Taiwan is so beautiful! It has everything one can ask for - mountains, sea, food, shopping areas, as well as night life. What's more, they have nice and friendly people, which is usually key that makes a trip so amazing.
Unlike my other trips, this was more of a luxurious vacation for me, as i went there with my mum. We definitely spent a lot more than what i would have spent, if i was there alone. I had to make sure that my mum was comfortable. The bulk of our expenditure was on Taxi Fares, so it will be best if you can travel taiwan in a group of four. If i were to go there on my own, i'll probably rent a bike and tour around with it. I can only imagine how beautiful and fun it will be...
Dates: 22 October 215 - 4 November 2015
Destination: Taipei - Chiayi (Alishan) - Tai Chung - Sunmoon Lake - Cing Jing - Hua Lien - Jiu Fen - Taipei
Air tickets: SGD$535 for two, including baggage and seat selection. We managed to get a 50% discount from Scoot. How fortunate.
Insurance (MSIG): SGD$61.75 per person
Transport (excluding flight): SGD$1,150 for two
Accommodation: SGD$1,352 for two
Entrance fee: SGD$90 for two
Overall Expenditure: Approx SGD$5000 for two including shopping and food.
Day 1: Taipei -> Chiayi
We arrived at Taipei International Airport at 5.30am and our train to Chiayi was at 8am. I booked the High Speed Rail tickets online (http://www5.thsrc.com.tw/en/ticket/tic_time_search.asp) for SGD$51 per person. Booking online enables you to get an early bird 10% discount. In case you are worried that your flight might get delayed, and you missed your train, fret not, they are extremely flexible. All you have to do is to go to the counter to change your ticket timing, and you will only have to forfeit the discount.
We wanted to get a sim card; unfortunately, the counter does not open till 8am. We then went to the 7eleven to grab some Bian Tang for breakfast.
Silly me, followed the wrong High Speed Rail Station directional sign. It directed us to Taoyuan High Speed Rail Station instead of the one at Taipei. We ended up taking a 20mins bus ride (TWD$60) to Taoyuan. Thankfully, the train tickets to Chiayi from Taoyuan is much cheaper, though we forfeited our discount. It takes about 1hour 30mins to get to Chiayi from Taipei. Our Minsu arranged a taxi driver to pick us up from the train station.
Where did we stay?:
What did we do?
It's took us about an hour to get from Chiayi station to the mountain. The taxi driver dropped mum and I at the mountain's tourist information counter while he drove our luggage up to our minsu (TWD$2000). There was a nice park with 3 waterfalls at the tourist information counter area. We had Steamboat for lunch (TWD$320) at a small and quiet restaurant and took a stroll around the park. We spent about 1.5hours there before we headed back to our minsu, via a free pick-up service from our minsu.
Rested awhile at our minsu before we headed out again to visit the tea plantation. I love how there wasn't any other tourist there, just the two of us walking around; exploring the area.
Went back to our minsu for dinner (TWD300 per person). We were served with 5 ingredients, a soup and rice. It was delicious!
Day 2: Alishan, Fen Qi Hu
We were contemplating if we should go to Alishan. One of the staff at our minsu advised me not to, as he felt that the place is too crowded and over-rated. He said the view at our minsu was way nicer than Alishan. To be more economical, he advised us to take a train to Fen Qi Hu instead. But, mummy felt that we should go since we were already at Chiayi and Alishan is a "must go" place at Chiayi. (Mummy likes crowded places, touristy area makes her happy :p). We paid TWD$5000 for the day trip to Alishan and Fen Qi Hu, inclusive of guide fee, which i think it was still way too expensive.
That place was indeed filled with tourists from China, but we did had a nice walk. Our guide was really nice, he was trying his best to ensure the tour to be worthwhile. On our way to Alishan, we stopped by a couple of places to see the "thousand years old trees". It was pretty.
Before we headed to Fen Qi Hu, our guide took us to watch a traditional Alishan Yuanzhuming Dance Performance (TWD$300 per person). That place had such a great view and the performance was pretty nice too!
