Since 1968, the author has spent many years in Taiwan. He lived in Taipei and Kaohsiung in the 1970s.
My Trip to Taiwan
In November 2014, my wife, mother-in-law, and I visited Taiwan. Over five days, we rode planes, trains, and buses. Besides seeing my son in Taichung, we enjoyed sights in the greater Taipei area. This trip was a homecoming of some sort. I had spent very little time in Taiwan since the 1970s and was anxious to see how it had changed.
In this article, I first recall the hoops my wife and mother-in-law had to jump through to get a Taiwan visa. Next, I briefly recall our flight from Bangkok to Taiwan's Taoyuan International Airport and train transfer to Taichung. After spending a night and day in Taichung with my son, I remember riding a train to Taipei and then using the MRT to visit sights. Finally, I recollect our flight back to Bangkok and connecting flight home to Udon Thani.
Preparing for a November Trip to Taiwan
In November 2014, I was planning a trip to Myanmar until my mother-in-law expressed fear of traveling with my wife and me to Burma.
As a substitute trip, I suggested that we visit Taiwan to see my son. In addition, Taiwan had been my second home during the period 1973–79 and I wanted to see how it had changed.
Being a United States citizen, it wasn't necessary to apply for a Taiwan visa. As Thai citizens, however, my wife and mother-in-law had to apply for visas.
There were hoops to jump through in the visa application process. The first step was filling out a visa application form. Questions were asked about the itinerary and purpose of visiting Taiwan. Besides showing evidence that we were married, my wife and mother-in-law also had to show documentation that they owned property and had Thai bank accounts.
After preparing all supporting documents, we traveled from Udon Thani to Bangkok on November 19. On the 20th, we visited Taiwan's consulate in Bangkok to apply for visas. The Taiwanese consular officer examined all supporting documents and told us to return on the 21st to pick up our passports with stamped visas.
On the 21st, we picked up the passports at the consulate and then spent the remainder of the day packing for our trip.
Our Travel From Bangkok to Taichung, Taiwan
On November 22, we arrived at Bangkok Suvarnabhumi International Airport at about 11:00 a.m. to check in for our flight to Taiwan. It was a scheduled Eva Air flight to Taoyuan International Airport departing at 12:30 p.m.
Our plane took off on time and it was a smooth three and one-half hour flight to Taiwan. After arriving at 5:00 Taiwan time, we quickly passed through immigration and customs.
Next, we boarded a high-speed train that took us from the airport via Taoyuan to Taichung. The 141 kilometers (85 miles) journey took an hour and a half. We arrived sometime between 6:30 and 7:00. After a short wait, my son met us inside the train station.
Our Stay in Taichung on November 22
After quickly exiting the train station, we got into my son's car. Our first stop was at a Thai restaurant in Taichung where Charles had arranged a dinner.
As we entered the restaurant, I was pleasantly surprised to see my ex-wife Mona, her brother, Jin See, and his son. They were all sitting at a large round table. My wife, mother-in-law, and I found our places and we then had a very tasty meal consisting of Thai and Taiwanese dishes that everyone enjoyed.
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Following the dinner, Charles drove us to our hotel in Taichung City. It was a boutique hotel with a room reserved on the fifth floor. Before departing, Charles noted that he would pick us up at around 10:00 the next morning for lunch and sightseeing.
Our Stay in Taichung on November 23
My son accompanied by his mother picked us up at our hotel around 10:30 on Saturday morning, November 23. Charles was driving a Toyota Yaris and gave us a ride through Taichung to a big shopping center for lunch.
Taichung with a population of 2.82 million today is the second-largest city in Taiwan. It has changed greatly since 1970 when I last visited. The population has increased 10 fold and tall buildings everywhere have taken the place of the Taichung I once remembered.
I cannot recall the name or location of the shopping center where we went. After arriving there, Charles took us to a big food court near the top of the center. There we enjoyed some tasty Taiwanese dishes.
After doing some window shopping for a couple of hours, Charles drove us around the city. We eventually wound up in a university area where we stopped for an early dinner.
At some time between 6:00 and 6:30, my son drove us back to our hotel. My travel plans were to take the high-speed rail to Taipei on Sunday morning, the 24th. Charles graciously offered to drive us to the train station about mid-morning before he went back home.
A Drive Through Taichung with My Son
Traveling to Taipei November 24 and the Taipei MRT
After a late breakfast on Sunday morning, November 24, my son picked us up at our hotel a little after 9:00. Our destination was the Taichung High-Speed Rail Station to catch a 10:00 train to Taipei.
We said goodbye to my son and got to the station in time to purchase tickets to Taipei. I couldn't believe that we were whisked the 170 kilometers (105 miles) to Taipei's Main Station in only one hour.
Taipei's Main Station is enormous. In addition to the high-speed rail, it houses all trains and buses. Taipei's MRT subway system also passes through here. The MRT has five different lines that cover all of the Greater Taipei Area. We used the Red and Blue Lines for our travel on November 24–26. Our travel destinations are described below.
Our Taipei November 24 Sightseeing Itinerary
We disembarked from our Taichung High-Speed Train at 11:00. After walking a long way through the terminal, we finally found the MRT and I purchased a three-day pass for the three people in our party.
I had a reservation in a small hotel near Ximending. To reach it, we boarded a Blue Line train and got off at the Ximen station.
After checking in and dropping off our bags at the hotel, we reboarded a Blue Line train and were off sightseeing. Our destinations for the afternoon were the 101 Building, Lungshan Temple, and the Huaxi Street Night Market.
The Taipei 101 Building
Our first planned destination was the Taipei 101 Building. After we left our hotel, we took the Blue Line to the Taipei Main Station. We then transferred to a Red Line train heading toward Xiangshan. At the Taipei 101 Building and World Trade Center we got off.
