Finally - All hail my Taiwan trip!
Well, it wasn't my first time going Taiwan (my first trip was through tour); but I realized that I did not benefit much in terms of experience joining a group tour.
Imagine getting up so early in the morning, touring around everywhere with limited time constraint, being brought to places that you have no intention of going but YET have to according to the fixed itinerary, etc.
So this time, my family decided to go FREE & EASY (F&E)!
We snagged a good deal on the Scoot website (Damn, I woke up early specially to book the air tickets as they have special promotion from 7am to 9am). It cost us only less than $300 for two-way tickets! Cheap or what?!
Of course, going the Free & Easy way has its pros and cons as well. There will be no tour guide looking after you, and you'll have to do your own research to find out ways of navigating around the country. In short, you have to create an itinerary for yourself and find out places that interest you.
I did intensive research and read tons of blogs for places that others went to; so somehow I came up with my own version which I'll share on my blog here (Come on, I am not selfish! I share because I care! Haha)
I hope that my blog post will be beneficial to anyone who will be traveling to Taiwan!
However, please do note that some of the photos are not of top notch quality as they were taken using my mobile phone (It was RAINING almost everyday and I could not take out my precious DSLR to capture the moments! :( )
So here was my Day 1 - Nan Ya Night Market (南雅夜市)
My first day of Taipei was quite "wasted" as I reached there around evening time, definitely not enough to tour around much except for the night market that is situated near my apartment!
(I called it an apartment because I did NOT really stay in a hotel. In Taiwan, they called it "Min Su". It's much more cheaper; but has its pros and cons as well. Do read on to find out more!)
In preparation for this Taiwan trip, I did quite a number of advanced bookings online; including car transportation to and fro from airport to my apartment.
I feel that it is essential to book in advance as it is freaking expensive to hail for a cab from Taoyuan airport to Taipei. A single trip can easily cost up to NT 1000 to NT 1,200 via cab.
With advanced booking of a car, each single trip only cost me NT 750 - which is considered VERY CHEAP. In fact, its the cheapest fare that I found after so much intensive research.
Of course, if you are one that really want to save the money, take the bus. (BUT IT IS GOING TO BE QUITE A HASSLE AND TIME CONSUMING. IT MAY TAKE UP TO around 2 HOURS TO REACH TAIPEI)
Here is the contact; for anyone who would like to book a car like I did:
趙先生 (Mr Zhao) 0936-994-558
The driver who picks you up may or may not be Mr Zhao; but be rest assured that your transport will be well taken care of after making arrangements through him! I can vouch for his professionalism. The driver that was arranged for us is VERY punctual.
Oh yes, did I mention that it is essential to get a SIM card at the airport, too? There are different stations catering to such mobile services situated within the airport (you will be able to spot them easily; but in case you don't - just ask around and the staff members around the area will be able to point you to the right direction! Don't worry, Taiwanese people are extremely friendly) I am advising everyone to get their local SIM card (it comes with different packages and you can choose which suit you best. I chose the 7-day package and it cost me around SGD 20) as data roaming may kill you! From what I know, Singtel charges $25 per MB if you decide to use your own's.
By purchasing their local SIM card, you can just pay a flat rate of $20 and enjoy UNLIMITED data usage throughout the journey!
So the unfortunate happened while we were on our way to Taipei. It was raining :(
Took this quick snap with my mobile phone while in the car.
It took us around 40 minutes to reach Fu Zhong (near Ban Qiao) area where my apartment was.
Here's the name of my apartment which I booked through Asiarooms
Oversleep Taipei (台北睡過頭小窩)
LOL, sounds funny, I know. But trust me - They offer one of the cheapest rates here with around SGD 70+ per night! Honestly, most hotels in Taipei are not cheap and easily cost up to SGD 80 & above.
So what is the difference between staying in an apartment and a hotel, you ask?
Well, basically you do your own chores. There is no room service, no daily bedsheet changing or whatsoever. It's like renting a room and you have it all to yourself. However, the apartment is designed exclusively like a hotel! Basic necessities such as washing machine, mineral water, towels, slippers, etc are provided. If you happen to run out of anything or require certain services, there is still someone to contact and he will see to it.
So I called the in-charge upon reaching the venue. He came down to fetch us with an umbrella and boy, was he friendly!
From carrying my dad's luggage to guiding us around the area, I felt at ease.
After explaining and showing us around the apartment which we would be staying for the next 6 days, we were handed the keys and voila!! We could finally unpack our luggage and begin our Free & Easy journey in Taipei!
Here's a peek of our apartment - Don't you just love the bed sheets?