Fen Qi Hu is famous for their old railway track and train station. It would have been nice if we took the train there to gain the experience. They were famous for their Bian Dang (TWD$150 each), Donut (TWD$25), and Muah Chee. I think the bian dang is a little over-rated, but the donut was delicious!
We headed back to our minsu after Fen Qi Hu; rested for awhile and joined the Fire Flies tour organised by our minsu. It was such a pity that it was not the fire flies season. We only saw 5 pathetic fire flies, but it was fun hanging out with the other tourists. Most of them were from other parts of taiwan, while some of them were from Hong Kong. We spent the night chatting and drinking beer.
Day 3: Chiayi -> Taichung
We woke up early, hoping to catch the sunrise, however, sadly, the weather wasn't ideal for that.
We wanted to take the 3pm train down to Taichung, but it was raining heavily in the morning, so we couldn't go with our initial plan - the bat cave tour. We decided to book a taxi down to Chiayi station instead (TWD$1200) and took the train to Taichung. The normal speed train was so much cheaper than the high speed rail; moreover, our hotel was located right opposite Taichung train station. It took us about 1hours 20mins from Chiayi to Taichung (TWD$285 for two).
Bidded farewell to our friends from the minsu. So glad to know them :)
Where did we stay?
What did we do?
We had lunch at the nearby mode mall. The famous Chun Shui Tang restaurant had an outlet there. The boss of Chun Shui Tang is the originator of bubble tea; despite so, I like Koi much more. But, their beef noodles was good! We spent about TWD$395.
We took a taxi to Fengjia Night Market (TWD$220). We listened to our previous minsu's staffs advised and tried whatever that had a long queue. Chicken Steak (TWD$65), Da chang bao xiao chang (TWD$45), Red bean dessert (TWD$85), lala (TWD$70), fried mixed mushroom (TWD$50), we tried them all! They were good, but way too unhealthy. There were a lot of clothing shops at Feng Jia too! I bought a really nice, good quality, and comfortable shoe at Air Space for only TWD$999.
Day 4: Tai Chung
Our initiate plan was to head to Sinshe. I heard about the lavender cottage there that has pretty view and awesome lavender ice cream, and a Yang Sheng Mushroom Restaurant that apparently has really tasty food. We didn't go because the hotel staff said it was not the right season to visit, as the flowers have yet to bloom. I regretted not going after hearing from a taxi uncle how pretty it was and worth going to. Oh well, we had a good time still, visiting Tung Hai University, the National Taichung Museum of Fine Arts and walking around Park Lane. We even caught a movie together. It was forever since i last watched a movie with my mum.
We took a bus to Tung Hai University (TWD$26). It is famous for it's Luce Memorial Chapel, designed by architect Chen Chi-Kwan. Beautiful indeed. You will find a lot of family wandering around the campus hills and grassy fields.
We then took a bus to the Fine Art Museum. As much as they claimed how good the place is, it wasn't that impressive to me. But, the good thing was that it's free!
We walked from the Museum to Park Lane, which was about 20mins walk towards the people's park. Park Lane is Taichung's newer trendy spots, the building is specially designed in tune with nature. We were there on a Sunday, so there were a lot of flea markets, food stall and gigs around the mall. Pretty interesting and nice to walk around.
We then headed back to Mode Mall to catch a movie (TWD$885 for 2 tickets and popcorn set). It was a pretty good break after a whole day of walking.
Day 5 - Taichung -> Sun Moon Lake - > Lushan hot spring
We booked a taxi for TWD$4000. I coordinated all my taxi bookings with Uncle Liu (+886 927888032). He is the one arranging the itinerary and linking me up with the various taxi drivers for each area. It took us about 2 hours drive to reach Sun Moon Lake, which had an entrance fees of TWD$200 per person. That place was filled with tourists.
It was a pretty nice place to visit, but a little over-rated in my opinion. We hopped in and out of various boats to visit 3 main stops, Shuishe, the main area where our taxi driver alighted us, Xuan Guang Si, where you will be strongly advised to try the Ah Ma's herbal eggs, which i think was nothing special. Lastly, Itashao where you will find plenty of street food stores. We tried a chicken wing with glutinous rice stuffed in it; it was very delicious! Do visit the bean curd store too, the home-made bean curd drink is extremely tasty.
