Taipei, Taiwan

 

DO YOU WANT TO SEE THE LARGEST GREEN BUILDING IN THE WORLD?


Taipei, Taiwan is the place to go!

Our trip to Taiwan was more like a side trip before we went to the US. Frenchie and I found the cheapest flight from Manila to the US through Eva Air--- that is known for their Hello Kitty planes.

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Knowing that Eva Air is an airline company from Taiwan, we were highly-likely to have a stop-over there. So we decided to spend a few days and get to know this other Chinese speaking country in the world. 

                                                                                                       

                                                                                                       

I'm impressed at how the airline managed the delayed flight which was only 30 minutes. They gave us a burger and a bottle of water. For a local Philippine airline that's a very rare occasion. Or maybe they don't do that at all.


FrenchieatPinay Tip: Check with your travel insurance if you are covered for a delayed flight compensation.


After almost two hours of flight, we arrived in Taipei, the capital of Taiwan. For Filipino passport holders, you need to secure a visa. But if you have a US visa, just fill up a form online through their website and bring the printed copy with you. The airline staff itself will do all the necessary routines upon your check in. That's what I did.

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It was a breeze at the immigration. No questions asked. But the airport was still an hour away from the city center of Taipei. To get around the city, there are buses and metro lines conveniently designed to take you from end-to-end of the whole city.


Taipei has a very good public transport system. So if you're planning to go around for some sightseeing, it's best to buy a metro card. It's a very good souvenir, too!


For this trip, we were on a backpacking budget, so we were hosted by a very kind man from Couchsurfing, Tony on his studio apartment near the National Taiwan University.

The best thing about staying with a local is that, they will take you to their favorite spots that probably no other tourist knows and no other guidebooks can suggest. On Tony's case, he took us to his favorite Japanese restaurant, that easily became our favorite, too!


He also took us to the night market that Taiwan is very famous for. We love the vibe and the colorful food around us that night!


WHAT WE LOVE MORE ABOUT TAIWAN?


                                     

                                     

Their subway lines are very clean and spacious. And Taiwanese people act courteously.


                                               

                                               

They provide free maps and guide information on every subway stations/stops. And in English, too!


                                                                                                                        

                                                                                                                        

Their subway view is all green and natural!


                                                                               

                                                                               

They have cool and inspiring places to hang out.


                  

                  

                                                                          

                                                                          

They have clean and safe alleyways that will make you love walking. And fun, too!


                                                                                   

                                                                                   

Their local dishes are so good, delicious, and cheap!


They have art and historical museums, most famous one is the National Palace Museum-- which is home to 696,000 pieces of ancient Chinese imperial artifacts and artworks from Forbidden City in Beijing, China. Making it one of the largest museums in the world.


                 

                 

    

    

They have a very organized way of making the mainland Chinese behave! I mean, just look at how miraculous this line was. In China, tat's a rare sight! Haha!


           

           

                                                        

                                                        

They have the best viewing point of the sunset overlooking then Taiwan strait. Which is another cool place to walk. 


                                                                                    

                                                                                    

They have a lover's bridge that even when you're alone you can still go there. Haha.


                                                                                                                  

                                                                                                                  

They're being responsible pet owners.


                                     

                                     

They have a 24hour laundry places that became a good training place before we arrived in New York. It was a first to me! 


their tallest building--- TAIPEI 101, is also the greenest building in the world!


                                                 

                                                 

Their airport has a reading area with lots of books to choose from!


FrenchieatPinay Tips: Taiwan is also famous for their hot springs. They have a lot around the city and the prices vary from 80- 1,000TWD. We went to a public one and only paid for 25TWD per person. No pictures allowed though.


Have you been or would you like to go to taiwan?

Hunan, China

 

WANT TO SEE THE HALLELUJAH MOUNTAINS IN JAMES CAMERON'S AVATAR MOVIE?


Come to Hunan--- one of the most beautiful provinces in China.

Not only this is the home of Mao Zedong but this is also the province where you will see the "Avatar" mountain AND where you will also experience the most horrifying and scariest and longest cable ride and glass walk on planet Earth!

There are so many places to see and visit in this province, that you need a full two weeks being there. But for this trip, we specifically focused on one place that offers two amazing wonders--- Zhangjiajie.


1. TIANMEN MOUNTAIN


Or Tianmen Shan is located within the Tianmen Mountain National Park, and have the longest passenger cableway of high mountains in the world", with 98 cars and a total length of 7,455 meters (24,459 ft) and ascent of 1,279 meters (4,196 ft). The highest gradient is an unusual 37 degrees!


It was the most awesome and scariest cable ride of my life! I was even calling all the saints and gods in heaven to keep us safe and make us land in one piece!

           I don't look scared here but believe me my stomach was churning the whole time!

           I don't look scared here but believe me my stomach was churning the whole time!

I don't look scared here but believe me my stomach was churning the whole time!😊

As if the cable ride was not torture enough, but this mountain, is also where tourists can walk on kilometers of paths built onto the cliff face at the top, including sections with glass floors!

So you're all literally walking at the edges of the mountain with all these made up glass walk, wood walk, and bridge walk!

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Sadly, we came on a rainy weekend at that time, so the view of our surroundings was more or less blurry and foggy.☹

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FrenchieatPinay Tip: Wear comfortable shoes. It was a quite a walk and quite crowded, too (well given the fact that we were there on a national Chinese holiday). Just don't wear stilettos just like these ridiculous girls! 

ENTRANCE FEE: 216.00RMB/ person which includes the round trip cable ride. The park open from 8AM to 6PM, daily.


