Monday, July 14, 2014

4D3N Guide To Taiwan

The last time I travelled to Taiwan with the husband was when I was 3 months’ pregnant with Jayne. It was our first time to Taiwan, but the only memories I had were how nauseous I felt the whole time. I tried to enjoy it as much as I could, but the potent smelly beancurd smell that was floating in the air virtually everywhere made me gag almost every minute. 6 years down the road, we were back at Taiwan, and this time round, I thoroughly enjoyed myself!
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It was a very short 4D3N trip because I just wanted to take advantage of Tigerairways’ promotional tickets. We paid slightly more than S$300 for the 2 of us (two-way, taxes all in) for the specific dates chosen – It was such a good deal, but it also meant that we could not have a longer trip. The very ambitious us wanted to squeeze in Taichung, Taipei and Jiufen into the short 4 days! But in the end, we had to forgo Jiufen because it simply didn’t make sense to waste so much time travelling from one place to another. Nevertheless, we were super happy that we made it to Taichung! Our only motive was to visit the biggest (and supposedly best) night market in Taiwan – Feng Chia Night Market, and we loved everything about it! The food was fantastic and cheap, and the shopping was so awesome! =D Here’s sharing what we did during those 4D3N, chronologically. If you are planning a short 4D3N trip to Taiwan as well, this is an itinerary that you can adopt.
Day 1: Taoyuan –> Taichung
Our flight was at 8.55am and we arrived in Taiwan at 1.30pm. From Taoyuan Airport, we travelled straight to Taichung. There are basically two ways to travel to Taichung –
a) Take a direct bus to Taichung or
b) Take shuttle bus to Taoyuan High-Speed Rail (HSR) Station and take a HSR to Taichung
My initial plan was to take the High-Speed Rail even though it would be more expensive, but would save us some time. But at the airport’s basement bus bay, we were advised to take the direct bus instead because there was a bus leaving right away. If I were to wait for the shuttle bus to Taoyuan HSR Station and wait for the next train, it would take more or less the same amount of travelling time, and cost more too. The bus journey to Taichung was close to 2 hours, but there’s a TV showing a movie and mobile charging port at every seat!
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Arrived at Taichung and we took a taxi to our hotel – Beacon Hotel. I chose a hotel that’s located just next to Feng Chia Night Market because I reckon we would be very exhausted after exploring the biggest night market in Taiwan. Turned out to be a really good choice! Apart from the great location, the hotel was clean and service staff were polite. Don’t expect big rooms though.
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If you are visiting Feng Chia Night Market for the first time, I would recommend that you go early and try as many stalls as you can first. The crowds start coming in around 6.30pm and the queues can get very long after that. I, for one, get turned off by atrocious long queues, so I wouldn’t bother even if the stall’s reputedly one of the best around.
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Our 1st bubble milk tea in Taiwan! They are extremely cheap in Taiwan compared to Singapore.
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Beancurd on sticks & fried chicken cutlet!
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“Lazy prawns” – The aroma of BBQ prawns were irresistible. These are called lazy prawns because you can eat them as they are – No de-shelling needed.
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Love shopping at Feng Chia Night Market! There were so many shops selling the latest fashion items in town, and very reasonably-priced as well.
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Grilled ‘snails’ – Not bad at all!
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This is one stall you need to check out when you are at Feng Chia Night Market. They rear their own clams and you can choose from 4 different flavors to cook them in – Ginger, Garlic, Black Pepper and Original Salted. So many people ordered, ate and ordered again! They were so fresh and savory!
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We had ours with garlic – SO YUMS OMG. By the time we found this stall (in one of the small alleys), we were already quite full so we went with only one portion. Later that night when we turned back again for more, they were all sold out! =(
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Curry fish balls!
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And now, please clap for me – I tried smelly beancurd for the VERY FIRST TIME! Apart from the smell, I have to say that they taste like very ordinary but extra silky smooth beancurd. With the chili sauce, it was GOOD! The smell still turns me off though. Who would ever think that smelly drains are nice-smelling?
