It’s been a year since I went to Taiwan. The draft of this entry has been patiently sitting in my laptop for more than half a year, and it’s finally out.
After ten months of trying to be a responsible adult, my arrival in Taiwan was nothing short of exciting. The month leading up to my trip was hectic, and aside from my transportation and accommodation, I had nothing prepared. For the first time since I began traveling, I did not have my usual ammunition of maps, itineraries, and laid-out plans. Being so unprepared and disoriented, it goes without saying that my four days in Taiwan were spent getting lost in train stations, bus stops, neighboring towns, and night markets.
Here’s the long and short of my rather laidback adventure-y trip.
WHERE I STAYED
I booked a hostel the same night I bought my plane tickets. After our different hostel experiences when my friends and I backpacked around Southeast Asia, I was a little apprehensive. However, the Oxygen Hostel went way beyond my standards with its location, accessibility, and facilities. The price was very reasonable, too! My hostel was right across a three-floor bookstore, and there were three bus stops nearby. Two train stations were each 15-20 minutes away on foot.
WHERE I WENT
It took me an embarrassingly long while to figure out what exit of the train station I was going to get out of. One thing’s for sure – Google Maps does not tell you which door to take. Anyway, once I got my directions right (pun: I went right, too), I walked four/five blocks towards my hostel so I could drop my things and grab a bite. My last meal had been breakfast at Cebu’s airport, and I was hungry.
The hostel had a café, but I wanted to go out and taste real Taiwanese food, so I went towards the direction of a nearby park and looked around for food stalls or carenderias. My search did not disappoint me. I found a noodle house and crossed my fingers in hopes that the guy manning the till would understand English. I should have wished harder. After a couple of futile attempts at trying to decipher what he was trying to tell me, I ended up telling him to surprise me. Thankfully, it was such a good bowl of spicy beef noodles!
288 Peace Park
After lunch, I went across the street to the park I noticed on the map, and I decided to explore it while waiting for check in time.
The park had a museum inside as well as a playground for children, an exercise area for grown ups, and benches by the lake for meditation (or other quiet activities). There was a man feeding squirrels at one corner of the park, and I watched in unsuppressed curiosity and fascination. A couple of schoolchildren who were, I believe, participating in an Amazing Race contest, also ran up to me and talked in rapid Mandarin. They were disappointed and frustrated when they realized I couldn’t, for the life of me, understand them.
After resting and doing my laundry, I went to visit Taiwan’s tallest building. The Din Tai Fung was very tempting, but I generally don’t eat in restaurants alone, so…
Raohe Night Market
I had dinner while walking around the expanse of Raohe Street Night Market. I wanted to eat everything! There was simply too many delicious-looking food all over the place.
I went all the way out of Taipei to find the 17km bikeable shoreline. I never made it there because I couldn’t locate the bus and nobody I asked about it could answer me because they didn’t know!
After that flop of a journey, I went to Dadaosheng Wharf to look for a bicycle and to catch the sunset.
Ningxia Night Market
My search for a bike led me all the way to Ningxia Night Market. It should be renamed to “food market” because the strip was filled with food stalls and restaurants with some of the best-tasting selections!
Shifen Old Town
I went out of the city again to visit one of Taiwan’s old towns – Shifen. I was interested in this area because they had a waterfall, and unlike my other trips wherein I was on the hunt for museums, I wanted to be closer with nature this time.
There were a lot of shops that sold paper lanterns where people would write down their wishes and the shopkeepers would help them release the lanterns into the air, all the while making sure there wasn’t an incoming train.
Shifen Waterfall Park
I walked a couple of kilometers to reach the waterfalls of Shifen, and unlike the previous day’s flop, there was no disappointment at all!
I had a really tasty snack afterwards!
Jiufen Old Town
There was another waterfall in Jiufen, so on my fourth day, I hopped on another bus. By this time I was already pretty confident with my commuting skills in Taiwan.
I missed the last AM bus going to the waterfalls, so I stopped to eat lunch at a restaurant whose owners obviously loved dogs.
My impatient self wanted to try and walk towards the waterfalls, but my GPS failed, so I went back and waited for the bus. The water here is yellow due to mining activities in the area.
Shilin Night Market
I capped my last night in Taiwan with a visit to another night market. Of course, this meant another food binge! Aside from loads of food stalls, there are also a lot of shops here that are perfect to shop in.
In case you were wondering where I was in between all those activities, I was a regular at the Eslite Bookstore near the train station. I went home with two new books, a couple of notebooks, and five pens, that I gave up a bag-full of clothes for because it was only at the airport where I found out that I had exceeded my luggage allowance.
And that’s it!