Taiwan, the Heart of Asia


Oh my god, guess what? It’s already December and this post was drafted in August! Hahaha oops.

I mentioned on my Beijing post that CTC offered my Bf and I a 1-for-1 trip to Taiwan in July BUT probably because of the bad timing (the June holidays had already ended) and the super warm weather there, they couldn’t get the minimum response to confirm the tour. So we had no choice but to take up their free-and-easy package (because our deposit of $1000 was stuck with them and we didn’t want to go through all the hassle of getting a refund) and explore Taiwan ourselves. It took us a lot of courage – okay maybe just me – to decide to go on our own because we don’t really like planning itineraries and prefer to let a third party settle everything for us. But I was still fine with it because I wanted to experience how it is like in Taiwan, and not travelling from places to places in a coach.

Bf and I have different purposes of going to Taiwan. If I am abroad, I would splurge on accessories or clothes that are probably cheaper or can’t be found here in Singapore. Bf on the other hand prefers to explore scenic places (gosh I hate those.. unless we’re in European countries – that will be a completely different issue) or anything that don’t require much spending. So imagine the bickering we had when we were planning our itinerary..  But ultimately shopping districts like Wu Fen Pu, Xi Men Ding still made it to our list! 😛 Oh and this was our first Taiwan trip!

The date of the flight remained unchanged even though it was no longer the 1-for-1 offer because we had already applied for leaves. But now instead of SIA, we travelled with China Airlines with in-flight entertainment. Nice and polite cabin crew but the experience was bad enough to deter me from flying with them again – especially at the return flight. Flight was delayed for at least 30 mins and air-con didn’t seem to work in the plane. Bf was sweating like a dog cos it was so stuffy! In-flight entertainment took forever to work so I gave up in the end. So yup, no China Airlines for me next time unless the price of the tickets is able to justify the kind of experience I get.

Touched down at Tao Yuan International Airport at 2pm-ish. The airport was undergoing a major makeover so it was a little challenging to get out as there were no visible directions but it’s alright. At the immigration counter, I was greeted by the immigration officer before checking my passport – wow! So unlike the Thai immigration officers the other time I went to Bangkok who were unfriendly and unwelcoming -_-

Taoyuan International Airport

Day 1

Our first plan upon arrival was to apply for internet access for Bf’s Ipad which was VERY IMPORTANT in getting us to places with its very fast, efficient and accurate Google Maps. While he was doing that, I went to apply for Youth Card (it’s a round red card with “aboriginal tribe pattern” that is meant for international youth aged 15-30) that may come in handy when we visit places like Taipei 101 and Taipei Zoo (no time to go both in the end) because the card would entitle us to discounts 🙂 We didn’t use the card in the end but I’m pretty sure it can still be used the next time we visit Taiwan!

Thereafter we were picked up from the airport (shuttle service) to Look Hotel, our lodging place throughout our stay in Taipei. It’s a very small but comfortable 4-star hotel located about 15-20 minutes walk from Taipei Main Station (TMS) with many many food stalls (小吃) around the area! But we didn’t want to be confined in just one area so we spent most of our time outside TMS. After we were done unpacking our luggages, it was already nightfall. We didn’t want to go too far from our hotel so we went to Shilin Night Market, just 5 stations away.

Look Hotel banner

Look Hotel reception

Our hotel surroundings

Food sold around our hotel

Taipei railway station

Station indicators. More accurate than the lousy Christmas lights MRT map in our trains -_-

The train station is probably the best place to understand and observe the locals’ mannerism and culture. It was a little of a culture shock to me when you really see them queueing up for the train and on the escalator (though they stand on their right), and leaving the priority seats vacant (trust me, those who took the seats and don’t seem to be old/handicapped/pregnant are foreigners. More dominantly, the PRCs judging from their accents). I was so amaaaaazed! Xiaoqing once saw a travelogue of Singapore on a Taiwanese channel and they marketed Singapore as a luxurious and well-to-do country. Imagine the Taiwanese’ shock and disgust when they see how we behave especially at MRT stations. -_-

Anyway, back to Shilin Night Market. From what I understand the night market also recently went through a makeover. It looked more organised as compared to the past (from pictures I saw online). Shall let the pictures do the talking:

We're almost there. View from the train station

Shilin Night Market - Welcome!

