Dec 13, 2009

Day 1 in Taiwan : Danshui, Sun Yat Sen, Taipei 101, Ximending, Shilin Night Market

After only sleeping lightly for 5 hours, actually I think I only slept for 2 hours, its always difficult getting some sleep on my first day on a foreign land, so it was difficult starting the day early at 8AM  to meet our targeted must see sights around Taipei for this day. As we walked to the Taipei Main Station, we were greeted with a throng of commuters rushing for work and school but it wasn't  at all chaotic, order and discipline is worthy of notice among the locals. I had to observe for a while to be able to get my grip, follow their lead then go with the flow. I need to always keep right when walking and riding the elevators especially when not in a hurry.

My tour guide is the map of Taipei MRT and we were concentrating on the Danshui Line/Red Line on our first day. Our first stop was  Danshui Station, the northernmost part on the Route Map of Metro Taipei. It has become the most popular riverside town in the north of Taiwan and more crowds gather here during weekends and national holidays. It was drizzling in Danshui when we got there, still we check the bay side park of the Danshui station for some photo ops and then head to Danshui Fisherman's Wharf by riding Shuttle Bus Red 26, another option in going there is by ferry. The drizzling stopped when we reached Fisherman's Wharf, it was cloudy but still a nice day. It's usually better to see it at sunset  from what I've seen from photos with the lover's bridge looking very romantic.

DANSHUI/TAMSHUI



After grabbing some bites, we head back to Taipei Main Station and walk to our hotel for check out and then transfer to the adjacent Keymans Hotel. Afterwards, we decided to change our route from Red Line to Blue Line or Bannan Line and check out Sun Yat Sen Memorial Hall before heading to Taipei 101.

SUN YAT SEN MEMORIAL HALL

This is a memorial to Republic of China's National Father, Dr. Sun Yat Sen. The hall was completed in 1972 and exhibits revolutionary events of the national father. It's also a multi purpose social, educational and cultural center for the Taiwanese people.


An individual should not have too much freedom. A nation should absolute freedom..... Sun Yat Sen



Within striking distance is Taipei 101, you can either walk going there or ride the MTR to Taipei City Hall Station then a free shuttle bus to Taipei 101, we choose the latter.



TAIPEI 101

Taipei 101 is the world's tallest building from 2004 to 2007, preceded by Malaysia's Petronas Twin Tower and now surpassed by Dubai's Burj Dubai. It's a landmark skyscraper, an icon of modern Taiwan that tourists shouldn't miss.



Indoor viewing deck is at 88th floor and outdoor viewing  is at 91st floor. Entrance to the observatory decks is at the 5th floor of Taipei 101 Mall. For a fee of  400NT, you'll get to access 88th to 91st floors,  ride the world's fastest elevator, that only took us 45 seconds to reach 88th floor and see entire Taipei in a 360 degrees view.

XIMENDING  
 

Ximending is the trendy shopping and entertainment district of Taipei, a popular gathering place for young people. It has been termed the "Harajuku" of Taipei.



We were supposed to eat at TAMAGOYA but much to our dismay they were already close by 9PM. With our stomach grumbling and our feet already sore, we're still raring to go for one more stop, Jiantan Station to check out Shilin Night Market before calling it a day.

SHILIN NIGHT MARKET

Shilin Night Market is considered to be the largest and most famous night market in Taipei especially when it comes to food. Normal operation starts at 4PM until past midnight. The night market is divided into two sections, first building houses food vendors and small eateries and the other one are for non food items. We were more interested to check out the food section and tried out famous Taiwan delicacies like oyster omelet, turnip cake, bubble teas, plum drink and mango strawberry with shaved ice and ice cream. We hesitated to try stinky tofu because were already full and its smell is sort of repelling our initial plan to try this popular Taiwanese favorite. Maybe next time ....



Whew, we finished our day successfully but my legs and feet were officially sore. I know it will be worst when I wake up, so I readied my pain relievers for tomorrow ^_^ .....


Dec 6, 2009

Our Taipei Accomodation

In our 3 nights and 2 days trip in Taipei (you read it right, its really 3nights and 2 days), we stayed in two budget hotels strategically located near the Taipei Main Station. These hotels are just wall away from each other.

Our first night was at Royal Hotel, it wasn't pre booked, we just walked in when we arrived from the airport at 2AM and fortunately got a decent room for two for the night. Our stay there was from 2AM to 2PM and paid NT1,250 (around 38 USD) . Fair enough ....

The place is no frills, pretty basic, clean and just 5 minutes away from the Bus Terminals and the Taipei Main Station. They have a TV, tea and hot water in the room and provides basic toiletries. I wouldn't ask for more for that price and wouldn't mind staying here again. The old guy at the reception is nice but only understands a little English.

On our second night, we transferred to Keymans Hotel, this one was pre booked from their website for NT1,720 with breakfast included.  It's adjacent to Royal Hotel. So upon check out at Royal Hotel, we immediately check in at Keymans. The check in process was fast  even though there are plenty of check ins during that time. We were given the room 601, just next to the elevator.


Our room at Keymans Hotel is a lot better and wider. The ambiance is cozier and more relax. The room has a wide screen TV, mini ref, bigger bathroom with toiletries, hair dryer and free mineral water, tea and coffee. However, there's no extra power outlet in the room. The one available was at the bathroom and it seems to not work with my battery charger but it does with my cousin. The front desk people can speak English, polite and very willing to help. There is available computer at the lobby with internet access and printer. They also allow free baggage deposit beyond your check out time. We check out at 12:30 noon, deposited our baggage until past 8pm.

