For one week, I unshackled myself from the modern equivalent of a slave chain by leaving my laptop at home and going on a 1 week trip to Taiwan with my family. Well, not quite totally unchained because I still had my BlackBerry…in case…just in case….
The trip was such a delight. Taiwan melts your heart with the wonderful combination of beauty, good food, convenience, cleanliness and most importantly its wonderful wonderful people.
I have been to Taiwan three times now but this blog will only cover the 3rd and most recent one because it is also the most memorable one. Taiwan grows on you – the more you visit, the more you want to stay. Enjoy it as a travel blog or use it as a travel guide. However you use it, I believe Taiwan will stir something in you.
Most recent trip:
Day1. Stay at Ferrary Hotel in Taipei. (has spacious & clean room)
Nice lunch at Zhu Ji restaurant at basement 1 of Far East shopping centre (next to Ximending MRT), both of us love the pork chop, beef soup noodle, pork “xian bing” (biscuit) and Pan fried dumpling so much that we went back for 2nd time. The hotel is nice in the way that hotels are ‘nice’. Nothing special or outstanding, just nice…so I won’t put a link to it. But for those who love to eat….this is a clue to the place we had lunch.
Click on all pictures to see the full thing. All pictures shot with the Panasonic Lumix FZ100
Shopping around Wu Fen Pu.
Take the MRT to Hou Shan Pi and exit through Exit 1. This is THE place to buy children’s clothes, all kinds of women’s clothing and also men’s apparel CHEAP. This is the place i stock up on nice children’s clothes whenever i come. You can get brands like Bennetton because they are wholesalers here. I’m not a shopping fan so I won’t say much beyond that its a place to go to buy nice trendy clothes at very reasonable prices. It is a night-market place so expect the usual crowds.
Dinner at Japanese style hot plate buffet restaurant (cheap & good variety), which is next to Rainbow Hotel in Ximending. Its on a second floor so just head up the stairs. Rainbow Hotel is along Han Zhong Street in Ximending. Tepanyaki Beef fans will go mad here – I almost died. They also serve Hagen Daz and Meiji ice cream. Best of all, it is cheap. A similar meal in Singapore would cost about S$70 for 2 people to have tepanyaki buffet in a restaurant setting but here, its only about S$40.00.
Day 2. Took train to Hsinchu and take taxi to Leofoo Village Theme Park. Recommend it becos your kids will enjoy the African safari zoo and kiddie rides in Dinosaur park, Aladdin palace and South Pacific theme parks. It’s website is www.leofoo.com.tw.
There are two ways to Hsinchu. Take the HSR (High Speed Rail) or the Taiwan Rail (TRA). The HSR takes about 20 mins but its expensive. The TRA took about 1 hour 20 mins but only about NT$110 per pax. Our 3 year daughter took the train free!
The name of the Minsu is Puluo Wansi (Dont know what it means but this is what it looks like!)
Cost about NT$2000 for 1night. Got 2 kingsize beds and clean spacious room with balcony. Breakfast is provided. It is about 15 minutes taxi ride from this minsu to Leofoo Village Theme park. Cost of taxi ride should be NT$500+.
After playing, we ask the minsu owner to fetch us home from theme park & stop over for dinner. He usually doesn’t provide driving services but we had a problem getting back because it was late, so it was nice of him to do so.
Minus point of this minsu is it is a bit out of the way at the farms, so we need to take taxi to have our lunch. The Minsu is going to have a restaurant soon, so visitors next time can check if its ready. it will help a lot to eat there because it is really in the middle of no where.
An alternative is Leofoo Resort, where you can see wild animals living right at your doorstep. But it’s pricey around S$350-$380 per night on agoda.com. One of my friends who stayed there before told me his kids got a kick to see a giraffe looking into their bedroom in the morning.
Alternatively, if you don’t want to stay in the Minsu and think that the Leofoo Resort is too expensive, you can stay at Hsinchu city itself and take the taxi to Leofoo Themepark. Actually there is only one reason to go to Hsinchu and that is to visit Leofoo. Those who have kids should not miss it because the biggest kid in my family (me) actually enjoyed it. Check this out!
