The charm of Taiwan has attracted millions of tourists each year. As air travel becomes accessible to anyone, there has been a surge in tourism numbers in Taiwan (Republic of China). Tourists mainly arrive by air at Taoyuan International Airport which serves as the most popular airport bringing international tourists into the heart of Asia and one of the largest regional hub as well.

Due to the popularity of Ximending among the young people, Ximending’s charm is also comparable to Shilin Night Market and the Eastern District in Taiwan.

I made my travel bucket list a few years back. And I wrote Taiwan for reasons I cannot remember anymore. Now, realizing that my list is almost halfway, I would like to believe that it is all meant to be. I tried to make this trip packed with activities for 4 days and 3 nights. I made some kind of mistake on my previous trip to Hong Kong by staying too far from the city. Since Taipei is famous for its bustling crowd, I managed to get right into the action this time, at Ximending.

The Ximending neighborhood and shopping district in the Wanhua District of Taipei,  is also known as the first pedestrian zone in Taiwan. This part of the city has been called the “Harajuku of Taipei”. thanks to sprawling of stores and shop-houses selling Japanese anime, manga, books, albums, and clothing. The Ximending area is also crowded with youngsters who are making it as the haven for the “Harizu”, or Japanese culture fans.

The first agenda is to eat crispy chicken. Then, visit Taipei 101. I have strong recommendations not to miss this landmark. So off I go. Interesting and breathtaking. I really enjoyed this. It was a weekday, thus there were no queues going up. It was night time and cloudy, drizzling from time to time, thus nothing much to see. So, I just enjoyed looking at the exhibits inside which are equally good.

The Taipei 101 tower has served as an icon of modern Taiwan ever since its opening. The building was created as the symbol of the evolution of technology and Asian tradition. The iconic tower is also designed to withstand the frequent natural challenges such as typhoon winds and earthquake tremors that are common in the area. After a day well spent outside, I queued for the famous Ay Chung rice noodles. This damp weather is perfect for this hot soup.

The following morning came. The damp weather doesn’t seem to change and even looked like it will be worse than yesterday. But not to be daunted, off I went to get one of those taxi tours. For NT$ 3,500, you get to be whisked off to some parts of the city, that are the most accessible, yet amazingly beautiful.

The trekking route is physically demanding but the view was well worth it.

First stop is this set of rocky hills before we reached the actual Yehliu Geopark. At this early on, I thought I was going to die. The guide has forced me to experience the beauty of these rocks, and to take great photos. Well, for me to do that, I must climb and follow the trails going up. Being the rainy season, the slippery rocks are very tricky. I am born with lousy feet.

For as long as I can remember, I trip on the slightest bump and on any uneven surface. I slip even with rubber shoes on wet pavements and dry floors alike. I always end up wearing the wrong footwear – from rubber slippers to track shoes – and slip occasionally. For me not to end up crying in the middle of these pretty rocks, I continued barefoot.

The first obstacle out of the way, we finally arrived at Yehliu Geopark and looked at more rocks. Also known as the Yehliu Promontory, forms part of the Daliao Miocene Formation. It stretches approximately 1,700 meters into the ocean and was formed as geological forces pushed the Datun Mountains out of the sea. The panoramic view of boulders and mountain is a breathtaking indeed while also physically demanding.

The geopark was huge, and somehow, I am glad that it was cloudy and drizzling. I would again, die if I go here on a sunny day. So many tourists! Well. We are here for the Queen’s Head. It was an organized and strict queue due to the volume of guests that they receive on a daily. When it’s your turn, someone will take your camera and take the photos for you from a certain distance. Once you get into position, they will just click, click, click! They hand you back your camera, then calls in the next person in line. I was so ugly in the photos, and none of them will ever ever care about it.

Pingxi sky lantern experience. It was a gloomy day but the wishes are as good as it gets.

Since this is a jampacked day, the guide brings me next to the Pingxi district – to go around Shifen’s old street market to eat more and get some souvenirs; to write and release my own sky lantern; to visit the waterfalls and go around more.

This part of the trip, it seems like there are so many things happening at the same time. I cannot even recall all details, as I have been in too many places with this day tour. The highlight would have been the sky lantern. At the time of my trip to Pingxi District in New Taipei City of Taiwan, they hold an annual Lantern Festival. The sky lanterns are released into the night sky with a written letter of wishes to be sent to God. I will always be fascinated with things that involve making wishes. They will ask you to choose the color of the lantern, and each color represents something. I chose yellow as a sign of wealth. On it, I wrote wishes for better health, happiness, and prosperity for my family, and consistently good energy at work. Someone asked me for any wishes for my love life. Ew. Not going to waste my wish on that. No! With that, despite the cloudy skies, my lantern flies upwards, blown aggressively by the wind. May the heavens bless me as to what that lantern bears!

I attempted to do the Shilin night market. In about 10 minutes after reaching, the rain poured down like there is no tomorrow. I bought a pair of flats, consumed a fruity drink, and headed back to my hotel. While riding the metro train, I realized that Taiwanese girls are generally cuter than the boys. My opinion only.

The next day itinerary involves a long metro train ride and a cable car ride.

Maokong is in the Western District of Taipei. From Ximending, take the metro train going to the Taipei Zoo station. From there, you need to go through the Maokong gondola station. The Maokong Gondola operates between Taipei Zoo and Maokong. The gondola travels within a stretch of 4.3 km (2.7 mi) line with four stations. You can choose from a normal gondola or a crystal cabin with a transparent floor. I managed to ride both types. It will take you perhaps around 20 minutes to reach the first stop. I can say that the ride was cute. But if you are afraid of heights and gets claustrophobic, you can skip this part of Taiwan. 

I reached the top and it started to rain again. I have an umbrella with me, but seriously, how do you do a nature walk in the rain without risking your precious life? For sure, my feet would be wet. I devoured into some green tea ice cream, walked until my legs were numb, and battled it out further with the rain that came and went, the whole time I was I was there. At the end of my Maokong experience, I was drenched in rainwater and sweat. I survived though.

I am set to fly back on my fourth day, but no visit in Taipei is complete without seeing the Longshan temple. It was my first time to see a couple of devotees pray with their jiaobeis. After only a few minutes of observing inside the temple, it was raining again. This weather is relentless! When the rain stopped, I went ahead to visit Chiang Kai-shek Memorial. Nothing extraordinary happened here. Managed to take a few photos like a dedicated tourist. I had to rush to avoid being caught in the rain again. It was almost time to pick up my bags from the hotel anyway, and head to the airport.

I am thankful that I’ve had the sense to bring my trusty umbrella with me. Taipei, you are the wettest city in Asia that I’ve ever been!

Travel Guru Stories – Taiwan

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