Tag Archives: Taipei

A Fun & Easy Traipse through Yehliu, Jiufen and Shifen with KKday

I’m a proud “DIY-girl” whenever I travel and I revel in finding budget travel hacks whenever I can. I would revel in discovering far-away places and meeting new people on my own. I would work on spreadsheets, go on a mad research spree and serve as the lead in most of my travels. It’s fun – but you know, it can get tiring.

Doing all these and being responsible for the rest of the trip can be exhausting and sometimes, all I wanted to do is just sit down and rest – and let someone take the lead.

That’s why it was a nice surprise to get to have a full day tour of three of Taiwan’s biggest draws courtesy of KKday, a fast-growing travel activities platform. Offering numerous and unique travel activities and tours from a number of amazing tourist destinations like Taiwan, Japan, Korea, HongKong, Sydney, Melbourne to as far as  New York and Paris.

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I can even book a tour using my mobile phone – it’s that easy

Using KKday is easy as sign up is painless – you can actually use your Facebook account to sign in and from there, you just book your attraction and tour of choice.

I was travelling with a group of Taipei first-timers, so it’s good to cover the basics first with a day-tour of Taipeui:  Yehliu, Jiufen and Shifen. Out of the three, I have been to Yehliu and Jiufen during my first two trips to Taipei. I was able to find these places by sheer chutzpah: armed with a print out from an obscure reference and the determination to keep my eyes peeled as the Taipei bus hurtled towards the sleepy New Taipei county neighbourhoods.

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You can even download the KKday app to make it a whole lot easier!

This time, thanks to KKday, I managed to enjoy the trip from Taipei going towards the county – I slept and basically just chilled, and let our capable and gregarious tour guide Bobo explain the charm of these places.

YEHLIU Geo Park – Our first destination is Yehliu Geo Park, a sizable park right beside the Oceanside showcasing various rock formations that date back to the prehistoric era. Yehliu is one of my favourite places in Taiwan, simply because walking through it reminded me of foreign terrain from another planet, probably like Mars due to the deep red clay/soil prevalent in the area.

NOTE: The photos above were taken during my first trip to Yehliu. I just want to show you how it looks like. I was not able to take really good photos during this tour because of the rain.

The rock formations are a sight to behold: taking the shape of mushrooms, slippers and many others, but the most famous one is the Queen’s Head. Scattered along the area are also some fossils embedded deep in the soil and a viewing deck to better appreciate the place.

Unfortunately, it started raining really hard as soon as we alighted from our Poli Bus (the KKday bus decorated with a police car cartoon), and I had to buy a raincoat to shield my stuff from the rain. The rain ruined any remote possibility of us taking our photos along the other rock formations because it made the soil slippery. We just beelined it to the Queen’s Head, took the requisite photo and left.

(NOTE: Better to take your photo with the Queen’s Head since the constant wear and tear of the seasons has made its neck more fragile.)

 SHIFEN Sky Lantern – It must be magical being there when the quaint little town of Shifen celebrates its Sky Lantern Festival – imagine hundreds of lighted lanterns floating around the night skin, sending your wishes to the sky. Yes, it does give off major “Tangled” vibes.

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Forty five minutes from Yehliu is the small town of Shifen, nestled between the mountains and the train tracks. As mentioned earlier, Shifen’s most famous draw is the releasing of the Sky Lantern set amidst the middle of the train tracks.l For only TWD190, you will be given the  chance of writing your “Love, Career and Money wishes on colourful lanterns and set them out to the sky.

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We were drenched but very happy. Photo courtesy of my amazing friend, Allan of The Filipino Rambler 

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When you’re done releasing your wishes via the sky lantern, you can partake on the many delectable dishes that Shifen has to offer. You can also take the opportunity to get a glimpse of the train passing through Shifen’s narrow street (just be careful taking a photo!). You’ll see how time stops until the train has fully passed.

