To travel solo to an unknown country takes a lot of guts, and a very meticulous planning, especially for a female wanderer. And in my case, the unexpected thing happened that resulted for me to go to Taiwan a bit earlier than I’ve already planned. For this travel was supposed to happen next year with some friends. But a month before the trip, I was informed that I’ve made a huge mistake in my booking, that instead of December 2017 it was booked for the month of December 2016. So when I knew about it, I was totally shocked, and since it’s a promo fare, I was not allowed to rebook it. But it made me think to go for it (even if two of my friends who were supposed to travel with me on this trip couldn’t come); in order for me to try it just once on how it feels to travel alone.
So with only a month to go before the big trip, I’ve utilized every free time that I’ve had to plan everything for I’m a very meticulous traveler; and since I work at the government, that also includes processing my certificate of “Authority to Travel Abroad” and my clearance. Well, it’s kind of exhausting right? But for the love of traveling, I didn’t mind it at all.
The thing is – to travel to Taiwan; you need to apply for its visa. But I’m so grateful that I got exempted for applying because of my visa from South Korea. All you need to do is apply online, and by the time that it would be approved. You could just download/print the Travel Authorization Certificate and present it to the Immigration upon your arrival at the airport, along with your round-trip tickets. It’s as simple as that.
Then on the day for me to go to Taiwan, I was utterly mixed up with such nervousness and excitement, since it’s going to be a first for me to travel abroad alone. And when our plane had landed at Taoyuan International Airport on December 2, 2016 at 12m.n., I was totally jumping from such happiness because I had finally arrived there. But it was too early for me to go to the city of Taipei. So as I’ve already planned, I’ve stayed there at the airport till 5 am, and I took the 1819 bus going to Taipei Main Station, along with a fellow Pinoy passenger as to whom I’ve just met at the airport. Her name is Eudelle, and she was very kind to travel with me in going to Taipei City. Plus, I had a wonderful time chatting, and eating noodles with her while we were waiting for our bus schedule. It was almost a one hour journey. And when our bus had dropped us off at the bus station, we both went our separate ways (cause she’s heading off to Ximen District), then I took a taxi going to my hotel which is located at Ningxia District so that I could catch up on my travel agent who was also going there to pick me up at around 9am.
It was a cold and cloudy first day in Taipei City, but lucky for me it didn’t rain at all throughout the day.
Since I’m only for a very short stay in Taiwan, I’ve decided to book a travel agency. Cause I really wanted to utilize my stay there. Honestly, it was a bit expensive on my part. But, it was definitely worth it. For I was able to see and experience what I really wanted to achieve on this trip. I was a tourist and at the same time a traveler. And all of it was thanks to My Taiwan Tour, especially to my newly found friends Miss Iris and Miss Ting, for both of them were our assigned tour guides in the city.
This famous “My Taiwan Tour” travel agency was actually recommended to me by a high school friend who also went to Taiwan on her own. This travel agency allows you to both book and choose your own day tours via online thru TripAdvisor or Viator. And for my 3 days stay, I’ve chosen to book its Ultimate Taipei Sightseeing Tour, Taroko Gorge Full Day Tour, and Tea of Taipei Tour for days 1, 2, and 3 respectively.
As for my first day tour which was the “Ultimate Taipei Sightseeing Tour”, it is a one day tour that focuses on visiting and seeing the must-see attractions within the city of Taipei. The assigned tour guide will pick you up from your hotel at around 9am. Moreover, I was totally lucky because my fellow companions in our group were all Filipinos except for one (for the other one was an Indian girl). So it was easier for me to get along with them including our tour guide Miss Iris, because she is so friendly, charming and approachable. Plus, she really shares a lot of insights in every place that we would visit. Moreover, my fellow companions were having these shocked reactions towards me for being so brave to travel alone, and that they were also amazed by my fierceness to do such a thing. But being part of their group, I didn’t feel that way. Cause I really had a great time with them.
So here is the sequence of our Ultimate Taipei Sightseeing Tour:
The Presidential Office Building
The first part of our tour was a short side trip to this political building in order to see the place and to take some pictures. Moreover, I was so surprised while we were on the road because I’ve noticed that most of the buildings there in Taipei are kind of old. Something like an old school thing that makes you feel like you’re in the 60’s or 70’s.
