Flight and Arrival
The economy seats on our Eva flight were about par for international economy seats. I divided my time between two movies and snoozing, while Yuling only snuck in one movie. It was my first time requesting a particular meal option (vegetarian) ahead of time on the flight. Eva air was diligent about accommodating my preferences, but the food was not to my taste so I didn’t eat very much on the flight.
One distinguishing feature on Eva were the free travel accessories they provided in the lavatories: toothbrush, sleep mask, and ear plugs.
Clearing immigration was uneventful. Given that our plane was arriving in the early hours of the morning, I was concerned the immigration desks would be understaffed, but we made it through in about 10 minutes. This may have to do with the fact that the bulk of the non-resident passengers were continuing on to other destinations such as Thailand.
Transport to the Hotel
As we had not done much research on transportation options, we were largely at the mercy of Google Maps to provide information on public transit. For us that meant two buses: one express bus from the airport to the heart of downtown Taipei, and a second local bus to within a couple of blocks of our hotel.
The busses at TPE are easily located by following signs after customs. Tickets are most easily purchased by credit card using vending machines located just before you step outside. We took bus 1819, which cost NT140 each. Besides a credit card, you can also pay your fare using exact change (which you likely don’t have at this point) or a reloadable EasyCard (which you can’t buy at the airport).
Once downtown, we still needed a means to pay for the local bus. We stepped inside a 7-11 convenience store (easier to find than a Starbucks in Seattle), and purchased two EasyCards (pre-paid card used to pay for transit among other things) for NT1000 each (100 for the card, 900 for balance).
We were staying at the CitizenM hotel near North Gate. We arrived a little past 9 am, which was far too early to check in. The hotel staff were more than happy to hold onto our luggage and use their lounge area, however. We paid for access to the hotel’s breakfast buffet, which included your choice of coffee beverage, for NT400 each. From here, we rested a bit and worked on planning the rest of our day.
National Palace Museum
We took bus 304 from our hotel to the National Palace Museum. It is a bit out of the heart of the city. Visiting on the first day made sense to us because we were looking for an activity that wasn’t terribly physically exerting, would fit nicely into the time we had before 3 pm when we could check in, and might be inconvenient to fit into schedules on other days.
The bus ride was about 45 minutes. Expect standing room only. And if you’re considering bringing your bird friend along, you can forget about it.
The first thing you’ll see when arriving at the National Palace Museum is a large gate followed by a long staircase. The actual museum can be seen at the top.
We purchased tickets for NT350 each, and an audio guide for NT150 each. (Neither of us felt the audio guide added much value to the visit, as there is ample text in English available to read). Highlights of this museum include a wonderful collection of Buddhist statues and some intricately carved jade masterpieces. Before leaving, we stopped by the first floor cafe for some bubble tea.
We took the same 304 bus back toward downtown Taipei, but continues one stop past our hotel to the Ximen area. Following a lead from Lonely Planet, we sought out a Japanese-style cafe.
Eighty Eightea serves light vegetarian meals and snacks along with an impressive collection of teas. While many of the tea options are simply served in a cup which you drink as is, others come to you as kettle of water, a series of cups of various sizes and shapes, and of course the loose leaf tea. From there you assemble it yourself. If it is your first time, the helpful staff will walk you through the proper way to brew and serve the tea you selected, and will ensure you understand before leaving you to it.
Given our early arrival, that was enough to wrap up our day. We returned to CitizenM to complete our check in. While the rooms are small by western standards (but normal for what you find in this price range in Taipei), CitizenM includes some unique modern touches. The room is completely controllable using the in-room iPad Mini. This includes manipulating the TV, lowering blinds, and even adjusting the color of the mood lighting in the room.