It’s that time of the year again! Every year, I would plan a solo trip to go on. So far, last year’s Vietnam+Cambodia trip was the longest I’ve gone solo, and as much as I would like to do a trip that lasted that long again, my vacation leaves are limited lol.
I usually would start a series of travel posts with a travel video but I decided to try and make daily travel vlogs for this trip. Let me know if it’s something you would be interested in seeing me do more often. Personally, I enjoyed doing it but I felt so awkward speaking in front of a camera. Haha! (Video for Day 1 is at the bottom of this post)
A few months ago (even before our trip to Japan), I was casually browsing Philippine Airlines because I knew I wanted to go out of town for my birthday. I wasn’t able to go on a birthday trip last year because I wanted to spend my birthday with mom. My first choice was Batanes because it’s always been a dream to go, but I feared that the rainy season might make for a poor vacation experience. I looked through random destinations until I spontaneously decided to book a trip to Taiwan. YOLO anyone?
Getting a visa to Taiwan though is so much more expensive (it’s priced at Php 2400 for a single entry visa) than getting a Japanese visa.. Hence, I went and applied for a single-entry Japanese visa (Php 800) I could use to get a travel certificate to Taiwan – a few days before my trip because procrastination got the best of me. I got all my fingers crossed that I do not get denied or else this trip will be a bust. Lucky me got a 5-year multiple entry Japan visa! Not only am I able to go to Taiwan, I could also fly to Japan anytime. The sibs and I are already planning to go to Osaka next year, now I just need the money to do it as much as I want to. Hahaha!
I’ve never eaten airplane food that I liked, to be honest. When I finally win the lottery and start living *~the good life*~, I’ll get myself a first class ticket to Europe and find out if the food is infinitely better.
Our flight landed on time at Taoyuan airport and I took an airport taxi to the hotel. I learned my lesson from Vietnam and approached an airport personnel to make sure I do not get into another terrifying taxi ride. A fellow Filipino went up to me while I was on queue for the airport taxi to ask if I wanted to share a cab ride back to the city. I watched Taken so I know not to go on taxi rides with strangers and become a victim of human trafficking! He was a bit relentless and I did not want to divulge where I was staying while he was within earshot (can’t trust anyone these days), so I held on to the print out of the hotel address in my hand instead of handing it to the cab driver. A female taxi handler (there’s a booth that helps passengers in the taxi stand) asked how many passengers to which I said “just me” and she led me to the taxi while maintaining eye contact with the guy. I’m sorry if I’m paranoid, but better safe than sorry!
I arrived way before check in time, thanks to my 7 AM flight, and the room wasn’t ready yet. Instead of taking a shower which was what I really wanted to do in the first place, I went to the train station and began my journey
as a Meteor Garden fan to PS Bubu! Thanks to previous trips to Singapore & Japan, it was fairly easy to acquire single-journey tickets (a coin in this case) and figure out the train system. Transportation in Taipei though is cheaper than the two!
PS Bubu is a vintage car-themed restaurant, and it is famous for being one of the scenes where Barbie Hsu and Jerry Yan went on a date!
Here’s the famous pink car!
The place was empty when I got there right at opening so I got to take as many photos as I wanted.
I had pasta with salmon, and their PS Bubu milk tea. The milk tea wasn’t anything special and I wondered why they even attached their name to it. The pasta was good though! I didn’t need to season it because it tasted quite right for me. I’ve read mixed reviews regarding this restaurant, but I guess since I was the only customer, they had no reason to not provide good service. The girl who assisted me had good command of English and was very helpful when I asked for directions. She even wrote down the bus numbers I should take in a piece of paper.
This is it!!! My teenage self would be so proud. 🙂
How to get to PS Bubu (金屋藏車P.S.BuBu餐廳, 士林區中山北路七段140巷1號): You can do what I did and I took a cab from Shilin Station (hence, a copy of the local address that you can show to the driver). Haha! But the nearest station is Shipai Station in the Tamsui-Zhongshan line (Line 2, and color on the train station map is red). I think you can board a couple of buses to get there, but on my way back, I boarded a red #19 bus with ‘Shipai Station’ flashing outside it. Fare is 15 TWD and you will have to prepare the exact fare if you do not have an Easy Card with you.
In order to not need exact change for transportation, I got myself an Easy Card. The card itself costs 100 TWD, and it’s pretty convenient because I didn’t need to get a single-journey ticket every time I have to take the train. To get one, just approach the information booths that can be found in every station. My initial top up was 400 TWD, and on my last day, I put in all my loose change since you can also use this to pay for taxi fare. Win!
The hotel I was staying at was nearest to the Daqiaotou Station (Line 4, orange line). Not bad because it was just a 15-minute walk, although I guess would suck for anyone with arthritis because a lot of stairs are involved to get to the actual station.
