Taiwan It That Way - Life is so full of tae!

Sunday, November 19, 2017

Taiwan It That Way

I've got to say, this is one of the most memorable trips I've ever had. And I bet Jan would say the same.

We booked our Taiwan trip from November 16 to 19, thinking that 3 days would be enough for Taipei. But since the airline cancelled our flight on the 16th, we had it moved to the 14th. Coming from Davao, international trips can be steep because we also have to fly either to Manila or Cebu since the only international flight available from Davao is going to Singapore and vice-versa (soon to Kuala Lumpur). Fortunately, we were able to book an early flight to Cebu because we also planned to go to Bantayan Island before the Taiwan Trip.

So apparently, the Bantayan trip has to be scrapped to give way to Taiwan. And even with the extended travel dates, 5 days is still not enough to experience Taiwan. And one blog post will not be enough for that. So for now, this post will only be about Taipei.

THINGS WE DID IN TAIPEI
1. Took a double decker hop-on-hop-off sightseeing tour
We booked a 4-hour tour via Klook for only Php 456. It comes with unlimited stops on Red and Blue Routes. Since it would be impossible for us to see everything in 4 hours, we decided to go to the farthest ones from the Blue Route first. (Click here to view the blue and red route in full)
Double decker hop-on-hop-off sightseeing tour, Taiwan
Image from Klook
Although honestly, we weren't able to maximize this one because most of the time we chose not to hop off to places of interest and we ended up going nowhere. But we enjoyed the tour nonetheless. It's the most convenient and practical way to SEE the key attractions in Taipei.

You may book your Double-decker Sightseeing Tour here 


Chiang Kai-shek Memorial Hall, Taiwan

Chiang Kai-shek Memorial Hall, Taiwan
Chiang Kaishek Memorial Hall at 6:30am
Chiang Kai-shek Memorial Hall, Taiwan
Went to CKS Memorial Hall early in the morning and look, we got the whole place all to ourselves! Meaning, I can do a side-kick without shame. Haha

2. Rode the Maokong Gondola
I got excited when I heard about Maokong Gondola and its crystal cabins. So for NT$120 per head, we took a single-journey ticket to the farthest station (Maokong Station) that's about 4kms away only to be bored a few minutes later. Haha. I would still suggest that you try the crystal cabins just for the heck of experiencing it. But if you have a short attention span like me, do not take the entire 4km stretch. The first station and back would already be enough for a "helluva" ride.
Maokong Gondola
Crystal floor

Maokong Gondola

Maokong Gondola
At least, we still get views like this from time to time.
It took us more or less 40 minutes to get to the last station. I was far from being thrilled to go back riding the same cable car (it's too slow for us haha). The gondola was a let down for me, but we're still glad we gave it a go because we unexpectedly ended up in one of the most laid-back places in Taiwan. I know, there's not much to see in here, but we definitely love the ambiance.

We stayed here at the Maokong station for a while just to eat and chill (also literally).
Maokong Station
Outside Maokong Station
We rode a taxi (pool) back to Taipei Zoo station for only $75 per head (cheaper and faster than riding a gondola back).

3. Had a killer view of Taipei from the Taipei 101 Observatory at night
For NT$600, we were able to view 360 degrees of Taipei. Plus, we experienced riding the fastest elevator in the world. 89 floors in less than 45 seconds. Beat that ear-popping record.
Taipei 101

Taipei 101
Inside Taipei 101's Observatory
4. Street Food!
When we speak of Taiwan, the first thing that comes to mind is FOOD. Taiwan is indeed a food paradise. And for that, we went to two night markets: Shilin and Ningxia. Each has a different vibe but offers the same delectable and unique street food experience. But for more food choices, head to Shilin. You can never go wrong there.

I'd love to post more photos, but I don't want to overwhelm you with mouth-watering goodness. So I'll just show you two of my most favorites (I have no idea what these things are called):
Shilin Night Market
These are strawberries and tomatoes glazed in sweet candy
Ningxia Night Market
All I know is that this is beef. Haha

5. Hiked Taipei's highest point
Because of my knee injuiry, I won't be able to do any major hike until God knows when. But that doesn't mean that I can no longer conquer the heights.

The Elephant Mountain (Xiangshan Hiking Trail) is one for the books. It will give you a spectacular view of Taipei. It took us less than 20 minutes to get to the top and I think that's pretty good considering we are no longer in shape. I would have loved to see this view at night but we're already pressed for time.
Elephant Mountain, Taiwan
Taipei 101 from Elephant Mountain
Elephant Mountain, Taiwan

Elephant Mountain, Taiwan

6. Tried Taiwan's Bubble Tea
And I got addicted to it!

I never really liked bubble teas because the ones that I've tried before were too sweet and milky for my taste. But the bobas in Taiwan taste just right, not to mention they're cheaper than the ones back home. And mind you, I don't think I even had the best in Taiwan yet and I already love it!

THINGS WE PLANNED TO VISIT BUT SKIPPED/MISSED:
1. Visit the Taipei Zoo. I really want to see the penguins, panggolin, and the pandas again. But I chose sleep over these animals. /facepalm

2. Eat at the Modern Toilet Restaurant. It's a toilet themed resto. So everything you see there has something to do with a toilet. I would love to sit in a toilet bowl while eating an ice cream that looks like poop. But we decided to go to Shilin instead after reading reviews saying that food is average and overpriced. The place would have been instagram-worthy, I guess.

