Jetstar launched yet another irresistible offer too good to miss in April. So we booked air tickets to Taipei for November with a 20 kg check in luggage on our return leg that cost only $261.32 for my wife and myself. We had 8 nights to stay in Taiwan and we decided to spend some time in Jiaosi, Hualien, Taipei and Taichung.
Our flight details were as follows:
Singapore to Taipei 0115 to 0600
Taipei to Singapore 2015 to 0055 next day
We also booked our hotels early mainly from Agoda.com to enjoy lower hotel rates. We planned to spend the first night in Jiaosi and the next two nights in Hualien. After that we would return to Taipei to stay three nights followed by another two nights in Taichung before returning to Taoyuan Airport for our departure flight back to Singapore.
Our itineraries were as follows:
Day 1 (Jiaosi)
Arrive Taoyuan Airport at 6 am and take a bus to Taipei main train station.
Take a bus to Jiaosi and leave our bags with the hotel – Host On Exquisite Hotel (S$100.60 with breakfast)
Explore Jiaosi for lunch.
Travel to Yilan City to explore.
Return to check in to hotel.
Enjoy hot spring bath in hotel room.
Proceed to Luodong for night market and dinner.
Return to hotel to rest.
Day 2 (Hualien)
Take train from Jiaosi to Hualien.
Check in to hotel – Cullinan Hotel (S$160.55 for two nights)
Explore Hualien City.
Visit night market for dinner.
Day 3 (Hualien)
Take day tour to Toroko Gorge or elsewhere to be arranged with hotel.
Go whale watching.
Shopping in the city.
Visit night market.
Day 4 (Taipei)
Take train back to Taipei.
Check in to hotel at Ximending – Green World Hotel Zhonghua (S$181.43 for two nights with breakfast)
Explore Ximending for meals and shopping.
Day 5 (Taipei)
Take bus to visit Yeh Liu Geo Park.
Visit hot spring area in Xin Beitou.
Go to Tamsui for dinner at the old street and do some shopping.
Return to Ximending for more shopping.
Day 6 (Taipei)
Check out from Green World Hotel Zhonghua.
Walk over to New Stay Inn opposite bus terminal near main train station and leave bags with the hotel.
Cost for one night (S$87.64)
Take MRT train to visit Taipei Zoo.
Take gondola up to visit Maokong Station for lunch.
Return to main train station and check in to hotel in the afternoon.
Explore Taipei and do last minute shopping.
Day 7 (Taichung)
Take bus to Taichung.
Check in to hotel – 52 Hotel (S$191.37 for two nights)
Lunch at Sogo Shopping Mall near hotel.
Explore Taichung City.
Visit the famous Feng Cha night market.
Day 8 (Taichung)
Explore Taichung City near railway station area.
Visit Yichung Shopping Street
More shopping in the city.
Day 9 (Taichung -Taoyuan)
Last minute shopping in Taichung City.
Lunch at Sogo Shopping Mall near hotel.
After lunch, take bus back to Taoyuan Airport for departure flight to Singapore at night.
Alight at airport hotel (Novotel Hotel) for dinner before departure.
Take flight back to Singapore.
Day 1 Singapore to Taoyuan onward to Taipei to Jiaosi
Seven months came quickly. Our usual stop was at Terminal 3 for a late supper before flight to Taipei. The fish ball noodles were good to keep us going through the night during flight. We also brought along buns in case we needed a bite when we arrived in Taipei early morning.
It was an uneventful flight as we were not disturbed during sleep through the flight. We touched down at Taoyuan Airport at 5.45 am. We went straight to the immigration counter for clearance and within 30 minutes we were out of the secured area of the airport.
Next we bought two Easy cards and top up NT500 each at the convenience store on the basement level as we approached the bus bay area. We then went up to the Kuo Kuang Bus counter and bought two bus tickets to Taipei main train station. The bus line was 1819 and cost per ticket was NT125. Buses were waiting outside the building heading to various destinations.
By the time we arrived at the bus bay for line 1819, the bus just left with a full load of passengers. Anyway, another bus pulled in and we boarded this bus. In about 15 minutes, the bus left the airport.
