Now that you have booked that flight to Taiwan, you must be wondering what you can do there without having the wallet exploding. Well, Taiwan is a culturally rich country with much to offer. It boasts of beautiful scenery, tantalizing snacks, fulfilling conversations and exciting entertainment. These elements of Taiwan can be experienced without expending your New Taiwan Dollars (NTD).
1) Elephant Hill Park （象山）
For the healthier crowd, this free option boasts of a good vantage point to view the beauty of Taipei. While breathing the fresh air, the view of Taipei 101 brings one back to modernity. The path upwards consist mainly of stairs and takes around 15 minutes. As the path unfolds, you should expect the scenery to unfold as well. The stairs are not steep and easy to climb. If you try this out in the early morning, the elderly can be spotted along this path too. Water and other drinks can be bought from a lady at the entrance of the trail.
Some would consider going up in the night for the night view is equally astonishing. The weather is also cooler and makes it less tiring to reach the peak. For those who wants to view the sunrise, this place is an excellent choice. As the sun rises with the city coming into sight, the perfect photo opportunity arises.
- Take the Red  Line aka Tamsui-Xinyi Line to Xiangshan Station.
- Leave from Exit 2 and walk alongside the edges of Zhongqiang Park
- At the end of the road, take a left and head up the hill till the entrance of the trail.
Expect to take about 15-20mins to walk from the station to the trail entrance.
2) Yang Ming Shan
Hiking is a great option for the many visitors to a nature-filled Taiwan. Yang Ming Shan packs a good workout by taking a good hike up the 1120 metres Mount Qi Xing. The geology, flora and fauna will keep one accompanied while attempting to reach the summit. Once at the top, there are plenty of things one can do there. The collection of landscaped gardens with ponds, grottoes, waterfalls, stands of forests, and various artifices, including the famous flower clock would surely appeal to many. Breathing in fresh air while taking in the beauty of Taipei is a cost-less option for tourists.
- Take the Red  Line aka Tamsui-Xinyi Line to Jiantan Station.
- Leave from Exit 1 and walk to the bus station (heading North).
- Take Bus R5 or S15 or S17 to Yangmingshan Station.
3) Jiufen Gold Ecological Museum
This is a stop that many miss out due to their full attention on the old street situated below it. But, this place is worth the visit for it is rich in culture, history and aplenty Instagram-worthy photo opportunities. The attraction starts from the visitor centre and ends off at the musuem. Along the way, there are various points of interest such as the Crown Prince Chalet. The Japanese influences on Taiwan can be felt in this area for the architectural and historical elements scream Japanese. At the end, the museum releases a great ton of information regarding the mining history in this area. One amazing point to note is the world’s largest gold bar weighing at a whopping 220KG and it says there that if you can carry it with one hand, you can bring it home. If not, immerse in this rich culture and appreciate the beauty of history in this free attraction.
- Take the Blue  Line aka Bannan Line to Zhongxiao Fuxing Station.
- Leave from Exit 1 and walk to the bus stop.
- Take Bus 1062 (Keelung Bus Company) for an hour’s ride.
4) Shifen Waterfall
Some refer it to the Niagara Falls of Taiwan but I would say that it is too much of an exaggeration. Nonetheless, it would still be worth the trip for it is majestic to a certain extent. The walk towards the waterfall from the station can be quite long, with some opting for another mode of transportation- motorbikes. Along the street at Shifen, motorbikes are up for rental to reach the destination. For those worrying about the lack of a license, HAKUNA MATA, these motorbikes do not require the documentation except an assurance of the ability to operate a motorbike. The service there is top-notch for they even offer non-riders a ‘chaffeur’, albeit at an extra cost. For the cost-conscious, a 15-20 minutes walk up towards the waterfall would be necessary. It is pretty straightforward as there are many signs pointing towards the tourist attraction along the way.
Nearer to the waterfall, there is a shop that sells food and drinks. As the path can get tiring, a quick rest at the stop can be a good respite. As a preparation for a huge crowd, the pathway towards the waterfall purposes itself to be long, similar to that of a roller coaster queue in the theme park. But, the waterfall is worth it (trust me!).
