Weekend in Taiwan (Day 2)

 

Before we went out, I took some photos of our hotel, Queen Hotel II. I am very fascinated by it because it’s on the 4th floor of an old building. If you see the building, all of the expectations of a nice and clean hotel will vanish. So, I was pleasantly surprised when I saw a relatively new facility!

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We actually had different plans for today. But, since we weren’t able to visit this district last time, we decided to go to it today.

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We’re going to Tamsui (淡水) today!

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Upon exiting the station, it isn’t hard to find the riviera and Tamsui Old Street (淡水老街). And, across the river is Mount Guanyin (觀音山).

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Since it was a Sunday, we thought that it may be a little less crowded. Oh, how wrong we were. A lot of people in Taipei may be enjoying the weekend in Tamsui too.

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On the street parallel to the waterfront is the old street itself.

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Nestled on the hills behind the waterfront is the Tamsui Church. It was used, then, to look over the neighborhood.

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And along the streets are tons of art.

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A short walk towards the mouth of the river will bring you to Fort Santo Domingo (紅毛城). For NTD 80, you can enter the fort itself and the old residence of the British consul to Taiwan. Since it is a fort, it’s placed on high ground. The steps aren’t steep but you should be aware.

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And across the fort is the British consul’s residence.

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We had to go back to the streets to find lunch.

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It was a bit hard to find a place to eat because there were a lot of people that day. But, fortunately, we found a place called Dark Palace. It was neither dark nor was it a palace. There’s a little bit of wait until we are seated.

I had noodles with pork chops! Serving size is humongous!

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And, now, it’s time to go back to Taipei.

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We got off at Ximending (西門町) but before everything else, we have to visit Carrefour for food items we will bring back home. I got good deals on tea! For NTD 79, I bought 100 bags of oolong tea!

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And, in Ximending, we only had one thing to do – misua (麵線). There’s one shop in Ximending that locals line up for.

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After a quick bite, we went back to our hotel for an afternoon nap. We also had to pack our things and prepare to leave. I actually wasn’t able to clean up my stuff. It was now time to visit another night market, Ningxia Night Market (宁夏夜市).

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Ningxia is less commercial than Shilin. The food is not catered to tourist but locals seeking comfort in the middle of the night. There were a lot of people because of the weekend! It was hard to choose what to eat.

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I actually had noodles in chili oil for dinner but I forgot to take a photo. So, here’s a photo of my dessert. It’s mango snowflake shaved ice with panna cotta!

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After dessert, we made our way back to the hotel, took our showers, and packed our bags. We rushed to Taipei Main Station and was fortunate enough to take the last ride to Taipei Taoyuan International Airport via the airport MRT.

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I had one crazy weekend. It was crazy but it was also satisfying.

 

 

 

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Weekend in Taiwan (Day 1)

 

 

Weekend in Taiwan (Day 1)

This was just a crazy idea at first. But then, it became a bucket list item. And, now, it was a reality. Surrounded by thousands of low fare promos from airlines, we got tickets to a weekend in Taiwan.

Why Taiwan? We just wanted to eat all the comfort food Taiwan could offer.

After work on Friday, we went straight to the airport to catch our 11:45 PM flight. Unfortunately, it was a little delayed. Good thing, too, since we had problems with instructions on the Taiwan Travel Authority (here). But it was sorted out easily.

Weird, though, we arrived to an awfully quiet airport.

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To be honest, the Taipei Taoyuan International Airport is also quiet in the wee hours of the morning. It was a little eerie too. We wanted to ride the bus to the city because a taxi will be costly. Fortunately, we didn’t have to wait long for a bus ride.

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Once we arrive in Taipei Main Station, that’s where we took a taxi to our accommodations, Queen Hotel II near Zhongshan station.

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Then, off to sleep since it was almost 4 PM.

It was morning and then we were off to our first stop. Our base station is Zhongshan station (中山站).

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Our first stop is a return to Taipei Main Station. It’s a massive structure. It’s also confusing if your don’t read and understand Chinese.

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I have this idea of taking the express train to Ruifang (瑞芳) but you do not have that liberty if you can’t tell the cashier what you want. As a result, we ended taking the normal train to Ruifang station.

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I didn’t mind because we were able to experience the landscape of New Taipei City.

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From this station, we used our EasyCard (you can also buy tickets) to get to Shifen (十分) through the Pingxi line (平溪線).

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It’s just a short ride until you reach Shifen.

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Now, it’s time to explore Shifen Old Street!

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After one pass through the streets of Shifen, we had to grab lunch. We found it hidden from the view of all the hungry tourists.

