Oops, sorry my break turned out to be longer than planned. Hehe anyways, welcome back! Here goes part II of my 9-day Taiwan trip 🙂
* * DAY 5 * *
This day we embarked on our proper tour around Taipei because we had engaged, through the hotel, a private driver to bring us to popular tourist destinations for just NT$3000 (exclusive of NT$200 hotel service charge). It was New Year’s Eve and we wanted to 放天燈 (light sky lanterns) at Pingxi, which was one of the places on the itinerary.
Before that, we had breakfast at our hotel for the very first time!
Our driver for the tour was 杨先生 (Mr Yang) but we called him 杨师傅 (Master Yang :P). He drives a cab but he uses the vehicle to drive tourists around the country. He is also an excellent tour guide who really takes great care of his customers. For the entire time he kept feeding us with Taiwanese food LOL. You won’t need to take selfies on your own because he is more than willing to help you with phototaking! Most of the time you won’t even need to ask. He’s very initiative and he understands his passengers really well.
His cab is AWESOME. It has everything you need for the long tour: charger (for any kinds of phone but it charges very slowly so bring your own if possible), WIFI and bottled water. If you require any assistance, he would try his best to help! He really is that fantastic!
This wasn’t part of the itinerary but Master Yang brought us there since it’s along the way. Many pretty trees there! Other than that, nothing really fanciful except for the huge flower clock at the entrance. There’s probably more to see because we didn’t delve further into the park.
Xiaoyoukeng at Yangmingshan National Park (小油坑)
Here you are able to see post-volcanic activities such as the post-volcanic fumaroles, solfataras, hot springs and landslide landforms. Hot steam can be seen filtering from the ground and the inactive volcano. Master Yang did an experiment to show us how hot the steam was on the ground by pouring water on it. Bubbles formed immediately!
Master Yang treated us to sweet potatoes after our visit to Xiaoyoukeng. Taiwanese call them 地瓜.
Ah Xue Oyster Omelette (阿雪蚵仔煎)
We were brought to this place for lunch and Master Yang ordered a set meal (dishes for 2 people) for us.
There were more but I kinda forgot to snap some pictures. Hehehe eating is more important. The other dish we had were fish and a pot of soup. I didn’t like the soup at all 😦 The rest were still alright.
No. 7 Yehliu
Yehliu Geopark (野柳)
This place houses the famous “queen head” hoodoo stone. They have an artificial and the real one at different places of the park. It was crowded with tour groups from Hong Kong and China when we went there. Security guards patrolled around the park to ensure that no one attempted to destroy the rock formations by climbing/stepping on them to take pictures because some tourists just loved doing that, I don’t know why. If they were not taking pictures, they’d SIT on them. Walao, it’s a GEOPARK. Stop harming the natural landscape!!
We were only given an hour to roam around Yehliu which was more than enough la. Once we were done, we gave 杨师傅 a call using the cellphone he loaned us. On our way to the next destination on the itinerary, we got off the car twice to snap some pictures against some of the most gorgeous backdrops I’ve ever seen.
Jinguashi / Gold Ecological Park (黃金博物園區)
Jinguashi is well-known for its historic gold and copper mines. It was also used as a prisoner-of-war camp during the Japanese occupation. Since resources have already depleted, there’s nothing much left to see. We only had 15 minutes to look around so we didn’t go further into the park.
FINALLY a shopping and snacking place! Master Yang treated us to several stuff there (we felt so bad and obliged to give him more tips HAHA) and he also recommended some snacks to us to bring back to Singapore. Many food stores there but most of them are priced higher than those at Raohe.
Shifen/Pingxi (十分 / 平溪)
Last but not least, we went to the place where we could 放天燈 or light sky lanterns! It was at a high altitude (coz the car kept moving up non-stop and my ears popped) and on a railway track. We had been planning for this since our first trip to Taiwan last year so we were very excited to be there!
We opted for a huge sky lantern with colours that represent education, wealth, health and future. Our minds went blank when we were given the lantern so we turned to the guide beside us (pictured above) for inspiration.
And off it went! An employee of the sky lantern shop was really kind to help us snap pictures and video the entire process down while we held and let go of the lantern.
Everyone had to leave the railway track when the train approached. I’m not sure how often trains come by but I only saw one train approaching when I was there so I guess the frequency isn’t very high.
Once we were done with our sky lanterns, we bought some fireworks to play with. What’s new year without fireworks? Hahaha!
