Thanks to TriNoma-Clark Airport Lounge, traveling by air via Clark International Airport is now easier, affordable, and comfortable. It will only take about two-hours trip from Quezon City direct to the departure gates of CIA. Nice.
I used the TriNoma-Clark Airport bus service on my first trip to Taipei last April 12, my flight was scheduled at 12:05 noon and I got there before 10 in the morning. Will tell you the experience inside Clark International Airport on a separate post.
So many first happened on that day. It was also my first time to fly with AirAsia Philippines flight PQ7357 to Taipei. The plane departed around 12:19 p.m. and we touchdown at Taoyuan International Airport at 2:10 p.m.
It was raining in Taiwan when we got there and while still inside the plane, I felt the cold weather already. It felt good as a relief from the scorching summer heat back here in Manila which was accumulating into 36 degrees Celsius that day.
After boarding off the plane, there was the fever screening; passed by immigration and claiming baggage before me and my group was met by our Pinoy correspondent/tour guide. We got out of the airport by 3:22 p.m. and took a one hour ride to our hotel in Zhong Shan. On our way to the hotel , I see a lot of crops fields, therefore assuming that many of the Taiwanese depend on farming.
Taipei side is like Metro Manila and Makati district with lots of sky-ways.
The rain didn’t stop, and I was embracing that cold weather for I only have four days to enjoy this ‘coz “when I’m back in Manila it’s definitely hot again,” I told myself.
Taipei is almost like the Philippines with cars steering wheels on the left side.
When we reached K Hotel Taipei 1, we just took quick wash-up and then went out again to join the group for an early dinner and stroll the nearest shopping area, Shin Kong Mitsukoshi. I spent NT$150 for my bibimbap dinner. It was a cold 12 degrees Celsius by that time. Later that evening, me and my travel buddy, Orly, went to Ning Xia Rd. to check out the Night Market. We were just amazed of the local street foods they served that night. Everywhere is like street food fiesta. And it’s not just an ordinary street foods. Most people think that Filipinos are the most and have weird appetite when it comes to food, but I realized we are far behind on that popular belief. Here in Taipei, I saw different kinds , the rarest; eccentric; flavorful; shocking bizarre; and colorful street foods that they offer. Pork innards; duck heads, giant squids, and those things that I cannot even think have letters in the alphabet are sold to the daring, and brave food explorers. And for the heck of it, I tried a different kind of fish noodle soup. Noodles were so thin like sotanghon and has a stick soup with a different flavor that I’ve never been used to. It was delicious, though! That cost me NT$60.
We head back in our hotel room just as close by midnight. We need to get a full rest for our Day 2 City Tour the next day.
Our shuttle bus for the City Tour came on time and we were met by our tourist guide, Felix. Our itinerary was the Chiang Kai-shek Memorial; followed by National Revolutionary Martyrs’ Shrine; Taiwan Arts & Handicraft Center; Yongzhi Park, which houses Hock Keng Temple; and the last stop was at the National Palace Museum – a whole day tour inside this museum will cost NT$160. This group City Tour was part of the package that I signed-up from Global Access Travel & Tours – a Philippine-based travel agency from Pampanga that gives affordable tour packages. This Taipei 4D/3N tour cost Php17,999 per person, which includes airfare, accommodation, buffet breakfast, and Taipei City Tour.
After the City Tour and quick lunch at 7-11 – I bought Beef Gyudon meal for NT$65, me and Orly, went again on free-time touring the city. We took the Taipei MRT Zhong Shan subway ride to Taipei Main Station going to the world famous Taipei 101. Our ride costs us NT$25 one-way. Taipei 101, formerly known as the Taipei World Financial Center, is a landmark skyscraper located in Xinyi District, Taipei, Taiwan. This building ranks as the 2nd most tallest in the world. Burj Khalifa in Dubai ranks 1st. Taipei 101 entrance to the conservatory is NT$450.
Xinyi District is notably the premier shopping area in Taipei. Taipei mayor’s office and Taipei City Government is also found in this area. You’ll find ABC Mart, Vieshow Cinemas, Shin Kong Mitsukoshi, ATT 4 Fun, Eslite Bookstore, and Neo19 – which houses a number of restaurants, a health club, a nightclub and lounge bar.
