TAIPEI 101: Taipei tips and whatnots

By this time yesterday (11:00 p.m.), our feet would already be hurting from all the walking but we would still be scouring the hundreds of stalls inside our chosen night market for the day.

This is how I usually am after I come home from a trip:  HUNG OVER.

I just got back from Taiwan and unlike my trip to Seoul, I was able to read up on Taipei weeks before our departure.  But despite that, we still hit a lot of funny snags during the four days we were there! Good thing my friend Djong and I were both good sports and just ended up laughing the whole time.

Anyway, here are a couple of tips I got throughout the trip which, hopefully, will be helpful to random "googlers" who are thinking of going to the Formosa (Translation:  Beautiful island).

The weather
During late February, the temperature in Taipei usually ranges from 15 to 18 degrees Celsius.  I asked several people who've been there and was told that it's just your usual office air-conditioning temperature.  I also read somewhere that Taipei weather is volatile--it could be cold one minute then hot the next.  So I unpacked all my thick coats and replaced them with knits, long-sleeves, and thin jackets.

BAD IDEA.

When we got there, it was FREEZING!  It didn't help that the cold was accompanied by strong winds and rain.
Rainy Taipei.

Good thing, though, we both had handy umbrellas with us.  Otherwise, we'd be soaking wet the whole time!


Fashion
More than for fashion, the Taiwanese people dress for function. Rain boots, uggs, bubble jackets, and raincoats are the usual get-up.

Function over fashion.
Big umbrellas are a basic accessory.  Even the men carry them! (Something which is uncommon here in Manila.  Some would rather run in the rain than tote big umbrellas around.)



And since typhoons frequent Taiwan, they have made convenient provisions to make adapting to the weather easier.  Like this steel  box containing plastic bags for umbrellas so people don't have to leave them outside or carry them dripping inside the establishments.


The city
Taipei has a very industrial and toned down vibe, again encapsulating the idea of function over beauty.  Most of the buildings are very simple with minimal design.


But every now and then, you'd see attempts at cute designs just like these stalls where you and your friends can have your photos taken.


Or this mural inside the train station.


Or this famous "love" sign beside the Taipei 101 :)

Taipei 101.
Xinyi District, Taipei, Taiwan

The people
The Taiwanese are some of the friendliest people I've met!  You ask for directions, they won't just point you the right way but will bring you there themselves.

They're also patient in giving instructions to extremely lost and confused tourists. *EHEM* Hahaha.  One of them is our tour guide, Peter Pang (Yes, that's his name!).  Djong got him through the "Have Fun Travel" agency via the internet.  And while he was just supposed to tour us at the north and northeast coast areas of Taiwan, he also took some time to show us the locations we wanted to go to in the city.

Our very helpful tour guide.
PETER PANG
English Tour Guide
Mobile:  +939 950 308
Email:  peterpang@seed.net.tw
Transportation
Being a commuter in Taipei is easy because of their efficient train and bus system.  But what's more impressive is the discipline of the commuters.

At the MRT stations, people actually follow the lines--no pushing and shoving involved when boarding the train.


People always give way to the elderly, pregnant women, and women with children.  In fact, even when the carriage's already full, they still leave the designated blue seats vacant for them.





The shopping
There is a huge concentration of night markets in Taipei.  And for weeks, we've been raving about the amount of shopping we intended to do in the city since we've been reading so much hype online.  True enough, we'd end every day exploring the night markets of Taipei.  But while the thousands of stalls left and right are enough to make you go gaga, I wasn't that impressed with the merchandises sold.  Maybe because they are too similar to the items being sold in thrift markets here in Manila (except for all the winter clothes and gazillion pairs of boots).  The differences in prices aren't that big too.

But since we were already there, we decided to still do some shopping anyway.  (Excuses, excuses.  Haha.)

The Shilin Market.  The mother of all night markets!

Located at the Shilin District of Taipei
How to get there:  Take the MRT to the Jiantan station.
Get of Exit 1 and just walk towards all of the bright lights and you'll just know you're there ;)

Gongguan Market.  If you're looking for rubber shoes or sneakers
at discounted prices, this is the place to go to!

Located between Zhongzheng District and Da'an District of Taipei
How to get there:  Take the MRT to the Gongguan station.
When you exit, you will immediately see an alley-ful of stalls and street food.


Ximending.  Our favorite area in Taipei!
Appropriately enough, this is know as the "mecca for youth culture".
Both in the afternoon and at night, the vibe in Ximending is very much alive.
It's a famous area for BOTH shopping and entertainment.
Sometimes, you might even chance upon a street performance :)
Located at the Ximending district of Taipei.
How to get there:  Take the MRT to the Ximen Station and exit at Exit 6.  



Jioufen Old Street.  If you want to buy local trinkets and souvenirs, this is where you should go.

Located at the north coast of Taiwan.
Best way to get there (Based on our experience): Via a scheduled tour.


The Camera Street.  The area that will make all photography buffs drool.

Located at the BoAi Road, Kaohsiung, Taiwan
How to get there:  Take the MRT to the Taipei Main Station.
BoAi Road is around two blocks away.
Stores open at 9:00am and close at 10:00pm
Overall, I'd rate shopping in Taipei with a 7.

What did impress me a lot during the trip was the FOOD!!!  But I'm saving that for another entry :)

Meanwhile, here are some other useful tips for future travelers to Taiwan:

There are no money changing centers in Taipei.  All currency exchanges are done in banks.  Much to my luck, we arrived on a Saturday and found out that it was actually a long weekend  and all the banks were closed until Wednesday.  Good thing our hotel sold dollars albeit a bit pricier (Normal exchange rate is USD 1 = NTD 29.49.  I had mine exchanged at USD 1 = NTD 28) 
EasyCards are very useful.  You can use it for riding the train and the bus.  You can also use it to purchase goods at convenient stores. NTD 500 inside your card would be enough to take you around for four days.
The Taoyuan Airport shops close at around 9:00pm.  So if your flight going home is close to midnight, make sure you've already spent all your Taiwan dollars before heading to the airport.  I still had around NTD 600 with me during our last day and I thought I'd be able to spend it on stuff at the airport.  Good thing Cebu Pacific offered souvenir items on the plane :p

I always know I had a good trip if after I get home, I feel that I'll be going back to the place where I had my vacation.  I don't think I'll be seeing Taipei again anytime soon.  But if I do go back in the future, I'll definitely be more prepared ;)

4 comments:

  1. Dear two pretty ladies : I am Peter Pang, your tour guide. What a surprise, right? Today I try to google something and found my name and pic in your blog. This is alos a surprise to me! How are you two recently? Hope you have wonderful and colorful days, by veiwing the world through your nice camera

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Oh hi Peter! What a lovely surprise from you! We're very fine. Djong has a baby boy already! How about you? Are you still working as a tour guide? How's Taipei? I miss the food! :)

      Delete
  2. Say hello to Djong and nice to hear she got a baby boy. I am fine here. Today is chinese new year eve and I am having family gathering. You can Line me by ID petersea.

    ReplyDelete
  3. Woooow, exactly the summary I was looking for! hanks a MILLION! love and hugs from very wet+cold tulipland...

    ReplyDelete

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