Hey peeps, Day 1 (Part 2) of my Taiwan 8 Days Trip is ready. This continues from an earlier post. After a good two hours exploring 228 Peace Memorial Park, it was time for some logistics matter. I needed to buy an Easy Card in Taipei which is a prepaid transport card that can be used on MRT, trains and buses.
My initial plan was to get the EasyCard from NTU Hospital MRT station and then travel to Chiang Kai Shek Memorial Hall which would be along the way.
Not exactly a brilliant plan. The MRT staff advised that the only place to get a refundable Easy Card was from Taipei Main Station. If I were to buy one elsewhere, my NT100 deposit could not be refunded.
TIP: Get your EasyCard from Taipei Main Station (only)
That’s definitely not a good news for someone who was already close to being famished. Fine, I would walk back to Taipei Main Station. A 7-minute walk should be manageable on an empty stomach…duh.
Great Local Lunch near Taipei Main Station
Along the way, I passed by a stall selling Shark’s Fin Bee Hoon (NT55). It was the most expensive dish on their menu, but was totally worth it.
The Bee Hoon (rice noodle) was so fine I’ve never seen anything like this in Singapore. The thread-thin noodle was served in a hot and sour thick broth, it reminded me of our local Lor Mee. Only, this was tastier and paler in shade.
The broth was so thick the bee hoon felt heavy. I had a bit of difficulty trying to lift it up with one hand, while managing the camera with the other.
I was so pleased with my random and satisfying discovery, especially at a time when I couldn’t really afford the time to search for good food (because I was starving).
TIP: If you happen to be staying near Taipei Main Station and want to sample some cheap local dishes, walk along Gong Yuan Road.
If you just want general food options, there are plenty including take-away meals at the station itself.
Buy Easy Card from Taipei Main Station
The MRT staff at the control station directed me to the EasyCard Customer Service Center, which (if I recall correctly), is located a level above the control station.
It was natural for me to join the long queue that had already started to form. After standing for a while, some of us realised that the queue wasn’t really a queue. It wasn’t flowing systematically. We had blindly followed the blind.
TIP: If you see a queue, don’t join it. Get a queue number straight from the counter. Your turn will come when your queue number is flashed on the screen.
After 20 minutes, I managed to get my Easy Card which I’d loaded with NT700 value excluding the NT100 refundable deposit. I managed to utilise most of it by the end of my 8D7N Taiwan Trip.
TIP: When you return the EasyCard at the end of your trip, you can get back the deposit. Since there’s an administrative fee of NT20, you’ll get back NT80.
Chiang Kai Shek Memorial Hall is not a Boring Place
My first MRT ride brought me to Chiang Kai Shek Memorial Hall, a place erected in memory of Chiang Kai Shek, the former President.
For someone who’s not exactly that crazy over cultural stuff or modern architectures, I was surprised to see myself in awe with the grandeur of the place. The site was huge comprising a few standalone buildings – National Concert Hall and National Theater.
It was also flanked by huge and concrete arch gates on each side of the compound.
Against the blue backdrop of the sky, the white buildings with accented navy blue roof stood out in beautiful contrast. The stone floor tiles also added a touch of subtle design to the large floor space.
It was an ideal place for photogenic moments. I was busy snapping away, making sure I captured the structures from all angles.
My only complaint – it was 36.5 degree celsius HOT!
Did I expect Taipei to be this hot during Autumn? No. I would have to pay for it later with the lack of summer clothing brought for this trip.
Travel Savings: Taipei 101 Observatory Ticket at discounted price
Once I was done admiring the external facade, I climbed 89 steps (symbolising Chiang Kai Shek’s age at time of death) to enter the Memorial Hall. It was almost effortless because the steps were shallow. Just nice, the sky started to break with a slight drizzle.
TIP: Bring an umbrella with you wherever you go. You’ll either need it to block the intense ray of the sun, or the rain.
Interior of Chiang Kai Shek Memorial Hall
Inside the Chiang Kai Shek Memorial Hall, a large bronze statue of Chiang Kai Shek sat in the middle, watched over by two guards with steely gaze and who stood motionless and expressionless.
I didn’t stay for long because there wasn’t anything else to see then.
Resting at a Garden
There were nice gardens within the compound. I rested on a bench beside a man who was chanting and meditating in Chinese. A squirrel then came up to sit beside me.
It left as soon as I kept my drinking bottle. How practical.
Museum and Gallery
Walking around the ground floor of the memorial hall, I finally found the entrance to the Musuem and Gallery.
In the central atrium were exhibits of some war-related paintings and models.
There are facilities here including a small cafe, souvenir shops and a comfortable resting area. You can also fill up your bottle using the free water dispenser located near the toilets.
After admiring the paintings, I entered the museum which was dedicated to the documentation of Chiang Kai Shek’s life story.