- Take the Red  Line aka Tamsui-Xinyi Line or Blue  Line aka Bannan Line to Taipei Main Station.
- Catch a railway train to Rueifang Station for an estimated 45mins ride.
- Change to Pinghsi Line and take the train to Shifen Station.
5) Chiang Kai Shek Memorial Hall
(Photo: Juan Martinez from http://www.thetravelersbuddy.com)
This place serves as a form of remembrance to Chiang Kai Shek, an important contributor to Taiwan. Now, it has become a great tourist attraction. The size and architectural style appeal to many, including the local Taiwanese people. Tourists are free to roam in this huge area of stone figures, gardens, carp ponds and pavilions. The whitewashed walls topped with blue tiles make it a great spot for Instagram-worthy photos. One can whip out their camera here and capture the different angles of beauty.
Beyond its history and culture, one can expect an incredibly well-organised changing of guards parade. It happens every hour everyday from 10 am to 4 pm, with the extension of its hours to 6 pm on Wednesday. The Honor Guards perform their ‘act’ with precision and it is very impressive to watch. It can get really crowded so it is advisable to go earlier for a good spot for viewing, photo or video taking. Every 4 months, one may notice a difference in the clothing of these Guards. As the army,navy and air force take turns to serve as the Guards, the color of the uniform varies as well. The army representatives don green uniforms while the air force ones wear blue. The navy Guards are seen wearing black in summer and white in the winter. So, if you are there next time, do try identifying which department of the military they are from.
- Take the Red  Line aka Tamsui-Xinyi Line or Green  Line aka Songshan-Xindan Line to Chiang Kai Shek Memorial Hall Station.
- Leave from Exit 5 and turn right.
6) Sun Yat Sen Memorial Hall
Taipei offers one double the culture with two memorial halls and it sure is convenient. This memorial hall is in remembrance of Sun Yat Sen, a famous historical figure with mega contributions to Taiwan. Similarly, this place exhibits the changing of guards parade, operating from 9 am to 5 pm daily. The memorial hall is distinguished by a sweeping Chinese roof of glazed yellow tiles. This differs from the other memorial hall and is yet another picturesque place. Many bronze statues can be found in this place with different poses of Sun Yat Sen. One can just imitate his poses and create hilarious and fun moments in this place.
For the more serious peeps, there is a gallery filled with volumes pertaining to his political philosophy. He is revered by many to be a great contributor to China and Taiwan so his philosophies are adopted by others. Unfortunately, the exhibits are all explained in Traditional Chinese. The solution for this is Google Translate and it works fine in Taiwan. So grab a picture of the exhibit and get Google to do the translation for you.
- Take the Blue  Line aka Bannan Line to Sun Yat-Sen Memorial Hall Station.
- Leave from Exit 4 and turn right.
7) Bopiliao Old Street
(Photo: Jilin Tang from The Taipei Quarterly)
Most people would know the movie “Monga” (艋舺) which popularized actors Ethan Juan (阮经天) and Mark Chao (趙又廷). However, the location where the movie was filmed at also became popular among tourists. One way to explore a country on a budget would be to relive the movie or drama scenes in public locations. Many tour agencies are starting to do tours based on movies and dramas. Bopiliao Old Street is special as it features historical buildings with a rich history. The brick construction and wooden streets bring one back in time and experience the lives of those residents in that area.
The area was once populated by gangsters so the different buildings showcase the life of a gangster. It is definitely interesting to head in and pretend to be a Taiwanese gangster. One can sit on those wooden chairs with a dragon carving or act like a big shot playing mahjong while making important decisions. So, take the chance to film your own gangsta movie and be the protagonist of a lifetime.
- Take the Blue  Line aka Bannan Line to Longshan Temple Station.
- Leave from Exit 1 and walk through Monga Park towards LongShan Temple.
- Turn right and walk straight for about 2 min.