Taiwan Travel

A Simple Guide to Taipei MRT System

During my Japan trip I didn’t bother learning the Japan Rail system; where my companions go that’s where I go. I noticed that in some stations we were changing trains, but it didn’t really occur to me why and how to do it. That’s the thing with sponsored trips, you just go with the flow because everything is taken care of including a task as simple as taking public transportation. When you go on your own trip of course this is not going to be the case especially if you are alone. The responsibility of where you will eat, where you will go, and how you will get around lies on your shoulder. In short, I was forced to learn the Taiwan MRT system. I realized that it’s not as difficult as it may seem and because I am proud that I did learn it, I just had to write an entire post about it (celebrate little achievements y’all!). So here are some tips on how to take the Taipei MRT.

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Popular Taiwan Travel

Here’s the Easiest Way to Reach Jiufen

If there is the biggest adventure that I had in Taiwan it’s the journey to Jiufen. This old mining town was one of the major reasons I wanted to go to Taiwan. It is said to be the inspiration for the setting of the animated film, Spirited Away, which happens to be one of my all-time favorites. It didn’t matter to me that I had to travel for at least two hours from Taipei just to reach the place, my mind was set to go. Reaching Jiufen was supposed to be easy, but some things happened along the way that made traveling longer than necessary. I’m not sure what I was trying to prove, it’s not like my friends didn’t give me tips on how to go there. For some reason, I decided to follow an online guide instead. What’s supposed to be useful become a thing of inconvenience.

Getting there

I am going to save you the trouble and tell you exactly which method to take out of all recommendations to get to Jiufen. But first, let’s talk about those methods. Note that my point of origin is Shilin District.

There are 3 known ways to get to Jiufen, by taxi, by bus, and by train.

Option 1: Shilin > Jiufen

Taking a taxi is the most convenient but the most expensive way to reach Jiufen. If like me you choose to stay in Shilin District, the fare could set you back from TWD 850 (PHP 1,388.10 – USD 27.61) to TWD 920 (PHP 1,502.42 – USD 29.88). If you got the money then, by all means, take the taxi, Taiwan is largely a safe country. But I read somewhere that some taxi drivers might try to scam tourists by not turning on the meter; not sure if this is true. Just to be safe, ensure that the meter is on when you do take a cab.

Where to Stay in Taipei: Happy Taipei Hostel

Option 2: MRT Shilin Station > Taipei Main Station > Zhongxiao Fuxing > Ruifang > Jiufen

The second option is the first direction that I followed that almost caused me hypothermia. I found the instructions from this site called, GuidetoTaipei and thought it to be the easiest way. I woke up very early and left the hostel a little before 6:00 in the morning. I took the MRT, got off at Taipei Main to switch to the Blue Line where I took another train to Zhongxiao Fuxing. My train fare for this was only TWD 24.00 (PHP 39.06 – USD 0.78).

Booking.com

Upon reaching Zhongxiao Fuxing station, I took Exit 1. I was supposed to wait for Keelung bus with route 1062. Fare rate is only TWD 102 (PHP 166.57 – USD 3.31) according to the site. So I waited for the bus in the cold. It was 14 degrees Celsius, and apparently, my layers of clothing were not enough to keep me warm. It was so cold it hurt my face and numbed my hands. Most Taiwanese wear face masks. I thought at first that it’s a healthy measure against bacteria; I soon realized that they were covering their faces to fight the cold. I didn’t have a face mask with me so I had to get creative. I remembered I brought my sleeping eye mask, so I put it around the lower part of my face and voila I got a face mask.

I looked like I was gonna rob a bank though, because hello, face mask  + beanie?!

There are many buses that drive by the area. I spotted several Keelung buses but according to the instruction, I had to wait for Route 1062 because that’s the one that goes to Ruifang. From Ruifang, I must take another bus to reach Jiufen. After like 45 minutes (yes, that long), a Route 1062 bus finally arrived. I excitedly got up from the seat, hailed it, and watched the damn bus pass me by. Did the driver miss me? Nope, I’m pretty sure he saw me waving. Was the bus full? Nope, in fact, there were many empty seats.

