Hello 2019, Hello Taipei, Taiwan!
Hello to everyone in a brand new year!
I hope in this year, that are more possibilities for me and everyone. I hope to explore at least one new destination every year but South Korea will always be a constant. This time I spent a short 5 nights in Taipei, Taiwan.
I foresee this year will grant me no freedom because I need to serve an internship for 10 weeks minimum, in between May to August. Nonetheless, it was still great to be able to travel on the first week of the new year, and a great start to the hectic year ahead.
Although school term has resumed, I reminded myself to write this post, or else I might forget all the fun times in Taiwan in no time. (Update: After finishing editing and writing this post, I realised this post has a lot of pictures and details, which my be great if you guys are reading it for your Taiwan trip. I hope. It is one of the LONGEST POST I’ve ever crafted so beware.
###LENGTHY POST AHEAD###
XI MEN TING
This is where the city comes to live at, it is quite the equivalent of Myeongdong and Hongdae of Taiwan and there’s so many things to eat and shop at Xi Men Ting. I spent the first night in Taipei just looking around Xi Men Ting since I touched down around 5pm in the evening and it was pretty late when I got to my Airbnb and settled down. There were so many popular food items to eat in Xi Men Ting and I came up with a short list:
Ay Chung Rice Noodles 阿宗麵線
Niang Niang Fried Chicken 娘娘雞排
Hot Star Fried Chicken 豪大大鸡排
Yong He Soy Milk 永和豆漿
Tiger Sugar 老虎堂’s Brown Sugar Boba Milk Tea
I’m no food blogger so I didn’t really take picture of everyone of them but rest assured its going to be delicious. Simply copy and paste the Chinese or English name of the store into the Google Maps search field and you can find your way very easily. (Google Maps works very well in Taiwan)
Directions: Xi Men Station, Exit 6
Drunk Cafe 爛醉咖啡
If I had to choose one cafe to visit in Taipei, Drunk Cafe is it. It is the most instagrammable cafe I’ve ever gone to. Drunk Cafe is actually a bar, as the name sort of gave it away. You can order alcohol during the day, it doesn’t matter. It is actually a good place to visit at night for drinks, as it is a bar + cafe concept.
The cafe opens at 11am, and I suggest you reach as soon as they open. It is no surprise that the cafe will be crowded since its aesthetic interior has drawn the attention of travellers on social media. I reached there around 11:15am. Not too late either. I was the first customer and I get to choose the seats and take photos of the indoor ballon house before any one else comes in! There are indoor areas as well, with a bar setting. Drunk Cafe has a backyard that everyone is dying to gram; or it could be just me. During the period I went, it was still the Christmas-inspired snowy theme. They do change it according the festive seasons, so do expect something different when you visit!
Tip: Go at 11AM to secure your pictures
Directions: Sun Yat-Sen (Blue Line) MRT Station, 7 mins walk
Huashan 1914 Creative Park
Filled with all thing artsy, the Hua Shan 1914 Creative Park serves as a common ground to host many exhibitions. For a creative person like me, this place offers the world. There are many small shops that sells unique items and gifts. Exhibitions require admission tickets and costs around $10, so you can choose those that you are interested in. I happen to visit Taiwan in the period where they were hosting the LINE FRIENDS WORLD TOUR, TAIWAN. Otherwise, admission to this place is free! Walk around the avenue and there is this vintage feel to the streets.
They were selling this passport stamp booklet that I could purchase for $200TWD, so I got it. There are multiple checkpoints along the way and I could stop by and stamp on the passport. Not too bad for a souvenir, but on hindsight I think it was expensive. Perfect for a kid, but I am not one. Already.
Hmm… okay I regretted getting it, what a waste of money. I need help.
For the record, I didn’t even include this attraction in my original itinerary. I went browsing on Instagram and chanced upon this. A museum-goer would love this place.
Directions: Zhongxiao Xinsheng MRT station
YEHLIU GEOPARK, JIUFEN & SHIFEN
Jiufen and Shifen is a must-visit for all first-time travellers to Taiwan and it can be difficult to navigate to the places because they are inaccessible by public transport directly. I booked my trip to Yehliu Geopark, Jiufen and Shifen via Klook here. I would recommend this tour as it really gives you the liberty to look around and take pictures at whatever spot you like.
We embarked on our journey from Xi Men station at 9am. Everyone gathered outside Gu Da Ken Bakery for the bus.