 

JIUFEN’S Winding Streets and Magical Tea Houses – I have written in one of my blog posts about the oft-quoted travel legend that many of Jiufen’s many winding streets, storefront houses and the famous Amei Tea House was the inspiration behind the magical world of Chihiro, Sen and Yubaba in Hayao Miyazaki’s well-loved animated film, “Spirited Away.” My love of Miyazaki and the film prompted me to search for Jiufen, on my own, more than three years ago – and now, going back, minus the hassle of the search (and worry of getting lost) made me fell in love with this maze of a town. Thanks to KKday, I was able to just appreciate the journey, take my time, focus on the sights, and marvel on the many overt similarities between the Yubaba’s spirit world and Jiufen.

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The town, with its many winding staircases, is a maze and the search for Amei’s tea house can be ardous if you won’t ask for directions. But once you finally get to find it, it’s worth the trek and the many missed turns.

 Taking a tour via KKday:

Tours via KKday begins at the Taipei Main Station. In our case, it’s at the East Gate where you will meet with the KKday coordinators in order to present a print out of your confirmation slip. After the coordinators have gone through the attendance, checked, and ensured that everyone on the list is present, you will be herded to the waiting KKday bus.

At the bus, your tour guide will brief you on your destination, give you your KKday identification pass (also doubling as a mosquito patch) and a bottle of mineral water. Do note that the cost of entrance fee for Yehliu Geo Park, the cost of the sky lantern activity and of course, your meal and drinks are not included in the tour fee. Price of this tour is just PHP1,174 so it’s really worth it.

Would I recommend KKday?

Absolutely. While I am still a fan of DIY travel and enjoys researching for destinations, I appreciate how KKday made travelling easy, more convenient and more enjoyable – thanks to a knowledgeable tour guide and a very efficient staff. I hope to be able to use KKday again when I go back to Japan.

Visit KKday at their website, or download the KKday app available for easier, more convenient booking,

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I stayed in Homey Hostel while in Taipei – and it ticked off all my hostel must-haves

In the last five years, I have been travelling more and more frequently – often times, going out the country two times a year – depending on the funds available, or the level of stress and misery that I am in.

For 2018 alone, I went to Japan twice, starting the year in Nagoya and Sapporo; celebrated my mom’s birthday in Tokyo last October; before finally ending the frenzied jaunt across the ocean in Taipei, Taiwan in mid-November.

One of the things I learned during all my budget trips is that it’s not necessary to stay in hotels. Of course, if you have the money to burn and living in a lap of luxury is more of your thing – by all means, enjoy.

But if you are a budget traveler like me, staying in hostels is a sure fire way of landing prime accommodation, while meeting fellow travelers on the road and with more bang for your buck. So far, I never had any disappointments at all – with most hitting the mark (especially the hostels in Japan which sets the bar really high) and yes, even the one in Singapore who almost wowed me but missed the mark on cleanliness.

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That is why I am pleasantly surprised to know about Homey Hostel, a hostel that lives up to its name with its homey, cozy, chill vibe yet over delivers when it comes to function, service and style. Located in a busy neighborhood two blocks away from Taipei Main Station, this charming budget accommodation ticks a lot of my must-haves when it comes to slumming it out on a budget:

 Location, Location, Location – this should be a cardinal rule. Even if you have the most charming, most Instagrammable place in the world but if it’s far from where the action is, or the transportation source, then you are wasting time and money. Homey Hostel is about a ten minute walk to the Taipei Main Station and the Taipei Bus Station. You are centrally located, with many places in Taiwan only a bus or train ride away.

There’s also plenty of food options: fast food favorites like KFC and McDonald’s (open 24 hours), a 7-11, a mom and pop stores selling dumplings, sticky noodles and stinky tofu and a milk tea shop. So you will not be starved. You get a taste of your burgers and still have a chance of sampling local cuisine – so it’s a definite win-win

 

Cozy and comfortable sleeping spaces – Given that you will be tired and spent the whole day, you should be comfortable and safe where you sleep. Our dorm room had four bunk beds, plenty of room to man oeuvre, plenty of sunlight plus a locker room where each traveler can safely store their valuables. In spite the fact that it’s a dorm room, and there are three other guys who’s not part of our group, we never felt uncomfortable at all. After all, we barely get to see our roommates, as we had different schedules and they’re often out of their beds by the time we wake up in the morning.

Each bed is equipped with its own night light, your very own charging station, a pillow, two sheets and a comforter plus its own curtain to give a semblance of privacy. If you’re a light sleeper, Homey has ear plugs available on the reception which you can take free of charge. Towels are for rent at TWD40 while hygiene kits are for sale.

