Most impulsive, rushed and sleep-deprived trip of my life so far! Booked my flight on a Wednesday, was off to the airport Thursday afternoon, landed in Taiwan past 1AM on Friday and flew back to Manila past 1AM Sunday. So technically I was in Taipei for less than 48 hours if you count the hours spent at Taoyuan Airport. Another full day would have been ideal but I had a work commitment.
Anyway, I was still pretty satisfied with my itinerary. It helped a lot that the metro was so efficient (like Japan’s!!!). I highly recommend getting the 48hr train pass (unlimited use of the metro) for NT$280 OR the 2-day pass for unlimited metro + city buses (not all buses) for NT$310. I got the latter. (Note that the 2 day pass is not equal to 48 hours. It expires at the end of the second day). Say you started using it 12 noon on the first day, it would still expire 12 midnight of the second day whereas a 48-hour pass would still be valid til 12 noon of the third day. The 48-hour pass is better, I guess.
Since I arrived in the wee hours, I just tried sleeping in the airport but only got around an hour of sleep. At 6AM, I rode the bus to the city (Kuo Kuang bus, NT$125, takes less than an hour), stored my bag at the hostel (check-in was still at 3PM), and started exploring the city.
First on the agenda: Confucius Temple and Dalongdong Baoan Temple (via Line 2: Tamsui-Xinyi Line, nearest stop: YUANSHAN). The colours and details of these temples were amazing! I was probably the only tourist in the area. Confucius Temple was almost deserted while everyone else in Baoan temple were there to worship. It was a peaceful morning too so I sat down and tried to catch some sleep but nope, didn’t happen.
Next stop: Chiang Kai Shek Memorial Hall (via Line 2 as well, has its own station). It was packed with tourists! I only stopped for about 15 minutes then rode the metro to Taipei 101 (station: same name, Line 2), which used to be the highest building in the world if I’m not mistaken.
The mall area had heaps of high end shops and people waiting to go to the observation deck. I didn’t go up anymore because I was on a tight budget. I just had lunch at the food court and tried to sleep again at one of the benches inside the mall (LOL I was drained and needed to wait for 3PM for check-in ugh). I couldn’t sleep in a crowded mall, so I just walked about a kilometer to ESLITE’s flagship store. Eslite is a bookstore chain in Taiwan, known for its 24-hour store in Dunhua (also in Taipei), but I went to the one in the Xinyi shopping area. The store had 6 floors! Majority of the books I saw were Chinese translations of English titles but they also sold non-book items.
After a quick tour of Eslite, I took Line 5 (Bannan Line) to the Taipei Main Station. The hostel where I stayed was about 5 minutes away if you know where to go. It was conveniently located but it could be confusing to reach because the station was huge! The station was also a mall and had several exits and passageways. I managed to find my way most of the time but on the night before my flight, it took me forever to get out of there! Quick review of Flip Flop Hostel: Value for money! Clean rooms and bathrooms. Lockable cabinet beside the beds. Location was good enough. Staff service could be improved.
After checking-in, I was finally able to take a short nap before spending the evening at Shilin Night Market, probably the most famous of Taipei’s many night markets (it’s accessible via Line 2, Jiantan station). I thought it was just gonna be a long stretch of stalls. I was wrong. It was massive! It was actually several streets/alleys and was extremely busy on a Friday night.
I had squid ink sweet dumpling (NT$50) for dinner (the sesame/peanut sauce inside was so good!) and almond tea (NT$30).
Despite sleep-deprivation, it was a productive and fascinating first day. I was thoroughly impressed and jealous of their train system. Rush hours were bearable. I also noticed that everyone, especially the young, were dressed nicely and made up; I on the other hand looked shabby lol. Again, reminiscent of Japan. I enjoyed the city’s vibe, lights, the transportation, culture, the mix of old and new. I already knew by Day 1 that Taipei is a city I will keep coming back to.
I wrote about Day 2 here.