I am sometimes triggered with what I see on social media. You know, millennial. I recently saw some friends’ posts about Taipei so I decided to check it out myself. I’m fond of the book-it-let’s-go-now type of travel so this trip only took two weeks of planning. Good thing, PAL still has an affordable fare.
Taipei, the capital city of Taiwan, is one of the most visited places of Filipinos and as well as other nationalities. It is known for its busy shopping streets, artistic buildings, friendly people, and yes, it is a street-food heaven. Visitors love the lively street vibes and night markets, too.
How to get a visa:
Good news! Taiwan just granted visa-free to Filipinos. Yay! We can now visit Taiwan anytime we want 🙂
How to go:
Local airlines such as Cebu Pacific and Philippine Airlines have direct flights to Taipei. Travel time from Manila is approximately two hours.
When to go:
Spring is from March-May, summer is from June-August, autumn is from September-November, and winter is from December-February. Most people go in winter because the weather is cooler.
We went there in October thinking that it’s gonna be autumn weather, but it was like summer. It was hot and humid with scattered rain showers. There was a thunderstorm on our last day. Check accuweather first before travelling to Taipei or any other countries, in general.
Where to stay:
If it’s my first time in a country, I always stay near the city center because it’s less hassle and you can easily roam around. If I choose to go back, then I’d pick another neighborhood to stay in. This is my way of familiarizing myself with the country.
There are several hostels and hotels around Taipei. We chose to stay in Westgate Hotel Taipei which is situated in the heart of Ximending and is just 50meters away from Ximen MRT Station. I always look for a hotel near the train station for easier access. The hotel has a 4-star rating on Booking and Tripadvisor. True enough, it didn’t disappoint me. We’re a party of three so we booked a double queen bedroom. It has all the amenities and a big space good for 4 persons. Plus, it came with free breakfast. Bingo! The only problem was they were really strict with check-out. They called our room twice to remind us that check-out time was 12pm sharp. Bummer.
There are taxis, Uber, buses and MRT. Get an EasyCard upon arrival in the terminal’s arrival hall. The card costs NT$100 plus reload. We added NT$200 for us to get in the city. It’s similar to Hongkong’s Octopus card. You can use it on the bus, MRT and 7-11. Fares in Taipei are surprisingly cheap – as far as I can remember we just reloaded twice during our stay.
Unlike Japan’s train system, Taipei’s MRT is very easy to navigate. With the help of Google Maps or Rome2Rio app, you can get to your destination smoothly.
What to see:
Chiang Kai-shek Memorial Hall
It’s one of the most important tourist spots in Taipei where you can witness the changing of guards in the morning. It was built in honor of Generallisomo Chiang Ka-shek, the former President of the Republic of China. It’s a big area composed of a Memorial Park, National Concert Hall, and National Theater. Don’t forget to stroll and take photos in the beautiful garden near the Memorial Hall.
How to go: Take Red Line or Green Line to Chiang Kai-shek Memorial Hall.
If you’re into hiking then Elephant Mountain should be included in your itinerary. The hike takes 30-40 minutes (going up and down) depending on your pace. The climb maybe tiring but it’s super worth it once you see the view of Taipei City.
The best time to hike is late afternoon, when the sun is about to set. We hiked in the evening and it was really crowded but at least we got to see the beautiful Taipei City. Don’t forget to wear comfortable clothes and shoes and also don’t forget to bring water, towel (trust me, you’ll need it), and bug spray or an insect repellant sticker especially if you’re planning to hike at night.
How to go:
Alight at Xiangshan Station (red line), take exit 2 and walk 10 minutes to the base of the trail.
Taipei 101 Observatory
It is the tallest building in Taiwan where you’ll get to see a spectacular city view of Taipei. You will also experience riding one of the fastest elevators in the world. It only takes 37 seconds to get to the 89th floor! It is open from 9AM-11Pm but the best time to go is in the evening. You may purchase tickets online or buy it at the 5th floor of Taipei 101 Mall. Tickets for adults are NT$600.
