Taipei, Taiwan is one of the major destinations for Overseas Filipino Workers because of its stability in manufacturing. No doubt, the city is one of the well-industrialized cities in Asia despite being so tiny. My sister has been working in Taipei for a long time now, and she frequently shares multiple reasons why Filipinos should visit Taiwan at least once in their lives. So, visiting Taipei has been  on my mind for a while, and I was excited to have a chance to visit last March this year for 7 days. Here starts my “Where is your first out the country trip this year 2018” meme. The Heart of Asia -Taiwan.

When blue skies appear.

It’s been 4 months since my last blog post because this semester was the most hectic term I’ve had in Uni. But I’m so excited to post this. Here, I’m going to show you millions of reasons why you need to visit the heart of Asia. 

I made a list of things you must do in Taiwan when you visit. Taipei is very nice, clean city and the MRT is very efficient. Most of the tourist spots are scattered all around yet it is so easy to visit.  Best of all, it’s very cheap. And the fooood, it’s everywhere: I think local Taiwanese don’t know how to cook at home because street food is life for them.

Food is love

To start, let me give you some facts about Taipei. It’s the capital of Taiwan, and it’s located in the northern part of the country. It’s actually near Batanes, where, it is said, you can get Taiwanese broadcasts. Interestingly, they’re very religious like our country, though mostly dominated by Buddhism, Confucianism and Taoism, among others. I can say it’s the most urbanized city in the country because it is the center of finance and politics. The Taoyuan International Airport (TPE) is located here as it is the gateway to Taiwan as well as to many other international destinations.

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To be honest, I didn’t know what to expect in this busy city when I started planning my trip. I was totally clueless except for things I learned from my sister and Taiwan blogs. A  college friend and I just randomly went to a Travel Expo last September 2017 to check cheap flights for Korea.  But my budget couldn’t afford ICN anymore and the seat sales were already sold out, so we ended up buying a Taipei flight instead. It’s a second visit for my friend and my first so I told myself it will be fun and not going to be hard – and it turned out so easy to visit the city for the first time.

The Taipei Bus Terminal

This beautiful city has a lot to offer to all travellers:  very accommodating locals, efficient and convenient mass transportation, and fairly light traffic (when compared to Manila!). My 7-day stay was not enough to visit all of their tourist spots, so I just picked the most talked about in town. By the way, I made myself a detailed itinerary so I had an idea about what to visit each day.  It was really helpful, as I included all the particular travel information as well.

Currency in Taiwan is NTD (New Taiwan Dollar):  The exchange rate for Philippine pesos is about or PHP 1.6 to 1.0 NTD – depending on where you change your money. I suggest getting some NTD before you travel. Right after landing, you can lease a local pocket wi-fi at the airport if you opted to have one for your convenience – which I did right away. Though they cost a bit more than a regular SIM card, I wasn’t going to make any calls, so opted for the pocket WiFI.

Local money
Mode of transportation that most of locals use.
Alley, nasa langit na ba ako? Okay corny!:)

VISA:

As far as I know, Taiwanese government still implementing a Free Visa Entry for us Filipinos for Tourism purposes – valid for 14 days.  It will run until this year and for further notice. We never know maybe it will be free visa for good soon, so think about using that free visa before it runs out! I just booked a round-trip flight and a hotel accommodation, and I was good to go.  Don’t forget to bring documentation of your return trip and hotel accommodation as you might need it at Manila Immigration.

City Inn Hotel II Building

ACCOMODATION:

The City Inn Hotel II is the place to be. It served as my home for 7 days in town. I highly recommend this one not just I liked it but because they have a 4-star’ish room vibes but without the expensive rate. The building is just fine, very basic and has a tiny elevator. On the ground floor, you can chill in their common entertainment area with TV, and just adjacent to it is the kitchen where you can make yourself a cup of tea or coffee. In the morning, you can make yourself toasted bread (don’t worry butter is always available). It’s simple and very homey which I really like. And you have free use of the washing machines and dryers too at the laundry area beside the kitchen.

City Inn Hotel II colourful vibe

Now lets move on to the places I visited from day one up until the last day of my stay. Hope you like it and don’t forget to share and give a comments.


DAY 1

CHIANG KAI-SHEK MEMORIAL HALL

Tourist is piling up at the entrance

First stop after having almost 8-hours of delayed flights going to Taipei:  the very famous Chiang Kai-Shek Memorial Hall. This beautiful structure gives you a brief history of Taiwan and the former leader of the country. It is surrounded by manicured gardens all around. Here, you’ll also find the National Theater and the National Concert Hall. At the center is the Memorial Hall under which is a museum detailing the life of Chiang Kai-Shek. It’s free and you can visit until 6:00PM.

