Taipei City, Taiwan

Taipei City, officially known as the capital of Taiwan has always been one of the most visited countries of Filipino travelers. Not only for the purpose of tourism but also for business and employment. I can still remember my first visit, I was so surprised when I saw huge groups of Filipino tourists and OFWs roaming around the city. It made me feel at home and at the same time easy for me moving from one tourist spot to another.

Taiwan, formerly known as Formosa, is one of the countries in East Asia. It’s neighboring countries are China (West), Japan (Northeast) and the Philippines (South). While it may be considered a small country, it’s economy is considered as one of the largest in Asia.

I have always been a fan of ancient civilization, calligraphy, architecture and pleasing sceneries. Although the Philippines may have it all, traveling to Taiwan helped me to understand their culture and way of living.

Furthermore, Taiwan is almost 2 1/2 hours flight from Manila with no time difference. Whether it is a weekend adventure, a week of stay or more, you can definitely enjoy visiting the country for a short flight. Just be persistent in watching over a seat sale and you’re good to go.

Entering the borders of Taiwan
By default, any Philippine passport holder is not visa-exempt. Well, one must really understand why other countries would require a Filipino citizen like me to meet their immigration requirements prior entering their country. Right? I guess you all know what I am talking about – the famous ‘TNTs’ and the tourists turned into instant OFWs. My appeal to these people is to please do not take a shortcut by grabbing a job while overseas. While you may be enjoying the fruits of your hard work, the rest of your countrymen are being penalized for something that they have not committed. Peace!

Let’s go back on how to obtain a visa to enter the borders of Taiwan. I was able to gather the details on Taiwan’s Consular Affairs website –

  • Applying for an E-Visa thru their website
  • Applying for Travel Authorization Certificate
  • Applying physically at their embassy in Makati City.

I am currently holding a US Visa that is expired less than 10 years prior to the date of arrival in Taiwan so obviously, I chose to apply for TAC. Thanks to the government of Taiwan for granting us an easy and legal way of entering their country. Here are the steps on how I obtained this document –

  • Fill out the online application form, click here
  • Make sure that you have supplied the correct Visa ID No.
  • Review the duly-accomplished form before completing the submission
  • Print the TAC document.

If you do not have a US Visa, do not fret. Alternatively, you can use one of the visa(s) issued by Australia, Canada, Japan, Korea, New Zealand, any of the Schengen countries and the UK. For more information about the visa requirements, please click here.

Arriving at Taipei City
CebuPacific was my airline of choice for this trip. The cheapest flight I booked had an arrival date of +1. Our plane landed around 12:30 am on March 24, 2017. At the immigration counter, I was asked to present my US Visa, the TAC document, and my passport. That’s all!

From the Arrival Hall, I followed the signages that lead to B/Floor where the bus station and ticketing office were located. I bought my bus ticket at Kuo-Kuang bus line bound for Taipei Main Station. (Watch out for Bus 1819 and wait at Station #5)

Even I tried my very best to dodge the long queue by almost sliding on every walkalators / escalators, I still missed the last trip. I was traveling alone and I didn’t want to spend a thousand of Taiwanese dollars for a taxi ride to the city center. I had to be patient that time, so I had to stay and almost fell asleep at the waiting area. My hope started to build-up when it was finally 3:30 AM. But hey!?! to my surprise, I and the other 5 Filipino tourists had to skip the first trip because all seats were taken.

It was around 4:30 AM when we were able to secure a seat and it took us almost 45 minutes to get to Taipei Main Station where I took the train bound for Taipei Bridge MRT Station – the closest train station to my chosen hostel/hotel.

Getting around Taipei City
Within the duration of my stay, I had to heavily rely on taking the train/bus and more of walking on the sidewalks. I already purchased an Easy Card during my first trip to Taipei so I didn’t really bother buying a new one nor purchasing an unli-pass. But maybe on my next visit, I will be considering the unli-pass.

The weather was gloomy and cold enough for me, no need for a cap or eye shades to protect myself from the scorching heat of the sun. And, if you have a thermal or winter jacket, believe me, you must bring one. Food stalls are everywhere with prices ranging from NT$ 55.00 to NT$ 100.00+ so you do not have to worry about your tummy.

Where to stay at?
Because I have always been a fan of capsule hotel/hostels, I searched over the internet the best capsule hostel/hotels in Taipei. HeyBear Capsule Hotel came across as one of the search results. Considering it’s outstanding review from other travelers, I did not think twice of booking a capsule at this hotel. For more information about HeyBear Capsule Hotel, please click here.

