Tuesday, October 10, 2017

I Didn't Chose Saipan, Saipan Chose Me

Ok. I think I cause quite a commotion when I post my U.S. visa just 2 days before my departure date in Manila. But rest assured that I didn't join the bandwagon of travel bloggers who leave their work/home country behind to do it full time. I wish I can do that but I don't think I was DESTINED for that kind of life. So kalma mga bes! For the record, I was leaving Manila to WORK abroad. I know I should have done this earlier but I never really considered doing it until last year. Most of my friends were telling me it would be easier for me to work abroad since I TRAVEL a lot & I wouldn't have a problem adjusting in a new environment. I think all of you would be surprise to know that I'm actually SCARED. I mean I was excited when I first got the job offer but as my estimated departure date gets nearer, I won't deny that I've thought so many times of backing out. I thought it would be easy..but I was wrong. Vacation & working abroad are two different things although I would like to think that I'm only here for vacation so I won't really feel the gravity of my situation. I don't even have a kids or a significant other that will be left behind but I still find it hard saying goodbye. It was a good thing that my leaving was so rush that I didn't even have a proper farewell to all my friends & even to my family & relatives. I will understand if most of my friends are going to stop speaking to me lol But believe it or not, just imagine how I felt when my agency said that I'm leaving in 1 week's time after I received my visa. In freaking 1 week!! I was suddenly doing everything all at once-finishing all my deadlines & turning over my work, packing & repacking, went home to the province for 3 days to spend time with my parents & family then back again in Manila 1 day before my flight. I was still packing hours before my flight mind you because I never tried packing that's good for a year, the most I did was only for a week. I really don't know how I did all of this but obviously I was dead tired. When I was on my way to the airport, I was resting my head in one of my travelling bag but the taxi driver misunderstood it & commented "Nalulungkot ka noh sa mga maiiwan mo dito sa Pinas?" I blatantly replied "Ay ndi po. Pagod na pagod po ako. Wala na po akong time mag-emote" Ayun natawa si kuya. Don't get me wrong. I'm sad that I'm leaving but I was more tired to tell you honestly. The first thing I did the moment I arrived here in our apartment was to SLEEP. Yes ladies and gentlemen I just sleep my first day here in SAIPAN. Everything was a blur to me & I wasn't even the least bit excited. All through out the 8 hours of flight from Manila to Saipan I just wanted to get it over with. Manhid na ako bes sa sobrang stress at pagod lol I have year to explore this mysterious island anyway.

So why SAIPAN? To tell you honestly I don't know. I don't even know Saipan EXIST. That there's even a place as such. Everytime I mention Saipan to my friends or even to my family, most of them will always ask me "Saan yun?" I actually had to google this place when I was invited for a job interview & as expected my employer who turned out to be my boss ask me "Do you know anything about Saipan?" I answered a little too confidently "Yes but only a little. (There's really not much about Saipan in the internet) All I know is that it's part of Guam" My boss replied "No. It's not part of Guam. It's NEAR Guam" So much for researching ayun na-wow mali tuloy ako. I really don't know why I was hired lol I think it's probably because they badly needed an Accountant hehe Anyway, I accepted the job offer in February of this year so I kinda know that I'm leaving before the year ends. I just didn't say anything since it's not yet final & all of this are just verbal/online agreement between me & the agency. Nevertheless I did ASSUME that I would be leaving so I did everything I could to enjoy my stay in the Philippines or more specifically to TRAVEL as much as I can. If you've been reading my blog, this was my BIGGER reason why I went panic flying this year. I was booking flights after flights & was flying almost every month. As exciting as that sounds, my bank account begs to differ otherwise so don't make me your #travelgoals haha This is not my normal travel expenditure. I repeat. THIS IS NOT MY NORMAL TRAVEL EXPENDITURE. What was supposed to be my 2 years worth of travel expenses I did it in 8 months. I just really went all out this year since I figured I might NOT be able to travel out of Saipan for a year since the plane tickets here are astronomical but who knows anything can change. I know myself too well, I might go panic flying again lol

