4 Things to Admire about Taipei 101

Ever since I posted about my trip to Taipei, ads on the admirable country have strategically popped up whenever I scroll through my facebook feed. Whenever I see them the only thought that forms in my head is, “I hope other people are seeing this,” because they should know how stunning Taipei is!

Along with these ads come striking photos of the famed Taipei 101 – the iconic skyscraper that looms over the rest of metropolitan. Consisting of 101 floors, Taipei 101 held the title of Tallest Building in the World, from 2004 until it was surpassed by the Burj Khalifa in 2010.

But I have insuffecient knowledge to be able to talk about the architectural achievements of this geniusly-made tower. I’ll let Snarkynomad’s article, “Why Taipei 101 is the coolest skyscraper in the planet” do that. His extensive write-up is amply detailed, yet easily understandable that it’s nowhere near a burden to finish.

I’m really here to talk about what’s inside the tower.

 The Food Court

It’s no surprise that Taipei is home to great food selections, as is the rest of the Asian countries. The food court, on the lower ground floor of Taipei 101, brings together all these delicious, aromatic Asian cuisines at such an easy reach. Literally, it is easily accessible but also figuratively kind to the pocket.

Once you enter, your senses will immediately engage as you take a whiff of the flavorful smell of food; hear the chaotic noise of utensils clinking, oil sizzling, and people with different languages talking – loudly.

I wouldn’t call it an ordinary food court though, otherwise, what would be the point in talking about it if it were, right? Taipei 101’s food court is a premium joint that offers the “real deal” for not-so-premium prices. At least, that’s what my boyfriend likes to point out.

Din Tai Fung

There are heaps of gems inside the acclaimed tower, but for food enthusiasts, Din Tai Fung may be their piece of cake. Sure the Michelin rated restaurant has a number of branches in all of Taipei, but if you’re already in Taipei 101 (to go up the observatory no doubt), you might as well enjoy the goodies in this branch.

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There will always be a mindblowing amount of people waiting outside this particular Din Tai Fung, since it is inside a tourist attraction. Consequently, waiting for an hour or even more is an experience that needs a great deal of patience. But it’s worth it once you get a taste of their famous xiaolongbao, along with their long list of dimsum goodies.

What to eat at Din Tai Fung

I can’t say the same for all the branches but in this particular one, you can see the huddle of neatly dressed chefs expertly making their celebrated dumplings by hand. This is what makes the place worthwhile since one is able to enjoy his food and simultaneously get entertained by the deftness of the restaurant’s kitchen staff.

The second fastest elevator in the world

Taipei 101 formerly held the title of having the fastest elevator in the world, moving at 60 km/h, before the Shanghai tower came about. And according to wikipedia (no shame), the contraption can bring you from the 5th to the 89th floor in 37 seconds. There’s no harm in me believing the questionable website as this statement is proven by the video that my boyfriend posted when he rode on Taipei 101’s elevator.

Snarkynomad also points out that the elevators go up so smoothly that someone actually balanced a coin on its edge, and it stayed upright even as they reached the top! Clearly, a ride on the skyscraper’s elevetors isn’t one to miss. It’s like an amusement park ride that everyone, who went, should be able to say that they rode on. The space mountain in every Disneyland.

The Starbucks on the 35th floor

Every tourist, who knows about the Starbucks on the 35th floor of Taipei 101, likes to think of it as a secret that no other tourist is aware of, even though they already are. Be that as it may, I’m calling this not-so-hidden gem the best treasure for the reason that it offers a bird’s eye view of the city without burning a hole in your pockets.

View from Starbucks on Taipei 101

Going up to Taipei 101’s observatory can cost you 600 TWD. Starbucks, on the other hand, charges only a third of that price. Not only can you get comfortable in front of an astonishing view, but you also get to delight yourself in a fulfilling brunch. The only downside to this is that visitors are only allowed to stay for an hour and a half. Although an hour and a half is more than enough time to get over the serenity of the city.

DIY trip to Jiufen: How to get there

If you enjoy street food, cheap shopping, mersmirizing views of the Pacific Ocean, or if you’re just a really big fan Hayao Miyazaki’s “Spirited Away,” then you need to get yourself to Jiufen.

