As I’ve mentioned in my introductory post about my seven-day vacation with friends in Taiwan, two days were allotted for Taipei. Since I’ve already explored parts of Taipei before, I had to come up with something else to do.
Getting to Taipei City from Taoyuan Airport
Our flight’s ETD from Manila was 23:40 of January 31 with ETA of 2:05 February 1 at Taoyuan Airport Terminal 1. With this arrival time, our options to reach Taipei City is to take either a taxi or a public bus. We opted to take the Kuo Kuang Bus 1819. This bus has a stop at both terminals 1 and 2 of Taoyuan airport. Travel time takes about one hour. I paid using my EasyCard and the charge was NTD 130. Ensure that you tap in and tap out. For cash payments, what I’ve read is that exact fare should be prepared by passengers as bus drivers don’t give change.
If you’re arriving at terminal 1, go down to the basement by taking the elevator on your left upon exiting to the arrival hall. When you step out of the elevator, on your left is Hi-Life convenience store while on your right is the way to the exit doors leading to the bus stops. You’ll find the stop for bus 1819 close to this side. If you’re not arriving in the middle of the night, you have the option to take the Taoyuan MRT line which has a station in both Taoyuan Airport terminals 1 and 2.
Getting Around Taipei
There is well connected transportation system in Taipei. I find it useful to have mobile data in order to check available options and timetable when moving from point A to point B (usually when taking buses). I also prefer using EasyCard instead of paying cash in metro and buses. Just tap in and out then the machine will take care of figuring out your charge. Note that there are buses where you pay on boarding, there are those where you pay when alighting, and there’s also segmentation. Using an EasyCard takes off the burden of figuring this out as the machine is smart enough to let you know when you already paid. The key is to tap in and tap out. ALWAYS! You also get a 20% discount in the metro when using EasyCard. Read this if you want further discussion on public buses and this to learn more about EasyCard.
I find these apps useful when navigating in Taipei:
and these two for checking-out things to do and, if available, pre-made itineraries:
Our arrival was early in the morning which meant we cannot take the train as the MRT operates from 6:00 until 24:00. The last stop for bus 1819 from airport is Taipei Main Station (East Gate). As such, we needed an accommodation that is walking distance from this stop.
I booked a bed each for Melvin and me at Mini Inn Hostel via booking.com. It’s less than 5 minutes of walk away from Taipei Main Station. The hostel offers separate dorm rooms for men and women. The are no mixed (men and women) dorm rooms. It also offers rooms with shared shower/toilet for groups of three to six. The group rooms were already sold out when I made a booking that’s why we ended up booking dorm beds. Our booking at Mini Inn was from January 31 until February 4. We arrived very early in the morning of February 1 but we wanted a chance to catch up on rest that’s why our booking started at January 31, it was a very late check-in for us. We only allotted two days of our vacation for Taipei but our third day was just a day trip in Taroko National Park. Hence, Taipei was still our base for day 3 (Feb 3).
When you arrive at the hotel, you can take either the stairs or the elevator going to the reception at the basement level, which also has the dining and laundry areas. Upon check-in, you’ll get a key card which you will use to access upper floors using the elevator, to gain access to the shared showers/toilets and your room. You’ll also be given a towel which should be returned upon check-out. Buffet breakfast is served daily from 7:00 to 10:00. I love how they change the mix of food each morning. The usuals are bread, butter, jam, coffee, milk tea, juice, iced tea, water. In addition to these, we also had a taste of the following during our stay – scrambled eggs, sausage, salad, fruits, sunny side up eggs, ham, tomato based pasta. The hostel is quite good at keeping the food warm. Coffee, milk tea, and water are available all through-out the day.
A dorm bed comes with a curtain and you’ll have your own light, two wall power sockets, one usb power socket, and a hanging rod. I do wish they provide two hanging rods – one for the bath towel and one for all other clothes. Shampoo, shower gel, hand soap, and hair dryer are provided in the shared bathroom.
