Asia, International Travels, Taiwan, Travels

Taiwan With The One: Taipei 101, Chiang Kai-shek Memorial Hall, Elephant Mountain, Yehliu Geopark, Taipei Zoo, and Maokong Gondola

Aside from the obvious Japanese influence in Taiwan, a lot of the must-see places in Taiwan are still mainly Chinese. And even though the Republic of China is not recognized by UN as a country, it recognizes itself as its own sovereign land. I’ve even read somewhere that Taiwan is like China, but friendlier. So let’s take a look at what you can visit in Taipei when you go. Take note, most of the things we did there are free, so you’d be surprised at how cost-effective your Taiwan trip is going to be.

TAIPEI 101 – Standing tall in an otherwise small state in East Asia

For 6 years, it stood as the tallest building in the world before Burj Khalifa outranked it in 2010, and now stands as 6th tallest globally. Being very near a major fault line in Taipei, it is made to withstand storms and earthquakes, and has one of the fastest elevators in the world. It “flies” it passengers up from the 5th to the 87th floor in less than 53 seconds.

Its observation deck on the 89th and 91st floors can allow visitors to see as far as the Taiwan strait, and the view is remarkable both in the day and night, entrance fee at NT$ 510 (PhP 790 or US$ 16). When we were there, what we wanted was to see the fireworks on New Year’s Eve.

How to get there: Take the train and alight at the Taipei 101 station of the red line.

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New Year’s Eve at Taipei 101
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New Year’s Eve at Taipei 101 – The fireworks display
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New Year’s Eve at Taipei 101 – The fireworks display
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New Year’s Eve at Taipei 101 – waiting for the fireworks display across the street

ELEPHANT MOUNTAIN TRAIL – Vantage point for a city-scape and Taipei 101’s gigantic presence

The point of going there was to compare how tall the famous building is, compared to the rest of the city. We also reserved it for our last day and yet, it drizzled. It was foggy when we got to the top. We took pictures anyway. If your lifestyle is sedentary like mine, you would have to stop multiple times along the way, especially if it’s hot. If you hit the gym pretty often, this is a mere warmer for you.

To get there from Taipei 101, take the red line and head to Xiangshan, the terminal station. Walk a few minutes to get to the entrance, don’t worry getting lost because street signs are all over the place to point you to the right direction.

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Drizzling morning caused the fog to obscure the city view from up top the Elephant Mountain trail, with Taipei 101 in the background. Imagine watching the fireworks from here.
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Elephant Mountain Trail signs from outside the Xiangshan train station – take note of the walking time

CHIANG KAI-SHEK MEMORIAL HALL – A fitting memorial to Taiwan’s main man

Chiang Kai-shek succeeded Sun Yat Sen as president of Taiwan but has led a prolific military life before that in many wars including the second Sino-Japanese war. He is perceived by many as the man who unified China (his portrait used to hang at the Tiananmen Square in Beijing before Mao Zedong took his place there). He is also known for being an anti-communist and when the civil war between what are now China and Taiwan was over, he and his party Kuomintang, established a democratic China contrasting mainland China’s authoritarian-communist government. The memorial officially opened in 1980, 5 years after he died. The blue-and-white hall is flanked to the right by the National Theater and to the left by the National Concert Hall.

There is a museum and garden in the park, but we didn’t have enough time as we had to go to the Elephant Mountain on our last day in Taiwan.

To get there, take the green or red line and alight at the Chiang Kai-shek Memorial Hall station.

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Chiang Kai-shek Memorial Hall – National Theater
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Chiang Kai-shek Memorial Hall – Photo from the stairs of the Memorial Hall with the National Theater on the left, Gate of Great Piety in the middle and National Concert Hall on the right
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Chiang Kai-shek Memorial Hall which houses CKS’ statue and where the changing of the guards happen every hour on the hour until 440pm.
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Chiang Kai-shek Memorial Hall and his statue after the ceremony
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Chiang Kai-shek Memorial Hall guard on duty
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Chiang Kai-shek Gate of Great Piety

YEHLIU GEOPARK – North coast with a desert “feels”

You could go to Yehliu Geopark, Jiufen and Shifen in one, albeit long day as they are located in the northern part of Taiwan. But for us, we took 2 days to get to Yehliu and Jiufen since we had a lot of time.

