Get the thrill out of it and experience the beyond compare scenic view while understanding the culture and laid back lifestyle of Taiwan.
The art of patiently waiting to visit the beautiful city of Taipei— one of my dream countries to explore with a friend—was finally over. My friend, Faye, and I had sleepless nights with over-excitement in our hearts by counting the days for our trip together. Taiwan is known to be the 3rd safest country because people are united in achieving discipline even in small ways.
Other agenda for traveling to this country: to understand, witness and testify the truth behind their culture, lifestyle and beliefs based on the reports; to see before our very own eyes the so called, “Shibuya” of Taipei; to experience the countryside adventures of each tourist spot; and to fulfill our inner high school fondness, as we were still fangirling over Meteor Garden by seeing few of the actual shooting locations. Would you believe that we got our round trip tickets for only Php 3500/pax? We had been wakeful all night to grab the much-awaited seat sale! It saves you from paying high and questionable rates. Just keep your mobile apps alerted every time seat sale is coming— get a beauty rest ahead before the selling period.
Traveling time to Taipei, Taiwan via Air Asia from NAIA Terminal 3 is only 2 hours away – considered as one of the closest countries to the Philippines. It’s just like fighting the traffic jam from Antipolo to Makati City. Upon arrival at Taoyaon Airport Terminal 1 at 1:00 am, our tired body was replaced by extreme exhilaration as we finally set our foot in the dream city. The flight attendants, house keeping personnel, security, and even immigration have shown their warm welcome toward us.
Beforehand, we were reminded to be mindful once we get there and to cautiously observe our expenses. We opted not to charter a private car to pick us up at the airport. There’s a booth selling bus tickets to Taipei Main station at late midnight for only NT 115 (PHP 201.25) and easy cards can be purchased at the MRT station or 7/11 branches. Before leaving the airport, we ensured ourselves by heading straight to the airport’s money changer and leasing a pocket Wi-Fi that costs NT 750 (PHP 1,312) for 4dN3N to lead us to the magical places we have never been; use the Google translator in case we get lost in the middle of our tour. Riding a bus to Taipei main station is very easy. Outside the airport, you’ll see the bus terminal and above are signboards of your chosen destination. The waiting period for the bus to arrive is not that long; we had the chance to chitchat with some tourists before we hopped in. Getting to the Taipei Main Station is only 45 minutes with zero traffic at all. Next ride is modern cab (based fare is NT 75 = Php 131.25) and we have only spent 5 mins to finally reach Shinshin Hotel in Kunming Street (Wanhua district).
As we wander through the city, we couldn’t contain our joy, as we never felt the hustle and bustle in riding MRT. I never felt any sweat on my neck or forehead because the subway was built underground, which has 4 levels down below and fully air-conditioned just like the airport. Nationals are very blessed for having a convenient conveyance. It is unchallenging to shift from one station to another by just following the route map divided into four lines that were connected to one another. Each line has the following stations ahead and represented with distinctive color as symbols to easily track the route. People are disciplined in taking MRT or shuttle bus. They are knowledgeable in lining up properly; pushing against one another just to hop in, was never a practice. When riding a bus, there are stand-alone maps on the bus stop that you’ll roll over to see the connecting streets. Never be ashamed of asking directions incase things went off the road. The universal language is not common to them, though; they’re courteous to entertain your whereabouts and will never leave you clueless until you get it. The much awaited provincial tour called as the mountain town “Jiufen” that has 200 steps going up was packed with teahouses, souvenir shops and street foods while looking down at the amazing oceanic and forestry view from above. Meanwhile, Shifen is known for sky lantern activity and has the only waterfalls in Pingxi district, which has a trail going down and required to cross the long bridge. These locations and activities we’ve got from Klook: an application that offer tours, activities and shuttle bus that will make your vacation more relaxed and complete. And hey! Traffic is not usual in Taipei even in the central business district. How cool was that?