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I couldn’t imagine a meal in Taiwan without xiao long baos. And, to be honest, it’s like they have a template for making these delicious dumplings. No matter where you go, the taste is just as awesome as the last one you tasted.

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Shifen is known for it’s paper lanterns. They have a festival for it but you can fly one any time of the year. It’s a bit of an adventure, too, since you will do it on the train tracks. You don’t have to worry where you since the old street is filled with shops.

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After Shifen, it was trip back to Ruifang to go to the next stop on the itinerary, Jiufen (九份).

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From Ruifang station, we took the bus to Jiufen. It wouldn’t take you long until you reach the Jiufen Old Street.

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Jiufen is a sensory experience. You have all of your senses working for you. It’s just sad that it was drizzling while we were there. However, unlike the last time, it didn’t progress into harsher weather.

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Jiufen also provides a beautiful view of the northern coast of Taiwan.

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We didn’t do much. Going through the maze of alleyways is an experience in itself.

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We had a quick snack of a local dessert – shaved ice, soybean curd, mochi balls, red beans, and syrup.

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After Jiufen, it’s now time to go back to Taipei. Instead of passing through Ruifang again, we rode the bus that took us directly to the Zhongxiao Fuxing station. From there, we took the metro to Jiantian station. It’s time for Shilin Night Market (士林夜市)!

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Shilin Night Market is probably the most famous and the biggest of all night markets in Taiwan. And so, the following items are the things that I tried during that night.

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Suckling pig sandwich – a little small in serving but the flavor is really packed! One of the best pigs I have ever tasted!

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Deep fried cuttlefish – thoroughly enjoyed this snack and I couldn’t help but crave for more.

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Mango and strawberry snowflake shaved ice – definitely one of the best desserts I have ever tasted. I actually love bingsu from Sulbing and this one here is competition.

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Shengjianbao (生煎包) – the best pork buns ever! It was just actually a coincidence. We found a line waiting to buy these babies. We got intrigued because you know what they say, “where locals go, you go.” No regrets!

There were so many things I really wanted to try, like stinky tofu that has been calling my olfactory nerves all night. But, I was just too full!

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After a little more strolling around, it was time to head home and retire for the night.

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It has been a long day.

 

 

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Others in this series:

Weekend in Taiwan (Day 2)

A Weekend in Taipei Itinerary

I wanted to try something crazy when it comes to travel. When presented with an opportunity, I grabbed it. So, next weekend, I will be in Taipei to eat!

Here’s my itinerary for that short Taipei trip.

Day 0

11:15 PM Flight to Taoyuan Airport

Day 1

1:20 AM Arrival in Taoyuan

Very short sleep

Train to Ruifang then Pingxi Line

Shifen and Shifen Lantern

Jiufen

Back to Taipei

Shilin Night Market, Raohe Night Market

Day 2

Tamsui (Old Street and Fort Santo Domingo)

Ximending and Carrefour

Afternoon Rest

Ningxia Night Market

Transfer to Taoyuan Airport

Day 2+

1:45 AM Flight to Manila

It will be a tiring weekend and I know you’d think we’re crazy for doing this. But, it has been a general curiosity of what it would be like.

 

Getting a Taiwan Travel Authorization Certificate

For the Philippines, it was good news when Taiwan wanted to experiment with a visa free entry for Filipinos starting June 2017 (here).

However, there was a news article that could postpone this plan due to technical issues (here).  So if you’re planning to go to Taiwan before the visa-free entry is in place, you either need to apply for a visa (which you can now do online) or get a travel authorization certificate (which is the focus of this entry).

What makes you eligible for a travel authority certificate?

  1. You have remaining 6 months validity on your passport starting from your arrival date in Taiwan
  2. You have already purchased an onward plane / ferry ticket
  3. You have never been employed as a blue-collar worker in Taiwan

If you find yourself as eligible, you need to have documents issued by any of the countries:

  • Australia
  • Canada
  • Japan
  • Korea
  • New Zealand
  • any of the Schengen countries
  • United Kingdom
  • United States

The documents needed are:

  • Valid resident or permanent resident card
  • Valid entry visa (may be electronic)
  • Resident card or visa that has expired less than 10 years prior to date of entry in Taiwan

If you have satisfied all of the requirements above you may apply for a Taiwan Travel Authorization Certificate here.

Upon clicking the link, you will see this page:

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Select the language you’re more comfortable with; then, click Next.

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This just shows the process flow of the application. You need not pay attention to this. Click, Next.

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Then some information on eligibility and document requirements. Click Next. In the next page, you now have to fill in your information.