After Sunmoon lake, our driver stopped us at a couple of random places to take pictures and to try some food. The above picture was taken at a store that sells pineapple tarts and some other pastries. They specially designed their building in such a fantasy way to attract visitors. But, you don't have to buy their food if you don't want to. We also went to Feeling 18, a chocolate store that was packed with people. I wonder if their chocolate is really that tasty. I'm not a fan of chocolates, so we didn't buy any. We tried their ice cream though, it was average.
We then headed to Lu Shan Hot Spring. Lu Shan was once a popular place for Hot Spring; however, there was a landslide a couple of years ago, which resulted in the severely reduced number of visitors today. The cost for hot spring was TWD$700 for public pool and TWD$1200 for private pool. We were so silly to have taken the private pool, it would have been so much more fun at the public pool as compared to a tiny room. Mum was complaining that she felt giddy after only soaking for 10mins. No more hot spring for her she said.
On our way to our minsu, we stopped by a restaurant with a fantastic view for dinner! They are famous for their chicken, and i swear it was the best meal i had in Taiwan. Fabulous! The soup, vegetables, and chicken was terrific! We are so glad that Uncle Liu recommended us there.
Where did we stay?:
Day 6: Cing Jing
My best friend Shijin told me so much about Cing Jing Farm that i was extremely eager to go. Indeed, that place is spectacular! I couldn't stop taking pictures. I'm very thankful for the awesome weather!
The highlight was nonetheless these fluffy sheep. When we were there, the place was packed with students. But, because of their execution, we managed to catch both the sheep and the horse show! They usually only have one type of show per day, so it was a blessing in disguise. :) Oh, the entrance fee for the farm was TWD$160 per person.
Before we headed to the Swiss Garden, we had lunch at a steak place. WARNING: DO NOT EAT THERE. It was the worst steak i've tasted in my entire life. We chewed so hard that our teeth aches throughout the day. I can't remember its name, but i'm sure that you will not miss it, as it is situated right outside the farm exit. DO NOT EAT THERE! You have been warned!
The entrance fee for the Swiss Garden was TWD$120; I do not think it was worth us going at all. The garden was pathetically small, so as the flowers. But, if you have nothing else to do, then sure, give it a go. I would advise you to have lunch at Carton King Restaurant instead, it's situated right before the entrance of Swiss Garden. They have great view at level 2 where you can see the whole swiss garden. That was where we were supposed to have lunch, but mum was craving for steak. I sneaked in to Carton King to check out the view, that was where i found out how small Swiss Garden is, but my mum said "Let's just go". Alright, if boss say so.
Zheng Qing picked us back to the minsu after we were done with our tour. He said "Tonight we have a small night market right outside my place. It happens once a week and there's a store that sells fabulous steak!". I looked at my mum, "Steak?", the thought of it makes us extremely disgusted. We told Zheng Qing about our horrible lunch experience, and he too had tried the steak from that store and agreed it's horrible. He kept emphasizing how good the night market's steak was, so despite us feeling rather sick of steak, we tried it nonetheless. It was indeed delicious and cheap, too! Just TWD$110 per dish, and the one we had for lunch was TWD$220. Disgusting.
Day 7: He Huan Shan -> Taroko Gorge -> Hua Lien
Hired another taxi to Hua Lien for TWD$5500. Uncle Cai was super nice and outgoing, he even took the trouble to climb a mountain with me and brought me to many nice spots to take awesome pictures.
We didn't climb the tall and popular mountain because mummy wasn't fit enough to do so :p. We went to hike at a shorter mountain instead, which was recommended by our taxi driver's friend. But, Mum refuse to climb that as well; she rested in the car. It was just me and my taxi driver conquering the mountain, which was rather fun. The view there was beautiful indeed.
