Friday, October 31, 2014

Taiwan 101: Three (3) Places and Activities In Taipei Worth Paying For!

by: Mhe-anne L. Ojeda

After keeping these  Five (5) Mandatories In Taipei To Save Some Bucks, here are the three (3) places and activities worth our hard - earned money, during our visit in Taipei, Taiwan.

1. Taipei 101 Observatory - Php 732 each
Taipei 101 is still one of the most popular attractions in Taiwan being the current third tallest building in the world and the world's tallest building in 2004 until 2010. This skyscraper has 101 floors above ground and 5 floors underground. But while you can view the building at no cost, the real enjoyment comes in actually experiencing the Taipei 101 Observatory by paying NT$ 500 (Php 732) each for adults. The fee allows one to experience riding the worlds fastest elevators on earth with a speed of 1010 m/ go up to the 91st floor, and view the worlds heaviest and largest wind damper, the only operational wind damper in the world exposed for public viewing at the 89th floor. On a good day, you will have a 360 - degree panoramic view of the surrounding areas at the indoor observatory in the 89th floor and if you are lucky, you'll be able to go up to the outdoor observatory at the 91st floor and view the tip of the spire that reaches 508 meters above the ground.

2. Window On China - Php 585 Discounted Price
Window on China Theme Park is an amusement park, water park and miniature theme park rolled into one.  For the admission fee of NT$399 (Php 585), we were able to globetrot around the world's famous architectures of Taiwan, China, Europe, Asia and America in miniature sizes, and enjoy themed amusement rides like  a hair - raising giant splash during our jumbo wave journey in mysterious Egypt, sailing on Euro Riverboat around Europe's awe - inspiring churches, windmills and cathedrals, a Lungchuan Tea Plantation delightful and scent-ful ride on board the Tour Train and up-high adventure on WOC Ferris Wheel affording a great view of the whole theme park. We were also able to rekindle the kids in us for a day with live entertainment and shows as well as kiddy rides that let and left us - screaming out for joy aboard Jumping Stars, going to the galaxy far beyond on Wipe Out, having an ultimate thrill adventure on Crazy Rapids, bumping (with hubby) on Bumper Car, and climbing aboard the Mining Train

3. Taipei Zoo - Php 88
Taipei Zoo is a zoological garden located on the far end of Taipei City, and occupies about 90 hectares of sloping land set against the backdrop of high hills and lush greenery. The entrance is only NT$ 60 (Php 88) which will allow you to visit the different zones based on their habitats and climates - Desert and Outback, Asian Tropical Rainforest, African animals, Temperate Zone, Formosan animals, Noctornal and Bird World. The crowd favorites are the PandasKoalas and Penguins and these are kept in glass enclosures. The Panda crowds are managed by having a ticket and you have 20 minutes to go around following a large group. All the other attractions can be enjoyed at your leisure. 

4. Maokong Gondola SIngle Journey Ticket - P22
To be able to visit the whole zoo in 3 to 4 hours, we took the Maokong GondolaTaipei's "first tourist gondola"to the top of the hills then took the tram to see the Giant Panda enclosure. A single entry journey cost us NT$ 15 (Php 22)  and allowed us a bird's - eye view of the tea fields area and magnificent scenery of Maokong while inside one of the 30- crystal cabins.

Sunday, October 19, 2014

Taiwan 101: Three (3) Quirky Foodies - Yucky, Naughty & Smelly! Which One Can You Handle?

by: Mhe-anne L. Ojeda - Isidro

Taiwan doesn't disappoint if your taste buds are ready for some off the wall, outrageous foodie experiences. I have listed three (3) quirky food presentations - one is yucky, the other is naughty and another is smelly. Which of the three (3) I was able to try? Find out this one journey to foodie gutsy-iness:

Toilet 2 - Strawberry Ice Cream Shaved Ice (NT $120)
Modern Toloet Address: (2F,7, Ln. 50, Xining S. Rd., Taipei City
Ice Cream parfait served on Taiwan's women toilet bowl (NT $ 120) and cola drinks served on men's urinal (NT $ 120) are just some of the quirky stuff served at the Modern Toilet Theme Restaurant in Ximen District in Taipei City. As the name implies, you'll expect that food on the menu are link to something "toilet-y'" and served on different miniature toilet bowls, urinals and tubs. Since we already had a full dinner at Taipei 101, we only have room for desserts and drinks. We ordered Toilet 2, an strawberry filled ice shaving with ice cream on top, raisins, small round bread and crispiesIf food presentation does not spoil your appetite, this is such a tasty generous dessert you can order (just don't imagine actual toilet you've seen before while eating!). At NT $ 120, this is a pretty good deal (considering bubble milk tea and shaved ice concoctions in Taipei cost as much for a small portion). However, the coca cola for the same price as the ice shaving is very expensive since it is only NT $ 20 at nearby vending machines.

Entrance of Modern Toloet and Actual Toilets Seating Inside
I heard about this bathroom-toilet themed resto long before our trip to Taipei, and although I am very picky with food, I thought I should try this even once in my lifetime. Glad we had the chance on our last night in Taipei (October 10) to visit the Modern Toloet after a bit of finding following the tourist map. We had fun snapping photos of the actual unused toilet bowls used as seats and the poo - inspired decors of this modern resto.

