Experiencing the Heart of Asia : Taiwan

Taiwan - 
The Heart of Asia has opened its doors to tourists from all over the world. It has welcome Filipinos to no visa entry from 2017 to 2019.

The Heart of the Filipinos, Philippine Airlines has been bringing people to Taipei. With flights from Manila, They have been building bridges for Filipinos to travel and visit Taipei easier. Alongside with Global Link Travel and Tours, travel life has been made hassle-free.

Why would you want to visit Taiwan? 
  1. Taiwan has so much to showcase and contribute to the world. To the mountainside in the east, to the city life of Taipei and industrial living in Kaohsiung. It is worth to be discovered and experienced. Taiwan's old name was "Formosa" given by the Portuguese which means beautiful island. With its 390 km stretch from North to South and an area of 35,883 km, it indeed has so much to give to the tourists. 
  2. Taiwan has four seasons. You can always opt to visit Taiwan in any season you want. Spring is the best season to catch a sight of cherry blossoms and other blooming flowers in Taiwan. This happens every mid- February to mid- April.
  3. Taiwan is not just a beautiful country. It also has very nice and kind people. They are very helpful to tourists especially if you ask them for direction, they would go out of their way to help you. 
Last October 18-21, 2018,  I was invited to join and document a familiarization tour with the Visayas and Mindanao Travel Agents. It was an amazing experience! To each participant, to the tour guide and to the travel agencies (Global Link Travel and Tours and Edison Travel of Taiwan),  to Philippine Airlines who made everything possible and who made this trip excellent, Kudos to all of you! I commend you all for making this trip unforgettable.
Mabuhay Lounge - Cebu

Let me start with our flight from Cebu to Manila at 4:10 am connecting to Taipei at 7am. Accommodation at Mabuhay lounge never fails to amaze me. With the food and drinks offered unlimited. It makes the waiting more enjoyable. You will be spending your time doing some important things like writing or blogging while having a bowl of delicious Arroz Caldo and a cup of coffee at Mabuhay lounge.

Mabuhay Lounge - Manila

The fun doesn't stop there when you get to be upgraded to PAL's Business Class. You will be given a menu to choose the meal you want to be served. As they say, "Carpe diem" I am seizing the day trying to taste everything that my tummy can bear. With the most comfortable seat, a spacious leg room and your sleeping essentials (pillow and blanket) your waiting won't be too long. The less than two-hour flight would become pleasurable.

PAL's Business Class Seat

PAL's Business Class from Cebu to Manila with Miss Bing Amistoso
When we arrived in Taipei, our tour guide, Alice Chen of Edison Travel welcomed us with a banner of Global Link Travel and Tours. Then she led us to our clean and cozy bus with wifi connection.

Our bus service for our four-day tour c/o Global Link Travel and Tours and Edison Travel of Taiwan

First day in Taipei:

1.  Taipei's National Palace Museum - A world-class museum that hosts an eclectic collection of treasures kept by generations of Emperors ruling from the Forbidden City. It is designed in the style of the Northern Chinese palace. It is a home to hundreds of thousands of historical relics that make up the world's most comprehensive and precious collection of ancient Chinese artifacts.

Entrance Fee: Adult: NTD 350 / PHP 414 / USD 8, Student NTD 150 / PHP 248 / USD5

Open Hours:

Monday – Thursday: 8:30 AM -6:30 PM

Friday – Saturday: 8:30 AM -9:00 PM

Sunday: 8:30 AM -6:30 PM

Address: No. 221, Section 2, Zhishan Road, Shilin District, Taipei City, Taiwan 111

With Ms. Eldee of PAL Sales

With Cebu and Vismin Travel Agents at Taipei's National Palace Museum

2.   Lungshan Temple of Manka - This spot excites me because I came to learn how Taiwanese pray to their gods. They also had their matchmaker god whom you can ask questions answerable by yes or no regarding your love life ;)

Entrance Fee: Free but donations are highly encouraged.

At  Lungshan Temple of Manka 

The man-made waterfall at Lungshan Temple of Manka 

At Lungshan Temple of Manka 

3.   Chiang Kai- Shek Memorial Hall -  is a national monument, landmark and tourist attraction in memory of the former President of Taiwan, Chiang Kai Shek. This is where we were able to witness the hourly change of their guards, photos of Chiang Kai Shek and his sitting wax figure in the exhibition room. The most touching part for me was to see those senior citizens voluntarily giving their time to protect and help their memorial hall for their hero.

Entrance Fee: Free

Open Hours: 09:00 AM to 6:00 PM daily, except for Chinese New Year Eve & Chinese New Year.

Address: No. 21, Zhongshan South Road, Zhongzheng District, Taipei City, Taiwan 100

At Chiang Kai-Shek Memorial Hall

Fam Tour at Chiang Kai-Shek Memorial Hall

Chiang Kai Shek's sitting wax figure
People watching their change of guards

  Presidential Office Building -  Taiwan's highest authority building. The building has four ground floors and one underground floor. With a capacity of two thousand people.

