Wednesday, June 21, 2017

Long Flight Layover in Taiwan? Take a Short Sightseeing Tour

The night skyline of Taipei City. (Sean Pavone/Shutterstock)

Every once in awhile, airplane travelers run into that seven-hour layover—an awkward time that is too short to get any real sightseeing done, yet too long to sit idly around the airport twiddling thumbs before the next flight.

Awkwardly-timed layovers are not an issue for travelers at Taiwan’s Taoyuan International Airport.

The Taiwan Tourism Bureau is now offering free half-day bus trips around parts of the island. Travelers can immerse themselves in the rich cultural heritage of Taiwan and savor tasty Taiwanese culinary fare.

The Morning Tour: Explore Sanxia and Yingge, Hubs of Tradition and Cultural Arts

The morning tour (around 8 a.m. to 1 p.m. local time) brings travelers to Sanxia and Yingge, two districts renowned for their historical importance and traditional arts like indigo dyeing and ceramics.

A dragon stone carving at Qingshui Zushi Temple in Sanxia District. (Lando9896/Shutterstock)

Sanxia District is a former production center of teas and dyes. The first stop at Sanxia is Qingshui Zushi Temple, one of the most beautiful places of worship in Taiwan. Breathe in the sweet scent of incense at this peaceful Taoist retreat, and admire the intricate stone carvings adorning the walls and columns.

Sanxia Old Street features red-bricked architecture in the Baroque style. Stores along the street sell delicious Taiwanese snacks like “cow’s horn” bread, which is unique to the district, or shaved ice. Sanxia Old Street shops also carry dyed cloths, traditional handicrafts, teas, and trinkets.

Taiwanese shaved ice with fresh mangos. (glen photo/Shutterstock)

But if travelers are searching for ceramics, wait for the next tour stop at Yingge District. Shops lining Yingge Ceramics Street offer an eclectic variety of pottery, such as earthenware tea sets and porcelain vases.

Tai-Hwa Pottery, also known as the “Palace Museum of Yingge,” features a sizeable collection of exquisite ceramics and painted sculptures. Visitors will also be able to view all the steps of the manufacturing process, from the spinning wheels to the modern kilns.

Tai-Hwa is regarded as the “official” kiln of Taiwan because Taiwanese leaders frequently give Tai-Hwa ceramics as diplomatic presents on overseas trips or when they receive foreign dignitaries.

Ceramics sold in Yingge District. (Carrie Kellenberger/CC BY 2.0)

The Afternoon Tour: Modernity and History in Taipei City

The first stop on the afternoon tour (around 2 p.m. to 6:30 p.m.) is Taipei 101, a 1,667 ft skyscraper that was once the world’s tallest architecture from 2004 to 2009.

The entrance to Longshan Temple in Taipei, Taiwan. (Nattee Chalermtiragool/Shutterstock)

Another stop is Longshan Temple, the oldest and most famous Buddhist temple in Taipei. Longshan’s interior is decorated with wall paintings, and elaborate wood and stone carvings. The roof is covered with colorful mosaic-like dragons, phoenixes, and other legendary creatures. Travelers can also find plenty of food stalls offering mouthwatering Taiwanese fare to sample.

A trip to Taipei would not be complete without a visit to the iconic Chiang Kai-shek Memorial Hall & Memorial Park, which was built about four decades ago to commemorate Chiang, who once ruled China. The Memorial Park features elegant pavilions and traditional Chinese gardens decorated with waterfalls and ponds.

Chiang Kai Shek Memorial Hall. (leungchopan/Shutterstock)

Walking through Democracy Square and along Democracy Boulevard, visitors are greeted by the 250-feet-high grand hall, which houses the large bronze statue of Chiang Kai-shek. The hall’s sapphire-blue glazed tile roof has the shape of the Chinese character “人” (meaning “people”) reaching up into the sky to signify “the joining of heaven and people.” Leading up to the hall entrance are two sets of white stairs each with 89 steps to represent the age Chiang passed away.

The afternoon tour bus will also drive past other famous sites in Taipei such as Songshan Cultural and Creative Park, Sun Yat-Sen Memorial Hall, Beimen (also known as North Gate), the Presidential Office Building, the Taipei Fine Arts Museum, and the Grand Hotel.

Want more time to enjoy the sights? Perhaps a proper trip to Taiwan is due!

Am I eligible?

The bus tour is open to travelers with 7 to 24 hour layovers in Taiwan before their next connecting flight. Travelers need a valid Taiwan visa, or come from a country that is visa-exempt. Travelers can check the website of the Bureau of Consular Affairs, Ministry of Foreign Affairs, to see if they qualify for visa-exempt entry. 

What documents do I need?

To register, travelers will need a passport that is valid for at least six months and a completed immigration embarkation/disembarkation card, which can be found at the airport immigration counter.  

How do I register?

Travelers can register on-site or in advance.

For on-site registration, head over to Taoyuan International Airport’s Tourist Service Center in the Arrival Lobby of Terminal 1 and Terminal 2 to reserve a spot.

Travelers can also register in advance by filling in the application form and emailing it to 14 to 30 days before arrival in Taiwan.

Each bus tour has 18 seats (12 seats for on-site registration and 6 for prior reservation). Travelers can only join one tour during your layover.

from Travel – The Epoch Times

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