2. WULINGYUAN


Is a UNESCO World Heritage Site since 1992. It is comprised of several national parks, the most famous of which is Zhangjiajie National Forest Park, a 243 square mile park full of stunning pillars of sandstone, covered with sub-tropical rainforest.

This is one of the inspirations for the Hallelujah Mountain in James Cameron's movie, Avatar. So for the locals, it has become the Avatar Mountain.

                                                         taken from google image

                                                         taken from google image


ENTRANCE FEE: 245.00RMB/ person. Good for three days of exploration, all inclusive of all the bus rides inside the park. Unfortunately, they don't sell one day tickets.


The park is huge and quite tricky. You will find yourself at loss when a) you don't have a good guide map, and b) when you don't speak Chinese. Luckily for me, Frenchie mastered map reading and Chinese speaking. 😉


FrenchieatPinay Tip: Take the West gate entrance. Lesser tourists get inside through this gate.



Sadly, as it was raining again, we didn't enjoy the place as much as we would have when it would have been a sunny, clear day.

Although, the park is also very beautiful on a foggy day. But just not on the day we visited. 


We also queued-- for almost an hour, just to take the tallest elevator ride in the world! You all should know by now, that the Chinese wants to outdo all countries in may fields that are tallest, biggest, and longest! 


And oh, they also have the famous love locks up there.


The more disappointing part of this trip was--- we didn't have enough time and we spent too much time queuing up to every entrance gates and bus stops, because apparently, it's where millions of Chinese go for their holiday.


But at least, we did enjoy the Hunan cuisine when we were done from all of our mountain hikes.


HOW TO GET TO ZHANGJIAJIE FROM BEIJING?


There are daily flights from Beijing to Changsha (the capital of Hunan Province). www.ctrip.com

In our case we took a fast train from Beijing West Railway Station to Changsha South Railway Station. 6.5 hours for 649RMB per person. Then took a bus from Changsha bus station to Zhangjiajie bus station. 5.5 hours, including weekend holiday traffic for 112RMB per person.

Little did we know that there was actually a train from Beijing to Zhangjiajie and a bus from Changsha train station to Zhangjiajie. I mean you don't need to go all the way to another bus station or take another train.

We spent one night in a hotel in Changsha close to the bus station. 160/night and comes with an awesome mahjong table! 

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In Zhangjiajie, we stayed in Zhanjiajie Zhongtian International Hostel. 160RMB/night for a double bed room. 


Would you dare walking on the glass bridge or take the longest cable ride?

Cuandixia Village, China

 

Looking for a less touristy day trip away from the heart of Beijing, China?


Visit the Cuandixia Village that also offers a glimpse of what an authentic Chinese courtyard would look like. Or if you just want some peace and quiet time from the horrendous sound of Beijing traffic.

This small and quiet village is an "almost hidden gem" of the city. It is known for its well preserved courtyard dating back from the Ming Dynasty. Cuan means "kitchen range" in Chinese.

Cuandixia has almost 500-well preserved courtyard homes, that many of these have been converted into inns or guesthouses, offering food and lodging to travelers.

Frenchie and I stayed in one of these courtyards for a night. You don't really need to book in advance, because there are a plenty of guesthouses that you can check out and the local owners will welcome you, warmly. The price of a room ranges from 50RMB to 300RMB a night.

The surrounding area is full of mountains and trails that are popular with hikers. We did a little bit of a hike slash walking around the village, too.

We went during the Tomb Sweeping Day or Qingming holiday in China (more like their All Soul's Day celebration) on an April cold day. Most of these courtyards don't have a heating system, that's why although the village was filled with local tourists but they barely spent a night there.

FrenchieatPinay Tip: If you go on one of the days-- on a dry Beijing winter season, bring your own warm blanket. I did and it saved us from a sleepless cold night!

         

         


What we loved about this trip was seeing the Chinese people go on their day-to-day lives, being oblivious to the fact that they were surrounded by tourists, like us. 

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Cuandixia is also a favorite subject of photographers and painters, given the historic and ancient vibe of the village. In my case, as a frustrated photographer...

 
 
 
 
 

The village is also famous for its lamb (thigh) barbecue and corn soup. The famous restaurant that serves these dishes is just a few yards away from the entrance.

We also found the mini food stalls for fruits and snacks-- as an alternative souvenir.


HOW TO GET TO CUANDIXIA VILLAGE BY PUBLIC TRANSPORT?


Take the subway--- Pingguoyuan Station (Line 1) Leave by southwest Exit A, walk towards west around 200m until bus stop 892/929. Then take the public bus 892 to Zhaitang (about 2:20 hours. 16-18RMB cash, 6-8RMB with yikatong subway card) 6km away from Cuandixia, and then take a private taxi to Cuandixia, don't pay more than 10RMB per person, 3 people can cost 20RMB or you can walk 6km from Zhaitang to southern entrance to Cuandixia. There is supposed to be direct bus 929支 leaving from Pingguoyuan at 12:40, and one in early morning, but by information from conductor sitting in different 929 in 3/2014 was this bus discontinued. Be aware there are many buses 929 driving to many different places, so ask the bus driver if he drives to Cuandixia or Zhaitang always. You can go to Cuandixia also directly by private taxi from Pingguoyuan subway, taxi for 3 people can cost 150RMB (1st offer 260RMB), always ask if it's including 35RMB ticket or not since it makes quite big difference.

ENTRANCE FEE: 35RMB for adults. 18RMB for students. (Maybe the prices have been changed as of this writing because we made our trip in 2013.)

FrenchieatPinay Tip: If you can, go on weekdays just to avoid the weekend buzzing of the local tourists.


Have you been to an ancient or historic place similar to this?