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.

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.