Top 10 Things to Bring Home from Taiwan

Taiwan is a hot destination for travelers to Asia.  And as tourism arrivals increase, so too does the number of souvenirs being purchased. So travel website TheRealTravelers has created a top 10 list of the best mementos to take home after a trip to country’s capital city of Taipei.

Many of the items listed can be found in one spot — the Taiwan Handicraft Promotion Center — near the National Taiwan University Hospital MRT Station. Another option is the National Palace Museum Shop, which sells replicas of items from its vast collection of treasures. And don’t forget the markets. Here’s their suggestions and some thoughts on where to buy the souvenirs.

1. Pineapple Cakes

An obvious choice for number one, pineapple cakes are one of the most famous and popular items tourists buy when they travel to Taiwan. Somewhat similar to a Fig Newton, they are a soft pastry filled with a chewy pineapple filling. Their sweet flavor is appealing to most, they come in relatively small boxes and sell for approximately NT$15 (US$0.50) to NT$45 (US$1.50) per piece. They also come in other fruit flavors, such as mango, blueberry and taro, and can be easily be found in shops throughout Taiwan.

Where to purchase:

SunnyHills, No.1, Alley 4, Lane 36, Section 5, Minsheng East Road, Taipei, Taiwan

​Chia Te Bakery, No. 88, SEc 5, Nanjing East Rd, Taipei 105, Taiwan

Shun Chen Bakery, No. 320, Sec. 4, Zhongxiao E. Rd., Daan Dist, Taipei, Taiwan

2. Oolong Tea

Tea has been one of Taiwan’s best known agricultural products for centuries, with the earliest record of tea trees going back to 1717 in Nantou County. Of Taiwan’s many tea varieties, Taiwanese Oolong is considered one of the best in the world by tea connoisseurs.

Light varieties include Dongding, Pouchong and Ruan Zhi. Dongfang Meiren and Alishan have more of a fruity flavor, while Pouchang and Osmanthus have more of a floral scent. Iron Goddess originated in China and has a stronger taste and nutty character. High mountain Oolong varieties are grown 1,000 meters or above and include Lishan, Dayuling, and Alishan have smaller growing areas and are highly sought after, so they tend to be the priciest.

Where to purchase:

Hui Liu Tea House and Vegetarian Food No.9, Lane 31, Yung-Kang St., Taipei, Taiwan

Chuan-shang Tea Store No.58 Heng Yang Road, Taipei, Taiwan

Ten Ren tea multiple locations throughout Taiwan

3. Mini Sky Lanterns

Each year, the sky lantern festival attracts tens of thousands of visitors to New Taipei City’s Pingxi District, the only place in Taiwan where the release of sky lanterns is permitted. The Pingxi Sky Lantern Festival is such an amazing festive destination that it even made it to the list of 10 Best Winter Trips released by National Geographic.

A good way to commemorate this unique cultural tradition is to buy some mini versions of the lanterns at the Shifen Old Street in Pingxi where the larger versions are launched from. They can also be found where other souvenirs are sold such as the Ningxia Night Market. Prices range from NT$50 for regular mini sky lanterns to NT$100 for mini sky lanterns with LED lights.

Where to purchase:

Ningxia Night Market on Ningxia Road, Datong District, Taipei City, Taiwan 103

Shifen Old Street in Pingxi District, New Taipei City, Taiwan 226

4. Taiwanese Glove Puppets

Taiwanese glove puppetry, or Budaixi, is a form of Chinese opera using puppets that started in Fujian Province and was brought to Taiwan in the early 1600s. Traditional shows can still be seen in traditional traveling trucks that tour the country. The Taiyuan Asian Puppet Theatre Museum in Taipei’s Datong District is a good place to both see a wide variety of antique puppets as well as live glove puppet shows.

A much larger, more lifelike version of the glove-puppets has evolved over the past 30 years and can now be seen on kung fu action TV shows which incorporate spectacular special effects. These modern puppets can be seen in action at the Dadaocheng Theater, located on the 8th and 9th floors of the Yongle Market.

Where to purchase:

Chang Yi Fang Puppet Creations, No.27, Lane 47, Yongkang Street, Taipei City, Taiwan

Puppetry Art Center of Taipei, 2F, No.99, Sec. 5, Civic Blvd., Songshan Dist., Taipei City 105, Taiwan

5. Chinese Knots

Chinese knotting goes back to the practice of keeping records by tying knots, dating to at least the Warring States period (481-221 BCE). It later became a decorative handicraft in the Tang Dynasty (618-907). It consists of basic knots and combined knots, and there are 14 basic types using one, two or more threads. They come in many colors, sizes and shapes and are very easy to fit into luggage.

Different types of knots have different symbolic meaning. For example, a butterfly knot signifies fortune and blessings, Bagua-shaped knots ward off evil spirits, twin fish knots stand for abundance, and twin coin twist knots are said to bring wealth and prosperity.

