Join the Locals for a Spot of Tai Chi
Start your day as the Taiwanese do with an alfresco session of morning tai chi. It's a great way to meet locals and learn a little about a centuries-old art form. Practitioners gather at sunrise in parks across the city. Make an event of it by heading for a famous spot -- such as the imposing Chiang Kai-shek Memorial, a spectacular backdrop for a morning session. Ask (or gesture) if it's okay to join in, and just do as the locals do.
Soak Away Your Troubles in a Hot Spring
Immerse yourself in mineral-laden hot springs. Beitou, inside the city limits, has choices ranging from chic Villa 32 (www.villa32.com) to very affordable public baths. Taking a hot spring is not just about relaxing; it's also a fascinating introduction to both the geology of the island and its Japanese colonial history.
Feast at One of the City's Lively Nightmarkets
Taiwan is a culinary paradise, and nowhere is this more obvious than at Taipei's nightmarkets. After the heat of the day subsides, these nightmarkets spring to life with an incredible (and sometimes seemingly inedible) array of food at every turn. Whether you choose dumplings, fishballs, or just a delicious fruit-juice blend, this is one of the best ways to get a feel for the real Taipei and hang with the people who live here.
Get "Sticky Pics" in Ximending
Indulge in one of Taiwan's more enduring fads in Taipei's trendiest district. Developed in Japan, "sticky pics" are passport-sized photos taken in high-tech booths with a choice of different backdrops. After posing for your pics, technicians will festoon your photos with cowboy hats, snowflakes or whatever suits their creative fancy. Have them printed as photos, stickers or key rings, and minutes later you emerge with a tacky treasure to remind you of Taipei.
Burn Incense in One of the City's Traditional Temples
In spite of its modern, 21st-century swagger, Taipei is a very traditional city with a long history of Buddhist, Taoist and Confucian beliefs. Burning incense with the locals at the ornately decorated temples of Bao'an or Longshan is a moving experience that's not to be missed.
Watch the Sun Set over the Ocean at Fisherman's Wharf
Strolling amid the forest of downtown skyscrapers, it's easy to forget that Taipei began life as a port city. To immerse yourself in the city's seafaring past, take the MRT up to Danshui and then the boat to Fisherman's Wharf, and watch the sun slide below the ocean horizon with a cold beer in your hand.
Beat Taipei's Steamy Summers with a "Big Ice"
Before the invention of ice cream, the Taiwanese kept cool by eating shaved ice topped with fruit. Today "big ice" is more elaborate and might include marshmallows and biscuits along with the obligatory ice, fresh fruit and syrup sauce, but it is as popular as ever. 15 (15 Yongkang St.) is a great people-watching spot and serves giant helpings of "Mango Avalanche."
Take a Load Off with a Foot Massage
You can't go more than a couple of blocks without stumbling across a foot massage establishment, and frankly, after a tough day of shopping, a foot massage can give you the strength to go out and do it all over again. Prices start from NT$500 for a half-hour and usually include a 10-minute foot spa. Try Taichitong (45 Chang'an East Rd., Section 2) or the range of choices at the Shilin nightmarket.
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