Another solo travel! After my last trip to Bali, I must say na mas magaling na ko dito! Hahahaha! I totally embraced my being a solo traveller. Before the trip, syempre must take care of Visa stuff and bookings. I only needed a few things anyway and here are a few things to note:
I had an old Visa from my Japan trip back in February so I was able to apply for a travel certificate for free. Since my trip was from Oct 6-10, hindi pa sya Visa-free. If you will apply for an e-Visa, you have to pay PHP2,600 I think. After filling out the form on their website, I had it printed out, brought my old passport (where the Japan visa is and I just got my passport renewed) and showed it at the check-in counter and IO.
2) Hostel booking
Since it’s just me, it’s pointless (and kinda lonely – trust me, I tried it in Ubud) to book a single room and it’s kind of expensive actually. So I opted for a bed at a hostel instead. I booked a bed at Taipei Oxygen Hostel for NTD1680 or PHP2860. They actually charged an authorization hold a few weeks before my trip so when I checked in, I paid using my debit card to avoid getting charged double. (Or having to go through the process getting that auth hold voided.) The location is pretty good. It’s close to both Ximen Station (450m) and Taipei Main Station (650m) and super near 228 Peace Park (120m). I like the beds cause it’s capsule style and there’s a curtain for privacy. I really have no complaint with the facilities. Security is also pretty awesome because you have to scan your keycard first before you can press a number on the elevator. There’s an area fot toilet and bath on each floor. The rooftop / 5th floor is the common area where you can chill. It also serves as the dining area and kitchen. They also have coin washing machines and dryers. My only complaint maybe is that they don’t allow early check-in. They are super strict when it comes to check-in and check-out time. But that’s fine, at least I was able to leave my luggage before check-in and after I checked out.
3) SIM card
I just knew I needed one because I have to Google Map everything! I booked a SIM card through Klook and since it was my first time to use Klook, I had a promo code and I think I had 15% discount. I ended up paying only PHP429, which is not so bad for a SIM card I was able to use the entire time I was there. I think the WiFi thing would have definitely been cheaper but I was alone and didn’t want the hassle of having to return the pocket WiFi. It was super reliable. My network was Unite Traveller, and their booth is located on the L1. One reason I had to wait until morning at the airport was to get the SIM card from their booth. It opens at 5:30 am. The process was real fast, I just gave them 2 copies of my ID (including passport) and fill out a form.
I booked my trip through Cebu Pacific during one of their GetGo sales back in March. My fare was only PHP1860. That is definitely a steal! Since they just lifted the Visa requirement for Filipinos just recently, different airlines have a sale for tickets to Taiwan. Just keep an eye out!
5) Currency exchange
I was lucky that one of my friends, Celine recently visited Taiwan as well and had some extra NTDs. That NTD2000 saved me during my first 3 days in Taiwan. I didn’t do any currency exchange at the airport because the exchange rate was not so good. I decided that I will just do it when I get to the city center. However, I didn’t know that my 4-day trip in Taiwan was a holiday as well. Oct 10 is Taiwan’s birthday. By Day 4, I didn’t have any money left and had to do something. In Taiwan, you can only do currency exchange in banks or at their airport. But since it’s a holiday, no banks. The girl at the front desk of my hostel informed me that if I have USD, Euros or JPY, I can do money exchange at this one department store.
I decided to take a chance tried to withdraw at the nearest ATM to my hostel. To my surprise, it worked! I withdrew money from Taiwan Business Bank using my Security Bank debit card. It doesn’t work on all ATMs though because we tried it the previous day in one ATM near Dadaocheng Wharf but it gave me an error message – card not supported. What’s amazing is that the rates are definitely better than at the airport (the rate was really close to the rate using the currency exchange app I use, like just 10 pesos difference) and there was no fee. I was expecting at least USD3.50 fee just like BPI. I did research if Security Bank has fees, too but found nothing. I did check my online account immediately and the withdrawal reflected immediate but there was no fee. I did it again later that evening at Hua Nan Bank and it worked as well, no fees deducted. I was very happy with how dependable Security Bank was during this trip.