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A former, almost forgotten gold mining town, modern day Jiufen has transformed itself into one of the most visited tourist destinations in Taiwan. This comes as no surprise, as the energy from hawking food vendors and shuffling tourists is a cultural experience of its own – one that you wouldn’t want to miss.

Going to Jiufen is one of the easiest excursions that I’ve done in my five years of DIY traveling. If I, the most worrisome person that I know, was able do it alone then I’m pretty sure that everyone else can. So if you ever find yourself planning a trip to Taiwan and including Jiufen in your itinerary, here’s how to get there:

1. By Tripool

Great news! I recently found out that Round Taiwan Round has come up with a revolutionary, but most importantly, cost efficient way for group travel. They’ve introduced to us Tripool, which enables us travelers to enjoy the cost-benefit of carpool, but also have the luxury to customize our itineraries for our chosen areas.

For only 30 USD per person, or 70 USD per person for an English tour guide, not only will you enjoy the privacy of a smaller group during your ride to Jiufen, you will also have the chance to see other notable spots within the area! This is the easiest way to go, if you ask me.

The even greater news?

You can get 5% off your purchase if you use the code CebuAdv at https://www.rtaiwanr.com/jiufen/jiufen-custom-shared-tour

Round-Taiwan-Round-Tripool

2.  By Train

This is probably the fastest (50-60 mins.) way to get to Jiufen, although it won’t bring you directly to Jiufen.

For around 50 to 80 TWD, your first leg of the ride will start in Taipei Main Station, from there you will need to ride whichever railway train that will bring you to Riufang Railway Station. Unfortunately, I can’t tell you which platform or what color line the trains run on, because their platform numbers change and railway trains do not have colors like the MRT. You’ll be on your own on that one, buddy.

Once you step out of Riufang Station’s main entrance, make sure that you’ll face Mingdeng Road Sec. 3. Cross to the other side of the road and look for the lone bus stop. Wait for the Keelung bus with Jinguashih as its last stop. I’m not sure about the bus number but the bus will most likely have a big flashing sign in front of it that says JINGUASHI. If not, you can ask for the number from the personnel at the information booth inside the station.

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Jiufen is the last stop before Jinguashi. It will take about 10 – 15 minutes to get there from the station.

3. By Bus

By bus is how I traveled to Jiufen, so I can be a little more specific here. This takes about 2 hours and it will bring you directly to Jiufen for 113 TWD, which isn’t so bad.

You will need to start from whichever MRT you’ll be nearest at and navigate your way to Zhongxiao Fuxing Station, which is where the blue and brown MRT lines meet.

This is the train station that you need to go to for Jiufen Old Town Taipei

At the station, get out at Exit 2 and follow the sidewalk to your right until you find a bus stop below an overpass. You can also go through Exit 1 and just cross the street towards the second exit.

Exit two for bus stop for bus 1062 bus to Jiufen Taipei
The bus to take to get to Jiufen Old Town in Taiwan

At the bus stop, wait for the bus 1062 with Jinguashi as its last destination. As I previously mentioned, Jiufen is the destination right before Jinguashi so watch out for that on the indicator inside the bus. You’ll know you’re there once the bus stops in front an extremely fine view of the ocean.

The view from Jiufen Old Town, Taipei Taiwan

 

 

Taipei On A Filipina’s Budget

I’ve just come back from my 4 day-3 night getaway to Taipei (lol that sounded like a rap), and I’ve somehow managed to bring back half of the Taiwan Dollars that I brought with me for my trip. Thankfully so, because the amount of moolah I had to give up for my flight coming home is just ridiculous.

Mactan Cebu International Airport

It’s not that I kept a tight grip on my money the entire time. I guess I just didn’t really feel the need to buy anything. I’m not the pasalubong kind of girl. I’m more for the immersion. If I don’t get to experience it in some kind of meaningful level, then I don’t care for it.