The revamped Shilin Night Market

Orh jian Taiwanese Version! Yumtums

Other yummy food we have yet to try! The sausages are HUMONGOUS in real life.

Shilin Night Market

Taiwanese really love their dogs! Another reason for staying there :)

Land of Ji Pa (Chicken Cutlet). Yum yum

Day 2

After reading so many reviews of Hello Kitty Sweets, I was so elated that I finally got the chance to try it! Anyone who has been to Taiwan would have definitely been to this restaurant and I can tell you that it’s not highly raved because of its theme (Hello Kitty) but because of its food! And for the record, I’m not a fan of Hello Kitty. Not at all! Xiaoqing who was there last year warned that the place is very popular even with the locals so reservation is definitely a must! Otherwise you’d have to queue with the rest or dine somewhere else because their waiting list is really MADNESS. Even if you get a table, you only have (I think) 90 minutes to eat? And there is a minimum spending of NT300.

So I heeded her advice and wrote in via e-mail to make a reservation for 2 in my horrible command of (traditional) Mandarin about 5 days in advance! Then I got a confirmation mail from them but if I didn’t turn up 15 minutes after the reservation time, the table would be given up to someone else. Because of this I was so kanchiong, took a cab down instead of the train because I knew I was gonna be late. Hahahaha!!

Hello Kitty Sweet is a VERY PINK restaurant so Bf felt really gay when he entered. But I, on the other hand, was a very happy girl because pink is my favourite colour! Hahaha. There I witnessed a family of 3 getting refused a table because they didn’t make reservation – even when they pleaded and assured that they would be done in 30 minutes – because there was no vacant table! So guys, please make sure you make reservation to avoid disappointment! They seriously don’t care if you travel all the way from America or Singapore to try their food. If there is no seats available, you’d have to dine elsewhere! (Yes I do agree they are pretty hostile)

Me at the entrance

What greet us at the entrance

The menu

Thousand Island Salad

I think this is clam chowder?

Salmon

Duck - don't be deceived by the poor appearance. It's really YUMMY

Apart from the gayness, the food was surprisingly good! Bf and I ordered a set meal each which came with salad, appetiser, soup and dessert (no drink sadly). There were I think 3 choices for the appetiser. Being kiasu Singaporeans, we wanted to try as many different dishes as  we could so I got myself salmon while Bf took duck (I forgot which part of the duck but it’s the only duck appetiser on the menu). Well, let me just summarize the appetisers in 2 words: NOT ENOUGH. Seriously, both were damn good, especially the duck! The salad was super yumtums too and I am not really fond of salad okay!! Oh, the soup also came with bread which is a common practice. BUT look:

HELLO KITTY IMPRINTED BUNS

Buns were soft like cushion and I loved them! I’m pretty sick of the hard, crunchy bread I kept having in Singapore so this was a refreshing change for me!

Even the drinks we ordered (a la carte) have Hello Kitty floating on them

Then came our main course! I had baked rice while Bf had this burger which I forgot what (sorry, it’s been awhile). They did not disappoint at all!

The burger Bf ordered. Even the bun is Hello Kitty shaped

My baked rice!

The carrot in my baked rice! Everything, everything is Hello Kitty

The dessert! The pudding is nice

Our takeaway cake

Us

I swear the food were simply delectable and the overall experience there deserves my 2 thumbs up even though I feel the hostility of the service crew. They were pretty reluctant to help take a photo for us but oh wells! They probably were too busy to entertain us! Nevertheless we left the restaurant with a very satisfied tummy AND a takeaway cake because it was so highly raved online as well! But we regretted later because..

Our next stops were Wu Fen Pu and Raohe Night Market. We tried clearing our bowels (hahaha) before entering into these food zones. When we were there we practically pigged out! I am very sure I gained a few kilos at Raohe. Thankfully as most people know, Wu Fen Pu has more wearables than edibles so by the time we went to Raohe Night Market, I was near bankrupt and couldn’t afford anymore food! But because Bf didn’t buy much stuff at Wu Fen Pu, he was still pretty loaded with NTD so I stole the food that he bought! *facepalm*

Civilised locals queueing up for the train! Singaporeans are getting there too

TW's very own fine notices

Going to Wu Fen Pu...

