Exploring new territories and creating new memories are some of the reasons why I keep on traveling. It is somewhat weird on my part that I started to travel around Asia but haven’t been to one of the closest ones from the Philippines. Taiwan (Republic of China) is geographically near the country but the strict visa policies on entering it made it a major hindrance for Filipinos. With the new Taiwan visa exemption for the Philippines, it paved way for me and my buddies to visit our closest neighbor and enjoy our short weekend jaunt around key destinations in Taipei.
|And because it's 16 degrees, sunbathing it is!|
|U Bike rental system in Taipei|
|Metro Taipei (MRT) is the easiest way to go around the city|
|There's a different world underneath Taipei|
|From 6 am to 12 mn, I had unlimited access to MRT for three days!|
*I will dedicate a separate post on our great Taipei food trip*
Old Taipei Village and Dadaocheng Wharf
Old village feels, that’s what my buddy told me when I asked him about our first stop. Arriving at MRT’s Beimen Station (green line), we treaded its almost empty roadways to search for Datong District.
|Old village feels...|
|Legit Taiwanese breakie on the street! :)|
We walked further and found an entryway to the Dadaocheng Wharf where we lounged for a while until our next stop.
I heard that Taipei is a shopping haven, and we had to experience it. We alighted at MRT’s Ximen Station (blue or green line) and were transported into an urban jungle as we reached the exit. Countless shopaholics (or may be onlookers) flooded the streets around Ximending area. Some of my buddies went inside the biggest H&M store in Asia while me and my non-shopaholic buddies strolled around the different alleys in search for bargain hunts.
We arrived at MRT’s Xiangshan Station (red line) at half past three in the afternoon and started to look for the trail going to the mountain. It was easy as there were lots of signages that pointed us to the right direction. The uphill ascent on a quiet village signaled the onset of our hike.
|The start of our hike to the Elephant Mountain|
I sat on a bench, still catching my breath, as my buddies chose their particular spots to capture the golden and blue hour. I veered away and went back to the rocky area where the sun was actually starting to set.
|Ready, set up your tripods, shoot!|
My buddies didn’t adhere to our eight a.m. call time the next day, the chilly Taipei morning keeping them tucked on their beds until I admonished them to prep up. It was the day when our itinerary pointed us to the outskirts of Taipei City.
|It's a sunny day on the northeastern part of Taiwan|
One of my buddies exclaimed that the fisherman’s wharf at Yehliu was where the family of Sancai relocated in the hit series Meteor Garden. We all laughed as we started to trace back some of the scenes in our mind.
|Yehliu Fisherman's Wharf|
|My favorite spot away from the crowd|
I sat on one of the potholes and watched as the huge waves endlessly crashed into the rocks. I enjoyed this wonderful scenery with a lone photographer who was meticulously setting up her tripod to capture this marvel. We literally escaped the crowd.
One hour away from Taipei City is a park of beautifully carved rocks and interesting potholes that were shaped by nature. It truly is amazing (especially if you found a spot away from the maddening crowd of tourists). Photo by @lakadpilipinas 🌐Powered by @flytpack #FlytpackTravels #FlytpackHelps #FlytpackPH
I joined my friends and explored the other side of the park where the crowd grew bigger. It was okay though as the vastness of the whole park provided so much space to move around.
|Visit early in the morning, like 8:00 a.m.|
We watched a classic Taiwanese movie A City of Sadness before we left for this trip. Some scenes from the award-winning film were shot at Jiufen which is an hour away from Taipei City. The place was a thriving gold mining town until the 1950’s when mining was discontinued.
|People were orderly amidst the huge crowd|
|That famous spot where the movie A City of Sadness was filmed|
As we advanced to the top, the crowd and shops grew bigger. But still, everyone’s well-ordered.
We also watched an award-winning Japanese animated film, Spirited Away, which was said to have gotten its inspiration for the setting from Jiufen. I couldn’t vouch for the authenticity of the story but the location is rather similar. The souvenir shops around were also bombarded with souvenirs from the said movie.
