Seeing Taipei for Less (than 500 php)

In every country that I went to, I made it a point to see the city from a different point of view. This has resulted to me bringing my family to the observatories of the Eiffel Tower, the Space Needle, the World Trade Center in New York, the Tokyo Tower, and the N Tower in Seoul.

For my trip to Taipei, it would have been against tradition not to do the same, even with the absence of my family. But because I had no one else’s company (read no one to share expenses with), I had to think of ways to see the city without breaking my budget.

Good thing I found two solutions to the past dilemma: 1. Brave the Elephant Mountain Hiking Trail and; 2. Reserve a spot for Starbucks on the 35th floor of Taipei 101. I’m proud to let you know that I completed both tasks. How’s that for extra?

The Elephant Mountaing Hiking Trail, also known as the Xiangshan Hiking Trail.

There’s a funny story behind my quest to reach the start of the trail. I have Google Map’s inefficiency to thank for it!

I planned for my second day in Taipei to be all about the touristy areas, which included the trail. You would think that, because so many tourists have gone to the mountain, Google Maps would also be familiar with it and show you the easiest way to get there. Big NO. GM, which I will henceforth call the app, showed me the directions on which way to walk to Elephant Mountain. And of course I, being the extremely reliant tourist that I am, followed GM without question. She had me walking for 30 minutes!

I’m making sure that the same won’t happen to you though. Instead of walking from  the Taipei 101 building, as I did, you will need to ride the MRT to reach the Xiangshan Station, which is the station right after Taipei 101’s. I should have known this, since the trail is apparently of the same name!!! But it wasn’t like I was looking at the MRT Line-Maps to know it that well.

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Once you get out of the station, proceed straight towards the pole where multiple bicycles are lined up. Just get to the end of the bicycle line and read the pointing signages from there. You can’t miss it.

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I’m really talking about this pole (haha):

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The pole behind the tree

You’ll see that the trail is just 580 meters away. Follow the road until you’ll get to a fork, with one road going uphill. Need I say more?

Trust me, you’ll know once you’re there (or see this sign:)

How to see Taipei for Less

Arriving at the very top of the trail can take a while, and since it was raining, I didn’t give myself the privilege of time. I wasn’t about to throw caution to the wind and ruin my camera! So make sure you check the weather on the day you choose to go to the mountain.

Seeing Taipei, Taiwan for Less Budget

Fortunately for me, the hiking trail has a couple of baby viewing decks before the ultimate viewing deck. Like levels before you reach the end of a video game (lol). So if you don’t have enough time to finish the entire hike, or if you don’t need the work out, the first viewing deck should suffice. On it you’ll still see this beautiful view:

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I’m sorry if this picture’s overused, okay!! haha. Also, my camera died right after this was taken *tears*

The Starbucks on the 35th floor of Taipei 101

I’ve talked about this starbucks and how it’s one of the things I admire about the Taipei 101 building. But that post was a bit general and somewhat like an introduction to the basics: a 200 TWD minimum charge and a limited stay of 1 hour and 30 minutes.  On this one, you’ll know how you can get a spot up there!

By calling this number: +886 2-81010701 because guess what, getting into this starbucks is by reservation only. 

No need to worry since the representative speaks fairly good English – at least in my experience. Other bloggers have said that they had a bit of trouble talking with the representative.

Make sure that you call a day before your intended visit, because Starbucks won’t take on-the-day reservations. Although, there’s no stopping the daredevils from trying! Also be informed that Starbucks has a fixed schedule for your reservations, so you can only choose from 4 time slots on the weekdays and 3 on the weekends.

To make sure that you’ll quickly find your way to Starbucks’ designated waiting area, on the day of your reservation, it’s best if you enter through Door 7 facing Xing Yi Road or the door facing the SongZhi Street.

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As you can see, there’s a big 7 by the side of the glass doors

Once you enter Door 7, go right towards the security “round table.” Behind that is the waiting area, which is marked by a stand with this sign:

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You’ll see that Taipei 101 has a dress code, and even though I did see a couple of tourists wearing shorts and slippers, it’s still better to abide by the code lest you lose your reservation. You wouldn’t want that to happen because up there is such a good viewing point, that is if you get a good seat.

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all seats are taken – by bags! lol

Seeing Taipei, Taiwan for Less

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I wasn’t joking. 200 twd is definitely worth this big a coffee
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and this beautiful a view.

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

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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