Lakad Pilipinas
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Shifen Old Street

Dusk was settling as we walked through a quiet neighborhood in Shifen. A red giant lantern, scrawled haphazardly with unintelligible words and doodles, suddenly bobbed above the roofline, swayed slightly with the wind, before finally flying off into the twilight. A few steps later, the narrow road opened into a rail track. Vibrant shops filled both its sides, with crowds of tourists milling around the sidewalk and the single train track running in the middle. Most of them were holding a similar sky lantern, lit, poised, and ready to take their wishes into the darkening sky.

Shifen Old Street Train Station
THE SHIFEN TRAIN STATION IS NOT CONNECTED TO THE MRT

Shifen has been elusive to us. Located at the Pingxi District in New Taipei, it’s about an hour away by bus from Taipei’s MRT Brown Line. Near as it was, it still took us several hours to finally reach this place. Shifen is a popular daytrip destination for Taipei tourists and is usually paired with tours at Pingxi, Yehliu Geopark and Jiufen.

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Posted by Christian Sangoyo on Tuesday, February 21, 2017

Taipei Westgate Hotel Lobby

A slew of massively fat gentlemen dressed in crisp suits flew overhead. On a darkened niche, white dragons, wings poised for flight, sat waiting while a white bear garbed in aqua blue shorts and suspenders sat unmoving on one corner. We went pass this surreal scene, dragging our suitcases and backpacks behind us. No, we’re not loss on a mossy fog-laden forest conjured by the Grimms Brother but at the snazzy lobby of the Taipei Westgate Hotel.

Taipei Westgate Hotel Ximending
WELCOME SNACK AT THE TAIPEI WESTGATE HOTEL

Perfectly located along the Taipei’s hip district, the Ximending Pedestrian Street, and literally just a hop away from the city’s MRT Green Line, Taipei Westgate Hotel became our home for our second night in the city.

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Posted by Christian Sangoyo on Sunday, February 19, 2017

Jiufen Old Street Taiwan

Like it has always been, it was again drizzling in Jiufen. We waited for it to abate to a fine mist before rushing across the highway and starting the ascent across the glistening stone steps towards its heart. And its heart was beating fast; pumped with people going up and down its arteries, holding colorful umbrellas competing with the red Chinese lanterns lightly bobbing over teahouses, aromas of cooking mingling with the scent of new rain, and mists, magical mist, hovering above everything else, swirling slowly like a daydream.

Jiufen Old Street Taiwan
THE STAIRS LEADING TO JIUFEN OLD STREET

But getting to Jiufen wasn’t really the stuff of dreams. We started off late from the Yehliu Geopark on the second day of our tour, day one being set for our Taipei day tour. The original plan was to take a bus from Yehliu to Keelung City, perhaps visit the Elelphant Rock if we still have time, before proceeding on another bus bound for Jiufen. With daylight slowly getting shorter, we decided to take a cab, haggling hard to bring it down to TWD1,200.00 for the five of us. It was twice more expensive than taking the bus, but was also twice as fast (we checked using our Flytpack). And with our limited time in Taiwan, we’d definitely take time over money.

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Posted by Christian Sangoyo on Friday, February 17, 2017

Yehliu Geopark Queen's Head

There were ten times as many people as there were the mushroom-like stones rising out of the geopark. We should’ve expected this, visiting one of Taiwan’s famous tourist spots on a weekend. My friend tried posing in front of the rock formations, waiting for tourists to clear the view, but to no avail. After some minutes of waiting, the view almost cleared, then another group suddenly appeared into the frame. Shoot it! I’ll just clone everyone off in Snapseed, my friend exclaimed in frustration.

Yehliu Geopark Wanli District
SHORT WALK FROM THE BUS STATION TO YEHLIU GEOPARK

Yehliu Geopark is located at the Wanli District of New Taipei. Getting to Yehliu from Taipei is easy enough. Since we were lodged at the Grand Hyatt Taipei, we just took a train to the Taipei Main Station (using the 3-day train pass we used for our Taipei day trip), and from there, took a Yehliu-bound bus for TWD96.00 (PHP148.84). It took about an hour and half to reach the Yehliu Bus Stop. From there we just walked for about ten minutes to the gate of the geopark (good thing we have our Flytpack with us, else we would have taken a cab), passing by a sleepy town fronted by a less than busy wharf.