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Fried mushrooms and shredded duck crepe!
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Passed by this cafe hidden in one of the alleys which opens till 1am – But we were too tired to make it back there afterwards.
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Taichung was one happening place! I was surprised that there were still hoards of people on the streets after 12 midnight – Don’t the people of Taichung need to sleep?? It was a Monday night and the next day was definitely a working day. Not complaining though – Such a place is a charm for tourists. At the wee hours of the morning, we could scour the streets for more food and even continue shopping at many shops that remained open even after 1am. Very impressive.
Day 2: Taichung –> Taipei
Comparatively, the mornings of Taichung were peaceful and quiet. There was hardly a soul on the streets!
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We took a walk around the vicinity of our hotel and there was really nothing much to see. If you plan to stay a few more days in Taichung, you need to get out of the city and check out Lavender Cottage, Rainbow Village etc located on the outskirts. Otherwise, one night would really suffice for Taichung.
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Still, if you are a street photography buff, Taichung streets are quite charming with the old brick walls, tiled walkways and narrow alleys. Mornings are good for street photography because you can avoid the photo bombs. =)
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The husband bought breakfast from this street vendor selling rice balls (stuffed with some meat and veg) and soya bean milk. Traditional breakfast option in Taichung, but husband says they don’t taste nice. =P
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Checked out of our hotel and enroute to Taipei via High-Speed Rail! Very expensive, as you can see – NT700 per person for a 40-minute journey!
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The best thing about travelling on HSR is that food & drinks are allowed in the trains, so Railway Bentos are signature in Taiwan. Of course I have to try them! And, it’s SO VERY GOOD. I’m sure you can tell.
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NT60 for this! Comes with a big pork cutlet, taupok, veggies and a braised egg – Comfort food FTW!
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The HSR station is connected to the Taipei Main Station where we took a metro ride to Ximen Station, where our hotel is located. I love Ximending! Love the energy and vibrancy in the place.

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The epitome of goodness at Ximending – Ah Zong Mee Sua.
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So, so, so, so GOOD. We added so much chili, vinegar and minced garlic – Heavenly.
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We stayed at Rainbow Hotel located right smack on the streets of Ximending. I love the hotel for its location and the hospitality of the staff (They told us to go get free ice-cream from the cafe because the weather was too hot!). After checking in, we had a couple of hours to spare, so we went shopping at the Zhongshan Underground Mall. This is a fully air-conditioned mall that stretches from Taipei Main Station in the south to Shuanglian Station in the north. There are different sections for electronics, fashion and books, so it is a place you can check out if it’s raining outdoors or the heat gets too unbearable.
This is a must-try as recommended by our friends. Bought this braised minced meat rice from “Tian Tian Li” stall along the same stretch of stalls as ‘Hao Da Chicken Cutlet’. Super good. Totally recommended!
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Visited two night markets that evening – First up, Shida Night Market [Metro Station: Taipower Building]. This night market has the basic usual night market food fare, but really fabulous shopping! I love walking the streets lined with shops on both sides – So much to see and buy! Reminded me of the streets of Harujuku in Tokyo!
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The hotplate dumplings (“Sheng Jian Bao”) were the best I’ve tried so far, with sweet and juicy meat filling inside and crispy fragrant sesame seeds on the outside. And the banana chocolate crepe I had at the end was satisfying too. Happy food, literally!
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After conquering Shida Night Market, we continued on to Tonghua Night Market [Metro: Taipower Building -> Chiang Kai-Shek Memorial -> Xinyi Anhe]. This was a much smaller night market in terms of food choices as well as shopping. Nothing much to rave about.