My friend also lent me her EasyCard so I didn’t have a new one. (This is the advantage of having friends who also like to travel! We basically borrow each other’s MTR cards for use in Singapore, Malaysia and Korea.) There are reloading machines everywhere – at the airport and at Taipei Metro stations. You can also have it reloaded at the information desk, should you not see any reloading machines around. I didn’t try doing it through convenience stores. It can be used on both trains and buses. I only used this my entire travel, even for the day trip to Shifen, Pingxi, Houtong and Jiufen.
On with the trip…
My flight was at 10pm on a Friday. On a very traffic Friday! Since I needed to be there at least 2 hours before the flight, I requested for an Uber at around 6:30pm. The fares were quite high and there were issues with credits. Huhu. I even considered using Angkas but I had a backpack with me. Anyway, I still ended up taking an Uber but it was super traffic. I arrived at NAIA T3 at exactly 8pm.
Good thing, checking in and immigration was a breeze. It really pays to do mobile check-in. The other line was super long! Seriously, why do people not utilize mobile / web check-in?! Anyway, ang funny pa nung immigration process cause I didn’t realize that I lined up in the OFW lane. Hahaha. The IO was nice and even asked why I’m going to Taiwan alone. LOL.
The immigration in Taoyuan International Airport was a different story. The line was super long. I think it’s most likely because it’s a Saturday. Jai and Lester came on a Monday and they said that the line was tolerable. I think it took me more than an hour to get through immigration. It was worse than that time in Bali. It’s a good thing their airport looks really nice. I love the ceiling of the immigration area. LOL.
It was around 2am when I was done with everything. I’m ready to eat. I went down to the basement cause there are 24-hr convenience stores, one on each side. I decided to eat at the basement area cause I think there are fewer people and I really want to be in a quiet place so that I can sleep.
After getting my SIM card and buying a one-way bus ticket to Taipei Main Station (Bus 1819), I was on my way to the city by 6:15am. What I love the most about Taiwan is that there is no traffic! I think 30 minutes later, we were already in Datong District. I love it! From Taipei Main Station, I walked to the hostel and was able to check in at 8am. However, since they couldn’t give me a key until 3pm, I decided to start my city tour. Well, that was my plan anyway.
My agenda for Day 1:
(Note: Opening hours were taken from various websites, could be inaccurate)
Ximending / Taipei Cinema Park
Opening hours: None
Entrance fee: Free
I walked from my hostel and got to see how Ximending looks like in the morning. I passed by it going to Taipei Cinema Park. Ok, I absolutely loved this place! This is the very first place I visited when I got to Taiwan and it’s one of my favorites! Street art everywhere! It’s hard to choose which photos to post cause everything is super beautiful and colorful. I read that they hold events here from time to time but it was quiet that morning I went. Or maybe it was too early? I think went there at around 8:30am. After going around and taking photos, I sat on one of the benches and just paused for a while, marvelled at how pretty this place is. I’m so glad I read about this place online. It was a great alternative for Kengguo Community Mural Village (which was my original plan). It was a great start to my trip.
My favorite place in Taiwan Welcome to Taipei Cinema Park!
Huashan Creative Park
Opening hours: 9:30am-9pm
Entrance fee: Free
I walked from Taipei Cinema Park and walked to the Ximen Station, took the Metro on the blue (Bannan) line going to Zhongxiao Xinsheng Station. It’s a 600m-walk from there. The walk is actually not so bad because you see interesting things on the way. What I didn’t like is that it started raining a bit before I even got to the place.
Ok, I was disappointed with this place. I think i came too early, because everything’s closed. (Or maybe they’re closed on weekends? Dunno.) I read that they hold events here and there was one on the day I went. I assumed it’s like our version of ToyCon here in Manila. There was a lot of people on the east side of the park so I wasn’t able to take photos in that area. I was actually looking for the upside down. I rounded the place twice but didn’t see it. I think it was just there for a specific event or exhibit. Other than that, there’s really nothing much to see. I left the place disappointed and at this point, it started raining for real.