 

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Amazing facilities: inviting and functional common areas + clean yet efficient communal bathrooms – This is where Homey hits the mark high for me. I am in love with their communal space – which housed the reception, a game area (a game of fooseball anyone?), a work area, a dining hall and the super efficient kitchen. This is something I haven’t even seen in Japan so I really love this space and regrets that I didn’t maximize hanging out here.

There are long wooden tables where you can eat together with other fellow travelers. Or if lounging, reading or hanging out is more your thing, Homey has designed numerous nooks where you can curl up with a good book, or play one of the many board games that’s also available within the area.

I am really particular with bathrooms so, it’s a nice surprise that Homey has those electronic toilets common in Japan. There’s never a wait in any of the shower rooms which was also shared coed. Shower cubicles were designed with its own mini “dry area” where you can store your clothes, towel and toiletries before stepping inside the shower area. Bathrooms are kept clean and while it can get busy, you will never have to line up should you need a quick bath or use the loo.

 

Fun and FREE activities – The availability of fun activities that will expose to the local culture, landscape and scene is something that is inherent with majority of hostels. In Japan, I enjoyed the takoyaki and film showing nights. Homey Hostel offers a range of activities every Friday, including walking tours. During our stay, we joined a trek up Elephant Mountain to take in Taipei’s sights at night. We were joined by guests from Europe, HK and China and it was a treat exchanging stories — and discovering common interests and passion. I had a nice chat about conquering the 47 prefectures of Japan with Andy, a guest from Germany.  Homey offers these activities for FREE and even taps the help of knowledgeable and efficient guides from various Taipei tour groups.

 

Intuitive Customer Service – personal, warm yet professional. The reception counter of Homey Hostel promptly closes around 10:30PM and opens around 8:30AM the next day for service. Given we arrived really late, 4AM, our key cards were left in the counter with our names and a note to just approach reception in the morning for check in. In the morning, the hostel serves a simple breakfast of bread, a choice of spreads (chocolate, coconut butter, garlic butter and peanut butter, coffee, tea, juices, hot congee and an array of side dishes).

The check in process is quick and efficient, and you will be asked to pay for your stay and a TWD100 deposit for the key card which is refundable, should you manage not to lose it. The reception also doubles as a small “business center” where you can arrange for tours, ask for directions, buy postcards and send them (I did) and even pay for the snacks and the craft beer that’s available in Homey.

The team, led by the affable Jeffrey, is young, charming and English-proficient, always ready to give directions and insider tips. In our case, it was recommended we take the express train going back to the airport, which saved us 30 minutes in travel time. Jeffrey, meanwhile, recommends that the next time we are in Taipei and arriving late, we take the Kuo Kang Bus No.1819 which runs late nights from Taipei Taoyuan Airport to the city.

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Would I recommend Homey Hostel for the Taipei-bound. Absolutely! My first two trips in Taipei, I kept raving about a hotel (that will remain unnamed) due to its top-notch service; now that I experienced Homey Hostel, I have found a better choice which offers the same level of service that I expect, coupled with a fun, laidback atmosphere and most of all, can’t beat prices. How low? You can get a bed for as low as TWD600 a night!

Book now at Homey Hostel – they’re responsive on Facebook! And don’t forget to check out their website!

 

 

 

I’m Spirited Away in Jiufen: An adventure in the land of Yubaba and Chihiro and the unending flight of stairs 

(I am writing this post while waiting for my flight back to Manila, whiling away time at the Taoyuan Airport. The trip to Jiufen is definitely the highlight of the trip hence I can’t wait to write about it) 

The first thing you will notice upon reaching is the cats. There’s a number of them: lazing away on the village generator while giddy tourists take tons of pictures of them; there are cat posters and cat painting and little ceramic figures made up of cats. 

In a tourist town made famous by a drama (City of Sadness starring Tony Leung) and a legendary animated film Hayao Miyazaki’s Spirited Away – the cats, without a doubt, are the resident queens of Jiufen. No offense to Yubaba. 