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After some excessive eating, we got back to the hotel to rest before we went out to grab some supper at 7-Eleven, just downstairs from out hotel. One thing about Taiwan – The 24-hour convenience stores such as 7-Eleven and Family Mart have really fantastic food options. There’s a whole range of microwavable food items to choose from and piping hot Oden or ‘Black Wheel’ and rice balls, sausages, etc. It is a must to visit the convenience stores after midnight, just for that unique Taiwanese experience. And a tip to share: The convenience stores typically do their restocks at 1am, so anytime after that, you can find shelf-full of goodies to choose from! And so, this was my supper on the 2nd night. :) The oden looks ordinary but the soup is super flavorful. I totally recommend you try this.
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Day 3: Taipei
Day 3 started with a futile hunt for Yonghe Soya Bean Milk stall for breakfast. When we finally found it, the queue was so long and we were rushing for the husband’s haircut appointment. The next time I visit Taipei, I will pop by bright and early to try their food - The long queues must mean something!
I ended up having a Western breakfast in a nice little cafe when the husband was having his wonderful haircut (complete with head and shoulder massages no less, at prices cheaper than those in Singapore). The breakfast was really value-for-meal at less than S$10 for the whole set. The set came with sausage, ham, bacon, 2 eggs, 2 slices of bread, cup of cold sweet fruits of pineapples & guava, french fries, a pre-meal juice and a post-meal coffee. I could choose the type of eggs and breads I wanted. Superb, I say! Cafe’s called Chez Moi and located just a 3-minute walk from Zhongshan metro station Exit 2.
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After the haircut, we went for an afternoon of shopping at Wufenpu – a famous wholesale garment shopping place in Taipei with more than 1000 shops. The place opens at 1pm, so we chilled in a cafe nearby because we reached early.
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The pretzel sticks served complimentary with our drinks were good. And the chicken chop rice that the husband had was awesome!
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You can spend at least 3 hours at Wufenpu – There’s so much to see and buy, but because it’s a wholesale centre, you would find that some of the shop owners are not so friendly especially when they know you only want to buy one or two pieces. Most shops have racks with clothes going for only NT100 and no trying-on or exchanges is allowed. If you take time to look through, you can get some really good buys there. When you get tired from all the walking, have some cooling desserts before continuing again.
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After the shopping, we headed to Shilin Night Market [Metro Station: Jiantan] for lots of good food and continued shopping some more. :)
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Met the famous Moustache Guy who started the famous ‘lazy prawns’ stall at Feng Chia Night Market!
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And we finally decided to try the braised meal that we saw everywhere we went. You choose the ingredients you want (like yong tau foo) and they get cooked into a delicious plate of braised meal. Our big plate costs about S$5 and we couldn’t finish everything!
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Very hearty and very yummy. =D
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Final night on an overseas holiday is always the time to count the loot. =D
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And how can we leave Taipei without indulging in some KTV time? On our final night in Taipei, we walked out of our hotel at 12 midnight and sang our hearts out at Party World (just a 5-minute walk from our hotel). The Party World here is a whole building on its own and operates 24 hours. It looks exactly like a hotel and feels like one. And have I mentioned how cheap KTV-ing is in Taiwan??! Our package allows us to sing for 6 hours, with a mandatory NT69 included to spend on food & drinks, and we paid less than $20 each in total. We were too full to try any food, but hearsay the food’s really good. The room size is humongous too, with attached toilet. KTV-ing is a must-do in Taiwan, in my opinion.
We didn’t sing KTV all the way till 6am, because I couldn’t keep my eyes open anymore by 3.30am. So we slept in till 10am and checked out to make out way to the airport for homebound flight. Of course, what better way to end the trip than the railway bento again. :)
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What a great 4D3N trip it was for us. Taiwan is a place I want to return to every year, simply because there’s so much to see, eat and buy! :) Plan your trip well before you leave and you’ll surely have a great time in Taiwan. =)

If you really like travelling, Telunas Resort is a great place to consider too!
Useful info:
High-Speed Rail Timetable & Fares: http://www5.thsrc.com.tw/en/
Taipei Metro Map
Route Map