We woke up early on the morning of April 14 to get ready for our next tour and adventure, the Maokong Gondola. From ZhongShan Station we took the MRT ride going to Zhongxiao Fuxing train to Maokong Gondola Station. It cost me another NT$28 for this one-way group ticket ride.
We were at the entrance of Maokong Gondola by 10 a.m. and we paid NT$80 each for the round trip cable car ride. Fares are based on the number of stations traveled. That Maokong Gondola ride is my second breath-taking cable car ride and every time is an exciting experience. Frankly speaking, there is also that fear-factor when riding the cable cars. Part of me enjoys the ride and another part goes on thinking “what if” it snaps? Deymn!
My first cable car ride was in Ocean Park Hong Kong last November 2012 with Azrael. This time around, I’m with a group of tourists from Pampanga, headed by GA Travel & Tours president, Marcia Hernandez.
The Maokong Gondola System is shaped like the number ‘7’ and extends over 4.03 kilometers of hills south of Taipei. It is the first gondola system in the City and has four passenger stations – Taipei Zoo Station, Taipei Zoo South Station, Zhinan Temple Station, and Maokong Station – as well as two angle stations that are not open to the public. It lifts up to 3,000 meters above sea level. Passengers who have heart disease, high blood pressure, acrophobia, or any other physical/medical conditions that can cause discomfort when riding should NOT ride the “Eyes of Maokong Gondola” Crystal Cabins. Besides, female passengers wearing skirts should avoid standing on the transparent glass and be aware of their sitting posture to protect themselves. Yes, they do have those transparent glass flooring. I couldn’t imagine myself on those cabins!
At the Maokong Station, we made a 30 minute stop to get a breath-taking view from Maokong Mountain, the forested, hilly region of southern Taipei. This is the place where history of tea growing goes back to the 19th century. At the park, there are variety of tea houses to enjoy. The very famous is the locally grown Tieguanyin, a type of oolong. The Taipei Tea Promotion Center, Tea House Guan Ding, and ZhiNan Temple can be found here at Maokong Station.
One can really feel how cold is up at Maokong Mountain because you will find yourself breathing out ‘smokes‘ or water vapor from your mouth.
So to take off that cold feeling, I went to another food exploration and ordered seafood noodles and Stinky Tofu for NT$50 each. Why is it called ‘stinky tofu’? Because it really stinks bad! But, a big BUT, once you tasted it, you’ll forget how it smelled awful because of the right crisp it is from deep fried. And of course, it tastes just the regular tofu we have here in Manila, which is adorably delicious! That is, if you’re a fan of ‘tokwa‘.
The seafood noodles that I ordered with shrimp and squid balls also tasted good. By the way, what makes the Stinky Tofu more special is its delicious sweet and soury taste with bits of cabbage and carrots in vinegar sauce with little amount of garlic.
That was a tummy-filler and I just needed that quick meal to pull me up again for the cable car return ride back to Taipei Zoo Station. I was back in my senses when we reached Taipei Zoo. We had a quick photo ops in front of the gates of Taipei Zoo for souvenir before we go back riding the train going to Zhongxiao Fuxing Station. The station is a six-level underground/elevated structure: two levels are underground and connect to the Nangang Line platform while four levels are above ground and connect to the Wenshan Line platforms.
Myra Liu took us on another food adventure where we find the “King of Bubble Tea” in Taipei, Chen San Ding. Taiwan is the mecca when it comes to milk tea, and everyone knows that. Even my friends when they found out I’m going to Taipei, they told me to try out their milk tea. True enough and I thought I wont be able to taste the popular drink in Taipei until our tour guide brought us in the middle of Gongguan Nightmarket. Here you’ll find street foods, shopping, and of course Chen San Ding. I’m not much of a milk tea person but when I tried Chen San Ding, I just wondered why it hasn’t reached yet the Philippine island? This would be best-seller here in Manila, I guess. Myra told me that most of the times, lines could go as far as the main road from customers wanting to have a taste of this bubble tea. Yes, that was a good bubble tea, but technically, according to my online research, it doesn’t contain any tea at all. Chen San Ding made from brown sugar, tapioca pearls and according to Myra, natural and tasty fresh milk. If you’re in Taipei, make sure to visit this place and try Chen San Ding Bubble tea for yourselves.
Our group went back in our hotel after this milk tea experience and prepared for the Taipei 101 Night Tour.
- Exploring Taipei (juantraveler.wordpress.com)