  
When I finally had the chance to return to Taiwan, on top of my list was to see Jiufen, a small town on top of the mountains of the Ruifang District of New Taipei City near Keelung, Taiwan. 

Jiufen (or “nine portions” from the nine families who first settled in the area) used to be an old mining town from the late 1800s to the decline of the gold rush by the 1970s. When the mines was shut down, Jiufen faced decline, with the town possibly going the way of forgotten settlements. That is until it was featured as location of the seminal movie “City of Sadness.” The interest came after the release of the movie saved Jiufen from being a forgotten town. The interest only further intensified after the release of “Spirited Away” by the legendary Hayao Miyazaki. Jiufen was credited as the inspiration for the winding steep roads, the lantern laced alleyways and the magnificent bath house owned by Yubaba as seen in the animated film. 

 

Chihiro looks for her parents in Spirited Away

 
trying to find my way in the many alleyways of Jiufen

 How to get to Jiufen
There are two ways to get to Jiufen. First is you take the High Speed Railway going to Riufang county. From there, you can either take the cab to Jiufen or contract a fan who will serve as your tour guide to the many sights of the province, Jiufen included. Prepare to shell out at least NTD3,500 to rent the whole cab. 

Or you can do it my way, courtesy of mad research skills: 

Here’s a cheaper and more painless alternative to the option above. From where you are staying, take the MRT to Zhongxiao Fuxing Station under line 1. Take MRT exit 1, as you come out of the stairs, make a U-turn heading to the direction of the elevated walkway. The large SOGO Department store should be on your right hand side, with you facing the elevated MRT. 

Take the first left to the immediate intersection which you will reach in less than 60 seconds. Walk a few steps and you should see the pick up point for the 1062 Keelung bus headed for Ruifang and Jiufen. 

this is the bus that will take you to Jiufen

During weekends, expect a long line of local and foreign visitors waiting for the bus as Jiufen is a popular weekend destination. Ignore the touts offering their contracted service by saying there’s no bus going to Jiufen. Have your EasyPay tap card ready or NTS90 to cover the fare. 

Eventually, the highway will melt away to reveal a rustic and peaceful rural scenery. 

  
 
 
 The mural above celebrates the heritage of Jiufen as an old mining town. When you passed this, you are less than five minutes away from reaching Jiufen Old Street where you should alight. 
 

entrance to the old street

As soon as you see 711 and the marker – this means you’ve reached Jiufen. It’s now time to explore the inner bowels of this town. 

The best way to enjoy Jiufen is to get lost and just enjoy the little books and crannies of the town, then marvel at the little discoveries you have along the way: 

Note: photo heavy post

   
  
   

there are cats everywhere in Jiufen. these guys havent moved an inch!
    
 
And then you start seeing pieces of Spirited Away no matter where you turn: 

 

an old tunnel used by miners before

  
  
  

   


Of course, the piece du resistance was the Ahmei Tea House, which bear a striking resemblance to the Spirit Bathhouse being ran by Yubaba. 

  This is Yubaba’s bath house in Spirited Away: 
 
Here is the Ahmei Tea House in Jiufen: 

   
  

To say that I squealed when I found it was a gross understatement. I was so happy to find it (thanks to the hubby) after walking to the many windjng streets of Jiufen. The only let down is that dining inside the Ahmei Tea House is quite expensive: they expect diners to order a tea set for NTS300 or if it’s lunch, have the lunch set at NTS400. There are no Ala Carte order or an English menu. We chose to take our lunch elsewhere. 
When in Jiufen, you will be assailed by the delicious smell of cooking meat or the sweet  aromatic smell of herbs anywhere you turn. It is a foodie’s haven and there is something for everyone, regardless of their meal preference:   

    
  

our sumptuous lunch: rice with meat topping (NTS30) and a stick of sausage (NTS35)
  
    
    

Jiufen is a good place for a day trip. However, there are also those who choose to spend the night here. There are many guest houses or home stays in Jiufen. All one needs to do is ask. Like the rest of Taiwan, the people of Jiufen are unbelievably nice. 

I can’t wait to go back to Jiufen someday. Maybe stay a bit longer? I hope it retains that authentic and quaint little town vibe that-in spite the hoard of tourists – makes the town a sweet to live in.

