I started my plan as a solo travel, but two of my friends tagged along. We just booked on a different time. Haha! I was invited by a friend to visit Taiwan because he knew I was in to traveling. He just told me that the airfare is cheap just like traveling to the province of the Philippines. True enough, when I checked the airfare to Taipei from Manila, it’s just PH₱2,100 round trip (via Traveloka). I don’t know, I didn’t think about it that much and just booked it.

I wasn’t lucky enough to have my trip to Taiwan to be visa free because of the technical problem in Taiwan embassy and they adjusted it to September from June of the same year (as of writing). Click here for Taiwan Visa Guide.

taiwan evisa

I was forced to have an eVisa (costs NT$1,200 + NT$32 processing fee) because of several unfortunate events in processing a free visa to Taiwan. I needed to pay another travel tax for this year which costs PH₱1,620. I wish that travel tax is good for a year. Geez! Where did my taxes go? I have already spent PH₱3,240 for travel tax alone this year! I really think that I am wasting my money with that travel tax.

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Eva and I commuted our way to NAIA Terminal 3 via MRT and jeepney and just met RJ at the airport. Our flight bound to Taipei was at 11:15pm from Manila via AirAsia and was expected to arrive at Taoyuan International Airport at 1:20am the next day. AirAsia has only one flight per day going to Taipei from Manila and vice versa.

We were not able to exchange our Philippine Peso (PH₱) to New Taiwanese Dollar (NT$) at Czarina because it was already closed when we got there. We were forced to exchange our money at NAIA Terminal 3. The exchange rate there was NT$1 to PH₱1.85 and we exchanged our PH₱5,920 for NT$3,200. It is just all we used for our 3-day stay in Taiwan.

Google Translate is a friend. Download it and download the offline language so you have something to use in case there are no translation.

TAOYUAN (TAIPEI) INTERNATIONAL AIRPORT

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Most of the establishments were still closed when we arrived the Taoyuan International Airport. The MRT operates from 6am to 12mn everyday and the information booth in the airport opens at 7am. We needed to wait and take a nap, eat snack, and/or charge our phones in the airport until the MRT opens. You have an option to take a bus going to Taipei then take a taxi to your destination.

There’s a free public WiFi for tourists in Taipei, you only need to register at the Visitor Information Center located in their MRT stations (they will ask for you passport number). There’s one at the MRT Taipei Main Station, you can find almost everything you need there.

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The train fare from Taoyuan International Airport to Taipei Main Station costs NT$160 or PH₱296 (single journey). You cannot buy the Day Pass at the Airport MRT.

TAIPEI CITY

Upon arrival at the Taipei Main Station you must exit the station before you can transfer to another train. You may transfer the Bannan Line (Blue Line) MRT to go around the city, High Speed Rail (HSR) if you’re going to western side of Taiwan to southern part, and the Taiwan Railways Administration (TRA) which offers local and express trains that is connected all around Taiwan (transfers are needed to continue the journey around Taiwan).

taiwan train

It is helpful to install the Taiwan Rail Map app. Click here for Android and click here for iOS devices.

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You may also start collecting stamps at MRT stations and some of their tourist destinations for your souvenir.

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We got a problem with our Couchsurfing host and we needed to change our plans. I also tried booking through Airbnb but the host did not reply. Luckily, I have a friend in Yongchun who accommodated our stuff first until we’re able to find a place to stay.

Eva was able to find a bedspace in Sleep Taipei Hotel near the Fuzhong station through agoda.com, usually inteded for solo travelers. It has cost us PH₱1,000 each for 2 nights with free bread, palaman, and juice for breakfast from 7am to 9am and of course free WiFi. The place has very nice wallpaper that is very clean, neat, and good for Instagramming and photoop; furthermore, the room is very comfortable and cozy that will make you not want to get out of bed anymore. The only problem is the shower and toilet because they are common both for males and females. But overall, it is a good value for the money.

Where to Eat?

There are many options you can choose from in the Taipei Main Station.

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There’s this TRA Boxed Lunch Store at the Taipei Main Station which sells take-out meals that ranges from NT$60, 80, & 100. There’s no dining-in and that’s maybe the reason why it’s cheap. But there are plenty of areas in the station where you can sit and devour your meal.

