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.
UPDATE: Taiwan extends visa-free entry for Philippines until July 2019!
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!
We arrived in Taiwan at midnight and upon stepping outside the airport, we already felt the coldness! FYI, Taiwan has four seasons and we’re just about to immerse ourselves into Winter! Anyway, thank God for Klook’s Luxury Taoyuan Airport Transfers (TPE) for Taipei, Taiwan! HAHA! Because the MRT is already closed, we initially booked a private airport transfer (One-way service from Taoyuan International Airport to any hotels in Taipei City). We stayed at Go Sleep Hotel in Ximending. I commend this hotel for being so tidy, and not to mention, the bathroom was spacious. They clean our room and provide us free bottled waters EVERYDAY.
And what’s great about this hotel is the buffet breakfast. Although to be honest, we’re not that keen on Taiwanese food staples. ☹ But there are exceptions of course, their street foods almost everywhere are the bomb! (Talk about having grilled sausages every day).
The next day, we woke up early to embark on our Taiwan adventure. Can I just say, I love how I get that excuse to layer my clothes because well, you don’t experience cold weather back in the Philippines (not unless you’re in Baguio or Tagaytay). Good thing I didn’t underestimate Taiwan’s weather and brought with me some coats and ample amount of clothes to put together.
Before we started roaming around, we went to 7-11 to purchase Easy Card, so that we won’t need to line up to purchase tickets in the MRT. Their train system was efficient and not difficult to understand. I’ve read that it was planned by the Japanese. Sugoii!
Taipei Cinema Park
Taipei Cinema Park is our first stop since it’s the most accessible to us as we just have to walk from our hotel. It is located at the intersection of Wuchang Street and Kangding Road.
Upon getting there, we didn’t see anything fancy aside from dogs. Probably because it’s not weekend yet. It’s just a fairly bleak concrete square, with two brick buildings. I heard that it’s more than just a community theater, as it is also a hotspot of flea markets for indie clothes designers, a space for dance and music competitions, and an exhibition area, too.
Although there isn’t any event that time, we decided to give it a shot and voila! We stumbled upon a bunch of funky and imaginative dreamscapes of graffiti and street arts on the inner lanes at east of the park. They are all but Instragramable!
Chiang Kai-Shek Memorial Hall
Next stop is the Chiang Kai Shek Memorial. A trip to Taiwan wouldn’t be complete without immersing on their history and culture, of course. This national monument is located in Zhongzheng District and is accessible via MRT.
This was built in memory of Chiang Kai-Shek, the founder of Taiwan. But mind you, he’s not buried in here but in the Cihu Mausoleum in Daxi Township in Taoyuan County.
This place is inexplicably massive! Aside from the Memorial Hall, there are other two prominent buildings erected within its vicinity which includes the National Theater and National Concert Hall.
When we arrived, there’s this sort of a bazaar. We took some time to check out what they’re selling; most of it are indigenous items and of course, food and freshly-picked fruits!
The Memorial Hall is 76 meters (249 ft) above ground, with 89 steps which symbolizes the age of President Chiang when he died. Its main colors are Blue (Roof Tiles), White (Walls), and Red (Flowerbeds) – identical to the colors of Taiwan’s flag.
We reached the top and entered it to see the Bronze Statue of Chiang Kai-shek. For those who doesn’t want to walk up the 89 stairs, you may opt to use the elevator on the left side of the hall. Anyway, prior to this, we wanted to check the Changing of the Guards which happens every hour from 9am to 4pm, with the last change at 4:40pm. However, due to time constraints and the gloomy weather, we decided not to as we might get soaked from the rain, if ever. Haha! Well, we didn’t 😀 Taiwan weather is sort of bipolar and unpredictable but we’re happy it cooperated with us.
Taipei 101 / Din Tai Fung
Taipei 101, the usual tourist stop, was our next destination. We’re actually here for lunch because we’re hungry! Anyway, this building was known as the tallest in the world until it was surpassed by Burj Al Arab at Dubai in 2010.
It has an observatory at the 89th floor which offers the stunning cityscape view of Tapei, but we didn’t go there because we initially planned to go to Starbucks instead. However, my Taiwanese friend wasn’t able to book us due to his prior commitments in school. So yeah, we weren’t able to experience the high- speed elevator. Haha!
We then just proceed to Din Tai Fung, a popular Xiao Long Bao Restaurant in Taiwan that has been awarded the Michelin Star 5 times (whoa!) to have our lunch. It’s at the basement of Taipei 101. And yes, as expected its super busy!
We ordered in advance in Din Tai Fung so food can be served immediately once we’re seated.
Lunch time! We had the famous pork xiao long bao, porkchop rice, sweet and sour pork (which is served cold! And is not the typical one you get from a Chinese restaurant), and braised beef soup. Sorry, didn’t get to take a photo of it all :p Too hungry to function.
