Taiwan

Before I start, here are the areas that I went to this (28 Mar- 8 Apr) 12-day Taiwan trip:

  • Kaohsiung
  • Chiayi (Alishan)
  • Taichung
  • Hsinchu
  • Yilan
  • Hualien
  • Taipei

So if you look at the Taiwan map, basically I went from south to north (from the west side, and went down the east side (Yilan, Hualien) before heading back north to Taipei to fly off). Why? Because cheaper to fly to Kaohsiung first than to fly back to SG from Kaohsiung. If you wish to see my itinerary, here is my messy itinerary.

Flight: Took Scoot ($132 inc taxes and everything- Don’t bother choosing seats or buying meals as it is only a 4hrs flight to Kaohsiung and if you wish to sit with your friends/family, just check in together, you will be assigned together) and Scoot back from Taipei-Taoyuan to SG. ($144.5/pax inc taxes and everything) *Do not book via Expedia or other third-party platform cause that was what I did for the flight there and was charged extra $40 because you need to pay them admin charges etc too, just go straight to the airlines page.*

Accommodation: Booked everything via Expedia, not much issue with accommodation unlike flight. (Won’t include the prices here cause it really varies what type of room u book and how many people, but all below are budget hotel/hostel)

  • KaohsiungNice Hotel: A budget hotel worth staying, 5mins or less walk from Kaohsiung Main Station. Cleanliness is ok. Breakfast is quite bad though.
  • Chiayi (Alishan)Maison de Chine Hotel. IS SUPER NICE for a 3 star hotel. Staff are all super polite and helpful and is super clean with laundry service. I was legit stunned and thought I walked into the wrong hotel. Is a 15-20mins walk from Chiayi Train Station though, other than that, super good hotel with Wenhua Night Market 5mins walk down the road.
  • Taichung– Stayed in a hostel for this (Feng Chia Europe Hostel). It was cosy and nice and the owner was super helpful in locating the place. Nice place just that the downside is the place is very hard to locate cos it is in a ulu corner at Fengchia Night Market.
  • TaipeiNew May Flower Hotel. The staff are all old so you can’t expect them to be very friendly but they are okay really haha. The place is just 10mins walk from Taipei Main Station which has everything (2 MRT lines, HSR, Train, Bus interchange, Airport MRT)

Let’s get started. I will go by City, stating where I went in this City, how to get there and what’s there to do/is it worth going. Arrived at Kaohsiung Airport. First thing to do? Get a 一卡通 (Yi-Ka-Tong/iPass) (NT100) or 悠遊卡 Easycard so that you can commute on their public transport easily, at a cheaper rate too. It is for the whole Taiwan so fear not. Apparently the iPass is replacing their Easycard so just get the iPass. Best to buy (pre-order) a wifi router too at https://www.klook.com/activity/1533-wifi-device-taiwan-taipei/ SGD3/day for unlimited wifi, for the whole Taiwan. I think it is a super worth it deal.

Some jargon that you should know in Taiwan: Train Station refers to their TRA (slow train or 火车 in Chinese) that goes from city to city. High speed rail (HSR/ 高铁 in Chinese)is the Taiwan version of Bullet Train. KRT/MRT /Metro (捷运 in Chinese) is the one that goes within the city and currently only Kaohsiung and Taipei has it. I see the need to explain the TRA system in Taiwan too cause we were confused and had to clarify many times.
TRA: Has 3 types of train. Qu jian, is like our MRT, just tap in with your iPass card, and try to find a seat and sit, stops at every station, super slow. Ju guang, you must buy the tickets for a seat and it is faster than Qu Jian as it doesn’t stop at all stations. Zi qiang, must buy tickets for a seat (you can buy standing tickets too if there’s no seat but same price) and it is faster than Ju guang, as it only stops at major stations, of course it is the most ex too. Don’t try cheating by tapping in and board a zi qiang train because they do conduct random checks. If u see any other funny trains like Taroko express or smth, take it as Zi Qiang.


