Taiwan may be far from the concrete jungle and cosmopolitan cities that I have been to. But, the distinct Chinese culture with a mix of Japanese influence in their fashion scene, food, and discipline made this city more interesting and attractive. The weather can get crazy in this island, but that will not stop you from wandering around. I promise to be back in Taiwan and visit the places I was not able to go to because of heavy rain.
- Change ALL your Philippine peso (in case you are bringing this currency) at the airport– both Taoyuan and Songshan- because there are no money changers scattered around the island. You can ONLY change the said currency in banks which would operate on weekdays only. As for US dollars, you can have your money change in Shin Kong Mitsukoshi, Taipei 101 Mall, CityInn Hotel in Ximending, and airports anytime. Don’t forget to bring your passport!
- The saying that “Taiwan is boring” is a myth. Taipei, Taiwan is so awesome that I am already planning when to go back and what to do. I admit that at first I was kind of hesitant to visit Taiwan, but when I started to do my research on where to go and what to do, I was hoping that I could squeeze in more time to visit every place that I have discovered. Taiwan is a country for everyone and every type of person will fit in here. If you are after the glitz and glam of the city, you can just stay in Taipei. Be more adventurous and discover the rich culture of Taiwan, then head east to Ruifang District. Looking for a chill and relaxing atmosphere, go down south to Taichung.
- Taipei or Ximending, specifically, is a Japanese-influenced street filled with delicious food and thrift shops. Ximending is the place to be! This is the equivalent of Seoul’s Myeongdong or Japan’s Shinjuku. Iconic for its pedestrian shopping haven, you will see millenials strolling around here from late afternoon till past midnight. International brands like H&M, Uniqlo, Nike, The Face Shop, Adidas and the like are located here. Taiwan is the perfect melting pot for street food and Ximending is where you will find most of them. The food carts are on the move so if you decide to get the same street food, just look around, the Xian Sheng or Da Jie is just around the corner. The famous Modern Toilet Restaurant, which is initially included in the itinerary, but later on we decided not to go, is also found here.We were right on time for H&M Taipei flagship store’s opening day and was able to go around their 5-storey building (and bought an emerald green slip dress!). Local stores were also everywhere. From cellphone trinkets to the latest clothing trend, you want it, they have it here. I can’t believe I was able to cop a pair of over-the-knee boots for only 370NTD or 577php/$12. It was originally 390NTD, but the stinginess in me couldn’t resist to haggle. So, yes, you can haggle!
- Locals are super friendly, hospitable, and sneakers-lover. Language barrier was and will never be an issue in Taiwan. Everyone was just so nice and hospitable. We stayed in an Airbnb apartment in Ximending and our host was accommodating and lenient that have placed us in a comfortable disposition while being in a foreign country. It was my first time trying Airbnb and after my experience, I rate it as highly recommended. Apart from being a “home away from home,” the apartment was big enough to house 6 people, has cable TV, wifi, water heater, and cushy, upholstered couch (my fave among the rest since this was where I instantly fell asleep with mouth open upon arrival).
- Nearly 700,000 treasures of ancient Chinese imperial artefacts and artworks are stored here in the National Palace Museum- world’s largest and finest collection of Chinese art. What they say is true. Forbidden City in China is incomplete because most treasures are found and kept in Taiwan. Jades, calligraphy, lacquerware, porcelain plates, scriptures, and every remnants of the civil war from the Qing and Ming Dynasties are secured here. These most valuable pieces were transferred from China to Taiwan so as to prevent the prized items to fall into the hands of the Japanese Imperial Army.
- The weather is bipolar. November is almost the closing part of fall season and yet, rain showers are still undeniably a party pooper. It can be freezing cold in the morning and the next thing you know, you are sweating like a pig; although, 90% of the time it is cold with chill wind. It will be helpful to wear long sleeves (fleece or cotton), pants, leggings, or skirt with tights, and a down jacket. You may also opt to wear boots if, like me, you are the type to easily get cold.
- This, I must say, made me realise how lucky the young generation are in Taiwan. We accidentally attended an exhibit of innovative education in Huashan 1914 Creative Park and boy, was I jealous of their after-school activities. They had robotics school, arts and craft, environmental awareness community, etc. Education was something cannot be taken away by anyone from someone and for a fact every parent’s life-long investment for their children.