Stopped for lunch at a place with a nice bridge and a temple on top. I'm so sorry that i do not know the name, i was just following the taxi uncle around. We wanted to climb up to the temple, but sadly, it was under construction. What a waste.
He then alighted us at Lushui Trail for a short walk. It was a pretty nice place to visit and it was not difficult to track at all.
Here comes our favorite - Qi Xin Tang. Photo does not do this place justice at all. I'm always a sea person, so the scenery of this place makes me go wild.
Finally, we arrived at Hua Lien. Our taxi driver dropped us at Hua Lien night market for dinner. There was nothing fancy there, as it is one of the smallest night market in Taiwan. But, there was this corn shop that sells delicious corn! We were there early, at around 6.30pm and the store was empty. At first, we thought it was a restaurant, as it was huge and was surrounded by many chairs for people to sit while queuing. We couldn't believe that they were only selling corn. Choose your corn, weigh them, and make your payment. Our corns cost us about TWD$120. Mum and I were so glad that we were there early. Our driver came back for us, and brought us to our Minsu.
Where did we stay?:
Day 8: Hua Lien
We got Uncle Cai to bring us around again. It was easier that way since it was quite a distant drive to all the scenic places. It cost us TWD$3500.
First, he brought us to Liyu Lake Wetland. It is called Liyu because the mountain behind it has a shape of a fish. It was quite a pretty lake to visit.
Then, he took us to this other small lake and told us to look out for jade. We got our feet soak in the water searching for jade. He said that was where people used to find jades. Well, it was nice soaking my feet in the cool water.
We then visited the cows! We tried the milk pudding there and it was delicious!
Next, was my favorite of the day - Shi Ti Ping. After which, it was bay view all the way back to Hua Lien, so beautiful! We stopped at random places to take photographs.
We ended our day at Gongzheng Street. There are plenty of good food there including the famous xiao long bao at Gongzheng Baozhi. I love it so much! The xiao long bao skin is very different from what we usually eat, it's much thicker and slightly bigger than the usual XLB. I love it! It was TWD$5 for 1.
We spotted a oyster omelet store that was really crowded and decided to give it a try. Extremely tasty indeed! We heard that Hua Lien is famous for their dumpling soup, they call it "Bian Shi". It was good! After much satisfaction, we headed back to our minsu.
Day 9: Ruifang, Shifen, Pingxi, Jiufen
Took a cab from our minsu to the train station (TWD$200) and then a train to Rui Fang (TWD$80 per person). When we arrive at Rui Fang, we immediately went to deposit our luggage in the locker room. It only cost us TWD$50 per luggage per day. We bought the 1 day train ticket for Pingxi line and took the train timing booklet from the information counter. The train comes every hour, so it's better to take note of the timing to and make your plan accordingly.
It was so crowded at Shifen, but I think among all the stations at Pingxi line, Shifen was the only one worth going to. We also went to Pingxi too, but there was just some old street and nothing else. We heard it was better to release the lantern at Pingxi because it is less crowded there, but so many people were releasing it at Shifen that we felt extremely tempted to. Moreover, we were afraid that it might rain by the time we arrive at Pingxi, so we did it at Shifen instead. We were glad we did so because Pingxi was so quiet and it's actually more fun to see many lanterns up in the sky than your pathetic one.
We walked to the waterfall. I'm a huge fan of waterfalls and oh it was so pretty!
We went back to RuiFang Station and took a cab to Jiufen (TWD$205). We could have gone there by bus, it's just 10mins ride, but mummy was tired.
Where did we stay?:
We had to climb a huge flight of stairs to reach Jiufen old street; Mum was panting like crazy. The old street was pretty interesting to walk, there were so many food to try including the famous taro balls, poh pia with peanut and ice cream, and fish ball soup. They were all averaged though. We tried the taro balls at the famous Ah Gan Yi Yu Yuan , but i find it a little over-rated. We definitely have better Taro balls desserts here in Singapore.
The weather wasn't perfect then, as it was constantly drizzling, so we headed back early.