Kaohsiung– KRT(MRT) map here: https://www.travelking.com.tw/eng/tourguide/kaohsiung/krt-map/

  1. Takao Railway Museum (Sizihwan KRT Station Exit 2)/ Hamasen Museum of Taiwan Railway (Same station) 
    What to do here? Look at ancient trains and tracks and take picture of this famous luggage bag. The Takao Railway Museum has nothing there so don’t waste your time, navigate yourself to the Hamasen Museum using Google maps or just ask the locals there. It is actually just behind Takao Railway but there is some great construction happening there so you got to walk a big round just to get there. Is it worth it? 6/10 for me cause the whole Taiwan trip, i have seen too many trains.

    Just some photos about this place and the legendary luggage bag and trumpet.

  2. Dome of Light/Liuhe Night Market (Both Formosa Boulevard KRT Station)
    What to do here? Don’t purposely go to the Dome of Light, it is inside the station and not worth a special trip, just go if you are going to Liuhe Night Market. The night market is good! Night market worth it, not too crowded and the food is decent.
    DSC01072DSC01081DSC01086
  3. Central Park (Central Park Station Exit 1)
    What to do? Admire scenery, only suitable for nature lovers. If not, skip. Recommend to come at night cause I went in the morning and it was hot and I do see the lightings but they are not on so..it was pretty boring.
  4. Love River (Houyi KRT Station Exit 4) 
    What to do? A famous “Love River” so just come to take photos i guess. Pls do it at evening and not at noon like me or you will regret. Worth it? 5/10 I guess. I feel it is just another river and isnt that big a deal but hey it is famous. So just drop by.
    DSC01215
    I hope you understand why I say it is no big deal haha.
  5. Taiwan Sugar Museum (Ciaotou KRT Station)
    What to do? Is more of a sugar museums village. Small museums here and there and one final big one at the end of the road. Worth it? Yup, quite a few scenic places to view. 7/10! (I will only enlarge photos to view if I think it is worth enlarging haha. If not, I do not wish to take up too much space, click to enlarge it.

    Thats my mum at the last photo lol. There wasn’t one without a person lol.

  6. Rueifong Night Market/ Kaohsiung Arena [巨蛋] (Kaohsiung Arena Station) 
    Apparently the Night Market is super popular in Kaohsiung but I went on a Wednesday Night and guess what? It is closed every Wed! So no comments. Ju Dan is just a big performance theatre so there is no need to go down on purpose if you are not heading to Rueifong Night Market. Didn’t return as I left for Chiayi the next day already. Don’t bother going to Kaisyuan Night Market cause it has become a deserted place where the stall owners literally stare at each other.


Chiayi (Alishan):

The only reason people come here is to go Alishan Mountain. The hotel i mentioned above was really good to be honest but if you wish to catch the sunrise, go and stay at the hotels at Alishan! I was really lucky though, we departed from our hotel at Chiayi at 5am and we were 3/4 uphill when we saw the sunrise and it was really nice! *Note, best time to go Alishan is end March/start April because that’s the season of the Sakura Blossom!* How to go Alishan? Ok for me, because I have family members with walking difficulties so we booked a mini van for NT6000 via the hotel counter (quite worth cause include entrance + tour guide was really good) but if you wish to save some cash, you can visit this guide that I came across while doing research and I thought it was really good:  http://thesmoodiaries.com/travelling-alishan-heres-need-know/ no stealing of credits cause I wanted to follow this so you can just check it out. Here are some photos:

Went to Wenhua Road Night Market and I think it is the only famous Night Market in Chiayi, I think. Based on Google. Not bad, not too crowded and food is decent too haha. Walkable from Chiayi Train Station/my hotel.