Seriously I keep asking myself why I'm here. What in the world am I even doing here when I could have stayed in my beloved home country if I wanted to. I DON'T even KNOW a single person here in Saipan. All the job application from day 1 to getting here I did it on my OWN by applying through an Agency so tigilan na po ang chismis lol It was really a leap of faith but now that I think about it, I think I just jump off the highest building-head first. Some were even questioning my decision why I'm chasing this dream amidst all the uncertainty & it came to the point that I'm the only one who can see it becoming a reality. Yes I was going after this dream blindly & I would be lying if I said I wasn't worried that everything can go wrong. I can't exactly put into words all the sleepless nights, headaches, stress & tensions just to be here but I can now say that I'm exactly where I'm supposed to be. That everything went according to plan. That this did not turned out to be a big scam which I know most of my haters expect it to be. That I'm perfectly alright..although I'm still adjusting with my new life.

I might not know now why I'm here but God really do have a weird sense of humor because come to think of it, I did state in my blog's bio the "Location: Probably by the beach" before all this transition even takes place and it's funny that I am CURRENTLY living by the beach. So to end this narrative, it's never too late to dream BIG. If it both scares & excites you, that's when you go for it. ALL IN. To hell with playing it safe.

Thursday, September 14, 2017

Giveaway-Win A Free Private Tour in Taipei (Jiufen)!

Hi mga bes!

Yes you read that right! In collaboration with Round Taiwan Round, I'll be giving away not one but 2 Free Private Tour in Taipei (yay!). Click the link here Jiufen Custom Shared Tour for more details about the tour :)

About their product:
Round Taiwan Round is launching a revolutionary travel service called Tripool which will enable travellers to enjoy the cost-benefit of carpool, but also have the luxury to customize itinerary for the scenic areas chosen. So it's like a shared tour except you can customize where you want to go. For example the Jiufen tour that I'm giving away, you can select up to 6 awesome tour spots around that area :)

Tour value is US$30.00, if with English-speaking driver then it's US$70.00 so what are you waiting for? Christmas definitely came early!

How To Join:
Just leave a comment here in my blog or in the widget below why you should win the Jiufen Private Tour. You can state your reasons as briefly as possible or a lengthy one if you want, it's all up to you. I will also be announcing this in my facebook & instagram account so galingan niyo mga bes. This contest will run from September 15-30, 2017! Good luck to all of you!

But wait..there's more!

If you happen to be in Taiwan & wanted to book the Jiufen Custom Shared Tour, you can avail a 5% discount if you use my Coupon Code: MimizTravel
Enjoy guys for this exciting giveaway!

a Rafflecopter giveaway
Below are the places that you're going to visit!

Wednesday, July 26, 2017

Solo Travel Guide: Taiwan on a Budget (UPDATED)

I know. I can already foresee the onslaught of questions coming my way. "What's up with all this solo travelling?" My friends have already cornered me with questions after questions. I think next time magpapa press conference na po ako choz haha I cannot reveal the bigger reason..yet. Let's just say I just wanted to see the world as much as I can or more precisely as much 'as my bank account can'. After my recent trip to Bali cut a big slashed to my savings, I need to make a damage control. Kelangan galingan ko sa Taiwan bes haha Fortunately, Taiwan turned out to be really, really, really cheap for a solo traveller or for any kinds of traveller.

