Have you been in Taiwan? Do you have top list during your trip in the said country? Here are the top places that I visited during my first trip in Taiwan. What are yours?
Top 1 – Taroko National Park
During the first visit in Taiwan, my favorite place that I fall in love with is Taroko National Park. The mountains that surround the park is the main reason why I love it. Next is the Liwu River where most of amazing gorges can be found. Another reason are Shakadang Trail where I love its river, Swallow Grotto where cliffs and Indian Chief rock formation can be found, Tien-Hsiang village surrounded by mountains and of course the Eternal Spring Shrine, the temple with a falls underneath.
I will not specify anymore which area in Taroko National Park are my favorites as I like all of what I had seen in the park.
Top 2 – Hualien Der-yen beach
Though the visit in Hualien Der-yen beach was most likely a side trip part of my tour in Taroko National Park, I like to see this kind of places in Taiwan. It always nature wins my heart in my travel.
Top 3 – Taipei Zoo (Wensha District)
I like zoo, but I never realized that I will be enjoying so much while visiting Taipei Zoo not only because of Giant Panda and Red Panda but because of its animal diversity that will be discovered here and the natural setting of the park.
Top 4 – Taipei 101 (Xinyi District)
Xinyi District is the financial district of Taipei where Taipei 101 is located. A symbolical building of Taipei or let’s say Taiwan as this is unique tower in the world.
Top 5 – Shin Kong Mitsukosh (Xinyi District)
One of the luxurious shopping area of the country that can be enjoyed in Taipei. Walking here is already entertaining though there are lots of people during my visit, I found amazing that Taipei has such places like Shin Kong Mitsukosh.
Top 6 – Ximending (Wanhua District)
These pedestrian area where surrounded by markets, shopping stores and cinemas that change the way I think about market place. My walks here was so relaxing.
Top 7 – Shilin Night Market (Shilin District)
My last minute walk was spent here before I went to Taoyuan International Airport. And I like the ambiance of this night market.
Top 8 – Bopiliao Historical Block (Wanhua District)
A historical block that made me realize how amazing if different culture aspirations has been put into architecture.
Top 9 – Red House Theater (Wanhua District)
Though I was sad at first because the main building of Red House Theater is under renovation, I had a good time walking in one of the cultural and creative store to be found inside the building.
The first time I traveled in Taiwan, my itinerary was not really planned. I called it as experimental travel because it’s the first country that I visited using a visa exempt policy. So, in nature, there is possibility that my entry will be denied if there is something wrong how I understand Taiwan’s policy regarding visa-exempt. But I was thankful that my first entry was smooth as I dreamed of it.
Without further ado, here are the 3-Days Itinerary that I had during my first time visit in Taiwan. Please use the itinerary as reference as the list are not necessarily in order the way I visited them. I myself checks other itineraries from other travelers but in the end, I still created my own itinerary based on budget, time frame, availability and more of my preferences. There are different reasons and considerations for my list so you can use it at your own discretion.
My next destination after a worthy walk in Ximending was Central part of Wanhua District where more historical sites are located such as Longshan Temple, Bopiliao Historical Block, Qingshan Temple and Taipei Jen Chi Hospital. Below are the continuation of my adventures as I travel in Taipei continues.
While looking at the map, another temple caught my interest to see, and that is Longshan Temple. To reach the temple I have two options, one is to walk from Ximending or take a train to Longshan Temple Station if I take Bannan Line (or Blue Line in Taipei Metro) and its next station after Ximen Station. Because I had limited time and still wanted to reserve my energy for other walks that I plan to do, I decided to take train. When I get off the station, I found myself in Mengxia (Mengjia) Park or Bangka Park where quite number of people having laid back time and enjoying the weekend. While looking around the park and checking where Longshan Temple is, I found a group of old Taiwanese playing a chess like board game. I am not really sure if it’s really a traditional chinese chess, so I leave that item as it is.
Longshan Station Entrance/Exit
Senior Citizen playing chess like board game.
Chess like board game
Bangka Park (Mengxia [Mengjia] Park)
I continued walking and looking around a bit hoping to see interesting stuff along the way to the temple. Before I found the temple, I saw Longshan fountain that people are enjoying in the park. Based on history, the park was a large pool before it converted to a park in 1924.
The temple has so many names, here I will use the common one which is Longshan Temple. The temple is the most well-known temple in Taiwan which built in 1738, though tested by natural disaster for a long time, it was damaged heavily during World War II and since then, it was restored and keeps on renovating. The temple is one of the largest and oldest in the country.
Longshan Temple is a 2nd grade municipal heritage site which important gods from Buddhism, Daoism, and Confucianism are enshrined. The temple has at least 100 gods which one of the reason why there are lots of visitors come to see the temple.
Bopiliao Historical Block
After wandering inside the Longshan Temple, I found a nearby historical block which is Bopiliao. It is block located in the corner of Kanding Road and Guangzhou Street with some portion of it are still on bricks and some looks been restored as it’s already concreted with cement. The block is great place to see what is it like on streets and shops during Qing Period, Japanese occupation and early post wars. The building is a combination of Fujian and Baroque style which quite unique as it has fusion of two different architectural concepts, that exist in the block.
[Bangka] Qingshan Temple (Qingshangong)
Another temple that I had a chance to see though I wasn’t able to go inside of it was Qingshangong or Qingshan Temple. The temple is categorized a 3rd grade municipal heritage site and a home of god King Qingshan. One of the festival held in Wanhua called “Great Bangka Sacrificial Ceremony” is to celebrate the birth of deity King Qingshan and the festival itself is one of the “Taipei’s Big Three Temple Fairs.”
Road photos on my way looking for Qingshan Temple
Huaxi Street Night Market
My walk continues in the nearby area of the temple then I passed a night market called Huaxi Street Night Market. Historically, it is the first tourist night market in Taiwan. It has uniqueness on its own as it sells local delicacies that cannot be found in other night markets. The market is also one of the 3 famous street markets that surrounds the area that everyone can enjoy while visiting the place.
Huaxi Street Night Market
Taipei Jen-Chi Hospital
A historical hospital building has been declared a municipal heritage site and considered as Taiwan’s Earliest Psychiatric Hospital.
Taipei Jen-Chi Hospital
Guangzhou Street near Longshan Temple just after crossing Xiyuan Road
So far, I am enjoying my walks in Wanhua district. As I am checking the map that I am holding at that time I decided to leave the district and visit another, Xinyi District, which is both government and financial district of Taipei, then a bit of Daan District. Until then.
Discovery (Post#22) : Huaxi Street Night Market (Snake Alley) – Taiwan’s First Tourist Night Market
Huaxi Street Night Market is one of the 3 night markets that lights-up Bangka and make it a culinary paradise. It said to serve delicacies including snake blood and meat, turtle blood and meat and deer penis wine, which are not normally found anywhere else. These photos are part of Taiwan Experimental Travel Adventure Photo Collection January 2017.
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.
The first place that I explored when I arrived in Taipei was Ximending because it is walk-able from the accommodation that I stayed in the city and to immerse myself immediately that I was in Taiwan as market is one of the signature tourism of the country. At first, I was not really sure of going to the area because I don’t really shop when I travel except during the last day of the trip and yet I decided to do it to see it. After visiting the place, I find it enjoyable to just walk in Ximending.
One thing to note, the well-known Ximending Pedestrian Area was the first pedestrian area built in Taipei and is the largest in Taiwan.
These photos are part of Taiwan Experimental Travel Adventure Photo Collection January 2017.