5 Days 4 Nights Northern Taiwan Tour – Day 1 Taipei (June 2016)

Northern Taiwan Itinerary

We spent 9 days 8 nights touring Taiwan in November 2015. Near end of 2015, Jetstar launched another sales promotion which was too good to miss. We could book a pair of return tickets to Taipei for under $60 without check in luggage. So we took another holiday to Taiwan in June 2016. This time, we planned to stay only for 4 nights touring Northern Taiwan.

Our flight to Taipei was 1.05 am arriving at 6 am. Return flight timing was 7.55 pm arriving the next day at 12.35 am. Onward flight was a red-eye flight arriving very early in the morning. We didn’t mind this arrangement as we could have a full day to enjoy Taipei when we arrived.

For accommodation, we stayed three nights in Taipei and the last night in Keelung. From Keelung, we would travel all the way to Taoyuan Airport changing bus in Taipei. We booked Taipei City Hotel for the first night and Park Taipei Hotel for the second and third night. For the last night, we booked Evergreen Laurel Hotel at Keelung. All hotels were booked very earlier to lock in a very good price from Agoda.com.

Taipei City Hotel is a 4-star hotel located near Daqiatou MRT Station. We would use this base to visit Yang Ming Shan and Ningxia Night Market. For Park Taipei Hotel located at the doorstep of Daan MRT Station, we would visit other attractions in the city for this very conveniently located 5-star hotel. The other 5-star hotel at Keelung harbourfront would be a base to visit Jiufen and also the city’s famous night market and other attractions near the city.

Transfer from Taoyuan Airport to Taipei

Our departure came after months of waiting. Though it was a red-eye flight, we landed in Taoyuan Airport at 6 am in pretty good condition. The airport was very quiet with all the shops closed. We cleared immigration and then went to the basement to purchase bus tickets to go to Taipei City. Having researched West Bus Company Line 1961 would stop at Daqiatou MRT Station along Chongqing North Road, we went to the counter to buy bus tickets and then went outside to wait for the bus.

It didn’t take very long before the bus arrived and we boarded the bus without incident. So off we went and travelled towards Taipei City. We passed through quiet city scenes as it was still before 7 am. After about 50 minutes of travelling, we entered Taipei City. Surprisingly, the bus that was supposed to travel along Chongqing North Road but after driving a short stretch along this road, turned left and then turned right to travel along the other road parallel to Chongqing North Road. So we alighted to walk back to Chongqing North Road to walk further down to Taipei City Hotel.

Taipei City Hotel to Yang Ming Shan

It was just shortly after 8.30 am and too early to check in. So we changed to more comfortable clothes and left our bags with the hotel. We then went out to head to Yang Ming Shan for the first item on our itinerary.

We turned left from Taipei City Hotel and walked along Chongqing North Road towards Daqiaotou MRT Station. It was just three minutes walk and we reached one of the entrances of the station. However, we turned left to have a quick breakfast at one of the coffee shops there. The traditional Taiwanese noodles and rice sets were excellent to start our day.

After breakfast, we entered Daqiaotou MRT Station. From here we took the train to Jiantan Station. We still had our Easy cards with us after the previous year’s visit so it was very easy for us to top up the card and tap in and out of the MRT stations. It was a short ride changing train at Ming Quan West Station and then another two stations up north to Jiantan Station. We walked further up the exit, took a left turn to wait for a bus to Yang Ming Shan. By the way, Jiantan Station is where the famous Shilin Night Market is located.

There were quite a lot of people queuing up for buses at the bus stop. We were waiting for bus R5 to head up to Yang Ming Shan. Not long after, we boarded the bus and were on our way. The bus travelled north and soon headed uphill. After a while, we arrived at the Yang Ming Shan transfer station. Over here, it wasn’t very crowded yet as it was still quite early.

Yang Ming Shan Butterfly Park

There were stalls selling fruits and stuff. We also bought bottled water and then went to join the queue for the bus to our first attraction. The bus came and we boarded. The bus then left the station and we alighted at the Butterfly Park.

