Exploring Taiwan: The Island of Beauty

Taipei skyline at night!
Taipei skyline at night!

Taiwan, officially named the Republic of Chinais oftentimes mentioned or seen when updates about the Philippine weather or territorial disputes in the West Philippine Sea are being done. Why won’t it be when it is one of the nearest countries near our territory?

MAP OF TAIWAN. Courtesy of heritageartstexas..com
MAP OF TAIWAN. Courtesy of heritageartstexas..com

Located just about 376 km away from the province of Batanes, Taiwan is a country that is often overlooked because of its proximity to our country. But that isn’t the case anymore. With the temporary lifting of Taiwanese visa as a requirement for our citizens to go here, Taiwan is quickly beginning to be a hot spot for Filipino travelers and tourists alike.

This blog post aims to help you, dear reader, on what to prepare, what to do, where to go and estimate as to how much you will be spending in this island of beauty. By the way, I went here with my Mama so this travel blog post is best for partners or pairs who will be traveling to Taiwan. Let’s start!

WHAT TO PREPARE

Exploring Taiwan can be a lot of fun if you already know what you should be preparing before going here. I will include in this post important reminders for those of you who will be visiting. Some important things were not said or given emphasis enough on other blogs about Taiwan. I hope this post helps especially if you’re a first timer here.

1. MONEY. You cannot use the Philippine Peso (PhP) in Taiwan that’s why you have to exchange your pesos first (or even US dollars, if you have some) to Taiwanese dollars (TWD). Remember, have your money exchanged in the airport before heading out to Taipei. You can have it exchanged in Ninoy Aquino International Airport (NAIA) or in Taiwan Taoyuan International Airport (TTIA). I compared the exchange rates in both airports and I must say it’s better to have your money exchanged in TTIA. We didn’t see any forex shops in Taiwanese neighborhoods (unlike in Thailand, Singapore or even Korea) so avoid wasting your time looking for one by having your money already exchanged at the airport. If ever you run out of TWD, relax. You can exchange your money in the Bank of Taiwan, which is probably the only bank in Taiwan that exchanges PhP to TWD. Finding one would take time, though. Ask the staff of your hotel if ever you need to locate it.

BEAUTIFUL INTERIOR. This is Taoyuan Taiwan Internation Airport's beautiful interior late at night.
BEAUTIFUL INTERIOR. This is Taiwan Taoyuan Internation Airport’s beautiful interior late at night.

2. PASSPORTS. This is a basic requirement whenever you are traveling out of the country so prepare it before your travel! Now that Taiwan has issued a temporary visa-free pass for Filipinos (this will run from November 1, 2017 to July 31, 2018), you can go there just with your passport (with remaining validity of at least six months from date of entry) and these other requirements: a return ticket or a ticket for the traveler’s next destination; a proof of accommodation (hotel) booking or your sponsor’s contact information (if ever you have family or friends who will be hosting your stay in their country) and a completed arrival card, which is actually obtained in the airline you’re going to fly with going to Taiwan.

3. MAPS. This is often overlooked by some tourists but having maps (especially the ones in cellphones) is of great help whenever you are traveling. Meanwhile, you can look for travel brochures (some of which contain maps of Taiwan or Taipei, its capital) in TTIA once you have landed. If you were not able to find one, ask the staff in the reception area of your hotel for this. More so, ask if they have a map of Taipei Metro (or Taipei MRT, which is shortcut of Mass Rapid Transit), which will be of great use while traveling in (and also out of) Taipei. Better make one handy while you’re on the go.

Remember that the train system (and other means of transportation systems) in Taiwan may appear complex at first but once you get used to it, using it going to be easy.

4. ACCOMMODATION. As mentioned earlier, this is one of the requirements before going to Taiwan. The immigration may or may not check you on this, but it’s better to be prepared. Besides, it’s definitely wise to look for a place and secure it even before going here. Remember, you are in a different country, and finding a place to stay may not be that easy compared to our country. You can use apps (or even websites) to look for accommodations in Taipei and these include Traveloka, Agoda and Booking.

5. APPROPRIATE CLOTHES. Taiwan classifies itself as having four seasons: spring (March to May), summer (June to August), autumn (September to November) and winter (December to February). Spring may entail warmth all throughout the day, having an average temperature of 25°C, so wearing long sleeves shirts are fine. Summer is the time for humid and hot weather so bring comfortable summer clothes. The weather is cooler this time and temperature can go down to 15°C so better prepare your jackets. Lastly, temperature during winter is said to go as low as 8°C so preparing coats and wearing layers are encouraged.