A NOTE TO DORM GUESTS – don’t take up a bed that’s not assigned to you. If you want a lower bunk bed, make it legit and ask the staff if it’s possible to be moved to a lower bunk bed! When I arrived around 5 in the morning, the girl who was supposed to be at the bed above mine decided to sleep at the lower bunk bed assigned to me. The staff went back to the reception to get the key for the next lower bunk bed. When we opened its curtain, another girl (a friend of the first girl) who’s also supposed to be at the upper bunk was sleeping at this lower bunk bed. The staff went to the next and last lower bunk bed in the room to check its availability. So far, no one decided to squat there so the staff just let me take that bed and told me to just change the key when I go down for breakfast or to go out later in the day. Come evening, I had to move again to my originally assigned bed since the last lower bunk bed I was moved to (because of the squatters) is reserved to someone else who arrived that evening. I had to go through this because some girls decided to take beds which are not theirs. Annoying girls.
Day 1 (Feb 1): Taipei
This was errands day for me. We arrived early in the morning and I went down to have breakfast around 8:00. After which, I took a nice hot shower and went back to bed. It was already past 12 noon when I went out.
First thing I did was buy a sim card. When I was in Taipei last January 2017, I used a Taiwan Mobile sim card with data allocation in order to navigate and research when outside the hotel. Since I didn’t have any hiccup with this provider last year, I decided to use the same one this time. I had to buy a new sim as the one I got before already expired because it wasn’t topped-up for at least six months. I only wanted mobile data for navigation. My target was to buy the NT$ 300 prepaid 4G sim card with 1.2gb data, the smallest allocation offered. This option was out of stock when I went to the store so I purchased the next one, 2.2gb for NT$ 500, since I didn’t feel like store hopping that time. The extra 1gb gave me the chance to use social media anytime.
I did a bit of window shopping after getting the sim card. I visited Uniqlo and H&M stores and an Eslite bookstore. After that, all I did was claim all the train (TRA and HSR) tickets I booked for our trip. I then tried to familiarize myself with Taipei Main Station. I scouted the location of the platforms we must use for our TRA and HSR train trips. I also checked the location of the stop for the bus I plan to take the next morning. I also checked-out the Kuo Kuang bus ticketing counter near Taipei Main Station. After all these, I paid a quick visit to Raohe night market, which is easily accessible via the MRT, then went back to the hostel to rest.
Day 2 (Feb 2): Bitou Cape, Shifen, Jiufen
Bitou Cape / Bitoujiao
I started the day early. I took the first trip of the bus going to Bitou Cape from Taipei Main Station. You can either use an EasyCard or buy a ticket from the Kuo Kuang Bus ticketing counter. Advance booking is not allowed. Tickets are sold on the same day of travel. Bus 1811 will bring you from Taipei Main Station to Bitou Cape. The bus departs every hour beginning at 8:20. I read from Trip Advisor that passengers with tickets are prioritized over those using EasyCard. So, I bought a ticket which costs NT$ 126. I don’t know if because it’s early or because it’s a little rainy or because it’s a weekday or because of the combination of these three; but, there wasn’t a need for a ticket. There were less than 10 people when we left the bus stop at 8:20. No chance for EasyCard users to be bumped off.
The bus driver will make a little tear on your ticket when you get on the bus and will take it when you get off the bus. If using EasyCard, just tap in and tap out. The bus trip took, more or less, one hour. I spent about 1 to 1.5 hours exploring the trail. Time spent at the cape will depend on your pace and the amount of photos you take. The trail has steps and pathways, making it suitable for any age. The place offers spectacular views and a calming feeling. I’m glad I went to see it. A part of the trail after the third view deck (near the military camp) is closed so I wasn’t able to do a circular trek.
If the weather is good, you could also consider visiting the nearby Nanya Rock Formation by taking a bus.
