I was running out of stories to tell, so the trip was both a relief -- that I'd be able to write about a new adventure; and excitement -- as the next destination was a new one for me.
Taipei, I must confess, was not in my bucket list. But you know how fate works; it smoothly weaves whatever needs to be done and confronts you. To accept or not to accept, there is always a choice.
I accepted mine.
Taipei was presented by way of an airline seat sale. The airfare was really cheap, cheaper than the regular round trip Davao-Manila fare and having a current US Visa made it easier to obtain an entry permit to the country. I jumped at the opportunity.
Friends who have been to Taipei love the place. The food and the Japanese influence are ingrained in the culture. The latter excited me most.
And so did the idea of staying at the W Taipei and Shangri-La Far Eastern Plaza hotel, my hosts in the city. I have to thank Cassandra Cueva's of Shangri-La Cebu's and Fah Supichayangkul of W Bangkok for hooking me up with their counterparts in Taipei.
With a collaborated list of must-do and must-eat from friends plus research materials on my part, I was ready to explore a new place on my own.
Since the first flight to Manila can't connect to the flight to Taipei, a night in Manila was necessary. Aruga at Rockwell was a wise choice. Care is what they do best.
Before sunrise, I was at the airport to catch the flight to Taipei.
A window seat is rarely a choice, but on this first visit to a new city, documenting the arrival from air to land was needed (to accompany this story you're reading).
Two hours and twenty minutes later, I was doing it so as the plane landed at the Taoyuan International Airport, which was formerly known as the Chiang Kai-shek International Airport. It's one of the five airports in Taipei, the largest, busiest, and one of the two servicing Taipei City and Northern Taiwan; with Songshan the other airport.
Maybe it's what I wanted to see or maybe it is what it is, but Terminal 1 arrival hall at Taoyuan had the same vibe as Tokyo's Narita airport-clean, no crowd and systematic. I like its minimalist look and the modern Oriental ceiling design element that welcomes the natural light in artistically.
I was offered to try the airline's pocket wifi, but never made it to the plane as arranged. The good thing was there were three mobile network booths at the terminal's concourse where I was able to secure a local 4G SIM card with free LTE data for five days. I had instant and fast connection to the net to surf and post on social networks, and cheap, I might add, at P90 per day. How sweet is that?
Immigrations clearance was quick, not to mention the officers were young and very polite. It was hassle-free, the officer just wanted to see the current US visa I used in my application and I had the entry stamp.
It's always wise to use the baggage claim area to showcase what the city has currently planned. In Taipei's case, they are gearing to be a design and manufacturing capital and champion the "Made in Taiwan" products.
Exiting customs through "nothing to declare," directional signs greeted the passengers. The choices of rides to get to the city included rent a car, hotel service, taxi, train or the bus. The last two are the cheapest means at NTD145, with the bus I see as more convenient since the bays of the bus stop are a few steps away from the door.
After locating the necessary counter, I bought my ticket and stood by the assigned bay waiting for the scheduled bus to arrive.
It was like the Japanese system-my luggage was tagged and was handed a claim stub before I entered the cool interior of the bus.
The drive to the city was scenic through verdant mountains and concrete towns. An hour later I had the first glimpse of the city's iconic tower, the Taipei 101.
After the three designated stops in the city, I alighted at the terminus, the City Hall Bus Station. Right beside it was the first hotel hosting me-the W Taipei.
Knock, knock Taipei, here I am. Show me your city.
Email me at firstname.lastname@example.org. For more lifestyle & travel stories, visit ofapplesandlemons.com and jeepneyjinggoy.com