When the 101 Building was opened in October 2004, it was the world's tallest building. This skyscraper has 101 stories and reaches a height of 1,667 feet or 508 meters. Public observation areas are on floors 88 to 91 with an indoor observation area on the 89th floor. With 61 elevators, the 101 Building has some of the world's fastest. Its fifth-floor elevator will take you up to the 89th floor in only 37 seconds.
Sightseeing from the 89th floor was breathtaking. We had an awesome view of Greater Taipei in all four directions. I took a video and other pictures that are attached to this article.
89th Floor of 101 Building in Taipei
The Lungshan Temple
We had a late lunch after coming down from the 101 Building. Our next stop was the Lungshan Temple off of the Blue Line.
After returning to the Main Station on the Red Line, we transferred to the Blue Line to reach the Lungshan Temple stop. It was only one stop past the Ximen station stop.
We arrived at the Lungshan Temple in mid-afternoon. The Lungshan Temple is a Chinese folk religion temple in the Wanhua District of Taipei. The temple was built in 1738 by settlers from Fujian in honor of Guanyin. Besides the Buddhist elements, it includes halls and altars to Chinese deities such as Mazu and Guanyu.
Our party toured the temple for about one hour. I took a video there that is also attached to this article.
Lungshan Temple in Taipei
The Huaxi Street Night Market
Our final destination was the Huaxi Street Night Market off of the Ximen station stop.
When I was first in Taiwan in the late 1960s, the Huaxi Street Night Market was known as Snake Alley. This was due to the snake handlers and snake-derived medicines and foods on this street. It was also notorious for prostitutes.
Huaxi Street had changed a lot since the late 1960s. I didn't notice any snake handlers or prostitutes. Many Taiwanese restaurants and small shops were along the street. While there, I remember introducing my wife and mother-in-law to Taiwanese-style boiled and fried pork dumplings and hot and sour soup.
After an early dinner, we were exhausted and walked a short distance back to our hotel.
Our Taipei November 25 Itinerary
Since a free breakfast was not included in our hotel rate, I left the hotel at about 8:00 to search for breakfast food. What I found was a Taiwanese restaurant that prepared my favorite food. It included baked sesame buns (shaobing,) Chinese crullers (youtiao,) and Taiwanese egg pancakes (danbing.) When I lived in Taiwan in the 1970s, I often had this food in the morning.
After purchasing enough food for my wife, mother-in-law, and me, I returned to the hotel where we ate in the room. It was now time to start November 25 sightseeing. This included taking the MRT to Tamsui and Shilin.
Our Trip to Tamsui
I planned the journey to Tamsui in Taipei's old northwestern suburbs because I wanted to pass by areas where I lived and visited in the late 1960s and early 1970s.
At approximately 9:30, we boarded the Blue Line at Ximen Station and took it to the Main Station. There we transferred to the Red Line which had its terminal station at Tamsui. The distance from the Main Station to Tamsui is 20 kilometers.
Along the way, we passed by the Minquan West, Yuanshan, Jiantan, Shilin, and Peitou stations. I visited the Minquan West and Yuanshan areas during my early Navy years. Unfortunately, I couldn't see anything because we were underground. Later, when emerged above ground on elevated tracks, we went by the Jiantan, Shilin, and Peitou stations. I used to live in the Jiantan area in 1971 and had visited the Shilin and Peitou areas before. All of these had changed greatly.
The MRT train we rode was large and comfortable. There was sufficient seating and even areas reserved for the handicapped. Before the train stopped at each station, announcements were made in Chinese Mandarin, Taiwanese, Hakka, and English noting the stations we were approaching.
After 35 minutes, we reached the Tamsui Station. Tamsui used to be a small fishing village years ago and is now a district of Taipei. It is located at the confluence of the Taiwan Strait and the Tamsui River.
Immediately we headed for the Tamsui Old Street. This street is lined with shops selling traditional Taiwanese pastries and specialties. There are also old Chinese temples in this area.
Sensing that my wife did not care much for Tamsui Old Street, we left the area and went back to the Tamsui Station.
Riding Taipei MRT to Danshui
Our Trip to Shilin
It was almost one in the afternoon when we arrived at the Shilin Station. Shilin has always been known for its bustling night market. When I lived in Taiwan from 1984 until 1985, Shilin also had a lively afternoon market.
To my disappointment, there was no afternoon market and the night market didn't start getting active until 7:00. Fortunately, we found a few restaurants that were open and had a beef noodle lunch in one of them.
Before leaving the Shilin Station, I noticed a sign announcing that the grounds of the Chiang Kai-Shek Shilin Official Residence were open to the public. General Chiang was formerly President of the Republic of China on the China mainland from 1928 to 1949 and then on Taiwan from 1949 to 1975.
Although visitors were not allowed into the residence, we toured the flower garden and viewed President Chiang's official limousine.
We returned to our hotel at about 4:00 and did no other sightseeing for the day.
Chiang Kai-Shek Official Vehicle
Our Return to Bangkok on November 26
We checked out of our hotel early on Tuesday morning, November 26, because we had a 1:00 p.m. flight back to Bangkok.
After taking the MRT from our hotel to the Taipei Main Station, we transferred to a high-speed rail train. The 30-kilometer trip from Taipei to Taoyuan Airport only took 35 minutes. We checked into our flight shortly before 11:00.
Following a good lunch at the airport, we departed Taiwan at 1:00 and arrived back at Suvarnabhumi Airport at 3:30 Thailand time. Next, we had to connect to a domestic flight to Udon Thani. This went smoothly and we arrived safely but very tired back home early in the evening.
This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and is not meant to substitute for formal and individualized advice from a qualified professional.
© 2022 Paul Richard Kuehn