Quite a lot of passengers alighted here as well. Unfortunately when we arrived, it was cloudy and windy. It also started to drizzle. There were staff over there to provide guided walk to visitors. We had a quick look around and then decided to head to our next destination.

Yang Ming Shan Xiao You Keng

The station here was more crowded. The bus soon arrived. Some passengers alighted while many more remained on board. So we boarded this bus and it was so crowded as the bus moved off to the other stops. This internal bus travelled as shuttle bus service for attractions within Yang Ming Shan. We alighted at the Xiao You Keng, a volcanic area. Smell of sulfur was evident as we made our way to the park.

The weather over here was much better. It was windy as well. We then walked to the souvenir shop at the tourist information centre which also served as a café. We did a quick check to see what was available.

After that we roamed the park to explore the volcanic activity here. There is a pit with hot boiling liquid oozing out from the ground. You could boil eggs here if you wish. This pit is not very far off the walking path.

Up on the slopes of the hills were smoking away with pits blowing out smoke continuously. Another pit was yellow with sulfur at its mouth. The smell of sulfur was a little nauseating with wind blowing the smoke around. There are man-made barriers to stop visitors from going up the slopes to get near these pits.

We then walked up the slope behind the tourist information centre for a better view of the entire park. This place was really quite interesting. With parts of the hills on smoke, this gave a sense of reality the impermanence of nature not under control of mere human creatures. This was indeed a nice place to begin some reflections as we continued our day tour here.

Yang Ming Shan Leng Shui Keng

We returned to the bus stop at the carpark to wait for the shuttle bus to our next destination. The bus came shortly after. We used our Easy card to tap in again for this ride. Next we arrived at Leng Shui Keng.

Over here, we walked to the suspension bridge. After walking through the suspension bridge, we walked further into the park to take a look at the eco landscape of the surrounding. There is a reflection pond inside but nothing much to see. Interestingly, a wedding couple was taking wedding pictures here. Perhaps due to the seclusion of this part of Yang Ming Shan where few visitors would come in, the wedding photos would surely give the impression of a very back to nature kinds of scenery.

Next we walked back across the suspension bridge. We then went to the visitor centre to use the toilets. There were visitors having meals at the café. Some were checking out the souvenir shop too. We then walked across the road, turned right and then walked right up a slope towards the cold spring park.

Over here visitors were sitting around soaking their feet in the cold spring water running out from the inner facility up the hill. This public area is free to use. The place is pretty nice with shelter and benches for visitors to rest, a nice place for a picnic too. The cold spring facility up the hill is chargeable. There are separate segregated pools for males and females who are required to be naked when using the pools.

Yang Ming Shan Qing Tian Gang Grassland

After this we walked down the slope to wait for a bus to bring us to Qing Tian Gang Grassland. The bus was crowded when it arrived. We managed to board the bus though. Not long after, we arrived at the grassland park. The carpark here is pretty huge. The visitor centre serves as a museum with great information about this attraction.

Next we proceeded to walk to the grassland park. This place is so open with rolling hills around, really nice to come for a picnic as well. Many wedding couples were here to take wedding pictures too. Behind both sides of the walking path were cattle, some resting, some wandering and grazing. It was very interesting. In fact, this place doesn’t look like Taiwan; it has an European or western feel to the whole area.

We walked on looking at cattle up close. Some of them didn’t mind if you touch them. There were quite a lot of visitors here. We were surprised there was a couple who cycled up here. It must be very tiring. But they looked rugged though.

Yang Ming Shan to Taipei City Hotel

Having enjoyed this awesome attraction, we returned to the bus stop. It was already past noon and we were a little hungry. We decided to skip the waterfall and other attractions. So we waited for a direct bus to return to Taipei. It took a while for this bus to come. After boarding this bus, we sat down to rest and enjoyed our ride back to Taipei. We alighted at Jiantan Station and then took MRT back to Daqiaotou Station.