Chiang Kai-Shek Memorial Hall
We were there for about an hour. Just in time for us to see the changing of guards. And Ms. Iris was very informative by giving us a summarized and detailed history of Taiwan.
It is the biggest temple in the city; in front of it is a Buddhist temple and at the back of it is a Taoist temple. Oh you’ll be surprise when you’ll get to enter inside, for it is so lively and festive to look at.
This is definitely my most favorite part of my day tour. So even though that it has taken a big part of my budget in order to get to the observatory, it was definitely worth paying for. And the 37 seconds elevator ride to the 89th floor was totally awesome! Plus the view at the top? My goodness! Utterly spectacular!
I would also like to point out that Anthony Bourdain was actually the very reason why I really wanted to visit and go at the top of the Taipei 101. I guess it’s because, even for one moment. I just want to have a share of his experience during that Layover episode of his in Taipei. And the thing is – I actually saw that episode twice before my trip there. Watching it in advance in order to have an idea about the place, its friendly people, an insight to their history, exploring their exotic foods, and of course, learning about its culture.
Lin An Tai Historical House
I really enjoyed this tour because it feels like we were transported back in time during this country’s old era. And I was fascinated while listening to our tour guide’s discussion on how the rich girls during those times were being served and well maintained. Talk about being pampered way too much. Oh I would love to experience something like that. Joke!
Pass by the Grand Hotel
The very first 5 star hotel in Taiwan.
Yangmingshan Sulfur Valley
This one really looks spectacular. But we weren’t able to appreciate it all in our group because of the odd smell of the sulfur. Totally weird.
Beitou Thermal Valley
This famous hot spring really looks entirely picturesque, and it was one of our favorite visits within the city. But of course, its visitors are not allowed to go near the water. Because it is way too hot (boiling point), and that it could totally damage your precious skin. So please don’t take the risk.
National Palace Museum
It was the second to the last league of our tour, and also one of the most informative one. For this world famous museum has thousands of collections from all over the world especially from the main land China. But for the reason that almost all of us in our group were already tired from all the tourist spots that we’ve visited since that morning. We really weren’t able to appreciate it as much as we wanted to. However, we were still trying our best to be as attentive as possible to our guide, because we don’t want to waste all of her efforts in giving us some insights about all the famous artifacts in the museum.
Shilin Night Market
There are tons of night markets in Taiwan, but this particular one is actually the biggest night market in the city. Then this was where our tour for the day has ended and where we were dropped off by our tour guide. The reason was that the area is so big for shopping and food trip that you could just get lost there for hours and hours. And our tour guide really wants us to have a one heck of a night time experience in Taipei.
But in my case, I only stayed there for an hour because I was so exhausted from the lack of sleep, that I just couldn’t take it anymore. So I’ve decided to go back to the hotel to rest and prepare for the next day. Overall, it was a very enjoyable first day in Taiwan.
As for my second day, I’ve decided to go for the “Taroko Gorge Full Day Tour”. It is an outside of the city trip. This day tour consist for about 11 travelers (including six Filipinos), and we were picked up from our respective hotels at 5am so that we could catch up on the 6:15 am express train going to Hualien City. Although the train ride was almost for about three hours, I didn’t mind the time difference at all, because I really enjoyed watching all the stunning sceneries outside.
Then upon arrival, we were welcomed by our tour guide named Miss Josephine. Oh you’ll really enjoy her company because she’s really a funny one to listen to, but most of us in our group had a hard time understanding her English. But still, she was really trying her best. So we totally understand.
And there goes our tour in Hualien City and Taroko National Park.
Taroko Gorge is actually considered as one of the 7 natural wonders of Asia. A mountainous area which is definitely a must see in Taiwan. For this place is so damn beautiful that it would truly take your breath away and makes you speechless all throughout the trip. And my advice for those who plans to go for a visit, please take a picture first, and after that, use the rest of your free time to really absorb everything around you. For no matter how hard you will try to capture everything. No camera could ever give such justice on how spectacular this place is to really look at. Moreover, I assure you that it is entirely worth traveling all the way from the city of Taipei.
