I literally fell in love with Taiwan.
Taiwan is formerly known as Formosa and is a neighboring country of the Philippines. Taiwan comprises Taipei and other major cities like Kaohsiung, Taichung, Tain’an, and Taoyuan. Although not a very big country, Taiwan is bestowed with high-tech architecture, dreamy destinations, mouth-watering cuisines, and rich cultures.
It was November when my sister was able to snag a cheap round-trip ticket to Taiwan, it was her late graduation gift for me (finally, a degree holder!). I was very eager, so I immediately planned and organized everything. This will be my first solo travel experience!
How to go there?
Taiwan has two international airports, Songshan and Taoyuan, Songshan Airport offers domestic, Japan and China flights. While most international flights are served in Taoyuan. The travel time from the Philippines is around 3 hours. Land transfers going downtown are accessible via bus, train and taxi. Travelling one hour and ten minutes from Taoyuan International Airport, you will arrive in Taipei City. The fare is 160NTD.
I arrived 10:00 PM at Taoyuan International Airport and headed straight to a loading station for my easy card. The easy card is like the Octopus card in Hong Kong and EZ-Link in Singapore. After that, I took a commuter train going to Taipei. Upon arrival, I opened my mobile map and train guide to find my hotel. When I arrived at the hotel, I couldn’t ask for more, the hotel my eldest sister booked was perfect for me, it is neat, and clean, has a convenient location, and is cheap. Afterward, I found the nearest McDonalds, had dinner, and went to sleep.
Where to go?
The best way to start every Taiwan trip is going around Taipei City:
National Palace Museum
This museum is a very grand building with plenty of things to see and learn. I went here on a weekday and it was very crowded mostly with tour groups, evidently, it is the most visited museum in Taipei.
Getting there: Ride the MRT Red Line and drop off at Shilin Station. Exit towards the highway and ride Bus R30 to the National Palace Museum.
Chiang Kai-Shek Memorial Hall
This museum memorial is awe-inspiring in how big it is, it is surrounded by nicely landscaped flowers and bushes. The changing of the guard ceremony is quite popular here and is conducted every 1 hour.
Getting there: Take the MRT green or red line and alight at Chiang Kai-shek Memorial.
National Theater and National Concert Hall is part of the Freedom Square and is just next door to CKS Memorial Hall. Both buildings are impressive in their scale and beauty. People go here for concerts, piano recitals, operas, and other theatrical events.
National Taiwan University
Locate the area where Dào Míng Sì and Dong Shān Cài scenes took place and get Meteor Garden feels in National Taiwan University.
I have spent a couple of minutes here exploring this interesting university, I have read that this is Taiwan’s top university and it is usually ranked in the top 5 in all of Asia.
Getting there: Take the Green line to Gongguan station.
Towering 509.2 meters, Taipei 101 was once the tallest building in the world way back in 2004. It is a nice place to roam around and take photos, I should say, it really looks magnificent day and night.
Getting there: Take the Blue Line to Taipei City Hall Station or the Red Line (Xiangshan train) to Taipei 101 station.
Shilin Market is the most popular night market in Taiwan, I can also say that this is my favorite night market. You can find here an awesome variety of local cuisines, traditional merchandise, and a whole lot more. I tried a big chop of chicken, fried milk, and fruit juice.
Getting there: You need to take the MRT (Red Line) to Jiantan Station.
Next to my itinerary is North Taiwan:
Yehliu Geopark is located north coast of Taiwan and the home to oddly shaped geological rock formations like the Queen’s head, Dragon’s head, Mushroom rocks, the landscape of honeycomb, and more.
Getting there: Take a Kuokuang Bus 1815 going to Yehliu. This bus is located in Taipei West Bus Station Terminal A, near the Taipei Main Station.
It was a windy and rainy day when I visited this place, but still, the area was fully packed with tourists. Avoid visiting on a weekend as it’s full of people. Expect to spend about 2 hours here.
Jinguashi – Gold Eco-Park and Golden Waterfalls
I was literally soaking wet when I visited Jinguashi’s Gold-Eco Park and Golden Waterfalls. You can see here the gold mining culture and lifestyle of the people of Jinguashi and the biggest gold brick in the world. Also, a quick stop to see the picturesque cascades of Golden Waterfall is worth it.
Getting there: From Yehliu, wait for a bus 862 or 790 going to Keelung.
After that, I went back to my hotel because I was literally shivering and needed to change clothes.
Ximending Youth Shopping District
After resting and doing my laundry (even my shoes were wet), I decided to go to Ximenting District for dinner. I tried Chinese pizza, milk tea, and cheese potatoes. Ximenting District is a busy area place with lots of street performances and is convenient with MRT.