Soon, we were near Taipei City but road traffic was still very light so early in the morning. We finally arrived Taipei main train station just before 8 am taking less than an hour for the whole journey.
It was a bright and cheerful morning in Taipei and what a way to begin our holiday in Taiwan! We took a few pictures as we walked towards Q-Square, the blue glass building, across the road to catch our onward bus ride to Jiaosi.
We went up to level 4 and approached the counter for Kamalan Bus and bought two tickets to Jiaosi. The bus to Jiaosi was line 1915 and cost NT104 for a ticket. In about 20 minutes, the bus arrived and we boarded the bus. There were only five passengers including ourselves.
The bus was big, nice and clean. A bus attendant came up to remind us to buckle up and she wished us a safe ride and a pleasant day, bowed and then left the bus. The service of this bus company was really good.
The bus left and we were soon on the busy roads in Taipei City. The bus stopped in town and picked up a load of passengers, mainly elderly people who seemed to be out on an excursion. The bus was now nearly full and we moved on out of Taipei City. Along the way, we saw the unmistakable Taipei 101 towering above all other buildings in the city.
After slightly over an hour, we arrived at Jiaosi Bus Terminal at 9.45 am. It was still bright and sunny over in Jiaosi but we expected rain in this high rainfall region. As we traveled light, we just carried our bags and walked further down the road towards the train station. In about 10 minutes, after passing the Jiaosi Hot Spring Park on a hill on the right, we reached Host On Exquisite Hotel.
It was still too early to check in so we left our bags with the hotel. Check in time was 3.30 pm. We took the opportunity to use the toilet and change before we left the hotel to explore the city.
As we didn’t really have a good breakfast where we ate only a bun at Taoyuan Airport before we bought the bus to Taipei main train station, we asked the hotel owner for information on Jiaosi and Yilan City nearby. We were recommended to try the noodles and rice at a shop near the train station.
Without wasting more time, we turned right from the hotel, crossed the road and turned left at the traffic junction and went in the direction of the train station. The hotel had given us a town map so it was easy to navigate the streets here in Jiaosi. Indeed further down the street after a junction, we found the shop on the right.
The ladies at the shop were actually setting up and getting ready to begin business for the day and we were told to take our seats and wait a while. We waited less than ten minutes and were able to place our order. We ordered a rice set and a bowl of noodles.
Within five minutes we were served our food. The rice set came with a bowl of rice with minced pork, a bowl of meat and a plate of fried vegetable roll. My noodle was starchy soup with meat. We wasted no time to tuck in our first meal in Taiwan and the food tasted great. It was a really good recommendation from our hotel owner. The total cost was NT140, less than S$6, a treat indeed and we would not be able to get this kind of quality food at such prices in a hawker centre back home.
Really satisfied after our early lunch, we walked on down to Jiaosi Train Station just minutes walk away where we could see from outside this shop. It was only 11.30 am and the first thing we did was to head to the ticket counter to enquire about train tickets to Hualien for the next day. We bought two tickets at NT155 each where we would take the local train line 4144 at 9.25 am arriving Hualien at 11.40 am.
We wanted to purchase train tickets from Hualien back to Taipei for our return leg but all tickets were sold out. A marathon would be held in two days’ time so a lot of people would be returning to Taipei the day after the marathon. So we would ask our hotel to help with transport arrangement once we reached Hualien.
We saw some herbal tea on offer at the convenience store in the train station. So we bought two bottles at only NT30. We then went to the platform to wait for the train to Yilan where we would explore before coming back to check in to our hotel. We used our Easy cards for the first time and tapped on the machine to get into train station waiting platform.
Soon, a train pulled up and stopped. We were waiting at the end of the platform. Once we boarded the train, we were surprised to find the train cabin decorated with bear arts and symbols. In fact, there was a big black toy bear occupying a seat in the cabin. It was a nice novelty indeed.
A little girl was dragging her mother to sit next to the black bear and had pictures taken. This train ride was really interesting and enjoyable. It certainly brought joy to us tourists and brightened our day on this sunny day.
