Visiting Taiwan wasn’t really in my plans initially. Upon learning that I didn’t have to pay and apply for a visa, due to my active US visa, at the same time my friend invited me to join on a trek to Snow Mountain for a relatively cheaper cost, I decided to go to Taiwan.
I only had one day to roam around Taipei because I spent most of my time outside the capital. As soon as I got out of the immigration of Taoyuan International Airport, I took the Kuo Kuang bus which is directly going to the Taipei Main Station. The cost of the ticket is NTD 125 and the duration of the trip was around 50 minutes.
I felt overwhelmed when I arrived at the Taipei Main Station since it was my first time alone in a foreign big train station such as this one. I got lost for about an hour before I was able to get a sense of direction where I was supposed to go.
For first timers in Taipei, I suggest you ask the tourist concierge at the left side of the main counter. They will help you on the directions going to your destination. Better if you can also find a wifi hotspot to access your Google Maps. I was able to get a free wifi connection in Taipei City Mall, which is connected to the basement of the main station. You will see many escalators going down to the subways. You won’t get lost finding your way if you’ll follow the signs.
I stayed in Space Inn Xinyi, which according to the tourist concierge, is near Taipei 101. I took the subway going to Taipei 101 station.
As soon as I got out, I was amazed by the view of the famous iconic building of Taiwan. I walked for about 10 minutes to the hostel with my luggage and backpack.
Space Inn Xinyi really looked like a spaceship while inside. With all the blue neon lights and interior lighting effects, it seemed cool enough for its customers. After I checked in with the receptionist, I left my luggage at the baggage area along with other travelers’ bags. It was safe enough to leave it there as nothing got lost when I went back. Thus, my day to roam around Taipei began.
I walked back to Taipei 101 since I was curious what it is like inside and why it is so famous.
Upon entering, I noticed that the place was so crowded especially in the food court and the cue line to the elevator going up was very long. I was supposed to eat lunch in the food court but I decided not to since there was no vacant table anyway. I just roamed around the mall and took photos.
The mall is full of high-end shops.
After Taipei 101, I went out to go to Sun Yat Sen Memorial Hall, which is just a few blocks away. While walking to my next destination, I saw the Taipei City Hall and I was amazed by its elegance.
As I arrived at the Sun Yat Sen Memorial Hall, I saw a beautiful garden filled with flowers in an organized fashion. It was a great spot to take photos together with the building.
Inside the hall, a big statue of Sun Yat Sen welcomed the guests.
In the rooms, there were many scrolls and posters about the history of Taipei. However, they were all written in Chinese and I can’t read it. But, just looking at it gives you a sense of authenticity and curiosity about the country’s history and culture.
I planned to go to Ximending in the evening so I decided to go to Longshan Temple, which is already a walking distance away from Ximending. As I arrived in Longshan Temple, it was great timing since it was Chinese New Year when I visited. It was the first time I saw a Buddhist temple with lots of people and full of lanterns and incense.
Many people are lighting up their incense praying for good luck and good health.
Some people were amazed by the designs of the beautiful lanterns displayed in the gates of the temple. It was so crowded and you can feel the authenticity of the place. There were also stores outside the gates where I bought my winter gloves for only NTD 150.
As I was walking on my way towards Ximending, I came upon a historical temple called the Nishi Honganji Square. It was built by Japanese and Taiwanese Buddhists from 1904 to 1912. It housed the Taiwanese chapter of a Shin, or Pure Land, Buddhism subgroup. Sadly, it was dark already when I saw it. It could have been a great scene if I saw it in daytime. Nevertheless, I took photos of it.
I was already hungry so I decided to eat dinner in the nearest Chinese authentic restaurant. I had rice with some Chinese deli meat, and ordered dumplings.
Upon arriving in Ximending, I was amazed by its vibrant youth aura.
The place was full of energy with people walking freely down the streets along with some street performers sharing the fun to the public. Also, there are many stores where you can buy souvenirs, food, and gifts as well.
Of course, the experience won’t be complete without the street food. In Ximending, you can find the flame-torched wagyu steak, potato corn snack with lots of ham and melted cheese, fishballs, deep-fried chicken fillet and squid, milk tea, and many more.
There is also a portion of the walking street where you can see the colorful street art.
Hey look! Modern Toilet is also located in Ximending! I was also surprised when I saw it.
It was a good timing for me because I was able to experience the lantern festival in Taiwan. Different schools and universities participated in the lantern making. The showcased lanterns were amazing! It lighted up the parks and streets around Ximending.
When I was walking towards the nearest train station, I found the 228 Peace Park. It houses the National Taiwan Museum. This might be a perfect place to stroll around to rest and unwind.
I was already tired at this point and we had to start our hike to snow Mountain the next day. Thus, I went back to Space Inn Xinyi to meet my friends.