(Ah, I'm missing this place already!)
By the time we were done with our unpacking for the night, we felt really exhausted and hungry. Fortunately for us, our apartment is located at a VERY convenient location. Stores such as 7-11, Family Marts and even night market are all within walking distance.
(Did I mention that it is only a 3-min walk to the MRT station, too?!)
However, we were really tired and ended up "anyhow" entering random food places that we came across.
We settled for a restaurant-like place known as "No Name" (LOL) and ordered random vegetables with rice.
Guess what I ordered:
YES, its 臭豆腐 (Stinky Tofu)! :)
Something that is rare in Singapore but common in Taiwan - I am so digging this!
Of course, not everyone finds the smell or taste acceptable (my mum almost vomited). Personally, I LOVE it so much and don't find it smelly at all.
There are 2 kinds of Stinky Tofus that you'll be able to spot in Taiwan - Wet and dry ones. I'm fine with both!
Looking through the window, I spot something familiar.
Is that... Partyworld?!?!
One of the activities that I planned for my Taiwan tour was to visit their karaoke lounges. I have heard of how Taiwanese people love singing; and I was so eager to try out their karaoke systems!
Unfortunately, I did not try out the services at their Partyworld as the rates are VERY expensive. I tried another karaoke lounge during my 6th day (Do stay tuned to my blog if you are interested to hear about it!)
So I basically ended my Day 1 at Taipei just like that.
During Day 2, I got my parents to purchase the Easycard - 悠遊卡(it's like our local Ez-link card) with NT 500. Trust me, it's an essential thing to do if you are intending to travel free & easy around Taipei. By getting an Easycard, you are actually saving alot on transportation cost if you are depending on the MRT, bus, railway trains to travel around the city.
The Easycard can be purchased at all MRT control stations and even 7-11 stores as well! I'll say its worth it because any unused amount can be refunded with only 20 NT processing fee deducted.
Alternatively, you may choose to keep it and not having it refunded if you are planning to re-visit Taiwan again. If I am not wrong, the card does not have expiry! :)
Wu Fen Pu is one of the well-known places in Taipei that sell cheaper stuff. They are wholesalers and have sales racks - If you are lucky, you can snag a beautiful dress at only NT 100 (which is around SGD 4.20 only!) I managed to get a few really nice apparels at a price that is impossible in Singapore.
To get to Wu Fen Pu, you will have to take the MRT to Hou Shan Pi MRT station:
(I find that their trains are actually quite similar to Singapore's, but more comfy and spacious!)
Before visiting Wu Fen Pu, I took my parents to settle our lunch at Hu Xu Zhang Ru Rou Fan (鬍鬚張魯肉飯), one of the famous braised pork rice stores in Taipei. My colleagues introduced this place and highly recommended it; so I was kinda' thrilled as my dad is a huge fan of braised pork rice!
Seee.. It was raining again - The floor was all wet!
The rice comes in two sizes - Small and Big. (Only around $1 and $2 ?!?!)
I don't think the small bowl is enough if you are a huge eater or one with enormous appetite; so just go ahead with the big size!
I'm going to post some seriously appetite-inducing pictures, so beware - I am not responsible for any saliva dripping from your mouth! LOL.
Here's the interior of the place:
Their service was really fast and efficient!
Close-up pic of the Ru Rou rice:
My family ordered these:
Another close-up to tickle your taste buds:
*being evil here*
The soup tasted delicious, too! :)
An extra addition to our meal:
Veggies. I didn't really touch this. My dad did.
Go Google it, I think its called Formosa Chang in english. :) You'll discover that there are positive reviews about this gem almost everywhere! Highly popular place, I would say.
We headed to Wu Fen Pu next, and unfortunately... I couldn't capture many nice photographs on that one as it was raining darn heavily. Seriously, it was a total mood-spoiler.
I still managed to shop (in an uncomfortable way, though). Got two beautiful dresses at only around $4.20 each which was a damn good steal!
My parents found a little "cafe" near a temple there - and we sat down to have our tea while waiting for the rain to stop.
Nice leaf design...
Evidence of the rain!
I bought a cute apparel for my famous teddy from Wu Fen Pu.
(He is supposed to be a guy, but well... just take it as cross-dressing *rolls eyes*)
I got another piece that is really fluffy and cute!! Unfortunately, it is too big for him :(
I had to sell it away to a friend.
I guess that marks the end of my Day 1 and 2 at Taipei... Stay tuned for more updates on my Taiwan trip! Next up is my hair perming experience at Xi Men Ding! :)