7 Places in Taipei for $0!

Now that you have booked that flight to Taiwan, you must be wondering what you can do there without having the wallet exploding. Well, Taiwan is a culturally rich country with much to offer. It boasts of beautiful scenery, tantalizing snacks, fulfilling conversations and exciting entertainment. These elements of Taiwan can be experienced without expending your New Taiwan Dollars (NTD).

1) Elephant Hill Park (象山)

hike-elephant-mountain-taipei-6
Be prepared for LOTS of stairs!

For the healthier crowd, this free option boasts of a good vantage point to view the beauty of Taipei. While breathing the fresh air, the view of Taipei 101 brings one back to modernity. The path upwards consist mainly of stairs and takes around 15 minutes. As the path unfolds, you should expect the scenery to unfold as well. The stairs are not steep and easy to climb. If you try this out in the early morning, the elderly can be spotted along this path too. Water and other drinks can be bought from a lady at the entrance of the trail.

Some would consider going up in the night for the night view is equally astonishing. The weather is also cooler and makes it less tiring to reach the peak. For those who wants to view the sunrise, this place is an excellent choice. As the sun rises with the city coming into sight, the perfect photo opportunity arises.

DIRECTIONS:

  1. Take the Red [2] Line aka Tamsui-Xinyi Line to Xiangshan Station.
  2. Leave from Exit 2 and walk alongside the edges of Zhongqiang Park
  3. At the end of the road, take a left and head up the hill till the entrance of the trail.

Expect to take about 15-20mins to walk from the station to the trail entrance.

2) Yang Ming Shan 

492
Get your fix of hiking in Yang Ming Shan.

Hiking is a great option for the many visitors to a nature-filled Taiwan. Yang Ming Shan packs a good workout by taking a good hike up the 1120 metres Mount Qi Xing. The geology, flora and fauna will keep one accompanied while attempting to reach the summit. Once at the top, there are plenty of things one can do there. The collection of landscaped gardens with ponds, grottoes, waterfalls, stands of forests, and various artifices, including the famous flower clock would surely appeal to many. Breathing in fresh air while taking in the beauty of Taipei is a cost-less option for tourists.

DIRECTIONS:

  1. Take the Red [2] Line aka Tamsui-Xinyi Line to Jiantan Station.
  2. Leave from Exit 1 and walk to the bus station (heading North).
  3.  Take Bus R5 or S15 or S17 to Yangmingshan Station.

3) Jiufen Gold Ecological Museum

jinguashi-gold-ecological
Go for Gold!

(Photo: Tripadvisor)

This is a stop that many miss out due to their full attention on the old street situated below it. But, this place is worth the visit for it is rich in culture, history and aplenty Instagram-worthy photo opportunities. The attraction starts from the visitor centre and ends off at the musuem. Along the way, there are various points of interest such as the Crown Prince Chalet. The Japanese influences on Taiwan can be felt in this area for the architectural and historical elements scream Japanese. At the end, the museum releases a great ton of information regarding the mining history in this area. One amazing point to note is the world’s largest gold bar weighing at a whopping 220KG and it says there that if you can carry it with one hand, you can bring it home. If not, immerse in this rich culture and appreciate the beauty of history in this free attraction.

DIRECTIONS:

  1. Take the Blue [5] Line aka Bannan Line to Zhongxiao Fuxing Station.
  2. Leave from Exit 1 and walk to the bus stop.
  3. Take Bus 1062 (Keelung Bus Company) for an hour’s ride.

4) Shifen Waterfall

417
The majestic waterfall offers respite from a hot weather.

Some refer it to the Niagara Falls of Taiwan but I would say that it is too much of an exaggeration. Nonetheless, it would still be worth the trip for it is majestic to a certain extent. The walk towards the waterfall from the station can be quite long, with some opting for another mode of transportation- motorbikes. Along the street at Shifen, motorbikes are up for rental to reach the destination. For those worrying about the lack of a license, HAKUNA MATA, these motorbikes do not require the documentation except an assurance of the ability to operate a motorbike. The service there is top-notch for they even offer non-riders a ‘chaffeur’, albeit at an extra cost. For the cost-conscious, a 15-20 minutes walk up towards the waterfall would be necessary. It is pretty straightforward as there are many signs pointing towards the tourist attraction along the way.