Getting there: Take MRT Blue Line or Green Line to Ximen.
Sun Yat Sen Memorial House
A visit here is good to get a sense of the history of Taiwan. You should come and see the story of this great man, Dr. Sun Yat Sen, also known as Taiwan’s “Father of the Nation”.
Getting there: Ride the MRT Blue Line and get off at S.Y.S Memorial Hall.
I passed by Taipei City Hall when I decided to go back to Taipei 101, it is between Taipei 101 and Sun Yat-Sen Memorial Hall.
I asked a local what should I not miss when visiting Taiwan and he answered me Tamsui – his hometown, I’m really grateful to him because when I got there, Tamsui automatically became my favorite place in the world, it literally took my breath away. It is a district in New Taipei City.
Tamsui Fisherman’s Wharf and Lover’s Bridge
Getting there: Ride MRT Red Line 2 and alight at Tamsui Station. Transfer to bus 26, 837, or 836 to Tamsui Fisherman’s Wharf.
I suggest that you should visit Tamsui around 4:00 PM and catch the sunset. I went there at 3:30 PM and witnessed the sunset and how the peaceful windy night emerged.
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Tamsui Night Market
Before going back to the hotel, I didn’t miss the chance to visit Tamsui Night Market. I have tried pork buns, red bean cake, and Oamisoir (Oyster Vermicelli). I don’t really eat oysters and honestly didn’t know I ordered oyster vermicelli for dinner but when I tried it, it’s so good!
Zipping two and a half hours south of Taipei, I reached Taichung, Taiwan’s third biggest city. I rode a bus Kuo Kuang Motor Transportation in the Taipei Bus Station, which is near the MRT Main Station.
I left Taipei 8:15 AM and arrived in Taichung at 10:30AM. My first destination is the Rainbow Village.
Getting there: There’s a bus stop in front of Taichung Train Station and you need to wait for Bus 27. Ride the bus and alight at Ling Tung University. Upon arrival, you need to walk 10 minutes to Rainbow Village.
I arrived in Rainbow Village at around 12:30 PM. Rainbow Village is worth popping in for at least a quick visit. On my visit, I took a few photos and headed straight to the provincial train station to get to Zhong She Flower Market.
Outside Rainbow Village, you can wait for Bus 617, Bus 75, or Bus 655 going to Xinwuri station (this is a free bus ride), thanks to the kind taxi driver who told me this information, I asked him to take me to Xinwuri station because this is what I have read from the blogs, but he informed me about the free bus ride.
Zhong She Flower Market/Houli Farm:
Getting there: Ride the local train from Xinwuri Station and alight at Taían Station or Houli Station. For me, I dropped off to Houli Station and hailed a taxi at the Houli farm costing me 165NTD.
Houli Farm is a big flower market featuring landscaped garden beds with colorful blooms. Also, it is a great place for your Instagram photos.
Going back to Tai’an Station, I have met few Pinoys who I shared taxi with. It only costed me 38NTD. From Taichung going back to Taipei, I rode a bus with 290NTD fare.
Dalongdong Ba-On Temple and Taipei Confucius Temple
These two temples are wonderfully peaceful places to visit. The architecture is very nice too.
Getting there: Take MRT Red Line 2 and alight at Yuanshan Station. Go to Exit 2 and walk towards Kulun Street. Turn right at the Dalong Street intersection and head straight until you see the Taipei Confucius Temple. Turn left on Hami street for Dalong Baoan Temple.
Yangmingshan National Park
I spent a couple of hours having short hikes in Yangmingshan National Park, this is a place for you to commune with nature. There are several bus lines which are going from Taipei up to the park, but I got lost here, I spent nearly half an hour looking for the Yangming Park and Flower Clock.
Getting there: Ride MRT and alight at Jiantan Station Exit 1. Head towards the left to the bus station. Look for north-bound buses like R5 or S15 or S17 to Yangmigshan Station.
Jiufen Old Street
This place is insanely crowded even during rainy days. It is mostly maze of alleys and houses giving you the great views of the ocean and the city, it is situated high up in the mountains so weather is mostly cool.
Getting there: From Brown Line BR and Blue Line BL interchange, leave from Exit 2 and from outside Sogo department store take bus route 1062 (Keelung Bus) to Jinguashi then alight at Jiufen. Bus 788 is also available from Keelung.
Jiufen A Mei Tea House is a tea house that inspired “Spirited Away”.
Shifen Old Street, Shifen Bridge and Sky Lantern Experience
This area is touristy and commercialized, the lantern festival brings this small town alive. It’s a nice idea to write wishes on a lantern and send it up to the sky, but I couldn’t help but feel a little guilty for polluting our environment.