Now…we must talk about Leofoo Theme Park. Children will love it. My daughter talks about it until today and when you ask her what she likes best about her Taiwan trip, she will say ‘feed the goats and horses’ at Leofoo. My daughter loved the rides, and i think the place is properly designed to give a nice mix of the natural world (safari and animal feeding) to the fantasy (Arabian Kingdoms).
Kids will enjoy it and there are secret ways to buy a cheaper ticket. I won’t tell you how but you can save up to NT$400.00 if you charter this taxi driver to take you to Leofoo.
Mr Cui 0938236823.
He usually hangs out at the Hsinchu train station or you can call him when you are in Taiwan and arrange for him to pick you up either in Taipei or in Hsinchu. He can take you to the Minsu or to the hotel. But he can definitely get you a discount to go to Leofoo. he is nice guy and if you like him, he can even be your driver around the whole of Taiwan if you work it out with him. He charges NT$3500 a day if he hire him as a personal driver. You can plan an itinerary with him for your stay if you like him.
Day 3 &4: take taxi to Sun Moon Lake (SML) and stayed at Spa Home Sun Moon Lake Luxury Lakeside Hotel. It’s website is www.spahome.com.tw
Highly recommend this hotel. It’s the most comfortable hotel we have stayed in Taiwan so far. Got beautiful lake view from all angle. Cost us S$180 per night. but its worth every cent….the view at the balcony will melt your heart. i did my QT at night (dont know what time because i didnt want to check my watch) but it was total silence, just the sound of water, fish splashing and wind. and the hotel bathroom is super luxurious – hermes toiletries for you to take home, hans grohe taps and kohlier showers. imagine soaking in a hot tub with a view of the Sun Moon Lake
Check out the Bathroom and Bedroom!
Took a boat ride (2 way NT$100-$120) to Ita Thao (opposite side of lake). The boat tickets are always priced at NT$300 on paper but just haggle abit and suddenly the seller likes you and sells it to you for about NT100.00.
Took walks along the lake towards butterfly garden and took scenic cable car ride to catch bird eye view of lake. It’s not worth the time visiting the Formosan Aboriginal culture village though. The Formosan Aboriginal Village is nothing ‘Formosan’ or ‘Aboriginal’; it has turned into a ONE PIECE theme park. Those who love anime will know what ONE PIECE is, but unfortunately I am not a ONE PIECE fan. It will save you quite abit if you skip this place and just chill at Ita Thao. Have a nice pearl milk tea and watch the world go by.
Can cycle or rent row boat at Ita Thao Pier, but we didn’t try that. Ita Thao is pleasant and a lot more quiet than the main village of Shuishe. We actually think that those who want a less commercialised place, stay at Ita Thao. Its just a 10 min boat ride away. Ita Thao is a place to actually relax, go for walks, look at the hills and talk to the friendly locals who will offer you a drink from their store even if you don’t buy anything. Or you can just chill in one of those quaint little cafes with lots of nice flowers. This is a nice place to admire the spring flowers and some wild life.
Day 5: we rented a taxi for next 3 days. We went to Shuili Snake Kiln ceramic culture park. It’s in no.21, Lane 512, Shuishin Rd, Shuili town. This place is almost 100years old. It has a snake like winding kiln. Kids can try their hands at making their own clay animals. Another thing about this place; it has the most interesting toilets. Toilet has a koi pond and you do your business into broken clay pots. Check it out!
Our taxi driver from SML to Chiayi (Ruili and Alishan) deserves special mention. Her name is Ms Hu, or as my daughter calls her Hu Ah Yi. She is such a wonderful person. When you travel with her, you feel like you are travelling with a long-lost aunty instead of a hired driver. She takes care of you, buys you meals, buys little things for your children to cheer them up on the long drives, always sensitive to your needs along the journey like asking you if she needs to drive slower. And when she picks you up in the morning, she always has something nice that you like . for example, in my case, she bought bubble tea for me and wife, Hello Kitty stationery for my daughter. When my daughter puked in her car, she really helped us to care for our daughter. She is a lovely person and when we go back to Taiwan, we will definitely engage her again. Her contact is below and a picture of her:
Ms Hu 0933358086
Then we continued our way to Rueili. Stop over at different spots to enjoy scenery of tea plantations and mountains.
