My travel to Taiwan is the first experimental travel that I did because, it’s the first time that I traveled in a country that I will be using a visa exemption policy. Usually, I only traveled in a country with visa or visa-free. I just followed the instructions that I found in Taiwan’s website regarding the visa exemption where I used my USA visa to enter the country.
Most of the time, when the plane arrives at the airport, I used to prepared myself to leave the plane as soon as possible. For my flight to Taipei, I decided to be the last one to leave the plane because my seat was not really far from the last rows and the flight arrival itself was already behind by 2 hours, hurrying myself out of the plane was actually useless.
The usual thing happened, after leaving the plane, we went straight to immigration. Passing immigration is the part of my travel that gets on my nerve. Because it’s the symbolical gate that will decide my fate of my travel in one country, whether I will be sent back home or I will be allowed to enter the country. So far so good, that I haven’t experienced bad things every time I pass the immigration. The reason why I said that it gets on my nerves because my travel adventures may or may not happen depends on immigration decision to allow me to enter their country.
When I did the document verification at the airlines check-in counter of my flight, it gave me 50% hope that my experiment travel in Taiwan will be happening, the other 50% was at the hand of immigration officer. Because if there is something wrong in my document, the airline should advise me about it and they have the rights to hold me in boarding the plane.
I went and lined myself in the queue. I prepared my passport and my travel certificate. I also prepared my hotel accommodation and return flights just in case that immigration officer will ask for it. It was my turn, I walked towards the immigration officer, I gave my passport and travel certificate. Next, I stand properly at the front of the camera and they took a photo of myself, followed by fingerprint recording. After few minutes of checking of my documents, I smoothly passed the immigration without issues.
After passing immigration since I don’t have checked-in luggage, I went to the hi-life store where I will pick-up the pocket wi-fi that I rented for the next 3 days. One thing that I learned and experienced while I was in Japan last 2015, if my destination country can provide fast internet connection, having a pocket wi-fi is beneficial because it helps me while moving around in a foreign country. I rented the wi-fi at least more than 5 days before my scheduled flight and confirmed where to pick it up because my arrival is early in the morning where most wi-fi rentals are closed in operations.
After picking up my pocket wi-fi, I checked my options how to go to Taipei City since I arrived in Taoyuan International Airport which estimated to be an hour travel to the city. At first, I checked the taxi and found few people in the queue, but I know it’s quite expensive compared to bus. I followed signs to bus terminal. I checked the ticket booth and asked the next bus schedule and it’s prices. At that time, it’s already passed 3:30 AM in the morning. I saw outside a long line in the queue of the same bus that will take me into the city and I decided to wait inside, thinking that I have to follow the next schedule. Two bus left the terminal to the city, I was surprised because another announcement that there’s a bus to the city and I looked at the time and it’s still early in my schedule. I went outside and check it out with a bit of hesitation. I approached the man in uniform standing near the bus and asked if I can ride the bus, and he get my ticket and confirmed I can ride on it. I felt at ease because I thought I have to wait for another 30 minutes based on the schedule I had in my ticket. We were only 4 passengers at that time, because most of the passengers took the previous two bus. While we were driving down to the city, I tried to look outside with a curious eyes and I felt good. Because it’s early in the morning and still dark, I just saw few people outside.
After at least 30 minutes in the road, we reached the Taipei bus station in the city which also near in Taipei Main Station. I used my pocket wi-fi immediately and used Google Map directions to guide me how to reach the hotel that I booked for the next 3 days which was Poshpacker Hotel. I found the hotel within 10 minutes walk from the bus station. I was glad that Poshpacker is 24X7 hotel and there’s someone who can assist me for checking-in.
Before 5 AM in the morning, I was already in my room which located in Ladies Floor. I can say that the hotel is similar to backpackers hotel but a cozy one. I had a single room with shared bathroom and shower. I think Taipei’s offering a lot of cozy hotels for sharing, but I chose the one which offers with single room as it is more comfortable and with privacy even though the toilet and shower is for sharing. I actually enjoyed my stay in the hotel. It’s one of hotel backpacker that I like and I planned to stay there again if I come back to Taipei.
I slept for another 5 hours. And I woke up before lunch. It’s my first day so I quickly prepared myself and I went out of the hotel to start my exploration in the city.
Wanhua District – Taipei’s Oldest District
The old name of Wanhua is Bangka which refers to a hollowed-out canoe or perhaps the location where the canoes would gather. It is once an important center of northern Taiwanese government, economics and culture.