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Another bang for the buck is the Take-out Sushi that can be found in Taipei Main Station and in some selected MRT stations in Taipei. Sushi ranges from NT$80 to 90.

Taipei 101

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We bought a 24-hour Taipei Metro Pass (MRT) for NT$180 (PH₱333) ’cause we thought that we would be spending more due to most of the tourist destinations are just beside the MRT stations. We got this idea after we walked very long from Yongchun to Taipei 101 and we got really really tired after. Taipei 101 is also visible to nearby places in Taipei which offers better full view of the tower. We did not visit the Taipei 101 observatory because there’s an entrance fee.

Dr. Sun Yat-sen Memorial Hall

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Along the Blue Line (Bannan Line) of MRT, just beside the Taipei City Hall Station, is the Dr. Sun Yat-sen Memorial Hall. Dr. Sun Yat-sen is the founder and first president of the Republic of China (Taiwan). In contrast with the communistic view of People’s Republic of China (Mainland China), Taiwan is a firm believer of democracy and ever since wanted to be independent and separated from the mainland.

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The entrance to the memorial hall is free and you’ll be able to see the history accounts of a very young nation (almost). I believe that the memorial hall of Dr. Sun Yat-sen is underrated and should be given with more honor for founding Taiwan.

Chiang Kai Shek Memorial Hall

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Chiang Kai Shek is a famous name of school in the Philippines due to the math wizards it produces. But in Taiwan, he is more than a provider of knowledge. He is a friend and an ally of Dr. Sun Yan-sen who also became the president of Taiwan.

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The entrance to Chiang Kai Shek memorial hall is free. The hall is grandiose, well built, and aesthetically appealing. This is one of the most photographed places in Taiwan. I cannot argue why not because it is really astonishing and mesmerizing. The memorial hall is so huge that we really got tired touring around. Literal na malaki yung lugar, sumakit mga paa namin pagkatapos that we were already wishing that there’s a nearby entrance to MRT and luckily there is! Entrance number 5 is just inside the compound of Chiang Kai Shek Memorial Hall. Where the heck we have been passing through?

Xiangshan Station

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After visiting Chiang Kai Shek Memorial Hall, we tried to proceed to the Elephant Mountain (Xiangshan) which is just beside the Xiangshan Station of Red Line (Tamsui-Xynil Line). We tried to hike the Elephant Mountain to see the aerial view of Taipei City, but we’re too lucky that day that there was a construction going on and the trail to peak of Xiangshan was closed. I just wanna cry because of tiredness that has no output at all. Bakit niyo sinara na walang pasabi?

Shilin Night Market

After the failed hike to Elephant Mountain, we just decided to go to Shilin Night Market. We thought of alighting at Shilin Station (Red Line) because the name says so, but according to the blogs we have read, the night market is nearer to Jiantan Station (Red Line). Since we were using a 24-hour pass, we rode the MRT again and alight at Jiantan Station. The night market is situated at the middle of Shilin and Jiantan Station, you can actually alight either station. Maarte lang kami, tsaka para masulit yung unli pass. We were able to buy some ref magnets there. Hahaha!

We tried their fried milk. It is a milk with crunchy covering due to frying but the inside melts in your mouth and really delectable. It costs NT$50 (PH₱92.50) for 3 sticks. I don’t know how they made it but it’s a must try! They were also talking about the stinky tofu, but we’re not a fan of tofu so we skipped it. There are plenty of fresh orange juice makers around the night market and it was so refreshing. We managed to eat a dinner at an eatery with no translation. We just pinpoint what we wanted and paid NT$80 (PH₱148) for a meal. I got a pork Chinese style, it’s quite good if you’re really hungry.

Longshan Temple

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We continued our adventure the next day. We were so tired on our first day that we went out of our hostel already past 9am. We still have our time to pass by the Longshan Temple. It is just beside the Longshan Station (Blue Line) Hahaha! (no brainer). We just offered some incense to Buddha and wished a little to pay respect to their religion and then headed straight to Shifen.

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We went back to Bannan Line and alighted at Nangang Station to transfer to Taiwan Railways Administration (TRA) Line going to Reifung Station. You can ride any TRA train going west EXCEPT going to KEELUNG. A single journey ticket to Reifung from Nangang costs NT$35 (PH₱64.75). We rode the train to Su’ao Station.