  

 

 
 

Amazing Taiwan: the land of shaved ice, warm people, micro mini skirts and full-on PDA (Part 1)

I love, adore, yearn for Taiwan!

Obviously, three short days is not enough to discover the beauty of Taiwan. But my four short days in Taipei (actually 2 1/2 days in Taipei and half a day in Yehliu) pretty much gave me fond memories of this country formerly called as Formosa. What can I say about Taiwan?

It’s a land of chilled out, laid back happy people who always offer you a smile whenever you need it. It’s the land of amazing wonders waiting to be discovered, of simple culinary delights that will blow your minds away — of teeny, weeny skirts matched with cute, affordable boots and the throes of teenage love that pushed young lovers from devouring each other’s faces while on the subway ride.

We had three short days, but tried to make do with the limited time we had. Early on, we vowed to see more and spend less — and with one character in this story currently jobless after passing her resignation and another one perpetually broke (*ehem*), it sure make a very interesting story.

First day: “Let’s pretend we’re on Amazing Race Asia”
My sister and I arrived on a chilly, midnight aboard a Cebu Pacific midnight flight from Manila. Because Taipei Taoyuan International Airport is located in Taoyuan County and far from Taipei, we decided to book for hotel transfers from CityInn Hotel Plus Ximending, our home for the next two days in Taipei. However, following a small confusion on the booking, we are to spend the night in another hotel called Keyman’s located near the Taipei Main Railway Station. CityInn Hotel Plus was fully booked on the first night (technically early morning) of our stay and even a quick check from other CityInn in the area yielded zero rooms.

No sweat, we just wanted to have a room where we can crash for the (early) morning, get a few zzzzz and score free breakfast in preparation for the long day ahead. We plan on hitting the tried and tested usual sights of Taipei, maybe find little slices of city life in between and then check in at CityInn Hotel Plus in Ximending.

Our bedroom at Keyman's
Our bedroom at Keyman’s
our home away from home: CityInn Hotel Plus Ximending
our home away from home: CityInn Hotel Plus Ximending

(Read my hotel reviews here and here)

Here’s some notable images of Day 1 (warning: photo-heavy post)

So, we covered the Chang Kai Shek Memorial Hall, Sun Yat Sen Museum and Taipei 101. These attractions are near each other and usually found on the same line of the metro (blue line “Yongnin to Taipei Nangang Exhibition Centre), so you’ll get to save time and your fare while you hop from one attraction to another. Prior to touring, we headed to Yuanshan in the red line to hear mass at St. Christopher’s Church, where hundreds of Filipino workers converge every Sunday to hear mass and reconnect with kababayans.

St. Christopher's Church in Yuashan (red line), near the Taipei Expo Park - best mass I attended
St. Christopher’s Church in Yuashan (red line), near the Taipei Expo Park – best mass I attended

After asking for God’s blessings, we are off to discover the city!

planes always fly overhead the Taipei Expo Park due to its proximity to the Taipei Airport (the domestic one)
planes always fly overhead the Taipei Expo Park due to its proximity to the Taipei Airport (the domestic one)
...flying through the expo's gardens
…flying through the expo’s gardens
The Main Gates of the Chang Kai Shek Memorial Hall
The Main Gates of the Chang Kai Shek Memorial Hall
The roof of the Taipei National Theatre located inside the Chang Kai Shek Memorial Hall
The roof of the Taipei National Theatre located inside the Chang Kai Shek Memorial Hall
my sister taking a breather in front of a quaint bridal photography shop
my sister taking a breather in front of a quaint bridal photography shop
My sister chasing a hapless fat pigeon
My sister chasing a hapless fat pigeon
at the gardens
at the gardens
cherry blossom tree in full bloom
cherry blossom tree in full bloom

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i love this part of the garden... i can just imagine how it'd look like if the cherry blossom trees are full
i love this part of the garden… i can just imagine how it’d look like if the cherry blossom trees are full
these bikes are available throughout the city. just run your easy card through the censor and you're off!
these bikes are available throughout the city. just run your easy card through the censor and you’re off!
On our way to Taipei 101 (pic courtesy of the Queen's instagram account)
On our way to Taipei 101 (pic courtesy of the Queen’s instagram account)

