Taipei is a bustling metropolis that is pretty much like any other modern city such as Hong Kong and Tokyo. A day isn’t enough to explore this wonderful city, so aside from the first part of our Taipei city tour, we further explored its urban and historic highlights.
Founded in 1738 by Han immigrants from Fujian, this popular Buddhist temple has served not just a house of worship but as well as a municipal, guild and self-defense center. It was dedicated to GuanYin, the Buddhist Goddess of Mercy.
This religious site survived and stood the test of time after it has been rebuilt multiple times due to earthquakes, typhoons, and even bombing in the last days of World War II. It remained to be a prime venue for Taiwan’s vibrant folk faith.
These deets instantly gives me a flashback of the dynastic times.
I REALLY have this thing for quaint architecture and this temple exudes precisely just that– exquisite figures on the roof, elaborate stone, and woodcarvings!
Huashan 1914 Creative Park
Originally a sake and ginseng winery, the Huashan 1914 Creative Park is a retro-chic, creative space that is considered as the city’s primary creative center that houses specialty stores, third wave coffee shops, independent cinemas, and art installations. Additionally, it has become a hosting ground for some of Taiwan’s most significant cultural activities and exhibits.
Despite its industrial-organic aesthetic, it bursts with fresh and creative energy.
My favorite! Wooderful Life is a gift shop that sells unique wooden toys and music boxes. It also has more than 30 kinds of interesting games made out of wood.
There are immense things to experience on this specialty store, you may opt to play with a variety of fascinating and interactive wooden toy, be amazed by watching the colored wooden balls roll around tracks near the ceiling, figure out wooden logic puzzles, listen and be amused on the various displays of music boxes in the gift shop area, shop for indoor plants, and create your own music box.
Everything here in Huashan is so mesmerizing. Thus, you shouldn’t dare miss this one! Also, there are a lot of cafés within its vicinity, so better check those out, too!
The Maokong Gondola is a cable car system that operates between MRT Taipei Zoo and the peak of Maokong, this can help you reach the following destinations: Taipei Zoo (outside the Taipei Zoo), Taipei Zoo South (inside the Taipei Zoo), Zhinan Temple and Maokong (Sanxuan Temple)
This is the best way to spot the scenic Taipei! It somehow reminded me of The Peak from Hong Kong. Anyway, we skipped the first 3 stops and proceeded straight to Maokong, a quaint village located at the top of the mountain known for high quality tea houses overlooking the city. You may pay via cash (NTD120 each way for adults, NTD50 for children 6-12 and seniors over 65, with each adult allowed up to 2 children under 6 for free. EasyCards are given a 20% discount on weekdays, and is also entitled to receive a NTD20 discount when used also for zoo entry. For EasyCard (similar to Singapore’s MRT EZ-link card), you just need to simply place the EasyCard and when it beeps or an arrow appears, you can then push the turnstile to pass through it with the fee deducted from the EasyCard. It costs around NTD30 to NTD50 per pax.
We decided to not give Taipei Zoo a shot as we’re too Tita for it. HAHA! But if given a chance to come back, I might consider visiting it.
There are actually two options when riding the Gondola, you may opt for a Crystal Cabin or the Regular Cabin. The regular cabin can carry 8 passengers while the crystal cabin can only accommodate up to 5 passengers. We tried both, of course! HAHAHA <3
Mind you, it was freezing cold, so I hurriedly looked for a hot, freshly-baked sweet potato. It was heavenly sweet and delicious!
Also, couldn’t resist to get this cute tea-flavored ice cream!
Maokong is well-known for its wide variety of teahouses and high-quality selection of teas. While the tea houses and shops are open according to their own schedules, gondola service is contingent upon the weather situation for safety reasons. Just visit their website to check their available schedule and if they have a maintenance.
Shilin Night Market
After our tour at Maokong, we went to Shilin Night Market to buy additional souvenirs. This is considered as one of the largest, most popular night markets in Taiwan. This place has alleyways filled with a variety of bargain goods, and even local, traditional, and international merchandise.
But of course, it also offers a LOT of yummy street foods! And they also have carnival and arcade games that kids and adults will surely enjoy!
Raohe Night Market
Raohe Night Market is another night market worth checking out in Taiwan aside from those in Ximending and Shilin.
Dubbed as one of the oldest night markets in Taipei, this place offers an authentic Taiwanese experience with fascinating foods and snacks, quaint shops and stalls, and even carnival games with prizes.
The bustling night market is just a stone’s throw away from Songshan MRT Station, making it an easily accessible attraction.
Most of the food at Raohe Night Market are predominantly Taiwanese and other Asian delicacies. But worry not, you can also expect some Western-inspired dishes.
There is a lot more to do at Raohe Street Night Market than just eating. it also has trendy retail stores, carnival games and many more. Actually, I noticed that it’s mostly the same as with what’s at Shilin. HAHA!
While Taipei is a concrete jungle, there are also other parts in Taiwan with tourist attractions worth exploring because of its the natural grandeur. And one of the pleasing places to visit is Taichung.
Prior to our trip, we got the chance to avail piso sale for their #GetKlookd promo for Taiwan. This was in commemoration of Klook’s official launch in the Philippines. YAY!
Right after having our breakfast in our hotel, we headed straight to the meeting place for our mini bus in the Ximen MRT Station Exit 4. We we’re too early so we bought some snacks to munch on during the trip, and of course, took some snapshots.
In this tour, we explored Jinguashi, an old mining town adjacent to Jiufen in Ruifang District, New Taipei City. This town is situated between the mountains and coastline, and is famous for its gold and copper mines especially during the Japanese occupation.
