Throwback Thursday Treat: Yay Hey Taipei

Hey, it’s Thursday! It only means one thing.. It’s time for another Throwback Thursday Trip! Last time, I took you to Saigon (Ho Chi Minh City) in Vietnam. Today, we will go somewhere north of the Philippines. No, no.. Not Japan or South Korea; but Taiwan! My high school friends & I went to Taipei for a short weekend trip last May 2015. I will elaborate below on how the trip was made, how we prepared for it, where we went & what we did in our 3 days in Taipei. 🇹🇼

Taipei crew goofing around Taipei’s Liberty Square

How the trip was made

Junelle & I planned this trip in order to sort of back up our future Japan visa application. Taiwan requires a visa for Filipino tourists; so we thought having another tourist visa in our passports would boost our chances of getting our Japan visas sooner that expected. (Fast forward, it actually helped! Our Japanese visa applications were submitted by the agency & on that same day, our visas were issued. We got it a few days after the agency claimed it.)

Before the trip

Plane Tickets – Junelle & I booked our tickets 3 months before our May trip. We came across Cebu Pacific Air‘s 50% off seat sale last 2 February 2015 & decided to book the tickets that very same day. We got our round-trip tickets at ₱5,415.60 for 2; that’s ₱2,702.80 pesos each. Good deal, right?

MNL-TPE-MNL tickets for 2 pax | Our MNL-TPE flight was moved from 6:20 pm to 10:00 pm a few weeks before the trip.

Accommodation – We decided to stay in an Airbnb flat instead of booking a room in a hotel / hostel. We booked Michael’s cozy apartment located in the middle of Wanhua District (where Ximending is located). The apartment has complete amenities – 2 spacious beds, hot & cold shower, clean toilet with toiletries, air conditioning, cable television, fast Wi-Fi & a decent storage area. It also has bonus laundry facilities & umbrellas. We arrived in Taipei past midnight & our host Michael waited for us & showed us the way to the apartment.

Our Airbnb accommodation in Ximending

Visa – Junelle & I were both busy with work so we asked Uni-Orient Travel to apply our visas on our behalf. We submitted our documents – accomplished application form, passport, photo, bank certificate, certificate of employment, income tax return & other supporting documents such as plane ticket & accommodation – to them. We got our single entry visas a week after.

Note: As of October 2016, Philippine passport holders who wish to travel to Taiwan can now apply online for an e-visa. Moreover, Taiwan has eased it’s visa-free requirements for Filipinos with valid documents, entry visas or resident cards issued by selected countries. Click here for more information.

UPDATE (23 April 2017) – Starting 1 June 2017, Filipinos can enter Taiwan for 30 days visa free. The ROC (Taiwan) Ministry of Foreign Affairs announced that they will have a 1 year visa-free trial program for Philippine passport holders. Read the full announcement here

UPDATE (16 May 2017) – The ROC (Taiwan) Ministry of Foreign Affairs has moved the start of the visa-free entry trial program for Filipino passport holders to 1 September 2017.

Trip Surprise – 3 weeks after Junelle & I booked our tickets, Majo decided to join the trip. We were in Siem Reap when we booked her ticket; we didn’t tell Junelle she’ll join. Days after Junelle & I applied for our visa, I accompanied Majo to the agency also to submit her papers. I secretly advised her about the trip plans – accommodation, possible itineraries, etc. On the day of the trip, I met with Junelle in SM Makati & told her that I need to get something from a friend who is on her way. After a few minutes, Majo arrived with her backpack! Junelle was surprised that Majo will join us! Well, the surprise worked. 😉

Where did we go in Taipei?

Ximending

Ximending is Wanhua District’s famous shopping center (also the tourist’s number 1 shopping destination in Taipei). There are department stores, specialty stores, bars & restaurants in the area. You can compare this area to Tokyo’s Shibuya District & Seoul’s Hongdae – where the young people go. The historic Red House Theater built during the Japanese rule is also located here.

Tip: It’s best to buy either a TaipeiPass or a reloadable EasyCard when going around the city. These are ‘touch & go’ IC cards used in the subway & city buses. Personally, I prefer using the EasyCard because it can also be used in some shops & convenience stores.

Pingxi -Jiufen – Keelung Day Tour

Shifen Waterfalls

We went on a day tour to check out Pingxi & Riufang Districts in the east of Xinbei (New Taipei City). We took bus #795 to Pingxi from the bus stop near Muzha Station. Upon arrival, we walked straight up to see the Shifen Waterfall. After a few minutes, we went back to Pingxi & went around the old town & street. This place is also famous for the Sky Lantern Festival. There were a number of people who released sky lanterns when we were walking around the area. This place is also good for street food & the never-ending milk tea.

