TAIPEI, TAIWAN (Part 1 of 3)
March 17-23, 2010
Last March 17-23,2010 I was able to visit the beautiful country of Taiwan. This was a trip organized by my husband for our photography group’s first international photo expedition.
Taiwan is located southeast of the Republic of China and north of the Philippines. Out of the 195 countries in the world, Taiwan, Kosovo and the Vatican City, are the only countries that are not members of the United Nations.
Similar to China, a visa is required to enter Taiwan. But for Philippine citizens who also have visas of any of the following: US/Canada/Japan/UK/Australia/New Zealand/Schengen States, all you need to do is visit this site https://nas.immigration.gov.tw/nase/ , fill up the necessary form and print. That will serve as your visa to Taiwan.
We arrived at the Taiwan Taoyuan International Airport via Cebu Pacific Airlines (a low cost carrier based in the Philippines) after a 2 hour flight. We arrived before 1 am of the 18th, got picked up by a bus that was previously arranged by a contact in Manila (2200 NT for 9 people) and went directly to our hotel in Taipei – the Yomi Hotel. We chose this hotel due good reviews and its proximity to the Shuanglian MRT station. Our hotel was just a 3 star hotel but the rooms were pretty decent. The rooms had free wifi (internet cables can also be borrowed for free) and free snacks. The bathrooms were pretty big and could be used as a sauna. Restaurants/small eateries can be found around the hotel and some of them close pretty late (after arriving at the hotel, some of our friends still ate out at around 2 in the morning).
In my opinion, one really good thing about Taiwan is their reliable and efficient transportation systems. Metered taxis can be found anywhere (though one must always remember to have the card of their hotel and their destination written down in Chinese –most of the drivers CANNOT understand English). Their railway system (MRT) is very similar to Hong Kong’s which makes going around Taiwan trouble-free. Since we were a big group of photographers (some hobbyists, some not) we opted to rent a small bus/coaster and hire a guide for 2 days to be able to see the provinces outside of Taipei. Unfortunately, our driver was a better guide than the one we hired but fortunately we had mandarin/fukien speaking people in our group so they were able to help with the language barrier.
March 18, 2010
LIBERTY SQUARE/CHIANG KAI-SHEK MEMORIAL HALL/SHILIN NIGHT MARKET
Taking the red line from the Shuanglian station, we stopped at the Chiang Kai-shek memorial hall station. Once we reached the exit, we found ourselves at the Liberty Square where the Chiang Kai-shek memorial hall, National Theater and National Concert Hall were located.
Main Gate of the Liberty Square
National Theater and National Concert Hall
The national Chiang Kai-Shek Memorial Hall, which can be found at the liberty square/freedom square, was built in honor of a former president Chiang Kai-Shek (a leader in 20th century China). The colors of the monument (blue, white and red) represent the colors that can be found in the ROC flag. The two sets of 89 steps leading to the top stand for the age when Chiang Kai-shek passed away. The octagonal shape of the roof symbolizes the number 8.
According to the Wikipedia website, the inscriptions that can be found on the walls inside the memorial translate to “The purpose of life is to improve the general life of humanity and The meaning of life is to create and sustain subsequent lives in the universe”.
Chiang Kai-Shek Memorial Hall
After visiting the monument, we decided to head to Taipei 101 for a very late lunch at the shopping arcade food court. I had some of my favorite Xiao Long Bao (shanghai soup dumplings), soup and mushroom rice. After lunch we split into 2 groups – one group decided to go the camera stores and to the IT center. 4 of us decided to stay behind, walk around, kill time, go back to the hotel to meet and pay our tour guide, wait for it to get dark, go back near Taipei 101 for and take night shots of the city. After a couple of hours and realizing that we were getting hungry once more, we met with our other friends at the Shilin Night Market (take note people – to get to the Shilin market, you do not get off at the Shilin stop. You must go down at the Jiantan station). We took the mrt (blue line) from the Taipei City Hall station (not a short walk from Taipei 101) to the Taipei Main Station; switched to the red line and stopped at the shilin station – realized our mistake and went back one stop.
Taipei 101 at night
Taipei is full of night markets. The Shilin night market (open from around 6 pm till midnight) is one of the biggest and one of the most popular. For the adventurous type, the variety of food, snacks and drinks are amazing! From stinky tofu, fried sioapos (fried steamed buns), kiamoy/champuy/haw flakes flavored drinks, mushroom rice, octopus balls, oyster cakes, flavored ice cream, grilled sweet and spicy corn, candied strawberries, sausages/chorizos, steak dinners costing only 100 NT (with bottomless iced tea) etc. etc…your options are limitless. Besides the food, affordable clothes and accessories are everywhere. So there is always something to do for each and every one. At around 1030 pm we hopped back on the MRT and decided to call it a night.
Shilin Night Market