I’m finally sharing my Taipei travel experience. Yep, I had a vacation in November 2018 with the fam but only had the time to write about recently. The trip served as my first international travel destination. I have to admit that when I was dreaming of traveling abroad, Taiwan was never on my list. I think it was my auntie who really wanted to go because she wanted to go shopping for specific stuff.
She remembered the good stuff that my uncle and mom brought home. They used to be OFWs in Taiwan. Wanting to join them on their trip, I bought my tickets immediately after getting my passport which was delivered to our place in Quezon City.
Touchdown Taoyuan International Airport
On the night of November 14, 2018, we flew to Taipei, arriving at the Taoyuan International Airport Terminal 1 from Ninoy Aquino International Airport Terminal 3. After getting cleared by the immigration, we went to the airport lobby to wait for daytime. Our check-in time at the hotel is at 3pm, and with the understanding that public transportation starts at 6am, we have no choice but to stay at the airport.
We have 2 business to take care of first in our Taipei travel — first is to get some money. Although there’s a money changer at the Taoyan International Airport, we read that it’s better to get some cash through the ATM. Taiwan’s currency is New Taiwan Dollar (code – TWD, abbreviation – NT, symbol – NT$) and is a little higher than Philippine Peso. The second thing I have to sort out is to claim the SIM Cards and Pocket WiFi which I transacted through the KK Day app.
After that, we tried to get some food. We followed a signage that points to a convenience store below us. That’s when we saw 7-Eleven, fully-stocked with good things, including real food that’s so delicious it could rival any restaurant in the Philippines. Honest.
We finally got ourselves settled in one corner of the airport where there are benches to sleep on. While my cousin and auntie rests, I went to a charging station where I was able to charge my laptop and finish my work.
Taipei Travel Day 1
When daytime came, we’re excited to kick off our Taipei travel that we took a bus to the city dropping us off at the Taipei Main Station. Travel time was about an hour and a good way to relax and sight-see for a bit. My companions slept their way through the ride, haha.
The Taipei Main Station links to other routes. Prior to the trip, we did some research and blogs even shared that moving about from one place to another is easy. Suddenly, all the things that we learned became untrue. I suspected they didn’t really commute on their own but rather were accompanied by a guide.
We were quite in a hurry to get to our first destination, so we wanted to get on the train. But we couldn’t find our way to the train, haha! After observing a little bit, we saw people using an elevator going down. And that’s when we figured out our way to the train.
I downloaded apps to serve as guide and we simply compare the information to what we see on the station. The good thing about the MRT Stations in Taipei is that the routes are color coded and each station is coded as well. You just have to determine where it’s headed so you’d know where to line up and hop in.
And that helped us determine our first stop in our Taipei travel destination – Chiang Kai-shek Memorial Hall (or so we thought) which is beside the station named after it. Coded as R08, the route is on the red line, aka [R] Tamsui-Xinyi line.
Liberty Square is actually where the Chiang Kai-shek Memorial Hall is located. Initially, I thought the entire area is the memorial hall itself and with the main building at the center. The Liberty Square is a plaza where you’ll find the National Concert Hall and the National Theater flanking the Chiang Kai-shek Memorial Hall.
The National Theatre is actually within immediate vicinity of the C.K.S. MRT Station and that’s where we decided to take some pictures. We had it all to ourselves as everyone else was going for the memorial hall. I love the tall huge pillars and the intricate details of the architecture.
Then we proceeded to Chiang Kai-shek Memorial Hall. Too bad the place is under renovation, we weren’t able to explore it as much. All we can do is take photos and selfies. We opted not to go to the National Concert Hall as the place is already crowded. Plus, the sun is up and about that it’s making us uncomfortable.
We spent about an hour at the Liberty Square and then decided to leave for Taipei 101. Taking the red line still, we alighted at the Taipei 101/World Trade Center Station, coded R03. Upon entry of the tower building, we were directed to proceed to the 5th floor to get our tickets.
