48 hours in Taipei (Day 2)

On my second (and sadly, last) day in Taipei, I just had to visit IKEA even if it wasn’t on my original itinerary because I haven’t been to any IKEA store haha. Apparently, there’s an IKEA restaurant/cafe (thank you random blog!). That’s where I had brunch (Swedish meatballs are ok).

The sky was beginning to look so overcast around lunch time. Still, I headed to the Xiangshan hiking trail (via Xianshan stop, Line 2) also known as Elephant Hill. It offers a good view of the city and the majestic Taipei 101.

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After several selfies atop the hill (one of the downsides of traveling alone is you barely get good pictures of yourself amidst the sights huhu), I traveled to the Taipei Zoo (via Line 1). The train ride was longer than usual as it was located outside the city. My main agenda was to see the Koala and Panda but almost all the other animals were fascinating too!

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At sundown, I made my way to Longshan Temple (Line 5). It was super busy and looked amazing at night. My photos don’t do it justice.

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a mix of old and new

Last on my list was the bustling Ximending area, a favorite among Taiwanese youth and tourists. The highlight for me was the Creative Boutique, which showcases super cool, unique finds. My time at Ximending was brief as I had to rush back to the hostel to pick up my stuff and head to the airport.

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That ends my 48 hours in Taipei!!! AirAsia flights are a bit cheaper than CEB (at the moment they’re selling at just over P3000!) and I definitely plan on going back. For my future trip to Taiwan,  I shall visit the National Palace Museum,  Jiufen Mining Town and the scenic Taroko Gorge (the last two are outside Taipei). I CANNOT WAIT!

48 hours in Taipei (DAY 1)

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.

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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.

DAY 1

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.

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Dalongdong Baoan Temple
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Confucius Temple

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.

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Eslite’s Flagship Store in Xinyi

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).

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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.

The Stormchaser’s Guide to Calaguas

Phase 1:

Plan to go to Calaguas Island with your travel-enthusiast buddies. They don’t have to be your closest friends. Make plans via Facebook.

Learn that there’s an upcoming storm.

Mention it on the Facebook thread hoping one of your companions will suggest postponing the trip.

When no one replies, push through.

Phase 2:

Ask your mother to drive you to the Superlines bus terminal in Cubao (Southbound).

Listen to Mom’s sermon “Bakit kayo tutuloy, eh may bagyo? Wala kang katanggi-tanggi sa mga lakad!”

Get on the bus that leaves for Paracale, Camarines Norte at 7:45PM.

Try to feel comfortable and warm inside the freezing bus. Attempt to sleep.

After a little over 8 hours on the road, arrive in the small, provincial, seaside town of Paracale at 4AM.

Be greeted by horrible weather (Surprise! Not.) It’s raining, it’s windy and there’s no electricity.

Ride one of the tricycles waiting at the bus stop and ask Manong Driver to drop you and your stormchasing friends at any open establishment (read: karinderya/tindahan).

Drive around in the dark. See no open establishments.

Feel your heart break at the fact that no boats are allowed to go to Calaguas.

Feel the storm getting stronger. Feel hopeless and helpless and stupid.

Wait for manong driver to offer his house while you contemplate your life decisions “Fuck! Bakit ba kasi kami tumuloy?!”

Feel a surge of gratitude and relief when manong driver invites you and your friends to his home. You have shelter now.

Thank this man nonstop.

Phase 3:

Slowly feel at home at Kuya Jun’s, your savior, the kindest, most hospitable man ever. Get to know his story, his family.

Get served breakfast, lunch, dinner.

Feel super emotional because these strangers gave you roof over your head and fed you warm, delicious meals while there’s a Storm Signal #2 outside.

Play with Jam-Jam, the Frozen-obsessed, very thoughtful and bibo grandchild of Kuya Jun.

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Play cards.

Wait out the storm.

Pray hard for the weather to get better, or less horrible. Believe in miracles. “Sana mamayang hapon wala nang bagyo”.

When the storm temporarily subsides, go outside, walk around.

Visit the church, people-watch, inspect the surrounding areas.

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Witness for a brief period how gold is made/melted. Paracale is known as a gold town afterall. Life goes on in the little seaside town.

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Get your hopes up.

Go to Pulang-Daga beach. The waves and winds are still furious. Your mom is probably as angry. Think about your mother a lot. And your life decisions. Feel terrible.

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When it starts raining cats and dogs again, go back home (aka Mang Jun’s place).

Get your hopes down. Become realistic. No more Calaguas. Not today at least.

Make a pact among your friends. “Bawal mag-isip. Bawal malungkot.”

Spend the night at Kuya Jun’s house.

Join Jech-Jech and his barkada’s inuman/tawanan/kwentuhan session. Jech is Kuya Jun’s grownup son and the dad of Jam-Jam. Feel reluctant at first. Get comfortable eventually. Laugh a lot. Observe a lot. This is such an unexpected but heartwarming experience.

Witness a sky full of stars. Probably one of the starriest night skies you’ve ever seen.

Feel hopeful again. The weather tomorrow is gonna be beautiful. The starry night sky is proof.

Sleep! Yes, they let you stay and sleep in one of their bedrooms. Fight the urge to cry!

Phase 4:

Wake up early. Take a peek outside. See the clear, blue sky. Feel excited!

Go back to the nearby beach. Not Calaguas but that can wait… Or can it?

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Touch the earth. Finally!

Decide with your friends that you can put off going home another day. Calaguas is 2 hours away. Work can wait. Hesitate for a minute but who are you kidding. You don’t care much about work. Not when the weather is this pleasant and island life is more attractive than ever.

Take a boat to Calaguas Island.

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-To be continued-


You may reach Mang Jun Salen (also known by locals of Paracale as “Bigwak” – not sure if I spelled that right) at +63 916 2899904