Taiwan may sound familiar but what do you actually know about the country? What comes to your mind whenever you hear Taiwan? Factories? Meteor Garden? Dao Ming Si? It may not be the most visited place in Asia, but there’s something about it that everyone needs to see.
Taiwan has become widely popular in the Philippines, not because of the rumours that visa will be free soon, neither cos the ticket is cheap, but because it’s the place we least expect to visit and it surprisingly became one of the Filipinos’ favorite country.
HOW TO GET TO TAIPEI FROM TAOYUAN AIRPORT?
Taoyuan airport is an hour away from the city. And there are few options on how to get down to Taipei.
They just recently opened the MRT from Taoyuan airport that goes downtown Taipei and it is the fastest way to get to the city. However, the train closes from 11pm and resumes at 6am. The newly built line cost 160 NTD for rides between Taipei main station and the airport.
There are also buses that links the airport to the city centre, and the terminals are just outside the airport. Bus tickets are sold at the counters just before the exit leading to the terminal. You can take BUS 1819 that will take you to Taipei main. Fare from the airport to Taipei main is 125 NTD.
If you arrive at Terminal one, the bus will leave at these hours: 00:10、00:25、00:35、00:45、00:55、01:10、01:25、01:35、01:45、02:00、02:15、02:30、03:30、04:30、05:00.
If you arrive at Terminal two, the bus will leave at these hours: 00:00、00:15、00:25、00:35、00:45、01:00、01:15、01:25、01:35、01:50、02:05、02:20、03:20、04:20、04:50
If you don’t prefer public transportation then you can hire a taxi, which can be found just outside the Arrival Halls of both Airport terminals. They operate 24/7 so time and schedule should not be a problem, but the thing is it is quite pricey. Taxi from the airport to Taipei would cost around 1200NTD to 1500 NTD, 10 times higher than bus and train.
Filipinos still need a visa when entering Taiwan as of this writing, especially for those who have not been to any of the OECD countries. Here’s how to obtain visa easily.
2,200 NTD – Single entry
3,200 NTD – Multiple entry
With OECD country visa – FREE!
Note that e-visa is only valid for 3 months (90 days) from the date it was issued.
WHEN IS THE BEST TIME TO VISIT TAIWAN?
Unlike the Philippines that has summer all throughout the year, Taiwan has 4 seasons; Winter, Spring, Summer and Fall. YES!! It’s not just Japan and Korea that has these seasons. It was Spring when I visited however the breeze of winter is still there, good thing I brought warm clothes and some thick jackets. That weather for me was perfect!
They say that the best time to visit Taiwan is during FALL as the weather is a little cooler and the rain is at its lowest. Although for me, anytime is the best time as long as it’s Taiwan.
WINTER – December to February
SPRING – March to May
SUMMER – June to August
FALL – September to November
PLACES TO VISIT:
I always make a cheat-sheet of the spots I wanna visit. I like planning everything, from places down to what clothes I’d wear for that day, however for this trip, I didn’t have anything planned. The down side of it is I kind of wasted some time not knowing where I should go but what’s good about it is amazingly finding spots without the help of google. Good job, self!
2/28 PEACE PARK
Since I have no definite plan, I just walked around on my first day and went wherever my feet take me. Until I came across the peace park. If you like taking photos, this is a nice place to go. There are also squirrels running around, chased by the people who want to take them a photo.
While on my way back to Ximending, I passed by Zhongshan hall. I was not aware that it is one of the important historical buildings in Taipei until I googled where I was. Most of the significant events in the past occurred here, and until now some events and exhibits are still held in the hall.
Ximending is like the Shibuya crossing in Japan as it was the first pedestrian zone in Taiwan. It is also a grid of outdoor shopping in Taipei where you will find the latest fashion trends. I roamed around the area and they do have a huge variety of clothes. Most of the travelers also stay in this district because it is in the center of Taipei and is very accessible to most of the must-sees in the city.
LONGSHAN TEMPLE (walking tour)
I joined a free walking tour with Tour Me Away for Longshan temple. We were scheduled to meet the guide at Longshan station MRT with the other tourists. I highly recommend joining the tour as it is very informative. One of my reasons for traveling is learning about cultures and this helped me understand Taiwan’s history, especially the Japanese colonization.