If you’re anyone like me – cheap but also constantly needing a taste for life, I’ll share with you my 4 day Taiwan itinerary and how I spent 3,110 TWD (5,442.50 PHP) for the entire trip. That is, of course, excluding my airfare but we can forget about that and move on. My flight booking was a last minute decision, after all. Also, please keep in mind that I will be emphasizing the times that I walked during the day because for one: it saved me fare money and; it was the only way I could get a workout in

So… for lack of a better transition, here it is:

DAY 1 – Apr. 12

I arrived at Taiwan’s Taoyuan airport at 9:30 am. Right after immigration, I proceeded to look for the United Traveler’s booth to get the pocket wifi that I rented for 4 days. This was booked online via Klook for 55 TWD a day. I then went down to the basement where the bus ticketing counters are and bought a ticket for the Xingtian Temple bus stop at 125 TWD.

I walked to my hostel just 300 meters away from the Xingtian Temple bus stop. I checked in at around noon and paid 880 TWD for the 3 nights.

Hostel Review Travel Talk Taipei Backpacker's Hostel

By 1 p.m. I walked my way to Li An Tai Old House for a quick look around. Stayed there for almost an hour, walked back to the hostel and slept until 4 p.m.

Things to do in TaipeiThings to do in Taipei, Taiwan

By 4:30, I walked to the nearest MRT station just 400 meters away from my hostel, bought an Easycard for 100 TWD and topped it up with 100 TWD worth of bus/train fare. Then I made my way to Shilin Night Market. Once there, I looked for the famous fried chicken by Hot Star which is 70 TWD and got Taiwan’s staple lemon jelly drink for 40 TWD.

The Breakdown: 
pocket wifi: 220
bus ticket: 125
hostel: 880
easycard: 200
dinner: 110
TOTAL: 1,535

DAY 2 – Apr. 13

First thing in the morning, I had breakfast c/o of our hostel. It was a simple bread and butter breakfast with my choice of coffee or tea.

By 8:30 a.m. I was showered and ready for the day. Again, I walked my way to the nearest MRT and started my little adventure from there. First on the day’s itinerary was the Chiang Kai Shek Memorial hall, which I stayed at for almost two hours -enough time for taking pictures and waiting for the changing of the guards, which happens every top of the hour.

Taipei on a budgetTaipei on a BudgetAt Chiang Kai Shek’s MRT station, I navigated my way to the next’s destination’s MRT which was at Taipei 101 where I had lunch in Din Tai Fung. I arrived in Taipei 101 a few minutes after 1 p.m. but was only able eat at around 2:30 because of the long waiting time. My lunch costed me 192 TWD for an appetizer and a 5 pc. Xialongbao, enough for my little stomach (lol yeah right).

Things to do in Taipei, TaiwanIMG_2987

Then, because I needed a little bit of exercise, I walked a whopping 2 km to the start of Elephant Mountain and climed another few hundred meters of stairs to get to the first level viewing deck. By the time I got there, it rained. So after a couple of pictures and a few minutes of staring at the city, I decided to find the nearest MRT and go back to the hostel.

Things to do in Taipei, TaiwanTaipei on a Budget

The Breakdown:
breakfast: free
Chiang Kai Shek Memorial Hall admission fee: free
Din Tai Fung: 192 + free tea
entrance to Elephant Mountain Hiking Trail: free
top up on easycard: 100
dinner right by the hostel: 50
TOTAL: 342

DAY 3 – Apr. 14

Now on my third day, I spent a little bit more since I had gone Jiufen, which is a 2 hour bus ride from the city. Like yesterday, breakfast was free and as usual, I walked my way to the MRT and started from there (you’ll know more about getting to Jiufen also on my next post). I already knew that the one way bus fare was going to be around 100 TWD but since I had already used the previous day’s top up, I put in another 200 TWD into the card. The bus fare might have been 100 to 120 TWD; I failed to look since other people were waiting to tap their cards after me.

Things to do in Taipei, TaiwanTaipei on a Filipina's Budget

Once I got to the entrance at Jiufen, I saw a cute little shop that served drip coffee for 70 TWD, so I got my hands on that. I’ve also been seeing these grilled sausages everywhere in Taipei and decided to try it here for lunch. That was minus 40 TWD from my pocket. After an hour of walking around and taking pictures, it was time to go to my next destination of choice: Houtong Cat Village. I rode both a bus and a train going there, so everything was deducted from my Easycard per usual.

