Tag Archive | "Taiwan"

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When I first traveled solo series: Danshui Old Street

Posted on 20 August 2013 by Dreidel Regala

So I am back in downtown Danshui just a few hours before lunch time. The bus stopped at a red light in a super busy intersection. Maybe I should get down already. The area looked a little familiar but I didn’t stand up from my seat. I noticed nobody was getting off the bus so I thought it wasn’t the right place to go down. So scared little me of being caught of illegal jaywalking, I waited for the light to turn green and my bus to move to the opposite side.

The bus stopped. Great! I got off and started walking. But just as I was about to get on the train station I saw something. It looks to be a port or another wharf so I decided to check it out. This port looks more ordinary than the fisherman’s wharf I just visited. There was no romantic bridge but the little park beside has more people than the previous one. I felt a little lonely as I watched friends and families wander around but it didn’t bother me too much, I guess the unfamiliarity of the place got me busy. After walking for a while I went inside a convenience store. I grabbed one of my favorite snacks – a flavored milk plus a donut. My feet were a little tired already after walking for some time so I sat in a table eating while watching people pass by. I thought the people in Taiwan were just like the people in my home country. Some goes to work, some hangs with friends or family, others were just wandering by themselves. I was up on my feet as I sip the last drop of milk. I walked further down thinking there might be something else interesting. When I saw that people were walking into a street I can’t help but follow. Could this be Danshui’s Old Street? So when I got to the opening I found stall after stall lined up selling anything from food to diferent goods.

Danshui Old Street

Danshui Old Street by CC Yee

I love walking in markets cause I get to see what locals eat or buy. One was selling a really tall ice cream, the other had fruits on display. I continued to walk with curious eyes on every stall not noticing I was already on the end of the street. Standing in the corner I found there were more shops in both directions. Stalls have slowly disappeared with stores now taking over. Okay I’m going back now, thinking same old same old stores. So I turned and headed back to the mrt picking up a hot pastry filled with red beans on the side.

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When I first traveled solo series: The fisherman’s wharf

Posted on 19 July 2013 by Dreidel Regala

Several empty boats fill the still waters of the fisherman’s wharf. I did not see a fisherman but thought maybe it’s not the best fishing time. It is a rainy day but still perfect for taking pictures so I took out my LX5 then prepared to click away.

In the back draft stands the Lover’s Bridge. A fine structure displaying curved lines. I wonder why they call it that but I guess sunsets will make a romantic atmosphere in the area. I walked towards the bridge which is actually not very far from the bus drop off point. Only a few people were walking around, good timing I thought. After wandering around I crossed the bridge, took few stops for pictures then continued walking. On the other side is a wooden platform with a few stores that are still closed. It’s actually very nice to hang around there if only the weather was good. One can watch the open sea while eating and on the back side is a picture of the wharf. I did not stay too long cause there seemed to be nothing else to do so I went back to the other side and looked around in the building fronting the bridge. Found a few food stores but nothing interested me.

Lover's bridge in Danshui's Fisherman's Wharf

Lover’s bridge in Danshui’s Fisherman’s Wharf

I decided to go back to the city. A full day of sight seeing I thought. I looked for the bus stop and saw a couple already there. I checked the bus route in the map that was posted. Mrt, yep this is my bus stop. But buses rarely came so I had to wait for a while. The couple didn’t move as well so maybe we are waiting for the same bus.

After a few minutes I was on my way back to the city with the memory of the peaceful wharf so fresh within me.

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When I first traveled solo series: End of the line

Posted on 18 July 2013 by Dreidel Regala

This was going to be my first time to explore a place on my own. Hours and hours of reading through different blogs and forums until everything that I needed to know I knew. I am excited. Excited to see Taiwan. And while I was extremely anxious before I left home, at that moment all of that mysteriously disappeared.

Rainy window

Photo taken by DulceDolce

I woke up 8 in the morning, made myself up then went to the common room. The empty house that welcomed me a few hours ago is now very much awake. I noticed that it was raining so I sat for a while in the living and thought about the day’s plans. A man in his 40’s greeted me. He’s from out of town and is in Taipei for business. After learning that I’m Filipino, he excitedly told about his time in Cebu and how he loved it. We continued talking while the local drama is on tv and was only interrupted when he was called by the receptionist about something. I looked at the window and thought the rain isn’t going to stop so decided to just go on out.

