Taipei: Inside the City

by - November 03, 2019

Finally, my first international travel this year! After Bali last November, this is the next international travel I had because of many factors. Well for one, and I've said this countless times in my blog already, it's because I resigned from my previous work and had a new work starting December 2018. Apparently, this company does not allow VL's and even SL's for the first 6 months. Should you be absent for any reason, then it will be tagged as leave without pay.

Also, I took this as an opportunity to stay in the city because I feel like I am always planning to go somewhere. The only time I got to go out or have getaways is during long weekends (see my SagadaBaguio, and La Union post here).

A lot of things happened. I resigned from work last June because well.. Let's have another post for that. And I am in a new company again which I would say has a very fun and challenging environment. I am definitely learning not just the technical stuff but I am discovering some stuff about myself as well. If I were to rate my working experiences so far with all of my 4 employers, this one is by far the best... And I am only here for just almost 2 months. :D

So yep. I booked this Taiwan trip months again because I take into consideration the leaves I will be getting especially that I am in a new job and back when I am booking this one, I didn't know yet that I'll in another company after 6 months. Luckily for me, my new work allows us to advance as many as 10 leaves.

I was hesitant at first because even though they allow advance leaves, I am relatively very new to the company when I went to Taiwan. I'm just working for this company for just 3 weeks. So yey... It's a piece of evidence they do support work-life balance. Lol.

This trip also is my first time to take a PAL flight because I am a cheapskate traveler. I only rely on seat sales until this trip and I took the liberty to book this one because in my mind "this is my first travel of the year - it's okay to splurge on airline tickets once in a while". Which is true, right? :D Together with me is my boyfriend and my father which I find to be very weird now that I am writing it. I remember my workmates laughing at me when they found out that I will be with my father and boyfriend for this trip and I couldn't get why at that time they were laughing. Turns out it's a really weird setup, huh?

In my defense, I and my father only see each other once a week, sometimes we can't even meet up, so I make it a habit to have a trip with him at least once a year. Then I also included my boyfriend because whenever we travel together, it's always the beach, the outdoorsy stuff so I wanted for him to experience traveling in a city setting.

This isn't a cheap trip because first the flight tickets, then next is the hotel accommodation. There aren't many cheap hotels. There are cheap capsule hotels but I don't like spending nights in capsules so I really look for one that's in a good location plus not really expensive. Also, it needs to have 3 single beds. LOL. Coz it would be very awkward if not.

Our arrival in Taiwan is around 8PM. I was thinking of arranging an airport pick up but it's good that I didn't because Taiwan's transportation infrastructure is so good. Their MRT is very easy to navigate and their airport MRT is very convenient. The only arrangement I got to do prior to this trip is our tours. And can I just say that arranging itineraries for backpacking and for this trip is soooo different. When I arrange itineraries for backpacking, it needs to have the tiniest details like the time of train/buses, where to get tickets and such because it needs to have proper planning or else everything in the list can be compromised.

On this one though since we will just be staying in one country and don't need overnight buses, it's easy breezy planning. LOL. The hard part is choosing which tours to take. I think this is the second travel I and my father did that doesn't involve backpacking or overnight buses to a different place, the first one being Hong Kong last 2011. There's a lot of difference on this trip. Hehe.

Soo... As I've said, we arrived at 8pm. We exchanged money then claimed our sim cards in the pickup area before heading out to the hotel. We chose sim cards instead of pocket wifi so we could also call one another if one gets lost or if we need to meet up at certain places. The MRT ride on the way to the hotel is very hassle-free, I mean when can we have that kind of transportation here in Manila? From the airport MRT, we alighted at Taipei Main Station. There are a lot of MRT lines in Taiwan but if you already experience MRTs in HK and SG, then this one should also be easy for you. Our hotel is near at Longshan temple so our last stop was Longshan Temple terminal. From there, we walked our way to the hotel.