Nearer to the waterfall, there is a shop that sells food and drinks. As the path can get tiring, a quick rest at the stop can be a good respite. As a preparation for a huge crowd, the pathway towards the waterfall purposes itself to be long, similar  to that of a roller coaster queue in the theme park. But, the waterfall is worth it (trust me!).

DIRECTIONS:

  1. Take the Red [2] Line aka Tamsui-Xinyi Line or Blue [5] Line aka Bannan Line to Taipei Main Station.
  2. Catch a railway train to Rueifang Station for an estimated 45mins ride.
  3. Change to Pinghsi Line and take the train to Shifen Station.

Note: Check out train timings at http://www.railway.gov.tw/en/index.aspx

5) Chiang Kai Shek Memorial Hall

p3550902
Have a blast exploring this traditional monument!

(Photo: Juan Martinez from http://www.thetravelersbuddy.com)

This place serves as a form of remembrance to Chiang Kai Shek, an important contributor to Taiwan. Now, it has become a great tourist attraction. The size and architectural style appeal to many, including the local Taiwanese people. Tourists are free to roam in this huge area of stone figures, gardens, carp ponds and pavilions. The whitewashed walls topped with blue tiles make it a great spot for Instagram-worthy photos. One can whip out their camera here and capture the different angles of beauty.

Beyond its history and culture, one can expect an incredibly well-organised changing of guards parade. It happens every hour everyday from 10 am to 4 pm, with the extension of its hours to 6 pm on Wednesday. The Honor Guards perform their ‘act’ with precision and it is very impressive to watch. It can get really crowded so it is advisable to go earlier for a good spot for viewing, photo or video taking. Every 4 months, one may notice a difference in the clothing of these Guards. As the army,navy and air force take turns to serve as the Guards, the color of the uniform varies as well. The army representatives don green uniforms while the air force ones wear blue. The navy Guards are seen wearing black in summer and white in the winter. So, if you are there next time, do try identifying which department of the military they are from.

DIRECTIONS:

  1. Take the Red [2] Line aka Tamsui-Xinyi Line or Green [3] Line aka Songshan-Xindan Line to Chiang Kai Shek Memorial Hall Station.
  2. Leave from Exit 5  and turn right.

6) Sun Yat Sen Memorial Hall

img-sun-yat-sen-memorial-hall-taipei-95
The elegant & grand Sun Yat Sen Memorial Hall

(Photo: CN Travel)

Taipei offers one double the culture with two memorial halls and it sure is convenient. This memorial hall is in remembrance of Sun Yat Sen, a famous historical figure with mega contributions to Taiwan. Similarly, this place exhibits the changing of guards parade, operating from 9 am to 5 pm daily. The memorial hall is distinguished by a sweeping Chinese roof of glazed yellow tiles. This differs from the other memorial hall and is yet another picturesque place. Many bronze statues can be found in this place with different poses of Sun Yat Sen. One can just imitate his poses and create hilarious and fun moments in this place.

For the more serious peeps, there is a gallery filled with volumes pertaining to his political philosophy. He is revered by many to be a great contributor to China and Taiwan so his philosophies are adopted by others. Unfortunately, the exhibits are all explained in Traditional Chinese. The solution for this is Google Translate and it works fine in Taiwan. So grab a picture of the exhibit and get Google to do the translation for you.

DIRECTIONS:

  1. Take the Blue [5] Line aka Bannan Line to Sun Yat-Sen Memorial Hall Station.
  2. Leave from Exit 4  and turn right.

7) Bopiliao Old Street

bopiliao-old-street
Relive the memories of old gangsta Bopiliao Street.

