxing ride. Set the morning aside to visit the sightseeing spots along the way, including the Railway Art Village and Harbin Park.
How to get there: Choose your bike trail here
11) Skin Diving at Houbihu
Skin-diving a.k.a snorkelling is one of nature’s best outdoor activities — low-effort and great for beginners (even non-swimmers are welcome!), but extremely rewarding with its diverse marine scene.
One of the best places to skin-dive is Houbihu, Kenting’s coral reef lagoon that’s crystal-clear and beautiful throughout the year. Admire the pretty white beach as you submerge in emerald waters to see scores of colourful reef fish and corals.
Meetup point: No. 79-56, Daguang Road, Daguangli, Hengchun Township, Pingtung County
12) Hike Elephant Mountain for a Bird’s Eye View of Taipei City
If you’ve been to Taipei before, you’ve probably ticked off the basic tourist must-do: a trip to the top of Taipei 101. For those seeking something unique, however, here’s one better: free views of Taipei 101 and the entire city skyline, with exercise to boot!
Take the trail up Elephant Mountain — a 20-minute hike with rest stops and viewpoints along the way.
Go at sunset to watch the views change from daytime Taipei to a dazzling array of lights. Bonus: Taipei 101 lights up in the seven colours of the rainbow for each different day of the week!
*Pro-tip: Bring your own water as there are no shops along the trail.
Opening hours: 24hrs
How to get there: Take the MRT to Xiangshan, walk out via Exit 2, and follow the signs to the trail
13) Spot Dolphins around Turtle Island
On the Turtle Island Tour, you’ll see one of the coolest sights ever: wild dolphins in clear, sparkling waters, swimming insanely close to your boat. If you’re lucky, you’ll even spot whales during the warmer months!
Is this real life? Is this just finn-tasy?
Before dolphin-watching, you’ll also get to explore the mystical Turtle Island on a guided walking tour. It’s named for its shape (guess which animal it resembles), with a tail that supposedly curls northwards in summer and southwards in winter. Do visit from March through May if you can, as the island blooms with beautiful white lilies.
Do you see it? Photo credit: Klook
For slightly over an hour, wander the 7,000-year-old volcanic island as the guide tells interesting stories in Hokkien and Mandarin. It’s interesting to see remnants of history, like the island’s only primary school, which was vacated and transformed into a military base until as recently as 2000.
Cost: ~S$60.70/pax for a 4.5hr tour
Meet-up point: Wushih Harbour, No. 15-30, Gangkou Rd., Toucheng Township, Yilan County
How to get there: Take the train to Toucheng Station followed by a 25min walk, or get a taxi from the station
14) Admire the Famous Taroko Gorge
If there’s one thing to put on your Taiwan bucket list, it’s this. Also known as the Taiwanese Grand Canyon, the gorge is so breathtaking that its native Truku tribe named it ‘Taroko’, meaning ‘magnificent and splendid’ in their language.
It’s one of the biggest and most breathtaking canyons in the world, with over 20km of vertical cliffs, some towering over 1000m. Fun fact: At 920km², Taroko Gorge is even bigger than Singapore (721.5km²)!
If you’re only there for the day, the best way to get around is by scooter or driving to the top sights, including the Eternal Spring Shrine and Cimu Bridge. Otherwise, spend a day or two hiking around the area for views like no other!
Entrance fee: Free
How to get there: From Hualien Station, take a 30 – 40min car or scooter ride. Alternatively, take a 10min ride from Xincheng Station
15) Enter the Dragon and Tiger Pagodas
The surreal Dragon and Tiger Pagodas offer an experience like no other. For good luck, walk through the dragon’s mouth and exit via the tiger’s.
Inside each pagoda, you’ll find interesting artwork, graphically depicting traditional stories of heaven and hell.
Entrance fee: Free-will donation basis
Opening hours: 8AM – 5PM
How to get there: Take the MRT to Ecological Park Station, and walk for around 20mins. Alternatively, take Red Bus 35 from Zuoying High Speed Train Station
16) Stand Under the Dome of Light at Formosa Station
In Taiwan, riding the metro is its own culture complete with souvenirs, anime mascots, and commemorative stamps.
There’s also the Dome of Light at Formosa MRT Station, the largest glass artwork in the world created by esteemed Italian artist Narcissus Quagliata. The stunning rainbow kaleidoscope depicts the human life cycle — with Water: The Womb of Life, Earth: Prosperity and Growth, Light: The Creative Spirit, and lastly, Fire: Destruction and Rebirth.
