You know the feeling of going out of the country for the first time? I felt that way aboard our flight to Taipei. Ecstatic. After all, this was my first time in Taiwan. And though this was not one of my sought-after countries, I was curious on how it looked like, since this is one of the more progressive cities of China. As I was searching for itineraries online, I discovered that it was not cold there. When we got there it was about 25 degrees. As I am a citizen of a tropical country and I anticipate cold, I was expecting it to be colder, maybe under 20 degrees.
Upon arrival at the airport I was a bit confused. There were not many people, and there were no shops. Probably because the airport is currently undergoing a major renovation. There was also one male/female restrooms which thank goodness, has options for the chair-type toilets. There was almost no line at the immigration, and we quickly headed to the bus terminals going to the city. Again there were only a handful of people outside. I wasn’t sure if it was a normal day, but this must be the least populated airport I’ve been to.
I was a bit disappointed that their airport is not connected to any MRT line. Either you go by bus, taxi or hotel shuttle. We took the bus option since this is the cheapest at NT145, and would take 90 minute travel time same as the others. It only took us only 50 minutes to arrive at our bus stop. Fancy how W Hotel is adjacent to the bus terminal, MRT and a mall. Very ideal.
Now on to W Hotel. This was our first time billeting in a Starwood property, probably because we prefer the Accor group when out of the country. I’ve read good reviews about this hotel, and we decided to give it a try given its location. Reception is at 10th flr, and the moment we stepped in the hotel there was already an air of eccentricity, in a positive way. We instantly noticed the good morning welcome mat that changes to good afternoon and good evening. Staff were also very helpful and articulate in English, all wearing black with hot pink contrast and a W pin.
Included in the room were a welcome cocktail which we never got the chance to claim, breakfast and a gift, a cute dragon figurine which cost NT1,060 at the gift shop.
Along with the view I loved everything about this room; the huge king bed, the Bose surround sound of our 42 inch TV, and the Bliss bath products which all smelled so much like L’occitane Verbena. It included a facial wash in bubble gum scent which I always look for in hotels and rarely finds one.
The room was designed very funky but functional, and almost everything is unconventional, including the toilet with its own room and has its own separate console. This is my first time seeing a toilet cover that opens when you get near and closes after you get out. Wicked.
The window blind is automated, with sheer and full cover as options. Telephone is cordless. Safe box in a supine position inside a drawer. Amenities-wise, theirs is complete, with only cotton buds as missing which I think is very vital. They also have a selection of magazines, and has a drying rack for wet clothes. Their mini bar is pretty weird too, loaded with candies and cookies and souvenir items like umbrella, toys, etc. Tabs was so thrilled about our room he said if ever he would make a hotel it would be just like this.
Check-in time is normally 3pm, but we were given room at 11am upon our arrival. After resting for a bit we headed to Taipei 101, which was only about a 10 minute walk from W. While walking, I noticed that their sidewalk has a bicycle lane, and this was also my first time seeing a diagonal pedestrian lane.
It was so frustrating to take a decent shot of the full 101 building. Trees were everywhere and they always get in the way for the photos. Plus it was really sunny and against the light for the shots. I wasn’t sure if offices or residences occupy the building, but the first few floors occupy the mall. LV, Prada, Gucci, Chanel, etc. All of my future lifestyle are here. ^^
101 also has a Din Tai Fung, and of course we would not let a Taiwan trip pass without eating at its famous restaurant, for its equally famous xiao long bao. There was a very long but systematic queue. We only waited for about 15 minutes then we were led inside. The restaurant was huge, though not visible from the outside, no wonder the queue was fast. We were already given the menu and the order checklist while waiting, so when we got seated our order was already taken.
Inside the restaurant was a wide glass panel where you could see the cooks preparing the foods. In the middle were 4 staff preparing the xiao long bao systematically. One was rolling the doughs flat, 2 were filling them with meat and the other was closing the edges. No problem with taking photos as they were allowed.
We ordered their bestsellers: xiao long bao, shrimp dumplings, brisket noodles for tabs and porkchop rice for me. Xiao long bao is famous in Taiwan, a kind of dumpling with soup inside, best eaten with a combination of soy sauce/vinegar/ginger dip.
I first tasted xiao long bao in Lugang Cafe in Moa. They tasted almost the same, or even better in Din Tai Fung. Everything we ate tasted real good.
After eating we headed to the observatory. There was again a very long but fast enough queue. NT450 entrance fee for an adult.
We were supposed to go up until 91st flr, but it was being fixed so all visitors go up until 89th flr only. We could see all of Taipei at this height, we were towering at everything, and it also gets a bit dizzying.
We walked around 88th flr where the damper is positioned in the middle for balance, with about 2000 steel wires connected to the building.
Their mascot is the damper, and I loved how they made their souvenirs into damper babies with different colors and sizes.
We got down after several minutes and went back again to W. We planned on going to the other tourist spots like the Sun Yat Sen or Chiang Kai Shek Memorial Halls but we were so tired from the flight and all the walking.