I stopped in the 7eleven store to buy something to eat. I asked the crew about the local SIM card but he couldn’t understand English much. Oh the language issue is about to start. We couldn’t understand each other so much that a customer had to intervene. He just wanted my passport after all.

When I stepped out of the store I only had one thing on my mind. I have to get to the mrt. So I walked my way back to the bridge and onto the building where the bus had dropped me before. It’s a busy day I thought. The sleeping Taipei Main Station now has so many people inside. But I am still not sure where I am going considering the gloomy day. Should I go see the zoo and the cute pandas or head far off to Danshui? I read signs after signs (awesome they have it in English!) for the long distance trains, high speed rails, bus stations, mrts, and several street names. I’m in the center of it all I told myself. Eventually I decided Danshui seems more interesting. Now I just have to find the mrt.

In a distance I saw something, it said “Tourist Center”. Ooh they’re talking about me! So I walked towards the booth and said “Excuse me do you have a map of the city?“. The girl on the other side of the table gladly gave me the city map along with other maps. “Thank you! Can you also show me where’s the mrt station going to Danshui?“. “Sure, you just walk straight”, pointing to the path in front of us, “…then take the escalator and there you will see instructions“. “Okay thank you!“. I started walking just as she had told me and found the signs she was talking about on top of the escalator. This is fairly easy I thought.

Train ticketing machine

Photo taken from Wikimedia

Several machines were lined up in front of the mrt gates. A little panic came to me and thought oh no I have to operate that. I watched others touched the screens then take out their cards. Should be simple I thought but when I got to one of the machines it was all in Taiwanese! So I quickly turned and scanned the area for any possible booths where I can buy it manually. There’s a booth but why is there nobody lining up hmmm. After a few seconds an American family came to the window. They said something to the man inside but I couldn’t hear it. I walked closer. And when the family left, I went to the window and said to the man “Hi, how much is the easy card?“. He told me the price plus the deposit and some other things which I couldn’t really understand so I just gave him the bill.

I went down to the platform along with the human traffic. I hear them talking but couldn’t understand a thing. When the train came I stepped inside with no fuss. This is good, lines are good. I quickly noticed that there were only a few seats in the train and most of the space is for standing up. I settled on the side and just stared at the window. My ride took a while cause my stop was in the end of the line. I saw people get in and out of the train with their everyday agendas and a couple curious eyes staring at me, maybe wondering why I look a bit different.

The train stopped. “Danshui station“. I am here! I got off the platform like everybody else and proceeded to the front of the station. Okay now where is bus #26. I asked around but they couldn’t understand me so I pointed at the picture in the map on my hand. “Ah fisherman’s wharf, go straight“. On a busy street I found my bus, bus #26. I got in and swiped my card then took a seat. I watched over my window as we passed by a series of shops and some schools. Occasionally I glanced at the LED sign in the windshield of the bus. Taiwanese words popped up first then English but I had no idea what they were so I thought it might be the names of the routes.

I got a little worried after some time cause I still didn’t see the wharf. People were getting of the bus and there were only a few of us left. I prepared to stand up and make my way to the driver to ask him but decided to ask one of the passengers instead. “Wait. Wait.” he said. So I guess I just have to wait more. The bus made a couple of turns to some inner streets that looks to be very quiet at night. Then like a curtain being pulled, the wharf started to show and not very far the Lover’s bridge standing tall.

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When I first traveled solo series: Room #205

Posted on 17 July 2013 by Dreidel Regala

Night bus

Photo taken by Geoff LMV

I was looking at the sleeping streets in the window on my right. A bit dazed, I told myself everyone must be under their sheets by now. The driver pulled over beside a building that looks to be closed already. Then he went down the bus and opened the cargo compartment. Ah this must be our stop.

Everyone started going down and waited for their luggage. I looked around like a confused cat thinking where should I go. Some waited on the side of the road, they must be looking for a cab.  I continued walking with the map to the hotel in my hand. Hmmm where are the signs, where is the bridge. I found myself on the other side of the building, south side I presume so I walked towards the intersection and there I found a bridge. Unsure if it was the right bridge I took my first step then the other and the other. As I was walking I saw a 7eleven at the crossing street but thought that it’s a bit far from how I understood the hotel’s word. I looked on the other side but saw no other so I decided to go down on the 7eleven side of the bridge. I walked towards it but slowly realized that no this couldn’t be it. I turned around, walked around the stairs again and there I found in a not so obvious location the 7eleven I was looking for.