When I learned this information, I was wondering because in my country, we have Tagalog word “Bangka” as well and it has the similar definition, which means a small boat. Now I am wondering, if the word is either Chinese, Bahasa (Malaysian or Indonesian) or even Spanish origin, well I will leave that information to the experts, just triggered my curiosity.
Ximending – Once An Old Commercial District, Now A Vogue Area for Old and New
My hotel was near in the first place that I visited which is Ximending Wanhua District. Before I left the hotel, I asked the hotel officer if Ximending is walkable from the hotel. And she instructed me willingly how to go there. With the instructions and the GPS in my phone using Google Maps and its directions, I smoothly reached one of the exit of Ximen Station. I know that the District is a shopping district, though I don’t usually go for shopping of things, aside from buying post cards as my souvenirs, I still went to Ximending out of curiosity.
From hotel, I walked along the Section 1, Hankou Street, crossed several streets until I reached Section 1, Zhongzua Road, I crossed the road and turned left and walk along the same road. While walking in the side-walk, I can immediately feel that the place I was looking for was just around the corner. I passed small lanes and streets and I can see that those lanes and streets are already part of Ximending. I continued walking along Section 1, Zhongzua Road until I reached Chengdu Road. There, I found 2 exits of Ximen Station. I also found the streets towards Ximen Walker. Around the corner, there are historical structures nearby. I felt good as I looked for my half day as another opportunity to see new places.
Ximending Pedestrian Area – The First and Largest Pedestrian Area in Taiwan
At first, I was not sure where to start my walk. I was contemplating if I will go through the historical structures route or walk in the shopping streets. Then, I decided to walk first in Ximen Walker where the famous shopping streets are located. While walking in the streets inside Ximen Walker, I was confused on the street names as I found common names even though I crossed another street, so in overall, I knew that I was walking in Hanzhong and WaChung Streets. While walking in the area, I was fascinated for things that I had seen. I can see the colorful streets with lanes developed and designed to make the market streets more appealing to the visitors and tourist alike regardless of age. I enjoyed my walk in Ximending while taking souvenir photos of the streets.
Taipei or let’s say Taiwan is famous for its Night Market. I think it’s one of the countries that I found out to have a lot of Night Market. In Taipei alone, the city seems to be surrounded by Night Markets which I think is great so that people will be subdivided and distributed which strategic for one market place not to be too crowded.
When I was done walking in shopping street area, with the map in my hand and with my phone, I used Google directions for my next destination, I was looking for historical sites or building near or around Ximending and found some of it.
[Bangka] Qingshui (Chingshui) Temple
The first structure that I searched for was Bangka Qingshui (Chingshui) Temple, I had a hard time to find the temple from where I was coming from. At that time, I was walking along Chansha Street. And it was not immediately noticeable to see the temple coming from that road because it was a side of the temple that can be seen. I bravely walk inside the temple and I just saw few people around. I took some snapshots as my souvenir though I was not sure if it’s just alright to take photos inside the temple. I tried to check if I can read something within the temple but all the scripts that I saw were written in Chinese characters (that was the time my frustration arise, because I wanted to read something and understand something but the language become a barrier for me).
One thing to note that I learned about this temple, it is a 3rd grade municipal heritage site and said to currently hanging a plaque with inscription “Go Zi Zheng Ji” which presented by Guangxu Emperor and one of the few imperial plaques to be seen in Taipei City.
The temple design is considered to be the best of the mid-Qing style and artistic standards in Taiwan.
Red House Theater – The Most Iconic Building in Ximending
The building served as market place at first and become a multi-functional cultural centre with regular live performances and exhibitions.
When I reached Red House Theater, I felt a bit of sadness because its main and popular part of the building was currently under renovations. I can’t see its famous octagonal shape structure which known to the world because it’s covered of plastic with the same look of the building. But even that was the case the other part of the building is open.
Before I walked to the crucifix shape part of the building I saw volunteer guides. And I approached them because I knew I can converse with them in English. They were two young lad and lass student and we discussed about the building and a bit of its history. I had a great time talking with them. After sometime, we ended the friendly discussion and we bid our goodbyes to each other.
I walked towards the other part of the building which is currently being used as market place for variety of cultural and art products. I roam around the crucifix shape portion of Red House and I had a look what’s inside from the ground floor up to the second level of the building. Its entertaining to have a peek whats in the store because various products are being showcase in the historic building.
The Red House was my last itinerary in Ximending before I moved to central part of Wanhua district which will be described in the second part post. Until then.