Anyway before 杨师傅 drove us back to our hotel, he went to buy MORE food for us omg. He promised to fatten us up before we return to Singapore. He’s really a man of his words (noooooo…)
Our driver accepts advance booking if anybody wants to have a private driver-cum-tour guide in Taiwan.
He can be reached at +886988228490 (Whatsapp, LINE or Tango) or e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org.
He can’t understand English so you gotta type in traditional Chinese 🙂
* * DAY 6 * *
#21 Goose and Seafood Restaurant
This was a last minute addition to our itinerary as we only came across this while flipping through our Lonely Planet book in our hotel. I was a little wary about eating goose meat as I had never eaten one before. Sorry, unadventurous eater here. Hahaha.
We were greeted with an array of seafood and vegetables at the entrance. Orders were also taken before we were seated but you would still be given a menu when you’re inside.
Here’s what we binged on that night:
Goose meat was surprisingly GOOD!! It tasted like duck but more tender and juicy. After we were done with it, we went on to order another plate! Seriously damn nice can!!! Arghh I’m craving for it now!
Seriously, just order the goose meat and drop everything HAHAHA and maybe some greens if you cannot defecate like me 😛 Prawns, though fresh, were nothing to wow about. Or maybe… I’m just prejudiced because I had to peel them before I could eat them.
We paid no more than S$60 for the very satisfying dinner! They do not accept credit cards so do bring sufficient cash if you’re going to dine there.
21 Jinzou Street
Nearest MRT: Minquan W Road
* * DAY 7 * *
Tian Yue Quan Springs
We left our hotel pretty late that day and went to Xinbeitou for our hot spring session! We returned to the same place where we had our first hot spring the year before. Our regular private suites were fully booked so we chose the deluxe double room.
After our hot spring session, we went to the hotel restaurant for our complimentary dessert. We were given 2 different flavours of cake and 2 cups of drinks.
Feeling very lazy to leave, we ordered a set meal at the restaurant to share.
Zhongshan Rd., Beitou Dist.
Taipei City 112, Taiwan
The light dinner at Tian Yue Quan Springs obviously wasn’t enough for us so we planned to eat street food at Tamsui to fill our tummies. However we didn’t know that it was also the day where the Taiwanese pray to the heavens. On such days, most shops are usually closed for the day. Thus, Tamsui was relatively quiet but we walked around to see if there were any Taiwanese titbits to buy for our folks back home.
We chanced upon this Hello Kitty-themed shop. Seriously, Taipei is like Japan – so crazy over the cat with no mouth LOL. There would be at least one Hello Kitty-themed shop in each area. We entered one of them and bought quite a handful of stuff!
After our purchase, we headed back to our hotel by cab. A nominal surcharge was imposed for boarding at Tamsui (can’t remember how much it was). It was a rather long distance, comparable to that of Pasir Ris to Jurong here 🙂 We put all hauls in the hotel and went for a foot massage, a daily activity for us in Taiwan!
Our massage ended past midnight and our tummies started rumbling so we asked one of the masseurs if there was any eatery still opened. He directed us to a 24-hour beef noodles stall just 2 roads away.
Fu Hong Beef Noodles (富宏牛肉麵)
It wasn’t difficult at all to spot the stall as it was the only one along the stretch of shops still operating at that hour. Its bustling crowd was also a sign of its popularity. Apparently the Taiwanese also like having supper like us. Hahaha!
We had the choice of skinny or fat noodles. We got ourselves a bowl with fat noodles to share because we were afraid that we wouldn’t like it but NO, it was as good as the one I had in Singapore (used to be at Lavender Food Square). Soup was orgasmic but a tad too oily which I think is common in any beef noodle soup. After awhile I kinda felt this disgusting bitter taste lingering around my throat, especially when I swallowed my saliva. If you had experienced it before you would understand what I mean
Nevertheless, I’d totally have it again if I’m near the area! But I’d opt for skinny noodles next time because fat noodles is such a mouthful.
Anyway the shop owner (also the one taking orders) probably knew that we were sharing because she gave us an additional bowl of soup with beef in it OMG (never charge extra some more) probably so that we didn’t have eat from the same bowl. It didn’t make sense for her to give us another bowl when we ordered the soup version, right? Plus, we looked around and didn’t see anybody having an extra bowl. Oh my God lor I was really touched by her kind gesture!!!! 台灣人，你們是最棒的！ ！ ！我愛你們！！！
Beef noodles is a must-have if you plan to eat like a local in Taiwan!