Yilan was just two stations away. In about ten minutes we arrived Yilan just before noon. We exited the station and admired the art pieces outside the station. Yilan train station was painted like a safari with a tall giraffe looking out at visitors outside the station. Quite a lot of people were taking pictures outside this train station.
After taking a few pictures, we crossed the road over to the park. It was a quiet day even as we walked further ahead towards the fire station. More art pieces were there and another park was nearby. As it was noon time, the park seemed deserted. Perhaps early morning or later in the evening we might find people enjoying the park doing exercises here.
We walked on towards town and reached some streets where fruits and meats were sold. This place looked like a market place but activities were already winding down even as we walked through the streets. There was a nice church building nearby this market area. A kindergarten was housed inside the church where kids were having a good time.
We roamed around the city for a little while and decided to return to Jiaosi to explore the hot spring area before checking into our hotel. We spent only less than an hour and a half at Yilan as there was nothing much to do here. We boarded the train at Yilan train station and by 1.30 pm, we were back in Jiaosi.
The early lunch we had earlier was so good we decided to have another go at the shop. This time we just ordered a rice set and shared the meal. It was still as good and we like the fried vegetable roll and the meat in starchy gravy.
It began to drizzle as we left the shop. Instead of turning right at the main road to walk back to our hotel, we walked up hill to explore Jiaosi town. There was a stream flowing down along the way which made a very pleasant stroll. Jiaosi was a little hilly and we were getting tired as made our way around town.
We managed to find the hot spring park in the town square managed by No 9 Hotel. Foot and shoulder massages were available as well. There was a café there with plenty of sitting area at the park which was very nice.
There were many other shops and hotels where private hot spring baths were available in Jiaosi. There were also restaurants in town as well as shops selling local produce. The roads were not very busy in Jiaosi.
When it was nearer to 3 pm, we decided to walk back to Host On Exquisite Hotel to check in. By the time we arrived at the hotel, we were dead tired, especially after an overnight flight where sleep wasn’t that good on a plane. My wife decided to soak her tired feet in the shallow hot spring bath outside the hotel. The hot spring water was clear and clean. This tub was filled with running hot spring water. She really enjoyed this foot bath as we waited to check into our room.
Finally, the lady owner gave us the key to our room. We brought our bags and walked up to the third floor. This hotel doesn’t have lifts so for those with heavy bags, it would be better to request for a room on the lower floors.
When we opened the door to our room, what greeted us was a very small room. There wasn’t much space to move about in the room with the bed occupying much of the floor area. The cupboard was just a shelf on a corner with a few hangers provided hanging over a rod.
There was a small table with an electric kettle. A basket with snacks and two bottles of water as well as two cup noodles were complimentary. A TV was in front of the bed with mostly local Chinese channels and wifi also worked.
The main attraction of this hotel was the hot spring bath in the bathroom. There was a TV in the bathroom where we could watch TV while soaking in the hot spring bath. The bath was of good size and more than sufficient for two persons. There were three taps where we could select between cold, hot or mixed hot spring water.
The shower was located in front of the toilet bowl without much space for a proper shower and the toilet bowl would be wet after taking a shower. Of course the whole toilet would be wet after the hot spring dip and shower so the design of this set up wasn’t very ideal.
So without spending too much time figuring out about the TV programs, we set up the hot spring bath and enjoyed our dip. This was what we came for where we could enjoy some hot spring bath in the comfort of our own room.
We paid more by booking a double classic room and found the room very small. Those who booked a lower category room might find the experience less than satisfactory. In fact, this was the most expensive hotel we booked for the whole Taiwan tour. The hot spring bath did command a premium but for the room size we got, it didn’t match up to expectation.
We took our rest in the room after the hot spring bath. Our bodies felt smoother and were less tired. However, we were still perspiring after the bath as a result of the heat from the hot spring water. We were really feeling the effect after the bath.
I also quickly sent an email to Cullinan Hotel to arrange for a pick up at Hualien Train Station. I provided the train number as well as the train departure and arrival time so that there would not be any miscommunication.
It was getting dark outside but it was not even 6 pm. We thought it would be better to head to Luodong earlier for dinner and visit the night market. So we left Host On Exquisite Hotel and went back to Jiaosi Train Station.