It’s a good thing we didn’t have to line up and just proceeded to the kiosk. I already bought etickets for the observatory and that made everything faster. When we got there, there are groups of tourists already.
And making it more convenient was that one of the staff at the ticket counter offered to keep our luggages before going up to 89th floor indoor observatory. Yes, we were carrying our luggages from the airport, to Liberty Square, and to Taipei 101.
If you’re afraid of heights or are not really into skyscrapers and urban sights, you won’t enjoy the Taipei 101 observatory. I did, because I love seeing how high I am from the ground. It’s clear glass all around so you won’t have difficulty finding your place to enjoy the view, take pictures, including a selfie. Of course, it’s still good to roam around and see the different spots around the building.
At the center you’ll find some shops, including a dessert shop which is perfect on a hot sunny day. I think we spent about two hours at the observatory before going down to the 88th floor where the wind damper is located. It’s considered the biggest wind damper in the world at 18 feet and weighs 660 tons. I honestly marveled at it only when I saw it.
Also at the 88th floor is the Treasure Sky showroom. It’s apparently the world’s highest jewelry arts boutique showcasing an art collection made from Taiwan’s coral gemstones, jade and other gemstones.
Your Hotel Check-in
Towards mid afternoon, we’re quite tired already, especially me with only a few minutes of sleep during our bus ride from the airport to the main station. So we decided to proceed to Your Hotel where we booked our accommodation for the trip. Unfortunately, we made a different exit from Taipei 101 Tower that we lost our way to the nearest MRT station.
Realizing that we were lost, we decided to ask for directions. Unfortunately, we can’t get a decent one at once. So we kept walking and asking until finally got a better direction. It’s a good thing we haven’t really went far off.
From the Taipei 101 station, we went back to Taipei Main Station to transfer to the Blue Line route to alight at the Longshan Temple MRT which is 3 stations away.
Your Hotel is located at in the area where the Huanxi Night Market is. And to be honest, it felt like I’m in the middle of Quiapo or Divisoria, just a little orderly. I also was not impressed when my cousin showed me the booking.
But that feeling was swept away when I got to the hotel. The lobby alone is nice. We stayed there until our check in time of 3pm. When we finally got to our hotel room and settled, we went to bed for some much-needed rest.
Ximending Night Market
After dinner, we went out to visit Ximending Night Market. My cousin and auntie were hoping to buy stuff but were disappointed because shops are closing down already at past 11pm. Fortunately we chanced upon a store selling food items. We decided to buy stuff for “pasalubong”. With nowhere else to go, we decided to go back to our hotel to wrap up our first day of our Taipei travel.
Taipei Travel Day 2
We got up early on our second day at Taipei for our Maokong Gondola ride. We enjoyed the free hearty buffet breakfast at Your Hotel, but we had to hurry up. This activity is something that I looked forward to in this Taipei travel. It’s confusing because when we think of gondola, the images of a boat ride in Venice comes to mind.
This is actually a gondola lift, another type of cable car. When I saw this post on Instagram, it became one of the things I’d like to do in Taiwan. Getting there is quite far. From Longshan Temple Station of Bannan Line (coded with Blue) we passed by 4 stations and alighted at the 5th station which is the Zhongxiao Fuxing, then took the Brown Coded Line (Wenhu Line) ride going to the Taipei Zoo Station.
It took us a little over 30 minutes for the ride but it’s an enjoyable one because the Wenhu Line is above the ground. I had a little sightseeing which i liked. Definitely a breath of fresh air when compared to the other Taipei Metro MRT ride.
Then we took a walk to the Gondola stations, starting off at the Taipei Zoo Gondola Station where the line starts at the 3rd floor. There are two types of cable cars to choose from. The first one is the glass cabin which features a glass floor, allowing the riders to have a good view of what’s beneath. The other one simply has a solid floor.
Of course, we went for the glass cabin. Make sure you’re lined up where it says “Glass Cabin” or you’ll end up being led to the ordinary one. Waiting for the glass cabin will test your patience, but it’s worth it. I’m telling you, this is such a relaxing ride. After a few shots for pictures and video clips, I opted just admire the ride. It’s peaceful and relaxing.