Cost: Free (within public premises of train station)
Show times: Light shows at 11AM, 3PM, and 8PM
How to get there: Formosa MRT Station
17) Sleep in Your Very Own Art Installation
This boutique Papa Whale Hotel in Kaohsiung promises a different experience each time. Every room comes with a unique theme and style, ranging from the artistic to the truly wacky.
We tried two of the rooms — one which felt like we had stepped into a comic book, and the other with huge braille-like messages running over the walls and ceiling.
The stay also comes with a hearty breakfast of fruit, french toast, salad, and sausage.
Cost: From ~S$50.90/night
Address: No. 328號, Minsheng 1st Road, Xinxing District, Kaohsiung City, Taiwan 800
18) Catch One of the Most Beautiful Sunsets in the World
Guanshan Sunset Lookout Point.
Nestled in Kenting National Park, Guanshan Hill looks unassuming in the daytime. Come sunset however, the sky grows ablaze with light and colour, transforming from hues of brilliant orange to spectacular purples and pinks.
It’s a daily sight which has earned Guanshan a spot on CNN’s 12 Superb Sunset Spots Around The World, offering unobstructed views of the Hengchun Peninsula, fishing villages, and the stunning coast of Kenting National Park’s South Bay.
This is a definite must-go — still the only time I’ve ever seen a purple sunset, and hands-down the prettiest!
*Pro-tip: Guanshan’s sunset is stunning year-round, but locals say it’s especially impressive in the months of June to October.
Entrance fee: NT$60/pax (~S$2.60)
Address: No. 17-1, Binlang Road, Hengchun Township, Pingtung County, Taiwan 946
19) Gaze at Fo Guang Shan’s Big Buddha
Fo Guang Shan Buddha Museum, Taiwan’s largest Buddhist compound is truly a sight to behold, with 480 golden Buddha statues, including an awesome seated Buddha at a towering 108m-high.
Even if you’re not Buddhist, it’s a great place to spend a day learning about its charming founder, Master Hsingyun, and his philosophy of Humanistic Buddhism, which encourages people to spread love and peace in this life.
There’s also an impressive (and free) 15-minute movie about the life of Sakyamuni Buddha. Trust me, it’s more entertaining than it sounds — plus it’s in 4D!
Entrance fee: Free
Opening hours: 9AM – 7PM, closed on Tuesdays (‘Life of the Buddha’ show timings every half an hour from 10AM to 12:30PM)
How to get there: Driving from Kaohsiung city to Fo Guang Shan takes about 20mins. The Harvard Express Bus (NT$70/pax) that shuttles to-fro Kaohsiung HSR station and Fo Guang Shan takes 45mins. We recommend taxis, which make the same trip at half the time for NT$100/pax. You may contact Mr. Huang at +886933307574 for taxi services around Kaohsiung and Fo Guang Shan
Crazy Food & Drinks
20) Eat out of a Toilet Bowl at Modern Toilet Restaurant
If you thought smelly tofu was bad, you haven’t tried sloppy turd-shaped meatballs. The second you step into Taipei’s Modern Toilet Restaurant, you’ll be graphically reminded of where (and how) your food is going to end up. The self-described ‘scatological fantasyland’ serves alarmingly realistic dishes that are honestly pretty disgusting.
Sat comfortably on our toilet bowl seats, we feasted on Modern Toilet Poop Meatballs (NT$260) and Toilet No.2 (NT$160), an overflowing diarrhoea-mess of ice shavings, soft-serve, jelly, and biscuits — all in a shitty shade of poo-brown.
Even the drinks are gross. Our Bleeding Hemorrhoid Strawberry Milk and Taiwanese Urine Beer (NT$200) came in a medical urine collection container, with a urinal option also available.
Cost: Mains from NT$260 (~S$11.30), and drinks from NT$110 (~S$4.80)
Opening hours: 12PM – 9:30PM (Mon – Fri), 11:30AM – 10PM (Weekends). Last order 1hr before closing
Address: 2F, No 7, Ln 50, Xining S. Rd., Taipei City (Taipei outlet)
21) Have Meals with Wheels at the Crazy Cart Café
At Crazy Cart Café, whiz around after feasting on classic café fare. The tracks start indoors and wind outside the building, and are complete with looping platforms and steep slopes. Even going at 20km/h, it was pretty thrilling as we attempted to drift, and ended up spinning around uncontrollably. Way to fight off a food coma!
Cost: NT$650 (~S$28), (NT$500 goes toward the go-cart). NT$300 (~S$13) minimum order without the go-cart
Opening hours: 12PM – 9PM (Wed – Sun), closed on Mon and Tue
Address: No. 360, Section 8, Civic Blvd, Nangang District, Taipei City, Taiwan 115
22) Grab a Cuppa at the Highest Starbucks in the World
Level up your caffeine buzz with a cuppa at Taipei 101’s Starbucks — the highest in the world!
