Lunar New Year in Taipei


For the second year in a row, I headed to Taipei in February. Growing up, I only visited my parents’ homeland once every several years, so making it an annual trip is a recent development. With winter being the slow season for work and with plane tickets being so reasonable, I figured I should seize the opportunity to gather with my extended family for the new year. I’m so grateful to be able to do so! And if anyone else has had Taiwan on their travel list for a while, feel free to meet me there at the end of January next year!

Visiting family in Taiwan means eating, eating, eating. And staying at my aunt’s house means a paradise of fruits, tea, and delicious meals every day.

Our family meal at grandma’s house on New Year’s Eve.

Please note the piggy buns for the new year, the year of the boar! My youngest cousin (14) had a class assignment over the summer to interview someone about their love story, and she wrote about my aunt and uncle, turning it into this very cute little publication. Too bad my Chinese literacy is too bad to read it, haha.

Yes, more simple, tasty things!

On New Year’s Day, I headed to SongYan to meet up with some fellow Californians who were in town… Jon and Pei!

There are several cultural and creative parks in Taipei now, which are just full of adorable boutiques and shops. We also browsed the Eslite next door, with its multiple floors of different boutiques within the bookstore.

Putting my 360 camera to good use!

And then it was time for New Year’s dinner back at grandma’s house! Here are the pre-dinner snacks.

Lots of people. My mom has a lot of sisters. Seven, in fact. And no brothers.

We were even missing a few people from this photo.

My uncle insisted on using my watercolors to draw on his golf balls, even though the minute it touches water, the whole thing will wash off.

The next day, more feasting! This time at a restaurant.

And here are all the sisters, in numerical order!

Afterwards, my mom and I went to explore the Red House at Ximending. It’s an old theater from the Japanese era that now houses more boutiques!

Here I discovered a little museum of Taiwanese tiles. I didn’t even knot Taiwanese tiles were a thing. But many of these were also from the Japanese occupation in the early 1900s.

The North Gate — the old city gates of Taipei. Just before we went to Taiwan, a new tv series came out on Netflix, A Taiwanese Tale of Two Cities. It aired first on television in Taiwan and then was released as a full series on Netflix. It’s just so cool that such a thing even exists, set between Taipei and San Francisco. Anyway, this location is one of their frequent scene-setters to indicate Taipei for the show.

The next day, I met up with a childhood friend who also ended up going to Duke… Chris is now in Hong Kong, a city I’ve yet to visit! We wandered a lot of the shops at XinYi and grabbed desserts at Ice Monster.

Street performers aplenty.

Also at XinYi, the famed Taipei 101, once the tallest building in the world.

Then we headed to the W Hotel for my first beef noodle soup of the trip!


Next day, next feast…

I met up with another friend who was in town from abroad… my friend Sherry who lives in Vancouver! We grabbed Taiwanese breakfast.

And then visited another one of the cultural parks, Huashan. Here’s a little shop display about scents.


So many cute shops.

Sherry was pretty overjoyed at this Rilakkuma pop-up.

I mean, she blends right in.

Second beef noodle soup of the trip! This one was at YongKang beef noodle soup, with a line down the street. It was great, but this style isn’t really the style I’m used to– I usually like flat noodles, bok choy, and a bit of pickled veggies with mine.

Afterwards, more cute shops! This time in the Yongkang neighborhood. So many tea shops here.

Then we met up with my mom’s oldest friend from America, Meilan.

She’s friends with the owner of this tea shop.

And we were also joined by her other middle school classmate, since they were having a middle school reunion right after this tea!

That night, we met back up with my mom’s sisters for another dinner out– this time at a buffet restaurant– in honor of my mom’s birthday before we flew over to Singapore for the next couple days.

More meetups with friends! Here’s my friend from college, Cindy, who’s now based in Taipei and Shanghai. Cindy is an awesome food blogger over at Sugared & Spiced.

We visited a cute cafe with cats roaming around.

