We bought the rather pricey China Airlines direct flight from Penang to Taipei, other airlines do a round about trip to get there in 8 or 9 hours; China Air only 4!
The service of China Airlines was impeccable! Since I am on a walking stick, we are given priority check-in and boarding :) They even have priority seats while we wait to board! This was the first time I find out about this service to seniors with impaired movement, I was given special attention in Penang, Taipei and Sydney BUT SADLY, NOT in New Zealand!
Our plane landed at the beautiful Taoyuan International Airport and a wheelchair and a friendly helper was waiting for us.
They even help us to get our luggage! Talk about great service! Then it was straight thru to immigration and taxi stand! Guess which airline we are going to travel the next time we come to Taiwan? :)
The taxi trip from Taoyuan to our hotel in Taipei took 32 minutes and cost us TWD 1,200 (New Taiwan Dollar) or NT$1,200 which is NZ$ 47.60, the very high cost of NZ living suddenly hit home; a cab ride from Wellington airport to Karori (which is 8 times nearer) will cost us NZ$ 55.00! Scary stuff!
Our hotel, the Riviera Hotel turn out to be really nice! According to Expedia, it is a 4 stars hotel but Taiwan travel site claimed it is a 5 :)
In Taiwan, as a subsidiary of Far East Group, Pacific Sogo operates 9 stores. The oldest of these is located at Zhongxiao Fuxing Station in Taipei. This is the place our free hotel shuttle drop us.
We were there early, at 10.30 am, most of the shops are still not open, but by 11 am, it started to get busy.
A look at the cafe light box got me all excited, notice that restaurant on B2? That is the world famous Din Tai Fung! An award-winning restaurant originating in Taiwan, specialising in xiaolongbao (soup dumplings). Outside its native Taiwan, Din Tai Fung also has branches in Australia, China, Hong Kong, Indonesia, Japan, Malaysia, Singapore, South Korea, the United States and Thailand!!
Xiaolongbao made to order at the restaurant behind glass pane at Din Tai Fung.
Since it was not yet "lunch time", we thought we will walk around and come back later for the famous buns. Big mistake! Half an hour later, the shop was packed, and diners have to collect numbers to wait for their turn! There is a running digital display on the shop displaying the "ready" numbers.
We waited for 45 minutes before our turn :)
xiaolongbao (dumpling with encased soup) was really yummy. We picked them up with chopsticks and none of them break! We were told that, if any break, they will be replaced! Was the long wait worth it? You bet! We also had another type of dumplings and noodle.
Nice food in Taipei is really CHEAP! For instance, the so called Singapore Hainanese chicken rice was NT$700.00 for a whole chicken; plus rice for two! That work out to only NZ$27.00!
What about shopping around where SOGO is? Well, they are all branded stuff, we find the price are out of our league ;)
A selfie before we head for somewhere more "not branded" ;)
The mass rapid transit system (MRT) in Taipei, together with the metropolitan areas' dedicated bus route networks, forms a convenient transportation system. These lines are dotted with a variety of attractions and scenic spots, allowing visitors to take a leisurely journey through some of the most attractive parts of Taipei.
Auto ticketing machines can be found in all MRT stations, providing ticketing services. Single-journey ticket prices range from NT$20 to NT$65 depending on travel distance. An NT$150 one-day pass purchased from A service booth allows unlimited travels on all MRT lines within one day.
Taipei's MRT is fast, and super efficient, one pleasant surprise is the two dark blue seats in every carriage that are reserved for elders and those on walking sticks, the numerous times we took the crowded train, we always find these seats waiting for us! Yes, unlike in some country (hello Singaporeans), they were often occupied by young ones ;) Hats off to the Taiwanese!
If you are in Taipei and intended to move around in MRT, do buy the Easy Card!
What is the Easy Card?
Similar to the Octopus Card in Hong Kong, the Taipei Easycard, or 悠遊卡 (Yōuyóu kǎ), allows you to conveniently ride the MRT or Bus systems without the need to constantly grab change out of your pocket.
7-11, Family Mart, and other convenience stores and supermarkets also accept the Easycard for payment. If you have a student ID of any kind, make sure to purchase the student Easycard because there is a discount of NT$3 on bus fares (it may not seem like a lot, but it adds up).
With our Easy Card in hand we try and find our way to the famous Mengjia Longshan Temple. After asking for direction from really friendly Taiwanese, who never hesitate to make sure we know where we are heading; we got there after a train change.
According to Guidetotaipei.com... The most well known temple in Taiwan, the Mengjia Longshan Temple was built in 1738 by settlers from Fujian as a gathering place for Chinese settlers. Located in the old village part of Taipei, Wanhua District, this temple has stood the test of time and lasted through several natural disasters and wars.
It is not uncommon to find a huge temple right in Taipei city, we saw this one near our hotel!
Part 2 - Taipei 101 and yummy food of Taiwan :)