Smitten In The Heart of Asia
I could never shake the feeling off.
Months have passed since my parents and I went to The Heart of Asia — Taiwan, but I could never get over how the trip made me feel.
Taiwan has always been in my radar. I've read so many great things about the country. It easily became a must-go place for me. When rumors about their trial period for visa-free entry for Filipinos came out last year, I was hoping and praying it would push through. And lo, it did.
The visa-free entry started last November 2017 and will end on July this year. So last December (even though I was still trying to recover from my expenses during my 12-day SEA trip lol), I immediately booked flights for myself and for my parents. I planned our entire trip a week before their wedding anniversary. It was sort-of my advance gift for them.
Before we left, I kept checking the weather and the temperature for Taipei. It was always either 9 degrees or 13 degrees Celsius. It never went up to 20. I did a little Google search about when is the winter season in Taiwan and found out that it starts around November to February. I thought I was going to be fine with just a few sweaters, a denim jacket, and a thin olive green hoodie but I was wrong.
It was still 2AM when we arrived in Taoyuan Airport and I was freezing! The train from the airport to Taipei City wasn't operating yet. My parents caught some Z's while waiting for 7AM. I picked up a copy of the metro route map and started studying it. It's totally free and you can pick one up from an information booth in the arrival area.
After buying a local sim card and an EasyCard — a card for Taiwan's trains (more details on a separate blog post!), we hopped on the airport express train to Taipei. We passed by several districts (I even saw snow capped mountains!) before we reached the Taipei Main Station.
We got off in the main station and tried to find the line for the Ximen station. The layout of their main station was very confusing and overwhelming at first. We even got off at the wrong stop but we adjusted quickly. Our check-in time was 12 noon but we arrived in our hostel around 10AM so we left our bags there, had some breakfast, and started our DIY tour.
Chiang Kai Shek Memorial complex
arch of the liberty square. This was massive in real life!
Even with little sleep, my parents were excited to walk around the streets of Taipei. It seemed like they were a pair of teenagers who are stunned by everything they were experiencing and eager to explore more. No time for arthritis pains for them! It was also my papa's first trip abroad. I was so happy that he was enjoying his first time.
Our first stop of the day was the Chiang Kai Shek Memorial Complex in the Zhongzheng District. It was freakin' massive in real life! The center point in the complex was very interesting because when we stood there, every structure is perfectly aligned. On the east side, there's the theater; on the west, there's the NTCH Arts Plaza; on the south side, there's the Arch of Liberty Square; and on the north, there's the Chiang Kai Shek Memorial Hall.
There were a lot of tourists when we went there. It was a struggle to take pictures. It was basically a selfie zone out there. Photo bombers were everywhere, but I think we managed to get some good shots.
After taking pictures in the complex, we climbed up the Chiang Kai Shek Memorial Hall. Entrance to the memorial hall is free so don't believe some articles out there saying that you have to pay around 20 NTD per person.
My papa enjoyed the museum so much! He's such a nerd when it comes to history, especially if it's about the World War II. As for me, drowsiness was slowly creeping in. I had to sit down in one of the benches and shamelessly took a quick nap while waiting for my parents to finish going around the museum.
ximending shopping district
Top - Caught a shooting!
Bottom - Passed by a street vendor while walking back to our hostel and I'm in love with the lighting!
We went back to Ximen after about 2 hours in Chiang Kai Shek Memorial Complex. Before we checked in to our hostel, we dropped by the popular Ximending Shopping District because it was only a few blocks away. There were a lot of boutiques, souvenir shops, thrift stores, and restaurants in the area and most of the people who were there were probably teens or around their 20's. A lot of blogs said that the said shopping district was comparable to the Shinjuku area in Japan or the Myeongdong area in South Korea. I have yet to find out if it's true (someday soon!)
I love browsing through the shops because they were selling interesting stuff. Most of them were winter clothes. We also tried the famous Hot Star Fried Chicken and it has lived up to the hype. It was huge (bigger than my face!) and tasty. We also got the bite-sized chicken nuggets with pepper and salt. Just thinking about it now makes me wish I was in Taipei.
Walking around the area will probably take several hours especially if you're going to be stopping every now and then to check out some stuff on sale. For us, we spent an hour max because we had to be back to our hostel to check in.
A kabayan from Iloilo City was working in the hostel and she helped us settle into our room. She was so nice and we had the chance to talk to her about her life and work in Taipei. She said there are a lot of Filipinos working in Taiwan in general. Most of them have been staying in the country for a long time that they're even fluent in Taiwanese and Mandarin already. She also gave us some tips on the best places to buy souvenirs. The Shilin Night Market was mentioned and we went there during our last day.
So this is it for our first day in the Heart of Asia!
Taiwan was something else. It felt surreal walking in the streets of Taipei. I only used to see this in Taiwanese TV shows like Meteor Garden and It Started With A Kiss. I fell in love with the polite and respectful people, the food, their metro system — I could go on and on.
I'll probably save all my insights later when I'm done writing about the rest of the days we spent there :) Stay connected for the next posts!