National Theater on the other side

What’s also nice to see is the changing of the guard at the Memorial Hall. Two guards always stand at the side of the famous statue of Chiang Kai-Shek without moving for an hour.

Changing guard salute
I loved the trees and the garden on both sides of this whole Memorial.
More of the shots I got at CKS Memorial Hall

Located at CKS Station, take MRT Red line from Main station going to Xiangshan. Nothing to worry about the MRT, as it is consists of different colors of lines/routes, and as long as you know how to read and follow, then you will never get lost.

CKS MRT Memorial Station

TAIPEI 101

View you’ll see after you get off the MRT Station

Undoubtedly, Taipei 101 is one of the most photographed landmark around the city. It was consider the tallest building in the world from 2004-2010 before the Burj Khalifa of Dubai grabbed the spot. It’s a remarkable an icon I must say. I was able to see both of them, and this massive building here is mind-blowing – same as what I feel when I saw the Burj Khalifa. Imagine how people are able to build it this tall – and to think Taipei is prone to occasional typhoons. I’m going to show you some pictures to show why it can stand there without distraction during typhoon and earthquakes.

Heads up, literally!

You should not miss visiting this especially – the Observatory deck at the top which gives you a panoramic view of the city. I can say, it’s worth the money after seeing it. The elevator was considered as the fastest elevator once with 37 seconds until to the top hold the record with Guiness – how cool is that? I can’t count how many times I swallowed during the ascent of that fastest elevator to keep my eardrums from getting bullied by the air pressure. Some say chew a gum first while you ride it.

On the queue

The entrance fee for the Observatory Deck cost you NT600 or roughly PHP960 for you to feel the beauty of the city up in the air. The 6th Floor is where where you will be but your tickets and queue. Souvenir shops await you there and a photographer is also up if you don’t have a camera to get that perfect instagrammable shot you want. 

And lastly, you’ll be able to see the damper when you visit the Observatory Deck. The huge damper hangs there and sways back and forth when absorbing the impact of high winds or an earthquake in order for the building to stand still. There is a video in the museum that shows how the building holds still while the damper swings during an earthquake. The damper serves at a pendulum to counter the tower’s movement. Too creepy to think but thanks for the advance technology!

A huge metallic damper that save the tower
Yay, I’m on top.
This is it, view from the top.
Another one
Last one, promise 😉

To get there, ride the MRT Red line going to Xiangshan and get off at Taipei 101 Station. The view around the area is also best for photoshoots for everyone who is instagram lover. I got the perfect full framed photo of me standing in front of the tower like what you see in the featured photo of this blog. Don’t be hesitant to lay down on the ground to get that perfect shot (no one knows you, and they don’t even care about it – Haha!).

TAMSUI FISHERMAN’S WHARF

Okay, another obligatory photo.

Next on the list is this very quiet yet busy place for tourists. It’s a bit secluded and far from the city and is actually already outside Taipei, but you can get here by MRT in maybe half an hour. One of the famous locations in Taiwan for sunsets, seafood, restaurants and shops – you name it, it’s all here. In this place I saw a lot of lovers dating –  maybe because it’s perfect spot for your sunset gaming.

Relaxing view of the town
Tranquility

To get here, you need to ride MRT Red Line heading to Tamsui Station, the very last station on the other side. Upon arrival at the station, you will see right away the line of street food and shops in the area. I tasted the authentic bubbly tapioca – filled milk tea that Taiwan is very famous for. I also spotted the famous butterfly squids that Manila is now craving for.  I think it started here because you can see it everywhere.

Taxi for your convenience.
Very local.
Tasty!
Didn’t expect this shot will turns so nice. So instagrammable.
All are craving for food

After wandering around the area, you can ride a mini boat to the Fisherman’s Wharf proper where you can see a big white bridge that links the two places together. They call it the Lover’s Bridge, and why I noticed since from the start at Tamsui a number of lovers dating in the area. There are colored lights illuminating the bridge and they change every second so it’s cool to visit this place before sunset. You can stay until early night to get all your perfect shots. Don’t miss to visit this place as it is very relaxing and who knows –  maybe you can find  your soulmate here.

I ended up my first day with this place: imagine – from the bustling cityscape to the quiet place outside the city. Traveling gets your feet tired but it’s all worth it after seeing how attractive the places you visited are. Check out some photos I took during this time.