The catch for this tour is that, it really depends on the weather. The tour will definitely bring you to the Yehliu Geopark, Jiufen and Shifen, but for the Golden Waterfall and Ying Yang Sea, it depends on the weather. I was incredibly fortunate to have a surprisingly good weather, though unplanned, on the day I went for the tour. It was raining consecutively in Taipei and just for that day, it was an exception. Even the tour guide said we were lucky.
Started the bus tour with Yehliu Geopark, it was extremely sunny and bright. I wore an outfit by GRAYE, a Singapore label on my day trip and I did a post on it here. Do check it out!
I wore a turtle neck with it and regretted after the park. It was so warm, I had to take it off. At all of the destinations on the itinerary, it will be extremely crowded and packed with tourist, but it is really a good break if you ever feel tired of navigating around on Google Maps across the city. I do sometimes, since I travel often and navigating continuously can be mentally exhausting. I scheduled this tour on Day 3 (middle of the trip) so I could take a break from navigating and walking around Taipei.
At the GOLDEN RIVER
After Jiufen, the bus took around 40 minutes and brought us to our last destination, Shifen, to see the Shifen Waterfall (十分大瀑布), the broadest waterfall in Taiwan. I didn’t expect the waterfall to be this big though. I was awed. It looked really powerful, enough to break a neck. Okay I have not been travelling around to visit waterfalls so this is probably one of the widest waterfall I’ve seen. Maybe if I’m courting for death, I will head down for a swim. After the waterfall, we went to the Shifen Old Streets (十分老街), the place where everyone sends paper lanterns off to the sky. Not only can you buy lanterns to send them off, the stores also sell fireworks. So once in a while, there’s an alarming explosion bang to the skies that scared me for a bit. The Shifen Old Street is a real railway so there’s actually trains operating along there, so do watch out. We witnessed the train once, only once. It was an exciting experience because the shop owners would scream at us to tell us to get out of the railway.
My favourite attraction on the day-trip would be Jiufen, because there were just so many things to eat and see, and you won’t even get bored at any moment.
I went to research before I visited Taipei 101 because my friend told me that the Starbucks in Taipei 101 had a nice view of the cityscape. Well, indeed.
This Starbucks is no ordinary Starbucks. Extremely coveted and exclusive. It is located at the 35th floor of the Taipei 101 building and reservations are required, 2 days in advance. I love the bird’s eye-view wherever I go. Chasing rooftops is my thing.
I managed to secure a reservation with the help of my Aunt who lives in Taiwan, but I think if you don’t have a local to help you, Skype always works!
2 days prior to the visit, call +886 2 8101 0701.
The best time to call is around 5-6pm and if they are busy, they won’t pick up. Try your luck!
On the day itself, I went early to queue so that I could get myself a window seat. I think there is around 10 window seats. Note: There is a minimum spending required of NT$250 per pax. There is a sign at the office lobby of the Taipei 101 building, on the right side. Queue there and wait for the Starbucks staff to pick you up at 10:30AM!
Walked around the vicinity and I found out that Louis Vuitton was having their Time Capsule Exhibition in Taipei, and I went on the last day, how lucky am I?
BEI TOU (THERMAL VALLEY + HOT SPRINGS
Saw this building on the way to check out the hot springs and this wooden building turns out to be the Taipei Public Library (Beitou Branch). It is an actual library and there are a lot of students studying inside. Not a museum or anything. But I think I dressed right for the occasion. Do I look like a scholar standing outside the library? Perhaps I need just another backpack to finish the look.
I went to the hot spring museum but not the actual hot spring as I was pretty late when I made my way there. I arrived at Bei Tou around 4pm and during winter time, sunsets around 5pm… I read on TripAdvisor that there are very strict rules regarding the swimming trunks imposed on visitors. If they do not approve, you will have to buy theirs. Giving the hot spring a skip, we went further up where the thermal valley lies. The jade-coloured valley looks pretty but its toxic as hell. The ph ranges around 1.4-1.6 and the temperature ranges between 80 to 100 degrees celcius. Located at the foot of Yang Ming Shan, the smoky sulphuric gas fills the entire area.
The last stop of the day was the fisherman wharf. I was hoping that I could reach the Tamshui Fisherman Wharf before sunsets. I didn’t make it in the end anyway.
Tamsui Fisherman's Wharf (淡水漁人碼頭) + tamshui old street
Sun sets around 5:15pm that day. When it’s so EARLY?!? That was a pity, but guess what, surprisingly it had a pretty nice view at night too. Especially due the sheer traffic of people at the wharf. It was drizzling by the time I reached, and I-was freezing in my outfit that barely covered my arms. It was so windy since it was beside the sea, very different from the central areas. The bus alighted us near where the yacht were docked, and we had to walk across to the famous Lover’s Bridge which lights up at night (I didn’t know that at first, I didn’t came across my mind that I could be going there to look at just complete darkness).