I love seeing the trees under us. We also saw Taipei 101 from afar which is cool! That’s when we realized we were way up high. Don’t miss this ride when you’re in Taipei but make sure to allocate time for this. Including the Taipei Zoo visit, we spent about 5 hours.
We alighted the first ride and realized we were at the Taipei Zoo Station. The zoo is not part of Taipei travel 3-day itinerary, but we just went with the flow of people and realized it’s a line going to Taipei Zoo. We hopped on to a shuttle train waiting for everyone to aboard.
It’s been long time that I haven’t been to Manila Zoo, and I’m not really fond of going to one because I’m not a supporter of animals being kept in artificial habitat. But since we’re already there, might as well explore it. And boy was it tiring.
The Taipei Zoo is really big and of course, has collection of animals like monkeys, birds, lions, elephants, etc. My cousin was set to see a panda but we couldn’t figure out where it was. And just as we thought pandas are no longer kept in the zoo, we found the place where we can view them.
To be honest, I think it was all by chance that we found it. We were already looking for the spot to get a ride back to the gondola station, but my companions were veering away from it. We got curious of a particular and thought the ride must be there only to realize it’s where the pandas can be viewed.
We also did some souvenir shopping at the gift shop inside the building. Afterwards, the hunt for the shuttle ride continued. We spent about an hour inside the zoo and never got bored, just tired haha.
Beitou Hot Spring
It’s already midday when our Maokong Gondola experience ended. We had to hurry after in time for our Spring City Resort Beitou Hot Spring Spa booking. Beitou is an area where hot spring abounds with private and public hot spring baths available. We just wanted to experience the hot spring bath, and so I booked at Spring City Resort via Klook.
When we got to the Beitou Station, we realized that we missed the shuttle to the resort and had to wait for 30 minutes. Hungry, we decided to find a place to eat. We ended up having a quick meal at McDonald’s.
At the reception area of Spring City Resort, I showed our vouchers and told them we’d like to take the private bath for 3 people. I was expecting that they’d give us a room fit for 3 people, but we got two instead. One for me, and the other for my cousin and auntie.
The room is slightly dim but relaxing. The staff gave me a quick briefing on how to control the water, and if I want it a little colder or hotter. It’s an awesome hot spring spa experience. Another relaxing activity which I enjoyed for an hour. If you’re a couple, this is a recommended romantic activity you should do.
After bathing, I was feeling refreshed and wished we were booked at the resort. Maybe we’ll consider this on our next Taipei travel. We had arranged a free shuttle ride to Beitou Station, but realizing we had to wait a bit longer, we asked to cancel and book a taxi instead. We wanted to go to Shilin Night Market.
Shilin Night Market
The resort staff at the Spring City Resort was very kind to book a taxi for us. He even accompanied us to our ride and communicated to the taxi driver which is good because we don’t speak Chinese.
So some shopping happened at Shilin Night Market. This is where you will find clothes, shoes, bags at every turn. This was my cousin’s and auntie’s turf as they checked items that interest them. But as they ended up not buying because they’d compare the quality and prices in Divisoria or other stores in the Philippines.
I have no intention to shop but when we entered a shoe store, I saw a Vans sneaker on sale. Comparing it to the price at the malls in Manila, I decided to buy one because it’s way cheaper. so finally, I have a new Vans Sneaker which I have been planning to buy.
So when doing your shopping at Shilin, make sure you already have an idea of the price from your local shop so you can make the best decision whether to buy the item or not. It’s easy to be drawn to shop because it look affordable, but in reality, it’s similarly priced or even more expensive at the Shilin Night Market. After shopping, we went back to our hotel.
Taipei Travel Day 3
The 3rd day of our Taipei travel itinerary is all about traveling to the northern part which we booked with Klook. It’s raining but we already paid for our activity. We just hoped that the rain would stop.