I think the only challenge riding an MRT from the airport to your hotel is figuring out their ticketing system. Taiwanese are very friendly compared to Hongkongers so it's not really a problem asking for help from someone.

Speaking of money changers, it's best to change your money one-time big time because money changers in Taiwan, which usually are banks, have an exchange fee of 50TWD per transaction. If you're in groups, it's also best to exchange money as one so you only need to pay one transaction fee.

As for the hotel, girl did I book a good hotel! Our hotel is just directly above the night market! You know, prior to this trip, I am very excited about the Taiwanese food because I really like Chinese food. What I mean by Chinese food though is dumplings, noodles, and braised beef not the traditional super Chinese-y food. So imagine my happiness when I saw the night market directly in front of our hotel. LOL.

We arrived at the hotel already past 11 and I had to finish work-related stuff before sleeping and all of us are so tired we didn’t have the energy to look for dinner even with the night market in front of the hotel. The room is soooo spacious and the only downside is it doesn't have a bidet installed (it's a deal-breaker if you would ask me but whatevs, still a good deal).

First order of business upon waking up the next day is breakfast. I don't eat breakfast but it's for free so I might as well eat and try. The choices are western and Chinese food. There are some that I don't even understand the taste, there are some that look really weird so in the next 4 days, I only ate egg and sausage. Free-flowing tea and coffee too.

Our itinerary for the day is just purely city tour. We'll have a free/tip-based history walking tour, Go and see Taipei 101, hike our way up to Elephant Mountain and have our dinner at Shilin night market.

Free/Tip Based History Walking Tour

Lucky for us, the meetup place for the walking tour is at the entrance of the MRT Longshan Temple terminal so we can just leave the hotel at 9:30, because meet up is at 10, and we'll still be early. I would say this is tour is so good. I really learned a lot from Anita, our tour guide. She's very nice, speaks English very well, and she really knows what she's talking about.

Longshan Temple

Our first stop, of course, is Longshan Temple. She discussed the 4 buddha Gods you can see in this temple and what they symbolize. This is actually one of the most popular temples in Taipei that the government had to regulate the number of incense being lit up in this temple to 1 because it is already causing too much pollution in the area. And this is also special because it's not just for one religion but rather it's a temple for more than 1 religion, Taoism, Confucianism, and Buddhism. Isn't that cool? You don't need to build a temple for each one. One of the reasons why it's also popular is because of the 4 Gods here that the locals are praying to. The Gods are believed to be praying Gods for studying, childbirth, transportation, and lastly matchmaking.

If you have a wish for let's say to pass college entrance exams, locals here go to the Studying God, offer baskets of food, flowers, and other stuff, bring their college entrance exam documents and pray to God to let them pass. One cool thing too is that offerings can be eaten by anyone. If no one is getting the food, it is distributed to the homeless. Near the Longshan temple, there is a park, Bangka Park, for the homeless where they are allowed to sleep in the park from a certain time. I guess this is where they distribute the uneaten offerings to the Gods.

Bopiliao Historical Block

Next stop is Bopiliao Historical Block which has a very good architectural design. This used to be one of the busiest areas during the late Qing dynasty.

Ximen Red House

There is so much cute stuff sold inside the building... Just like a bazaar but it also houses a small section for a mini-history exhibit.

Next is we also went to the Presidential Office Building where the Taiwanese people first have their female president. I don’t have a picture of the building but Anita did surely narrate their long history with China and told some stories about Chiang Kai Shek. Spoiler -- not a fan of Chiang Kai Shek. Across the presidential office building is the so-called Ketagalan boulevard or is sometimes dubbed as democracy blvd. because this is where usually people hosts rallies regarding political issues.

I am really amazed by how Taiwan is suppressing China just like how it is in Hong Kong right now. If you guys are visiting Taiwan, please take this historical walking tour and learn their history, the difference between ROC and PROC. You can surely somehow relate to their stand with China. It's a long history but really worth knowing. See, I am now learning the history of Taiwan and not just the Indochina history stuff. Hihi.