I was shivering internally while taking this picture at the bridge. The bridge is really long, and on the way out, we walked to the other end to take the bus. I mean considering the options, either way we had to walk for quite a distance and since the bus goes in a loop… it doesn’t matter.
As you can see from the pictures, it is really quite empty at night! But I heard during summer, most people come for the sunset, so just a heads up, you might want to be prepared mentally.
We had a hotpot dinner at one of the stores along the bay as there was a live band singing Taiwanese songs and I was drawn to it. It was also because it the rain was getting heavy. (Oh yeah it wasn’t overpriced!) In fact, I really enjoyed the atmosphere there. Hotpot on a cool weather. #NowPlaying: A-Lin : 有一種悲傷 A Kind of Sorrow (It has to be the song for this trip) The movie was so hot during then. Everyone was talking about how sad it was. Oh and I caught the movie in Xi Men Ting! Didn’t tear too much.
Directions: From Tamsui MRT Station, Exit MRT, Turn Right, walk to the bus stop and take Bus 26 all the way to the last stop.
After the dinner, we took the same bus (only one bus available btw) to check out the Tam Shui Old Street. Discovered a lot of street food and goodies to be bought back, but I didn’t buy any because I don’t eat snacks.
When I met my aunt, she already told me about Mao Kong. She said everyone just goes to the top and have tea, which was indeed what I did. The queue for the cable car wasn’t very long, there was about 20 people ahead of me and it fits 5-6 a cabin. Even so, we waited about 20 minutes just to get on the cabin, BECAUSE WE CHOSE TO QUEUE for the CRYSTAL CABIN. Well, I mean no regrets since I can’t remember when was the last time I took one, or even took a cable car.
It was the longest cable car ride I took in my life. My friend told me the Hong Kong one is even longer. I guess now I have another thing to do on my next trip in Hong Kong. I shared a cabin with some Koreans and it took about 15 minutes to reach Mao Kong from Taipei Zoo Station. There were a total of 4 stations, so there were 2 stop in between.
We ate some ramen at the convenience store when we reached, since it was already half past noon, and the place looks pretty deserted. We didn’t even know where to go after that and I just followed a group of tourist and walk up the hills. We were walking on THE ROAD. Thank god I was right, eventually the road led us to a few teahouses along the road and we went in one of them to have tea.
Directions: Taipei Zoo MRT, walk towards the cable station, take the cable car to the last stop!
TAMED FOX CAFE
Another popular cafe spot is Tamed Fox Cafe. Their drink & donut (it’s a cake actually) combination has drawn all the instagrammers to the store and I am no exception. Right outside the store, where I call the ‘photo zone’ is the perfect place to take pictures. On the street main, the Taipei 101 building can be spotted as well! I would recommend the Sun Moon Lake tea, it tastes like royal milk tea, it’s very good!
On the last day of my trip, I walked here with my luggage since I stayed in a Airbnb and I couldn’t checkout late nor store my luggage and collect it later. I stayed in the Da An district, which I would say is pretty near the cafe. I only walked about 1 kilometre down the main road from our apartment, and the cafe was just couple of blocks down. Oh and I realised, there are numerous of nice cafes around the Da An district, I walked past a few while I travelled on foot on certain days.
Directions: Walk from Xinyi Anhe MRT Station
AIRPORT ALLEY 飛機巷
After this, you can’t disagree that I actually have a knack for finding undiscovered places, that even the locals don’t know. Yes, so please do consider me if you are looking for a private guide / planner. I would say my rates are pretty high.
Anyway, I found this place on Instagram, somehow. On my last evening in Taipei, I went to the Airport Alley at Songshan District to catch some planes. Real close. I mean, catching them was almost literal. This narrow and uncharted alley lies right beside Songshan Airport and everyone that was seen there was just there to witness the planes take off and land. The only portraiture you could get with the plane is when the plane is about to land at the Songshan Airport. Songshan Airport flies domestic flights within Taiwan.
At the alley, I got real up close and personal with the planes and I almost became deaf. The closest the plane was flying, was only about 4m-6m high. I’ve never got so close to a flying plane before, this is made my trip really memorable.
Apparently this place is forbidden, I tried to ask a taxi driver before I tried taking a Uber, he said that this place is closed. Hence. the best way is to take a Uber there. Just simply type ‘飛機巷’ into the location.
Directions: No.180, Binjiang St., Zhongshan Dist., Taipei 10491, Taiwan.
Thanks for reading, Mel.