Where to purchase:

Taiwan Handicraft Promotion Center, No. 1 Xuzhou Rd, Zhongzheng District, Taipei City, Taiwan 100

6. Chinese Paintings

Chinese painting, known in Mandarin as Guohua or “native painting” to distinguish it from Western styles which began to influence China in the 20th century, employs the same techniques as calligraphy and involves dipping a brush in black ink or colored pigments. There are two main techniques of Chinese painting: Gongbi (meticulous) and Ink and wash (water and ink). The former is a careful realist technique, while the latter is a more freehand style of watercolor painting.

One of the most popular subjects of Chinese painting is landscapes, and one way to get a permanent memento of the trip to Taiwan would be to buy a painting of a landscape in the Taiwanese countryside at the Taiwan Handicraft Promotion Center. The paintings are typically mounted on scrolls that can easily be rolled up and placed in a decorative box for easy transport in a suitcase or in a carry on bag. Prices will range from NT$300 and up.

Where to purchase:

​Taiwan Handicraft Promotion Center, No. 1 Xuzhou Rd, Zhongzheng District, Taipei City, Taiwan 100

7. Oil Paper Umbrellas

For Taiwan’s 4.2 million ethnic Hakka people, the umbrella is a symbol of prosperity and good fortune. The Hakka originally used these brightly colored umbrellas to offer protection from the rain and sun, a right of passage for sons, and in wedding ceremonies.

They are now mainly collected as decorative items, and the best known place in Taiwan to buy them is actually the small town of Meinong in southern county of Kaohsiung. However, some may be found in older parts of Taipei, such as Huaxi Street Night Market and the Taiwan Handicraft Promotion Center sells mini oil paper umbrellas.

Where to purchase:

Huaxi Street Night Market Huaxi St., Wanhua Dist., Taipei City, Taiwan

Meinong Prosperity Paper Umbrella Store – No. 362, Sec. 1, Jhongshan Rd., Meinong Township, Kaohsiung County 843, Taiwan

Jing Zih Ting – No.339, Sec. 1, Jhongshan Rd., Meinong Township, Kaohsiung County 843, Taiwan

8. Jade

Chinese jade has been mined in China since the Neolithic era to the present. In Taiwan, the best place to buy jade is the Jianguo Holiday Jade Market. A cornucopia of carvings and jewelry can be found there, including Buddhas, mythical beasts, pendants, earrings, necklaces, and bracelets. Jade bracelets are worn by the local women to ward off evil, bring good fortune, and heal the body.

One of the most difficult things is to determining fake from real jade and both are often overpriced in the jade market, so it is best to bring a person who is knowledgeable about jade and be prepared to bargain. Prices will range from NT$300 for low-grade fake items to NT$10,000 and up for real jade pieces.

Take the MRT Red Line to the Da’an Park Station, walk out Exit 6 in the direction of the Jianguo Holiday Flower Market. Once outside, walk straight to the underpass and walk all the way through the walk the Flower Market. When exiting the flower market, the a sign for the Jianguo Holiday Jade Market will be visible.

Where to purchase:

Jianguo Holiday Jade and Flower Market, Jianguo South Road, Zhongshan District, Taipei, Taiwan

9. Silk

Made by the larva of the domestic silkmoth, the earliest known example of silk fabric dates back to 3630 BCE and trade in the material began on the so-called Silk Road in during the Han Dynasty (207 BCE – 220 CE).

In Taipei, the best place to buy traditional silk clothing is at the Wufenpu Clothing Market, which is a collection of alleys with a covered roof housing dozens of small storefronts selling a wide variety of clothing and accessories. Prices will run from about NT$900 and up. The Wufenpu Clothing Market is walking distance from both the Songshan MRT station on the Green Line or the Houshanpi Station on the blue line.

The best place in Taipei to find silk fabric is the Yongle Fabric Market, inside which one can see a plethora of silk fabric colors and designs. From the MRT Green line, get off at Beimen station and walk north on Tacheng Street until it changes into Dihua Street. The market should be visible on the right side.

Where to purchase:

Wufenpu Clothing Market – Alley 9, Lane 443, Yongji Road, Xinyi District, Taipei City, Taiwan 110

Yongle Fabric Market – 21 Dihua Street Section 1, Taipei, Taiwan

10. Rixing Typography

The Rixing Type Foundary has the distinction of having the last remaining collection of Chinese moveable type character molds in the world, continuing to employ techniques dating back to the Song Dynasty. Taipei’s last print foundry, it houses 120,000 molds of different characters and 10 million lead character pieces. Examples of items customers now print at the foundry include wedding invitations, Valentine’s cards, and business cards, including Taipei’s Mayor Ko Wen-je, who has his business cards printed at the shop.

Each piece takes around an hour to finish and costs between NT$3 to NT$50, based on size and design. The foundry’s owner, Chang Chieh-kuan, also occasionally provides tours of the shop.

Where to purchase:

Rixing Type Foundry 13, Lane 97, Taiyuan Rd, Taipei City, Taiwan

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