Once a well-kept secret, this scenic Starbucks is now a hit amongst locals and tourists alike, so you’ll need to make a reservation at least a day in advance (by phone +886 2 8101 0701). Like an exclusive club, this Starbucks also comes with its own set of rules, including a minimum spend per customer, a 90-minute time limit, and a strict dress code of no slippers or shorts.
Located on Level 35 of Taipei 101, it’s a cheaper way to catch the view without shelling out for observatory tickets — plus, of course, bragging rights!
Cost: Minimum spend of NT$200 (~S$8.70) for at least one pastry and drink
Opening hours: 7:30AM – 6:30PM (Mon – Fri), 9AM – 6PM (Sat – Sun)
How to get there: Take the MTR to Taipei 101 Station and look for Door 7
23) Munch on a Penis-Shaped Cake
Can you really say you’ve visited Taiwan if you’ve never posed with one of these?
This icocknic Taiwanese snack comes as a pineapple cake with PG13 fillings: honey-melon, blueberry, raspberry, or sesame and peanut (NT$300 per set). Each is coated in a different colour, but there’s no hiding what they’re meant to resemble.
Not the usual Taiwanese sausage.
If you’re big on realism, there’s also a chocolate cake version packed with chocolate filling (NT$320) in a skin-tone shade of brown!
Cost: From NT$300 (~S$13) for 2pcs
Opening hours: 10AM – 12AM
How to get there: Walk along Ximending Street — the shop is opposite the huge MASA claw machine arcade.
24) Omakase at Four-Generation Farmer
If you’ve ever visited Taiwan, you’ll be familiar with their amazing hospitality. Experience this firsthand at the homely Four-Generation Farmer, an omakase-style family restaurant, tucked in the peaceful countryside of Hualien. At just NT$300/pax, you’ll enjoy a feast freshly prepared with whatever’s in the kitchen.
This means it’s your luck what kind of dishes you get, but based on our visit there, I can safely say the quality (and quantity) of dishes surpassed way beyond my expectations.
The food kept on coming: alfalfa sprout & lobster salad, fried fish with Roselle, braised pork knuckles, omelette with dried radish, long bean soup, kumquat tea, and rice. So delicious, and prepared with so much heart.
Cost: NT$300 (~S$13)
Opening hours: 11AM – 2PM (Lunch), 5PM – 8PM (Dinner)
Address: No. 1, Dazhong Road, Fenglin Township, Hualien County, Taiwan 975
25) River-Shrimping in a Stream
Photo credit: 溯溪王Riverking Facebook
When the sun has set, go wandering knees-deep in the cool stream and have a go at river-shrimping. It’s an exciting experience that’s not as easy as it sounds — the shrimp are extremely difficult to spot, and are quick to slip away!
Photo credit: 溯溪王Riverking Facebook
Wet boots on our feet, nets in our hands, we spent a good 40 minutes trying to spot traces of bright purplish orbs (the shrimps’ eyes reflecting under headlamps), getting ridiculously excited whenever we did.
At the end of the session, head back for a delicious hot meal of soup, barbecued meat, and bamboo rice. Definitely a welcome surprise, since we thought we’d only be eating our measly catch — in fact, the shrimp we caught were returned to the stream.
*Pro-tip: The tour we took was conducted entirely in Mandarin, so best to have someone in your group who’s able to translate if necessary!
Time slot: 7PM
Address: No. 215, Section 2, Zhonghua Road, Shoufeng Township, Hualien County (In front of 7-Eleven)
Win Travel Vouchers to Spend in Taiwan!
After experiencing outdoor adventures to uncovering unique experiences in Taiwan, we’re definitely coming back for more!
Lucky for us (and all of you), Taiwan Tourism Bureau is giving away travel vouchers worth NT$5,000 (~S$218) to 500,000 tourists! The giveaway will run for three years starting from 1 May 2023 — 250,000 vouchers will be given out in 2023, 150,000 in 2024, and 100,000 in 2025!
Choose to use your travel vouchers in one of two ways, a stored-value smartcard to use at participating stores and attractions or in the form of accommodation vouchers for participating hotels.
Remember to register between one to seven days before your arrival date in Taiwan for a chance to win!
What’s the craziest thing you’ve done in Taiwan? Let us know in the comments below!
Some really great photos here! I added a few of these to my list of things to do while I’m here 😉