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I had a feeling then that I should have taken another way, but I decided to wait for another bus. And what time did the second bus arrive? After 45 minutes! That’s right, this bus is so elusive, I only saw two in the entire time I was waiting there.

This time, I made sure that the bus driver would see me. As soon as I saw it around the corner, I started waving like my life depended on it. Did the bus stop for me? Nope! It went past me again like what the fudge is going on? Was I invisible? Do I look like I cannot pay? Was I waiting in the wrong stop? But I was standing in the freaking bus stop!

I checked the time, in total, I wasted almost 2 hours waiting for nothing in the middle of the cold! That’s when I decided to find another option.

Option 3: MRT Shilin Station > Taipei Main Station > TRA > Ruifang Station > Jiufen

Disheartened, I went back to MRT and took the train to Taipei Main Station. Inside Taipei Main Station is another train station that goes to the north. This is the train that could take you to Ruifang where you could ride a bus to Jiufen. Thank heavens I found a more helpful website that I took as a guide. I am not going to go in details about TRA and how to get to Ruifang because TravelCoconut pretty much covered it already, complete with pictures. It’s so detailed only a fool would be lost.

Now TRA has a weird setup. In the Philippines, all trains in the MRT and LRT stations go and take the same routes and destinations. In the north train, each train that passes by has a different route. Don’t ask me how it works, I really don’t know. All I know is, you have to wait for the train with your specific destination. In my case, I waited for the one that goes to Ruifang. This train comes every 50 minutes, meaning if you miss riding one, you will have to wait for 50 minutes to take the next train.

Finally, the train arrived and I noticed that it looks a bit older than the regular MRT trains. I got in and maybe because it’s a Monday that I was able to find a seat. The train started to slowly empty as we moved along. Soon there were many seats available, one could have just easily lie down and take a nap or something. This is not the case if you go on a Saturday or Sunday though because most tourists visit the place on weekends. Guess I was right to move my Jiufen trip from Saturday (as I originally planned) to Monday. 

The ride was pretty long, about 40 or so minutes. As if I didn’t waste enough time, I got confused by the signs that I got off at the wrong station. And do you know what’s funny? It’s only one station away from Ruifang! I wouldn’t have minded if it weren’t for the fact that I needed to wait for 50 minutes for the next train [insert another expletive here].

So I calmed myself down because what else could I do. I decided to help pass time by watching The OA (no it doesn’t mean overacting) on the tablet that I had instead. But I stopped to appreciate the view, this station is old, a far cry from the modern stations in Taipei, but it is enveloped with a quiet vintage charm that I so loved, I have soon forgotten my disappointment.

If you’re on a budget forget option 1. If you don’t want to wait for nothing, then forget option 2. If you want to make sure you waste no time reaching Jiufen take option 3.

Ruifang

Another best thing from taking option 3 is you will see the beautiful old suburban district of Ruifang. It used to be called Zuihō Town during the Japanese occupation. If you are looking for a little bit of a rural feel, Ruifang is a good place to visit.

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From Ruifang I walked until I found the bus stop where the buses bound for Jiufen can be found. As soon as the bus arrived, I hurried my way to it, making sure that I would take that particular ride. Pretty soon the bus was already full that by the time I stepped in that the only vacant space I could take is the one beside the driver. Easy Card is also accepted in bus but when I tapped mine it didn’t work. The driver then told me to just pay in cash but he spoke in Chinese so I didn’t understand him. One of the passengers was kind enough to translate for me. She said that I only need to pay TWD 15 for the fare (PHP 24.43 – USD 0.49).

Jiufen

It took no more than 20 minutes to reach Jiufen. I was so happy that after all the mishaps, I finally made it! Immediately, I started exploring this old gold mining mountain town. 

Along the narrow alleyways you can find shops of different varieties; souvenir shops, accessory shops, cafes, and tea houses, and lots of food establishments. Jiufen is considered as one of the best food destinations in Taiwan due to the many restaurants and food stalls in the area.

Jiufen was discovered and built by the Japanese in 1893. The town developed into a mining town due to its rich supply of gold. If you are looking for some glimpse of history and culture, Jiufen should be included in your Taiwan itinerary. Here you can still see the Japanese influence in the buildings and architecture. It’s amazing that they are able to preserve them.

