22 January 2013

20hour Layover in Taiwan: My First (and 2nd) Hostel Experience

After deciding on the Taiwan layover, the decision to get a Taipei City hotel was easy - yet difficult. I never had the experience of staying in a hostel, and quite frankly I only hear about it from travel sites and the Globe Trekker (originally broadcast as Lonely Planet) series back in the 90's. Yay Ian Wright! Personal Tidbit: I was a short lived travel documentary writer.

I have to admit, I was a little scared, because the only thing I could book in my hostel of choice was a co-ed dormitory room for one night. In any case I didn't see any of my roommates.

Ni Hao Taipei is an EXCELLENT hostel. I think i paid a little bit more, but for the amenities, and the way it looked, and the location - IT WAS WORTH IT.

Know that if you are checking in late, you need to inform them - hostels don't operate 24 hour lobbies, as most small backpacker-type places.

Upon checking in, I was given a card key, and a small watch key. The card let me into my room, and the watch key opened my locker.

The beds are no ordinary bunk beds. They have custom built bunks for each person and it has a lamp, a socket and a curtain for privacy. It blocks out the light when others are there, and makes you feel you are in your own personal pod. Bonus points: If your top bunk bed faces the air conditioner, it blocks out the A/C and keeps you warm.

The mattress had the right firmness - not too soft and not too firm and the comforters are soft and fluffy! Just the way I like them.

My low bunk.

check out the "stairs" to go to the top bunk

The shower in this dorm, is absolutely AWESOME. With soap and shampoo dispensers for your convenience too.

On my layover going back to NY, I was in the girls' dorm, and I got a top bunk. See the curtain at the bottom? That's where I was the first time. This one had a ladder access because the room is smaller.

This dorm had 2 shower and toilet combos. The shower, while not as complicated as the other one, is still awesome. It had the faucet option, the over the head option and a hand shower option. It also had body wash and shampoo dispensers on the side.


Electric Kettle, Washing board + laundry soap and hair dryer (in basket)
- provided at the girl's dorms.

NiHao Taipei does not own the entire floor of the building, but rather it rents various units within the building that it is housed. The lobby is on the 11th floor and I stayed at the dorm on the 12th floor and the 7th floor. It is housed in an office building, and has a 24 hour guard on duty at the building lobby. It felt safe and the location is prime. The building is 2 blocks away from the bus station to the airport (about 10 mins walk) and is on the next block from the Taiwan Main Station. This is close to the M7 exit of the Taipei Metro.

The door to my 7th floor dorm.
I've said it before, and I will say it again.

I am a happy customer taking a selfie at the elevator.
I booked my room via my favorite site to book budget accommodations - Booking.com.

For more pics and reviews - here's the link to NiHao Taipei on Booking.com. 
Make sure you print out the booking confirmation - it will have the name and address of NiHao written in Chinese Characters - this will be your lifesaver. When you ask for directions, just give them your print out.

NiHao Taipei
11F-5 No. 41, Section 1
ZongXiao West Road
Zhongzhen District 10041 Taipei City, Taiwan

19 January 2013

20 Hour Layover in Taiwan: How to get out of Taipei Taoyuan Airport and Eating at Ning Xia Night Market

I finally paid Manila a visit after 10 years of living in New York City. Last summer, I went on a smorgasbord trip to Italy, Israel and France (and havent blogged most of it yet - soon, I will do it!)

I ended up in Taiwan because some flights to Manila involved 20 hour layovers. The choices were Japan and Taiwan. I picked Taiwan because I have never been there, and it was 20 hours both ways (as opposed to Japan having 20 hours only one way) and it was a cheaper place and the visa for Philippine passport holders with US/Schengen Visas/GreenCards were easy to obtain online. To me, the 20 hour layover is a "free trip"!

20 hours is good enough if you know how to get out of the airport like a pro. And i did it like a pro, thanks to this youtube video!

Note that there is the NT$90 and NT$125 fare. The difference is 30 mins faster. Kuo Kang bus lines will charge NT$125 but will be 30 minutes faster than CitiAirBus. It seems "a lot" but really, you are paying less than US$2 more. On my first try, I took the cheaper bus because I didn't know any better, and I was being a cheapskate. This proved to be lucky because the CitiAirBus takes you back to the bus terminal itself. The Kuo Kang bus let us out at a regular bus stop somewhere around the Taipei Main station, and it could be a little troublesome to find the bus terminal back to the airport. IF YOU GET LOST, JUST ASK!

Bus Ticket Counters

My Baggage Tag and Ticket. They stored my carry-on under the bus.

This was my bus, dont worry - the stands are numbered.
If you are still confused, just show your ticket to the drivers
and keep saying "Taipei Main Station."

The driver's cockpit. He has his own ticket machine.
My bus driver was doing some comedy while driving,
but I couldn't understand a thing and everyone was just laughing at the jokes.
After his comic stint, he started using the PA system
as a Karaoke and serenaded the passengers!
The bus will take you to TAIPEI MAIN STATION. If you are staying for the night, make sure that your hotel is walking distance from the bus station, because it's easier to deal with than finding a cab to take you there.

The bus ride is convenient, cheap and safe. I generally prefer taking public transportation out of any airport because it's I know it wont charge me extra, or do some touristy upsell. Take note, most airports are NOT IN the city itself, so it is cost effective to learn how to take the bus out of the airport and into the city.

One lesson to learn, HAVE YOUR HOTEL NAME WRITTEN IN CHINESE CHARACTERS SO DIRECTIONS ARE EASIER TO ASK. A lot of people in Taiwan speak English, however, the English spelling of the streets will be different from the street sign and different from the one you will get from Google maps.

As soon as I got off the bus, I didn't understand where I was, nor did I understand the orientation of the streets. First, I asked a bus driver where my hotel was, but he didn't understand my map. So I asked two twentysomething girls where my hotel was and they walked me to my hotel (it was about a 15 minute walk, and it was half past midnight!!!) They were mapping it out with their phones and such and didn't even think that my little hostel existed. I gave them both a hug and they thought I was brave enough to travel by myself.

After I dropped my stuff off at NiHao Taipei, I asked the building guard (the hostel is not the entire building, it just rents a couple of units in the building.) to find me a taxi to take me to the night market - mind you, the guard was apprehensive because it was already late. I thought I was going to Shilin Night Market - however the cab driver brought me to the Ning Xia Night Market.

And I ate my ass off.

The first stall I saw. OH MY! YUMMY!

Get a basket, put your choices in a basket and they will grill it for you.



The night market was half empty and some stalls were closing.

I didn't eat these. I was too scared of deboning while walking.

I think this was the small intestine in large intestine. I didn't try it

Eggs beside mop and bucket.

Braised pork feet
I ate it on this table with steel chopsticks!
It is served with rice a side of tea egg and bamboo shoots.

Oh what an exciting time!
These in addition to fried chicken...
Plenty of yummy innards choose from!

IMHO, these had too much MSG, and i didnt even finish it.

In this trip, I realized that grilled is the way to go, and if you can point to a picture menu - you can order. People are happy to serve you food as long as you are not squeamish.

The stalls were about to close when I got here, so for the "full experience" in photos, you can go to My Kafkaesque Life.