Depicted in chronological order (of his life) with artifacts, paintings and concise labels and descriptions, I found the visit to be interesting, informational and easy to follow. It’s definitely a good place to learn about the history and development of Taiwan.
I left midway to be in time for the next guard changing ceremony.
Guard Changing Ceremony
I returned to the 4th floor of Chiang Kai Shek Memorial Hall. And yes, I climbed the 89-step staircase twice. Elderly can choose to take the elevator instead.
Here’s my view from the hall.
The hourly guard changing ceremony was an elaborate 15-minute event that drew large crowd of tourists. The marching gait of the guards were unique and at some points look almost like a synchronized and slow-motion tap dance.
TIP: To ensure that you get a good spot, place yourself behind the lines formed by the queue poles when everyone is still hanging around near CKS’s statue. Because when the ceremony begins, everyone will be ushered away, to stand behind the queue poles. You want to be the first person behind the lines to get a good view.
After the ceremony, I went back to the museum on Ground Floor to continue my tour of the museum, and was only done by 5.30pm.
By then it was too late for my next destination – Daan Forest Park. I was also deadbeat having walked 18,000 steps by then. Dark circles were getting obvious too. So I decided to head back to Taipei Main Station for dinner.
Getting to Chiang Kai Shek Memorial Hall
Take MRT to ‘Chiang Kai Shek Memorial Hall’ Station. Follow Exit 5.
Alternatively, if you have a whole day to spend in Taipei and prefer a hassle-free travel, the Taipei Double Decker Bus Tour can bring you to 23 destinations. I think this would be useful to those who do not understand Chinese as the headset guide comes in multiple languages. You may also be interested if you are heading to the National Palace Museum because it is not connected to the MRT.
Q Square Mall
You can walk to Q Square Mall through one of the underground links from Taipei Main Station (Y3 exit). I wouldn’t say it’s easy to find because of the lack of prominent English signages. Anyway, just look out for 京站時尚廣場.
Q Square Mall is a modern-looking mall that reminded me of Siam Centre in Bangkok. I’m not sure when it was opened, but it sure looked new. You can find international brands here, e.g. Chanel, Shu Uemura, Kiehl, Uniqlo and Zara.
Being a Singaporean who is pampered with great shopping options in the country, I wasn’t attracted to malls like this. I wouldn’t want to trade the precious time I have overseas for a shopping experience that’s too similar to what we have in Singapore….unless the things are much cheaper.
That’s not the case for Q Square Mall (or Taiwan Malls in general). Based on the few items I’ve seen, they were more pricey than those in Singapore. Hence, I stopped my shopping and proceeded straight to the foodcourt at B3 for my dinner.
TIP: If you have limited time for shopping, proceed straight to night markets or Wu-Fen Pu to get your purchases at great prices.
Malls and departmental stores in Taipei typically carry products that are priced higher than those found in Singapore. E.g. an umbrella costs S$70 after a 30% discount.
Food Court Prices in Taipei are not cheap!
Most food options were priced between NT150 to 250 (S$7 to S$12). That’s almost three times the price of food in Singapore’s food court. As this was my first day in Taiwan, I couldn’t quite get used to the price yet and had a hard time finding food.
In the end, I got myself the cheapest option available.
Exploring Taipei Underground Malls
The rest of the night was spent exploring Taipei Main Station, to find out where the lockers were (I’ll need one on my last day), where the railway station platforms were and how to purchase tickets out of Taipei.
For your info, Taipei Main Station is huge and linked to many underground malls, high-speed rail, normal rail and MRT. It took me a few days to get myself orientated.
While recce-ing, I couldn’t help getting distracted and ended up buying some beauty products from Cosmed.
I’ll share more about my beauty purchases in a later post, because I have a lot to say. Heh Heh. This concludes Day 1 of my 8D7N trip to Taipei – 23,000 steps walked!
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- Day 1 (pt 1): Taoyuan Airport, Taipei Main Station, 228 Peace Memorial Park
- Day 1 (pt 2): Get EasyCard, Chiang Kai Shek Memorial Hall, Q Square Mall
- Day 2 (pt 1): Jinguashi Gold Ecological Park
- Day 2 (pt 2): Golden Water Fall, Jiufen, Ximending
- Day 3 (pt 1): Maokong
- Day 3 (pt 2): Taipei Zoo and Shenkeng Old Street
- Day 4 (pt 1): North Coast Tour (Shimen Wedding Plaza, Shimen Arch, Jinshan Old Street)
- Day 4 (pt 2): North Coast Tour (Yehliu Geopark, Keelung & Miaokou Night Market)
- Day 5: Wufenpu, Raohe Night Market
- Day 6: Songshan Cultural Park, Xiangshan, Tonghua, Raohe Night Market
- Day 7: Taipei City Hall Shopping District, Wufen Pu, Raohe Night Market
- Day 8: Easiest way to get from Taipei Main Station to Taoyuan Airport