Viewed Cloud Pool Waterfall (“Yun Tan” waterfall), can continue walking along trail to see Bat Cave and Swallow Cave. Yun Tan Waterfall:
Stayed at Rueili Legend. A minsu with beautiful cloud pool right outside doorstep. It’s website is http://legend.okgo.tw/
Can see cherry blossoms nearby during spring. Minsu owner drove us to see fireflies at night. Lots of them lighting up trees like Xmas trees. This is the place where you can sit at the balcony and look at the ‘sea of clouds’ just below you during sunset. It is a delightful town to take walks, talk to locals, talk to the tea planters. We visited a village school with a crude playground and cherry blossoms so my daughter had a great time playing there.
the owners of Rueili Legend are from Kao Shiong. They told us they will not go back to the big city life after living at Rueili….how thought provoking for a city boy like me. but believe me…the view, the air, and the people there will somehow make you ask if thye city life is really what you want. Look at the picture below and see if you want to live there forever too!
Sunset at Ruili over the Sea of Clouds
Wild Life at Ruili:
Day 6: went for a walk along Bamboo Forest green tunnel- looks exactly like those in Chinese pugilistic movies then we went to Alishan and stayed at Shen He Guan Jin Chan Ting minsu. It’s website is www.lauya.com
Highly recommend this minsu. It has a fairy land feeling with an enchanting garden and panoramic mountain view.
The minsu owners are very nice people and drove us to have our meals. They are organic lovers, who grow herbs in their gardens and treat us to lovely flower tea, using flowers freshly plucked from garden. They also gave us a free upgrade to the best suite after they heard that a China guest made too much noise at night & caused me sleepless night. Our big big room:
This is THE Minsu. The owners are two ex-IT professionals who gave up the city life to run a Minsu. The man actually got Singapore citizenship but decided not to take it up so that he can remain to run the Minsu…tells you alot eh?
This is the place where you won’t get bored even if you do NOTHING the whole day. The scenery, the garden, of just a chat with the owners, or having tea in the magical garden listening to the piped music, all these will just somehow make something wonderful out of doing nothing. My daughter loved roaming the gardens and playing with the 2 giant German Shepherds that are so tame.
When we left, they gave us so much fruits from their own garden that I had difficulty lugging them back!
There is also a place under a bridge for seeing fireflies at night, 20min walk from minsu.
On our way to Alishan,We can stop over at Fenchihu, which is an old town with that famous lunchbox meal.
Day7: woke up at 3am, took the famous scenic Alishan train ride from Chu Shan station to see beautiful sun rise at Mountains.
Took a walk around Alishan Forest Scenic Area. Saw Cherry blossoms, Magnolia flowers, Giant trees more than 2000 years old, Two Sisters pond.
Day 8: Taxi driver ms Hu brought us to a fabulous Aboriginal restaurant and ate delicious Aboriginal BBQ Wild boar meat, sausages and mountain vegetables and bamboo rice. Yummy!! stand by the big BBQ pit and watch the Wild Boar meat sizzle over a burning log. No gas stove here….they use wood fire.
No tour bus will ever take you to such an authentic place to eat and even conspired with the owner not to let me pay! She said it was her goodbye treat to us.
Took High speed rail from Chiayi to Taipei (only 2hours+ comfortable ride) where Ms Hu said her goodbyes to us. We miss her too.
Went to Yangmingshan by taking a 1hour bus ride from Taipei Bus Station (Gong Yuan Rd). It is a hot spring scenic area. Recommend Tien Lai Hot Spring Resort Hotel. Cost about S$350+ per night. Has outdoor & indoor hot spring pools & children water playground. Has spa massage too. But water is sulphuric and got a bit odor. We did not stay here too expensive, but we paid the day fee to enjoy the hotsprings. They have indoor and outdoor pools with great views of Yangmingshan. You can lie down and watch the clouds go by as you soak.