The tour consists of 3 main spots to visit;
BOPILAO OLD STREET
A history along the hidden alley in Bangka. Bopilao has retained the history of the country and its look has been preserved for over two hundred years. The area shows how people have lived years ago, from their cinema, old houses, down to the stores that sell herbal medicines. I even tried a tea that is believed to detoxify and make your skin glow. Of course, who doesn't wanna be extra pretty, right? haha.
Longshan’s history is really interesting. Imagine it was rebuilt 3 times due to the calamity that has damaged it twice, and the other was during World War 2 in 1945 where Americans dropped a bomb on the temple. But even if calamity and humans tried to destroy it, the temple remained to be strong.
HUAHSI NIGHT MARKET
Something I didn't expect about the place is the snakes. The place is called the "Snake Alley" because of the variety of snake delicacies served in the area. Aside from that, it once became a legal "red-light district". Although what used to be motels are now hostels.
Yehliu Geopark is the first marine park in Taiwan. It's like Mars on Earth because of the orangy-yellowish color that is dominating the place. It is a great escape from the hustle and bustle of the city with just an hour and a half travel from Taipei.
A natural disaster shaped the sands into these formations, and due to wave erosion and weather, the rocks turned into a yellowish brown color creating a spectacular landscape. Amazing how a disaster turns into a beautiful creation.
ENTRANCE FEE is 80NTD.
JINSHAN OLD STREET
This is where most of the locals go to get foods and snacks. It's no different from other street markets aside from the fact that Jinshan is not too crowded.
One of the popular foods to try here is the Jinshan Duck Meat. It was just steamed with some seasoning and will be served with a pickled ginger. It has a smoky savour, it’s not too salty or greasy. The owners have rented many locations along the street, meaning that the whole length can sometimes appear to be people carrying plates of duck meat shuffling between the various stores.
We were back in the city at around 4 PM. And my friend decided to take me to the largest retail bookstore in Taiwan, Eslite. The building's architecture is what impressed me. It's truly the largest as you would think it's a shopping mall and not a bookstore. There are some cafes inside too where you can chill and a store that sells bubble tea, one of the best things to try in Taiwan.
ELEPHANT MOUNTAIN (Xiangshan)
My Taiwan trip would not be complete without hiking the famous Elephant Mountain for a stunning sight of Taipei 101. Xiangshan is also the perfect spot to get a bird’s eye view of the metropolis. I chose to hike at night cos I like watching the city lights, together with the sky.
For those who are not into hiking, you may find it hard to ascend to the mountain since there are a lot of steps. Bring enough water to keep you hydrated. You can rest at the benches along the trail whenever you feel the need to stop.
SHILIN NIGHT MARKET
I remember my friend told me that my shirts would fit after this trip because the foods are endless, and she was right, I gained weight when I got back to the Philippines. Haha! Taiwan has a large variety of food and Shilin is the best place to try some of the best Taiwanese street foods. Here you can find the popular hot-star chicken, some stinky tofu, shaved ice, and a lot more! It's also a nice place to go shopping like in Ximending.
NATIONAL PALACE MUSEUM
I am not one of those who likes visiting museums cos it tends to bore me, however, National Palace Museum was an exemption. It's truly interesting and the place is filled with Taiwan’s history. Most of all, it’s where they have displayed a thousand collections of their ancient artifacts during the Ming and Qing dynasties.
Two of the popular things to in the museum are the Jadeite Cabbage and Jade Pork belly. These jades really resemble the cabbage and pork. Although, I was not able to see the Pork Belly as it was displayed in a different museum during my visit.
I can’t remember the last time that I was in a zoo, and I don’t have any plan to visit. But I met someone from the hostel who told me to go cos there are animals that I wouldn’t know even exist, and she was right. I’ve seen animals that I have never heard of.
Of course, I wouldn't miss seeing the star of the zoo, the Pandas. These pandas eat a lot which makes them sleep 10-16 hours each day, and most visitors are patiently waiting for hours just to get a glimpse of the pandas' cute and fluffy face. But unfortunately, the Panda is asleep the whole time I was there.