Visiting the Land of the Meteor Garden

The most famous spot in Jiufen is this tea house decorated with red Chinese lanterns. I am not a tea person so I decided not to go in. I just took some pictures of the building’s façade.

My original itinerary involved staying overnight in one of the hostels in Jiufen. A friend’s recommendation though changed my mind so I just had a day trip. I sort of regret it though because I would have loved to explore this beautiful town more. I am going to do just that when I return to Taiwan.

Taipei’s Memorial Halls: Sun Yat-sen and Chiang Kai-shek

After the sightseeing is the food tripping. I went around and ate food that I wanted to try. My most favorite is the sausage, yes it looks just like any regular sausage but I swear to you that it’s delicious.

And so my short time in Jiufen has come to an end. I wanted to stay longer but I decided to go back to Taipei at around 1:00 in the afternoon because I was set to go back to the Philippines later that night. Despite the drawbacks, the wrong decisions, the waiting in the cold, etc., going to Jiufen is my most favorite part of my Taiwan trip. Even when I wasted so much time and even when I almost suffered from frostbites, I choose to celebrate the fact that I was able to reach the place on my own safely. It is no wonder that it has become an inspiration to an iconic movie, Jiufen is lovely; all my efforts are worth it.

 

Travel

Meet my Travel Monster: CabinZero Military Backpack



I wanted to have my own monster. You know, just like the humongous 70-pound backpack that Cheryl Strayed used when she trekked the Pacific Crest Trail. If you’d seen that Reese Witherspoon‘s starrer, “Wild,” then you know exactly what I’m talking about. Not that I want to do my own Pacific Crest Trail adventure, I just thought that I should have a bigger backpack so I don’t have to carry two or more bags every time I go on longer trips. Then one day, I learned about CabinZero and it was like the universe’s answer to my wish because suddenly I have my own “monster,” and he and I went on our first trip together in Taiwan (yes, I’ve decided it’s a “he.”)




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Taiwan Travel

Discover Taipei with TourMeAway

I didn’t lack inspiration for my itinerary in Taipei; I had friends who were generous with their suggestions on where I should go and what I should do. One even sent me a copy of her itinerary when she went to Taiwan. Despite this, I went to Taiwan like I had no idea what I’m about to do. I have forgotten about the suggested itinerary, the transportation and spots to visit, and other pieces of advice thrown over chat conversation. Yes, I can be an askhole. There are dangers in refusing to acknowledge in other people’s advice but I can definitely understand the lure. The prospect of finding out things on my own was delicious for me. This is how I found out TourMeAway while randomly googling for things to do in Taiwan. I discovered that there is an option to see Taipei by joining a small group of tourists in a tour led by a few locals. And the best thing about it, it’s free.




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Events

Finding Relief at The Mandara Spa Parañaque

Two years ago, I went to Cambodia and learned about the Hindu story of the churning of the sea of milk while exploring the temples of Angkor Wat. I remember being fascinated with this particular story; the gods and the demons worked together to churn the sea of milk to get the amrita using a snake (Vasuki) as a churning rope and this happened in Mount Mandara. Mandara happened to be the name of the spa that I and my blogger friends went to recently. It was an opportune invitation to check out The Mandara Spa at BF Parañaque as I was then suffering from body aches incurred from my recent Taiwan trip. Is my time at this spa as memorable as the story I mentioned? Read on to find out.



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Coffee Taiwan

Where to Find Coffee in Taipei

What’s the first thing that you look for in a place? Me, what else? Coffee! So when I went to Taipei I told myself I am going to hang out in a cafe somewhere. Unfortunately, I wasn’t able to do that, at least the “hanging out” part. But I did find two cafes and I was able to buy coffee so I guess that’s not bad. I was able to discover two, Louisa Coffee and Cama Cafe.