The dominant religions in Taiwan are Buddhism and Taoism with above average in the population, and mostly, dialects being used are Hokkien and Chinese mandarin. Individuals in Taipei are holding their values much deeply, by handing over the things with both hands as a sign of courtesy. When locals of Jiufen offered you a dash of sample authentic tea, whether you buy it or not, accept it. It disrespects them when tourist ignores what suppose to be handed at them. The Taiwanese tea culture is relevant as well, you can see mushroom of hillside teahouses in the old street of Jiufen. Aside from the fact it will boost your mood, it is also a form of reminiscing and practicing its roots – the traditional Chinese tea culture.
According to our Tour guide Ms. Mae, “Jiufen was once hailed as the richer locale in contrast to Taipei City”. Backstory, the island was producing gold and multiple discoveries happened until such time came in, further development had to stop when Taiwan became under Qing rule. In Shifen, locals draft their wishes to the lantern and let it fly into the sky; concluded as a way to pass your desires to the Gods above. In Ximending, we’ve observed that locals were influenced by Japanese pop culture: Big LCD billboards, Fashion shops, music, cuisines, and pubs surrounded the district just like in Shibuya.
Taipei’s laid back lifestyle is an attraction to many. Locals lives were balanced despite modernization of society. Shops are conveniently located from your place; Admirable healthy lifestyle by using bikes as a personal transportation; Food hubs were diverse yet inexpensive; People are educated by simply respecting the rule of law; Carrying of signature bag by ordinary people anywhere is not a threat from them; Crime rate is exceptionally low; Public transport is great and fast while private vehicle is not much needed; Nightlife is present but doesn’t feel lively outside the bar; Outdoor activities like hiking and trekking are very much loved and can be reached by public transport; Some areas are free from traffic; People can have multiple jobs; Trash on the ground is tidy up right away; Senior citizens are still active in volunteering the work.
More places to visit
Mostly, tourist attractions require trekking and hiking— Jiufen and Shifen tour is a perfect example to this. Avoid combining itineraries with extreme adventure and your energy level might fall down.
Here are the list: Taipei zoo, a well-maintained wildlife, keeper of real life huggable pandas and adorable koalas are waiting for you; Chiang-kai-chek Memorial hall, a tall monument in between of gigantic temples was built in memory of the former President republic of China; National Taiwan University, one of the ranked universities and location used in Meteor Garden shoot; Gondola ride, a hike in the hills of Maokong Station and relish the sightseeing downwards in crystal cabins— just ready your heart and conquer your fear; Taipei 101, the skyscraper center will give you more experience in crystal floors if you wish to pay the entrance and reach the peak; Elephant Mountain, a short trail, yet tiring activity but definitely worth your weary when you see the bright lights of entire Taipei city; PS Bubu, a car themed cute café will give you a fangirling moment of Dao Ming Si and San Chai’s first date location; Ximending, known as the Shibuya of Taipei, offers an array of street foods, shops, cafés, nightlife and many more to mention. Going to these places never felt hassle at all; transportations are outstanding and google map was accurate.
Food is life in Taiwan!
If you are on a tight budget, head on to Ximending or Jiufen with hundreds of options to choose from for as low as NT35 (Php 61.75). Never leave the city without trying the big serving of authentic spicy beef noodle soup that is tender and juicy for only NT 95 (PHP 166.25).
To satisfy your sugar cravings, try these lovely desserts, price starts at NT55 (96.25): Fruity Shave Ice Cream, Sugar-coated fruits on a stick, and Bingsu are very much common in the area. You can find a lot at Wanghu District and Ximending Station and even beside our hotel.
We never deprived ourselves of trying an affordable international dish at least once. Faye and I went to PS Bubu Café, and we tried their best selling creamy seafood carbonara, and chunky mushroom risotto for NT 270 (PHP472). Don’t forget to bring home freshly baked pastries with whipped custard cream on top from Gakuden for only NT 20 (PHP 35).
Did I leave you confused on how much we saved from this travel? You can also see my complete travel guide and travel dramas while I’m high at our escapade. Head on to my site @ www.happyhippievibeblog.com
Written by: Danica Gumera
Photos: Danica Gumera & Faye Bohol