After an hour in the bus from Zhongzheng District, we finally arrived Yehliu Geopark. It’s raining really hard; it’s a good thing the Klook Tour Guide has raincoats available for sale. It looks like his experience made him realize this is a must-bring when touring this region.
Yehliu at the north coast of Taiwan and known for Yehliu Geopark. It’s a popular destination where you can find interesting rock formations eroded by the sea. The Queen’s Head is a popular formation.
While I love the geopark, the rain has somehow dampen my spirit and opted to just take picture of whatever I can. There’s quite a long line to have a photo opp with the Queen’s Head, so I didn’t bother anymore. I just roamed around.
What I admire is that the park provided a way to make walking a better experience with the walkways that will allow even the older visitors to enjoy the views of the park.
After about an hour at Yehliu Geopark, we went back to our bus for our next stop – Jiufen Village, a former gold mining town. We took a short bus ride to the village from an area where the Klook bus parked. Upon arrival, with the rain still pouring in, we walked up and down narrow stairs checking out stores of different kinds left and right.
We dropped by a tea store, souvenir shops, tried the popular Peanut Ice Cream, Guava Juice, and finally settled down to a small restaurant for lunch.
I’m sorry but I was not able to take note of the name of the restaurant, but their Xiao Long Bao, Fish Ball Soup and Braised Pork Rice are good. They even have a system to help tourists order by adding numbers as labels to each dish.
We were hoping to find Ah Mei Teahouse but was having difficulty finding our way. We were so tired to continue going up. We actually thought one alley at the top is already the path to the restaurant, but we ended up seeing the Shengming Temple.
Our 3rd stop of the tour is Shifen Waterfall. The area has been transformed into a place for tourists. There are viewing decks and walkways to get a better view of the waterfall and walk conveniently.
I must admit the Shifen Waterfall made me want to visit the waterfalls of the Philippines. My auntie said the ones she saw on Philippine TV is more beautiful. And that I have to agree.
Pingxi Railway Line
Now this is something I’m looking forward to experience in this tour. Visiting the Pingxi Railway Line means flying a sky paper lantern. Of course, there’s more to that.
The railway line is lined with shops selling paper lantern. Good thing that our Klook Tourist Guide already has a contact shop to assist everyone. After paying, we were given a lantern with the colors we selected. Each color has a meaning. The lantern has 4 slides and were given the option to choose for a solid color or multiple colors.
We were given brush and ink to write our wishes on each side of the lantern. With every sides dried, we went outside and readied ourselves to fly the paper lantern. Every group is assisted by one of the shop’s store, who’d tell us to pose a certain way and then take our photo. This goes on until we were told to release the sky paper lantern.
Flying a sky paper lantern is both a fun and spiritual experience. Watching the people, families and friends, posing to the camera, releasing the lantern and having fun is such an enjoyable sight that warms the heart.
After the tour we went back to the city. I was hoping to visit the Raohe Night Market for some street food but we no longer have time. We went back to our hotel to prepare for checkout. We were really tired and would have loved to stay longer. Unfortunately our flight leaves at 2am the next day. We basically just have a few hours to pack up and end our Taipei travel.
We plan to take the MRT to the airport. But with last express train leaving Taipei at 11:58pm, we know we have to leave early.After a quick dinner with meals bought at a Family Mart Convenience Store near our hotel, we packed our stuff while alternating the use of the bathroom.
When everything is ready, we checked out and took a cab to Taiwan Main Station and figured our way to find the airport MRT line. We had a hard time finding it, and even the security guards can’t give us a good direction. If I remember it right, it took us about 30 minutes and we’re already quite irritated by that time.
After finally hopping on to the train, we realized that there’s more to explore as our train passes by each terminal. Personally, I would like to have another Taipei travel experience to explore Taipei more and also visit Taichung and Kaoshung. Hopefully I can visit before the visa-free treatment to Philippine passport holders ends. It started from November 1, 2017 until July 31, 2018 but was extended until July 31, 2019, and then was extended again until 2020.