Stall Selling Naughty Corn Dog in Shihlin Night Market

Penis - Shaped Waffle Corn Dogs is another quirky Taiwanese foodie where I am putting my reputation on check (lol). Despite the odd shape, this is just an ordinary corn dog which is a very popular street food in Taiwan. For kinky feel, the corn dog is wrapped in hotcake batter that is shaped into a male private part which became an instant hit for girls. I didn't try one (for obvious reason) so I can't tell you what it taste like, but in your trip to Taipei you can find a lot in Shihlin Night Market or Ximending.  

One Stall Selling Stinky Tofu inside the Shihlin Night Market Food Court
I really loved tofu, but I can't handle Taipei's traditional, smelly fermented bean curd called Stinky Tofu being sold in Night Markets. It smells like rotten meat or garbage, so even taking pictures was a challenge because I have to cover my nose and walk fast whenever we pass by stalls selling stinky tofu. My friend ate Cristy Antonio has got her bragging rights for taking the plunge and tasting this smelly snack and finding it very delicious. But I wasn't convinced hahaha. Stinky Tofu are sold either fried, steamed, or stewed.

How about you? Are you gutsy enough to try all or one of these Taiwanese foodie during your visit to Taiwan? 

Friday, October 17, 2014

TAIWAN 101: Our Five "Musts Know" To Save Some Bucks While Enjoying Taiwan!

by: Mhe-anne L. Ojeda

A Welcome Sign at the Taoyuan International Airport Terminal 1
We were able to enjoy every minute of our post first wedding anniversary trip to Taiwan last October 6-11, 2014, without breaking the bank, by keeping in mind these Five (5) Taiwan mandatories:

1. Visit various Night Markets For Introductory of Taiwan. Regardless of the length of your stay in Taiwan, a visit to one or several Night markets should be inserted in your busy itinerary for  a pulse of the night life and a real cultural immersion as it plays an important part in the lives of the Taiwanese.Taiwan has over a hundred street markets that operate in urban and suburban areas from early afternoon until after midnight each with own specialties. Depending on what you are looking for - food, shopping, activities or entertainment, there surely is a night market you can visit. For four (4) nights that we were in Taipei, we visited Shilin Night Market, the most famous and largest of all the night markets, Tamshui Old Street Night Market, a night market with a view of the Danshui River and Lover's Bridge, Huaxi Street Tourist Night Market (or Snake Alley) for "unique" delicacies like snake meat in the menu and Ximending Night Market for the "youth" vibe and modern stuff.

2. Be Sure To Sample Taiwan's Cheap Snacks. Of course, your visit to the Night Markets will not be complete without a wide sampling of typical Taiwanese snacks that are not only cheap but very delicious and an authentic representation of Taiwanese culture. In one night, have your own "All-You - Can - Eat Braised Snacks" for dinner, which  could include chicken wings, tofu, mushrooms, red bean cake, Shihlin sausage, scallops, shrimps, squid balls, pepper pie, and rice sausage, etc. For rice lovers like hubby, you can head to food courts for a sit - down dinner of braised pork rice, oyster omelet, soup dumpling, etc.Usually the drinks like pearl milk tea (or bubble tea) or juices can be bought from a nearby stalls specializing in drinks only. Taiwan Night Market does not have a concept of "combo" meals!

Sin Ron Hotel is infront of the Shilin Night Market and Shilin Cinema
3. Stay at Hotel near Shilin Night Market. Since Night Markets are "Not-To-Be-Missed" during your visit in Taiwan, it would be wise to stay at a hotel near them. We saved a lot of commutes when we stayed at Sin Ron Hotel (upon my Taiwanese friend recommendation) located right at the Shilin Night Market which closes very late at night (usually 1am) so there are a lot to explore at night without spending money for a cab ride.The hotel is also in front of a Cinema which is what we prefer because hubby likes to watch movie as part of our foreign country trips. We watched "Gone Girl" starring Ben Affleck at 11pm until 2:40 am, but we were in our bed in a minute. There is also an MRT nearby - Jiantan Station which takes only about 3 minutes walk so it is very accessible to all tourist spots in Taiwan. The food is also cheap around Shihlin since the hawker stalls and restos cater to students, there being a university nearby. But aside from a very good location, Sin Ron Hotel is also the cheapest accommodation around the Shihlin area, at NT $ 1,200 (or about P 1,772) a night that comes with complimentary wifi, centralized A/C, hot and cold shower, slippers and toiletries (but very small towel so you may want to bring your own). The nearby hotel is quite expensive. 

4. Buy A Metro Easy Card on the first day. Be sure to buy an Easy Card for NT $100 and then load it up with whatever amount you need during your stay in Taiwan. The Easy Card can be used at all MRT stations (or Metro), buses and other establishments like Taipei Zoo / Moakong Gondola and is very easy to add value.  At the end of your trip, don't forget to return the Easy Card and get a refund of NT $80 since the charge for the use of the Easy Card is only  NT $ 20. 

5. Register For Free Wifi on the First Day. Aside from getting tourist maps, be sure to register for a free wireless internet access as soon as you arrive at tourist offices aTaiwan has become the first place in the world to offer free wifi access to tourists. Show your passport to staff at the counter with yellow colored small letter "i" icon)  in airports, train stations or Metro stations. You will then be given an account number, which will allow you to access the free basic WiFi, which has a speed of around 1 Mbps bandwidth per second. You can immediately upload your pictures while waiting for the Metro!

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