Taipei Airport Guide
Tokyo-Narita, Shanghai-Pudong, Seoul-Incheon, Hong Kong-Chek Lap Kok and … Taipei-Taoyuan? One of those names doesn’t quite belong, and there’s a reason. Due to Taiwan’s relations with China (or lack thereof), Taipei’s bustling international airport hasn’t quite developed into the hub-on-steriods that its Pacific Rim neighbors have become. But in recent years, that has become an advantage, with the airport emerging as a popular regional hub that connects passengers from northern Asia to southern Asia, and from the US to Southeast Asia.
The Taipei airport is one of the simplest to navigate in Asia, and consists of only 2 terminals. Terminal 1, which opened in 1979, looks like a replica of Washington’s Dulles Airport. Terminal 2 is a glass and steel structure that opened in 2000. An automated people mover shuttles passengers between these 2 buildings.
Since the airport first opened, it has become one end of one of the most traveled routes in the world -- Hong Kong to Taipei -- and is home to the country’s 2 major airlines, China Airlines and EVA Airlines.
With Taiwan’s relationship with mainland China gradually improving (regular direct flights resumed in 2008) and the airport’s gradual expansion, Taipei Taoyuan may eventually rival its neighboring competitors. Until that happens, here’s what you need to know to navigate the current airport landscape.
Coming and Going
Situated in Taoyuan Township, which is located southwest of Taipei, the airport is a 60-minute drive from the center of the city. The airport is linked only by road, and buses run frequently to the city’s Taipei Station. A taxi ride costs approximately $40.
To remedy the lack of transportation links, Taipei is currently constructing a link to its MRT, or rapid transit, system. A station at the airport is schedule to start running late in 2013, and will link passengers to the city in approximately 35 minutes.
One of Taipei airport’s best features is its transit hotel -- a hotel located within the airside of the airport. Transfer passengers can access the Evergreen Airside Transit Hotel, located on the fourth floor of Terminal 2. The hotel is also known to provide access to shower facilities, but this availability varies according to hotel occupancy.
The airport is full of dining, duty-free shopping and services such as beauty and massage treatments. While these amenities have been a bit lackluster, the airport has recently begun renovating its facilities, beginning with Terminal 1. Last year, a new food court opened on the B1, or basement level, and features Tokyo Prince Ramen and Jimmy’s Kitchen, an outpost of the popular Taipei Steakhouse. Hairei Meatball of Hsinchu City serves a real delicacy: the ba-wan, a pork-stuffed into translucent dough that is a popular snack in adjacent Hsinchu County.
Sprinkled among the perfume and liquor counters of the duty-free stalls are Tastes of Taiwan boutiques, one of the most robust assortments of Taiwanese snacks to be found at the airport, showcasing mochi, rice cakes and Taiwanese sorghum wine.
Until recently, Taipei was home to the tallest building in the world, Taipei 101. (The building is now the second tallest.) In addition to its massive height, the tower has become a resounding symbol of Taipei’s new ambition and growth, with the adjacent area around the tower, the Xinyi District, becoming a new hub for business, shopping and dining. Attractions here include the Taipei 101 Mall, the Shin Kong Mitsukoshi Department Store and Neo19, a shopping destination that features several restaurants.
For a late-night trip, visit the Shilin Night Market slightly north of Taipei to experience some of the street food, including oyster omelettes and rice noodles. This open-air bazaar operates past midnight, and houses several hundred food stalls. (A recent renovation to the market displaced vendors in the main market hall, but adjacent vendors on nearby Dadong Road have not been affected.)
If the night market is not open late enough to suit one’s tastes, visit one of Taipei’s local institutions, the Eslite Bookstore, located on Dunhua Road, which is open 24 hours. This bookstore, which has expanded to 48 branches around Taiwan, showcases books on arts and literature. Its newest flagship location in the Xinyi District is one of the most well-curated shopping experiences in Taipei, with food and lifestyle shops interspersed around the book and reading areas.
NYC-based writer Andrew Yang was born in Taipei, and first flew out of Taipei Taoyuan International Airport at the age of 3.