How to go to Hey Bear Capsule Hotel
From the terminal bus station of Kuo Long (Taipei Main Station), take M2 underpass and follow the signages that lead to Taipei Main MRT Station (Red Line/Tamsui-Xinyi Line). Take the train bound for Tamsui and alight at Minquan W. Road MRT Station. Transfer to Zhonge-Xinlu Line (Orange Line), take the train bound for Huilong and alight at Taipei Bridge MRT Station.

The tall dark gray building on the left side of the jewelry shop (red building) is where HeyBear Capsule Hotel. Take the elevator up to 8th Floor where their reception is located.

Travel Itinerary
My original travel itinerary did not happen as planned because of the bad weather but thanks to the locals from the hotel/hostel where I stayed at because I was able to squeeze in everything for whatever remaining days left.

Day 0 – Thursday
07:30PMArrival at Manila Int’l Airport (Terminal 3)
08:00PMChecked-in via CebuPacific
09:00PM – Passed Immigration
09:30PM – Boarding time
10:00PM – ETD from Manila Int’l Airport (Terminal 3)

Day 1 – Friday
12:30AM – ETA at Taoyuan Int’l Airport (Terminal 2)
01:50AM – Passed Immigration
02:00AM – Bought ticket at Kuo Long Ticket Counter
04:30AM – ETD from Taoyuan Int’l Airport
05:45AM – ETA at Taipei Main Station (Kuo Long Bust Terminal)
06:20AM – Checked-in at Hey Bear Capsule Hotel
09:00AM – City Tour Time

  • Xingtian Temple (Xingtian Temple MRT Station)
  • Jinnian Rd Temple (Jinnian Rd MRT Station)
  • National Palace Museum (Jinnian Rd MRT Station)

12:30PM – Rest Time/Lunch Time
01:30PM – City Tour Time

  • North Gate (Beimen MRT Station)
  • Longshan Temple (Longshan MRT Station)
  • Red House Theater (Ximen MRT Station)
  • Zhongshan Hall (Ximen MRT Station)
  • National Presidential Office (Ximen MRT Station)
  • Sun Yat Sen Memorial Hall (Sun Yat Sen Memorial Hall MRT Station)

07:00PM – Dinner at Hey Bear Capsule Hotel
09:00PM – Rest Time/Lights Off

Day 2 – Saturday
I was supposed to visit Tamsui, Yamingshan National Park and Shifen Waterfall (Pingxi District) but due to heavy rainfall for almost the whole day, I decided to make a quick drop at Huashan Creative Park.

05:00PM – Huashan Creative Park (Shangdao Temple MRT Station)
07:00PM – Dinner at Hey Bear Capsule Hotel
09:00PM – Rest Time/Lights Off

Day 3 – Sunday
07:00AM – Wake-Up Time
08:00AM – Breakfast
09:00AM – City Tour

  • Martyr’s Shrine (Jiantian MRT Station)
  • Chiang Kai-Shek Memorial Hall (CKS Memorial MRT Station)
  • Taipei 101 (Xinyi Anne MRT Station / Taipei 101 Station)

12:00PM – Rest Time/Lunch
01:00PM – City Tour

  • Confucius Temple (Yuanshuan MRT Station)
  • Baoan Temple (Yuanshuan MRT Station)
  • Taipei Expo Park (Yuanshuan MRT Station)
  • Taipei Fine Arts Museum (Yuanshuan MRT Station)
  • Taipei Story House (Yuanshuan MRT Station)
  • Shilin Night Market (Yuanshuan MRT Station)

07:00PM – Checked-out at HeyBear Capsule Hotel
08:00PM – ETD from Kuo Long Bus Terminal / Taipei Main Station
09:30PM – ETA at Taoyuan Int’l Airport (Terminal 2)
11:30PM – Checked-in via CebuPacific

Day 4 – Monday
12:00AM – Passed Immigration
12:55AM – Boarding Time
01:20AM – ETD from Taoyuan Int’l Airport (Terminal 2)
03:30AM – ETA at Manila Int’l Airport (Terminal 3)

Travel Photos

Travel Expenses
RT Airfare (MNL-TPE-MNL) = Php 3,823.60
Philippines Travel Tax = Php 1,620.00
RT Bus 1819 (Airport to Taipei Main Station to Airport) = Php 455.00
Hey Bear Capsule Hotel Accommodation (2 Nights) = Php 1,580.34
Bus/Train Fare (Recharged Amount on Easy Card) = Php 546.00
Pork Bun (2 pcs per day at NT$ 30.00 each)  = Php 327.60
Barbecue at Shilin Night Market (2 pcs per night at NT$ 40.00 each) = Php 291.20
Wonton Noodles (1 bowl per night at NT$ 80.00 each) = Php 291.20
Bottled Water (1 Bottle at NT$ 30.00) = Php 54.60
Nat’l Palace Museum Admission fee = Php 455.00
Coffee (1 medium cup per day at NT$ 40.00) = Php 218.40
*Forex exchange rate dated March 24, 2017 was Php 1.82 = NT$ 1.00 

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Hinulugang Taktak Falls

We were visiting one of our friends who’s living in Antipolo, a city in the province of Rizal when our group decided to go on a quick stop at Hinulugang Taktak Falls.

