Thursday, April 16, 2015

Travel: Taiwan

TAIWAN IN BRIEF
     Taiwan, formerly known as Formosa and officially known as Republic of China, is sovereign state in South East Asia. It is a neighboring country of the Philippines, located just north of Luzon. This island country is about 180 kilometers from the southern coast of mainland China. Terrain is consisting of some flat plains and mostly rugged mountain ranges. Climate is tropical, experiencing a rainy season and hot humid weather. Typhoons are also common between July and October. Currency of Taiwan is the New Taiwan Dollar (TWD ), approximately 31.73TWD/1USD at the time of this writing. Timezone is National Standard Time (UTC+8).

HOW TO GET THERE
     There are four major international airports that serves as the gateway to Taiwan by plane. You may select any of these four depending on your place of origin and the intended place to visit in Taiwan.
Taiwan Taoyuan International Airport (IATA: TPE, ICAO: RCTP)
Location: 25° 4′ 35″ N, 121° 13′ 26″ E
     This airport is formerly known as Chiang Kai-shek International Airport but it was changed to its current name September of 2006. This airport is one of the two airports that serves the capital city Taipei and the northern part of Taiwan. Taoyuan International Airport serves the vast majority of  international flights out of Taipei area. This is the main international hub for China Airlines and EVA Air.
Taipei Songshan Airport (IATA: TSA, ICAO: RCSS)
Location: 25° 04′ 10″ N, 121° 33′ 06″ E
    This airport has a combined military and commercial purposes. Military section is known as the Songshan Air Force Base. The section for commercial purposes is officially known as Taipei International Airport. It has flights to South Korea, Japan as well as China.
Taichung Airport (IATA: RMQ ICAO: RCMQ)
Location: 24° 15′ 52.80″ N, 120° 37′ 14.09 ″E
     Another airport serving commercial and military airport, this one is located in Taichung. Serving the middle part of Taiwan, it has scheduled flights to Hanoi, Ho Chi Minh, Hongkong and Macau. Charter services to Palau, Japan, South Korea and Thailand are also available.
Kaohsiung International Airport (IATA: KHH, ICAO: RCKH)
Location: 22° 34′ 37″ N, 120° 21′ 00″ E
     Being located in the Siaogang District, the airport is also known as Kaohsiung Siaogang Airport. It is a commercial international airport serving the southern part of Taiwan. There are scheduled flights to and from Hongkong, Japan, Macau, South Korea and Vietnam.

WHERE TO STAY
There is a lot of hotels in Taiwan specially in Taipei area. The following hotels suggested are the hotels where I have stayed during my visit.

Le Midi Hotel
Location: 24° 57' 30" N, 121° 13' 12" E
     When I stayed on this hotel it is known as Jungli Chinatrust Hotel. They are the highest hotel in the Taoyuan area and provides nice panoramic view of the area. Amenities provided are laundry room and gym on the 28th floor and business center on the 27th floor. Rooms are spacious and clean with great internet connectivity by wifi or the provided LAN cable. 
My room in Le Midi Hotel. Extra bed for my luggge :)
Fullon Hotel Jhongli
Location: 24°  57' 16.2" N, 121° 13' 24.5" E
     Fullon Hotel sits right in the business district, even the railway station is a walking distance away. Many establishments are within an easy reach from the hotel. One downside is that because it is located in a busy area, the streets' noise can be heard on some lower rooms. As much as possible pick a room in higher floors.
Cozy ambiance in Fullon Hotel.