Tip: If you want to eat at Din Tai Fung, get a queue number first before heading to the observatory. Come down after 45 minutes to 1 hour and you’ll be seated in no time. Hello, Xiao Long Bao! 🙂
How to go:
Take the Red Line and alight at Xiangshan Station. Follow the signs leading to Taipei 101, make your way inside the mall (you’ll pass by Din Tai Fung) and go to level 5.
Yehliu Geopark, Jiufen and Shifen
These three tourist attractions are far from Taipei so commuting was an option but considering the weather, a private car was definitely way more convenient. I ended up getting a private tour via OwnRides. I booked online, chose a sedan good for 3-4 pax, and requested for an English-speaking driver. The tour costs NT$3900 including pick-up/drop-off at the hotel, privacy, and an 8 hour itinerary. I paid NT$330 online as downpayment and paid the remaining balance upon drop-off back to our hotel. Our driver, Jeef Chen, picked us up in our hotel at 9AM sharp. He was an old man, very friendly and accommodating, and has a grandfather vibe which we really liked.
It is a cape found in the northern coast of Taiwan. It is also one of the most visited tourist spots because of its wonderful rock formations especially the iconic Queen’s Head and Princess’ Head.
Our guide allotted one hour for us to explore Yehliu. The place is wonderful as it sits beside the ocean and it’s a really cool place for your OOTDs. I find the rock formations a little bit overrated. Believe me, one hour is really enough because all you’ll see are literally just rock formations.
After Yehliu, we headed to Jiufen, which is another popular spot in Taiwan. It is a town composed of narrow alleys where you’ll find souvenir shops, street food, and old teahouses. It was lunch time when we got to Jiufen so there were a lot of people already. We had lunch in an authentic noodle place inside one of the old alleys.
I had fun taking photos and exploring the old streets of Jiufen but it was kind of difficult if you want to go souvenir shopping because the streets were narrow and crowded. It also rained when we were there so it was really not the best time to shop.
The last stop in our itinerary was Shifen, also known as the flying lantern street. It is located in the Pingxi area near an active railway train station. This place is famous for its Chinese lanterns where people can write their wishes on it, light it up, and set it into the sky.
It was a one-of-a-kind experience and you shouldn’t miss it. A big lantern costs NT$360. The salesperson will guide you as to what colours you should pick. We chose green, pink, orange, and yellow.
After flying out your lanterns, don’t forget to try the street food beside the lantern shops. We tried shoestring fries with honey mustard dip, Yakult smoothie, and chicken rice with barbeque sauce.
Ximending Night Market
Our hotel is located within the Ximending area so every night before we head up to our room, we roam around Ximending. It is very similar to Myeongdong in Seoul and is a busy street full of branded shops, restaurants, coffee shops, street food vendors and souvenir shops. The stores open at 12 noon and close late at night. Don’t forget to try their authentic street milk tea.
How to go:
Take the red line and alight at Ximending Station, exit 6.
Museum of Contemporary Arts Taipei
MoCa offers both historical and contemporary art. We were fortunate during our visit because there was an ongoing LGBT exhibit. The exhibit was awesome and it somehow made us understand and appreciate the LGBT community more. The entrance ticket to MoCa is NT$80 including the exhibit fee.
How to go:
Take the red line and alight at Zhongshan Station.
What to eat:
Unfortunately I was not able to appreciate Taipei’s street food. Although we tried some of the food, I did not really enjoy it. We ordered wagyu cubes and pork sausage and the seller just reheated it and put a cold sauce all over it. The taste wasn’t good. There was also the stinky tofu and when I say stinky, guys, it was super stinky AF! I felt nauseous just by the smell of it.
If you guys are super adventurous, then go try Taipei’s street food. If you are a semi-diva, LOL, like me, don’t worry because there are lots of restaurants and hole-in-the-wall food shops, too. These restaurants serve more eatable and presentable food 😉
But… wait there’s more! Here are some of the food we tried and actually liked 😉