Hinulugang Taktak Falls has a height of 21.5 meters from the water surface and width of 25.8 meters. It played a very significant role in the landscape of Rizal province while giving distinction to the historical and cultural heritage of Antipolo. According to the word of mouth of Antipolenos, in 16th century the local people forced a priest to drop a church bell into the river due to its unpleasant sound when rung during Angelus.

Since then, the waterfall was once a famous tourist spot in Antipolo. Sadly, as the years came by and more people resided within the area, the beauty of Hinulugang Taktak started to tarnish.

But let’s not fret! Like the continuous flow of the river, there’s also an infinite hope to revive the prime beauty of this waterfall. Through the joint efforts of the residents, local and national government agency, Hinulugang Taktak Falls is gradually becoming alive and more welcoming to its visitors.

Getting to Hinulugang Taktak Falls
Hinulugang Taktak is located in Taktak Road, Brgy. Dela Paz, Antipolo City, Rizal. It can be easily reached by land with several routes to choose from which are all budget-friendly. However, what I can share for now is the route my friends and I had taken since we visited a friend who’s been living in Cogeo, Antipolo.

  • From Cogeo Gate 2 Market, take a tricycle bound for Taktak Road. Tell the tricycle driver or barker that you are heading to Hinulugang Taktak. 
  • From the unloading station of Taktak Road, walk to the entrance of Hinulugang Taktak Falls. It may take you 2-3 minutes to get there.

Travel Expenses (Total Amount: Php 30.00)
Tricycle Rental – Cogeo, Gate 2 Market to Taktak Road (Php 60.00 / 4pax) = Php 15.00
Tricycle Rental – Taktak Road to Cogeo, Gate 2 Market (Php 60.00 / 4pax) = Php 15.00

Travel Photos

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If you had already visited this waterfall, you can definitely agree with me that the place has a lot of things to improve on. To revive the grandeur and beauty of this tourist spot would require greater efforts not only from the local and national government but also from the visitors and residents.

If you have more time touring around the city of Antipolo, you may want to try combining this trip with the following travel destinations:

  • Mount Purro Nature Reserve
  • Mystical Cave
  • Pinto Arts Museum
  • Our Lady of Antipolo Shrine
  • Luljetta’s Hanging Gardens and Spa
  • Casa Santa Museum
  • Phillip’s Sanctuary
  • Shrine of our Lady of Peace and Good Voyage
  • Boso Boso Church

“Take nothing but pictures and leave nothing but footprints.”

 

 

Mount Pinatubo

Located between the boundaries of Pampanga, Tarlac and Zambales in the Cabusilan Mountains on the island of Luzon is where you can witness an active compound volcano called Mount Pinatubo, also known as “Bundok ng Pinatubo” or “Bulkang Pinatubo” in Filipino language.

In 1991, its eruption was recorded as by far the largest volcanic activity that took place in a densely populated area. It was extremely traumatic as it produced pyroclastic materials, giant mudflows and dark bed of clouds while it slowly grabbed the lives of every families who tried to evade the catastrophe.

The aftermath of this eruption unbearably escalated the death toll as Typhoon Yunya reached the area amplifying the effect of the disaster. Its effect also manifested on the agricultural livelihood of the locals while the entire nation felt the economic and social distress.

Although 25 years had already passed, the eruption of Mount Pinatubo did not miss to leave a trace – the ‘lahar’. As this ‘lahar’ solidified  and contoured the affected area, it is very inspiring to see and meet the resilient Filipinos of Central Luzon as they welcome all tourists who would want to see the beauty and calmness of Mount Pinatubo today.