Getting out of Jiufen can be tricky as direct buses to downtown Taipei is hard to find. A nice Taiwanese guy mentioned that we could ride a bus heading to Ruifang for NT15 (US$0.47) and then take the local train to the city for NT49 (US$1.54), which was what we did. It took us almost an hour to finally reach downtown Taipei (keep the train ticket for inspection) and searched for our next night market for some great food.
Guang Hua Digital Plaza
We dedicated our last day on our individual missions. Some went to a museum while others chose to catch up with sleep. Me and my buddy couldn’t pass our last day without exploring other parts of downtown Taipei so we headed to a certain mall which we heard is a techie-haven and went to MRT’s Zhongxiao Xinsheng Station (blue or orange line). Well, I’m not really into gadgets but my buddy was searching for a camera lens which he heard might be cheaper in Taipei compared to Manila.
North Gate and Camera Street
My buddy went on with his lament on getting a new lens and so we went to MRT’s Beimen Station (green line) for our next destination.
Chiang Kai-shek Memorial Hall and Square
Arriving at MRT’s Chiang Kai-shek Memorial Hall Station (red or green line), we were met with a heavy downpour (as we got reunited with the rest of the gang) that almost made us quit and go back to the hotel. But my friends insisted that we could wait for sunset as the blue hour will paint the sky beautifully, which what basically had happened.
|Blue hour at Chiang Kai-shek Memorial Hall|
|Liberty Square Main Gate|
Being the tallest building in the world from 2004 to 2010 (beating Kuala Lumpur’s Petronas Towers), it’s quite a popular landmark for first-time travelers in Taipei. Grand Hyatt Hotel, our home in Taipei, is just right across the road but sadly, we didn’t have time to check out what’s inside the structure or at least get a decent photo of it. My memories of Taipei 101 were those mornings waking up and seeing it from the glass windows of our living room and using MRT’s Taipei 101 World Trade Center Station (red line) as our main hub on going around town.
Taipei Night Markets
When I mentioned Taipei to my friends, they drool over as they mention the ultimate street food scene at night markets. If you try to search online for night markets, you’d easily find one nearby, wherever you are. But that same friend suggested that we should not miss Shilin Night Market as well as the Raohe Night Market.
We had three full days to spare and we had a quota of one night market per day.
Shilin Night Market
Coming from Elephant Mountain, we alighted at MRT’s Shilin Station (red line). There were signs leading to the said market that we followed. We weren’t sure if we’re heading the right way because the road we’re passing by was extremely quiet, no signs of any mayhem, up until we reached the war zone.
|Shilin Night Market|
Raohe Night Market
Coming from the outskirts of downtown Taipei, we were dead tired as we reached MRT’s Songshan Station (green line) for the second installment of our night market stint.
It was drizzling as we arrived at Raohe Night Market. Again, we were as hungry as the other night so we immediately searched for a place to eat. After which, we headed for window shopping.
We capped off the night on a beer shack along Songhe Street and spent the rest of the night chitchatting about the highlights of the day’s events.
Shida Night Market
Our flight for Manila was set at one in the morning. So instead of chilling out somewhere, we chose to explore another night market nearby. We alighted at MRT’s Taipower Building Station (green line) and searched for our last night market trip in Taipei.
|Shida Night Market|
I can’t help but compare my travel experiences to similar urban jungles with Taipei. More than the authentic villages and oh so good street food, I love the gentleness of the Taiwanese people. No one seemed to be rushing to the point of knocking everyone out, they looked very chill. I like that. They are very warm and helpful. It seemed that they are actively and passively resisting to the radical industrial changes around them by exhibiting the proper and acceptable social skills. Something that its neighboring nations could emulate.
On a lighter note, I suppose me and my buddy would be starting to have a detailed itinerary on our future trips for a better exploration, or may be not? Haha.
Check for discounted Taipei hotel accommodations here