MAOKONG HILL / GONDOLA RIDE
We took the gondola (cable car) to get to Maokong hill. There are 2 types of gondola cars: regular and crystal that has a glass floor. The fare is the same for both but the waiting lines are separate. I lined up for the glass bottom to get the whole experience of the ride. The view of the forest from above was so refreshing, with views of the green, jungle-covered hills and the city in some parts.
Just a quick tip, if the queue is too long for the crystal cabin, you can take the regular up then take the glass cabin when going down cos the queue is not as terrible when going down.
The last stop of the gondola is in Maokong hill. Maokong is known for the tea plantation, tea shops and restaurants situated on the tip of the mountain. It has a scenic view and peaceful ambiance where you can enjoy a cup of tea. This just means that you don't need to drive more than an hour from Taipei just to skedaddle.
CHIANG-KAI SHEK MEMORIAL HALL
One of the famous landmarks in Taiwan which was built in memory of their late President and Taiwan's founder, Chiang-kai Shek. The memorial hall has an octagon roof because Chinese people believe that 8 is a lucky number and the 89 stairsteps of the hall symbolize Shek's age when he died.
The CKS Hall is best visited at night as it gives a different ambiance to the whole place. Plus, it isn't crowded unlike during the day where sometimes there ar events held that gathers hundreds of people.
JIUFEN and SHIFEN
I allocated a day for Jiufen and Shifen as I was really interested in the old streets of Jiufen and the railway image of Shifen. Both are very popular to tourists and can be really crowded especially on a weekend.
Jiufen Old Street is a food destination. Here you can get a taste of their local delicacies. The narrow alleys, red lanterns and lots of stairs is Jiufen's signature. If you have already watched Spirited Away, then this place will take you to the movie.
Shifen, on the other hand, is the place for lanterns. Most of the tourists visit here to fly their wishes and desires to the sky. The lanterns are colorful papers where you get to write your wish before releasing it to the sky. The color of the lanterns represents something like health, career, love, etc. I got myself a multicolored lantern cos I am so undecided. haha!!
SUN YAT SEN MEMORIAL HALL
Like CKS Hall, Sun Yat Sen Hall is one of the iconic buildings in Taiwan. Some tourists tend to skip it but it's a treat to most photographers. If you are fond of history, then you may find this place interesting.
This is a good en route to Taipei 101 as they are close each other. And if you're lucky enough, you may also witness the changing of guards which usually happens every hour.
Dubbed as the highest tower in the world back in 2004 and has the world's fastest elevator. With the building's appearance that echoes the design elements of their most ancient structures, Taipei 101 is truly beautiful with its unique appearance.
The architecture of the building is filled with deliberate references. Its shape is inspired by a bamboo which is also why the windows are tinted green. The "101" in its name means 1/01 which is literally the date of New Year. And the best thing about it is that it's earthquake proof. It was put to test when a magnitude 6.8 earthquake struck the building, there were few people who died during that incident, cranes collapsed and the city was badly hit. But Taipei 101 still stands and was just fine.
There are times when I wanna have my own peace, sit in the park and watch people pass by. I was kinda sappy on this day since it was my last day in Taiwan. I don't wanna do anything extreme, I don't wanna move, I just want to appreciate the place before I go back. I was trying to find a spot for the mood I'm in when I luckily stumbled upon Daan Park.
Daan park is pretty huge, it's a nice breath of fresh air in the midst of the city. The park was relaxing as it's so close to nature, there are lots of trees and different species of birds humming around which is a nice contrast to the buildings that surround the park.
WHERE TO STAY?
When choosing for a place to stay we always look for convenience, its accessibility, and the location. We also consider the attractions near it to save us time. And the comfort of the space we’re staying in.
Ximen district or Ximending is practically near and convenient as it is located in the centre of Taipei. It is also close to some of the spots to visit, plus it is surrounded with anything you may need like coffee shop, convenient store, or even for shopping centers.