My favourite station, Tamsui Station

DAY 2

SUN YAT-SEN MEMORIAL HALL

One, two, Awra

The Dr Sun Yet-Sen Memorial Hall is built to commemorate the contribution of this very famous person. The hall contains displays of relics, mostly during revolution period, and is presented to tourist using audio-visuals as you walk through the hall.

The facade is very traditional and connects modern Taiwan to its colorful history. The garden is very dramatic overlooking the Taipei 101 which provides for more selfie-worthy shots. Zhongshan park is the name of the garden around the Memorial

Side view
Look on the side pose.

To get there, ride the MRT Blue Line heading to Taipei Nanggang Exhibition Center and get off at Sun Yan-Sen Station sometimes labeled as S.Y.S Memorial Hall  From the stations, it’s only a 3 minute walk to the Memorial.

LONGSHAN TEMPLE

Longshan Temple main entrance

Thinking of visiting a temple somewhere in your trip? This temple here is on the top list – the Longshan Temple. It is one of Taipei’s most well known temples. Popular with both locals and tourists, it’s a great a place to take in the culture and people watch. I find them to be truly fascinating places – a mixture of history, culture, and religion. I truly enjoyed visiting this one because it’s showcase not just religion but great history and architecture. I was able to get a lot of great shot of this place. Just one reminder, be mindful to all the people inside the temple-both locals and tourist. Since it’s a worship place, silence is definitely a must here. 

Great architecture
Got it
Serenity

To get here, take the MRT Blue Line heading to Dingpui, then get off at Longshan Station and take exit 1. Under the station you will also see shops of different items that make good souviners.

THE RED HOUSE

Looks amazing

The Red House is located at the heart of Ximending, the famous shopping district in the country. The Red House that is quite remarkable because of its architecture and eye-catching color. I read that it was  built by the Japanese way back and later on became the center of Taiwanese creativity and culture. Inside of the this building are numerous items to get for souvenirs as well. To get here, take the Blue or Green Line and get off at Ximen Station.

XIMENDING SHOPPING DISTRICT

Concrete jungle
Busy yet so nice to see

Another place to go for the shopaholic people out there is this area consisting of different shops, restaurants and bars – the Ximending District. When you’re thinking of a night market, you will never be wrong with this one. It’s open up until late night and almost everything is here. Night markets are the tourist grabber in Taipei so you’ll definitely see tons of people here. Don’t worry because it’s safe even if it’s very touristy. From fashion, food, health care – you named it, it’s all here. Be ready with your bags because I’m sure you will get a lot here.

Fun facts: Ximending is a modern night market more popular for shopping, especially for limited edition shoes and bags. This will be a taste and cultural experience and give you an opportunity to find souvenirs. I bought most of my pasalubong here, not to mention it’s cheap depending on what shop and brand you’ll get.

A must visit in Taipei. To get there, Take the MRT Bannan or Blue Line and get off at Ximen Station.


DAY 3

NATIONAL PALACE MUSEUM

The grand entrance

This massive museum is a must visit as well and is one of my favorites, too. I admit I’m not a museum person but when I saw this, it totally turned me into one. I highly recommend that you visit.

Those interested in Chinese culture and history are encouraged to visit the National Palace Museum as it hosts the largest number of ancient artefacts, even more than the Forbidden City in Beijing. Its huge hall contains most of everything. What I like about this museum is that it’s technologically advanced: headphone guide is also available as an option.

Home to the world’s largest and arguably finest collection of Chinese art, this vast collection covers treasures in painting, calligraphy, statuary, bronzes, lacquerware, ceramics, jade and religious objects. The museum is divided into different levels so it’s easy to distinguish what collection you want to see. The items are all labeled showing what year or era they’re from.

Beautiful in red
Shine bright like a diamond
Real gold
Truly a gem.
Priceless

To get here, take the MRT Red Line heading to Tamsui and get off at Shilin Station, and then take the bus going to National Palace Museum. Don’t cross the road as the Bus stop is just on the right side of the road. You’ll see a signage so you won’t be confused, especially as a lot of tourists are also going there.

More shots from the outside

LIN AN-TAI HISTORICAL HOUSE/MANSION

Lin An Tai Historical Home
The main entrance

Next on the list is also on of my favorite and it takes me back to the old time. Considered as one of the major scenic spots in the city. the Lin An-Tai Historical House is a two-century old house with lots of charm. It’s relaxing vibe for anyone who will visit it. As you can see, it’s just a simple house and backyard, but it’s a house of great antiquity.

So much history
Smile your heart out.