Walking from Huashan Creative Park to MMOT was quite fun! It was raining but I saw a lot of interesting things!
Miniatures Museum of Taiwan
Opening hours: 10am-6pm
Entrance fee: NTD200 (adult)
I was planning on going back to the station and taking the Metro to Songjiang Nanjing Station, on the yellow line. I was sure that I took the same route going back but I totally got lost. I decided to just walk to the museum since it’s not too far from where I was. Again, not complaining because I see very interesting things while walking and I love that. I just wish it wasn’t raining. I noticed that stores open quite late, they open at around 10:30am. I just thought maybe because it was a Saturday, or because it’s the weekend before a holiday. Also, most stores are already closed by 10pm.
There are definitely a lot of different kinds of museums in Taiwan. I decided to go to MMOT because I don’t think I’ve ever been to one. MMOT is located at the basement of a commercial building. You can just ask the guard at the front desk the way to the basement. You will need to use the stairs to get there. It’s quite unexpected to see a small museum located there/ There’s an entrance fee of NTD200 for adults. I enjoyed this museum, it has a very extensive collection of miniatures. Each piece has an English translation as well. Each piece is amazing and the details are unbelievable. I felt like a little kid looking at each piece, taking photos and reading the stories behind it. I also enjoyed watching the parents explaining to their kids what’s going on in each piece, like some parents (I assume) were telling their kid the story of Snow White. (I don’t understand of course but it’s so cute to watch!) Bonus points for stamps!!!! Good thing I brought my notebook! ^^
My favorite piece in the museum is the Buckingham Palace. You see the exterior from one side and the interior on the other. It was so detailed and beautiful.
I was on the way to Songjiang Nanjing Station (to take the green line back to Ximen Station) when I saw Sushi Express! It was perfect cause it was time for lunch. I immediately took a seat and had a hearty sushi lunch. I totally missed this! We tried this in Singapore 2 years ago and I must say that it’s not super expensive. It costs NTD30 per plate. This is a perfect place for solo travellers because you’re just sitted beside random people. Haha.
After lunch, I took the Metro back to Ximen Station and walked to my hostel. It was after 1pm when I arrived and since it was still raining, I decided to just wait for check-in at 3pm. I just stayed at the hostel’s restaurant. By the time I was done taking a shower, it was already 4pm and I took a nap for 2 hours. There should always be nap time during travels, or you’d be very exhausted.
It was time to see how Ximending looks like at night. It definitely has more life in the evening. There are a lot of outlet stores, too but I didn’t check any of them as I might be tempted to buy something. LOL.
Opening hours: 11am-9:30pm (I dunno if this is correct)
Entrance fee: None
Red House is located in Ximending. You can actually see it from Ximen Station. I didn’t realize I already had a picture of it when I visited Ximending in the morning. LOL. There are some barricades around Red House so the picture wasn’t that good. There’s a small night market outside Red House and also a free concert. You can also go inside, where there’s a small exhibition and you can also buy some stuff from there.
Opening hours: 11am-11pm
Since I was in the Ximending area, I cannot leave without visiting Modern Toilet. I decided to have dinner there. Themed restaurants are so fun! LOL! There’s a rule that you need to order at least a dish or a drink for each person. Their menu comprises of meals that cost around a minimum of NTD200 each but it’s a set meal. I ordered a pasta dish (NTD250), and it includes soup, a drink and a poop dessert. They serve the dessert at the end of your meal. The serving is quite a lot and my pasta dish had a lot of bacon! Yum! If I had someone with me, I would have taken lots of photos here! LOL!
I disagree with some of the things I read online that food is expensive in Taiwan. I actually think that we spend more money on some restaurants here in the Philippines. For a themed restaurant, I think that the price is not so bad. This was quite an enjoyable experience, even if I was alone. (Huhu. Kidding.)
I passed by 228 Peace Park before going home but it was already too dark. I had to go back another day.