Houtong is a place to play and look at cats, so nothing worth buying really appealed to me. After an hour, I went back to the city via train. I stopped at Shilin Night Market for dinner, which consisted of spongecake and milk tea (healthy, I know) all for 150 TWD. I then went home to my hostel.

The Breakdown:
breakfast: free
top up: 200
coffee: 70
lunch: 40
milk tea: 60
spongecake: 90
TOTAL: 460

DAY 4 – Apr. 15

For my final day in Taipei, I decided I’d take a good look at the city one last time (poetic). But since I didn’t want to pay 600 TWD to go up the observatory in Taipei 101, I opted to go to the Starbucks on Taipei 101’s 35th floor.

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The minimum order to stay there is 200 TWD, and I got my order of a breakfast burrito and a large coffee for 205. On this day, breakfast wasn’t free.getting in the starbucks in taipei 101

By 10:30, I went down and out the tower and proceeded to go to Ximending for the day. Apparently, Ximending is Taipei’s shopping district but, once again, I didn’t feel the need for that. Instead, I looked for cute spots where I could take amateur photos and do a little fashion shoot.IMG_3355Taipei Day TourTravel Fashion TaipeiIMG_3303

Hey, I may not shop but I’m still somewhat vain.

Once I got the pictures that I wanted I “re-centered” myself towards the busier streets and looked for beef noodles at 2 p.m. I found Lao Wang Ji and had beef noodles for 220 TWD. Once I got out of the restaurant, I remembered that Taipei sold yakult that’s bigger than usual so I decided I wasn’t going to leave without buying one and showing it on social media. I did that for 8 TWD. At 4 p.m. it was time to go back to the hostel to prepare for a dinner invite but most especially for my flight at dawn.

The Breakdown
breakfast: 205
lunch: 220
yakult: 8
dinner at a sushi bar: 150
easycard top up (within the day): 190
TOTAL: 773

A day and a half more before…

So here we are, just a day and a half more before my scheduled flight to Taipei. You know my struggles, and you’re about to read more.

The good news is, I have my passport! The bad news is, i had to let go of and will (still) soon shell out a few more bucks for: 1. having my passport shipped from Manila to Cebu via express shipping; 2. my return ticket from Taipei to Cebu; 3. shipping my passport from Cebu back to Manila.

So much for my future “Taipei on a Budget” blog post.

One of the reasons I booked that ticket to Taipei in the first place was because I thought it was relatively cheap, considering that I saw it so near to my desired day of flight. No point in dwelling on that now though; as my mom said, “what’s the point of money if you can’t enjoy it?” uhm. to use it to survive this cruel and corrupt world, for one? But I saw her point and – seeing that I am pushing through with this trip – I loved it.

Let’s backtrack a bit to Monday, April 3. I took a call from the person in-charge of submitting our Japan visa applications to a travel agency in manila, which was, in turn, responsible for submitting said docs to the Embassy of Japan. I was told that someone in the group, whom I don’t know, was lacking a few documents so our passports might not be released to us within that week yet. I thought, I guess I could reschedule my flight. So, without thinking it through, that’s what I told him. But! I had hope. I had hope that I’d still receive my passport before the day of my flight. See, I’m doing this thing called “thinking positive to attract positive,” and because of this I was feeling good about the situation for two days. I was so sure that I’d get my passport back, with another Japan visa meticulously attached inside, right before April 12. I was so wrong.

There was a misunderstanding. I was so optimistic because I thought that my application had already been submitted to the Embassy and was ready for release. Apparently, the entire group’s passports were still with the travel agency; not even reviewed by the Embassy yet. I found out about this on April 5. I panicked. After much consideration, I DID NOT WANT TO RESCHEDULE. I get so much complaints from my mom whenever I travel during work days; this was my chance to leave without having to worry about missing work.

I called so many numbers to ask what I could do with my situation. Thankfully, the travel agent I last talked to was nice enough to assure me that he would send me back my passport, hold my application, wait for the passport once I get back from my trip, and submit my papers to the Embassy. I only had to pay 200 PHP for the MNL-CEB shipment (and probably another 200 for sending it back to Manila).