What makes it the best other than any other mansion or old house? The reason was simple, the other mansions are just as well-preserved as the Lin An Tai Mansion, but it is still in its original location which I felt was the most important factor in its authenticity. Apart from that, the Lin An Tai mansion is popular for photographers because of its very picturesque environs. Every corner of the place is just perfect for photoshoots. There was actually a wedding photoshoot when I visited the place as you will see in my shots. One good thing about here, it’s also free for tourist and good time to visit is late afternoon until it’ll closes at 4 or 5pm I think –  already forgot!

Too sweet
Laid back structure.
Another one, told you every corner here is very picturesque.
Of course, channelling my inner model. Haha

To get here, take MRT Tamshui Red Line and get off at Yuanshan Station and walk until the house. It’s also good if you can have Google Map since the road going to the house is sometimes complicated to follow.

CONFUCIUS TEMPLE

Traditional
Happiness

Another temple nearby is the Confucius Temple which isvconsidered as part of Dalongdong Cultural and Historical District along with Bao’an Temple. Nothing much to see here except the solemn vibe of the temple and its great architecture. Check some photos of it below. To get here, take MRT Tamsui Red Lin and get off at Yuanshan Station. It’s walking distance away from Lin An-Tai Mansion located on the other side of the MRT station.


DAY 4

ELEPHANT MOUNTAIN

One of those favorites

For the best view of Taipei City itself, you don’t have any choice but to try a hike at the very famous and talk of the town Elephant Mountain. I heard a lot from this even before my trip and made me hungry to give it a try. It’s also available in almost everyone’s blog sites and well recommended. So who am I not to try it, right?

Also known as the Nangang District Hiking Trail, the it is located close to the Xinyi Shopping District and Taipei 101.

Urban jungle
Told you, it’s beautiful!
Another one, can’t help myself but to post all of these dramatic shots. Haha

The best time to hike the mountain is during late afternoon. This way you can catch the a daytime view, the sunset, and the stunning nighttime view of the city.  However the trail can get relatively crowded during the weekend.

The hike takes a total of around 15-20 minutes to the top, and includes lots of stairs! Remember, it’s a hike – so expect to get tired and don’t forget your bottle of water, face towel and comfortable shoes. It will be fun for sure since there are a lot of tourists visiting the place too. It’ll be worth it when you reach the top and see the best view of the city with the Taipei 101 waving at you.

At the beginning of the hike
Taipei 101 is absolutely the star.

Why they call it the Elephant Mountain? According to what I heard, the shape of the mountain itself is like elephant and you can check it for yourself when you attempt yourself to hike it.

To get there, take MRT Red Line going to Xiangshan Station, the very last station and walk until the start of the trail. Just check the available signs.   Though they’re a bit small, it’s also good to have your Google map with you.

DIN TAI-FUNG RESTAURANT

Yum!

Oh lala! The best restaurant in town. My second time to try the food after Hong Kong, and it always makes me drool. The very famous Din Tai Fung Restaurant is known world-wide for it’s amazing xiaolongbao. Din Tai Fung is a very popular restaurant with many locations in Taiwan and abroad.

Imagine, this is early morning and all are waiting.

Din Tai Fung has restaurant branches in Singapore, Malaysia, Hong Kong, Macau, mainland China, USA, Japan, Thailand, Indonesia, South Korea, Australia, and the UAE among others.


DAY 5

SHIFEN OLD STREET

After you get off the train, this is the situation.
Rusty yet full of surprises.

Shifen Old Street is a bustling hub for those eager to get a glimpse of an old railroad town which still retains the charm of yesteryear. Originally built to transport coal, the Shifen Old Street stop has now become one of the most popular among tourists on the Pingxi rail-line. It is easy to see why so many are drawn here – local food, souvenir shops and puffing trains add to the charm of this little gem, as well as make it a fantastic place for photography. Got too many wonderful shots here that can’t actually fit in this whole blog.

The sky lanterns at Shifen Old Street are of particular note. It’s a must-try as well (though I haven’t tried!), and it doesn’t cost you not that much. Once used as a signaling system for those living and working in the railroad industry, visitors today paint their wishes with calligraphy or anything you want to write in your lantern before releasing it into the sky. I think Shifen Old Street is one of the best stops on the Pingxi Line, but if your time allows, they said you that you can also visit another station to see the mountain side of the area. And by the way, don’t forget to get a photo with the train once it arrives.

Make a wish and it’ll come true.
By the way, they’re like more than 50 shops will offer you that Sky lantern thing.
Up, up and a away
Moving forward
Got the best shot!

With the marketplace surrounding the train station and the openness in which people can freely cross the track running straight through the centre of town, the marketplace area of Shifen is a great place to grab some great local snacks and some souvenirs.