So after our adventure at the Taroko, we went on a short side trip back to the city, specifically at the souvenir gift shop, the local marble museum, and at the Pacific Ocean Seashore. And then we went back to the train station in order for us to catch up on the 4:32 pm train schedule back to Taipei City. It was a very satisfying second day, and I was totally sad because I had to part with these two Filipino friends that I’ve also met during my first day in Taiwan. I guess, I was totally lucky that we all booked the same schedules except for the next day tour. Wherever they are right now, I will always remember them, and all of the things that they’ve shared about their experiences from traveling to so many different places around the world. Oh I miss you Ate Ruby and Ate Beverly.
Then by the time that we were back to the city, we were dropped off at our respective hotels. Actually, I was supposed to go to the Ximen district with my fellow companions cause I was told that it’s a must see area in Taipei. But because of the rainy weather, we weren’t able to. So after an hour of resting in my room, I’ve decided to go out again (since it already stopped raining) to explore the Ningxia Night Market, which is only a walking distance from the hotel as to where I’m staying at. I was there for almost two hours, just strolling and exploring the area; searching for some pasalubong to bring back home, and some good food to eat. Moreover, it was a very overwhelming experience that I will never ever forget.
Ningxia Night Market
As a reader of my story, you could say that my first day in Taiwan was mostly about visiting some of the famous tourist destinations within the city of Taipei; while my second day was about going on a short adventure at the stone mountains of Taroko. So for my third and last day, it was actually a very unique and authentic one. For it was about learning something about the famous tea culture of this diversified country. So I had the chance to experience a breathtaking cable car ride going to Maokong, a visit to the tea museum, learning the art of drinking tea from the tea masters/experts, a road trip to the Bagua tea plantation, and an overlooking view of the Qiandao thousand island lakes.
But my most favorite part of that day would be the food trip at a local Taiwanese open restaurant at Maokong, which also gives its customers an overlooking view of the city of Taipei. Serving us with such local cuisines and delicious dishes mixed with tea leaves. Definitely a very enjoyable lunch date with my new friends Miss Ting (Taiwanese) and Miss Ruth (From Singapore). Overall, it was such a beautiful and memorable day with them. For not only was I able to make such new friends, but I had a great time conversing with them; talking about a lot of things especially about my beloved country the Philippines, and vice versa. Cause they were also sharing something about their own country – their people and its culture. Plus, I would definitely describe my third day as a very Anthony Bourdain kind of tour, a very satisfying day in Taiwan before heading off to the airport at 6:30 pm.
However, I was a bit too early at the airport. And I would have to wait for about 3 hours before the check-in counter would be open for its Cebu Pacific Passengers. So what I did there was just stroll around the area, its food court, and went surfing online while waiting. But I never thought that I would bump into a stranger, a fellow Pinoy traveler who was also waiting for the check-in counter to open. And what made me so impressed of this particular person was that he has traveled to so many different places in the Philippines; and a total of nine countries in Asia. I mean, I was totally intrigued that I was asking him a lot of questions. Even asking for some tips for a new traveler like me, and that’s what I like about wandering, you get to meet a lot of people who will inspire you along the way to be better as to what you are aiming to be more passionate about. So Aleks, it was really nice meeting you. Moreover, I wish you all the best to all of your future travels.
As for my mistake, the wrong booking on this trip has led me to a one heck of an adventure that I will never ever forget. Talk about destiny of being a year earlier from my plans of visiting Taiwan.
Oh thank you so much Taiwan for such a very fun and memorable adventure. For this trip has been another eye opening experience for me to explore and to see a lot of places; the thirst and desire to travel more. So even though I still have no idea as to where the wind will take me again. One thing is for sure, it is better to be prepared in advance, like don’t spend way too much, research more about some tips about traveling, look for possible potential next destinations, and always save a part of your income for future travels.
So for those who are still in doubt of traveling solo? Just once, try it. Who knows you might like it and wants to do it again. I hope I’ve been an inspiration to my fellow friends back home; the girl who has some kind of anxiety problems was able to travel abroad on her own. And hopefully, when I’m fully ready, I would like to travel solo again, and this time it’s going to be a do-it-yourself all throughout kind of trip. Hoping and Praying for it.