CARDS. The 3-Day Pass and EasyCard that I used in Taiwan.
CARDS. The 3-Day Pass and EasyCard that I used in Taiwan.

EXTRA: Secure an EasyCard in the the airport (or any convenience store and metro stations) as this is needed when availing services of the Taipei MRT, buses and other public transportation in Taipei. It is similar to our own Beep Card wherein you have to load it up before use. While in the airport, avail the Easy Card when you plan to use the MRT when going to Taipei (remember that their airport is in Taoyuan, which is 40 km south of Taipei). Depending on your days of stay and activities while in the Taiwanese capital, you can also avail a Taipei Pass (that has 1-day, 2-day, 3-day and 5-day varieties) to have an unlimited access to their train and bus systems. It would be smart to buy this if you only plan to explore Taipei.

Now that we have already discussed what you should be preparing for Taiwan, let’s proceed to the places that you can go on exploring in this country!

WHAT TO EXPLORE

Northern part of Taiwan:Yehliu Geopark and Jiufen Old Street

YEHLIU GEOPARK

IMPRESSIVE. Just look at these mushroom-like formations and you will be impressed by these natural work of nature!
IMPRESSIVE. Just look at these mushroom-like formations and you will be impressed by these natural work of nature!

One of the most visited places in Taiwan is the Yehliu Geopark. Located in a 1.7-kilometer cape along the country’s northern coastlines, Yehliu is home to scenic landscapes and beautiful rock formations.

SEDIMENTARY. The rock formations found in Yehliu are sedimentary in nature.
SEDIMENTARY. The rock formations found in Yehliu are sedimentary in nature.

The soil in this geopark is made up of soft limestone composition.With forces of sea waves and the wind, the process of erosion occurs. Through the years, the erosion happening in the area has produced these remarkable geological formations.

YEHLIU during a rainy weather.
YEHLIU during a rainy weather.

One area in the geopark contains small rocks that resemble mushrooms. These mushroom-like rocks (also called “hoodoo rocks”) in Yehliu are impressive, considering that they have formed in a seaside environment and are composed of the same type of rock through and through.

STORMY WEATHER. The rainy and windy weather that we experienced here in Yehliu seemed like the area was being battered by a storm. But it really wasn't, which is why a lot of visitors still went to the place.
STORMY WEATHER. The rainy and windy weather that we experienced here in Yehliu seemed like the area was being battered by a storm. But it really wasn’t, which is why a lot of visitors still went to the place.

It was windy and rainy while we were here in Yehliu that’s why the sea would force its waves to the seaside. It was a beautiful sight, albeit dangerous as well.

JIUFEN TOWN

SPIRITED AWAY. This was how Jiufen looked like the moment we stepped out of the bus that we were riding.
SPIRITED AWAY. This was how Jiufen looked like the moment we stepped out of the bus that we were riding.

Located in the mountainous part of northeastern Taiwan, Jiufen is said to have inspired the Japanese animated film, Spirited Away by Hiyao Miyazaki. It was cold and foggy when we went here after Yehliu, and you could just imagine the Spirited Away feeling that I experienced the whole time!

BUSY MARKETPLACE. Jiufen Old Street is crowded with people especially in the evening.
BUSY MARKETPLACE. Jiufen Old Street is crowded with people especially in the evening.

Jiufen used to be a gold mining town. It was during the Japanese occupation in 1983 that gold has been discovered here until it was stopped in the 1950s after the Second World War. Many buildings and structures reflecting the Japanese architecture still remain to this day and they become a draw to tourists who are visiting.

While there are a few tourist destinations you can go to in Jiufen, it is the Jiufen Old Street that is the main draw of the place. Jiufen Old Street is the town’s historic commercial district, which offers Taiwanese local cuisine and various merchandise. Believe me when I say that many of the products being offered here are cheaper than their counterpart in Taipei. So if ever you decide to go here, don’t hesitate to buy food or products that you deem as pasalubong, okay?

Central part of Taiwan:Taichung, home of Houli Flower Farm and Rainbow Village

RAINBOW VILLAGE

COLORFUL. This is the front view of the Rainbow Village.
COLORFUL. This is the front view of the Rainbow Village.

Located in the Nantun District of Taichung, a city that’s about 171 km southwest of Taipei, Rainbow Village is one of the most popular tourist attractions in that part of Taiwan.

ME AND MY MAMA. Here's a picture of Mama and I in that colorful village of Taichung.
ME AND MY MAMA. Here’s a picture of Mama and I in that colorful village of Taichung.

The village, which actually just consists of a few houses, was set to be demolished years ago along with other housing projects for the Taiwanese veterans.