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Taiwan Travel

Taipei’s Memorial Halls: Sun Yat-sen and Chiang Kai-shek

In Cambodia they have the Buddhist and Hindu temples, in Japan there are temples and shrines. In Taiwan they have memorial halls, erected to commemorate some of their greatest historical leaders. In my short time in Taiwan, I was able to visit two of these—Sun Yat-sen and Chiang Kai-shek—two of the most popular tourist spots in Taipei. I know I promised to do slow traveling and to stay away from the tourists spots as much as possible, but I’m allowed to break my own rule. Besides, if you are only given 4 days in a country, you should forget about slow traveling, that ain’t possible. So what’s so special about these two memorial halls that locals and foreigners alike like to visit them?



Sun Yat-sen

In Xinyi District you can find the Sun Yat-sen Memorial Hall. It can be easily reached by train, in fact, one of the MRT Stations is named after it due its location. Before this trip, I don’t know anything about Sun Yat-sen, I just went with the suggested of my friend, Christine. Because she didn’t have her own WiFi we had a little bit of miscommunication and I ended up at Nangang Exhibition Center, which is the last station of the Blue Line. Good thing the fare is not that expensive and it’s easy to use the MRT, lest I’d be depressed.

So after my little “joy ride,” Christine and I finally met at Sun Yat-sen Station. We started walking, and I had no idea where we were going. Christine had been in Taiwan a week before me so she is more familiar with the area; hence I let her decide where we should go.

We grabbed coffee, I had noodles in a 7-Eleven where we also chatted for a bit, before we set out to go to Sun Yat-sen Memorial Hall.

So who is Sun Yat-sen?  

Good question. I had no idea either.

Until this trip of course. Sun Yat-sen is the national father and the first president of the Republic of China. Born in 1866, Sun was a Chinese physician, writer, philosopher, calligrapher, and revolutionary. Being the founding father of China, he is revered as one of the greatest leaders of modern China. Sun’s greatest legacy is the Three Principles of the People, a political philosophy that promotes nationalism, modern government, and people’s livelihood.

Sun Yat-sen Memorial Hall was built in 1972 in his memory. It’s a multi-purpose multi-purpose social, educational, and cultura center for the public center. The place is big, with a land area of about 28.4 acres. It’s most prominent feature is the humongous sitting Sun Yat-sen statue by the main entrance hall. It would remind you a lot of that Abraham Lincoln statue. There is a formal changing of guards every hour, which we weren’t able to see.  

In the memorial hall’s proximity you will find the Chung-shan Park, with a beautiful garden and an Emerald Pond known locally as Lake Cui.

Interesting Fact: China has their own Sun Yat-sen Memorial Hall and Chung-shan Park.

From Sun Yat-sen you can see another famous Taiwanese landmark, Taipei 101. Christine and I didn’t feel the need to go up there; we were okay with just taking some photos with it in the background.

Chiang Kai-shek

I wasn’t really planning to go to Chiang Kai-shek though most of my friends recommended it. But the Tour me Away Taipei Chillout tour that I joined included CKS in the itinerary so I was able to visit it by accident. About Tour me Away, let’s talk about that next time.

This memorial hall was built in tribute to another former president of the Republic China, Chiang Kai-shek. He was was a Chinese political and military leader and he was the president of China from 1928 to 1975. He was the leader of the Kuomintang (KMT), a Chinese Nationalist Party. The lost of KMT from the communists in the civil war forced CKS to flee China and to begin a government in exile in Taiwan. This is the reason why many countries consider Chiang’s government as the legitimate Chinese government.  

Chiang Kai Shek Memorial Hall is located in Zhongzheng District. The roof of this memorial hall is of octagonal shape to represent the number 8, which according to Chinese tradition is linked to abundance and good fortune. There are two sets of stairs leading up to the main entrance with 89 steps because CKS died at age 89.

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Just like in the Sun Yat-sen memorial hall, there is a big statue of Chiang inside this building. Tourists like to watch the guarding mounting ceremony here, and I happen to have witnessed it when I visited.

 


Visiting Hours

Both memorial halls can be visited free of charge. Chiang Kai-shek Memorial Hall is open daily from from 09:00 a.m. to 6:00 p.m. except Chinese New Year Eve and Chinese New Year. The Memorial Park on the other hand is open everyday from from 05:00 a.m. to 11:00 p.m.

Sun Yat-sen Memorial Hall on the other hand is open daily from 9:00 a.m. to 6:00 p.m.

 

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