During our first day in the city, the first thing we noticed is how short the skirts are and how cute the ladies looked with their short, short skirts, tights and matching boots. The ladies always looked fashionable albeit we’ve grown alarmed on finding some non-existent trousers or skirts. It’s like seeing the pages out of Vivi and sitting through a daily fashion show of Asian fashion. I instantly loved it there! Though, if I am to live in Taipei and dress how these ladies dress, I really need to get a few pounds out my massive tree trunks. Boots were available at the numerous shops in Ximending. A typical day-to-day wear will include a coat or jacket, blouse or shirt, the aforementioned fast-shrinking bottoms (shorts or skirt), tights and boots. Ladies are also partial to wearing sneakers (in varying colors and design) or boat shoes. Here’s our usual schedule every night: my sister and I would buy the sweet candied strawberries from an old uncle in Ximending, look for a nice area to sit and people watch and just soak up the culture and the active buzz that is commonly found in the area.

People watching would always lead us to a pair of amorous teenagers usually caught between liplock or gazing dreamily on each other’s eyes — like as if they were leads in the latest Taiwan drama airing on local channels. It was simply amusing, as young lovers often hold tight against each other as they sway to the train’s movement, oblivious to other passengers. Ah, the perils of young love 🙂

…to be continued

Note: A more detailed post of the trip including itinerary and budget breakdown will be published on my travel blog

Applying Tourist Visa to Taiwan

It’s one of those days when I am gritting my teeth and beside myself with worry since I will have to submit my application for a visa to Taiwan by tomorrow.

This is the part of traveling that I dread — proving to the embassy that I have plans of returning (I mean, why wouldn’t I?), that I have capacity to travel and that I promise to be a good tourist and take nothing but pictures and memories. Honestly, this is the part of being Filipino that annoys the hell out of me. The need to get visas and not having the freedom to go to places you’ve always dreamed of going because you have to prove that you have intentions of going back to your home country after the trip.

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Honestly, I really can’t blame these countries — there were many cases of illegal immigration, as well as cases of “tourists” suddenly disappearing into thin air to find employment in a country that promises a better future than what is available here in my country. Any country will impose restrictive measures to ensure safety and economic security of its citizens.

To soothe my frayed nerves and the fact that I am already shitting myself with worry, I went on a mad research spree trying to get tips on how to go through the agony of getting a visa.

So, if you are a Filipino, scored really drop-dead cheap tickets to Taipei either via Cebu Pacific or Air Asia and plans on getting a Taiwan Visa soon, here are the requirements for business and visitor visa (as of September 2012):

1. An online Visa Application Form – please note that as of April 2012, the Taiwan Economic and Cultural Office (TECO) of Manila no longer accepts handwritten application forms. Please access the system-generated forms at https://visawebapp.boca.gov.tw. Fill up the forms and print it on A4 paper after. Please avoid leaving spaces blank, for questions that does not apply to you, write N/A.
2. Two (2) passport size photos 1.5”x2” with white background – should be taken within the last three months.
3. Passport valid for at least six months and old passport showing previous travels (if any)
4. Birth Certificate issued by NSO
5. Marriage Contract (if applicable) issued by NSO
6. Supporting documents related to the purpose of VISIT such as :
A. Confirmed round trip Air ticket or Booking Certificate
B. Certificate of Employment and Letter of permission to leave from the employer
C. Financial statements of the applicant such as:
(1) Income Tax Return (ITR)
(2) Bank Book or Bank Statements – I got my bank certificate at BPI for less than an hour. To apply for a bank
certificate, just approach the teller and she will give you a form that you need to accomplish. You have to pay
PHP100 for a copy of the certificate.

If Traveling on BUSINESS, you must also submit:
A. Business letter or trading records from Taiwan Company
B. Certificate of Business Name Registration and SEC Registration(If owner of the company)
C. Invitation Letter from Taiwan company / organization in Chinese letterhead that outlines clearly purpose of your visit and duration of your stay
D. Official letters or request letters from concerned authorities for official trip
E. Seminar program
F. Certificate of Employment; Professional Identification; Company ID
G. Other Supporting Documents if Required such as SSS contribution lists, Pay Slip etc.