SHIFEN, PINGXI DISTRICT

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From Reifung Station, you need to buy a new ticket going to Shifen just outside the station (there’s a vending machine for tickets right after the exit). The guard on duty didn’t understand me when I asked where to ride going to Shifen, he pointed us outside! And us being naive, we tried to check if there are other train stations outside. We just realized that it’s the same train station because we were going nowhere. A single journey ticket to Shifen from Reifung costs NT$19 (PH₱35.15). You need to go back to the same platform, check for the arrival time and ride a train going to Pingxi District. It is the old train you see in pictures, but they still work!

Shifen Old Street and Sky Lantern

There’s a WiFi at the Shifen Station, so be sure to have your Google Maps (or whatever map/guide you use) ready before proceeding to your destination, because after that you wouldn’t find any free public WiFi.

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We just had our lunch somewhere there and I had pepper beef rice for NT$150 (PH₱277.50) plus we shared for Xiao Long Bao set which costs NT$120 or NT$40 (PH₱74) for our share.

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Along the railways of Shifen where people fly the sky lantern and have their photoops. The trains that travel there are really slow and people are warned whenever there’s an upcoming train. We shared for multicolored sky lantern which costs NT$200 (PH₱370) and flew it. A unicolored sky lantern is also available for NT$150 (PH₱277.50).

They use Japanese paper to fuel the fire of the sky lantern so there’s no worry that it would cause pollution to the area since it would only suspend in the air around 5 to 10 minutes and would not go far away from Shifen. Once the sky lantern land back, it is being picked up by some cleaners to tidy up the place.

Shifen Waterfalls

We already set our Google Maps directing to Shifen Waterfalls before proceeding. It is just about 30 minutes to an hour walk. We trusted Google Maps on this one and it didn’t fail us. It is kinda far to walk but achievable if you don’t want to spend that much.

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The waterfalls in Shifen is breathtaking, and it looks a smaller version of the Niagara Falls bounded by Canada and USA. There are splashes of water from the falls even from far away and the river seems not suitable for swimming because it looks deep and the current seems strong for leisure dipping and swimming.

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You may just drop by the place to take some photos and eat by the food stalls along the trail. The place is very relaxing because of the gorgeous scenery and cool splashes of fresh water that will relieve the heat you got from walking. The bridges there are also beautiful and you will notice the railway beside the bridge that goes through to the Shifen Station.

TAROKO GORGE

Going to the Taroko Gorge should be planned well, you should not do what we have done because there’s a better way to enjoy it to the fullest. First to find a place to stay overnight in Hualien near the train station whether in Hualien or Taroko. The travel time going there is 2 hours and 30 minutes to 3 hours depending on which type of train you will ride. You may come there at night so you can still enjoy the city or the place where you would be coming from.

We checked out from our hostel at around 7am and decided to rent a locker in Taipei City Hall Station. It has cost us NT$120 (PH₱222) for 12 hours of use of a medium-sized locker. Unfortunately, I also left the battery of my camera in our locker. I was forced to settle with the camera of my phone. That’s the reason why I always look after a good camera phone.

If you would be coming from Taipei City, it would be faster if you would be using the combo ticket going to Hualien. You can buy the combo ticket (NT$209 or PH₱386.65) at the Taipei City Hall Bus Station going to Hualien. The ticket is divided in to two. The first ticket would be used for the shuttle bus in Taipei City Hall Station to Loudong Train Station. The other ticket is for the train from Loudong Station to Hualien Station. We were able to ride the express train to Hualien, but since our ticket is a local train, we don’t have reserved seats and we needed to stay between the coaches near the doors of the train until there are seats available.

If you will stay in Hualien County overnight, it is good if you buy an unlimited day pass for shuttle bus in Taroko Gorge for NT$250 (PH₱462.50). You can buy the unlimited day pass at the orange building on the left of front exit of the Hualien Station. Buses have their route schedule being followed everyday and starts at 7am everyday and up only until 5pm from the last station.

