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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