We're reaching! Do you see Cosmed? That's TW's Watsons! I got all my masks from there

We're near.. Because clothes are everywhere :D

Wu Fen Pu

Anyway Wu Fen Pu is really a shopping haven for girls (and dogs, because they really have nice, cute, CHEAP dog clothings)! You can find Singapore-based blogshop clothes (or potential ones) there at a much lower price but only after scouring the entire site. However I must say that there are still shops out there selling stuff at exorbitant prices, so beware! And do check for defects too. I’m saying this because I bought an ombre maxi skirt  from a makeshift stall without checking because I trusted the old lady that there should be no issues with a brand new piece in an unopened bag 😦 I only discovered the defect when I returned to Singapore -_- I also didn’t think of manufacturing defects at the time of purchase partly because we were in a rush to leave for Raohe.

Road to Raohe Night Market

Entrance

My favourite from Raohe - Sotong!!

What we Singaporeans call Sotong balls!

My sotong snack!

Mango/Strawberry shaved ice! A very popular dessert in Taiwan

Split sausage

Other than filling our mouths with food all the time at Raohe, we also spent some time at their mini arcade. Well, more specifically, on their toy-catching machines! I make it a point to grab some toys whenever I’m abroad (especially in Asian countries) because it’s just too EXPENSIVE to do so in Singapore! I realised I never blogged about my Batam trip that happened last year (because the experience was terrible and I just can’t be bothered to recount. I’ll probably do it one day) but yes, Batam’s toy catchers are mad cheap! The ones in Taiwan too are comparably affordable as well and Bf swept away most of the toys in the machine. Hahaha luck was just with us that day! Even the store assistant was dumbfounded.

Mini arcade.. Or rather, a place full of toy catchers

Bf working hard to catch some toys

And he's got it!!

Day 3

We checked out of Look Hotel and went to take a high-speed train to Kaohsiung! Even though both Taipei and Kaohsiung are in Taiwan, they look like completely different places altogether! Kaohsiung is definitely more laid-back and rural (I mean duh, Taipei is the city after all). When we bought the train passes we were told that we could choose between a super high-speed and a normal high-speed train. I can’t remember if there is any difference in the prices but the normal one definitely took a longer time to reach its destination (I think about 30 minutes more?). Because we were dead beat and wanted a short nap, we took the normal high-speed train! Hahaha. The entire journey took 1.5 hours if I am not wrong! Can you imagine that I take the same amount of time to travel from Bukit Gombak to Pasir Ris? And Singapore is SO SMALL? -_-

When the train bypassed Chia-Yi, I can’t help but to hum the theme song of 意难忘 HAHAHA. If you ever took a peep at your Mom’s TV at around 4.30pm during weekdays 5 years ago, you should know why! Actually 爱 is also relevant if I am not wrong 😛

The HSR station faregate but we used a special exit

the HSR mascot! Cute right!!

What we call EZ link cards. Yes, these are used to tap on the normal train gantry!

Having fun experimenting with the machine! It's about the same as ours

Koi's affiliate!

Hotel font

So upon arrival at Kaohsiung and getting accustomed to the new environment, we tried planning our itinerary! There was nothing much to explore at Kaohsiung so we ended up having dinner at another highly raved seafood place near our hotel (Ambassador Hotel) called Lai Lai Seafood. Contrary to reviews online, Bf and I didn’t find the prices low (probably because we ordered too much HAHA) The service staff were really amiable and welcoming. When one of them knew we were from Singapore (did I mention many thought we were from Hong Kong?), he tried conversing with us in English because our mandarin really couldn’t make it. I was struggling to find the mandarin translation for sting ray, describing it to the best of my ability. Trust me, I even brought in Steve Irwin into the conversation. In the end, he was like, “Oh, ray!” Haha, gosh.

What Lai Lai has (of course that's not all)

Clams

Prawns

What we Singaporeans call Kangkong (cos I forgot what it is called in TW)

Lai Lai's proudest dish because they claimed that the crab has some sort of eggs that other normal crabs don't

Fried fish

After dinner, we took a long walk back to the nearest (but not so near) metro station to get to San Duo Shopping Mall. We stopped by at some gelato store for dessert during our stroll.

