Tuesday, November 04, 2014

Taiwan: 10-18 Oct'14 8D7N in the land of bubble tea land Day 1 Taichung

Finally kickstarting my Taiwan travelogue penmanship since touching ground last month. It was a massively crazy period juggling store stuff and getting listed on KissJane with Zalora's partnership put on hold for now due to the tight schedule., yikes! But it's gonna be up soon!)  

It was a much anticipated getaway cum a birthday holiday for me (yay!), with my bf and dad. The previous time I stepped into Taiwan was via tour about 7 years ago. This time, it is free and easy, with the trip broken down into 2 major parts as below. Taichung's up first for the scenery before gearing up for a fast paced eating affair.

Days 1-2:Taichung
Days 3-8: Taipei

Before heading to Taiwan, don't forget to pop by Taiwan Visitor Association to get freebies! There are complimentary Taiwan guides for grabs and also their Easycard with a nominal balance of NT50/S$2.10, which works in the same way as our EZ link.

You can collect on behalf on your travellers, one per person. Do remember to have your flight and hotel/hostel details on hand to get the cards. 

Easycards are crucial while travelling around via trains or buses in MRT. You can also purchase them in Taiwan metros stations with a deposit of NT100. Do note that there will be a NT20 processing fee for the refund. There are also incidents where the cards are accidentally damaged or bent and the Metrostation will deduct the full NT100 deposit, so do treat them with care!

 Taiwan Visitor Association
(Raffles place MRT)
30 Raffles place 
Chevron House

You can also change your NT at Arcade that is around the vicinity and has one of the best exchange rates around.

Day 1 SG---> Taichung

Ours was a Jetstar 7am-ish flight bound for Taoyuan International airport. It was a bad  move to select the seats right infront of the Exit sign, thinking that since there's some empty space behind, our seats would be able to recline more.

On the contrary, the seats were perfectly, absolutely upright and can't be budged. I think I would just pay extra for the hot seats while booking my air ticket. They looked absolutely tempting on flight with just a 5SGD price tag if you select them during the booking of you flight. 

Merciless, the spacious hot seat sky rockets to 32SGD on board if you would like it then.

*5SGD and 32SGD price tags are based on vague estimation*

Totally succumbed to the Twelve cupcakes chocolate indulgence. It was definitely a comfort admist the bad seating.

After the collection of the luggages, we followed the signs to the High Speed Rail/ Bus station. It's quite a breeze getting there as the direction boards were pretty much at every turn.

It's always a good idea to bring an empty bottle on flight and keep it with you, since you get to top it up after that. It's quite a saver when you are rushing to catch your transport and the airports 7-11s always seem crowded.

We did not get the 10day pass NT$500/S$ 21 pass of unlimited data usage and NT$100NTD talk time balance as our friend who studied in Taiwan advised us to get another plan, which we eventually spent only NT$300/S$13 for equivalent "unlimited usage" for our 8D7N trip. 

What we did

We used a Chunghwa sim card from our friend, headed to a 7-11 and topped up the minimum NT300/ S$12.60. We only topped up our card at Fengjia since the queue at the airport was mad long. The sim card can also be purchased at 7-11.

You can purchase NT180/S$7.60 for 1GB of data, and subsequently subscribe to NT100/S$4.20 for 1 day unlimited usuage of data. And you can also use the balance for phone calls which we did use to call the minsu/Taxi driver later in the trip.

 Yea, I'm a super heavy data user :p

There will be a slip of receipt given to you after the purchase and you can follow the instructions printed on to get your data fix. 

Important numbers to remember would be
Dial 539 to get 1GB of data and
928 to check balance.

The core balance in the simcard expires in about 6 months

After the 1GB Data volume plan is activated, you will receive an automated message to let you know when it will expire ( 3months later), and separated message to notify you of your remaining 30MB. 

There after, there will be a mobile Daypass plan option for NT100/S$4.20 for activation and likewise you will receive a msg after confirmation

Head on straight from the water cooler and you will spot Ubus Counter 2. Purchase tickets at NT30 /S$1.30 per adult and NT15/ S$0.60 per senior citizen. Dad was above 65y/o and we actually got the reduced price. But do note that only some places allow senior citizen tourists to enjoy the benefits.

Catch Ubus 705 from Berth 12 to the Taoyuan HSR

Deposit your luggage at the bus luggage area and hop on for a seat since it's about a 15 minutes drive to the HSR Taoyuan station.

Turn right upon entering the station to purchase your HSR tickets. The queue was notoriously long when we reached there, but lucky for the senior citizen priority queue(spot how empty it is), we were able to make a beeline to the counter.

All reserved tickets were sold out and we had to settle for those at the non-reserved cabins 

Reserved seats: NT590/S$25----> Much recommended
Non-reserved seats: NT570/ $34

Non reserved seats are situated at cabins 10-12 which was all the way to the back of the train. 

There's generous leg space between each seat for your luaggages, and spot that adorable little face peeking out of the bag.

The train ride from HSR Taoyuan station to Taichung took about 30mins so it's not that bad even if you don't get a seat at first as there will be some stops along the way and people do alight.

We got bento boxes from the train station after reading reviews that they are pretty yummy. But those we got here sure wasn't up to exception. But given it's only NT80/S$3.40, it's pretty worth it for the portion. The bfie and I had our tummies filled with just a bento box.