A trip to Taiwan wouldn’t be complete without exploring this popular sight in Northern Taiwan. Yehliu Geopark stretches for around 1,700 meters and features amazing rock formations. Upon entering, we paid 80 NTD each for the entrance fee.
This geological wonder is usually swamped by tourists due to its bizarre rock formations such as the “Queen’s Head” (which resembles Queen Elizabeth’s head facing to the side), “Fairy’s Shoes”, “Dragon’s Head Rock”, and among others. I even spotted a rock that’s in a form of heart wherein people are posing with their finger hearts. LOL! Indeed, the rock formations could make your imagination wild! Haha!
It’s usually rainy here but thankfully, the weather cooperated with us! Everything’s quite amazing with how all the rocks were purely and naturally formed by chance or the random waves of the sea. The “Queen’s Head” is said to be 4,000 years already. Huzzah!
Certainly not for trypophobics!
Yin Yang Sea and 13-Layer Remains
Our next stop is at a large parking lot (LOL) located near the coast to get a glimpse of the 13-Layer Remains (also known as Remains Of The Thirteen Levels/Shuinandong Smelter). Perched atop a mountain, overlooking the ocean, the complexity of the architecture is extremely fascinating.
This was said to be an abandoned copper smelting refinery built by Japanese for refining gold and copper ores wherein prisoners of war were forced to labor under extreme harsh conditions. This boasts one of the largest concrete pipeline ventilation system in the world way back then. Fast forward, even though the minings are no longer operational, the incredible fortress like ruins remains.
Just near the parking lot, we cross the streets to see the Yin Yang Sea. (PS: Be careful when crossing the highway and be mindful of the traffic light!). This is already conspicuous even while on the road, the sea has a mix of yellow and blue color. Located just beside the northern coastal road in the Gold Ecological Park, this awe-inspiring sight provides some sort of calmness and serenity.
As per my research, due to the pollution from nearby mining activities from long years ago, there’s a local belief that the coloration of this bay was caused by chemical runoff. Yet, even if all of them closed already, the unusual hue on the water remains. Therefore, a study was conducted, and it appears that the blue/yellow shade is because of the insoluble floating iron ions from the heavy concentration of pyrite (also known as “Fool’s Gold”) in the area. Due to that, it’s highly prohibited to go into the water as it is not safe because of the highly concentrated heavy metal ions in the water.
Driving further uphill, our next stop at Jinguashi is the Golden Waterfall. This is located near the Gold Ecological Park, just beside the main road.
If you’re wondering why it’s tagged as the Golden Waterfall, well, it’s bright yellowish brown as it contains high level of copper and iron deposits. When it rains, water will seep into the old mines and carries these deposits down, turning the grassy hillside into a bright orange color. It’s not that big as it may seem, but it’s quite an attraction with its breathtaking scenery.
And mind you, water goes to the Ying Yang sea. Thus, just like it, you cannot touch the golden rocks and water as they are highly toxic because it contains a high amount of dissolved Pyrite, which could result in the formation of Sulfuric acid. Nyay!
Jiufen Old Street
And now, we’re off to my favorite spot, the Juifen Old Street!
Many would have been and heard of Jiufen. (Thanks to the award-winning Japanese animated film, Spirited Away by Hayao Miyazaki). This place is totally jam-packed!!!
It was a prosperous gold mining town built by the Japanese until the 1950s. Yet, they were able to keep its old town vibe with its line of tea houses and food stalls, designed with hanging red lanterns along the alleys.
ALSO… I noticed that most of the dogs here are FAT. HAHA! Anyway check out that woman doing on the spot painting!
Since it’s already past lunch time, we decided to eat at one of the restaurants there (Sorry, didn’t take note of its name :P).
Ghibli characters are everywhere! Yes, there are a bunch of No-Face, Shihiro, and Totoro memorabilia at the souvenir shops.
Shifen Old Street
If Jiufen used to be a gold-mining town, Shifen used to transport coal during the Japanese era to different villages and districts through the Shifen Railway Station.
The old train is actually operational until now, and it passes by the scenic Shifen Waterfall. But of course, this place is particularly famous for flying paper sky lanterns bearing wishes. Way back then, this was used to send coded military information between soldiers in this historic district and in the mountains.
Shifen Old Street is also lined with several stalls with street food and souvenir shops. It’s also the one of the places Taiwan where it’s legal to let a Chinese lantern.
Everything we’ve done during this tour was in a fast-paced manner due to time constraints, HUHU. Nonetheless, it was a memorable one!
After a long tiring day, we went back to Ximending and indulged on some Japanese food! NOM~
Who would ever forget about Meteor Garden, the Taiwanese drama that took Asia by storm during the 2000s? Well, that was consequently the reason Taiwan would ring a bell to us. I was addicted to it that I attended 2 of F4’s concerts here in Manila. I heard there would be a reboot for Meteor Garden! I hope it lives up to my expectations. LOL!
Anyway, these past few months, Taiwan tremendously sprang as a hot tourist destination among Filipinos especially now that it’s Visa-free! The initiative, however would only be on trial period and will be effective until July 31, 2018 and hopefully, they would extend it or lift it out totally.
Last December of 2017, my family and I flew to Taiwan with my sister’s beau and his grandma and auntie. I have to admit; the place is so underrated and is not the typical travel destination for most Filipinos. But then, Taiwan quickly gained tractions due to positive feedbacks from those who’ve visited it. And I’m way more excited to experience it!