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Some notes on filling out the form:

  • If you have a middle name: write the name in either the Surname or First Name fields.
  • This online application is for people holding regular passports only.
  • For this application, I used my multiple entry Korean visa. The Visa Number is the one indicated in the upper right hand portion of the visa. These are the numbers of the PHXXXXXX sequence.
  • If you have submitted this application and there was a mistake in any of the information in it, you can just fill out a new application.

If you’re done, click Next.

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You are given a chance to review the details of your application. If there’s an error, you can go back and re-encode the correct data. If you’re done and satisfied, type in the correct captcha code, then click Submit.

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You will be forwarded to the approval page. I honestly don’t think anyone will be disapproved. To get your travel certificate, you just click Print and it will download the PDF file of the certificate.

 

You can now print your Travel Authorization Certificate.

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Here are some notes on your certificate:

  • It has a validity of 90 days. If unused during that period, you have to apply for another one. Multiple entries within that 90-day period is allowed.
  • Length of stay for certificate holders is 30 days starting from the day after your arrival in Taiwan.
  • If in the event that your travel certificate will expire before the end of your trip in Taiwan, you must apply 7 days before the expiry of your current certificate.
  • During the immigration process, present this certificate together with the visa you used in the application and your return ticket. The failure to present the said documents may result to denial of entry to Taiwan.

Now that you have another entry document to Taiwan, enjoy and happy eating!

 

 

Sun Moon Lake Wenwu Temple (文武廟)

 

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Address: 63, Zhongzheng Rd, Yuchi Township, Nantou County, Taiwan 555

How to get there: Wenwu Temple Bus Stop

Operating Hours:

Entrance Fee: NTD 0

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A wenwu temple is a temple that generates veneration for patron gods of civil (wen) and martial (wu) affairs. This temple has three separate halls: (1) for the first ancestor, Kanji, and the God of Literature, (2) Guan Gong, God of War, and Yue Fei, warrior God, and (3) Confucius.

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There are 365 steps leading to the rear hall of the temple which are also called the 365 Steps to Heaven. And for just NTD 100 you can buy an ornament, have it blessed, and say a wish. The temple is filled with ornaments like these.

The most impressive aspect of this temple, for me, was the craftsmanship. There are very intricate designs that depict the many beliefs of this temple’s patrons.

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At the rear hall, most tourists overlook this spot. It’s a great area to see the lake and the surroundings. It’s also even better during sunset.

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Ita Thao Pier (伊達邵)

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Address: Yidashao St, Yuchi Township, Nantou County, Taiwan 555

How to get there: Ita Thao Village Bus Stop

Operating Hours:

Entrance Fee:

The Thao people are one of the recognized indigenous people of Taiwan. A legend tells the story of how the Thao people came to live in this side of the lake.

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Now, the Ita Thao Pier is one of the bustling commercial (yes, at this rate it’s already commercial) parts of the Sun Moon Lake. It is also home to a lot of hotels and local restaurants. Good thing, too, we were about to have a late lunch.

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Sometimes, I get confused with the correct romanization of Ita Thao. There’s Yidashou or Ida Shou.

Near the Ita Thao Village is the Sun Moon Lake Ropeway which is your gateway to the Formosa Aboriginal Culture Village.

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There are so many good food to try and they are really enticing.

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These are deep-fried shrimp and dried fish.

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And tofu prepared in a number of ways.

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And gigantic squid filled with a lot of vegetables and meat.

If you want to go food tripping in the Sun Moon Lake area, Ita Thao Village is the place you have to go to.

Ci’en Pagoda (慈恩塔)

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Address: Zhongzheng Rd, Yuchi Township, Nantou County, Taiwan 555

How to get there: Xuangzang Temple Bus Stop + strong legs for a bit of a hike

Operating Hours: 9:00 AM -5:30 PM

Entrance Fee: NTD 0

The entrance to the Ci’en Pagoda is a little walk from Xuanzang Temple. It’s a little quiet because there’s not a lot of people who go here. If you don’t have a car, the road to the southern entrance (aka the foot of the climb) of the pagoda is a bit of an incline. You might as well prepare for it.

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The southern steps tell you that there are 500 steps separating the southern and northern entrances. Don’t worry, there are areas where you can rest in the case that you can’t make it in one go.

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Ci’en Pagoda is built in memory of Chiang Kai Shek’s mother. In the alignment of things, it is believed to be the heart of the dragon with the Xuanguang Temple as the mouth and the Xuanzang Temple as the head.

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Unfortunately, we weren’t able to go to the highest part of the pagoda because it was currently under maintenance.