It was just 5.30 pm when we reached Jiaosi Train Station. We tapped our Easy cards and went to the platform and soon we were on the train on our way to Luodong City. The train was crowded during peak hours. Students were heading home in school uniforms. We didn’t have a chance to ride the special tourist train with bear deco again.
Luodong Station was just five stations away and we exited Luodong Station before 6 pm. A lot of people were loitering at the train station. We approached a student to ask for direction to the night market. We were told to walk straight ahead from the train station and after the second traffic junction take a left turn and we would soon find the famous Luodong Night Market.
So we followed his direction and while walking along, he came along and walked with us to show us the way. By the time we turn left towards the night market, he went on his way. Taiwanese people are really nice and friendly and even helpful. It was a great experience for us so far during this first day of our Taiwan tour.
As we walked on, we came to the light and sound of the night market. The streets stalls were brightly lighted up and crowds of people were coming in with many students also present perhaps to buy dinner home or just hanging out. The night was cool and the ambience was just right for an evening outing.
There were many shops selling clothes, bags and souvenirs as well as umbrellas. We bought an umbrella from an old couple at one of the stalls. Umbrellas in Taiwan were supposed to be strong to be able to withstand strong winds so we bought one to stand by for our holiday.
We walked to the streets where stalls were selling food and drinks. It was rather crowded with locals and curious tourists looking at food available and queuing up to buy food. We likewise joined the crowd and bought some fried buns in the shape of a ball filled with minced meats. We also bought papaya milk shakes and fruit juice.
So we walked and ate our dinner enjoying the atmosphere in the night market. We had been planning for such an event and we were finally here soaking in the experience of Taiwanese night market.
The fried meat balls were not easy to eat. It was so hot and the skin so chewy and we had to be careful not to burn our mouth. We went on to buy minced meat pancakes as well which seemed to taste better and a little easier to bite and eat while walking on the crowded streets.
There was a street of food stalls where tables and chairs were available for those who wish to order food and eat there but we didn’t wish to join the long queue of diners out there. So we walked on and enjoyed the evening looking at what might be good to buy and bring home. We didn’t have anything in particular to buy so we ended empty handed during this night market tour other than buying an umbrella. Anyway, this was our first night and we had many other days and nights to shop in Taiwan so there was no hurry at all. Anyway, we bought a big bottle of water from Watson to bring back to our hotel.
We had emptied our fruit juice and papaya milk shake so we went into a desserts shop for some desserts. This was a good idea as we were already a little tired. The desserts didn’t cost as much compare to Hong Kong and were very good and tasty. So we watched people coming and going on the streets while enjoying our cooling sweet desserts.
After that we joined in the crowd again on the streets. We were still holding on to plastic bags from the food and drinks we bought earlier and it wasn’t easy to find rubbish bins in Taiwan. We walked into a park with a musical fountain display and found rubbish bins to empty our trash. We spent a little while with those people there enjoying the music and watched the water fountains dancing to the tune of the music.
We then went back on to the streets and walked our way back to Luodong Train Station. The station here was rather busy with shops and cafes in the station as well as with crowds of people mingling around waiting for train. A bus station is also behind the train station where buses are available for those who wish to take a bus ride back to Taipei City.
It was after 8 pm when we waited for our train back to Jiaosi. The train came and soon we were back to Jiaosi after five stations. This time the train wasn’t crowded at all. It was 8.45 pm when we exited Jiaosi Station. Jiaosi was quite pretty at night. We enjoyed a slow walk back to Host On Exquisite Hotel less than ten minutes walk away.
It was good to be back in our hotel room even though it was small. Since it was not too late, we had another quick dip of hot spring water before bed time. Next of course was to stretch out on bed to relax and watch TV. It was also time to catch up with the children back home to exchange information and share experiences.
Cullinan Hotel had also replied and confirmed our hotel pick up at Hualien Train Station for the next day. So all was good and we were ready for our next destination.
As the night grew on, we soon unconsciously found ourselves signing off after a long and tiring day. More fun would be coming our way as we proceed with our itineraries to Hualien the following day.
Continue to Day 2 …