Hong Kong and Taipei are only a short plane ride from each other, and both have tempting tourist attractions. Chatteris Tutor Ewan Stewart gives us the lowdown on their comparable tourist spots, and his thoughts on touring the two cities.
If you’re thinking about visiting either one of these sprawling metropolises, then you are already on track for the adventure of a lifetime! Both Hong Kong and Taipei are bustling hubs of tasty food, fascinating culture, and a vast assortment of fun activities to tick off your bucket list.
But if you’re curious about which one takes the edge, look no further! While neither place can be labelled better than the other, this piece will give you a savvy run-down on a few of the many attractions and how they compare.
Chi Lin Nunnery vs. Longshan Temple
Neither Hong Kong nor Taipei have a shortage of stunning temples, but from my experience, these two are especially mesmerising.
Longshan is definitely the older of the two buildings, having been built over 200 years ago as a place to gather and worship. It is truly an aesthetic masterpiece, with beautiful dragon sculptures proudly stalking every corner. If you decide to visit, let yourself be captivated by the mystical aura emanating from the waterfall and koi pond before you embark on your spiritual journey inside!
Speaking of beauty and charm, Chi Lin Nunnery is Hong Kong’s more modern counterpart to Longshan. Tucked away inside Diamond Hill’s hustle and bustle, it boasts a huge space filled with luscious greenery and radiant structures built for worship. It’s the perfect place to wind down after an exhausting day.
Both Chi Lin and Longshan are unmissable experiences, but in terms of space and modernity, I would say that the first one has a slight advantage.
Hong Kong dishes vs. Taiwanese dishes
Asia is well-known for its rich cuisine, and these cities are no exception. You can’t go wrong with either one, especially when it comes to tasty, affordable street food!
For me, the Dai Pai Dong stalls dotted around Hong Kong should be essential visits for anyone in the Fragrant Harbour and are a must-try for foodies looking for an authentic experience. Then again, you can’t talk about Hong Kong without mentioning dim sum. Be sure to grab your chopsticks and sample famous dishes like char siu bao (pork buns) and siu mai (pork and shrimp dumplings)!
Speaking of signature dishes, Taiwanese beef noodles are a culinary masterpiece that should be indulged in at any opportunity. You can find them all over Taipei at cheap prices inside lively venues. Once you have devoured a bowl or two, head over to sample Taiwanese hotpot and a couple of beef skewers from a nearby market stall.
Jiufen vs. Tai O
For anime lovers, a lengthy bus ride from Taipei to Jiufen is worth indulging! As the original inspiration for the beloved movie “Spirited Away”, it’s easy to understand why this quaint town became such a source of joy for tourists. For visitors, you can’t let your Jiufen adventure come to an end without purchasing one or two souvenirs from the many independent businesses on the town’s main street, or sampling the local tea houses which you can find lining the main trail.
If you prefer sea critters over cartoon characters, Tai O Fishing Village may be more your style. Don’t be fooled by the rickety stilts propping it up, either – it still stands strong after centuries of people living there, and is just a short journey away by bus or ferry for Hong Kong tourists or residents!
Ximending vs. Times Square
No matter which of these two spots you decide to roam in, one thing is absolutely certain – you will be dazzled by hundreds of beaming lights and bright colours!
The first of the two, located in Taipei’s thriving Wanhua district, proudly represents Taiwan’s LGBTQ+ community with its iconic Rainbow Road. Once you have snapped your selfie next to the elegant strip, you can venture out into the rest of the district to browse the shopping malls; Ximending’s Red House is also an unmissable location, so be sure to snap some shots of the beautiful construct before heading inside for a snoop around.
As for Times Square, this iconic landmark boasts a similar vibe. Not to be confused with New York’s similar counterpart, the Causeway Bay version is just like a scene from a sci-fi movie with huge plasma screens, dozens of cool shops, and even a scenic rooftop bar looking over the area. If you’re in town, you should definitely have a stroll around the square, where you can soak up the sounds, hit the shops, and enjoy a cocktail in Cadillac – a famous rooftop bar overlooking Causeway Bay.
Temple Street vs. Raohe Street
For the final showdown, we have two bustling strips offering a huge variety of tasty street snacks and cool markets. A few months ago, I would have definitely said that Raohe Street took the crown, but now that Temple Street has undergone a huge revamp, it’s a force to be reckoned with!
Starting with Raohe Street, there is no shortage of stalls or vendors and certainly no shortage of keen tourists sampling Taiwanese dishes. When I headed here for the first time, I was blown away by the sight of the archway, and immediately went to fill up on street food. If you do end up in Raohe Street, you cannot leave without trying the buns, skewers, and dumplings! If you stumble upon any game stalls, make sure you let loose and show off your skills too.
When I last visited Temple Street, I really noticed a change in the atmosphere. New stalls and businesses have improved the area, causing tourists to flood in. Not only can you buy cool souvenirs for family and friends, but you can also indulge in plenty of Hong Kong delicacies from hard-working business owners making an honest living. My personal recommendation would be the delicious fish balls sold from a stall towards the north side of the street. Don’t miss out!
It’s hard to compare these two cities and recommend one over the other. No matter where you go in the world, you can never truly say that some places are better than others, since your preferences and experiences will always be different to those of others. However, you have come this far, and are probably desperate for a final decision.
From a personal perspective, I have lived in Hong Kong for almost two years. I have seen all that there is to see and I have had an absolute blast throughout my time here. So, naturally, I am going to have a biased perspective and say that I prefer Hong Kong, as I am incredibly fond of it. Yet Taipei, in my view, is just as exciting and inviting as Hong Kong in many different aspects. It’s a stunning urban paradise with lots to do, and it is only a short journey away from peaceful rural towns and beautiful landscapes if you need an escape from the city. It’s also a great place for budding historians and linguists, since you can easily become absorbed in the cultural landscape of Taiwan. For travellers on a budget, Taipei may also be the more practical option; you can stretch your savings here, since the cost of many items is generally very reasonable and affordable.
So, if you are in a position to do so, my honest recommendation would be to visit both! Either way, both cities have lots to offer and are nothing short of fabulous.
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