The next day, we took off for Singapore. After we got back, it was time for more exploring around Taipei. I got some black sugar boba, the new big thing. It was quite good! And then we visited this unagi rice shop because it’s actually on the site of one of my mom’s childhood homes growing up in Taipei! They had a Japanese-style house right here back in the day.


Well, it was fun to see this spot, but the unagi rice was mediocre.

The South Gate.

And then, walking around, we just happened upon this place which my mom had tried to tell me about but is only open to the public a dozen times a year. It never lined up before for us to visit, but here we were, just wandering by right before closing on the correct day!

It’s called the Taipei Guest House and used to be the governor’s residence and where they would host foreign dignitaries during Japanese rule. In my mom’s childhood, they would actually get to come here once a year to take photos in the garden because my grandfather was part of a photography club. (Yes, it runs in the family!) But it was also otherwise closed to the general public then as well.

Black swans in the pond out back! I didn’t realize black swans were real!

Then we paid a visit to the 228 Peace Memorial. 228 marks the date in 1947 on which a massacre began in Taipei. Tens of thousands of Taiwanese were randomly and systematically killed by the KMT government that had arrived after WWII from China. Afterwards, Taiwan was held under martial law for forty years all the way until 1987. It’s remarkable that now, Taiwan is a vibrant democracy and the government has formally acknowledged and apologized for 228. They built this peace park and museum in Taipei to commemorate the losses.

For dinner, my mom and I visited Qingtian 76, a Japanese-style home turned teahouse/restaurant.

The professor that used to live here studied geology, so there’s a lovely display of rocks and these tiles along the side wall.

We snagged the last table despite not having made advance reservations. It was a very lovely meal, minus the part where the server knocked over an entire glass of sugar cane juice on my mom and didn’t even comp anything in our meal. But maybe that’s an American thing to do.

Next day, next tea! My mom and I went to one of my grandma’s favorite places in Tianmu, Cha for Tea by Tenren. Everything in the menu is tea-themed, with items like tea-braised pork and tea soups. You order from set menus with multiple courses, drinks and desserts.


Afterwards, we went back to my grandma’s house again. Of great amusement to us: there’s a whole scene in A Taiwanese Tale of Two Cities they shot on these benches by my grandma’s house in Tianmu.

My aunt got my mom a birthday cake made to look like braised pork rice! But then she dropped it when the bus braked suddenly on the way there, haha. It still looks good, tastes great.

And then I got to meet up with even more Californians in Taipei! The Yau family arrived, and we grabbed lunch, including the tastiest vegetarian dumplings.

Also, fruit tea from Yifang. I love that place and am glad that there’s one in Berkeley too. It’s a crazy global world we live in now.

Next, visiting my parents’ alma mater, National Taiwan University or “Tai Da.” The palm-lined main drive recalls Stanford…

A new library at NTU. I had to give them my passport in order to go in and look around.

I love a pretty library!

And then we had all-you-can-eat hotpot with my aunt at this fancy place (attached to a hotel).

Yum. Taiwan: eating too much every day and feeling great about it!

Stopped by Echo Magazine.

More California Taiwanese American friend meetups. But actually Cecilia and Yush have been living in Taipei with their three kids for the last year! We met up last year when I was in town too.


Last day in Taiwan, my mom and I went on a quest to purchase some dried goods from the historic district of Dadaocheng. I had newly discovered dried roselle flowers– a type of hibiscus– on this trip and now I’m hooked.

And one last sendoff meal with aunts! This time at Hanlin Tea Room, which also has a San Francisco outpost, but it’s not quite the same here.

Finally, a little compilation of my Taipei travels with a little one second video at a time!

Well, it was another lovely trip to Taiwan, complete with so much great food and lots of family time. Til next year!

Anna Wu is a wedding and portrait photographer based in San Francisco. She compulsively documents and blogs all of her daily adventures. Follow her on instagram and view more of her professional work at