Shifen Old Street and Shifen Waterfall
My next destination after my time at Bitou Cape was Shifen. I took bus 856 going to Ruifang Railway Station, then took the Pingxi line train from Ruifang to Shifen.
My mobile data was useful at letting me check directions using google maps which let me know how much time I have before the bus arrives. Sometimes, I also check the app Bus Tracker Taipei. An alternative bus from Bitou Cape to Ruifang Railway Station is bus 886. Both buses 856 and 886 will take you to Ruifang Railway Station. However, bus 856 has a stop at the Golden Falls. In my case, I didn’t go down at that stop and just had a drive-by look at the falls. Best to sit at the left side of the bus to have a better view.
For the Pingxi line, I checked this website for time tables. I also saw a time table print-out which was displayed at the platform. Take note of the train schedule so you can manage your time as the train departs every hour only. Shifen is the fourth stop from Ruifang.
Shifen Old Street is just around the Shifen railway station. You won’t miss it since tourists are all over the place. Either taking photos by the railway, or setting lanterns up into the sky. Shifen Waterfall, on the other hand, is about 20 minutes of walk away. I spent only a few minutes at the railway station. I only watched and took photos of the people with their lanterns. I didn’t do the lantern as I feel that it’s not environment friendly. After people watching in the railway, I headed to the waterfall. It was raining and cold when I visited Shifen, which made the walk to the waterfall unbearable. Had the weather been better, the walk could have been pleasant and enjoyable. The waterfall looked impressive with a strong flow during my visit. It was a great sight! I enjoyed watching and hearing the water fall down below. Because of the strong force, be prepared for some mists when you get near it. Note that Shifen Waterfall is open until 16:30 only.
Jiufen Old Street
After my time in Shifen, I went to Jiufen by taking bus 788. The bus stop for the one that goes to Jiufen is the one BESIDE the Police Station and NOT ACROSS it. The latter will take you to the opposite direction, away from Jiufen.
It was still rainy and cold when I arrived in Jiufen. I walked along the old street for about 10 to 15 minutes and all I saw were stores. As I was already starting to feel unwell, I decided that a hot shower is more enticing than seeing the lanterns and cafes in Jiufen. I went to the bus stop and took bus 1062 to get back to Taipei. This bus’ last stop is at MRT Zhongxiao Fuxing station, but it also stops at MRT Songshan station. You can get down at the Songshan station stop if you’d like to drop-by Raohe Night Market, which is just a few steps away, before heading back to your hotel. My plan was to visit Shilin night market after Jiufen but I scrapped that off since I already wanted to get off my wet footwear.
Day 2 – In Summary
In this table are all transportation expenses I had for day 2. Except for bus 1811, everything was paid using EasyCard.
|Transpo / Route||Fare (NT$)|
|Bus 1811 (Taipei Main Station to Bitou Cape)||126|
|Bus 856 (Bitou Cape to Ruifang Railway Station)||30|
|Pingxi line train (Ruifang to Shifen)||17|
|Pingxi line train (Shifen to Ruifang)||17|
|Bus 788 (Ruifang Railway Station to Jiufen)||15|
|Bus 1062 (Jiufen to Taipei MRT Zhongxiao Fuxing Station)||98|
|MRT (Zhongxiao Fuxing Station to Taipei Main Station)||16|
|Total Transportation Cost||319|
The downside of my second day was the rain which made my shoes and socks (and feet) soaking wet starting from my time at Shifen until I got back to the hostel. I was even able to squeeze some water out of my socks when I took them off at the end of the day. This makes me think about investing on a comfortable waterproof shoes in the future (any suggestion?). It was a good thing that I brought another pair of shoes for the trip.
If you have more time in Taipei, you can actually dedicate an entire day for the Pingxi Line. Here are interesting nature activities available around it (part of a brochure I picked-up at Ruifang station). If I had more time and company on a pleasant weather, I would have gone to all of these places! 🙂