Along with Presidential Office Building, we also visited Peace Memorial Park then off we go to Chiang Kai Shek Memorial Hall. We didn't really enter the vicinity because it was raining so we just decided to go back on our last day.

The walking tour surely is very tiring! The weather is also not cooperating as it would rain one minute then it will get sunny. The weather in Taipei when we went there is not so great but thankfully we could still go on with our plans. Again, please please please take this tour when you're in Taipei.

So after the walking tour, we went to Taipei 101 and met up with Mike. I'm glad Mike did really went to Taipei to meet up with us LOL. He is on vacation with his parents in Taichung and it just coincidentally coincided with our trip to Taipei so I made him meet up with us. LOL. The usual Mike, even his porma is like his porma in the office. :D

As for lunch, we decided to eat at Ichiran. My father recommended this place and it's quite famous among people who go to Japan as they said this has one of the best ramens. I was thinking of eating at the original Din Tai Fung branch in Taipei 101 but we only have this chance to try Ichiran because we don't have it here in Manila. My verdict? Just so-so. I don't know if it's because of my high expectations because I often see this on my friend's IG stories who are in Japan or it's not just that really good. My boyfriend and I had a unanimous
verdict that Mendokoro's ramen is better.

Taipei 101 Observatory Deck

After lunch, we went up to Taipei 101's observatory deck. We got out tickets from Klook so we don't need to line up. The view above is cool. There are presentations about how the building was constructed and how the tuned mass damper keeps the building at ease during strong winds.

We even got the chance to go to the outdoor deck that was opened minutes later to the public. I find it really cool that I get to go up to one of the world's tallest building. When we were in elementary, we were always asked on what is the tallest building and we always answer Taipei 101. I only see this building in photos and now I am literally in its observatory deck.

Mike didn't go with us to the observatory deck instead he went to Sun Yat Sen Memorial Hall then he just went back after we were done on the observatory. Our next stop was the Elephant Mountain.

Elephant Mountain

This might be a lack of research but we did not expect the elephant mountain to be so high. I only know that instead of rough trails, there's a flight of stairs so I thought it would be an easy climb but boy I was so wrong. Our attire also didn't help because we were wearing jeans while Mike is also carrying his overnight bag. My boyfriend, on the other hand, feels like he wants to curse me already for making him go up. Haha! It's a good exercise though, we just burned those ramen calories from Ichiran. LOL.

The view on the elephant mountain is different from what you'll see on Taipei 101's observatory deck because, in elephant mountain, Taipei 101 is part of the view. It's like the border of the outdoor and the city. The view is like how it is in Victoria Peak in Hong Kong. Mountains on the side then city in the center.

We waited for the sunset before going down. We rest for a while and just look at the view. One tip I can give you when you're going up is to wear leggings or anything that's long because there are a lot of mosquitoes. I saw some travelers where their whole legs have bites of mosquitoes.

We went down then grabbed some refreshments on the nearby store.

Shilin Night Market

As for dinner, we headed to Shilin Night Market and it's pure chaos and foodie's heaven at the same time. Mike went to his hotel to drop his belongings first while we wait for him at Shilin. Funny thing was, he doesn't have mobile data! So we waited for him, I couldn’t contact him because I didn’t know his number then luckily when we were headed back to the hotel, we saw him walking towards our direction. LOL. It's pure luck we saw him that night.

Shilin market is chaotic because there are so many people. It's very chaotic that you can't walk without bumping into other people. It wasn't even a weekend when we went there so what more if it's weekend right?

There are shops everywhere. I also said this is foodie heaven because there are all sorts of different kinds of food here. I don't have a list of what to try but if you're there, you will want to try everything.

We saw a stand of hot star chicken like it is just literally a small stand but here in Manila, it's like a whole restaurant. LOL. I even remember the time when people used to line up for hours for their big ass chicken.

This day I guess is the most tiring because of all the walking and hiking.  But all in all, it's definitely fun. :D

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