How To Apply for a Taiwan Tourist Visa for Filipinos

Note: TECO just announced that Taiwan is now visa free for Filipinos starting November 1, 2017 to July 31, 2018 (on a 9-month trial period) so yes everyone can now travel to Taiwan as long as the following requirements are met:

  • Stay no longer than 14 days.
  • At least 6 months validity of passport
  • With a return or onward ticket
  • Proof of hotel booking or host's contact details
  • No criminal record in Taiwan

Where To Stay in Taiwan
There are 3 things I always consider every time I booked a hotel/hostel namely 1) close to MRT transportation 2) free breakfast & 3) affordable. So I don't care whether I'll be staying in a backpacker's hostel or guesthouse for as long as these 3 conditions are met. But don't expect too much about the free breakfast though, its just free coffee, water & bread. I just think that if it's available in budget hotels, they really care about customer satisfaction so everything else follows-
free wifi, cleanliness, convenience & good facility. It's a good thing that a lot of this are being offered abroad, you just have to learn where to look.

I decided to stay in Next Taipei Hostel-Ximending & I have to say this is the best backpacker's hotel I've ever been to. I was already impressed that they actually send a direct email to me addressing my request that I will be arriving early because most of the time budget hotels won't even bother to contact you. They are very responsive & will reply to you within minutes. They actually took the time to answer all my questions i.e. thorough guide on how to reach their hotel from Ximen Station so it was easy to locate them. The hostel itself was superb, I can't say anything wrong with it. I definitely get more than what I pay for.

How To Get To Taipei City from Taoyuan Airport
Taoyuan Airport is around 45 minutes to an hour away from the airport & the two most efficient & affordable modes of transportation are MRT & Bus.

  • You can choose to take either Express (38 minutes) or Commuter Train (1 hour & 10 minutes)
  • Fare is NTD 160.00 or PHP 272.00
  • Operating hours is from 6:00AM to 11:00PM
By Bus:
  • Bus counters are located on the ground floor of Taoyuan airport & the buses are located just outside. 
  • Bus fare is around NTD 125.00-145.00
  • Operating hours is only until midnight so if you're arriving later than that, you can take Bus 1819 which can take you up to Taipei Main Station only. From there just take a taxi to your hotel.
I actually arrived in Taiwan after midnight & was cleared in the Immigration around 1:30A.M. so I decided to just sleep in the airport. Backpacker at its finest mga bes! I'm really allergic to taxis abroad, I only did it in Bali & will only consider it in extreme emergency cases haha Taoyuan airport offers sleeping lounges, free drinking water, free wifi & charging so it still feels like your sleeping in a hostel.

Taipei Currency
I was surprised to discover that Taiwan doesn't have any money changers scattered in the city so I was kind of sad that I can't play my little game with them haha You can only change money in the banks but are only open during weekdays. So if you're arriving over the weekend, just change in the money changers inside the airport although there's a 3% service charge per transaction.

Language Barrier
Mandarin is the preferred & most commonly understood language in Taiwan. I was kicking myself why I didn't even bother to review my Mandarin background, I am now more exposed to Korean thanks to K-dramas (aminin niyo kayo rin) haha I can just do numbers & the smallest phrases which is not very helpful in terms of asking around. Most locals especially locals who live in the far provinces like Jiufen, Pingxi & Shifen and even bus drivers do not understand English so I had a hard time communicating with them. I suggest translate the name of your destination to Mandarin or have it google translate & save it to your phone.

Chinese Food
Oh.my.god. the food! Food is everywhere in Taiwan. It's only my first day but I was eating like crazy and I wasn't even in the night market yet. My first & second day was spent visiting the Northern part of Taiwan namely Yehliu, Jiufen, Pingxi & Shifen and the food game in there was already intense. There are a lot of varieties to choose from, it will be a crime not to try their food. It doesn't help that everybody is eating so you will surely be tempted to hoard all the food. Don't worry with all the walking that you're going to do in Taiwan, you will burn everything right away.

Places To Visit in Taipei
The thing about Taipei is that almost all the tourist spot are FREE & transportation cost is also CHEAP so you will really save a lot. Be sure to buy a reloadable Metro Pass or Easy Card which is available in the airport and any MRT station. You can use this in taking MRT & buses across the city. For more information about Easy Card, visit Taipei Metro Pass

Yehliu Geopark
It is home to a number of unique rock formations located in the Wanli District, New Taipei, Taiwan.

