It’s 5 a.m., and we’re already queued up in the check-in area at Ninoy Aquino International Airport Terminal 3 for our 7 a.m. flight to Taiwan. We traveled in a group and it was around November, so the airport is expected to be crowded. I can still remember one of our companions, he bought another ticket because his name was misspelled and changes can’t be made at that time. Other than that, everything went smoothly from checking in to immigration and boarding. Flying time from Manila to Taiwan only takes less than 2 hours, so by 9 a.m., we’re already at Taiwan Taoyuan International Airport Terminal 1. We were at the airport for about an hour and a half because the queue from immigration to baggage counter and pocket WiFi is quite long. Probably because October to April is the best time to visit Taiwan, so there’s a lot of tourists this time of the year. The weather at that time is cool, the temperature is around 18°C to 26°C.
So after getting our luggage, we use the subway to go to Ximen MRT Station where we had our lunch. We were all so hungry so we decided to have our lunch at a buffet restaurant which I didn’t get the name, sorry! After eating, we just walked to the Diary of the Ximen Hotel in Zhonghua. We checked in around 2:30 p.m. and only rested for 30 minutes because my sister wants to go to Pingxi District. They say the average time travel from Zhonghua to Pingxi is 2 hours to 2 hours and a half so we had to ride an Uber because we need to go back early for a restaurant booking. Shifen Old Street in Pingxi District is alive at night. The street ambiance is like in Japan. Though it’s cold that night, it feels warm and homey. Do you know their tradition where you release a lantern in the sky? We get to do it here.
With a colorful paper lantern that holds our wishes, we released it in the sky in the middle of an old railway. I wonder what will happen when it lands so I asked one of the locals where does it land and what happens if it lands in the ocean? He said no need to worry because there are people in charge and assigned to get it once it lands so they won’t pollute the water and avoid any accidents. How mindful of them. People here are approachable and friendly. They’ll try to help you if you ask them, so don’t hesitate if you need help when you go to Taiwan. I walked around the area with my nephews and sister. We bought a few snacks and souvenirs and then head back to Ximending for dinner. Oh, in case you’re wondering lanterns costs around NT$150 to NT$200.
We had our dinner in a toilet-themed restaurant called Modern Toilet in Xining South Road, Wanhua. It’s just around Ximending too. The place is nice and Instagram worthy I guess. Service is great, the staffs are approachable and the food is good too but a bit pricey if you’ll ask me. After eating we only looked around the place to see what’s what then went back to the hotel.
On our second day in Taiwan, we had a breakfast buffet in the hotel. Then we went to Yehliu Geopark & Baoan Temple in Wanli District, New Taipei. Let me tell you, this is my favorite part when we travel to Taiwan. The cool and fresh air in your face, the sound of the waves crashing in the rocks, the calm and clean nature you are in; it makes my heart at ease. The place is known for its rock formations. Some of the best known are the “Queen’s Head”, “Fairy Shoe”, “Beehive”, “Sea Candle” and “Ginger Rocks”. The rock formations are named based on their shapes. We only stayed there for a couple of hours before we get back to the city to explore Peace Park, National Taiwan Museum, and Kai-Shek Memorial Hall in Zhongzheng District. We only looked around and enjoy the peace while walking although the weather that day is a bit hot. Around 5 p.m., we decided to climb the famous Elephant Mountain also known as Xiangshan. There are 600 steps in total to reach the top. Some steps are too wide or too small. Sometimes it’s too high so your steps should be big.
We took us about 30 minutes to reach the top. I almost gave up but luckily I didn’t because the view is so worth the sweats and aching thighs! Haha. I even saw old people trying to climb the top. Those with a cane, it made me go ‘wow’ they are still strong to do this. To experience something beautiful. We stayed there until the sunsets. One of the best days of my life.
That night we tried the street foods in Ximending Night Market. We were planning to visit Tong-Hua Night Market and Rahoe Night Market but our energy level has reached its peak so we settled for the nearest one. I like the ice cream burrito with shaved peanut and the large chicken at The Hot-Star store. They are famous around the area. Long lines and people are wanting to have a taste. The street has a lot of performers from magics to dances and acting. It’s a bit rowdy at night so kids might not enjoy it. Around 10 p.m. we went home and enjoyed milk teas and a few snacks that are famous in the city.
Last day to tour around Taiwan. Early in the morning, we went to Maokong Gondola to ride a cable car to see Taipei City from above. Sadly, it was drizzling so it’s a bit foggy that day. We made a stop in Taipei Zoo. The place is quite big but they only got a few animals to see. I think they are famous for the panda show but we didn’t get to see it because we have an appointment that day. So by 1 p.m., we went to NNCU Elementary School in Wenshan District. Here, my nephews got to experience being a student in Taiwan. They bond with Taiwanese students, play a musical instrument, and tries answering some questionnaires in a paper.
After that, we went to Taipei 101 in Xinyi District. It’s one of the tallest buildings in the world and has the fastest elevator. From the 5th floor, it will only take you 37 seconds to be on the 89th floor if you ride the elevator. But there’s a ticket if you want to try it, and you have to queue up because they only take let people per batch. They said the building can withstand earthquakes because of its structures. The view from the top is nice, the city lights are colorful. We had our dinner at Mos Burger back in Zhongzheng District. After eating we, bought some more souvenirs and sweets for our family back in the Philippines. And because we have an early flight the next day, we had to head back to the hotel early because we have kids with us and we need to sort out our stuff.
My stay in Taiwan was a bit short, so I will come back. People are friendly and always willing to help so I felt safe even though I’m in a foreign country. Not everyone can speak English so some of them use phones to translate and communicate with you. There’s a lot of greens(trees) even in the city so the air is fresh. Stores open around 10 a.m. or 11 a.m. I believe. At night, the Night Markets are a bit crowded and a lot of stores are busy. The tourists’ spots are a bit far from one another, so you have to plan which places are you gonna visit; in our case, we didn’t. Their food selection is nice too, well what do I expect? Asian cuisine is great. You should try their bubble tea if you’re a fan of milk tea, you can find it anywhere you go in the country. And Xiao Long Bao too is a must-try. When I come back, I want to try and climb Rehai Cliff. Maybe I’ll go with my friends. They said only a few locals know this rock climbing spot in Beitou Hot Spring Village and it’s not recommended to go on your own so there’s an option for a tourist guide. I also want to try paragliding in Fenglin or Luye plateau. The adrenaline, can’t wait! These two are already in my to-do list when I come back. I also didn’t get to visit their beaches and other tourist spots because most of them are already close at 5 p.m. And I want to try more food, preferably home-cooked and not in a restaurant to experience the traditional ones. I didn’t get to try a lot of traditional foods because we’re always eating in a Hot pot or Shabu-shabu restaurants, which is the first thing you should do when it’s your first time in Taiwan according to some travelers. I almost forgot the hot springs, maybe I’ll try it too. Though I prefer the beaches and mountains. All in all, my first time in Taiwan wasn’t bad at all but I’m not satisfied so I’ll surely come back for more. So, see you again Taiwan!
Written by Romelyn S. San jose
p.s. If you like this blog, please check out another one which is about depression. You’ll surely love it promise!