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Posted by Christian Sangoyo on Wednesday, February 15, 2017

Ximending Shopping District

The Shibuya of Taipei. Ximending has been called a lot of things; with its plethora of neon-lighted shops, an old-school cinema showing animes, dressed up tourists, cosplayers handing out pamphlets, performance artists, guitar dudes riffing it on the sidewalks and endless food vendors hawking everything from crepes filled with crispy bacons to that horribly amazing stinky tofu. And in the center of all this madness, eight stories above on a non-descript old building, is our home for our first night in Taipei City.

Ximending Hawkers
OUR BREAKFAST, DAN BING WITH CRISPY BACONS!

Straight from the airport, we went straight to Ximen Wow Hostel to deposit our luggage before embarking on a DIY full day walking tour of Taipei. Ximending was unbelievably deserted at six in the morning except for a few hawkers selling take-away breakfast fares.

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Posted by Christian Sangoyo on Monday, February 13, 2017

Taipei Sunset

For a brief moment, the sun peeked through the thick blanket of clouds covering Taipei City. The skyline was awash in hues of magentas wanting to ignite into fiery reds, a moment that never came to be. In a blink of an eye, haze consumed the sun once more, and in response, a cacophony of lights started to twinkle from the city, iridescently hypnotic. In the center of it all, the Taipei 101 stood proud, a colossal monolith pointing to the heavens. I stood back from the railings of a view deck several hundreds of feet above ground and sighed, Taipei, I am back.

Taipei Companions
VISITING TAIPEI WITH MY COUSINS AND MOM THIS TIME

It was less than two months since I first set foot on Taiwan. After unexpectedly falling in love with the city, I checked the interweb and found an incredulously cheaper flight than my first. After a flurry of bookings and hotel arrangements, I was soon flying back to Taipei, this time with my mom and two cousins.

Taoyuan Airport
TAOYUAN AIRPORT AT THE WEE HOURS OF THE MORNING

We travelled in the middle of January and it was noticeably colder. Temperature was at 12 degrees, something I’m really not used to but was enjoying a lot with just a light sweater on, to the chagrin of my companions who were wearing layers upon layers of warm clothing.

Taipei City
AFTER LESS THAN TWO MONTHS, HELLO AGAIN, TAIPEI!

Dropping our bags at Wow Ximen Wow Hostel right in the thick of Ximending walking street, we did a quick pre-breakfast meal at one of the uncles hawking Taiwanese streetfood, a crepe thing with crispy bacons, and proceeded to my rehashed Taiwan day tour itinerary I made for my previous trip.

Chiang Kai Shek Memorial Hall Taipei
CHIANG KAI SHEK’S NATIONAL PERFORMING ARTS CENTER

Chiang Kai Shek Memorial Hall Taipei
CHIANG KAI SHEK MEMORIAL HALL

Chiang Kai Shek Memorial Hall Taipei
THE NATIONAL THEATER

Like before, we purchased a three-day MRT pass for a measly TWD380.00. We were soon tunneling our way to the Chiang Kai Shek Memorial Hall. The square has a slightly different feel in the mornings. We wandered around a bit, me pointing out places to my companions and acting tour-guidy before boarding the train once again to check out the Shuanglian Morning Market.

Shuanglian Morning Market
SHUANGLIAN MORNING MARKET

Shuanglian Morning Market
THIS IS NOT YOUR TYPICAL CUTESY FOR TOURIST MARKET, WELL, TO SOME EXTENT

Shuanglian Morning Market
STREET FOOD GALORE

I was expecting a morning version of the Taipei night markets but was surprised to find a legit market of sorts. Like wet market legit, complete with pork meat and what-nots. We breezed through the throngs of locals and tourists, taking in the vibrant colors of the marketplace and its dizzying activities.

Dadaocheng Taipei
WHAT THE HECK HAPPENED TO DADAOCHENG?!

Still on foot, we traversed the eerily deserted sidewalks of Jinxi Street and plunged headlong into the madness of Taipei’s old district, Dadaocheng. I was taken entirely by surprise to find this once quiet place surrounded by distinct Chinese-Taiwanese architecture swarming with people.

Dadaocheng Taipei
EATING OUT AT DADAOCHENG

Taipei Food
LUNCH IS SERVED!

The whole street was lined with stalls hawking all sorts of stuff (with free taste!) and the place was packed. Really packed. We went with the swell, darting quick picks on the free food along the stalls before finally sitting our asses off on a square filled with chairs and tables, ours soon filled with bowls of braised pork rice, shrimp dumplings, pork ribs, steamed veggies, fishball soup and Taiwanese tea egg. Lunch time!

Dadaocheng Wharf Taipei
VIEW OF NEW TAIPEI FROM THE DADAOCHENG WHARF

I still have no idea what the deal was with Dadaocheng being a mad bedlam of people as we wended our way back through the crowd and into the Dadaocheng Wharf to relax a bit before proceeding to our next stop.