We took a cab again (TWD$205) to Rui Fang Station and then a train to Taipei station (TWD$118 for two)
Where did we stay?:
What did we do?:
After Jiufen, we rested at our hotel room for awhile before heading out for lunch and shopping around Ximending area. It was halloween that day and we saw a lot of teens dressed up in their funky and weird costumes.
Oh, we tried Grilled Mochi and it was delicious! It can be easily spotted, as it always has a very long queue. We also tried bitter gourd juice, i know, the sound of it seems disgusting, but it's actually quite good, refreshing and healthy! There's an old building called Red House Theater at Xinmen MRT exit 1 area, and I read that they usually have indie flea market inside, but it was reserved for halloween party that day when we were there.
We then headed for foot massage (TWD$800). Mum was asking about massage ever since day 2 at Alishan. I didn't feel well after the massage, so we headed back to the hotel. What a waste! I wanted to walk around the street at night, as i reckon it will be extremely interesting to see everyone in their halloween costumes. I would have gone to the pubs or clubs there if i wasn't with mum.
Day 11: Yehliu Geopark, Jingshan, Danshui
We headed to Taipei West Bus Terminal and took bus 1815 to Yehliu (TWD$20 each). It took us about 80mins to get there. The bus driver was so harsh with the brake that we all felt so uncomfortable. The little girl behind us puked.
It was so crowded at Yehliu. No, we didn't take picture with the Queen Head because everyone was queuing to take picture with it. ...
Mum was so excited when she saw that there were so many stalls selling dried seafood there. My mum is a huge fan of seafood and we bought so much dried fish, scallop, etc back home!
We took bus 862 to Jinshan for lunch. There are many buses that goes there, you just have to look at the information board at the bus-stop. Alight right in-front of the Macdonalds and head to the old street, there's a famous stall selling duck meat at Kuang An Temple. That place was mad crowded, but the duck is extremely delicious! They sell their dishes in a standard plate size. What you need to do first is to grab a seat and then grab whatever food you want. Payment comes later before you leave.
The old street was filled with street vendors and there were lots of food to try!
We then took bus 862 again and headed all the way to Danshui (last station). It took us about an hour plus long, but it was a scenic ride all the way by the bay. Beautiful!
There were plenty to see at Danshui! Lots of food store and small shops. They are famous for their Tie Dan (eggs), i bought none, as i already purchased them at Shifen, how dumb, it was so much cheaper at Danshui with much more variety to choose from.
We took the MRT back to Ximending.
Day 12: Taipei
We were supposed to head to Yangmingshan for Hot Spring, but because mum didn't like hot spring (her body is too weak for it), we stayed in the city instead.
We visited Chiang Kai-Shek Memorial Hall and went to Taipei 101, but we didn't went up because the weather wasn't good.
So it was shopping time! Taipei has lots of metro mall which was fantastic because the weather wasn't good then. We went to Zhongshan Metro Mall, which was located between Taipei Main MRT station and Shuanglian MRT Station. There wasn't much to buy then, as the clothing were mainly for winter. I bought lots of shoes though! I love the shoes there, they are cheap and of good quality!
We headed to the famous Shilin Night Market in the evening, Do alight at Jiantan station instead of Shilin Station, as it's much nearer there. Shilin Night Market was huge indeed and was filled with lots of food store and shops. There's so much information about it everywhere, so i guess i do not have to elaborate.
Day 13: Taipei
Well, it's shopping time again. We went to East Taipei, which is the main shopping area of Taipei. We alighted at Zhongxiao Dunhua Station and walked around that area. We got so bored of walking after some time that we ended up watching a movie together. What a great way to rest after so much of walking! We then headed to Wufenpu, which was kind of like a wholesale market where you can bargain and get extremely cheap clothing! I bought quite a lot of stuff there. We got back to Ximending area and bought some food souvenirs for our friends.
Day 14: Taipei
We went for another foot massage before heading to the airport.
Overall, Taiwan is such a wonderful place to visit! Thanks to my mum, i got to visit it in a more luxurious way. I'll definitely visit taiwan again in the near future, but the next time i'll head to the south area where i can probably do some diving. By then, i will be able to ride a bike around ;)