By Long Distance Bus:
From Taipei West Bus Station - Terminal A (located at Taipei Main Station), go to the KuoKuang (國光) window and purchase a ticket for NT$96 to Yehliu Geopark (野柳地質公園). The journey takes around 90 minutes, and the bus will drop you on the main road just outside the park entrance. Walk down the lane on the left side to enter.

By Shuttle Bus:
Ride comfortably in a shuttle bus from Ximen to Yehliu, followed by the Ying Yang Sea, 13-Layer Remains, Golden Waterfall, Jiufen (九份), and Shifen Old Streets (十分老街), leaving at 9AM and returning at 17:45.

By North Coast Shuttle Bus (from Tamsui (淡水, Danshui) or Keelung):

Take the North Coast Shuttle Bus NT$200 all day unlimited rides from either MRT Tamsui Station or Keelung Railway Station.

Jiufen, also spelled Jioufen or Chiufen (Chinese: 九份; pinyin: Jiǔfèn; literally: "nine portions"), is a mountain area in Ruifang District, New Taipei, Taiwan. Jiufen Old Street is very interesting & unique place. I thought it's just a single aisle when you see it from the entrance but it's actually composed of numerous small alleys & lanes that snake around the area and sometimes even run beneath buildings.

By Train + Bus:
From Taipei Main Station, take the train north to Ruifang Station. After exiting the station and facing the Wellcome supermarket, take a left and walk 200 metres down Mingdeng Road. Next to the police station is a bus station (named Local Residents Plaza, 區民廣場) with routes 827 and 788 heading toward Jiufen. Please note that the bus stop next to the police station heads east toward Jiufen, and the bus stop across from the police station heads west toward Taipei. Route 825 provides weekend service only. From here, the bus trip takes roughly 15 minutes, and the fare is NT$15. It is recommended to take bus 1062 back to Taipei.

By Bus:
From MRT Zhongxiao Fuxing (忠孝復興), Brown Line 1 and Blue Line 5 interchange, leave from Exit 1 and take bus route 1062 (Keelung Bus) to Jinguashi, alight at Jiufen. The ride is about 1 hour and the fare is NT$102. Bus 788 is also available from Keelung.

Pingxi (平溪) and Shifen (十分)
Both towns are rich in culture and history that provides a nice glimpse of Taiwan's natural scenery. Events such as the Sky Lantern Festival draw visitors year round to create a Chinese Lantern (天燈) with a wish written on it to set into the sky, all for a modest price of NT$150-200. I personally think this 2 towns are very similar but Shifen is bigger & is well known for the Shifen Waterfall so if you only have limited time just go to Shifen instead.

How to get here:
From Taipei Main Station, take a northbound train (except Keelung-bound trains) towards Ruifang Station. Transfer to the Pingxi Line (平溪線) and purchase a One Day Ticket for the Pingxi Line, NT$52 or
From MRT Muzha Station (木柵, Brown Line 1), take bus 1076 towards Pingxi (平溪).

Tip: Alterntively you can visit Yehliu Geopark + Jiufen + Shifen in one day if you book through Klook. I was supposed to book this tour but all the tickets were sold out on my preferred travel dates so be sure to book early to save you all the hassle.

Yangmingshan National Park
The area is home to numerous parks, hiking trails, interesting plants and wildlife, and the internationally famous hot springs. I thought this is just a 'simple' park, a kind of park that you can just walk around but it turned out to be big enough to fit one city so taking the shuttle bus is highly recommended when visiting one park to another.

Yes naman uso din pala ang Pre-nup shoot doon..more wedding ideas mga bes!
How to get here:
From MRT 2 Jiantan station (劍潭), leave Exit 1 (Shilin Night Market), and walk to the left-side bus station, busses heading north. Take either the small bus S15 (PREFERRED) or S17 to Yangmingshan station (陽明山). Fare is NT$15, payable by cash or Easycard. It travels past the main transfer station to other destinations such as Xiaoyoukeng (小油坑), Lengshuikeng (冷水坑), and Qingtiangang Grassland Trails (擎天崗).