They have an aquarium display of the kitchen where the Xiao Long Bao is prepared and would you believe that apart from their culinary education, the guys making it have to undertake a 6-month dimsum training before they can work in Din Tai Fung. Of course, they are paid well— above the minimum wage.
After filling in our stomach, we headed to ATT4FUN Mall because of one main reason: GU! The multi-level mall houses top clothing brands or fashion stores which includes Bershka, Pull & Bear, Gap, Forever 21 and many others! Didn’t let pass the opportunity to get an item from GU. This brand is not yet available in Manila. Somebody please bring it!
Sun Yat-Sen Memorial Hall
After spending not much of a dime in shopping (thank you, self-control), we then looked for Sun Yat Sen Memorial Hall. Just like Chiang Kai-Shek, this memorial is dedicated as a tribute to the Father of the Nation, Sun Yat-Sen.
This was built in 1972 and contains an exhibition of Dr. Sun’s accomplishments from the revolution during and after the fall of the Qing Dynasty, and today is used as a meeting ground for various social, educational, and cultural activities. At first, we thought we’re at the wrong place because it felt like we’re in a university.
Inside of it is the giant statue of Dr. Sun and they also conduct Changing of the guards every hour. The park surrounding the hall is named Zhongshan Park, as the most well-known and popular Chinese name for Dr. Sun is Sun Zhongshan, with gardens, decorative historical walls, an exhibit and performance area surrounding Lake Cui or Emerald Pond.
Songshan Cultural and Creative Park
Walking distance from Sun Yat-sen Memorial Hall is the Songshan Cultural and Creative Park. This is one of my favorites from the places we’ve been to in Taipei!!!! It was formerly a tobacco factory established by the Japanese from the 1930s and was converted into a lovely park with lush garden and a lake. Tagged as the “Creative Hub of Taipei”, the park is dotted with pop-up creative shops, cafes and galleries.
I love how Taiwanese people are sooo into arts! Look at these people cheerfully dancing! I’ve enjoyed it a lot even just by staying at the beautiful Baroque garden while watching them dance in a retro song. I felt like I was transported to another era.
Just nearby the park is the Eslite Spectrum, an artsy mall with stores that sell the latest collections from local fashion designers, Japanese and Korean crafts, vinyl records, and a large selection of books at the Eslite bookstore on the highest floor. Why can’t our malls in the Philippines be like this? T__T They don’t just support and showcase those indie designers, but they created these solely to cultivate Taiwanese talent and promote the Designed in Taiwan label.
Ximending is Taiwan’s version of Harajuku or Shibuya of Japan or Myeongdong of Korea. Based on my research, this place “was founded during the Japanese colonization era as a recreation district, and today has grown into a cultural icon with inspiration drawn from its Japanese roots”.
Our hotel is just within this awesome, busting area where you can shop your heart out with their massive variety of fashion clothing shops (don’t miss out SPAO and MIXXO), cosmetic stores (YAS!!! They have both Korean Japanese and Taiwanese cosmetics, of course!) eclectic restaurants, clubs, and bars. There are also food stalls around it wherein you can try out some street food. Also, don’t miss out the 100-year-old Red House Theater just near the Ximen station.
For the sneakerhead out there, they have shops such as Adidas, Nike, Keds and among others! And for the beauty junkies, this must be your ultimate haven for all your cosmetics and skin care needs. They have SaSa, Innisfree, Etude House, The Face Shop, The Body Shop and many more! We bought some stuff at Innisfree and I hope it’s worth it <3 Ahhh, there are a lot of stores not available yet in Manila and I wish someone would invest and bring them here!
I wasn’t able to take that much photos as this place because it was too crowded that I got paranoid someone might steal my camera, (LOL excuses!) And perhaps because everything was overwhelming and I was just like spazzing all the time because they’re all a feast in my eyes, haha!
What I love about Ximending are the food!
Their Hot-Star Large Fried Chicken was way better than what we have in Manila. I’m not being bias but it’s the truth ☹ haha! I could live with just it everyday. LOL! Also, unlike with ours, it’s eaten on the go.
We also tried some of those where locals go such as Aychung’s rice flour noodles wherein people are lining up! But sadly, it didn’t suit our palate. (again sorry, there must be something wrong with us hahahuhu).
Of course, we had to try out their CoCo milk tea! It tastes good as what we have in Manila. Yay! The best milk tea ever!
There you have it~ To wrap it all up, I think Japanese largely shaped their culture and had a huge influence in Taiwan, it’s obvious! And I got no problem with that. People are so nice too (and disciplined)! <3 Nonetheless, this country has a charm of its own!
I hope you enjoyed this long post as much as I enjoyed reminiscing the good times.
Will post more of my Taiwan adventure soon! 🙂