I stayed at WOW Hostel located in Ximen district. It’s very accessible since it is only about 2mins away from the MRT. It is situated along the shopping stores and just across their building is a cafe and a convenient store.The place is very cozy. I love the fact that they have a veranda where I can chill in the morning over a cup of coffee or drink beer at night. It was home away from home. You can also cook your own food with the ingredients provided by them. The staffs are very accommodating and most of their guest are youth which made me feel that I belong. At night, most guests gather at the living room to drink and here’s where you can socialize, meet other travelers especially if you’re alone.
FOOD TO TRY
Taiwan isn’t just known for their architectural buildings but their Street Food is also a destination. Believe me when I say, I’d rather eat the street foods than in a fancy restaurant cos Taiwan has a lot of food options. They have a large variety of street food and you’d always find something interesting to try. Check out the must try Taiwanese foods.
- Scallion Pancake
- Grilled Stinky tofu
- Sausage on a sausage
- Taro balls (iced)
- Bubble tea
WHAT PASALUBONG TO BUY?
In Filipino's culture, there is an unwritten rule that travelers or whoever visits a different place has to bring home a gift or souvenir for their Family and Friends. Usually, these are local snacks, key chains or anything special from that place that can be hand-carried home.
Here are some ideas of what you can bring home from Taiwan which are mostly found at the night markets.
FRIDGE MAGNET – This is the most common gift or pasalubong you can buy when traveling. If not all, most travelers have fridge magnets, and some even collect it. My mom has been collecting it since I started traveling. I think this is the best souvenir that you can get that would symbolize the place that you've been.
PERSONALIZED STAMPS – In Taiwan, they mostly use stamps to sign documents, like when opening a bank. Every Taiwanese has their own stamp that serves as their signature, and you can have your own stamp too! There are stores that make personalize stamps where you can put your name or whatever design you want. This is a nice gift especially for those who loves writing.
FISH JERKY – this is my favorite of all the snacks that I tried in Taiwan, I even bought a lot of these to bring home and emptied the rack at the grocery. It's basically a dried fish, cut into slim pieces with sesame seeds filling. It's quite the same as the fish jerky that can be bought at Aji Ichiban but the difference is the sesame seeds.
PORK JERKY – If you don't like the fish jerky, then you can try the PORK one. It has sesame seeds and almond, but overall it tastes like a Bacon. BAEcon lovers will surely love this as a pasalubong.
TAIWANESE PINEAPPLE CAKE – the most famous pastry in Taiwan that can be found nearly everywhere in the country, and of course I want my friends and family to try it too. These are small cube-shaped pastry that is individually wrapped in cute packages and have a two-week shelf life. Go for the traditional tart, purely made from pineapple jam, or the sweeter cakes that include a mixed with winter melon.
WEATHER: I always use AccuWeatherto check for the forecast. With this, I know what clothes I should bring during my trip cos OOTD you know. LOL
WIFI: If you are traveling as a group, I’d suggest you rent a portable wifi which you can get from the airport near the exit or try Flytpack. Since I was traveling alone, I bought a sim card that has unlimited data with calls and text instead.
TRANSPORTATION: Taiwan’s transportation is very easy and accessible, especially the train, by taking it you can go anywhere in Taipei. There is a tap up card that can be used on all buses and trains. If you will be mostly taking the MRT, I would recommend getting the unlimited pass. Since I only take the train 3-4 times a day, I only buy a single journey ticket as I ride.
MONEY: I always make sure to check the exchange rate from peso to local currency and dollar to local currency. Both computations can have a huge difference, look into where you can get the best exchange rate.
As of this writing:
1 PHP = 0.60 NTD
1 USD = 50.58 PHP
1 USD =30.56 NTD
E.G. Say you have Php 20,000 pocket money.
PHP 20,000 = 12,000 NTD
PHP 20,000 = 395.41 USD = 12,083 NTD
See the difference? 83 NTD would go a long way, so make sure to check the rates before getting your money exchanged.
there are no techniques or guides but your CONSISTENCY, ACCURACY, AND CONFIDENCE is the key. There are IOs who are going to be strict, but if you prove that you are coming back home and will just be there for a vacation, you should be fine.
I was asked if it's safe to in Taiwan. Let me put it this way, I've walked so many times in the middle of the night alone and never felt any danger. So, YES. It's safe in Taiwan. Plan your trip now! 😉
Hope this will help you plan your Taiwan trip.