First of all, it was a relief that Taiwan has extended the visa-free entry to Philippine passport holders until July 2019. However, they have shortened it to 15 days from the former 30.
We will be in Taipei for less than a week for our 10th year celebration! The weather was not too good in Manila, and I was hoping we’d have a stress-free night flight.
We arrived around 9:00 PM at NAIA Terminal 3, even if our flight will not leave not until 11:00 PM. This is obviously a red-eye flight to Taipei.
It is worth noting that of all our trips together, this is my first time to religiously list all of our expenses. At the end of the series, I will be listing our expenses. For our pocket money, I have only used earnings from Google Adsense. The hotel booking (via Booking.com) was also paid for in advance using Google Adsense.
BRYOLOGUE does not earn much Adsense-wise. However, I maintain another website that pretty much takes care of its own. So let us see how far our pocket money will bring us. LOL
Both of us have been on keto diet since May, so we are unsure how we will survive in carb-rich Taiwan. We even had to bake a loaf of bread and a small batch of brownies because we did not want to be kicked out of ketosis! This was, as expected, a big challenge as a keto traveler.
We arrived a little past 1:00 PM at Taoyuan International Airport. As expected, not a lot of shops were open. We headed straight to the tall tables where the one can fill out the immigration cards.
Another flight from China arrived with us, so there were a lot of people waiting. But the immigration officials were so efficient that Mon and I waited for a little more than 5 minutes.
After passing through the immigration, we then exchanged Php 1,500 to NTD at the money changer. I can’t recall how much the exchange rate was. I just thought I’d exchange the rest of our money at Taipei.
We rented beforehand a pocket WIFi online from iVideo, and the pick-up was at HiLife. According to the email instructions, the convenience store will open by 3:30 AM. To my surprise, it was already open by 1:30 AM.
I just showed my passport to the HiLife staff. I was given a kit that contains the pocket WiFi, charger, a spare battery, and another plastic where I will put the kit upon return. It has the password written at the back, and we were so happy to have our own WiFi!
Make no mistake, one can already connect to the free airport WiFi at Taoyuan International Airport.
Because we arrived past 12:00 am, there’s no MRT from the airport to Taipei. Good thing that Kuo Kuang Bus 1819 is open 24/7. We got our ticket at 2:17 am (NTD 140 each), and the bus left at exactly 2:30 am.
There were a couple of stops from Taoyuan International Airport to Taipei Main Station. Mon was quite hungry that he pulled out the brownies from his bag. He miraculously did not sleep during the 40-minute trip. I also personally had a lot of fun looking outside, observing the streets without people.
At exactly 3:10 am, we arrived at Taipei Main Station. Now, where to go next? I was supposed to book Uber, but I did not want to start our Taipei adventure with a credit card charge. There was a taxi bay a couple of meters away and it was not hard to miss. Although one must walk to the shed and haul the bags for nearly 50 meters.
I showed the address to Royal Hours Deluxe Inn at the Booking.com’s app, and the cab driver knew exactly where we were supposed to go. We paid exactly NTD 120.
We technically did a late check-in, although we paid for the whole day. I’m pretty sure they may be able to accommodate a late check-in but I was just not in the mood to negotiate. Don’t be like me. At 3:30 am, we hit the sack. We were to wake up at 8:30 am for a long day ahead of us.
Right after we woke up, the first thing we did was check out the breakfast. I was quite disappointed that they just ration food at the inn. When I booked online, I was under the impression that they have at least eggs, or whatnot. There goes the supposed savings. There was a 7/11 store near us, and this is where we get our breakfast and morning coffee.
We left the inn at 10:00 am to have our money changed to NTD at the Bank of Taiwan. When we reached a branch in Ximending, we were instructed that they do not exchange Philippine Peso to NTD there. We have to go to the main office. -_-
We have to walk again for nearly 30 minutes to find the main office. To our surprise, it was situated to the right of the Presidential Office Building. It was unexpected.
After having our money changed (note: the exchange rate was almost the same as in the airport — what a waste of time), we then went back to Ximen Station to get our Easy Card (NTD 100 non-refundable) and initial top-up of NTD 100.