Sun Yat Sen Memorial Hall Taipei
SUN YAT SEN MEMORIAL HALL, NOTHING MUCH TO SEE, REALLY

We forewent our initial plan of going back to the hostel to check in and decided to push ahead with the itinerary, the Sun Yat Sen Memorial Hall. Its classic arched Chinese roof has always fascinated me during my stay at the Grand Hyatt Taipei, we just didn’t have enough time back then to visit it. Well, it was just as well as the structure nor even its surroundings weren’t really that interesting. Well, I did enjoy watching a few of the locals milling around the place, flying kites and kids running around trying to catch pigeons.

GOING UP TO THE ELEPHANT MOUNTAIN, AGAIN

Now clocking in at 20,000++ steps on my pedometer app, we pushed our feet further for the Taipei 101. We took a quick break inside, warming ourselves and looking for a place to change money before going back down to the train and racing the sunset at the nearby Elephant Mountain.

 

Morning workout. I cannot. #LakadPilipinas x #Taiwan #teamRHwintertrip #teamRHwatak

A video posted by Christian L. Sangoyo (@lakadpilipinas) on

 

After a twenty-minute slow walk towards the stairs leading to the Elephant Mountain viewing deck, we contemplated if we would still continue. Our feet were dying. But since we’re already here, we might as well push on and let our feet die a dignified death.

TAIPEI CITY FROM THE ELEPHANT MOUNTAIN VIEW DECK

Slowly, we ascended the unending steps until we reached the first, then second view deck. As usual, it was filled to brimming with tourists waiting for when the golden hour would bathe Taipei City into a golden urban landscape of jagged skyscrapers.

GOING UP TO THE HIGHEST VIEWPOINT

Since we still have a bit of time, I decided to push further than before and see the highest view deck. It was surprisingly just a few minutes away from where we were and the view was even better. Here, you can actually see both the setting sun and the Taipei 101 in a single panorama. It was just too bad that cloud cover was quite thick and the sun was content on simply peeping every now and then from the haze.

THE TAIPEI 101 RISING ABOVE THE CITY

We waited until the city became electric before going back down and riding the train again to our dinner, the Shilin Night Market. We were dead tired by the time we took a seat and our meal was served.

 

Because this view never gets old. #LakadPilipinas x #Taiwan #teamRHwintertrip #teamRHwatak

A photo posted by Christian L. Sangoyo (@lakadpilipinas) on

 

It was a long day of exploring Taipei City, returning on already visited places with new twists and experiencing a couple of entirely new ones. It was a first for my cousins and my mom, a second for me. Still, I live for visiting the same places over and over again. Taiwan isn’t a part of South East Asia, but what they say around it definitely applies for Taipei too. Same same but different.

 

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Posted by Christian Sangoyo on Saturday, February 11, 2017

Traveloka App

A friend recently recommended Traveloka, a flight and hotel booking app, for my smartphone. I’ve had previous experiences checking for flights using apps, but haven’t really done any bookings through it. I’m on the page that thinks it’s cheaper to book on airline sites itself, but my friend was quite adamant that I use it, they always have online promos that can shave a few hundred of pesos from your final fee, he says. I downloaded it immediately.

Traveloka Promo
TRAVELOKA DISCOUNTS ON THEIR FACEBOOK PAGE

I’m familiar with the Traveloka brand from TV and web ads I’ve seen. I knew they’re an international brand from Indonesia who’s now trying to work their way into the Philippine market; they’re legit and I’m confident that I won’t get scammed or anything. They’re somewhat similar to Agoda crossed with Skyscanner, a useful tool for checking the cheapest hotel rentals and flights for users. And since I wanted to go back to Davao this year, I decided to give it a go.

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Posted by Christian Sangoyo on Thursday, February 9, 2017
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I recently contributed a few photographs to North Bound magazine’s 18th issue. Published by the North Philippines Visitors Bureau, the magazine promotes Northern Luzon destinations from Bulacan all the way to Aparri. Some of the photographs that got included came from my previous excursions at the Cagayan Valley Region; Tuguegarao’s Buntun Bridge, which I took during NPVB’s Lakbay Norte 3 tour, the city’s delectable pancit batil patong from Jomar’s, and Lighthouse Cooperative’s perfect Tuguegarao pasalubong, their carabeef tapa and longanisa.

North Bound magazine is distributed for free on most cafĂ©’s, restaurants, hotels and establishments—where else—but north of the Philippines.

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Posted by Christian Sangoyo on Tuesday, February 7, 2017