Taipei (台北 or 臺北; Tâi-pak in Taiwanese, Táiběi in Mandarin) is the national capital of the Republic of China, otherwise known as Taiwan. Sitting in the northern part of the island in a basin between the Yangming Mountains and the Central Mountains, Taipei serves as the island's financial, cultural, and governmental center. The city is a tantalizing mix of Chinese, Japanese and Western influences, vibrant in its own right yet unhurried by global standards. Besides the architectural and cultural landmarks like Taipei 101 and Longshan Temple, the xiaochi (small snacks) in bustling night markets are an experience not to be forgotten by your stomach. The capital is also a great jumping off point for day trips to hot springs, old mining towns and national parks around the Northern Taiwan area.
Taipei is a fast-growing city, but despite the pressure on land, a park is never far away, especially in the suburban areas. The downtown area is culturally divided into East and West. The west side, with its narrow streets and road side vendors, is considered the bastion of old Taipei life, whereas East Taipei, with its bustling supermalls, chic boutiques, stylish restaurants and classy cafes, reminiscent of those found in Tokyo, Seoul, Paris or New York City represents its metamorphosis.
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