Dihua Street is also one of those old streets that’s why everything still looks historical. I think they maintained it to look this way which is great because I have seen so many photo walks happen here during my stay!
There was a fancy restaurant next door to the hotel that I wanted to try, but I couldn’t seem to time it just right and get there while it’s open as it is only open for lunch and dinner.
After checking in, I freshened up and decided to kill some time before the Longshan Temple walking tour. I went to Ximending, Taiwan’s own ‘Harajuku’. You can immediately feel the vibe the moment you get out of the train station. I went out the Red House exit, and there were so many people.
The Red House was closed for renovations when I went.
I have never seen FOUR stories of Watsons before. This is crazy! I literally burned away an hour mindlessly browsing through all the selections. It was so hard to pick from all the cosmetics and skin care products available. Most of the products though were in Mandarin which made it harder. I did buy a couple of items that I can’t find at home.
I stumbled upon this store behind the Red House, and it had a lot of booths of different local artists. There were signs not to take photos inside, but if you like quirky artsy items, this is the place to buy it from. I saw this cute charm bracelet that made me stop browsing because I had to think hard if I wanted to buy it (it was quite expensive). I ended up deciding not to but I’m adding it to the list of reasons why I wanna go back to Taiwan.
There were a lot of bars in this area as well, and I heard later on from the tour guides that this place is busy up until the wee hours of the morning. I am guessing that it is also the reason why in between 2-3 bars, there’s a third wave coffee shop. Haha!
I’ve read that one thing that you shouldn’t miss out on Taiwan is their bubble tea! This is the land where Cha Time was born. When I saw a bubble tea place with a long queue of locals and tourists alike, I went and braved the line.
Their bubble tea tastes better and is much cheaper than the ones available at home. I spent less than 100 TWD for this large cup and it already has grass jelly and sago.
I’ve learned that one of the best ways to explore a city is to look for a free walking tour. These organizations are usually ran by locals that are passionate about their city and some support university students in helping them hone their skills. I booked TourMeAway’s Longshan Temple Walking Tour and went to the meeting place 30 minutes early. They do pass around a hat where you can drop in a donation if you enjoyed the tour. 🙂
Let me share with you what I learned during the tour. As usual, I have no notes and all this are just stored inside my head so leave a comment below if you realized I made a mistake. 🙂
The temple was built in this area because the Wanhua district is the oldest one. The Tamsui river brought in a lot of business, hence a lot of traders decided to build their stores here. The area became prosperous and the business men chipped in to make the temple.
The area where their stalls used to be, have now been renovated and maintained, and it is available for use for free by locals if they want to exhibit their art. Going through the brick alley at night was a creepy experience, but I could imagine how picturesque it must be during day time. This is also where a popular gangster period movie was filmed (Note: I couldn’t remember the title so I researched and found out).
The theater/cinema area.
We also went to the herb market near the temple. When modern medicine have not yet reached the shores of Taiwan, what the locals do is consult the temple and get a prescription for herbs. They then go here to buy it and go back to the temple to make sure they have the right ingredients. Up until now these herb shops are alive – it seems it is effective. 😛
We tried out a cold herbal drink that was said to cool off the body.
Honestly, even though the temple is an imposing structure, the first thing that caught my eye upon entering the temple gates is this fountain/waterfall. It is huge!
I have no photos inside beyond this point because I had a couple of incense in my hand as they taught as how to properly give our respects. I could try to write it out but there’s an order on how to do things and I’m pretty sure I will make a mess out of it.
After the temple, we headed to the red light district. We were given instructions to stay close together and not make eye contact with anyone.
We went into this establishment where there were a lot of nail salons, massage chairs, clothing stores, and weirdly, snake delicacies.
The tour ended at the Guangzhou Street Night Market. However, I was already dead tired and there was nothing more I wanted than to go back to my hotel bed and sleep the day away. So I said my thank yous and goodbyes before heading back. 🙂
As it turns out, the dining establishments near the hotel are already closed. Fortunately, the Yansan Night Market is right across the road from the train station exit I always get in to. It does not look like your typical night market because it wasn’t as busy as the other night markets I have visited and will come to visit in Taiwan. I found a packed hot pot place that was open until 1 in the morning. There was a menu I couldn’t understand outside, and I based my order on what looked like a pot with mostly edible items (not a fan of innards). What’s nice about this is after you order outside, there’s unlimited rice, drinks, and even ice cream inside that you can choose from!
I paid 130 TWD for this big ass bowl of hot pot. I went ahead and ate like a..hungry person. Not a nice sight, I tell you. I was so full that the 20 minute walk back to the hotel was not enough to lose that feeling of being bloated.
So that’s it for my first day in Taiwan! Here’s a quick recap in vlog form just in case any of you are interested in watching awkward me in action. Haha! (Note: I got inspired by AC’s trip to Taiwan!)