Luòyáng St, Wanhua District
Taipei City, Taiwan 108
Nearest MRT: Ximen
* * DAY 8 * *
Taipei Zoo / Maokong (貓空)
Another sightseeing destination on our itinerary! Boyfriend was very reluctant to go because he had just gone to the Singapore Zoo. -_- I had to force him to go with me. The zoo is very accessible as compared to ours as it has its own metro station. After touring the zoo we planned to take the gondola lift to Maokong.
The usual price of the admission ticket was NT$60 but because I had the Youth Travel Card, I only had to pay NT$30! I had gotten the card during my first visit but never used it until now.
For NT$30, you’re able to see many different kinds of animal, including giant pandas. If you’re lazy like me, you can take the internal shuttle train to get to different parts of the zoo for only NT$5 (exact change). Boyfriend and I paid using Taiwan’s EZ-link card 😛 Almost everything in Taiwan can be paid by EZ-link card by the way which makes tourists’ lives even easier! Don’t have to figure out the value of each coin when paying -_-
There were 2 kinds of cable car. One is normally designed while the other has a glass floor! We took the normal one on our way up and the glass one when we’re heading back to the zoo station. We should have done it the other way round because by the time we left Maokong, it was already dark! -_- We saw nothing through the glass. It was pitch black most of the time. (Anyway, it was acrophobic boyfriend who insisted on this arrangement LOL)
Some pictures at Maokong which supposedly should have many tea plantations. I don’t see much plantations but there were many tea houses.
* * DAY 9 * *
Boyfriend and I woke up waaaaay before check-out time because our chauffeur-cum-tour guide promised to take us to the best (according to him) beef noodle stall in Taiwan before sending us to the airport. We were wondering if he would take us to the stall we went to on the night before. Hahaha!
However the chauffeur forgot about our appointment and had already taken up another sight-seeing tour. He was very apologetic and immediately arranged for another chauffeur to take over his job. Was quite upset at first because I could have slept longer…. But since he was so nice and sincere, I guess 算了啦 🙂
Lao Wang Ji Beef Noodles (老王記牛肉麵大王)
Surprisingly the “best beef noodles in Taiwan” is very near to Ximending! We had stayed there for 9 days but we never knew that we were surrounded with so many good food. Someone needs to compile a list of food recommendations in Ximending la.
We were at Lao Wang Ji at about 11am and there were already people eating inside! Our driver said that we were very lucky to have seats because this shop is always fully packed! True enough, all tables were almost occupied by the time we were about to leave. No photography of the entrance/open kitchen (non-strategically located by the road) is allowed for fear of (what I thought) recipe theft. However our driver added that because they are doing so well, they were actually afraid that people would go and create havoc and hence they try to be as low profile as possible. After all, Taiwan is also a country where triads flourish, right? That doesn’t make sense to me though. How to be low profile when you have such delish beef noodles huh!?!
I can’t remember if they had slim and fat noodles though but they had the option of spicy or non-spicy one. We went for the spicy one as recommended by our driver but we requested ours to be not too spicy.
Our verdict: definitely better than the one we had yesterday. What won our votes was the beef. They were cut in thick slices and yet so smooth, soft and tender which totally reminded me of the chasu in Ippudo’s tonkotsu ramen hahaha! LOVED IT. It was a great way to end our Taiwan trip and we certainly left with happy and satisfied tummies. Hehehe!
No. 15 Táoyuán St, Zhongzheng District
Taipei City, Taiwan 100
Nearest MRT: Ximen, Exit 3
No reservation. For enquiries, call 0937-860050 or 0910-074193
I forgot to mention some 7-eleven stuff that can’t be found in our local stores! If you’re going to Taiwan, I’d highly recommend these:
Okay this marks the end of my 6000-word entry! School has started so I’d want this to be published ASAP. Hope this entry serves as a helpful guide to people who are planning to go to Taiwan 🙂
Oh and by the way, HAPPY (BELATED) LUNAR NEW YEAR EVERYONE!
祝大家 马到成功 马上发财 马上升值 马上GPA5.0 马上结婚 马上生孩子！
Read Part 1 of “Revisiting Taiwan, the Land of Smiles” here.
Taiwan, the Heart of Asia 2012