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1. Find the ticketing booth in Taipei City Hall Bus Station and proceed to this counter.
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2. You’ll get a ticket (NT$209) similar to this. Except that it says “Taipei => Loudong” and “Loudong => Hualien”
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3. Find Door number 13 and queue there to board on the bus.
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4. Upon arriving at Loudong Train Station, ride the elevator to reach Platform 2A. Wait for a train that will reach Hualien Station.
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5. Exit at the front side of Hualien Station and upon exiting, on your left side, you will find this orange building where you can buy an unlimited day pass for Taroko Shuttle Bus.
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6. They will give you this pass (NT$250) and map with guide. You’re now set to go and explore Taroko Gorge!

Taroko Gorge should be done in a day, doing it for few hours is just a waste of time and money. Remember that MRT opens at 6am then add another 3 hours for your travel time and you’ll reach Hualien 9am the earliest.

Taroko Sched

Take note that there are different bus stops between Hualien to Tianxiang (Outbound compared Tianxiang to Hualien (Inbound). It may take you around 30 minutes to an hour to visit every station and the bus passes by the bus stop every hour. You need to use your time wisely depending how much time you have.

Sample Itinerary for Taroko Gorge

Itinerary

Since it was almost noon when we found where we should be because we got lost our way again looking for that orange building in front of Hualien Station, we just decided to head straight to Tianxiang and have our lunch there then proceed to the Inbound itinerary.

Tianxiang

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We arrived at Tianxiang around 12nn and decided to have our lunch first to the nearest eatery. We had noodles with pork chop for NT$70 (PH₱129.50) and shared over a dumpling set which has so much air inside for NT$60 (PH₱111).

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It was not written on the guide given to us what we can visit in Tianxiang. But we saw these beautiful bridges and got curious so we tried to check it out. And we thought that it really looks promising.

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We were not disappointed on what we saw up there on the mountain. The temple of Buddha is magnificent and breathtaking matching with the mountain background. The places is serene and peaceful it will relax your body and soul.

Eternal Spring (Changchun) Shrine

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This was the reason why I really wanted to go to Taroko Gorge. Well, unfortunately I left the battery of my camera in our locker in Taipei. The view is just right beside the road and no need to take a hike. Another unfortunate event is that the Changchun Shrine is under maintenance. They have these green scaffolding around the shrine. I shall return next time and hopefully to enjoy Taroko Gorge to the fullest.

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EXPENSES

ITEM PH₱
Airfare RT via Traveloka (AirAsia)  2,100.00
Travel Tax  1,620.00
Accommodation 2 nights  1,000.00
TOTAL  4,720.00 
MAY VARY PH₱
Visa  2,600.00
ITEM Full Amount Individual
NT$ PH₱ NT$ PH₱
Breakfast in McDo  –  –  99.00  183.15
Taoyuan Airport to Taipei Main MRT  –  –  160.00  296.00
24-hour Taipei Metro Pass (MRT)  –  –  180.00  333.00
MRT single journey rides  –  –  50.00  92.50
Lunch at MRT  –  –  80.00  148.00
Fried Milk at Shilin  50.00  92.50  16.67  30.83
Fresh Orange Juice  –  –  20.00  37.00
Dinner at Shilin  –  –  80.00  148.00
Nangang to Reifung TRA  –  –  35.00  64.75
Reifung to Shifen TRA RT NT$19  –  –  38.00  70.30
Beef Pepper Meal at Shifen  –  –  150.00  277.50
Xiao Long Bao Set (Shifen)  120.00  222.00  40.00  74.00
Sky Lantern (Multicolored)  200.00  370.00  66.67  123.33
Reifung to Taipei TRA  –  –  40.00  74.00
Dinner at McDo  –  –  200.00  370.00
Snack (bread and Coke) from Family Mart  –  –  100.00  185.00
Locker rent for 12 hours  120.00  222.00  40.00  74.00
Combo Ticket Taipei-Hualien RT NT$209  –  –  418.00  773.30
Taroko Shuttle Unlimited Pass  –  –  250.00  462.50
Tianxiang Lunch Pork Noodles  –  –  70.00  129.50
Dumplings  60.00  111.00  20.00  37.00
Take out Sushi Dinner in Taipei Main  –  –  90.00  166.50
TOTAL      2,243.33   4,150.17 

 

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