:D

At San Duo, we bought movie tickets to watch Street Dance. Bf wanted to watch Ted (yes, it was out in Taiwan like eons before it was screened in Singapore! SO SLOW LOR) but all available timing were SOLD OUT! So we settled for my favourite movie genre – dance! 😀 I am also super glad Kaohsiung had churros (huge ones!) because they seem to be extinct in Singapore -_- Anyway the movie ended pretty late and we missed the last train back to City Council station where our hotel was. So we took the very last train and stop at whatever its terminal was and took a cab back. Hey guess how much their midnight cab surcharge is? It’s 1 FRIGGIN TAIWAN DOLLAR. Not SGD k! It’s NTD!! Walao I want to pack my bags and migrate to Taiwan NOW!!

Churros! Original and chocolate flavours

Day 4

Dream Mall front

Right after breakfast in the hotel we headed to Dream Mall! I think it’s just another mall designed for tourists because there weren’t many locals there. There was nothing special about the place other than their rooftop theme park and Sanrio-themed Ferris wheel.

Statue Man

Snake man!! So cute he even posed for a photo without me asking

Archery at the rooftop theme park

On the Ferris wheel

:3

Bf was finding high and low for a book store in Taiwan and we finally found one there. Why was he so eager to visit a book store there? Singapore don’t have meh? …

You're the Apple of my Eye book

Bf thought that it’d be more memorable and special if the book were to be bought in Taiwan, its origin *rolls eyes* Hahaha okay to be fair I also bought a copy for myself 😛 And from there, Bf and I lugged a huge bag of My Beauty Diary masks back to the hotel, for personal use and NOT for sale HAHA. I SWEAR IT’S DIRT CHEAP THERE. If I ever return to Taiwan (which I probably will! *fingers crossed*) it’s partly because I want to get more masks! (And also because I love the people there! They are really different :))

At night, we took a cab down (lazy tourists who refused to take the train like the locals) to 2 of the many night markets in Kaohsiung – Ruifeng and Liuhe Night Markets! To be honest I found the food there more appetising than those in Taipei! There is this very well-known papaya milk store at Liuhe which is endorsed by the Taiwanese prime minister/president (should be the former, but I don’t think the endorsement is still ongoing hahaha!). Indeed the papaya milk was super yummy! And I also had my first smelly tofu there! Well, it wasn’t as smelly as I thought! But I’m still not a fan of tofu 😦 Oh they also sold super big BBQ prawns! We bought quite a number back to the hotel. Hahaha fat die us.

Fishball soup at Ruifeng

Chicken cutlet at Ruifeng

Pig pancakes!

I don't know what these are but they sure look appetising

Taiwanese really love their dogs! They bring them everywhere they go

Chop chop chicken cutlet

This is a huge disappointment :( Not nice and too short also

Papaya milk everywhere at Liuhe

Smelly tofu!

The giant prawns!!

Even stallholders bring their dogs along to work!

Day 5

Left Kaohsiung and returned to Taipei via super high-speed train this time! The moment we stepped out of the train we could already feel the hastened pace of the city. We took a train back to our first hotel (Look) where we would spend our last few nights. We also left our luggages there for safekeeping so we only brought our necessities and valuables to Kaohsiung. We didn’t have to drag our heavy luggages back and forth! Yay for convenience 🙂

Then we took the train to Xin Bei Tou because that’s where all the hot spring resorts are in Taipei. Seriously, there was a whole stretch of them and we were spoilt for choice! In the end we patronised this resort which just commenced operations not too long ago (according to the receptionist) so it wasn’t on the map yet! We were led to this small hotel-like room and the hot spring tubs (one for hot water and the other for cold water) were at the balcony!

I can't really read the text so if you see this banner somewhere outside, this is the place!

One of the tubs!

It was a torture at first because the water was either freezing cold or boiling hot. But after staying in the water for more than 5 minutes, you wouldn’t feel like getting out of there. But sadly you have to after 15 minutes, to the next tub of water of the opposite extreme temperature. Oh gosh, it was like self-punishment every 15 minutes. And til today, I still do not comprehend the health benefits of hot springs, hahaha. But it was indeed a relaxation time for me on the overall. If I remember correctly it was a 3-hour package.

My green tea cake and earl grey tea?

Yummeh

Then we were treated to cakes and tea! We only know how to enjoy life there. Hahaha!

According to our (flawed) itinerary, our next stop after hot spring resort is Xi Men Ding. That was my die-die-must-go place in Taiwan and I literally pleaded the MCP Bf to add that into the itinerary. Just like Orchard Road in Singapore, it’s like their main shopping district, so how can you miss that when you’re in Taiwan right!? We also wanted to have dinner at Modern Toilet Restaurant and by the time our hot spring session ended, it was already close to 8pm!

