Thursday, October 30, 2014

Monday, October 27, 2014


Jiufen is a small town on the mountains northeast of Taipei City. It is in the district of Ruifang, which is a part of New Taipei City (different from Taipei City) and is just 45 minutes to an hour from Taipei City.

How to go to Jiufen
(from Taipei City)

By Bus. From Zhongxiao Fuxing Station take Exit 1. Take bus route 1062 (Keelung Bus) to Jiufen. The ride is about an hour and the fare is about NT$100.

By Train and Bus. Go to the railway station near Taipei Main Station and take the train north to Ruifang Station. The train ride will take about an hour and will cost around NT$50. After exiting the Ruifang Station, cross the street to the bus stop next to the Wellcome Supermarket and board the Keelung Transit bus towards Jiufen. The bus ride will take about 15 minutes and will cost around NT$20.

By Taxi. Outside Zhongxiao Fuxing Station, where the bus stop for Keelung Bus route 1062 is, there will be taxis looking for passengers headed to Jiufen. They will charge NT$250 per person (if the taxi can accommodate five passengers, like a Sedan Wagon, try to haggle to NT$200). The taxi will be shared with other people. The drive will take about 45 minutes to an hour.

What to do in Jiufen

Blend in with the crowd in Jishan Street (aka Jiufen Old Street).

 Check out the different shops and try the local snacks.
 Clockwise from top left: sausages, pancake ice cream sandwiches,
grilled snails, and peanut ice cream rolls. 
(I regret not trying the snails.)

Explore more of the town.
There are many alleys waiting to be discovered.

There are many teahouses in Jiufen.
Select one and have a drink.
 We parked ourselves in Siidcha, which had a view of the Pacific Ocean and the sunset.
A minimum spend per person is required and drinks are quite expensive.
My toffee black milk tea cost me NT$180 (about Php 270).
If you plan to buy Siidcha tea products, ask if they can let you have a taste.
They let us have samples in mini paper cups that were slightly bigger than a thimble.
Their Matcha Green Milk Tea and Almond Oatmeal were really good.


Wait for the sunset.

Enjoy the view.

Taiwan Series:
Tourist Visa for Taiwan
Taiwan Preparations
What's in a (Business) Name? Taiwan
Wisdom from the Road #20
Welcome to Taiwan
Taipei Accommodation: Fun Taipei Backpackers
Free Taipei Tourist Stops
Jiufen (you're here!)
(more soon)

Sunday, October 26, 2014

Free Taipei Tourist Stops

Most of Taipei's tourist attractions are free.
I'm there!

Longshan Temple was founded in 1738 and is dedicated to the Buddhist Goddess of Mercy. But the temple now isn't the original structure. This one was built in 1919 and currently houses many Buddhist and Taoist deities.

When we visited Longshan Temple, many locals were there with offerings and prayers. We were clueless who the gods were and what the locals' rituals were. It would have been nice to have had a guide for some enlightenment.

Directions to Longshan Temple: Take the MRT Nangang/Banqiao/Tucheng (Blue) Line to Longshan Temple Station, Exit 1.

9AM to 9PM Tuesday to Sunday

Bopiliao Old Street and its buildings go back to the Qing Dynasty. Pretty old indeed. On one end of the street is the Heritage and Culture Education Center where one can learn about its history and significance. Bopiliao Old Street can't be found on the map, search instead for Lane 173 Kangding Road—that is its current street name.

Bopiliao Old Street was maybe less than 100 meters long. The surrounding buildings were clean and well restored...but the space could have been put to better use. Only a few of the buildings (maybe two or three) were in use (one was used for an art exhibit). It would have been nice to have a restaurant or a coffee/tea shop in the area. Bopiliao Old Street reminded me of Calle Crisologo in Vigan.

Directions to Bopiliao Old Street: Take the MRT Nangang/Banqiao/Tucheng (Blue) Line to Longshan Temple Station, Exit 1. Bopiliao Old Street (Lane 173 Kangding Road) is about 200 m from Longshan Temple.

9AM to 6PM Daily

An important man deserves a grand memorial hall in an area of grand proportions. The Chiang Kai Shek Memorial Hall is surrounded by gardens, ponds, impressive archways or gates, and two huge buildings: the National Concert Hall and the National Opera House.

The Chiang Kai Shek Memorial Hall (center) and the National Opera House (right)

The only problem with such a vast amount of open space is the distance one has to walk to get from one building to the other during summer. The 100 meters or so between the Concert Hall to the Opera House was a killer...a kilikili killer. I kid you not. It was that scorching in August. The heat drained our energies that we did not bother walking up the steps to go inside the memorial hall (which was supposed to be the darned highlight!).

Directions to Chiang Kai Shek Memorial Hall:  Take the MRT to CKS Memorial Hall Station, Exit 5.

And, let's not forget, Taipei's iconic building:

Taipei 101 has 101 floors and is 508 meters tall up to its spire, and for a time held the title as world's tallest building. Taipei 101 is home to many offices, branded boutiques, and several restaurants, coffee shops, and ice cream shops.

Taipei City can be seen from way up high by those willing to shell out NT$400 (admission fee; around Php 600) to enter Taipei 101's indoor observatory (open from 9AM to 10PM, last entry at 915PM) on the 89th floor (outdoor observatory on the 91st floor is open on certain occasions only).

Attention civil engineers, structural engineers, and science nerds, you might want to let that NT$400 in your pocket go in exchange not only for the view on the 89th floor, but for a close encounter with the world's largest wind damper (a damper reduces the wind movement in high rise buildings).

I am an engineer by name and part science nerd, with a brain that is controlled by my wallet. So, yeah, I went to Taipei 101 just to take a photo of it. Free, of course!

Directions to Taipei 101: Take the MRT Xin–Yi (Red) Line to Taipei 101 Station, Exit 4.

Taiwan Series:
Tourist Visa for Taiwan
Taiwan Preparations
What's in a (Business) Name? Taiwan
Wisdom from the Road #20
Welcome to Taiwan
Taipei Accommodation: Fun Taipei Backpackers
Free Taipei Tourist Stops (you're here!)