The not-so-busy Pingxi Old Street

Local train to Riufang passing by the old street

After hours of walking around Pingxi, we decided to go to Jiufen. We took the local train to Riufang Station; then boarded bus #788 to Jiufen. The weather wasn’t that good, but we still walked around the old street & village. We stopped by a local cafe for snacks. There were a lot of local cafes, restaurants & fancy souvenir shops in the area.  Outside the village, you will see a stunning view of the countryside.

Jiufen Old Street tend to be very busy during weekends

Countryside view outside Jiufen Old Street

We boarded bus #788 again in front of 7 Eleven & headed to Keelung, a port city in Northern Taiwan. The trip took about an hour because the rain was pouring hard & the roads were slippery. The plan was to go & have dinner at the famous Keelung Miaokou Night Market but our trip was cut short by the unfavorable weather. We directly went to the main train station & bought tickets back to Taipei Main Station.

Taipei Main Station

Taipei Main Station is the main transportation hub at the center of Taipei. It is where train lines (Taiwan High Speed Rail, Taipei Metro Subway & Taiwan Railways) & local bus lines meet. The station also features a lot of shopping malls, department stores, cafes & restaurants, making it one of the busiest places in Taipei. We walked around the station complex & also decided to have dinner here.

Holy Family Church

We started our second day in Taipei with an English Sunday mass at Holy Family Church along 50 Xin Sheng South Rd. The church can be reached by a short walk from Daan Park Station Exit 2. The only Sunday English Mass is at 9:45 am. Church seats fill up fast so best to go there early. There was a fundraising event & a festival during our visit. It was nice to see fellow Filipinos there.

Chiang Kai-Shek Memorial Hall & Liberty Square

After the mass, we went to Chiang Kai-Shek Memorial Hall. This memorial hall was built in memory of former President Chiang Kai-Shek. The hall has different display rooms & galleries where you will know more about the former president. The memorial hall can be accessed from MRT Chiang Kai-Shek Memorial Hall Station Exit 5 (both green & red lines). Outside the memorial hall is Liberty Square, Taiwan’s biggest public plaza. The National Theater & Concert Halls are located at each side of the square; these 2 places are also worth visiting.

Outside the National Theater in Taipei

Raohe Street Night Market

My friends & I preferred to go to the less busy Raohe Street Night Market on our last night in Taipei. The 600 m street market was full of interesting cheap eats, fancy souvenirs & awesome shopping choices. Some items were relatively cheaper by a few NT$ compared to those found in Ximending. (Tip: Nearest station & exit – Songshan Station Exit 5)

Street food! 😋😋😋

More street food! Yay for some angus beef cuts! 😋😋😋

Hello Kity Cafe

Inside the Hello Kitty Cafe; my friends loved it there!

We had our afternoon snack in Hello Kitty Cafe just before going to Taipei 101 & the airport. We had our own dessert sets – includes a slice of cake, a macaroon, a jelly snack & a drink. Everything in the cafe has the touch of Hello Kitty (food, interiors, everything!). Each set costs around NT$400. It’s expensive, I know! (Tip: Nearest station & exit – Zhongxiao Fuxing Exit 3)

The expensive afternoon tea set

Taipei 101

A visit to Taipei will never be complete without going to the city’s iconic Taipei 101. Also known as Taipei World Financial Center, this building is the city’s tallest mixed use skyscraper. It also houses the world’s fastest elevator ride; it will only take you 49 – 53 seconds to go up from the 5th to the 87th floor. The building can be accessed by getting of Taipei 101 / World Trade Center Station Exit 4.

The tuned mass wind damper (728 tons) suspended from levels 87 to 92 😮

We spent our last few hours in Taipei walking around the 88th & 89th floor of this 101-storey building. The observatory gives amazing views of the city! Too bad the 91st open air observatory was closed due to unfavorable weather. Entrance fee during our time was NT$500 each; however the website says the entrance fee has increased to NT$600 each. It may be a bit pricey but the experience is all worth it.

View from Level 89 observatory 😍


3 full days in Taipei is really short. We missed quite a few notable spots like Yehliu Geopark, Shilin Night Market, Longshan Temple, Sun Yat Sen Memorial Hall & Beitou Hot Springs. Oh well.. I just found a reason to fly back to Taipei. Who knows, I might go back really soon. 😉

Hope you enjoyed today’s Throwback Thursday post. Thank you for reading. 😃

PS. Many thanks to Junelle for allowing me to use some of her photos.

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