SHIFEN WATERFALL

You can also see from apart those viewing decks for tourist great experience
God’s perfectly made

The 30 meter tall Shifen Waterfall on the other hand is located 30 minutes away by walking northeast from the train platform area on either side of the tracks. The right side will be more busy and pass by the  temple while the left side is more scenic. Note that the waterfall is located on the right side, and those who walk on the left side will have to cross the tracks again further down the path.

Walking for half an hour will not get you tired because of the scenic view around the area. I enjoyed it a lot taking photos while walking and feeling it’s province vibe-quiet, calm and peaceful. When you reach the waterfall itself, everything seems to stop.

Waterfall, here I come! But first, let me take a picture.
Suspension Bridge

Shifen Waterfall is massive. The catch basin is covered on all sides by sheer rock walls, its cascade rushes down frothing like there was no tomorrow. The surge is so powerful that a fine spray reaches even the view deck, which was about thirty meters away from the drop. Down, along its runoff, a rubble of massive boulders stretch across the river.

To get here, from Taipei Main Station take a northbound train (except Keelung-bound trains) towards Ruifang Station then from there, transfer to the Pingxi Line heading to Shifen Station. Take note, connecting to the next train is quite confusing because of the signs written in Chinese. Just read the English translation carefully not to go to the other side of the train platform. Another tips I can give you, Shifen is very popular so expect a lot of tourist coming with you, just follow them not to get lost.

Connecting station to Pingxi Line
Waiting for the next train

One whole day spent visiting Shifen Old Street and Waterfall since it’s a little bit far from the city. One hour travel by train if I’m not mistaken, plus waiting time at the train station since next train comes after half an hour or so. Enjoy the view, take a lot of photos and try all the street foods. They’re all worth the wait.


DAY 6

MAOKONG GONDOLA

Cable car about to go up

And we’re down to the last day of my Taiwan trip. I actually didn’t have any plan’s anymore to go out of my hotel and I just wanted to relax the last day after all those tiring walks. But I still managed to visit one last spot, the Maokong Gondola. Here, I was able to go with my sister so it was easy for me.

Street signs

Widely known as the most scenic spot in Taipei to hang out at the restaurant along the mountains, Maokong is a quaint village located at the top of a mountain providing breathtaking views of Taipei city.

The best way to reach Maokong is to take the Maokong Gondola scenic cable car up the mountain from MRT Taipei Zoo Station, NT$120 each way for adults, NT$50 for children 6-12 and seniors over 65.  Easycards are given a 20% discount on weekdays, and also receive a NT$20 discount when also used for zoo entry. The gondola ride was fun and exciting seeing the whole view of the city and the mountain side as the same time. It was a quick visit at the Maokong and we just chill for a bit then we decided to go down by taxi to make it fast.

Mountain side of Taipei

SHILIN NIGHT MARKET

Very busy
One of the shop you’ll see here

The last place I visited is the Shilin Night Market. Famous night market, too, and expect a lot of tourists and local Taiwanese around. I wasn’t able to take some photos but I can say that the place is amazing. Tons of local stores and street foods all lined up just for you. They even have this underground restaurant where you can eat fresh seafood and if you want anything you can request it and they’ll make it just for you. I enjoyed it especially with my sisters and her friends as my tour guides. To get here, take MRT 


FOODIES

Trip to Taipei is very manageable, the city is modern, clean, and friendly. It’s easy and hassle free to get around and there’s an amazing selection of restaurants and street food, and the night markets. With their never ending supply of interesting foods, they are a highlight. 

Street foods is very common and you can see it everywhere in night markets or even just around the corner of MRT Station. Undoubtedly, food is one of the highlights of everyones Taipei/Taiwan trip. So expect to get stuffed everyday when you were in town. Take a look at some of my foodies shots in all places I visited.

Calabash Candy- Strawberry filled with Sweet coating thing.
Different types of bread
Street foods at Shifen Old Streets, corndog, is common there.
Fried crablets, sweet potato and Fish.
Grilled Corn
Deep fried chicken balls is one of them
New Orleans Jambalaya

And that’s it. My trip to Taiwan basically made me realised that you can’t say anything to a place unless you are able to visit it. I did underestimate Taipei ( when I was still in the Philippines ), that it might be not good or it might be boring – but it’s not. Well, big thanks to all travel blogs related to Taiwan because I was fully informed with everything before my trip.

Thank you for reading this Taiwan blog and I hope it helps you decide to visit the city soon. What are your thoughts? Comment down below!

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