I took a moment with my map again, it said to make a right in an alley then a left. So I went in. An empty alley that has an improvised observation post in the corner inside. Nobody was around only that suspiciously looking man in the post that I didn’t want to deal with at a strangely time. After a few knocks and tries on some random doors I realized there’s still a pathway if I make a turn inside. So that’s why the map said to make a left! And there the hotel’s doorstep was waiting in front of me.

I entered my access code and slowly the door opened. The reception was empty, even the common room empty. It felt strange like someone breaking in but it also felt like going home late to your house while everybody is sleeping.

Room #205 that is my room and when I came in everything was ready.

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Travel and Language

Posted on 15 August 2012 by Dreidel Regala

One of the most fascinating things I consider in this world is language. Even if you are one of those who speaks different tongues, at one point there will be someone who won’t get you or you don’t get them. It is inevitable. We mean the same thing, feel the same thing, but the world has got to say it in different ways. So what if we’re stuck somewhere and we find ourselves saying “hello” differently from the locals? Do we runaway from these places? Absolutely not!

The world has got so many wonders that you probably haven’t seen before. And chances are the nicest ones are far from your continent and they have their own language. It’s not something to be scared of (even if you’re traveling alone), but may need some extra preparation. I remember being in a big food court having some noodles and good cold juice and hearing everybody talking but not understanding any of them – looks like home but sounds otherwise.  I found myself extra excited to the first person in a familiar speech and chat with them for hours after a few days of not being able to talk to someone.

For some the remedy to this language situation is to enroll in a language class. This is good but requires time, cash and a lot of dedication. I didn’t have the convenience to do this though when I went to Taiwan earlier this year but good thing I was able to find a great tip.  If you have the knack for preparing ahead, make sure to include translations of the names of places you’re visiting and directions. Note these translations in a pocket sized paper so you can easily show them around when needed. You can try to pronounce them yourself but sometimes it’s no good so just show them your note. Do include also some basic words (eg. restroom, bus stop, drinking water, bank, etc) so that when you’re out needing them you won’t be awfully confused. There maybe some cool translator apps already so make sure to check those too.

So there you go.. let’s hit the other side of the sea now and explore! :)

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Baler Surf & Music Festival

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Long Story – it’s Short!

Posted on 21 March 2012 by Dreidel Regala

When I went to Taiwan some weeks back I knew I had to go back. It was only a week long trip and I was busy running around a couple of cities, jumping on buses, and catching trains. I knew very much it’s considered a big no-no for travelers to do it this way – I mean there’s just no way experiences will be deep more so it ain’t relaxing at all. But for a corporate worker like me, this is the only way I know I can. I know that already, accepted it, and tossed all my complaining at the back… after all I still need to work it so I can make the dreaming into reality even for just a tiny sip of the cup.

In these short trips we are bound to miss some things. Just like me missing Taipei Zoo and seeing the cute Panda bears when I was in Taiwan. Pandas are not native to Taiwan, they came in from China but even so these huggable creatures are definitely an interesting sight.

Another I consider a “miss” are Yehliu and Jiufen Old Street, technically I did not miss these two because I did pay a visit to these places but due to the awful weather the stop was not fun. Rain and cloud hampered my view but these two are a definite must. Yehliu’s unique rock formation is remarkable and picture perfect so next time I’ll make sure the sun is high and winds are kept to a minimum.

Yehliu on upper right corner

Yehliu on upper right corner

While I was able to get a few snapshots of Yehliu, Jiufen on the other hand had none when I was there. I wasn’t aware of the impending Taiwan holiday when I planned my trip to which resulted in an overcrowded Jiufen. It was awful that I could barely enjoy the food because every stall was busy. On other news the overlooking view of Jiufen was caught M.I.A. too due to the heavy cloud… yeah I thought the cool February is perfect but I guess not. My timing was not right but Jiufen’s Old Street looked really nice. Sometimes though it’s the itinerary that’s too busy…. ahhh I remember going to Kamotes Island in Cebu wherein I never got to try the beach when I was there!

Kamotes Island, Cebu

Kamotes Island, Cebu

On a different angle missing out is not all about the not so good first time. Sometimes when something so nice happened you just want to prolong it… well that’s the case when I was in Krabi Thailand. Known for its great beaches (yes “beaches” not just one).