That’s what I did, and now I have my passport minus 200 PHP.

Since I was already assured that I would get my passport back, the next thing to do was to book my flight from TPE to CEB. Remember in my previous post, when I said that the ticket that I was eyeing went down to 2,000+ Taiwan dollars? Let’s say it was at 2,840 TWD, I would have bought it at 4,970 PHP but I didn’t, because I couldn’t stand wasting 4,000+ PHP without knowing if I’d be able to fly. I am the definition of smart because the ticket went up to 4,238 TWD, which is roughly 7,416.50 TWD. That’s how much I charged my credit card with. This one; I can’t let go.

I really should have bought that cheaper ticket, and left it all to fate, immediately after I saw it. But no. I. Had. To. Make. Sure. Such are the risks that come with not being carefree enough.

In conclusion, I am with a passport, an itinerary, a plane ticket. I am also without 11,846.50 PHP total (round trip tickets from CEB-TPE, and shipping fees), in my wallet, just so I could be in another country by April 12. As one great and anonymous poet once said, “the struggle is real.”

Cebuana Adventures: The Struggles of Last Minute Flight Booking

On March 30, 2017, without any precursor, I decided that I was going to travel for the Holy Week. Alone. This, despite the fact that my mom already has plans for the family.

While I was driving to work, my mind was quite empty until the thought popped up. So when I arrived in the office a few minutes before 9 a.m., the first thing I did was check for flights on random destinations – Bali? Coron? Malaysia? – any place that didn’t require Filipinos to get Visas. Then I remembered reading about Taiwan allowing visa free entries for Philippine passport holders with a valid US Visa. Immediately I searched for flights to Taipei and, surprisingly, the fare was still cheap for my desired date of travel which was April 12. Thank goodness for budget airlines like Airasia!

I took this as a go signal from the universe because I only had 13 days till the flight (now 11 days). I thought the that price would have already soared through the roof! Fortunately, it was only a couple of thousands higher than the average price of 2,000 PHP. The price coming back to the Philippines is a different story.

In my excitement, I hurriedly booked the 4,030 PHP ticket to Taipei without much thought. I had no idea how much my lodging, land transportation, and food expenses would be (by now, of course, I’ve had enough time to research on it). This is the most spontaneous I’ve ever been. How exciting…

What’s even more exciting is the fact that I do not have my passport with me. This dawned on me right after I received my flight confirmation email. I submitted my passport to the Embassy of Japan last week!  Who forgets something like that? Me, apparently.

And so, the following narrative ensued:

  • “Thank goodness I bought Travel Insurance! Maybe I can cancel my flight to Taipei for free, otherwise I’ll have to pay a fee to change it :(“
  • “But does my travel insurance cover cancelled trips for reasons other than death of a family member and natural disasters? I have look it up”
  • “The travel insurance website can’t find my policy! I gotta contact the airline.”
  • “Well this customer representative doesn’t seem happy to help me. Okay, I’ll just email the travel insurance company.” *sends email*
  • *receives reply attached with full insurance policy*
  • “NOOO! My insurance won’t cover it.”
  • “Oh wells, at least I didn’t buy a ticket coming back yet… Bye bye, 4,030 pesos.
  • “My passport should be back in a week, just a few days before my ticket’s departure date. I should just look for a return ticket” *Goes to Airasia website*
  • “Oh damn, it’s 10,000+ PHP coming back.” *searches for ticket from Cebu Pacific*
  • “Cool. Around 6,000 PHP, but still too expensive. I wonder how much it is a week from today?”
  • “Wow… only 2,000+ for a flight from Taipei to Cebu on April 9. Maybe tickets will get cheaper if I wait it out?”
  • *at 12 m.n.* Nice. that 10,000+ PHP ticket came down to 8,000+. I’m so sure that it’ll still go down.
  • *the next day* Dammit the ticket went up.

There you have it. All that trouble in the span of a day. Oh well, hopefully my passport will arrive within this week because if it doesn’t, I’ll have to watch my booked ticket go down the drain. We’ll see how it goes. Follow my blog to keep updated!