Getting there: Local train from Shifen to Rufiang: 19NTD; Rufiang to Taipei – 49NTD
The ice cream spring roll in Shifen are to die for. You need to try it!
Raohe Night Market
One of the oldest night markets in Taipei, this night market has the usual mix of food stalls, shops, and other services. I got some deep fried mushroom, dimsum, beef teppanyaki and milk tea!
Getting there: Take the Green Line 3 to the terminal station Songshan, exit 5.
Upon arrival at Raohe Night Market, you will see Songshan Ciyou Temple.
Rainbow Bridge I had a hard time looking for the rainbow bridge, when I asked how to go there, a local vendor took his phone from his pocket and open a translator app, and let me talk; he listened to what I said and after that he gave me directions on how to get there. Most of the time, when travelling to a different country, language barrier is a problem, but here in Taiwan, locals are helpful and genuinely friendly.
Maokong Gondola is a 4-km scenic cable car ride. One-way fare is NT$120 for adults and NT$50 for children. I have used my easy card to pay my gondola ride. My experience to this ride was awesome! The scenery is perfect too, overlooking almost the entire city!
I went up this village for sightseeing and tea even if it’s drizzling. This place is a good spot to take a stroll and take in the sights over the city and the surrounding tea plantations.
After my gondola experience, I visited the largest zoo in Asia. Entrance fee is really cheap (60 NTD) and I again used my easy card to enter at this zoo. Since I came on a drizzly day, there was not much animals visible but I actually spent over 3 hours walking around, it’s really vast.
Next to Tamsui, Elephant Mountain is another dreamy destination. If you wish to have the perfect place for getting the great views over Taipei, this is the best place for you. I hiked for about 20 minutes one-way to reach the peak, I recommend that you should go late afternoon.
Getting there: Drop off at Xiangshan Station and take Exit 2.
When I was at the train going to Elephant Mountain, I have read an article about the places to visit in Taiwan during the night for spectacular night lights, I have chosen ChristmasLand in New Taipei City (Banqiao District), which is the nearest destination from where I am. This is actually a good opportunity for me to experience Taiwan’s Christmas.
Tonghua Night Market
This is a night market to visit if you want something more local and less crowded. It is open from 6:00 PM to 1:00 AM. This was my last night in Taiwan, so I ate and bought a lot of food.
Getting there: Red Line to Xinyi Anhe Station
My last day in Taiwan was intended for buying souvenirs for my mom but I had a 3:00 PM flight going back home and decided to visit the nearby tourist spots at my hotel.
Camera Street, Red House Theater, K Underground Mall, 228 Peace Park and Taiwan National Museum
1. Highly recommended hotels: Hotel Fun (Linsen Road) and Next Taipei Hotel (Main Station), I’m gonna rate it as 10/10 (both hotels). They both have free buffet breakfast and laundry.
2. Try as many night markets as you can, for me, I go to different night markets to have dinner. Some of the things to try are oyster vermicelli, fried pork buns, milk teas, stinky tofu, ice cream spring rolls, and fried mushrooms.
3. Taiwan’s transport system is very convenient. Buy an easy card for fares in MRTs, buses and even entrance fees in some destinations.
4. There are money changers for PHP-NTD – BANKS (I tried in Mega Bank, located at the back of SKM Dept Store), you just need to show your Passport on your transactions.
5. My favorite destinations are Tamsui Fisherman’s Wharf, Lover’s Bridge, and Elephant Mountain. They’re dreamy, and captivating! Don’t miss visiting these places.
6. When I went there the weather was unpredictable, I tried sunny (too hot) and rainy days (too cold).
7. There’s really a language barrier, but people there are very willing to help.
8. TRY including HUALIEN, SUN MOON LAKE, AND KAOHSIUNG if you have more time and money. During my local train ride experience, I talked to an American (she’s a local living in Taiwan for 14 years), she recommended Hualien. Read some blogs about it 😄
9. Exploring the country is very easy. You need patience and prepare your stamina as you will be walking long distances.
10. TAIWAN VISA-FREE ACCESS for Filipinos is extended until July 2020.
Elephant Mountain Hyperlapse Video:
Realizations on solo traveling: Travelling by yourself can change you, it gives you ultimate freedom. You can go wherever you want, do what you want, and try something when you want because you’re on your own schedule. You will learn to love your own company and be able to focus on the destination and all it offers without distractions. Overall, solo traveling is very fulfilling.
And that’s it, I fell in love with Taiwan! We all know that Taiwan is definitely a perfect travel destination, but what truly wins my heart is that on this tiny island, people are helpful and genuine.