Maya Bay, Krabi

Maya Bay, Krabi

We were able to see the beautiful islands under the good sun but time flies so fast on the good ones. Just like my stay in Bantayan, Cebu where quiet beautiful white beach lies.

Bantayan Island, Cebu

Bantayan Island, Cebu

Or when you are in a music festival that you never want to stop!

Baler Surf & Music Festival

Baler Surf & Music Festival

So if we can’t have those long trips we’ll just have to keep coming back.

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Taking Formosa

Posted on 14 March 2012 by Dreidel Regala

Remember when I said I’m a milk tea fanatic??? well a few weeks ago I came to a place where the drink is really popular – Taiwan. And yeah I wasn’t disappointed, it was like every corner had a kiosk for milk tea. The taste was no stranger to me since we have the milk tea craze in Manila already but of course having it in Taiwan makes it feel more original.

My time in Taiwan wasn’t all about milk tea. There were a lot of things to see there too. While it wasn’t such a popular destination for travelers, I enjoyed it because it means locals are not outnumbered by foreigners which makes the experience more authentic.  And may I elaborate that Taiwanese people are really friendly and approachable. No doubt they are a Chinese speaking nation with only a few people knowing outside language like English but that didn’t stop them from helping me out in directions or anything else.

It was fun though, all those elaborate charade gestures all over the place but in any case it always helps to have some pocket sized notes for instant translations you can show them, after all not everyone understands that when you’re pointing “there” then it means “there”. Anyways Taiwan in general is very tourist friendly in my opinion that’s why I didn’t get lost at all, well except when I read the map upside down and walked to the opposite direction gaaahhh.

The only villain in my trip was the weather. I came in at the end of February, to which I thought it’ll be something dry and cool as I read that’ll be the time Spring enters. It’s true though, Spring entered which is why the ever so famous Cherry Blossoms from Japan was already starting to blossom around the area of Maokong Tea Plantation.  I always wanted to see Sakura, it reminded me of anime scenes or korean dramas. But the entire time I was in Taiwan it was raining or gloomy which made it much colder to the already cold temp. Oh well if I let the weather ruin the trip then it’ll be a waste.

Taiwan's Sakura

Taiwan’s Sakura

After some time of strolling around Taipei I went to the Northeast Coast to see the unusual rock formations in Yehliu. Yehliu is facing the Pacific Ocean and on its coast lies the oddly shaped rocks. Pretty interesting and unique which is why visitors should check it out. Another destination in the Northeast Coast is Jiufen. The Old Street in Jiufen is home to different kinds of food and souvenirs plus the overlooking view is awesome according to what I read… it was just unfortunate that the awful weather brought in massive clouds causing me to not see anything darn. You can of course do both on just a day trip from Taipei, oh did I mention buses are very efficient just don’t sit on designated priority seats for elders and do grab an Easy Card to make commute very convenient.

Taipei and Yehliu

Taipei and Yehliu

Another place I loved in Taiwan is Hualien County. Hualien is the gateway to Taroko Gorge where awesome mountains and cliffs are found. I loved the feel in this place, it’s so chill and relaxed. You can take a bike or scooter around the Taroko park but be careful so you won’t fumble like my friend I met in the hostel who slid through the slippery road, anyways just a little caution will do you fine. Oh by the way Hualien is 2 hours by high speed train so it’s better to stay here rather than doing a day trip, after all the train ride is already a sight – the Pacific on your left and lush mountains on your right.

Taroko Gorge

Taroko Gorge

I was just a little sad for not seeing the cute Panda bears in Taipei zoo which is why I’ll definitely be back, with a sun of course, to see more of Taiwan – Alishan, Sun Moon Lake just some in my checklist. Til then Formosa :)

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Is Taiwan a Go?

Posted on 29 August 2011 by Dreidel Regala

As I impulsively booked a round trip ticket for my early 2012 destination, I was quickly drawn to Taiwan. I remember a friend recently mentioned about it being mostly an affordable destination so the name is so fresh in my head that I quickly hit the book button without any further plans in mind. I know of Taipei 101 but that was it. And since I’m doing it alone, I have to make it extra interesting (or try). Check out the tourist spots, take the local commute, meet some locals, figure how to communicate and get lost. So is Taiwan really worth a stopover? Let’s find out.