BLENDING IN. The village attracts many tourists even during weekdays. Aim to explore the whole area but don't forget to take shots especially in areas that don't have a lot of people present!
BLENDING IN. The village attracts many tourists even during weekdays. Aim to explore the whole area but don’t forget to take shots especially in areas that don’t have a lot of people present!

Huang Fu Yu, also known as Rainbow Grandpa, painted his village with cute drawings and splashed them with colors all by himself.

Once the government found out that it has attracted tourists (thanks in part to the students of the nearby Lingtung University who were said to share it via social media) even from other places, they deferred destroying the houses, paving the way for everyone to enjoy visiting the colorful village.

PWEDE BANG UMAKYAT NG LIGAW? Can't think of a better caption here. Haha.
PWEDE BANG UMAKYAT NG LIGAW? Can’t think of a better caption here. Haha.

By the way, we met some Filipina ladies when we were here in Taichung. As we were planning to go to the same places here, we helped each other out til we were able to go back to Taipei. Here they are in the next picture! 🙂

IBA PA RIN PAG PINOY AT PINAY. Here are our three newly found friends: Fati, Mitch and Wendy!
IBA PA RIN PAG PINOY AT PINAY! Here are our three newly found friends: Fati, Mich and Wendy! Would you believe that we saw each other again for two times in Taipei the following day? Haha!

HOULI FLOWER FARM

IN THE MIDDLE OF THE FLOWERS. Here's one of the attractions in Houli Flower Farm that involves a replica of an organ in the middle of the flowers. I suspect that these flowers are yellow chrysanthemums, even though they also look like marigolds.
IN THE MIDDLE OF THE FLOWERS. Here’s one of the attractions in Houli Flower Farm that involves a replica of an organ in the middle of the flowers. I suspect that these flowers are yellow chrysanthemums, even though they also look like marigolds.

I must admit that this is one of the main reasons why I wanted to go here in Taiwan! Haha. Also called the Zhong She Flower Market, this place in Taichung makes for a good location for Instagram shots with its landscaped gardens of many beautiful and colorful flowers!

Here's another shot in that part of Houli Flower Farm.
Here’s another shot in that part of Houli Flower Farm.

Not only are the flower lovers going to appreciate the place but also amateur and professional photographers who will be greeted with various floral arrangements in its wide area.

DRUMMING MY WAY TO YOUR HEART. Naks. Haha.
DRUMMING MY WAY TO YOUR HEART. Naks. Haha.

Daffodils, tulips, orchids and many more flowers decorate the whole farm. They are being changed every season so going back here at another time of the year is encouraged.

THE WINDMILL. This is just one of the many attractions here in Houli Flower Farm.
THE WINDMILL. This is just one of the many attractions here in Houli Flower Farm.
TAI'AN STATION. This is where you are supposed to alight after riding the local train station from Xinwuri Station.
TAI’AN STATION. This is where you are supposed to alight after riding the local train station from Xinwuri Station.

Taipei:Chang Kai Shek Memorial Hall, Dr. Sun Yat-sen Memorial Hall, Taipei 101, Elephant Mountain, Shilin Night Market

CHANG KAI SHEK MEMORIAL HALL

THE CHANG KAI SHEK MEMORIAL HALL COMPLEX. It's huge, isn't it?
THE CHANG KAI SHEK MEMORIAL HALL COMPLEX. It’s huge, isn’t it?

Said to be the most prominent and most popular historical landmark in Taiwan,  Chang Kai Shek Memorial Hall was built in honor of Chang Kai Shek, a Chinese nationalist politician, statesman and military leader who became the first president of the 1947 Constitution of the Republic of China.

NATIONAL CONCERT HALL. Pretty, isn't it?
NATIONAL CONCERT HALL. Pretty, isn’t it?
NATIONAL THEATER. Colorful and beautiful.
NATIONAL THEATER. Colorful and beautiful.
CKSMH UNDER CONSTRUCTION. The outer wall of the hall is currently being renovated. But it's still a pretty sight, isn't it?
CKSMH UNDER CONSTRUCTION. The outer wall of the hall is currently being renovated. But it’s still a pretty sight, isn’t it?
PAIFANG. This is Liberty Square's main gate.
PAIFANG. This is Liberty Square’s main gate.

Spanning 250,000 sq m, the whole complex of Chang Kai Shek Memorial Hall (which is also called the Liberty Square) also houses the National Concert Hall and the National Theater. Located inside the memorial hall is the huge bronze statue of Chang Kai Shek.

The Bronze Statue.
THE BRONZE STATUE. Here’s the bronze statue of Chang Kai Shek.

