Ricky (Senior Airfare Analyst): New York to Taipei $620 round-trip on Air China for spring travel. Some itineraries require lengthy layovers in Beijing, sometimes overnight.
Where to stay: Grand Hyatt Taipei is located right next to Taipei 101 and features a nice rooftop pool with great views of the city skyline. Staff is excellent and rooms are neat and modern. Reasonably priced for a 5 star hotel.
For a cheaper and more central option, CityInn Hotel near the main Taipei Station is a good deal. Location, service, and style is great, but be warned in this boutique hotel some rooms are tight and windowless, not for the claustrophobic.
Where to Eat: Din Tai Fung has several locations around Taipei and the Michelin star rated soup dumplings (xianlongbao) live up to their acclaim. The lines are always long but many places offer takeout. For the soup dumpling newbies like myself, they also offer instructions on how to properly eat them the traditional way. Must try for anyone visiting Taipei!
Shihlin Night Market is also a great place to experience local Taiwanese cuisine, loaded with different food stalls and merchants this is a vibrant place in northern Taipei to find any type of food you can imagine.
Where to Drink: Brass Monkey in Fuxing is admittedly western style and a bit of a typical sports pub, but it does always seem busy and entertaining. I wouldn’t consider it an authentic watering hole, but it is sufficient if you are looking to catch-up with ex-pats, listen live music, or dance without going to a nightclub.
For those looking for a more relaxed and authentic Taiwanese drinking experience, grab some oolong tea at one of Taipei’s tea houses, Wistaria House in the Da’an district is always a good option.
What to Do: In Taipei proper, take a trip up to the top of Taipei 101, formerly the world's largest building from 2004-2010, where you can get a great overview of the city, provided it isn’t a foggy or muggy day (good luck). Watching the guard ceremony at the Chiang Kai-shek memorial is also an unique experience. The Lungshan temple and the area around it also gives you an in depth feel for local Taiwanese worshipers and pilgrims who visit this temple regularly.
The National Palace Museum does have an amazing collection, but it is further outside the city and can have large crowds. I enjoyed it, but wouldn’t consider it a must-see, unless you are well versed in old Chinese dynastic art and calligraphy, much of it will be wasted. The jade carving and jewelry are highlights, but not something you need to put at the top of your list.
Since Taiwan is a small island and the public transit is top-notch, I would recommend a visit to Takoro Gorge and National Park in Hualien. It can be done as a day-trip but an overnight stay in Hualien is also nice so you can see another side of Taiwan. There are loads of sites along the twisting gorge road to stop and see and I would consider it one of the more breathtaking locations on the island.