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Instagram Taipei: Shooting Taiwan’s Capital

Jordan Hammond takes his camera to Taipei, the capital of Taiwan, for a look into the motorbike waterfall, low-flying planes, and the Chiang Kai Shek Memorial Hall.

Taipei is an incredibly vibrant city, and it has the perfect mix of traditional Chinese culture and the high-tech vibes of Japan. It is easy to travel throughout the city, as, unlike the mainland, many locals speak English. Public transport is modern and reliable and you can order an uber or hail down a taxi with ease. Like many other travelers here, I didn’t really expect much from Taipei but was pleasantly surprised; it soon became one of my favorite cities. This capital has so much to offer, from historical monuments and night markets to quirky themed cafes.

Taipei Shende Temple

ABOVE: Temple and plane in the same shot at Taipei Shende Temple.

One of the lesser known photography spots in Taipei, the Shende Temple is known amongst local photographers as a great place to shoot the planes landing at the nearby Songshan airport. The airport runway is located directly behind the temple, and the planes come into view down the street running next to the temple. This spot makes for a photo opportunity not to be missed.

After much research, I finally found the temple on a map, and headed there on our first day in the city. I’d recommend having a look at the arrivals schedule of the airport online before you go, so you can plan your trip accordingly. As it is not the main airport in Taipei, sometimes you will be waiting an hour for the next plane to land. Bring your zoom lens and stand on the opposite side of the road to the temple, in front of the fruit and vegetable market, and then the waiting begins. But, trust me, it’s worth it.

Motorbike Waterfall

ABOVE: Rush hour at the “motorbike waterfall.”

During our trip to Taipei, we stayed near the Daqiaotou MRT station, waking up the next morning to track down the famous motorbike waterfall, a place I’d wanted to visit since I’d first researched it. The best time to get the most motorbikes is obviously at rush hour between 6.30am and 8am. You’ll need a zoom lens to really get the density. This is a road at full capacity. Stand on the same side of the road as the 9ine Hotel and shoot across the street as the traffic piles up waiting for the light to turn green. This was my favorite spot to shoot in Taipei, and I couldn’t help myself but to shoot it every morning as we were leaving for the day.

Raohe Night Market

ABOVE: Market alley.

For many, the night markets of Taipei are some of the best in Asia, and I can definitely see why. Not only are they filled with the most delicious food and drinks, but you can also find trinkets, souvenirs, clothes, and even massages there. On top of the huge selection, the night markets in Taipei are visually pleasing to the eye too, which is an added bonus for photographers. I met up with some local photographers one evening who took me to a rooftop in Raohe Market to shoot it from above. The blue and red tents of the market look even better from above, with the neon city lights surrounding them.

Chiang Kai-shek Memorial Hall

Arguably the most iconic historical building in Taipei, the Chiang Kai Shek Memorial Hall was built in honor of the former Republic of China president Chiang Kai-shek. The blue roof with the white walls can be seen from far away, and it is one of the most popular places to visit whilst in Taipei.

The gardens surrounding the hall are also a great place to gather with friends and enjoy the sunshine. For photography, go when the hall opens so that it is still relatively empty. Photos from the front gate looking through to the memorial hall are a good place to start, as the gate frames the hall perfectly. You can also get some great angles from the gardens, including fairy-tale bridges in the foreground.

There are, of course, hundreds more fantastic places to photograph throughout Taipei, but that’s a list that never ends. The view from Taipei 101 observation viewpoint is spectacular, and make sure you book your tickets online in advance to avoid queues. There are great vistas of the tower from the ground too, including from the spiral building at the intersection of Songgao and Songyong Roads. A hike behind the Grand Hotel Taipei takes you out to a viewpoint where you can shoot planes landing over a huge motorway in the city.

And, of course, when you’ve had your fill of Taipei, head out into the rest of Taiwan – which is just as photogenic.