Taiwan Holidays – December 2011

Keelung Harbour

“December is probably not a good time to visit Taiwan as it’s the rainy season” as I was told. But I don’t really have much of a choice. As a family with two children, the timing and duration of our vacations are restricted by the school holidays, i.e. either June or December. Anyway, we decided to go ahead with the trip and in fact, we visited Taiwan twice (2011 and 2012) in the same period, i.e. early December, but our luck with the weather was totally different. In our first trip (i.e. 2011), we covered the northern part of Taiwan in eleven days and it rained almost every day. In our second trip (i.e. 2012), we spent thirteen days in the southern and eastern part of Taiwan and it rained only for two days.  Conclusion? It really depends on your luck.

For now, I shall cover what we did in our first trip. As with most of our holidays, we did a free and easy trip. Taiwan, I would say, is relatively easy to move around on your own (if you speak and read Chinese). It has a very good transport system and we relied mainly on the metro (MRT) service (台北捷運) to get us around the taipei city; the train or high speed rail (HSR) to get us from town to town and buses to places not accessible via trains. In the worst case, we just hopped into a taxi. Transportation fares are quite affordable in general. However, to avoid any surprises / disappointments, you can also check the train schedule and book the tickets online, which we did for some of the rides. I have included some links that I have used for your reference at the bottom of this blog entry.

Photo Credit: Metro Taipei

Besides a good transportation system, another reason I like Taiwan is that the people are generally very friendly and helpful. There were many occasions when we were lost and the people gladly offered their help. Photography is also mostly welcomed and I don’t recall any incident whereby I was shoo’ed off for taking photographs in any of the places or shops. 😉

As with most airports, there are multiple modes of transport to get you from the airport to the city centre. For Taoyuan airport, I would recommend that you take the bus / coach. It’s convenient, fast and comfortable. Once you clear customs, just follow the signs to Kuo Kuang Bus Shuttle (國光客運) and it will bring you to the ticketing office. Buy the tickets and the bus will bring you directly to Taipei Train Station  (台北車站), which is a main transportation hub for MRT, trains and HSR in the city itself. The journey is about 50 minutes.

Shuttle bus from Taoyuan Airport to Taipei Station

Since it is our first trip to Taiwan and for the sake of convenience, we wanted our accommodation to be close to the train station for easy accessibility. My cousin recommended Caesar Park Hotel (台北凱撒大飯店) as it’s located right above Taipei station. Besides, they also have two double bed configuration and that means all four of us (two adults, two children) could sleep comfortably in a single room. That’s really icing on the cake!

Our room in Caesar Park Hotel

As mentioned, we made a lot of bookings and reservation prior to our trip and thus the first thing we did when we were in Taipei was to collect our tickets at Taipei train station. Now, I also highly recommend you to buy EasyCard (悠遊卡), which is basically a stored value card that can be used for all MRT rides and some participating stores, at the station itself. You will soon learn the convenience of moving around, cashless. 😉

Once we were done with these errands, we were ready to head out to our first destination –  Beitou Thermal Valley (地熱谷). My intention was to visit the Hot Springs Museum and then followed by a dip into the hot springs. Unfortunately, the sun sets early during the winter and it was dark by 5pm. We didn’t get to see any hot springs nor the museum (closes at 5pm). What a disappointing start to our holidays … 😦

With this “setback”, we were determined to make it for our next stop – Dinner at Hello Kitty Sweets restaurant. We had a reservation made and the restaurant would only hold our reservation for fifteen minutes. So off we went (quickly) …. Again via MRT!

Stay tuned for the next blog entry on Hello Kitty Sweets restaurant!

Useful Information – Beitou Thermal Valley:

Opening Hours:

  • 09:00-17:00 from Tuesday to Sunday;
  • close on Mondays
  • Free admission

Directions:

  • MRT to (新北投) station
  • Walk along the Zhongshan Road next to the Beitou Park, across Beitou Hot Spring Museum, and continue walking for about 10 minutes.