Formerly known as Formosa, the island is found on the east of Asia somewhere between Shanghai, China – Batanes, Philippines – Hong Kong. Upon searching for budget flights I found a couple: AirAsia from Kota Kinabalu & Kuala Lumpur, Cebu Pacific & Philippine Airlines from Manila, Zest Airways from Kalibo(PHL), Dragonair from Hong Kong, Jetstar from Osaka & Singapore, and Tiger from Singapore. Great! Finding a budget line is a good plus already. Now let’s see visas. As per TECO’s website, entry to Taiwan as a tourist requires a visa but you must be aware that some countries are exempted (30 or 90 days) like most European countries, Canada, S. Korea, Malaysia, US and many more. Better check this website for further details so you can start getting your visa requirements too.

What about weather? Well I found that Taiwan’s got 4 seasons – spring happens March to May, summer on June to August, autumn from September to November and winter during December to February with typhoons coming between summer and autumn. This should be perfect since I’m set for late February so it will be nice to experience winter a little for someone coming from a tropical country.

Taipei streets during winter

For sights these are the ones I particularly grew interest in then included some that might interest others, check them out. The National Palace Museum, dubbed as the holder of some fine Chinese art though some say it’s particularly focused on China rather than Taiwan. And for a free tour (10am & 3pm) I’ll definitely take my chance to see some cool caligraphies or jades. The Maokong Gondola, a good way to get a good view of Taipei from aboard a gondola (cable car) then make a stop to grab a cup of tea. Better plan this on a weekend though as I heard queues are quite long and could get horridly hot especially inside the gondola. Chiang Kai Shek Memorial, if you heard of the name then this is a great place to know more about the man and the history of China and Taiwan. Yangmingshan National Park, this is a must for some relaxing down time and picture taking with nature. It is a bit of a travel though but commute seems to be easy from what I heard. And oh yeah, end of february is supposedly the start of cherry blossoms!

Cherry blossom in Yangmingshan park

Long Shan Temple, Taiwan has got a lot of temple but this is one of the favorites because of the interiors and craftmanships of the place. And of course Taipei 101, hi-speed elevators can take you up the observation deck for a good panoramic view of Taipei but I heard that it could get expensive, you can check the mall in the building though.

Well judging by the list of sights above (and many more I am undecided of), Taiwan does look worthy of checking out. Add the culture and authentic food, this could very well be an interesting destination. But can I afford it? How much do I need for the essentials?

First of, let’s check the currency. Taiwan uses New Taiwanese (NT) dollar nationwide which means we have to exchange any other we have on our pockets to be able to use them. As of this writing (8/29/11) the fx rates are NT$1 = US$0.034, and for me it’s NT$1 = Php1.45. For a place to stay, I checked hostelworld.com and found that there are several good & cheap hostels in Taipei. Judging from online reviews these are some of the favorites: Flip Flop, Star, Homey and Eight Elephants with prices averaging to NT$400-550/night. Not bad I say but let’s see when we actually get to stay there.  As for food based on LonelyPlanet’s estimates food costs should be around NT$200-300/day. And lastly transportation, taking the public transport (ie. bus, mrt) should be the most convenient & cheapest way according to someone from Taipei that I met before. Fares look relatively cheap so my estimate if just going around Taipei would probably be around NT$50-100/day. Other miscellaneous costs to keep in mind are entrance fees, shopping expense and maybe a mobile service provider.

That’s it. All in all I believe Taiwan is doable based on my budget and there are plenty of interesting places to visit. My verdict – yeah it’s worth a stop so I’m going for it in february! Now I just need to figure out how to brave the language gap as Taiwan generally doesn’t speak English. Thinking of taking some Mandarin classes or maybe not haha.

Taiwan here we come!

[Updated: I took on the trip and this is what happened – Taking Formosa]

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Tea’s Up

Posted on 27 August 2011 by Dreidel Regala

If there’s one thing I really enjoy doing when I’m on vacation besides getting a local massage it’s this baby – Milk Tea! I love Nai Cha, the calm taste of tea plus the sweetness of milk ahhh, and asia’s got the best of these.

I had it in Hong Kong…

… then the Thai version

probably a good surprise is the offering of Thailand 7eleven

and then China’s Happy Lemon opens in Manila too!

So far I like the ones from Thailand but the quest continues as soon I’ll find out about Taiwan’s offering too… happy tea drinking everyone!

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