PLACES TO VISIT
Maokong Gondola
Location: 24° 59' 44.5" N,1 21° 34' 38" E
     A very nice cable car ride where you will experience about 30 minutes of panoramic view of Taipei and lush greenery of the Maokong mountain. It is best option to get the Taipei day pass with gondola rides because it offers unlimited rides on the gondola and also the MRT. With this day pass you can enjoy alighting from each and every station of the cable car ride without bothering about the queues for the pass.
View from the gondola
Chi Nan Temple
Location: 24° 58' 42.92" N, 121° 35' 12.82" E
     While in the gondola, take the time to alight at Zhinan temple station. From there you just have to take a short walk an pass through the long corridor to go to this temple. This taoist temple on the slopes of the Houshan mountain is dedicated to Lu Dongbin its main deity. Lu is said to be dwelling in the southern courtyard of the heavenly court so the temple acts as a compass pointing toward the south or Zhinan on which the temple name was derived.
View of the Chi Nan Temple
China Taoism Institute situated at the lower floor of the temple.
Zhinan Scenic Area
Location: 24° 58' 45" N, 121° 35' 23.11" E
     This scenic area is also accessible from the Zhinan temple station. The location is very good for a relaxing stroll along the hillsides. The trails are paved and shades are provided by the trees and bamboos in the area. There are also several statues depicting the animals of the Chinese zodiac.
The signage at Zhinan Scenic Area trail entrance. The 12 Chinese zodiacs are arranged in order of the hours they rule.
(Rat, Ox, Tiger, Rabbit, Dragon, Snake, Horse, Sheep, Monkey, Rooster, Dog, Boar)
I'm born in the year of water dog.
Taipei Zoo
Location: 24° 59' 55.49" N, 121° 34' 52.41" E
     Taipei zoo is the biggest ever zoo that I have been at the time of this writing. It is so huge that you can spend the whole day if you want to see all the animals that they have. In my opinion, it is best to enter the zoo from the cable car's Taipei Zoo South Station and then from there walk all the way down to the main gate and taking time to pass by and look at all the animals that they have.
At the main entrance of Taipei Zoo
They have rhinos
And hippos too
2/28 Peace Park
Location: 25° 2' 30.57" N, 121° 30' 53.95" E
     This historical municipal park contains the memorials of the victims of the February 28, 1947 incident. Today it offers a peaceful haven for tourists and residents alike. This park is accessible from the MRT NTU Hospital Station. Here you can walk around, do some jogging, join the local folks practicing Tai Chi or Martial Arts, or you can just sit down and relax. You can enjoy watching birds and other wildlife that started to take residence in this peaceful park. The park also features many monuments and installations that you can appreciate.
Posing with a pagoda at 228 Peace Park.
National Taiwan Museum
Location: 25° 2' 33.91" N, 121° 30' 54.12" E
     While you are in 228 Peace Park you can also easily visit the National Taiwan Museum as it is located within the park area. This museum features Taiwan's rich and colorful heritage. They regularly display special exhibits too. For more information, visit the museum's website to see their current featured exhibits.
The National Taiwan Museum
Inside the National Taiwan Museum
A taxidermy mounted bird on display.
Multicolored glass beads art featured during my visit.
Meilun Science Park
Location: 25° 5' 51.98" N, 121° 31' 4.88" E
     This science park is subdivided into four courts: the court of water which is situated near the road,the court of waves and sounds, the court of math and another court of water. The park features many interactive display that are related to the theme of the court that you are currently on. The park also has a lot of trees with benches in shaded areas that you can sit down and relax.
Posing at Meilun science park's waves and sounds court
I guess I'm not so good in climbing
Taipei Astronomical Museum
Location: 25° 5' 44.98" N, 121° 31' 5.88" E
     This astronomical museum located nearby the Meilun science park is composed of three floors of exhibit hall. They also have an IMAX theater, Cosmic adventure ride and a 3D theater. The three floors of exhibit hall features a lot of displays about astronomy, some are also interactive which will help you have a deeper understanding of some astrological or natural phenomenon such as how a tornado is formed. As of the time of this writing, entrance fee to the exhibit hall is NTD40 for adults, the IMAX theater is NTD100, cosmic adventure NTD70 and 3-D theater is NTD100. These fees are affordable and very much worth of the fun and information you will learn. Special discounts are also available for groups, senior citizens and students. It is a highly recommended place to visit.
