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Taipei (Keelung) (Photo:ESB Professional/Shutterstock)
4.0 / 5.0
Cruise Critic Editor Rating

By Cruise Critic
Cruise Critic Staff

Port of Taipei (Keelung)

Taipei is a busy city of more than two and a half million people situated at the northern tip of Taiwan. Founded by Chinese traders in the 17th century, the city became the country's capital in 1885 and, like the entire country, has been occupied at various times by the Dutch, the Spanish and the Japanese.

Today, the city is a thriving hub of business and tourism that will feel familiar to anyone who has spent time in any of the world's big cities. There are English signs everywhere, American fast-food stops and clothing and shoe shops with recognizable names like Benetton, Sketchers and Aldo. The city's Mass Rapid Transit (MRT) system is easy to navigate, and if you keep your eyes on the towering Taipei 101, you can usually figure out which direction to go.

Like the world's big cities, Taipei is crowded. Locals and tourists alike compete for space, motor scooters are an ever present danger and skyscrapers dominate the horizon. But interspersed among all the noise are pockets of quiet and reflection. Temples, like churches in the Western world, are everywhere, and two of the city's most popular tourist sites -- the Chiang Kai-Shek Memorial Hall and Martyr's Shrine -- request respectful silence.

Not all of the city's tourist attractions are quiet, the most notable exception being the National Palace Museum, which receives thousands of visitors a day. Originally located in Beijing's Forbidden City, the more than 600,000 objects in the collection were moved, first to China's south to avoid the Japanese invasion in 1931, and then to Taiwan in 1949 because of the civil war between the Nationalist Government and the Communists. With the largest collection of Chinese cultural and artistic objects in the world, tourists, especially those from mainland China, flock to the city to visit it.

About Taipei (Keelung)


Pro

Although the city center is a distance away, the mass transit system makes it easy to access

Con

Ships struggle to navigate the narrow channel into Keelung Port in inclement weather

Bottom Line

See temples and shrines among skyscrapers and shopping malls in Taiwan's busy capital


Find a Cruise to Asia

Where You're Docked

Cruise ships visiting Taipei dock at the port of Keelung, about 18 miles away.

Good to Know

If you're visiting Taiwan in late spring or any time during the summer, the weather will be hot and humid. Temperatures range from mid-80s to mid-90s with high humidity. Make sure you've got enough water with you at all times, and carry a hat or umbrella to protect you from the sun.

Currency & Best Way to Get Money

The Taiwan New Dollar, also called NTD, is the official currency of Taiwan; coins are available in denominations of 1, 5, 10 and 50, while bank notes come in 100, 500 and 1,000 NTDs. For up-to-the-minute conversions, visit www.xe.com or www.oanda.com.

Cash is king in Taipei, though large department stores, museums and some souvenir shops accept Visa or MasterCard. You can exchange money at an exchange desk at the terminal near where ships dock at the Keelung port or use your ATM card at the 7-Eleven located right across the street from where ships dock.

Language

Most people in Taipei speak Mandarin Chinese. English is new to the country but compulsory in school, so children are more likely than their parents to know some English. Most people younger than 30 should have a basic understanding of English, as do most shopkeepers.

Shopping

Jade jewelry and beautifully carved decorative items are ubiquitous in Taiwan ... but not necessarily inexpensive. If you're ready to shell out the money, you can find unique items, including jewelry made from Taiwanese rose jade, an unusual find.