Tai101: Taipei DIY tour – part 1

Following my last post in Shifen last February, here’s more to my (mis)adventures in Taipei after I left my friend at the airport that day.

Our flight then was around 11pm and was supposed to arrive Taoyuan International Airport after two hours. We had a bit of delay (thankfully not because of my being late to board the plane) due to some traffic chu chu, you know the usual stuff they say so we arrived past 2am already. I went straight to the bus counter and booked a ticket for Taipei Main Station and was getting off the airport by 3am. We’ve arrive at the Taipei Main Station bus stop a little after 3:30 and realized that the station was already closed or so I thought that time coz I didnt see any lighted entrance from where I was dropped off. You see, our hotel booking was for Saturday and so we really don’t have a place to stay for that night.


Anyways, I thought that time that maybe my hotel has an open 24 hr cafe I can crash. February is still a cold season in Taiwan and it was around 10-11 degrees there so staying outside is not an option. After more than 15mins of walking, I saw my hostel and there was not an open cafe in sight. I walked back to the direction of the main station and stopped at the nearest Mcdonalds as it said 24hrs. I ordered hot coffee just to have a reason to stay longer. It was a good move until after 10mins I was asked by one of the crew that they are closing to clean up the place. Ouch! I walked around and tried open convenient stores but they don’t have any tables and chairs. It was around 5am when I saw this lighted stairs to what it seemed like a basement internet cafe with private rooms! I went inside and asked if there was an available space, even a shared one. It was full! So I waited outside for like ten-long-cold-minutes and went back again after I saw a few people going out from the cafe. They charge around 120NT per hour which was super convenient for me coz I only planned to stay until 7am.

I woke up a little past seven, settled the bill and was super thankful to the host. She also offered me the free coffee and tea and stuff I think as part of their overall service.

  
By 7:20am, I was at my hostel to check in my baggage and freshen up a bit. By 8am, I was back at the Taipei Main Station looking for the train schedule going to Jiufen.

 

To go to Jiufen, you have to take the train to Ruifang Station and take a bus from there. Ruifang Station is also where you can take the train to Shifen and Pingxi, famous for the lantern festival. The annual lantern festival was my reason for going to Taiwan that time and my friend was all for Jiufen because of Spirited Away.

  

From Taipei Main Station, it’s about 45mins going to Ruifang Station. The station was full of tourists that time who I believe were also going to the Lantern Festival. There is a tourist information center just beside the train ticket booth so it was easy to ask for directions to Jiufen. I walked for a few minutes going to the Ruifang Police Station where the bus stop to Jiufen is. Jiufen is only about 15mins from Riufang. It is a quaint little town overlooking the Pacific Ocean and some villages below it. I think it is a must-see for anyone going to Taipei coz it was like being in an authentic old Chinese village and with a picturesque view at that. Walking around Jiufen Old Streets and seeing the red lanterns was just very refreshing and I guess, very Chinese-y, hehehe! I was able to find the spot they say resembles the Studio Ghibli movie Spirited Away. I haven’t watched the movie yet that time but it did me that mysterious feeling. I only thought about how my friend would have been so excited seeing that place. (By that time, I think my friend was looking for something to do while waiting for her flight that evening). ✌🏼

   

After Jiufen, I went back to Ruifang to catch the earliest train going to Shifen. It was supposed to be just a stop coz I thought the Lantern Festival will be held in Pingxi Station. When I arrived in Shifen, there were already a lot of tourists flying their own lanterns along the railroads. It was definitely a nice sight.

There are a lot of food stalls along the railstation. I actually think  i already got my stomach full just trying a little bit of everything (ninja moves!) Oh I did buy coffee (so much for trying Authentic taiwanese food noh?)

I walked a few kilometers going to the Shifen Waterfalls but I got tired and hungry again after passing by some more food stalls. I saw a few people giving out flyers for the Pingxi Lantern Festival and realized that the actual event will be held at the Shifen Sky Lantern Square. Okay, so no more Pingxi Station. I decided to settle at a cafe nearby and look for a power outlet again (so don’t have a powerbank, fail). I stayed for a few hours until I had my battery charged enough for the lantern festival. I was already at they sky lantern square when a friend (who’s with his set of friends) messaged me that they’re just in the area, exactly the same cafe I went to. So I went out of the square and meet them. It was already sunset when we went back for the first release of the sky lanterns and the square was so full of tourists and locals already, it was so hard to get inside. We managed to still get inside but I didn’t really had a good view, me being small.

It’s a good tip for someone going to the lantern festival to go to the events grounds early and secure a good spot. Anyways, I may have not had a good view and useful shots of that event but I still enjoyed it very much…despite the pakikibaka among the crowds!😂

We were out of the event by 8pm (sumuko na) and decide to just watch the next batches of skylantern release from afar. I had my first official meal from one of the stalls in the area, rushed back to Shifen station by 10pm to catch the next train and called it a night.

P.S. My friend’s flight was that evening as well. Imagine my relief when I knew she was boarding already! 😍

      

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