I wish I could say that I’ve seen all of Taiwan in my nine-day trip. But that would be unbelievable because of two things:
- This is my first solo trip abroad, and if you know me, you’d know I most likely spent the first few days of the trip figuring out maps (which I’m really bad at); and
- While I have the energy to adjust to different groups of people during out of town/country trips (i.e. workmates, church groups, friends, relatives), left alone, I am a very relaxed person. I’d rather stay and immerse myself in one or two places rather than cram and move from one place to another.
So, no. I did not see all of Taiwan, not even just the whole of Taipei. I know, I know, it’s a small country… a small city (!). But I don’t really mind visiting this small island again and again, like a friend I’m getting to know little by little.
From the airport, all kinds of bus shuttles to different parts of the island await. Brochures with suggested itineraries, detailed maps, and bus and train schedules are available in at least six languages, including English. It worked that I’ve already read a lot of online travel blogs, and merely compared against the brochures the places of interest I determined to see.
AirAsia and Cebu Pacific flights from MLA arrive past midnight at the Taoyuan Airport. If you need to purchase a local sim card or a pocket WiFi, expect to wait until 5:30 AM (the earliest booth to open is Counter 3 located at the right wing of the Arrival area in Terminal 1).
Day 1: I took the bus shuttle going to the Taiwan High Speed Rail Station (THSR). From there, I traveled to Taichung. After checking in my stuff at Mini West Hotel, I explored nearby museums and parks. As I’d only be spending a short time in Taichung, I made sure to experience its famous Fengjia Night Market.
Day 2: I went to see the Sun Moon Lake in the Nantou District. There’s a Nantou Bus ticketing office nearby the Taichung Railway Station. They sell round-trip tickets so the same bus company took me back to Taichung a little after sunset. I spent another evening at the Fengjia Night Market.
Day 3: I woke up a little late and got myself ready to travel to Taipei. I missed the right train stop on my way to the THSR so instead of getting to Taipei around 3 or 4 pm, I got there past 6 pm. From my hostel in the Zhongzheng District, I walked around Ximending until I’ve decided where to eat.
Day 4: I went to see the koalas and pandas in Taipei Zoo; challenged my fear of heights by riding the crystal cable car of the Maokong Gondola; had afternoon tea at the Maokong District; took advantage of the Klook discounted ride to the fastest elevator in the world–Taipei 101; and had dinner at Din Tai Fung.
Day 5: I visited the National Palace Museum and its little sister, the Shung Ye Museum of Formosan Aborigine, and went to watch people admire the Chiang Kai Shek Memorial Hall. Then I took a nap at the hostel to regain some energy for Ningxia Night Market.
Day 6: I joined TourMeAway’s Vintage Walking Tour which was centered in Dao Dao Cheng and Dihua Street. After the three-hour tour, I tagged along a fellow Filipina I met during the walking tour. We went to Beitou for a natural spa courtesy of its Thermal Valley and free hotspring pools. Then, we went to see the famous Rainbow Bridge at the Tamsui area. With Liezel, I had extra motivation to see more despite my tired legs (haha). We went to see the lights show in Ximending, then headed to Raohe Night Market for dinner.
Day 7: This time, I’m really tired so I made it a point to visit a park where I can just sit and read. I lost track of time at the Da’an Forest Park. When it got colder, and I got hungry, I went to see the Bopiliao Old Street which, to my pleasant surprise, was nearby Huaxi Night Market. It’s also in the same areas the Longshan Temple but I did not have time to see what’s inside. On my way to my hostel, I also chanced upon the Lantern Festival a few blocks from Ximending.
Day 8: Early in the morning, I left for Shifen and Pingxi to fly a sky lantern, and experience Taiwan’s countryside version of trains. I still had time to catch a bus to Jiufen but I had difficulty figuring out which bus to take so I settled in exploring Riufang before heading back to Taipei. I loved Ningxia Night Market so I spent another evening there.
Day 9: I went to three coffee shops where I spent the day taking some rest as I know that I’d be heading back straight to work after this exhilarating trip.
Places I wish I had time to see
I still wish I had more time to see more of Taipei, and its neighboring towns. Obviously, famous landmarks like the Sun Yat Sen Memorial Hall, Yehliu Geopark, Taroko Gorge, Elephant Mountain among others are missing on my list. Based on what I’ve read and what the locals have told me, I plan to write and determine my Where-to-Next in Taiwan in this Taiwan 2017 blog series. By all means, feel free to share with me if you have recommendations, too.
But overall, I think the things I did and places I’ve visited were more than enough to convince me to love Taiwan second to my home, the Philippines. For that, it should not be a surprise when one of these days, you’d see me in Taiwan sooner than you’d expect.