Streets of Xi Men Ding

Xi Men Ding adverts

Xi Men Ding lights

Modern Toilet

One more at the staircase landing

As expected, the restaurant had already stopped taking orders the moment we reached there 😦 The restaurant staff must have seen my disappointed look because she told me that I could still enter and snap some pictures. Hahaha. But I didn’t la. So we took pictures of the exterior! But I told Bf that we die-die also must dine at this restaurant before leaving Taiwan! He said, “No, we have no time.”

The sukiyaki place

We are so pathetic that we requested for menu in English

Everything. Just dump everything inside!

Look at those meat! Free friggin flow

Deesert! This is super nice!

Feeling super famished, we looked around Xi Men Ding for alternative dining places! Then we spotted this sukiyaki restaurant not too far from Modern Toilet! I really think it was a blessing in disguise because WOW! Free-flow of everything on the menu, including meat! I tell you, after this sukiyaki experience you wouldn’t even want to step into any sukiyaki restaurant in Singapore because in comparison, they are so stingy with the meat and so expensive some more. And true enough, since my trip to Taiwan, I have NOT stepped into any one here so far. Hahaha. (Unless it’s someone’s treat)

Day 6

Skipped hotel breakfast for this! Bf went out just to get Dou jiang (bean curd), you tiao (fried fritters) and dou nai (soya milk drink)!

The original plan was to go to Jiufen to light sky lanterns but the next departing train to Jiufen was pretty late so we replaced this plan with..? Modern Toilet 😛 But unlike Hello Kitty Sweets, despite the interesting interior design, food at Modern Toilet was really blah. So you go there solely to camwhore, not for the food okay?

The only thing nice we ate there were the nuggets :/

My dish. Chicken cutlet with cheese

Not-so-nice ice cream :(

It was almost the end of our Taiwan trip but we had not bought anything for our families and friends back home! So our last shopping trip was to Tamsui where you can find all Taiwanese titbits there. Because we bought so many stuff, we actually requested for the items to be delivered to our hotel! 2-3 boxes worth of snacks! HARDCORE OR NOT?!

Tamsui station

Tamsui so happening!

Hi there cutie pie! Dogs, dogs everywhere! I love Taiwan <3

I don't know how to call this but it's pretty common in Singapore, sold in those Korean snack stores

Bf's favourite street food: quail eggs!

More sotongs (they call them Hua1 Zhi1, so chim lor) but I still prefer the one at Raohe :D

This

Tried their

Hong Ma's sour plum juice. Really sour!

At Tamsui we also found the Turkish ice-cream shop hidden near the river. You know, the Turkish guy who is out to embarrass you in public by refusing to give you your ice-cream while you attempt to snatch it from him? HAHA I WAS ONE OF HIS VICTIMS. Damn it!

Turkish ice cream described in chinese characters

Buyers usually get their ice creams after their 3rd attempt. Hahaha but he was really entertaining!

Fried milk? How is it even possible? Apparently it is possible in Taiwan! And it really tasted NOT BAD!! It's like fried balls with milk inside. WARMTH IN YOUR MOUTH!

There were many portrait artists at Tamsui and we went to the one offering the lowest rates! He was a very humble guy who wasn't really happy living in Taiwan, and kept saying how envious he was of Singaporeans (that our government treat us well). Had a conversation with him while he drew both of us on his canvas!

The last few kilos gained were from Tamsui because there were really just too many irresistible food around in that little town. I don’t know why this place isn’t featured in the Lonely Planet book but it’s really a place worth visiting!

Day 7

TGIF

Before heading to the airport, we had our final meal in Taiwan at T.G.I.F! The pricing is pretty standard like Starbucks and I blew a little more than a SG$100 there. 😦

Pricey but food was good! We were trying to eat as fast as we could because we were running late for our flight back to Singapore

It’s been 4 months and I still miss Taiwan. I will definitely be back again! 🙂

Hopefully in the near future, I’m also able to get a house there 😛

 

Read also:
Revisiting Taiwan, the Land of Smiles 2013 (PART 1)
Revisiting Taiwan, the Land of Smiles 2013 (PART 2)

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