Getting to Mount Pinatubo 
My friends and I decided not to make a DIY travel to Mount Pinatubo as we were suspecting the hassle of transferring from one PUV to another. In other words, we sought an assistance from a tour operator – Filipino Travel Center. Though we opted to have a private tour, I still did my research about heading to Brgy. Sta Juliana, the starting point of Pinatubo Trek. So, here it is:

Take a bus (Fivestar Bus Line) heading to Capas, Tarlac. Get off at Mc Donald’s in Capas. You may be wondering which Mc Donald’s branch you need to drop-off. I may not be able to remember but you can always ask the bus conductor/driver to drop you off at the right branch. Beside Mc Donald’s Capas, you can hire a tricycle for around 26 km ride to the tourism office in Brgy. Sta. Juliana.

The tourism office in Brgy. Sta. Juliana is  the starting point of the Pinatubo Trek and you must remember to complete the registration and leave the place on or before 6:00am. Otherwise, you may be asked to return the following day as they do not allow tourists to start their trekking later than the said time for safety reasons.

Travel Expense (Php 2,850.00)
As mentioned earlier, we sought Filipino Travel Center’s assistance for the sake of convenience. We had 10 members in the group and availed the tour operator’s promo for 10 pax with a visit to Capas Shrine.

Private Van, fuel, toll, tourist guide, 4X4 fees – Php 2,650.00
Visit to Capas Shrine (Php 500/10 pax) – Php 50.00
Food and Water – Php 150.00

The price of this tour may really vary depending on the number of your squad members. If you want to check the promo rates of Filipino Travel Center, please click here.

Travel Photos

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It was my 3rd trekking experience but my friends and I all agreed that we were caught off guard because of the need to exert more effort walking on the sand. Be that as it may, the over-all experience was awesome! Seeing the grandeur of Pinatubo lake at the end of the course pays off the pain of walking on the sand while under the scorching heat of the sun. Indeed, it was another paradise that our country must be proud of.

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“Take nothing but pictures and leave nothing but footprints…”

Phnom Kulen National Park

I guess no one could ever argue with whatever is written on thick history books about the worshipping practice of ancient civilization, mountains are considered as one of the sacred places on Earth. In fact, religious activities are often conducted in such places since worshippers believed that mountains would bring them closer to the heavens.

Siem Reap is not only known for its Angkor Wat complex but also to historical carvings, jungle-type tourist spots, and waterfalls. I was having a conversation with the tuk-tuk driver I hired when our topic got diverted to mountains and waterfalls. When he knew that I am an avid fan of waterfalls, he did not think twice of helping me booking a tour to Phnom Kulen National Park.

Getting to Phnom Kulen National Park
According to Wikipedia, Phnom Kulen National Park is located in Svay Leu District about 48 km from the provincial town of Siem Reap and about 25 km from Prasat Banteay Srey via Charles De Gaulle Road. I can’t recall seeing any tourists or locals, dropping from one transport to another just to get to the national park. So, I am pretty sure that the public transport for commuting to visit the park is not yet established. In other words, you’d better be prepared to hire a private car or van. I traveled alone during my entire trip in Siem Reap, so I was a bit worried if I will be able to find group/s of travelers who may allow me to join them. Luckily, I met 3 backpackers who were also staying at my hotel and wanted to visit the park so we decided to share transportation expenses. Whew! What a relief!?!?

My new found friends and I decided to rent a private car instead of a van. The tuk-tuk driver whom I always hire whenever I am in Siem Reap, referred us to Mr. Shin. He was very accommodating to our questions and we felt very safe during our whole trip. Going to the park from the city center may take at most 3 hours. We were really impressed on how he managed driving the car considering the rough road we had to pass through. Dirt is everywhere, so it almost turned our white sedan car into a newly-painted car.  It may sound like an exaggeration but I am sorry guys, it’s not.

There are several spots to see in Phnom Kulen National Park – 

  • The river bed of ‘Thousand Lingas’
  • Wat Preah Ang Thom / The reclining Buddha
  • Phnom Kulen Waterfalls

Travel Photos

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Travel Expenses
Admission Fee (US$ 20.00 / 1 pax) = Php 940.00
Car Rental (US$ 65.00 / 4 pax) = Php 763.75

Travel Tips
While Phnom Kulen National Park is not really a “Super Wow” tourist spot, it is still an interesting place to visit. For those who wish to include this national park in their travel itinerary when visiting Cambodia, you may want to consider these travel tips:

  • Bring bottles of water;
  • Eat foods which are rich potassium;
  • Wear respectful/decent clothes when visiting temples;
  • Wear your comfortable hiking socks and shoes;
  • Never miss applying sunscreen on your skin when under the mad sun; and
  • Be nice and make friends with fellow tourists;
  • Make sure that your USD money is not dilapidated as some stores/merchants or even the drivers do not accept such; and,
  • You can combine your trip to Phnom Kulen National Park with a visit to Beng Mealea.