National Palace Museum

Andito lang pala yung nawawala kung bracelet choz!
This is the grandest & most glamorous museum in Taiwan & is sure worth the visit.
> Take bus Red 30, 304, 255, 815, S18 or S19 at Shilin Station.
> Operating hours: Fri-Sat 8:30-21:00; Sun-Thu: 8:30-18:30

Chiang Kai-Shek Memorial Hall

> Exit 5 at Chiang Kai-Shek Memorial Hall Station
> Opens daily from 9:00-18:00

Longshan Temple

> Exit 1 at Longshan Temple Station. Head north on Xiyuan Road for 5 minutes.
> Opens daily from 6:00-22:00

National Sun Yat-Sen Memorial Hall

> Exit 4 at Sun Yat-Sen Memorial Hall
> Opens daily from 9:00-18:00

Taipei 101

> Exit 4 at Taipei 101/ World Trade Center
> Entrance fee for Observatory is NTD 600.00 but you can buy it for a discount if you book through Klook
> Opens daily from 9:00-22:00 (last sntry 21:15)

Elephant Mountain
Also known as the Nangang District Hiking Trail and Xiangshan (象山), it provides the best view of Taipei City. Be sure to bring a drinking water with you, the trail is quite a long stairs up & pretty steep. Hihingalin ka bes! You sure will going to burn everything that you eat for the past 3 days lol.

> After arriving at Xiangshan station (象山), the terminus of Red Line 2, leave from Exit 2 and continue walking alongside the edge of the park. At the end of this road, take a left and follow until the entrance for Xiangshan Hiking Trail (象山登山步道), total 650 metres, around 20 mins.

Shilin Night Market

Eto talaga yung finale ko mga bes haha I think I went a little crazy shopping & eating here. I almost missed my flight just to shop here one last time lol Take note I was staying in the heart of Ximending Night Market but I still went out of my way just to go here. The prices in Shilin is actually cheaper compared in Ximending so this is the best place to buy pasalubong. I  did to try to haggle once but the vendor just look at me as if I'm from another planet so I don't think my charm works here haha Sorry naman hindi pa ako nkamove-on sa Bali
> Nearest MRT Station is actually Jiantan & not Shilin Station. Believe me I tried to both ways hehe

Below is my Itinerary for 5 days, 4 nights stay:

Day 0

12:30 AM
Arrival in Taoyuan International Airport

1:30 AM
Sleep in the airport

Day 1 (Yehliu Geopark, Jiufen, Ximending)
6:00-7:00 AM
Buy a reloadable Easy Card in the airport
Ride Bus 1819 to Taipei Main Station
NTD 100.00
NTD 125.00
Transfer to Blue line going to Dingpu & get off at Ximen Station. 5 min. walk to Next Taipei Hostel
NTD 20.00
It was still too early for my check-in but the hotel staff was kind enough to let me leave my luggage, allow me use to their bathroom to freshen-up (borlogs na ako bes) & access to their pantry.

From Ximen Station get off at Taipei Main Station. Walk to Taipei West Bus Station. Buy bus ticket at Kuo-Kuang Motor Transport & ride the bus going to Yehliu Geopark.
NTD 20.00

NTD 96.00
ETA Yehliu Geopark.
Pay the entrance fee

NTD 80.00
Lunch at the nearby eatery
NTD 150.00
ETD Yehliu Geopark to Jiufen. Ride Bus 790 to Keelung Train Station. Transfer to Bus 788* to Jiufen.
*Bus 788 is actually on the other side of the street from Keelung Station & it’s quite far so you better ask around. It took me around 30 minutes to locate the bus stop.
NTD 30.00

Ride the Bus 788 to Jiufen
NTD 30.00
Explore Jiufen

ETD to Taipei. Ride Bus 790 to Ruifang Station  
Train from Ruifang Station to Taipei City
NTD 15.00