SUN YAT-SEN MEMORIAL HALL

PHOTO-OP. We only had a short time here in Sun-Yat Sen Memorial Hall but we made it a point to take a picture with Sun-Yat Sen's statue.
PHOTO-OP. We only had a short time here in Sun-Yat Sen Memorial Hall but we made it a point to take a picture with Sun-Yat Sen’s statue.

Built by Chang Kai Shek in honor of the founder of modern China, the Sun Yat-Sen Memorial Hall serves as a multi-functional social, educational and cultural center for the Taiwanese. The nearby park, called Zhongshang Park, is a recreational area.

TAIPEI 101

TAIPEI 101. This is the tallest structure that you would see in this side of Asia.
TAIPEI 101. This is the tallest structure that you would see in this side of Asia.

Currently the 9th tallest building in the world with its 101 stories, Taipei 101 has already become a symbol of the country of Taiwan. With a height of 508 meters, it used to be the tallest building in the world (from 2004, its year of construction, up to 2010 when Burj Kalifa, the world record-holder as the tallest until now, was built in Dubai). Taipei 101 can still boast, though, as being the tallest green building in the world (a green building is referred to as a structure that is environmentally responsible and resource-efficient throughout its “life cycle).

The building is described as a symbol of technology’s evolution fused with Asian tradition, having Chinese and Asian elements mixed with a postmodern style. It is also said to be designed to withstand earthquakes and typhoons.

Aside from the impressive tower it is, Taipei 101 is also a shopping and eating haven as various stores and restaurants occupy many of its floors. The popular Din Tai Fung, which serves the best-tasting xiaolongbao or steamed dumplings, is located here. I won’t leave Taiwan without eating here so we went here after a day of exploring Taipei!

DIN TAI FUNG. Here's my Mama and I as we are enjoying Din Tai Fung's xiaolongbao and beef noodles.
DIN TAI FUNG. Here’s my Mama and I as we are enjoying Din Tai Fung’s xiaolongbao and beef noodles.

ELEPHANT MOUNTAIN

Taipei 101 as seen from the Elephant Mountain!
Taipei 101 as seen from the Elephant Mountain!

To have the best view of Taipei City, hike for about 20 to 30 minutes to the top of the Elephant Mountain, a 183-meter high mountain in the Xinyi District of Taipei. The mountain is located near the Taipei 101 so you can just walk towards its trail from the said building. If you’re traveling via MRT, load off in Xiangshan Station and leave from Exit 2. Also known as Nangang District Hiking Trail, the way to to the top of this mountain would involve lots of stairs! It isn’t a requirement that you should be fit when going here. You can take it slow going to the top. Just remember this: the view at the top is breathtaking! I planned to go up in the Elephant Mountain with my Mama during the late afternoon (when it is best to go up to get a glimpse of Taipei’s sunset and later on, the stunning cityscape view at night), but because some of our activities were moved (and she was already tired from roaming around the city the whole day, hehe), it was only I who proceeded during the early evening. And what a view it was!

SHILIN NIGHT MARKET

START. Here's the start of the famous Shi Lin Night Market. It stretches along the road with street vendors offering delicious food and Taiwanese merchandise.
START. Here’s the start of the famous Shi Lin Night Market. It stretches along the road with street vendors offering delicious food and Taiwanese merchandise.

One of the largest and most popular night markets in Taiwan, Shilin Night Market is a great place for food trips and shopping for pasalubong!

NOT SO CROWDED. This is just one area where not too many people are present. But believe me, in some parts, there's a whole lot!
NOT SO CROWDED? This is just one area where not too many people are present. But believe me, in some parts, there’s a whole lot!

Located 70 meters from MRT Jiantian Station, this night market is filled with local cuisine and a variety of local, traditional and international merchandise! If there’s one good reason for me to go back in Taiwan, it is to go here in Shilin Night Market. Haha. That says a lot so better go here when you’re traveling to Taiwan!

SAMPLE 3-DAY ITINERARY

Here is roughly the itinerary my mother and I did while we were in Taiwan. I made a few adjustments so as to better help you with your travel.

SAMPLE 3-DAY ITINERARY IN TAIWAN
Before Day 1: Going to Taiwan! Activity
10 PM Flight from MNL to TPE
DAY 1: Exploring Northern Taiwan Activities
1 AM Arrival in TPE
3 AM Check in hotel
8:30 AM Wake up time

Prepare for the day

Eat breakfast

9:30 AM Head to Taipei MRT Main Station.

Ride the Kuokuang Bus 1815 en route to Yehliu. This bus is located in Taipei West Bus Station Terminal A, which is near the Taipei Main Station.

