Sunday, March 26, 2017

Why visit Taiwan?

Why visit Taiwan?

If you are a traveler from North America or Europe, chances are Taiwan is not on your map as a country to visit.  It should be! Three main reasons standout to me. Taiwan is a unique Asian country where there is a combination of Chinese and Japanese cultures. In many respects modern Taiwan has more in common with Japan than China due to five decades of occupation and influence before World War II. You can see the Japanese influence in the food and more importantly the respect and consideration shown by the Taiwanese people.  

Secondly, Taiwan is mostly mountainous. It's wonderful to experience the sights and tastes found in the cities, but the mountains are a short car or bus ride away. There are breathtaking views and when finished there is probably a hot spring nearby to relax in.

Lastly, Taiwan and its capital city Taipei are safe and easy to get around. Taipei has a great metro system that covers most parts of the city and where it doesn't taxis are clean, safe and cheap. There is a high speed train connecting the major cities on the west coast and most signs also have English. Many of the people in the big cities speak English, and if you ask them a question in English and they can't speak, they will find someone who can speak. It goes to the nature of the wonderful people of Taiwan.

In Taiwan, you can experience exotic Asian cultures, move around safely and easily, see wonderful landscapes, and be treated to exceptional Taiwanese hospitality. Why wouldn't you want to go?

Thursday, March 23, 2017

Taipei's Main Train Station

The Hub to all Things Good!

Welcome to Taipei Main station!

If you came from the airport by the MRT train, chances are you will end up at Taipei's Main train station. This is where you can connect to the High Speed Rail (HSR) system, the regular Taiwan Rail (TRA) and the excellent subway system (MRT). 

Luggage Storage

On the lower floor below the main floor and as you exit from the MRT train that came from Taoyuan airport, you will find coin operated luggage storage lockers. Cost is $70NT for 3 hous minimum and a 3 day maximum. Read carefully the instructions and any penalty for lost ticket. There is a help desk for the lockers that is only manned in the morning.

Luggage locker help with change machine
Luggage locker help and lockers
Train station luggage lockers

Instructions to use the coin operated luggage lockers

Tourist Information Help

There are two information desks on the main floor of the train station. As you look toward the ticket purchase counters, you will see information on the left.  This is for train schedules only not general tourist information. Tourist information has a small desk around the corner from this desk.

Ticket counters with train information desk only

Tourist information desk just around the corner


On the second floor you will find the best variety of food of any train station I have ever seen. You have nice restaurants with table service to food courts where you order at the counter. There are bakeries and a Starbucks!

Atrium view of part of the second floor food court
One of the food courts on the second floor

South entrance to Main Taipei station

Monday, March 20, 2017

MRT Train Now Available from Airport!

MRT Train Now Available from Airport!
March 2017 by Tom Olmsted

Well marked signs to and from airport
It's been many years coming, but there is now direct train service from Taipei Taiwan's Taoyuan international airport. It's about a 25 minute ride to the Main train station from Terminal 1. It also leaves from Terminal 2. Just follow the well marked signs in the terminal.  You will be going to a lower lever to pickup the train. 

Vending machines for tickets $NT160
Right now the fares from either terminal are NT80 one way, but will soon go up the the normal rate of NT160. It may be easiest to get a few hundred NT dollars from the airport so you can use the vending machines to get the single ride ticket or token. There is a manned information booth that can sell tickets, but the line was long. If you have a Taipei EASYCARD with a balance, that can also be used. Save your ticket.  It will be needed at the exit.

Manned ticket/information booth

Best to buy ticket from vending machine

The pink/purple color of the Express train
There are two types of trains leaving the airport. The Express train that makes only 2 stops before the Main train station of the Commuter train that makes 8 stops along the way. The stops are well marked above the train entrance and the trains are different colors. The Express is a Pink/Purple color.

The seats are comfortable, but not a lot of legroom if you are tall.
There are racks for luggage at the ends of each car.

The stops are clearly marked in the train

Exit by going up the escalators to the Main train station. Remember, in Taiwan, if you stand on the escalator, keep to the right so people can pass you on the left. Signage is clearly marked in English. Keep going straight to the Main train station. Follow other signs for taxis. If you are staying in the downtown Taipei area, it will probably be best to get a taxi to your hotel. They are cheap. Drivers won's speak English, so have your hotel information, preferably in Chinese characters.  You will also need cash. $400NT (about $14US) should get you anywhere in the city proper. Probably a lot less. 

Do you have time to kill before taking a High Speed Rail (HSR) train or are you hungry? Then head up to the 2nd floor of the Main train station to see the humongous selection of food restaurants and snacks!