Saturday, December 15, 2012

5D4N Taiwan Trip Itinerary: Day 1 - Maokong Gondola & Taipei Zoo + Zhongxiao + Shilin Night Market

During the late autumn of 2012, we had the chance to visit one of the rising stars in Asia tourism - Taiwan, a scenic island once broken away from mainland China in the late 1940s and now, it is well on its way to become the "Heart of Asia." Its name also made an appearance on Lonely Planet's top destination to visit in the world in 2012, and once I've been there, I knew the reasons why. The claim is rather true, with an immensely rich culture and heritage, visually stunning sceneries, relaxing world-class hotsprings and not to forget what it's best known for - shopping haven and night markets lined with throngs of food stalls selling the most amazing local cuisine.
Since then I have gotten a few requests from people I know, as well as my dear readers, to have my Taiwan itinerary put up right on TheNomsaurus. About one month before departure, I took a few travel tips from my friend who have been there themselves and did some researching online on the places I want to go, modes of transport to a particular place, the food I want to eat and ectera. The advantage of doing an itinerary is simple: you have at least an idea of what you are going to do, so you wouldn't have to waste precious time on last-minute thinking and planning. Hence, having an itinerary before the trip is definitely a bonus point.
So without further ado, I present to you:

5D4N Taiwan Trip Itinerary
Note: Of course you do not have to follow exactly as it is set to my personal preference, but I hope that this itinerary would inspire some ideas and pointers for your trip.

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Day 1
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Transport from Taoyuan Airport to Taipei City
For optimum usage of time, I have booked my flight timings accordingly, such that I arrived in the morning (0600hrs) and depart back home at night (2015hrs). From Taoyuan Airport, there are a few modes of public transport that could take you to Taipei city, such as the Taiwan High Speed Rail (HSR), buses and taxis (which is not recommended, unless you are in fours, and can afford it). We took the Evergreen bus which heads for Shuanglian MRT and that is where my hotel is located.

Digital Buddy and Youth Travel Card
I highly recommend getting the Youth Travel Card, which is applicable to Taiwan, as well as all international youths, aged 15 to 30. It is free and easy-to-apply, and presenting the card to participating places (eateries, shopping and attractions etc) will gain you discounted prices.

Accomodation
If you're interested, we stayed at 3-star Shin Shih Hotel 新仕商務飯店, a simple yet dedicated to professional and friendly services, as well as the welfare of travellers. It is located at Chung Shan district and merely a 3-minute walk from Shuanglian MRT. Priced at only S$40+/- per night (correct as of Nov 12) for twin sharing, I would recommend Shin Shih for a comfortable and non-fussy stay.
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Note: Please do click on the links for more information, such as directions and highlights of the area, (will open up in another window.)
Most tourists shunned the idea of heading to the zoo, because they thought it is a waste of time when you could spend it somewhere else instead, moreover all the zoos in the world are pretty much the same, isn't it? Well, consider putting Taipei Zoo (also known as "Muzha Zoo 木柵動物園") in your itinerary. Boasting more than 165 hectares of combined space and, several exhibition houses and observatories, Taipei Zoo is not only a leader in conservation, research, education and recreation, it is also the largest zoo in Asia!


With cable car tickets selling at a range from NT$30 to NT$50 (depending on the number of stops), it is the cheapest I have ever came across. And fret not, the ride is generally smooth and definitely safe. One can even take a peek at the iconic Taipei 101 on a clear day!


Activity 2: Zhongxiao East Road

After a day of sight-seeing, it's high time to grab a proper dinner. We chanced upon Kitchen Pucci 葡吉小廚, located minutes away from Zhongxiao Dunhua MRT which serves authentic Shanghai-style cuisine in its modern setting. The food is generally nice, but not exceptionally good. But, do not forget to leave some stomach space for Shilin's delicacies later on!


Besides dining at one of the many restaurants, Zhongxiao District also boasts departmental stores, such as Pacific SOGO, East Metro Mall and Ming Yao Departmental Store, which proves to be a shopping haven for locals and tourists alike.

Activity 3: Shilin Night Market
One of Taiwan's largest and most popular tourist spot and which I guarantee is on 99% of anyone's Taipei itinerary. Besides boasting well-known Taiwanese snacks such as chicken cutlet, oyster omelette and beef noodles (just to name some, or for the adventurous - stinky tofu and pig's blood), it also serves as a late night shopping haven for locals and tourists alike.

Additional notes:
Reasons like jetlag and fatigue, are your greatest enemies on the arrival day. Hence, it is recommended to choose something light, such as sight-seeing with little amount of travelling time.