(Photo: Jilin Tang from The Taipei Quarterly)

Most people would know the movie “Monga” (艋舺) which popularized actors Ethan Juan (阮经天) and Mark Chao (趙又廷). However, the location where the movie was filmed at also became popular among tourists. One way to explore a country on a budget would be to relive the movie or drama scenes in public locations. Many tour agencies are starting to do tours based on movies and dramas. Bopiliao Old Street is special as it features historical buildings with a rich history. The brick construction and wooden streets bring one back in time and experience the lives of those residents in that area.

The area was once populated by gangsters so the different buildings showcase the life of a gangster. It is definitely interesting to head in and pretend to be a Taiwanese gangster. One can sit on those wooden chairs with a dragon carving or act like a big shot playing mahjong while making important decisions. So, take the chance to film your own gangsta movie and be the protagonist of a lifetime.

 DIRECTIONS:

  1. Take the Blue [5] Line aka Bannan Line to Longshan Temple Station.
  2. Leave from Exit 1  and walk through Monga Park towards LongShan Temple.
  3. Turn right and walk straight for about 2 min.

4 Tips for a Free & Easy Trip

Many people find it hard to start planning for a trip and end up relying on travel agencies to settle that part. It is especially difficult for students like me to take up packages offered by travel agencies. However, it can actually be a manageable task as long as the important components of a trip have been decided.

1) Know your travel dates.

Skyscanner-flights-search1
Flights on different days are priced differently

This is an extremely important first step. A lot of my friends often expressed their interest and intention to travel but many have failed to keep their dates and time in mind. There isn’t a need to be super specific in the exact dates but at least have an idea which week/month you intend to travel in.

As most already know, booking flights on a specific day of the week make a lot of difference in terms of price and availability. Hence, knowing that week you want to travel in makes booking so much easier. So, instead of saying “I want to travel  to Bangkok in May”, find out your availability and start off the search with “I want to travel to Bangkok FROM 6th to 10th May“. Applications such as Skyscanner allow users to select their preferred date(s) and compare the prices.

PS: When booking flights, try as best to go incognito. The prices fluctuate according to demand and they do go up, albeit slightly, when we use them.

2) Know your budget.

 

Students like me often face the problem of having little finances to supply this expensive hobby of ours. We don’t want to travel with the constant fear of having no money to spend or shun away from travelling with that terrible thought of having insufficient dollars for that coveted trip. Hence, having the budget in mind makes planning so much more effective.

Split your budget into various categories:

  • Flight/Ferry
  • Accommodation
  • Travel (moving around)
  • Food
  • Entertainment
  • Miscellaneous (eg. data plans)

Based on the purpose of your trip, allocate more for the one you deem important. For instance, if I am fine with a reasonably less comfortable seat on the 5 hours plane ride to Taipei but more uptight about the comfort of my 6 nights, I would allocate more for Accommodation compared to Flight. Often, I face the situation where both categories seem equally important. This is when I wished that I was rich. So, unless you are some rich kid, compromising is very much necessary.

3) Search for deals.

It is important to look for the best deals, be it for the air ticket or the hotel stay. It is not true that one must go through booking applications such as Expedia or Trivago to get the best deals. In some instances, the airline or hotel do offer prices that better those of such apps.

The trick is to download the airline mobile applications and follow them on social media. Most information on their cheap deals are disseminated via Instagram, Facebook and even Twitter. It is usually through these platforms that their fast and cheap deals come through to the observant and prepared buyers.

4) Do your research.

For a free and easy trip, there has to be research done. It is either the adoption of itineries from past travelers or the constant use of our best friend, Google. The former is for sure the lazier and easier option but the latter helps to ensure that you get a lot of information and most of them are relatively up-to-date.

The most common finds would be:

  • Weather
  • Visa requirements
  • Airport transfers
  • Embassy information
  • Tourist attractions
  • Public transport/taxi hotlines

With these tips, you just have to grab those friends to hop onto your trip and have a blast! Share it with your besties!