Aside from the original copies of documents, you also need to prepare one photocopy. Also note that the applicant will be scheduled for an interview, if needed.

You need to pay PHP2,100 for a single entry tourist visa. Multiple entry tourist visa goes for PHP4,200.

For more information, you may refer to this website: TECO

Just to make sure, we also printed copies of the reservation confirmation from the hotel and plan on presenting them also tomorrow.

Anyway, I hope things will be okay tomorrow. Wish us luck.

See you in March…!

The land of F4...and yeah, the 101!
The land of F4…and yeah, the 101!

After two years of pining after the land of F4, the Taipei 101 and the birthplace of the milk tea — I finally had the courage to go for it and book a trip to Taipei. Actually, the cheapo tickets from Cebu Pacific and the upcoming birthday of my constant travel partner, my sister The Queen. Apparently, her mantra nowadays is to celebrate her birthday anywhere as long as it’s not in the Philippines.

I am again her plus one, her constant navigator and her travel research fiend. This time, we made a challenge to ourselves to limit our spending to PHP15,000 for the whole trip (roughly less than USD400). This means that I have less than 2 months to research and plan for the trip, including the visa requirements.

Maybe what gave me courage to go ahead and just throw caution (again) to the wind is the trip to Korea. Whenever I get doubts about my ability to see a particular place, I always refer to the time when I had almost zero money in the bank and was still able to go to a place I could only dream of.

Setting my sights on….. Taiwan

Out from nowhere, I suddenly started researching facts and things on how I can go to Taiwan.

you're next on the list

Isla Formosa ("beautiful island")

Where do I begin…? I REALLY THINK I NEEDED TO GO — as in, I need to experience a place where I wont be hearing English too much (I know it’ll be a hassle going around, but think about the adventure it’ll present!) and I need to go someplace where I haven’t been, eating food that I haven’t got to experience for two years worth of travel.

Right now, I am trying to rack my brains of reasons why I should go. Let me see?

1. Taiwan is the home of the 2nd tallest building in the world – with nice architecture and background story to boot (you know like how the building moves according to the strongest winds, or adjust to the earthquakes that plagued Taiwan)

2. Taipei looks a lot like Tokyo — especially the Xi Men (!!!!) area. Obviously, I’ve already done my research. Trusty Mr. Google said that apart from the numerous permutations of the Chinese (and the Taiwanese ethnic language), the Taiwanese are more adept on the JAPANESE language than the English language. So apparently–when people started getting confused with the language barrier, the Taiwanese will bust out first the Nihon tongue rather than the Queen’s Language.

3. The culture and history – saw a lot of great architecture and history and I am already fascinated.

4. Cherry Blossoms and 6 Degree Temperature during the winter season – Traveling with my husband required us to experience below 10 degree temp since the Hubby thrived on the cold

…and more importantly:

5. METEOR GARDEN TOUR GALORE – how can I forget THE ONE that started my fascination with anything East Asian? This series, up to this day, remains my favorite version of the Hana Yori Dango lore (with HYD – Japan a super close second). Yeah, the succeeding versions (*cough*South Korea*cough*) has better costumes and styling and waaay bigger budget — but for me, this is the version with the most heart. Who can forget the enormous pineapple hairstyle of Jerry Yan (according to lore, the production crew had to resort to the pineapple hairstyle cos Jerry Yan looked awful in curly hair) or the scene where Shan Cai had to run after the bus? I could go on and on…

Anyway, the obvious challenge for me is getting that damned Taiwanese visa tho I was informed that it’s easy as long as you have complete information–especially your form 2316 and the employment certificate which basically assures Taiwan that you are going back to the Philippines. I also need to breathe life to my bank account–which was sorely depleted by the SG trip. My guess is I would to have at least 60-80k on my bank account covering me and the Hubby.

But I already made a separate folder for Taiwan on Momo’s desktop along with a grid plotting how much I will need to save per payday in order to come up with a starter account for me and the Hubby. I swear to God.

…I am getting ahead of myself, especially since I have a HongKong trip to plan for the end of the year. The sis and I are bringing mum and dad on their first overseas trip.

Imagine the beating that my bank account and wallet will be having due to these plans currently in place.

But hell yeah–give me a year and a half–I AM GOING TO TAIWAN!