Tag Archives: Taipei Station

Taipei Tour, and Ximending

Taiwan is such an easy place to get around, whether by car or public transit, that we prefer a do-it-yourself (DIY) tour (自由行) at your own pace than a “herd the duckling” packaged tour. To begin with, the electric high speed rail (HSR) with a length of 345 km and speed of up to 300 km/hour, could take you from the capital Taipei in the north to Kaohsiung, the second largest city in Taiwan, in the south in under 100 minutes. The seats are wider, similar to business class in planes, and have more leg room, plus you can buy all kinds of snacks from push-carts or in dining cars.

Taiwan High Speed Rail

Taiwan High Speed Rail

Seats are similar to planes, but wider and with more leg room. There's push cart snacks for sale.

Seats are similar to planes, but wider and with more leg room. There’s push cart snacks for sale.

We like Taipei’s subway too. Taipei Metro (MRT) has 5 lines, 129 km of tracks, and 107 stations, taking you to most places in Greater Taipei Area (GTA) (metro population of 6.95 million) within 30 min. In contrast, Greater Toronto Area has a slightly smaller population of 5.58 million), yet its metro (TTC) has only 68 km of tracks and 68 stations in 4 lines, taking you to far fewer places.

But the biggest differences are in the price and the riders. MRT’s pricing is proportional to the distance traveled, charging a minimum of NT$16 (C$0.64) for the first 5 km, topping at NT$52 (C$2.08) for 31 km and over, if you use the Easycard (similar to Hong Kong’s Octopus card). TTC has a single cash fare of C$3 regardless of distance, even if you travel as little as one stop. Toronto just does not have a very equitable pricing scheme because it’s behind in technology.

We give a thumbs up to Taiwan’s public transit riders, who are more polite and friendly. People line up to get on public transportation. There are priority seats in buses and trains designated for seniors, pregnant women or those with young children, and the handicapped, both in Taiwan and Toronto. But unlike in Toronto where those signs are ignored, riders in Taiwan do reserve those seats for those they were intended for. One time we saw a young woman sat down in the priority seats. The senior beside her said, “There are vacant seats further away. Use those.” She replied, “What’s the big deal?” He answered, “It is a big deal to help those in need!” She quickly moved away. It’s the culture to respect elders and assist those needing help. Hats off to them!

Taipei Metro (MRT) with 5 lines reach many places in Greater Taipei Area (GTA)

Taipei Metro (MRT) with 5 lines reach many places in Greater Taipei Area (GTA)

Subway stations are generally bigger compared to Toronto or Hong Kong, but with very few ads.

Subway stations are generally bigger compared to Toronto or Hong Kong, but with very few ads.

Subway trains are open between "boxcars", and clean.

Subway trains are open between “boxcars”, and clean.

Taipei Station is the hub, like Toronto's Union Station

Taipei Station is the hub, like Toronto’s Union Station

Since it was already afternoon when we traveled from Taichung to Taipei, we had only half a day and decided to tour Ximending, a famed shopping district frequented by young people. Most pedestrians were born post-90’s. We guesstimated the average age to be 20-something. The block encompassed several streets and are closed to traffic as pedestrian walkways. Most shops sell either fashion clothing, or are restaurants. There are many street vendors, including artists painting caricatures, musicians, people selling arts and crafts etc. And the later it gets, the busier the streets become – truly a hangout for young people.

Ximending, a hangout for young people and shopping district

Ximending, a hangout for young people and shopping district

Ximending 1

Ximending 1

Ximending 2

Ximending 2

The famous Ah-chung Rice Noodle, where people wait in long lines for a bowl of noodles to eat while standing on the street.

The famous Ah-chung Rice Noodle, where people wait in long lines for a bowl of noodles to eat while standing on the street.

Street artists (painters, musicians) often perform on the block of streets closed to traffic.

Street artists (painters, musicians) often perform on the block of streets closed to traffic.

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