Unfortunately when we arrived at Daqiaotou Station, it started to drizzle again. We then walked back towards Taipei City Hotel. We soon reached the hotel but we crossed the road to head to the mall diagonally from the hotel. It started to rain heavily once we reached the mall. We checked out the restaurants here and then decided to have Japanese food for lunch. The rice sets that came with soup were very delicious. We were very pleased with this first lunch in Taipei.

After lunch, we checked out Carrefour and bought some drinks and snacks. This supermarket was really convenient to stock up on essentials. Since it was still raining, we spent time at the mall. When the rain subsided, we went back to Taipei City Hotel.

Taipei City Hotel

Our room was ready by then. We took our key and got back our bags and then went up to our room. This room is a typical 4-star hotel room, modern, clean and comfortable. A huge LED TV is in front of the bed on top of a tabletop cabinet. Wardrobe and writing desk with a chair are on the other side of the wall. Bathroom was very clean with a nice bathtub and a separate shower stall. Toiletries were provided. Of course, coffee and tea facility and bottled water were provided too. Wifi was good and TV with plenty of programs mostly Taiwanese channels.

After taking a bath, we relaxed on bed to watch TV and catch up with children back home. Soon we fell asleep because we didn’t sleep well during flight on the way to Taipei. Our whole morning was also spent outdoor so it was a good time to catch up with some sleep.

By the time we woke up, it was time to head out for dinner. We left Taipei City Hotel, crossed the road and walked over to Carrefour. We then walked further on to the next street and we reached Ningxia Road. The sky was getting dark but still with a deep blue shade.

Ningxia Night Mrket

The night market was already in full swing but it wasn’t even dark yet. Crowds were gathering here and there. Stalls were set up in the middle of the road leaving two sides for visitors to throng the market. Stalls of all sorts were here selling food and clothes and even mobile phone accessories. Restaurants along the shop houses of the road were attracting quite a lot of people too.

We took our time to roam this place and soak in the atmosphere here. There were games stalls that were quite nostalgic for us. Little kids were having fun trying to scoop up small fish together with their parents assisting them. Other simple games stalls offering rewards for winners with stuffed toys also attracted crowds. We enjoyed such scenes thoroughly. It reminded us of our childhood where we were easily satisfied with simple games. That would be beyond today’s generation living in a digital age where toys are now so high-tech.

As we made our way back to look for food, some of the queues were really insane. These stalls must be very popular. We could hardly find seats as well. So we decided to pack food back to Taipei City Hotel. We bought some fried beehoon, chicken and also rice dumplings. It took a while to buy the food too.

Dinner in Taipei City Hotel Room

After this we made our way back to Taipei City Hotel. After passing Carrefour and crossing the traffic junction, we were back to our hotel. There is a Starbucks Coffee next to Taipei City Hotel in the same building. We didn’t buy coffee from there though. We then returned to our room and enjoyed our simple dinner with self made coffee and tea.

With dinner done and over with, we settled down to rest and watch TV again. Surfing the internet was another pastime. It was good to rest early too because of the tiring overnight flight here.

The morning visit to Yang Ming Shan was fruitful. This was the first time we explored the attractions up there on our own. Couple of years back when we came with a tour group during winter, we didn’t even alight from the bus when we made a brief stop over. It was so cold and raining heavily back then but we could smell sulfur when we parked at Xiao You Keng.

The afternoon nap after lunch in the hotel was needful too. Ningxia Night Market though not very big was nice. We saw happy people every where, no doubt many of them locals, enjoying their night out. Their love for local street food was amazing. Apparently, they didn’t mind long queues as long as the food was good.

Our simple dinner bought from the night market was fine but nothing to shout about. We would rather eat in the comfort of our own room then to squeeze with the crowd hardly able to find a seat on the street. So our first day in Taipei came to an end.

Continue to Day 2

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