“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.
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.
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!
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:
- 09:00-17:00 from Tuesday to Sunday;
- close on Mondays
- Free admission
- 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:
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 6 : Aboriginal Village (九族文化村)
Day 10 : Leofoo Village (六福村) / Ximending (西門盯)
Day 11 : Taipei 101 (台北101)
- 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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