Photo above is basically their breakfast menu. The free buffet breakfast is ample. I just had a hard time figuring out what ingredients to put in on the plain congee. The breakfast area can really get crowded, so there's a possibility you'll have to wait until a table is available.


This is the entrance to Keymans Hotel, next door is Royal Hotel and then Go City Inn, and then the convenience store Family Mart. This location is really perfect for Taipei first timers, aside from the 5 minute walk away from the Taipei main station, within the area are numerous eateries, fastfood joints like Mc Donalds, Starbucks, etc, and several Malls.

Dec 5, 2009

METRO TAIPEI


Curious how we were able to get around Taipei efficiently? METRO TAIPEI is by far the most efficient mass transit system I've been to. I think better than Hong Kong's MTR. It's very clean, tourist friendly, orderly, punctual and reliable, with digital screens showing real time arrival information and underground malls located on their main station. Its very effective in cutting our traveling time by more than half.

For tourist, its more convenient to buy their EASYCARD to get around the different stations faster and with ease, its also applicable as payment for Bus Rides. The Adult Easycard cost NT500, containing NT400 usable amount and NT100 cash deposit which can be refunded upon return. This is very similar to Hong Kong's OCTOPUS Card.


Instead of retuning our EASYCARD, we decided to keep it as remembrance even if mine still has 106NT usable balance plus the 100NT deposit. I'll most probably be back in a year and this will surely come in handy.

I've created a small clip to feature our Metro Taipei experience.



Dec 2, 2009

Getting Acquainted with TAIPEI via Google Map

My only idea of TAIWAN then was F4 and Meteor Garden, this Taiwanese series started the Asianovela craze here in the Philippines. So when a friend suggested a trip to Taiwan, I got really interested although it wasn't  included in my soon to visit travel destinations probably because of visa restrictions. Anyway when I was given the visa, I started checking out Wiki Travel for infos about Taiwan, then got hooked with Google Map Street View of Taipei. It was fascinating to actually see real streets of places I want to visit in Taipei.


When you enter a place in the search box, if a street view is available, you'll see a person icon on the navigation scroll, just drag that icon to that street with the red button and voila, you'll be transported to a street view. What would be amazing is to see that street view in real time with real movements, but that's already asking for too much, LOL.



The navigational button on the top leftmost portion can be directed to move 360 degrees ...
Google Map is just perfect for travelers, providing tools for not getting lost while helping us in reducing our carbon footprints. Thanks Google Map.

CEBU PACIFIC launches new travel options

This is really good news from my favorite budget airline CEBU PACIFIC. Quoting from their blog ....

Starting December 1, 2009, leading domestic airline Cebu Pacific (CEB) will offer new products for the additional convenience of its guests.
The name change option allows passengers to transfer their tickets to another passenger for a fee.

Meanwhile, the travel fund allows passengers to use the value of changed flights within 90 days from the date the fund is created, or to transfer the booking to another passenger. The fund eliminates the waiting time for refunds. Passengers can immediately use the stored amount for their next booking.
CEB will also begin using a new booking and cancellation policy starting December 1, 2009.

Under the new rules, passengers can change their ticket more than one day before

departure date. This includes modifying flight, route, date of travel and name, or canceling flights. Involuntary flight disruptions (such as cancellations or delays by CEB) of three hours or more allows passengers to refund or store booking in the Travel Fund for future travel without penalties within 30 days.
In cases of situations beyond the airline’s control (like weather), tickets are not refundable but passengers may rebook flights without penalties as long as travel is completed within 30 days. Passengers may also store booking in the Travel Fund, but with a penalty since these disruptions are beyond CEB’s control.
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Don't you just love Cebu Pacific? I DO, they're making my traveling dreams come true!!!



Dec 1, 2009

Arriving Taiwan on a Red Eye Flight

We arrived at Terminal 1 of Taoyuan International Airport via Cebu Pacific's red-eye-flight just 10 minutes ahead of time. We were hurrying as soon as the plane landed hoping to catch the last bus trip to Taipei or else we will be sleeping on the benches of Terminal 1 until the bus counters open their first morning trip.

Hiring a taxi to Taipei is quite expensive, imagine NT1200 against NT90 for a bus fare, that's a huge difference. I'm happy that CebuPac flights this days are departing and arriving on time if not ahead of time. In less than 30 minutes we were already at the bus counters buying for our tickets to Taipei Main Station. We were actually planning, in the event we missed the bus, we will transfer via sky train to Terminal 2, the newer and way better structure than Terminal 1 and rest there and wait for the first bus trip at 5AM but when we checked the sky train, it was undergoing maintenance, and so that was no longer an option. We boarded Bus 33 and after 40 minutes we reach Taipei Main Station, hoping that we can find accommodation for that night at Keymans Hotel where we had a reservation for the next day. At 2AM in the morning, we were walking and crossing the streets of Taipei, not bothered by any danger because the place feels pretty safe and well lighted. Thanks to Google Map, Taipei has a very accurate street view , even if it was my first time, the place feels familiar. Check out our video ....



We arrived at Keymans Hotel in no time, but it was fully booked for the night so we checked the adjacent Royal Hotel and thank God they have a vacancy and we can checked out at 2PM later, in time for our check in at Keymans. Got to get some sleep, our scheduled itinerary will start in 5 hours....



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