Taichung:

Took the HSR here for experience (it is quite ex) but it was indeed quite fast. From Chiayi to Taichung, it took half an hour. If it was TRA it would have been 2 hours. Ok for Taichung my original plan was to go Rainbow Village and the Night Market that’s it because family member got difficulty walking. But we met this driver at the HSR station that seemed dodgy at first but was actually okay cos he charged us NT3500 to go anywhere for whole day! And he brought us to more places! So i got to all places here via chartered transport cause we thought the money was reasonable, for 6 people. If you want his contact do contact me.

  1. Rainbow Village:
    What to do? It is a mural village so just for photo-taking purpose. See photos below:

    I googled anyways so if you are getting there by public transport u can take Bus 99 from the HSR station to get there. I suggest chartering transport cause Taichung public transport system isn’t very good and the following places, you will never get there by yourself on public transport.

  2. Donghai University & its famous Church
    What to do? See this famous Church that’s about it. Up to you if you want to go.
    DSC02068DSC02081
  3. Lavender Cottage:
    What to do? Is a really beautiful place with nothing but flowers and flowers! And a hill full of lavenders! Entrance is only NT100 and they give u back NT100 vouchers to spend there so it is super worth it omg. There is also a wishing tree at the top of the hill! The fries are super good. Worth it? Definitely! However the drive in from Taichung city is about 1hr! No public transport except taxi or chartered vehicles.
  4. Sun-Moon-Lake (日月潭)/ 清静农场
    If you google, you know that these two places are super famous. But I skipped it cause I went there before + my family wasn’t really interested in seeing the lake and the farm. The farm is really beautiful though but it is a long walk up. Some photos from my previous (school) trip to these places:

    1470035_10202067032611895_69837137_n

    Still no idea what’s so famous about this lake oops.

  5. Fengchia Night Market/ Lovers Bridge
    Super popular Night Market that is overcrowded but the food is not bad. Not very near to either Train Station or HSR station but is still super popular. Definitely worth a visit. / Just another famous bridge.

Hsinchu:

There isn’t a need to stop over a night at Hsinchu cause there isn’t much for you to do so just stop by in the morning while you are en route to Taipei and leave by evening. Everything here I am going to recommend is walkable from the Train Station, so no worries.

  1. Artsite of Railway Warehouse
    Google recommended me to visit but it was still closed for renovations when I was there even though according to the date stated there it was supposed to be open when I was there already. So i got no comments on this haha.
    DSC02378
  2. 辛志平校长故居
    I honestly have no idea what’s the english name for it but quite a number of people were visiting this place too I just happened to walk past it and found this place. It is just an ancient home that this school principal used to live at, i am not too sure how it got famous but yeah it is an attraction. Can take a look I guess, if you are in the vicinity.

    3. Doucheng Temple & Market
    The market is super crowded and it is famous for its meatballs so you definitely got to try the meatballs before getting out of the place! Lots of interesting food too but the crowd was too overwhelming for me to handle so I didn’t try much.

    4. Glass Museum of Hsinchu & Image Museum of Hsinchu
    Didn’t go to both of them due to lack of time but it did seem like interesting places so do check it out if you have the time. The image museum requires entrance fees though, go only if you are interested in the history of film/phototaking. The glass museum seems like a good place for photos but honestly not too sure.


Yilan:

If you plan to go Yilan & Hualien, don’t commit the same mistake i make and just book a hotel here for a night or two. I didn’t want to bring our luggage up and down so I left our stuff in our Taipei hotel and made day trips to Yilan/Hualien which may not be that worth it due to the great amount of time (1.5-2hr from Taipei to Yilan & 2-3hrs to Hualien depending on the type of train you took) wasted and the extra train tickets money. Yilan is a sightseeing place for greenery/artsy stuff so you aren’t a green or artsy person that you should probably skip this place.

  1. Taiping Mountain (太平山)
    Is almost an hour in from Yilan Train Station so you might want to book a cab earlier or try your luck at the Train Station but it might be challenging because it is an hour in. For me, i booked my transport which comes with a guide and lunch at Klook (again!) https://www.klook.com/activity/1061-taiping-mountain-one-day-tour-yilan/ It was $87/pax, abit ex but lunch and guide and also entrance fees to the hot spring & mountain included! No hassle at all so I felt it was quite worth it.