With the Presidential Office Building as our background
5.  Sun Yat- Sen Memorial Hall -  The National Sun-Yat Sen Memorial Hall is located in Xinyi District, Taipei, Taiwan. It is a memorial to the Republic of China's National Father, Dr. Sun Yat- Sen. It is a perfect location of a good panoramic view of the Taipei 101.

Entrance Fee: Free

Open Hours: 9:00 AM to 6:00 PM, daily, except for Chinese New Year Eve & Chinese New Year.

Address: No. 505, Section 4, Ren’ai Road, Xinyi District, Taipei City, Taiwan 110

With Cebu & VisMin Travel Agents at Sun Yat-Sen Memorial

A Great shot of Taipei 101 at Sun Yat-Sen Memorial

6.  Taipei 101 Building - Taipei World Financial Center is a landmark supertall skyscraper in Xinyi District, Taipei, Taiwan. The building was officially classified as the world's tallest in 2004 and remained such until the completion of the Burj Khalifa in Dubai in 2010. It used to have the fastest elevator in the world, traveling at 60.6 km/h (37.7 mph) and transporting passengers from the 5th to 89th floor in 37 seconds. In 2016, the title for the fastest elevator was given to the Shanghai Tower in Shanghai. The tower has second heaviest wind damper that measures 660 tons to withstand earthquakes and typhoons. And it has its observatory deck which gives you a 360 view of Taipei. (Entrance fee is $20 USD/ person)

Taipei 101 Open Hours:

Monday – Thursday: 11:00 AM – 9:30 PM

Friday – Saturday: 11:00 AM -10:00 PM

Sunday – 11:00 AM -9:30 PM

At Taipei 101 Building

Taipei 101 Building at our background

Taipei 101 displaying Taiwan's unique architectural design

Taipei's magnificent view on the 89th floor

7. Din Tai Fung in Taipei 101-   One of the Michelin star restaurants in Taipei. The very delicious Xiao Long Bao which is my new Taipei favorite food. And I've learned that there are steps to follow in eating Xiao Long Bao and here's how to eat it:

Put soy sauce and vinegar into the bowl with sliced ginger. Take the soup dumpling and dip it into the sauce. Then put the dumpling into your spoon, and poke a hole in the wrapper of the dumpling to release the juices. And finally, eat.

Watching the chefs preparing their delicious dumplings at  Din Tai Fung

Xiao Long Bao at  Din Tai Fung

My favorite chocolate dessert at Din Tai Fung

Second day in Taipei:

1. Yehliu Geopark - One of the premier destinations in northern Taiwan, Yehliu Geopark is home to a number of unique geological formations including the iconic "Queen's Head". It is where you can find the 4 kinds of mushroom rocks named: No neck, Thin neck, Thick neck, and Broken neck. (Entrance fee is $80NT per person)

The beautiful coastal scenery of Taiwan's North East side  

What a wonderful day at Yehliu Park

Me, striking a pose at Yehliu Park

The group with our tour guide, Alice at Yehliu Park

Enjoying the view and the experience

Well, thinking how far am I from the Philippines :)

One of Taipei's pride

2. Jiufen -  is a mountain town in northeastern Taiwan, east of Taipei. It's known for the narrow alleyways of its old town, packed with teahouses, street-food shacks, and souvenir shops.

My favorite side of town: Jiufen

I am loving the view here at Jiufen

The famous tea house in Jiufen

The Tea House

3. Shifen waterfall - After Jiufen, we traveled to Shifen waterfall. One of Taipei’s tourist destinations. Since it is on the mountainside, expect it to be colder...nice view including the hanging bridge and the waterfall. A must try food here is the Stinky Tofu.

The Niagara falls of Taipei: Shifen Waterfall

The beautiful hanging bridge at Shifen Waterfall

With the group at Shifen Waterfall

About to see the Niagara Falls of Taipei: Shifen Waterfall

A perfect shot of the hanging bridge

4. The Shifen Old Street of Taiwan - is where you can write your wishes in the four sides of the lantern then have it fly high to reach the sky. The higher it goes, the higher the possibilities it will be granted. This is done in a railway of Shifen old street every day from 9am to 8pm. This is a must try activity when you are in Taipei! (For a single colored lantern: $150 NT and $200 NT for four colored lantern)

Taking a pose at Shifen Old Street in Taiwan

Taking a shot before releasing our lantern

Goodbye, lantern!

5. Ximending Shopping Area - Ximending has been called the "Harajuku of Taipei" and the "Shibuya of Taipei. Ximending is the source of Taiwan's fashion, subculture, and Japanese culture. Ximending has a host of clubs and pubs in the surrounding area. This area is in the northeastern part of Wanhua District in Taipei and it is also the most important consumer district in the Western District of Taipei. The well-known Ximending Pedestrian Area was the first pedestrian area built in Taipei and is the largest in Taiwan. It's their night market that closes 11pm with different imported brands available like H&M, Uniqlo, Adidas, Nike, Crocs and a lot more. 