For our 3D2N at Taichung, we stayed at Fengjia Daydream Hostel 逢甲盒子夢遊館. 
It's crucial to have the addresses and hostel names in chinese for the Taxi drivers

Fengjia Day Dream, Taichung, Taiwan
No.39, Lane 82 Zhishan Road, Taichung,
ph: +886-980678001

Note: The hostel is very much a minsu style and it's very much into the small roads.
At the junction before turning in, you should spot 至善豆花店. Give them a call at the junction and they would come to pick you up.

We made a bad move of trying to get to the hostel via the complimentary shuttle bus from HSR Taichung station as advised by the helpdesk staff. The shuttle bus drops you near to the Fengjia night market, but the hostel is not exactly that near to the market, especially not with your heavy luaggage and the lack of directions. We survived one hour of walking from the Fengjia bus stop admist the wrong directions etc which made it just in time for the check in (4PM)

We consulted the staff when we reached the minsu and cab ride should only cost you NT200/S$8.50 from the HSR station for est 20 mins.

Distance to Fengjia night market is about 10-15mins of walking once you get the direction map from the hostel, depending on the area of the night market you reach first.

Ours was a standard 4 Bed Private Ensuite. Honestly it was too squeezy for my liking as the beds were completedly wall-to-wall. There is absolutely no walking space at the long edges of the beds as seen from the photos.

It's kind of quirky that the Toilet door is translucent, but there's a opaque shower curtain inside. I guess it's for couples who like some flexibility for transparency. 

They have basic amenties like hair dryer and packet toiletries for use, but we prefer to use our own toiletries.

There's complimentary wifi in the room, and also a water cooler in the common area.

Our room was located at the first level, right next to the entrance gate. It's convenient for once we step in we can scoot off into our rooms. However, we won't advise taking that room if you are a light sleeper as the walls are not sound proof at all. When guests walk past your room at night you can hear the commotion outside.

I guess hotels/hostels at Taichung are pretty limited coupled with the Taiwan National Holiday period, those I was eyeing (Le parker/ Beacon hotel) for were all snapped up.
We settled for this hostel, but given the price and you can fit up to 4 pax ( we had 3), it's good for people who are travelling in groups and on budget.

For Friday and Saturday, its NT2300/ S$97 per room of 4, or NT575 /S$24
On Sunday, it's down to NT1500/ S$63 per room of 4, or NT375/ S$18

It's really really affordable!

We booked our booking from Hostelworld, and do note that the balancing amounts will be collected in cash during you stay there.

Changed into my life saver Haviannas before heading to Feng Jia night market for our dinner.

We got distracted along the way and stopped by a quaint little cafe that was having a closing down sale.I so wanted to buy this lovely teacup set back but it's the lady's boss personal collection and not for sale.

It's from England and costed her NT2000/S$85. I probably won't even bear to buy it even if she was willing to let go!

Handmade artisan cups

It was a great experience and definitely a gem this trip to have found the store. The ladyboss and staff were really friendly and introduced the different products patiently. We ended up staying for more than an hour checking out their stash, and they served us coffee! Upon knowing that I don't take coffee, the lovely lady concocted Hazelnut coffee (using the coffee with the least coffee taste), and I got to enjoy one of the best Hazelnut milk tea. It's pretty amazing how the bland coffee they concocted evolved into very fragrant tea upon the mixture of the hazelnut syrup. 

I got my tea, and the guys bought back some vintage cups.

We followed the instructions via the map provided via the Hostel to the night market. But on the 3rd night, we turned into the alley upon seeing the Smelly Toufu Fengjia 臭豆腐 advertisement board that was held up via a stand at the front of the "wired" carpark that was located beside the road.

That alley will lead you to same Fengjia area via another Fengjia route, which's better as there is more to see!

The first thing that caught our eye, or my eye, was the German Pork Knuckle.
Oh so crispy and shiny, it was one of my favourite 小吃 at the night market. We tried another stall on another day but this wins handsdown with the crispy skin.

Like most of the other小吃, you get to choose a variety of seasonings to go with the meat.
It's pretty pricy at NT100/S$4.20 per small serving with a sprinkle of salted veg, but hey, you are on a holiday, just try it!

We attempted to queue for this 鸡扒 upon seeing the mad queue, which took about 30mins of our bubbleland time but ended up as one of the worse I've eaten in my Taiwan trip. Singapore's Shilin小吃 鸡扒will beat this anytime. Not sure if it's due to the crowd that the standard drop, but I definitely won't try this again.

Spotted alot of people holding the colourful box and it apparently originates from a store selling tiny crabs for the lazy people. What cute names they have! I think it's basically deep fright soft shell crabs

They cost about NT50/S$2.10. As per the modus operandus, you will be asked to select from a variety of seasoning. This was pretty good given it's not found in  Singapore. 

But the queue moved really slow, and it's basically because each order is deep fried portion by portion after being weighed. So if you order 3 boxes, you will get your box one at a time, cos each box of crabs are being deep fried separately.

*pulls out hair*

I guess I'm pretty impatient to start with and I was hungry. I wished he deep fried all of them and apportion them after that since the queue was building up and there would be immediate takers. But I guess people only queue at stalls with long queues and each stall will in their own way, jack up the queue.

Sweet potato balls which were basically just chewy and didn't have much potato taste.

Hopped into a stall for some mee sua so that we get to sit down for abit as well

And hugeee onion pancakes.
It's pretty therapeutic seeing how they do up this dish

Okay that's all for Day 1. 
Promise to be back with the rest of the days!