    If you are not ready to climb flights of stairs then maybe this isn’t for you!

  2. Jimmy Park (几米公园)
    Not sure if you know about the famous illustrator/ picture book writer but Yilan Train Station is decorated with his work and there is a park just next to the station full of his works! The author was born here and hence, Yilan Station is decorated with his works. There is 1 or 2 cafes nearby too that is modelled after his artwork so do check them out for me as I was rushing for time so i skipped the cafes.

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  3. I didn’t have much time at Yilan so these are the only two places I went but while doing research I came across this useful fellow blogger about Yilan so just check it out if you plan to stay at Yilan longer! http://www.modgam.com/things-to-do-in-yilan-taiwan/

Hualien:

What’s famous here? Definitely the Taroko Gorge Park. As there is no public transport here too, the visitors here mostly booked tour bus/cars to bring them here. Not advertising for Klook but I booked this half day tour which was very worth it as the driver/guide is helpful and we went to a few places as well. The tour includes places to:

  • Buluowan Plateau
  • Swallows’ Grotto (Yanzikou) Trail
  • Taroko Gorge Park
  • Changchun Shrine
  • Qixingtan Scenic Area

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Taipei: 

Before we start Taipei, what is essential? The metro (MRT) map is here: http://english.metro.taipei/ct.asp?xItem=1056373&CtNode=70241&mp=122036 The new Taoyuan-Airport MRT line cost NT160 from the Airport to Taipei Main Station.

Places to go:

  • Taipei 101 (You didn’t go Taipei if you didn’t go Taipei 101 haha)
  • Chiang Kai Shek Memorial Hall
  • Xi Men Ding
  • Taipei Underground Malls
  • Jiufen + Shifen + Yehliu
  • Tamshui
  • Yangmingshan (Ok I didn’t go here but I would like to go one day after seeing pictures of it on the internet so I won’t talk about it but I did research so from MRT, alight at Jiantan station, leave Exit 1 (Shilin Night Market), and walk to the left-side bus station, buses heading north. Take either city bus R5 or small bus S15 or S17 to Yangmingshan station. Fare is NT$15)
  1. Taipei 101 (Taipei 101 Station)
    Needless to say more, this iconic building is a must go in Taipei before you can proudly said you have been to Taipei. Buy the tickets online at https://www.klook.com/activity/1659-taipei-101-taipei/ if you wish to have a shorter queue (web check-in counter) + a slightly cheaper entrance ticket. Disclaimer, Klook doesn’t pay me to advertise but honestly, they make your life much easier with a wide range of day tours 🙂 Good time to go up? 4+pm! Do note you still have to queue for your tickets (especially if you buy on the spot) and it can take up to an hr cause you will still have to queue to enter! I went around 3+pm, went up around 4. Caught the day view, sunset (which is amazing) and the night view! The sun sets around 6+ there.

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  2. Chiang Kai Shek Memorial Hall (Chiang Kai Shek Memorial Hall Station)
    A good place to go as it is actually quite scenic. Usually older people prefer this place but it is worth checking it out, since it is free too as well and is right next to the MRT.

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  3. Xi Men Ding (Xi Men Station)
    If you have been to Singapore, it is similar to Orchard Road. Or try visualising branded shops around with food stalls lined along the road. The shopping here is slightly more expensive as compared to night markets. If you do not know what to eat for dinner here, and wish to have a unique experience, try heading down to the Modern Toilet Shop (108, Taiwan, Taipei City, Wanhua District, Lane 50, Xining South Road, 7號) where your dinner is served in toiletbowls/ urinals. The food is average and slightly above average of typical Taiwan food but I guess is worth trying for the experience.