We earlier contemplated getting the 3- or 5-day pass, but read reviews that it might not be worth it. We just decided on topping up when the credit got low. It need not mentioning that you must always have the MRT map with you. We have it on our phones and constantly check them for directions.
From Ximen Station, the first place we decided to visit was Chiang-Kai Shek Memorial Hall. There is an MRT station smacked next to this attraction, so it is not easy to miss.
It took us about 10 minutes to get from Ximen Station to Chiang-Kai Shek station. It was almost 11:30 am and the sun was already blazing. There were also a lot of tourists like us, not to mention students practicing for their school presentation.
To the left, you will see the Dazhong Gate where Mon enjoyed his walking shots. I never did one unlike the mandatory walking shots I did in South Korea back in the winter of 2016. It was just too hot.
There was also a bride having her photo shoot at the gate. I was too tame and did not bother her with my photobombing tendencies. =D
More than anything else, we enjoyed having our photos taken by the shade of the gate. We were just too tired of the heat, and enjoyed people watching.
The pathway back to the MRT station also had this interesting telephone booth.
From Chiang Kai-Shek Station, our next destination was Taipei 101. It was way past lunchtime, and we needed our keto fix. We knew for sure how difficult it will be to look for a place to eat, with the language barrier and all.
We arrived at Taipei 101 station and took a couple of photos with the iconic building. The lighting was quite difficult though, because the sky was overcast and the sun was surely almost overhead. Perhaps we could get a better shot later in the day, or in the following days?
Taipei 101 also has a mall. I’m pretty sure there are also offices here. We did not go to the observation deck because we’re cheap. LOL A lot of high-end stores, but this will not feed us. Our closest bet was to find a food court because it will have better choices.
We spent the next 15 minutes looking for a place to buy food from and ended up with fried chicken because everywhere else has rice and lots of carbs. ^O^ We bought the NTD 295 without the rice, as well as these unsweetened green tea. Things will surely be sadder by the day food-wise.
From Taipei 101, we next went to Sun Yat-Sen Memorial Hall. We did not go inside, though, because there was an entrance fee. We enjoyed, however, the grounds and the garden by the Emerald pond.
There was also a spectacular view of Taipei 101. I think this is better than having photos taken at the base of the building itself. It would have been, better though, if we were here later in the day. I bet daylight would be less harsh, not to mention we won’t be as sweaty.
Near the Emerald Pond, there were some elderly people strolling. I could stay there for another 30 minutes, as the shade was so welcoming. There also a couple of birds by the pond (these might be egrets?), and others whose names I did not know.
From Sun Yat-Sen Memorial Hall, we walked to Songshan Creative and Cultural Park. This is where we had our afternoon coffee (NTD 90 each), before we started exploring the area.
At this point, the camera’s battery was dead, and I only took a couple of photos using my cellphone. Like other creative parks, you’d see artist and different exhibitions here. It is also possible to buy items, but we just window shopped. LOL
After Songshan Creative and Cultural Park, we headed back to our inn to rest and freshen up. It was a long day, given that we slept for less than five hours.
Royal Hourse Deluxe Inn is located at a spitting distance (if not, within) Ximending Night Market. We wanted to try one of those big chicken pieces we saw others munching on.
Hot-Star Chicken has lots of customers. An order of their famous chicken costs only NTD 70. We just point at the menu located on the table top, waited for about 5 minutes, and sat on one of the benches in the area.
At the other side of Hot-Star Chicken is one of the MANY milk tea shops. Milk tea is technically not allowed on keto. But, hey, we spent the whole day walking so we thought we have to be kind to ourselves and occasionally treat ourselves to non-keto stuff.
Mon has been looking forward to his first milk tea experience. I, on the other hand, thought that perhaps we could find a shop where almond milk is served instead.
By 10:00 pm, I was already sleepy. We decided to head back to the inn, passing by several street food stalls. I just really wanted to rest. I might have been extra sensitive with cigarette smoke, that I felt really uneasy to the point that I wanted to wear a face mask.
This is one aspect of Taipei I did not like. Cigarette smoke was quite prevalent. Our second day would be much more special, and I looked forward to a night’s rest — it will be our 10th anniversary, reason why we are in Taipei in the first place!