11:30 AM Explore YEHLIU GEOPARK

You can eat your lunch here after exploring the place.

2 PM Leave Yehliu Geopark

Ride the bus going to Keelung 862, 790. Remember that there are designated bus stops where these numbered buses pass by. Use your EasyCard to pay for your fare.

2:40 PM Go down in Keelung. Locate the bus stop opposite the road. Ride the Keelung Bus 788 en route to Jiufen.
3:30 PM Explore JIUFEN.

You can go ahead to the tourist information center and decide about the activities that you’re planning to do here.

Explore JIUFEN OLD STREET.

6 PM Leave Jiufen.

Locate the bus stop in one of the streets found in the lower area of Jiufen.

Ride the 788 Bus to Ruifang .

Take the train to Taipei.

7:30 PM Arrive in Taipei.

You can choose to visit the night markets around Taipei or just dine in one of the restaurants near your hotel. We did the latter.

10 PM Sleeping time.
DAY 2: TAICHUNG CITY TOUR ACTIVITIES
7 AM Wake up time

Prepare for the day

Eat breakfast

8:30 AM Head to MRT Taipei Main Station.

Locate the Kuo Kuang Motor Transportation in the Taipei Bus Station, which is near the MRT Main Station.

Ride the bus enroute to Taichung.

11:45 AM Arrive in Taichung City.

Locate the bus stop in front of the Taichung Train Station where the Bus No. 27 passes by. Ride the bus and alight in Ling Tung University.

12:30 PM Walk for about 15 minutes towards the Rainbow Village.

Explore RAINBOW VILLAGE.

2 PM Leave Rainbow Village. Secure a taxi outside the village and go to Xinwuri Station.

Ride the local train from Xinwuri Station and alight in Taían Station. Take note that there’s a schedule for the trains passing by here.

3 PM Go down the Taian Station. The Houli Flower Farm is located about 2 km away from the station. It’s unlikely that there are taxis around when you get out of the station so you have no option but to walk towards the farm. Use your map app to locate it. (In Google Maps, Houli Flower Farm is named Zhong She Guangguang Flower Farm).
3:30 PM Explore Houli Flower Farm!

Take lots of pictures and appreciate the beauty of the place.

5 PM You can either ride a taxi going back to Taian Station or walk again. We rode the taxi because it was already cold when we went out of the farm. Note: it closes at 6 PM.
5:30 PM Ride the local train from Taian Station to Taichung Station.

Locate the bus stations where buses en route to Taipei are seen.

Ride the bus.

8:30 PM Arrive in Taipei.

Eat dinner.

Roam around.

11 PM. Sleeping time.
DAY 3: TAIPEI CITY TOUR ACTIVITIES
7 AM Wake up time

Prepare for the day.

Eat breakfast.

 

8 AM Go back to room and pack baggage so that you can leave it in the hotel after checking out.
10 AM Check-out time

Head to MRT and use your train map to locate the areas where you want to visit. All the attractions mentioned in the blog post can be reached via MRT so it won’t be too difficult for you to go to. J

10:30 AM Explore Chang Kai Shek Memorial Hall
11:30 AM Explore Sun-Yat Sen Memorial Hall
12:30 PM Lunchtime
1:30 PM Head to Taipei 101. Explore the place.
3 PM Head to Elephant Mountain. You can just walk towards the trail in about 20 to 30 minutes from Taipei 101.
3:30 PM Climb Elephant Mountain.

 

4 PM Take pictures of the Taipei cityscape!

You can choose to wait for the sunset and even early evening before going down.

6 PM Leave Elephant Mountain.

Head to Shi Lin Night Market.

7 PM Explore Shi Lin Night Market. Eat food, buy merchandise and play games here.
8 PM Leave Shi Lin and head back to hotel to get things.
9 PM Go to MRT Taipei Main Station. Locate the train station going to the airport.
10 PM Arrive at the airport. If you have remaining TWD, spend them here or exchange them to pesos.

Check-in and wait for your flight back to MNL.

Note: My mother and I only got to spend about P25,000 while exploring the places I have given above, and this already includes the airfare, the hotel accommodation, transportation fees, food and pasalubong!

SUNSET IN TAICHUNG. Here's a picture of the pretty sunset that we have witnessed in Taichung, Taiwan.
SUNSET IN TAICHUNG. Here’s a picture of the pretty sunset that we have witnessed in Taichung, Taiwan.

I hope that this blog post has able to help and inspire you to travel to Taiwan. Don’t forget to write down below if you have comments, suggestions and any other reactions, guys. Thank you!

Advertisements

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s