Useful Information – Links to major transportation companies:

Here’s our itinerary for the eleven day trip

Day 1 : Taipei (台北) / Beitou (北投) Hot Springs / Hello Kitty Restaurant / Shida Night Market (師大夜市)

Day 2 : Taipei (台北) BabyBoss / Shilin Night Market (士林夜市)

Day 3: Jiufen (九份) / Shifen (十分) / Shifen Waterfall (十分瀑布) / Shifen Coal Mine Museum / Shifen Sky Lantern (十分天燈)

Day 4 : Jiufen (九份) / Keelung (基隆) / Keelung Bisha Fishing Port (基隆碧砂漁港)Yeliu (野柳) / Keelung Miaokou  (基隆廟口) Night Market

Day 5 : Jiufen (九份) / Jinguashi (金瓜石) / Sun Moon Lake (日月潭)

Day 6 : Aboriginal Village (九族文化村)

Day 7 : Ci-En Pagoda (慈恩塔) / Xuanguang Temple (玄光寺) / Wenwu Temple (文武廟) / Ding Tai Fung (鼎泰豐) / Shilin Night Market (士林夜市)

Day 8 : National Chiang Kai-shek Memorial Hall (中正紀念堂) / ChiaTe (佳德糕餅) / Miniature Museum (袖珍博物館) / Raohe Night Market (饒河夜市)

Day 9 : Danshui (淡水)Ximending (西門盯)

Day 10 : Leofoo Village (六福村) / Ximending (西門盯)

Day 11 : Taipei 101 (台北101)

Accommodation : [Jiufen – Windsor] / [Sun Moon Lake]
Transportation : [Sun Moon Lake]
General Information about Taiwan
  • A lot of stalls, especially at the night markets, do not provide shopping bags. Always carry tote bags along with you.
  • Cars drive on the right side of the road (i.e. right hand drive) and drivers generally do not adhere to traffic rules strictly. It’s quite common that drivers beat traffic light.
  • When using escalators, always keep to the right. The left side is reserved for people on the move, i.e. either walking up or down the escalator.
  • Credit cards are generally accepted in major departmental stores and restaurants. Use cash at the smaller stalls such as those in the night markets.
  • Water coolers are available in major MRT stations such as Taipei station and Tourist Information Centres.
  • When buying tickets, it’s common that they offer  全票 or 半票 tickets, which basically means adult and child fare respectively. We mistook them as round-trip and single-trip initially.

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17 thoughts on “Taiwan Holidays – December 2011

  1. Thanks for the great information. My wife and I planning to visit Taiwan in December too, we have allocated around 14 days to travel around Taiwan, and we really would love to see as much as we can, hopefully the weather will be in our side. Now you have visited the North part, southern and eastern part of Taiwan, which part did you like the most, and which sites, hotel, market, restaurant do you recommend? fortunately, my wife speaks the language very well, so we dont have problem moving around.

    • I can’t say which part is the best cos they offer different things. For theme parks, do visit Kaoshiung. For nature, I think the eastern route is quite scenic. It’s quite similar to the Great Ocean Road in Melbourne. If you like nice and warm beaches, which is quite difficult to find in December, then the south is a good choice. As for night market, I think if you have seen one you have seen them all. There might be different specialties in each night market, but I am not a foodie. Sorry that I can’t give you the answer that you are looking for, but it’s really down to individual preferences.

  2. Hi, thanks for the useful tips and information. I am planning to go Taiwan this coming Nov. Do you have the soft copy of your itinerary for both 2011 & 2012? Can you share with me?

  3. Thanks for such a detailed itinerary which I am still halfway reading it. My only question is, did you just stay in that 1 hotel Caeser Park Hotel?

  4. You are very descriptive in introducing your Taiwan trip. It would have been better if you had included the fares and hotel rates for references. My itinerary would be similar to yours as we will be staying around 9 days in Taipei. Can you please tell me which 九份民宿 you stay at and how much was the cost? I see that you had 2 young daughters with you. We’ll have 2 big boys with us (20 and 17 years old). We’ll visit Taipei in July 2015. Thank you.

  5. Hi we are planning to Taiwan on these long weekend in mid May, our flight will arrive at 0001.LT
    is there any public transportation which still available from Taoyuan Airport to taipei MAIN station? is it save in taipei and around? there’s 3 of us, and we are all female. i’m a bit scared of using a taxi, as i can only speak little mandarin. Thanks for sharing..

    • The High Speed Rail (HSR) does not operate 24 hours and I suspect that by the time you clear the customs, you won’t be in time to catch the last HSR. You can either take a taxi or bus. Buses are available after mid-night, but at a lower frequency. I think taxis generally are ok in Taiwan and I didn’t encounter any problems in my last 2 trips to Taiwan. You may want to check out the website below for more details on the frequency and bus route from Taoyuan airport to Taipei. Travel safe and have fun !

      http://www.taoyuan-airport.com/english/Buses/#e782a1a9-6306-422a-bac5-32e3b87ac3b8

  6. Hi, glad i chanced upon ur blog! very informative. love the part on useful information. love the pictures!
    May i know did u guys visit in early dec or late dec?
    My family and I are going from 4th-8th Dec.. with my parents and my 2 gals (2yrs n 4 yrs).
    Wondering if there is a need to bring those thick jackets or not. hope it wont rain too~~

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