NTD 49.00
Dinner at Ximending Night Market
NTD 100.00
Back at the Hotel
NTD 529.00
Day 2 (Pingxi, Shifen)
Walk to Ximen Station. Take MRT Blue line to Zhongxiao Fuxing Station
Transfer to Brown line & alight at Muzha Station
NTD 20.00

NTD 30.00
Ride Bus 795 to Pingxi
NTD 45.00
ETA Pingxi. Explore Pingxi Old Street

NTD 100.00
Train from Pingxi Station to Shifen
NTD 20.00
ETA Shifen. Explore Shifen old street & visit Shifen Waterfalls
Note: Shifen Waterfall is quite a long walk from Shifen Old Street around 45 minutes or so but the scenery is good & the waterfall itself is amazing. You can also fly sky lantern in Shifen for NTD 200.00.

Train from Shifen to Ruifang Station
NTD 19.00
Buy ticket from Ruifang Station to Taipei
NTD 49.00
Ride MRT Blue line from Taipei Main Station to Ximen Station
NTD 20.00
Dinner in Ximending Night Market
NTD 100.00
Back at the Hotel
NTD 529.00
Day 3 (Yangmingshan National Park, National Palace Museum, Shilin Night Market)
From Ximen Station take MRT Blue line to Taipei Main Station
NTD 20.00
Take the Bus 260 outside of Taipei Main Station or located just one block from Kuo-Kuang Motor Transport
NTD 30.00
ETA Yangmingshan National Park. Purchase the unlimited ride ticket or you can use your Easy Card for Shuttle 108 around the park.
NTD 60.00
Explore Yangmingshan

Take the Small Bus S15 or S17 from Qingtiangang bus stop to Jiantan Station (MRT Red line)
NTD 15.00
Lunch in Jiantan
NTD 150.00
Take bus Red 30, 304, 255, 815 from Jiantan Station to National Palace Museum
NTD 20.00
Explore National Palace Museum. Pay the entrance fee.
NTD 250.00
Ride the bus from National Palace Museum to Shilin Station
NTD 20.00
Shop till you drop in Shilin Night Market 😊

Back at the hotel
NTD 529.00
Day 4 (Chiang Kai-Shek, Longshan Temple, Sun Yat-Sen, Taipei 101, Elephant Mountain
From Ximen Station take the Green line going to Xindian & get off at Chiang Kai-Shek Memorial Hall
NTD 20.00
Explore Chiang Kai-Shek
From Chiang Kai-Shek Station go back to Ximen Station.
From Ximen Station, take MRT Blue line to Longshan Temple
NTD 20.00

NTD 20.00
Explore Longshan Temple
Lunch on the nearby eatery
NTD 100.00
Take the MRT Blue line from Longshan Temple to Sun Yat-Sen Memorial Hall
NTD 20.00
Explore Sun Yat-Sen Memorial Hall
Walk from Sun Yat-Sen to Taipei City Hall & Taipei 101. Explore Taipei 101
From Taipei 101 Station get off at Xiangshan Station MRT Red line
NTD 20.00
Take Exit 2 & walk towards the Elephant Mountain Trail. Start Trekking.

Hike down

From Xiangshan Station to Jiantan Station
NTD 30.00
Pasalubong shopping in Shilin Night Market

NTD 200.00
From Jiantan Staion to Taipei Main Station
Transfer to Blue line & get off at Ximen Station
NTD 20.00
NTD 20.00
Check-out in the hotel

From Ximen Station alight at Taipei Main Station
NTD 20.00
Ride the Bus 1819 at Kuo-Kuang Terminal to Taoyuan Airport
NTD 125.00
NTD 3,985.00/
Php 6,774.50

To sum it all up:
Plane Ticket: Php 4,026.76
Travel Tax: Php 1,620.00
Expenses in Taipei: Php 6,774.50
Grand Total: Php 12,421.76