A Day in Taipei + Free Tour



All I know about Taiwan is that one of the tallest buildings in the world, Taipei 101, is here. Everything else in this trip was rather spontaneous. I had been planning extensively on Japan and South Korea that I didn't plan much about Taiwan because we literally only had a whole day to spare in this country.

So what made me want to visit Taiwan? To be honest with you, I was not sure at first. It wasn't on my bucket list, nor it ever even crossed my mind. During my planning process, I was studying the Asia map on where could we possibly go on another side trip after going to Japan and South Korea. Most major flights back to the US seems to be stopping at one point or the other to the Taiwan Taoyuan International Airport. So I decided to give it a try, and booked a flight with the longest layover to Taiwan. Our layover is, a matter of fact, a full day, so it's a sufficient amount of time to explore and see what it's all about.

I was hesitant at first because it didn't seem to have a lot of places to visit that intrigue me. It was also a last minute addition to the schedule, so I kept my expectations to a minimum. After a few hours in this city, I'm glad I made the right call. It far exceeded my expectations, and my only regret now is not staying long enough for more sight seeing. Taipei is actually pretty darn cool.





TRANSPORTATION

Just so you know, with our whole East Asia trip we had been catching late night flights and subway trains to go to our next destinations, so sleep was not much a priority.

We left at 10:30pm of the previous day from Seoul to Incheon International Airport to catch an early morning flight to Taiwan. We left so early because Seoul's buses and trains last services are before midnight, and they don't open until 5:30 in the morning. Our flight was at 7, and it takes about an hour and a half from Seoul to the airport through the subway. We made it to the airport by midnight and spent the rest of the night stuck sleeping at the airport. We didn't bother to book another hotel room at this point. This whole trip alone was very expensive (to me, it is), so I'd be stupid enough to spend more money for just one more night of traveling. Our sleep was literally fragmentary, and you're out in the open with the rest of the travelers. But you are not alone, you'll soon discover a travel community shares the same experience and it's very very interesting. It can be such an adventure. I actually don't regret any of it.
Travel tip: Dress for the occasion and keep a survival kit for yourself. My overnight backpack contains a change of clothes/underwear, toiletries, makeup remover, neck pillow, earplugs, and a comfy jacket.




FREE TOUR?

I'm very proud to say that I didn't spend a dime on any of our sight seeing services. At the most, we probably spent less than $30 all day for food and souvenirs.

Taiwan offers free half-day tour for those travelers who have 7 to 24-hour layovers. They take pride of this tour and would love everybody to know how beautiful Taiwan is. Before learning about this, I was willing to explore on our own. But with the amount of traveling we've made before this, I've made a call to take it easy and do this tour, which was actually my plan B.

Taiwan is offering morning and afternoon tours for anybody who's possessing a valid Taiwan visa, or in my case, a U.S. Passport holder (or any countries that are exempted). And should you choose to do this tour, make sure you fill up an embarkation and disembarkation card.

Our guide speaks 3 languages: English, Japanese, and Chinese. As far as I can remember, there were only 6 people in our group, so we spent more time on some locations and we went on our own pace for a little bit. Well, here's a drawback, while we got lucky on our group, I can't guarantee it will be the same for everyone. If you're on a bigger group, you won't have a lot of time to explore on the sites because the group has to stay together, but then, you can always explore on your own after the tour. So, it's still a win-win situation. I mean, it's free.




ITINERARY:

We did the afternoon tour, which starts at 1:00 pm. We signed up at the Tourist Service Center half an hour before the tour. Prior to this, I actually made some reservations already. Registrations and everything you will need to know is on the Taiwan Tourism Bureau website.

  • Taipei 101 - About 40 minutes to an hour away from the airport you see the landmark of Taiwan. You get plenty of photo opportunities while learning a little history from the tour guide.
  • The Longshan Temple - Exquisitely beautiful temple but extremely busy. You get to walk around the area for a little bit and explore the markets, and buy dollar bubble teas and snacks from the street vendors.
  • Chiang Kai Shek Memorial Hall - My absolute favorite of all. I was in awe the whole time from the scenery of the sunset from the memorial hall.
  • Lastly, we passed by several tourist spots: Beimen North Gate, Sun Yat-sen Memorial Hall, Presidential Office Building, Taipei Fine Arts Museum, Grand Hotel, Songshan Cultural and Creative Park.


And it doesn't stop there...the cherry on top the cake is that we were able to board a Hello Kitty plane c/o Eva Air from Taiwan to Houston, TX! Everything from the pillows, the head rest cover, condiments, cutleries, all Hello Kitty!





Although short, I was extremely pleased with this tour and the whole Taiwan experience, and I will revisit again on its own. I definitely recommend it and I would love to do it over and over again. Taiwan officially made it to one of my favorite countries to visit. Let me know if you're wanting to try this in the future or have been on tour. What are your thoughts? Thanks for reading and talk to you guys again!




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