Open Hours:

11:00am - 11:00pm daily

At Ximending Night Market

Experiencing Ximending Night Market

Ximending shopping market

The Third day of our trip:

1.   Hexing Train Station is now known as the "love train station"    - Today, Hexing Train Station has become a mecca for lovebirds who seek happiness with each other. The much talked about Lavender Cottage Group has been stationed itself here since 2014, and the station then soon becomes a huge crowd magnet in Hsinchu.

Hexing Train Station can be easily accessed by car or train. Many couples come here to ring the bell to wish for everlasting happiness. Upon entering, you will surely be amazed by the romantic setting throughout the area. Love is in the air, indeed. Grab a cup of coffee inside the train and spend a lovely afternoon with your significant other, or send a postcard to your loved ones to let them know that you are thinking about them. If you are planning to take the Neiwan train and visit the Lavender Cottage, don’t forget to bring your special someone to this unique, quaint little station!

At the entrance of the Love Train Station

Waiting for the right man :)

In the waiting area with different clocks in different time zones

At Hexing Train Station

The quaint little station

   2. Leofoo Village Theme Park --   Taiwan’s 40-year-old theme park called the Leofoo Village offers four theme areas Wild West, South Pacific, African Safari and Arabian Kingdom. The First Fantasy World in Asia that Combines both Amusement Park and Safari. Other than more than 30 thrilling roller coasters teenagers love to challenge and the wild animal zoo that’s suitable for the whole family. Leofoo Village also has musical water shows, large parades and other magnificent dancing shows which enables Leofoo Village to become the best location for traveling and most population shooting place for Taiwan movies and TV shows. For more information regarding reservation and rates please check their website: http://www1.leofoo.com.tw/village/en/TicketPrice.aspx
Cebu and VisMin Travel Agents with our two tour guides, Miss Alice Chen of Edison Travel and Miss Arti Chang of Leofoo Theme Park

Cebu and VisMin Travel Agents trying the Safari of  Leofoo Theme Park

Buffaloes at Leofoo Theme Park

Flamingoes at Leofoo Theme Park

Safari at Leofoo Theme Park

Arabian Theme at Leofoo Theme Park

Arabian Theme at Leofoo Theme Park

Wild West Theme at Leofoo Theme Park

Leofoo Theme Park's Waterpark

The Roller Coaster at Leofoo Theme Park

Miss Bing Amistoso, very happy with her super large burger

3. Photo shoot at Taipei's Grand Hotel - is one of Taipei's landmarks located at Yuanshan in Zhongshan District. The hotel was established in 1952 and was completed on October 10, 1973. It is owned by the Duen-Mou Foundation of Taiwan, a non-profit organization, and has been a host to a lot of foreign dignitaries including our ex-president Corazon Aquino. The main building of the hotel is one of the world's tallest Chinese classical buildings. It was also the tallest building in Taiwan from 1973 to 1981.

The Grand Hotel is a landmark located at Yuanshan in Zhongshan District, Taipei, Taiwan

 The Grand Hotel is a landmark located at Yuanshan (圓山) in Zhongshan District, Taipei, Taiwan

 The Lobby of The Grand Hotel in Zhongshan District, Taipei, Taiwan

                                      Thousands of dragon designs found at The Grand Hotel

4. Takao 1972 - One of the best Shabu- Shabu dinner in Taipei is Takao 1972. This is where we had our last dinner in Taiwan. Big servings, seafood included (Shrimps, squid, fish) and of course unlimited hot tea. 

Shabu- Shabu at Takeo 1972
Last dinner at Takeo 1972

5. Shilin Night Market - In Shilin Market, it’s more on street food like big squids, scallops, shrimps and shells. Also, they have their famous bubble milk tea, stinky tofu, mashed potato, fried chicken and of course, the pasalubong area; where you can buy pineapple cake, mochi and a lot more.

Shilin food night market

Shilin food night market

Shilin food night market

Shilin food night market

Shilin food night market

Shilin food night market

Shilin food night market

The five must eat of Taipei according to our tour guide, Alice.

 1.Hot star fried chicken - It cost $70 NT and its super big!

Hot Star Fried Chicken
2. Bubble Milk Tea - for $45 NT regular size and $50 large size

50 Bubble Tea
3. Stinky Tofu: For $60 NT per serving
Stinky Tofu
4. Oyster Omelette: $60 NT one serving good for 2 people

Oyster Omelette

Sausage for $100 NT for 3 sausages

Taiwan's Sausage

And if you are looking for goodies to buy for your loved ones from your Taiwan, here are some of my suggestions:

Tea Egg
Grape Juice
Ampalaya Juice
And just like the special goodies from our tour guide, Alice Chen.

Pineapple cake, wafers in different flavors, Taipei 101 water bottle and a ref magnet of Taiwan's map.

My take away in this familiarization tour in Taiwan is that we may speak different languages but we speak one language from the heart. Philippines and Taiwan were both conquered by powerful countries but we fought. We are both strong, beautiful and resilient people.

Taiwan also has a story to tell and that can be best curated if you have a tour guide to tell you its history. Indeed, Taiwan is the Heart of Asia!