This tourist spot is famous for its rock formations that may make you feel like you’re in Dubai or somewhere close. The iconic “Queen’s Head” appears in almost all promotional items of the park. Bring your umbrella when you head there, some water, and coolers. Entrance fee is NT$80.

To get there, alight at the Taipei Main Station (red line) and walk to the Taipei bus station across the train station, look for East exit 3 and take the 1815 bus headed to Jin Qing Center. Bus fare should be less than NT$100.

Walk about 10 minutes to the park, and take the same way back to Taipei.

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Yehliu Geopark – North coast with a “desert” backdrop (thanks to the tripod for this)
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Yehliu Geopark – North coast with a “desert” backdrop
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Yehliu Geopark – North coast with a “desert” backdrop (The Candle Sticks)
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Yehliu Geopark – North coast with a “desert” backdrop (Honeycomb Weathering)
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Yehliu Geopark – North coast with a “desert” backdrop (Queen’s Head replica – since the original rock has already eroded)

 

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Yehliu Geopark – North coast with a “desert” backdrop (Queen’s Head has already eroded)
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Yehliu Geopark – North coast with a “desert” backdrop (resting crowd)
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Wharf and Fish Port outside the Yehliu Geopark – like “paluto” in the Philippines
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Temple on the way to Yehliu Geopark

 

TAIPEI ZOO – 103 years of safekeeping animals from within and outside Taiwan

I’ve been to a lot of zoos here in the Philippines but I’ve never seen a giraffe in real life, nor has Mary. We saw a Giant panda in Beijing, I saw ostriches in Davao, but here, we saw Kangaroos and Koalas, and the majestic Flamingos.

This is one of the main attractions of Taipei, with a very affordable entrance fee of NT$50 (less than 2 USD or PhP 80). They are open everyday except Mondays and holidays, 9am-5pm.

To get there, take the brown line and alight at the terminal station: Taipei Zoo

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Taipei Zoo – probably one of the first animals you’d see – the Flamingos in their pink beauty
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Taipei Zoo – the majestic Giraffe. Wow!
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Taipei Zoo – Bactrian Camels are two-humped camels that are much more suitable to colder climates
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While the Koala is native to Australia, the Taipei Zoo has managed to breed a few of them. They are “asocial” and so are kept in different “rooms” in the zoo.
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Taipei Zoo’s Giant Panda is bigger than most we’ve seen at the Beijing Zoo and we were lucky to see him stand on top of his pedestal just as we were passing by

MAOKONG GONDOLA – Looking at Taipei from a different perspective

Right inside the Taipei Zoo, for NT$5 you will be shuttled to the Maokong station and ride their gondola to go to the tea plantations of Maokong and a street full of food.

The queue is shorter from the zoo than we you get on the line outside the actual Maokong gondola queue outside of the zoo.

If you end your journey at the Maokong station, there are pooling cabs available to take you back to the Taipei Zoo train station at NT$75 per person for a max of 6.

But before heading back down, sample the food there and you won’t regret stopping by for a good 30 minutes to an hour.

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Maokong Gondola – we were lucky enough to get a crystal cabin at no extra cost and no extra queue.
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Eyes of Maokong Gondola – crystal cabins have tri-layer reinforced glass for a more “soaring through the sky” feeling.
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Photo taken from the Eye of the Maokong Gondola, and because I am scared of heights, I couldn’t stand to take this picture so I put the camera on a monopod and took this photo while seated.
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Maokong Station and the many food stalls that line outside – to Pinoys this tastes like longganisa
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Maokong Gondola station and Mary’s favorite squid balls with sesame seeds
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Maokong Gondola and some lamb skewers. The best squid balls for Mary

The next Taiwan blog will feature the $300-dollar budget and food tripping, please watch out for it!

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