That's where I live :)
The planets of our solar system, up close and personal.
Taipei 101
Location: 25° 2' 2.05" N, 121° 33' 52.24" E
     This landmark skyscraper in Xinyi District of Taipei was formerly known as the Taipei World Financial Center. It was classified as the world's tallest skyscraper back in 2004 and held the title until it was superceded by the Burj Khalifa of Dubai when it was opened in 2010. The Taipei 101 has a total of 101 floors above ground and another five floors underground. With its sheer height, the tower used record holding high speed elevators, top speed reaching about 16.82 meters per second. It only take 35 seconds from the fifth floor up to the observation deck on the 89th floor. The observation deck of the tower provides a panoramic view of Taipei. You can also take a look at the engineering marvel 660 tonnes steel ball suspended inside which serves as the building's wind damper. There is also an outside observation deck in 91st floor equipped with coin operated telescopes. Generally its worth the wait and the expenses. Its an icon of Taiwan so its like an accomplishment badge for a tourist to visit the tower.
With the damper baby
Taipei 101 replica on display
The wind damper of Taipei 101
View from the indoor observation deck
Linjiang Street (Tonghua) Night Market
Location: 25° 1' 47.48" N, 121° 33' 20.4" E
     Though I am not so interested with shopping, I was curious to see for myself what is in those night markets. So we went to this place and walked around, looking at all sorts of things for sale and take a closer look at Taiwanese street foods. It's generally a good experience.
The night market
Passing trough the busy street
Fort Santo Domingo
Location: 25° 10' 31.38" N, 121° 25' 58.37" E
     The fort which is strategically located on higher grounds offers a very nice view of the Tamsui river. Beautifully maintained grounds with cool breeze gives a very relaxing ambiance. There are old cannons on display that was used for defense back in the days. Inside the fort buildings they are displaying antique furniture and equipment used before on the site. There is no entrance fee and they have a gift shop where you can purchase souvenir items.
Fort Santo Domingo
Tamsui Old Street
Location: 25° 10' 10.56" N, 121° 26' 29.51" E
     Another must visit place if you're into shopping is the Tamsui old street. This is a very busy area specially during the weekends. There are so many items for shopping. The street has a lot of street food vendors and restaurants. There's also street performers doing their acts and they are quite skillful and entertaining. This is a must part of a tourists' trip to Tamsui area.
Resting for a while from the shopping
Beitou Thermal Valley and Hotsprings
Location: 25° 8' 16.90" N, 121° 30' 41.94" E
     This thermal valley is a volcanic crater that is filled with steaming hot and sulfuric natural spring water. Because of its greenish colored water it was given the nickname Jade Spring. Another nickname is Hell Valley which is due to the eerie looking mist from steam that rises from the hot spring. The water in the thermal valley itself can reach up to 100°C which makes it impossible to bathe in it. The surrounding streams in the are which is still hot but already bearable serves as a very relaxing warm water foot bath. There are also a lot of resorts in the area which uses the waters from this valley for their hotspring facilities.
Steaming hot thermal valley
One of the surrounding streams which inherits the heat of the hotspring
Taoyuan International Baseball Stadium
Location: 25° 0' 0.54" N, 121° 12' 3.25" E
     This baseball stadium located in the Taoyuan City has a capacity of 20,000 spectators. This serves as the home of the Lamigo Monkeys, a good baseball team. It is very nice to watch their game as the fans are very lively. I really love the experience of watching the game as there is no dull moments. They even have their own cheering sqaud, the Lamigirls and Lamikids. When a batter scores a homerun there is a burst of fireworks display. And then after the games, there is a 5 minutes fireworks show. This might be only when the home team wins but I'm in luck that when I watch they have won the game. When you are nearby the area, it is worth to visit and watch a game. Even if you are a baseball fan or not, you will surely enjoy it like I do. Check out the website of Lamigo Monkeys for the game schedules. Entrance fee is around NTD600 but it is well worth it. 
Lamigo monkeys in action
Photo op with the Lamigo monkeys' mascot







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