For years, Taipei 101 was the tallest skyscrapers in the world. As an iconic landmark and one of the tallest buildings worldwide, the observation deck of Taipei 101 rightly becomes a must-visit. It is certainly worth seeing. To me, the most amazing part is the structure design and this 660-tonne tuned mass damper that helps the building withstand typhoons and earthquakes. Bear in mind that this 509 meter / 1669 feet building is situated on the circum-Pacific seismic belt. However, if you want to see the view of the Taipei City with Taipei 101 in it, the Elephant Mountain Trail, or the Xiangshan Trail, is one of the best places to go.
HDR is my new fun. Yet getting the software and plug-in’s is a big investment. So I downloaded ProHDR just to try it out. I took this first picture with ProHDR on my iPhone and edited it with Snapseed.
This would be my recommendation for tourists visiting Taipei 101 and the Xinyi District (信義區), and this will probably be our plan when I take Aaron to Taiwan for the first time this year. Note that this is for people who do not mind lots of walking and stairs.
Slide in some short schedule for the morning, get an early lunch, and then go take a nap if you are jet lagged. Head over to Taipei 101. Whether you go up to the observation deck or not, make sure you drop by the Four Four South Village (四四南村/信義公民會館). Then walk from there to the Elephant Mountain Hiking Trail. It takes about 20 minutes to walk from either Taipei 101 or Four Four South Village to the beginning of the trail. Hike up the trail to see the view at sunset or night time. And then pick a restaurant in Taipei 101, Hankyu Department Stores (阪急百貨) or Shin-Kong Mitsukoshi (新光三越) to enjoy dinner and dessert. The Xinyi District mall area is pretty at night.
If you want to go hiking first, there is a metro station nearby, the Xiangshan Station. (Google Map)
The Four Four South Village (四四南村/信義公民會館) is a village of dormitories built in the 40s for workers at a armament factory and their families. This place is less than 5 minutes in walking distance from Taipei 101. It’s now a historic site where you’d find culture events, exhibitions, coffee shops and flea markets on Sundays. This village was built for workers at the 44 arsenal of the Combined Logistics Command and the complex was south of the factory, hence the name. Lots of people shoot their engagement or wedding photos here. The scenes here present a drastic contrast between modern high-rises and the old buildings with its blue-collar background.
We went during the Lunar New Year break. This place was packed! Otherwise it would be a great place to snap some pictures.
The Elephant Mountain Hiking Trail (or Xiangshan Hiking Trail, 象山親山步道) is full of stairs, but the view is worth it. If you are fit, it would probably take only 15 minutes to get to the top. Otherwise it would take about 20 minutes or longer depending on your speed and how much break you need. Don’t say you are never warned. Be prepared for lots and lots of stairs.
I live in the north of the city and I’m not in this area often. This was actually my first time up on Xiangshan. We were up there at about 4:30 p.m. in early February and we left before 5 p.m. It seemed that the best time to visit would be early in the morning or early in the evening for the sunset and night view. In the afternoon, the sun is not at the right spot, the air is not clear, and the sky is only partially blue. I’ll need to go back again either in the early morning or in the evening with a tripod!
If you need your morning run or exercise even when you are traveling, rolling in hiking Xiangshan to one of your early morning schedule would be a good idea. If you are aiming for some serious photography, be sure you arrive really early. This is one of the most cliche photography spots you can find in Taipei. On the top of Xiangshan sits the famous six gigantic rocks where people set up their tripods as early as 3 or 4 p.m. to wait for the 6:00-6:30 p.m. sunset and early evening view. Shooting New Year fireworks of Taipei 101 is a nearly impossible mission that takes serious dedication. People camp out to secure a spot for their tripods a day or two beforehand. Xiangshan is not the only spot to shoot. The Four Beasts Mountains (四獸山) around the Xiangyi District with Xiangshan (Elephant Mountain) being one of them provide lots of photo shoot spots.
More information about the trail can be found in this blog post by Neil Wade’s Photography Blog for pictures of the trail and a detailed Google Map of trails around here.