We settled in the hotel for about 2 hours before setting off to Taipei Eye, a Chinese opera. I’ve never seen one even on TV, and I think this would be a good way of spending our night. I reserved online beforehand but I think it really didn’t matter if we buy at the theater because all payments were made at the theater also, not online, and all seats were first come first served. The theater itself was rather small, so there’s no problem with vantage points.
We took a taxi going there as the nearest MRT was far, and we were dropped at the front of the theater but surprisingly, it was closed at 7pm, steel railings were still down, and the show was supposed to start at 8pm. Good thing we decided on taking a snack first at the nearby 7-Eleven. That’s when we noticed the entrance at the side. Few visitors were already waiting at the lobby, some were taking pictures. We bought our tickets first then we were guided at the elevator to the 3rd flr. The performers were at the foyer, doing their own make ups and getting ready for the show.
Guests were encouraged to take souvenir photos with the performers. We got in the theater and sat near the stage. Saturday shows are divided into 2 parts. First part is the Lion Dance show which lasted 30 mins and the 2nd part is the Opera proper.
There was a 20 minute intermission in between. There was a large group of Japanese, and a theater staff would always come and go announcing things in Japanese, with no translations for us non-Japanese. So all the Japanese seated beside us would also always come and go, maybe the announcements were something to do with taking pictures outside. We would have appreciated it if we were also included in the announcements. Even the Americans were also wondering what it was all about.
I’ve read reviews about the show where it was unexpectedly very good. I found it unexpectedly boring. Sorry but the high-pitched voice of the lead was drowsing me. I fought so hard to stay awake throughout the 30 minute show. I was sure the lead was a guy with a girl role but Tabs insisted that it was really a girl. I couldn’t even remember what the story was about. Something about a rat wanting to eat a monk or something like that. Sorry. Thank god when it was finally over, I wasn’t sure if it was worth the NT880 per person.
We walked to the nearest MRT since we’re not hurrying for anything, and headed to Shilin Night Market. I also liked their MRT, though appearance of the stations/trains wise, I still prefer Singapore, but all were interconnected and mostly accessible. Their MRT card is called Easy Card, purchased at NT500 with NT400 load.
We got to Shilin Market and whoa! People were literally everywhere. I thought maybe their night market would look like Namdaemun of Korea which is organized and clean, but this one looked like Divisoria! There were about 3 major streets overflowing with people, sidewalk vendors and street foods! We couldn’t even find a single decent restaurant to eat. I personally think Shilin market is not a place for tourists.
We headed back to W, hungry and exhausted. Thank goodness for the nearby 7-Eleven, we stuffed ourselves with microwavable foods. It was already a little past midnight so after our super late dinner we called it a night.
We woke up late and got down for breakfast at around 9am. The Kitchen Table has a very good selection of breakfast buffet, and their drinks were placed in bottles inside a ref. Tabs was happy because of the unlimited Coke in cans. I was happy too, imagine there was an ice cream selection, for breakfast! ^^
We initially planned on swimming at the pool outside but when we checked it out yesterday it was full of foreigners and looked very visible. So after breakfast we prepared for check out.
We cancelled our plan of going to the memorial halls, and planned on going to Gwang Hua instead, their Greenhills version for electronics and gadgets. It was a 6-storey building, and well, it looked a lot like the 3rd flr of V Mall. Tabs looked around for something to buy, he said they were cheaper compared to ours, but he had everything already. He buys in Amazon thats why he’s advanced.
I bought myself a milk tea in a store with a weird name called ComeBuy. I wasn’t sure why it was named like that since they were selling milk teas.
We went back to W and retrieved our luggages. It was already 140pm and our flight is 520pm so we assumed we have enough time. Our bus left at 210 but we did not head directly to the airport. I didn’t know how many stops the driver made to pick up more passengers, it lasted until 345 when we finally get to the freeway. I was silently cursing the driver for his slow driving and too many stops, I wasn’t sure if I could forgive him if we arrive late. Finally we got to the check in counter only to find out our flight’s delayed and was moved to 630pm. And I even cursed our driver. Sorry manong.
There were several branded shops at the departure but there were only 2 restaurants; a noodle shop and espressamente. We took our snack at the coffeeshop and looked around for something to buy. We did not get to buy anything for ourselves except for the souvenir items at 101. I bought something at Swarovski and Tabs at a gadget store. A little later we finally boarded going back home.
I think Taipei looked so much like Shanghai, though more disciplined in terms of road traffic. Most people here communicates well with foreigners, as they know basic English, unlike in Mainland China. Though we did not get to see their historical and cultural places at least I have an idea of what the city looked like and if ever it’d be worth visiting again in the future. Theres not much to see really, and prices are expensive everywhere, maybe except for some electronics. As of now I don’t think this is a go-to place for me. I simply just didn’t get the same feeling of wanting to go back again, maybe not in the next 2 or 3 years.