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  4. Taipei Underground Malls (Taipei Main Station+ Zhongshan Station+ Shuanglian Station):
    There is a total of 4 stretches of shopping outlets to visit! The K section (also known as the expensive section); The R section which spans through all 3 stations; The Y section also known as the anime section; and the Z section for clothes and food. This place makes a good wet weather plan and you can actually find cheap and good stuff here.
  5. Jiufen + Shifen + Yehliu
    For this, i booked Klook again, simply because for SGD32 i get to visit so many places + guide was helpful+ time allocated for shopping was sufficient too!
    Jiufen Old Street(Take bus 1062 from Zhongxiao Fuxing Station Exit 1 for NT102 if you do not wish to book Klook shuttle) Bus ride will still be around 1 hour:
    Lots of good food here. You only come here to buy food. Don’t waste money on clothes here please. I see the need to show you these amazing cream puffs that is really good omg. Do try them! Is located somewhere in the middle of the Old Street.

    Shifen
    The only reason people come here is to release the Kongming Lantern or Sky Lantern whichever you prefer to call it. I don’t think buses come here, so if you do not book Klook shuttle, then you might need to take the TRA train up here. Bad photo cause clearly the shop staffs don’t give a shit haha.
    IMG20170406160633Yehliu:
    A must-go scenic place! But you can only get here via private transport so… Yeah.

    DSC03500

    The famous rock that looks like a Queen head

     

  6. Tamshui/Fisherman’s Wharf (Tamshui MRT station)
    Follow the directions at the station towards the Tamshui Old Street and you will find lots of interesting food here. There is a map at the station that tells you exactly what to do at Tamshui. Tamshui is famous for its fish crackers (鱼酥) and Lao Gei (老给) so you must buy some when you are here. Lao gei is basically glass noodles in a giant meatball. I recommend walking the route next to the sea as the view is nicer rather than walking the streets only. If you wish to head to the Fisherman’s Wharf, take 红(red)28 or 857 when you are tired from walking the Old street already and take to the Fisherman’s Wharf (make sure the direction is correct of course)

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Night Markets to go (As night markets mostly look the same, I will just talk about a few more popular ones below rather than just show photos that look almost identical) I won’t recommend food because honestly, every (one’s taste is different so I will say get there, see what you like and just buy. Personally I like smelly tofu but most people don’t so no point recommending food in my opinion! :

  • Raohe Night Market (Songshan Station. Personally my favourite market as it sells good food and cheap clothes! It has a good mix of both food and clothings despite it always being super crowded)
  • Shilin Night Market (Jiantan Station, not Shilin station! Always crowded and popular, many stalls are now underground so it doesn’t feel like a night market when you go the underground part. I feel it is abit overrated though as the food standards seem to have drop from when I went back in 2013.)
  • Lin Jiang Jie Night Market (Xinyi Anhe Station. A short walk from the station. Go after you visit Taipei 101 for convenience! Google maps will tell you this market is called Tong Hua Night Market but it is actually Lin Jiang Jie. The crowd is above average actually. The food is more unique as you see more variety here.)
  • Ningxia Night Market (Shuanglian Station. Also a short walk from the station but less than 10 mins definitely. The crowd is not alot for this market but the food has a greater variety too as compared to the crowded markets!)
  • Shi Da Night Market/ Wu fen pu (For shopping of female clothes only. If you are a foodie, and a male, ignore this portion. Taipower Building station-A short walk/ Song Shan Station- Walk in the opp direction from MRT to Raohe. These two places sell almost nothing else but female clothes.  you are lucky, maybe a few male clothes here and there. Don’t be too surprised if it is more quiet as the crowd is rather little here.

And this wraps up my Taiwan post! Feel free to drop me a message if you have any queries about anything in my post and I will definitely try my best to assist! Hope my post is helpful :)!

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3 thoughts on “Taiwan

  1. The Smoo Diaries here =) Thanks for the link! Your blog post is fab – once I get my act together and write a Taiwan guide, I will be sure to link you back as well as a resource. Keep up the great work ❤

    Like

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