3. Shop at Ximending. Because we're too broke to shop. Haha.

4. Visit National Palace Museum. It was part of our hop-on-hop-off tour but since we chose to visit Taipei Astronomical Museum (which was so disappointing by the way), we missed the bus that could've taken us there.

5. Martyr's Shrine. Because we missed the bus (again) going there. And the next bus was scheduled to arrive 50 mins later. Ugh. Can't wait that long.

WHAT I LOVE ABOUT TAIWAN
1.The people are so nice! Even though majority of them do not know how to speak English, I love how they exert extra effort to make us understand what they're trying to say - especially those times when we badly needed help. They're the friendliest people we've met so far.

2. Food. Food. Food. Food. Food. Food. Food. And FOOD! And did I say food?

3. You can ride a bike all over the city! Taiwan has special lanes for these. I would love to have this in my home country but then... pollution is real.


4. Just like every first-world country that I have visited, the efficient transportation system is absolutely amazing. But this High Speed Rail Transit takes the cake. The need for speed just got real.
High Speed Rail in Taiwan
Our train was running at 295kph. Fastest I've ever ridden.
GETTING AROUND IN TAIPEI
I would highly recommend using an EasyCard. It saves you the hassle of giving an exact change to Buses and spares you from wasting time getting a single-journey token each time your ride an MRT. Plus, you get an automatic 20% discount on MRT Fares.
Taiwan EasyCard
An EasyCard can only be used in Taipei MRT and buses in Taipei and Keelung. You can also use the EasyCard for Maokong Gondola and renting a YouBike (see item #3).The card is available in all MRT stations and costs NT$100. And you may load up a value of NT$100-10,000. Unused balance can be refunded.

CURRENCY EXCHANGE
It was already midnight when we arrived in Taiwan. The first thing we did was, of course, look for an ATM. Money changers are not widely available in Taiwan (that's what I think because I haven't actually seen one outside the airport). And if they were, Philippine pesos are most probably not accepted. So if you're carrying Philippine-peso bill with you:

1. have your money changed at the airport before flying to Taiwan (in Cebu there are two money changers: the one in the waiting area has expensive rates and the other inside the boarding area has cheaper rates. Choose your kiosk wisely);
2. have your money changed in Taoyuan airport (money changers are open only until 1 a.m.);
3. have your money changed at the Bank of Taiwan;
4. withdraw from ATM (if I'm not mistaken only Cirrus ATMs can be used in Taiwan. And make sure your atm card has been activated for international withdrawals).

We chose the fourth option because it's the most convenient and upon computation it could save us more. If you're asking what's the best option to get the most out of your money, just do the math. Hehe. Nastress ako dito, ayoko na magcompute ulit. 
Just some random park/playground at Shilin. Sooo clean.:)


SURVIVING TAIWAN WITHOUT CASH
I know we were prepared for this. But I have never thought we'd go zero on cash. As in 0. Haha. And we were already at the outskirts of Taichung when we realized that and worse, there are only 3 atms available in the area (2 of them do not want to be found and 1 doesn't accept international withdrawals). I've always been apprehensive in getting a credit card, but damn I am just so thankful we got one because it saved our arses from starving. Also, we learned that some 7-11 branches have ATMs with them.

So here's one more tip when it comes to money: bring more than enough because like I've said, money changers are elusive and Philippine peso isn't so popular, or better yet have a cashless backup, bring a credit card with you.

BUT WAIT, THERE'S MORE!
This post is already too long and I am still on the first part. Please stay tuned for our Northern Taiwan (Yehliu Geopark, Shifen, and Jiufen), Sun Moon Lake, and Chungshe Flower Market adventures. :)


5 comments:

  1. Haha true, the first time I went to Taiwan last March 2016, I only changed US$200, and saved the other US$200, thinking that the rates would be higher in the downtown area. WRONG MOVE. Wa jud koy nakitan na money exchanger. Pakshet. So, on our third day, we woke up extra early and had our money changed at Bank of Taiwan mismo. Mura jud ug true tung nisulod mig bangko. HAHAHAHAHA

    Shet I miss Taiwan na talaga. One of those places na sobrang chill lang.

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    1. Haha. At least nasa Taipei pa mo, naay Bank of Taiwan pa as option. Kami kay nasa bukid na. Cashless lang jud dapat among transactions. Haha. Then we had a flight to catch pero nasa Houli pa mi. Alanganin na magwithdraw kay NT$1k minimum tapos di na to magamit tanan. Thank goodness they have taxis that accept credit cards as payment. Otherwise, magbaktas jud mi. Haha Haha

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    2. Hahahahha! Thank God for innovation, something we don't have in our hood.

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  2. Taiwan it that way also! Awesome title haha. I actually just returned from Taiwan last month and it's nice to see you covered some major ground during your recent trip there. Don't feel too bad about missing the National Museum though, because (at least from my perspective), that was a bit disappointing.

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  3. What airline did you take that got canceled? Yay. For me, it will be a nightmare. Also, how can you find internet on a foreign country? I feel like its difficult for us tourists. I would badly need an online google map. It's my comfort zone lol

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