Day 4 – Hualien to Taipei
Once again, we didn’t have the luxury to get up late this morning though we had a packed full day of activities the day before. We had to be at the train station early to queue for train tickets going back to Taipei which had been sold out due to the marathon held the previous day. Many no doubt would be going back to Taipei on Sunday and train tickets could be hard to come by.
So we had an early breakfast similar to the one the previous day. We took a quick breakfast with a nice cup of coffee and then went back to our room to get ready to check out. Having made ourselves comfortable for our long journey back to Taipei and with a final round of packing, we went to the lobby to check out.
Our stay at Cullinan Hotel was coming to the end. We really enjoyed our stay here with the superb service of their staff and for the free shuttle service between the hotel and the train station. The tour arrangements for the previous day were excellent as well. What impressed us was the prompt replies to emails sent before our arrival with critical information to enable us to plan our holiday here in Hualien.
We had already arranged with the hotel for a shuttle service to the train station hoping to arrive around 8.30 am. After checking out, we went to the waiting van and loaded our bags. We were waiting for another two hotel guests who were also heading to the train station. When they finally came, we set off and by 8.40 am, we were at Hualien train station.
Without wasting precious time, I went to join the queue at the train ticket counter. Thankfully, it wasn’t very crowded yet. By the time I was served, I managed to purchase two express train tickets departing at 9.05 am and arriving Taipei at 12.12 pm. Cost for the train tickets was NTD 440 per ticket.
Our train would be departing in about 15 minutes so we went straight to the train platform to wait for the train to show up. We were of course glad and happy to secure our train tickets back to Taipei so quickly.
Not long after, our train came and we boarded the train and took our assigned seats and before we knew it, we were on our way to Taipei. Our seats were wide and pretty comfortable with plenty of leg rooms. This train was supposed to be an express train from Tze-Chiang Express, but seemed to take a little longer to reach Taipei with slightly over three hours journey. This could be one of those extra trains introduced during this marathon period to cater to extra passenger loads.
Hence we settled in and enjoyed the scenery as we headed north passing fields and valleys north of Hualien. Not long after, we were near Taroko Gorge and the same beautiful scenery we encountered on the way to Hualien greeted us again with long gorgeous bridges further inland with beautiful mountains in the background. It was a beautiful sunny day this Sunday on the east coast of Taiwan.
We continued our enjoyable train ride passing small towns and farmlands but after sometime, we fell asleep. By the time we opened our eyes, we were quite close to Taipei. It was a much needed rest with the full day activities we had the day before.
Finally we arrived Taipei main train station. We took our bags and disembarked. It was a little tricky to find our way out to take the MRT train to Xi Men Ding to check in at Hotel Green World. After getting up and down some flights of escalators at the backend of the train station, we managed to get into the MRT station at the main train station. Our Easy cards were put to good use again to tap in.
Xi Men Ding station was just a station away and very quickly having entered into the train, we had to alight and find our way to our hotel. After getting up to ground level, we were on the correct side of the road across Xi Men Ding but our hotel was no where in sight. We strained our eyes and neck to look up and around, there was no building with the sign Hotel Green World.
So we walked along the main road and managed to locate the building of the hotel. This building actually does not belong to Hotel Green World exclusively. There are other hotels and offices sharing the same building. Hotel Green World just occupies a few floors. The hotel reception is on the 13th floor.
The hotel lobby was not very big and it was a hive of activities with guests checking in and out. By the time we were served, we were told it was still too early and our room was not ready. Check in time was 3 pm. The pleasant and polite front desk staff recommended that we go back to the main train station for lunch. She explained that on the second floor of the train station were plenty of restaurants and food courts and the variety of food options available would certainly meet our need. We were given a map and shown how we should walk over to the main train station.
Having left our bags with the hotel, we made our way down and left the building. A 7-11 convenience store was at the corner of the building which was great to stock up on necessities. At the convenience store, we made a right turn into Hankou Street. When we reached the traffic junction at Chongqing South Road, we turned left and walked along until we reached the main road with the Taipei Fire Department at the corner. From there, we could see the bus terminal across the road and the main train station building further on the right across the road.
So we made it into the main train station building and headed straight for second floor to look for food as we were quite famished by then. This floor was very busy with shoppers and visitors like us looking at restaurants and searching for a good place for lunch.
Eventually, we went into a busy food court with many food stalls and settled for the Taiwanese pork chop and chicken rice sets. The food was really tasty and we were tremendously satisfied. With lunch done and over, we explored the main train station.
The main train station in Taipei was a really busy place. At the main concourse area, stalls were set up like an exhibition hall. Many local products were on displayed and samples offered hoping shoppers would buy some of their products. There were also commuters loitering around waiting for their next ride out of the city to their next destination.
We left the main train station building and walked along the main road again. The next hotel we were going to stay was New Stay Inn just across the road at a traffic junction. The building was so rundown from the outside while a decent looking signboard with the hotel’s name was seen together with other tenants using this building from the traffic junction.
Next we crossed the side road and entered the bus terminal. This is Taipei West Bus Station Terminal B. We managed to purchase bus tickets going to Taichung for Wednesday morning. What we got was Kuo-Kuang Bus line 1827 and ticket cost was NTD 260 per person. The bus would pass near the hotel we were going to stay at Taichung so we could alight along the way and walk to the hotel.
After that we crossed the road and made our way back to Hotel Green World the same way we came to Taipei main train station. It was 2.40 pm when we reached the hotel reception and front desk staff kindly allowed us to check into our room on the 14th floor. So we collected our bags and made our way to our room.
Once we got out of the lift, we were greeted by a very trendy and nice corridor of yellow wallpaper with beautiful and lovely pictures. It was a warm and welcoming sight as we made our way to look for our room.
We found our room and upon entering our room, the same theme of yellow walls with nicely painted pictures welcomed us to this humble abode for the next two nights.
The room though small with a long and narrow layout, had a warm effect with the yellow based theme and we didn’t feel that claustrophobic at all. Even though the room was rather basic, it was quite classic as well with clever use of functioning spaces in this small room.
The TV was mounted at a corner just in front of the bed snuggly set at the end of the room. So the one sleeping on the inside near the wall would have to crawl over the partner in order to get out of bed. It didn’t bother us too much though.
There were plenty of channels on TV with mostly local Chinese programs. Wifi worked excellently which was great. A narrow writing table positioned just before the toilet was sufficient for our needs during this short stay.
Surprisingly, the bathroom was rather roomy and came with a bathtub too. Most importantly, everything was very clean and new. It was nice in fact to have such a bathroom in a small room in this hotel. The toilet even came with a bidet as well.
There were rules for use of this room in order to keep the room in this mint condition otherwise penalty would apply. Unfortunately, they were written in Chinese and guests from many other nationalities might not be able to read and understand these rules.
We were undoubtedly very pleased and satisfied with our room. So we settled in and prepared to stay the next two nights here near Xi Men Ding. It was still quite early and we didn’t wish to travel far off this first day in Taipei, so we rested for a while before heading out to explore Xi Men Ding for dinner and shopping later in the late afternoon.
Well, many channels on TV were reporting and discussing the meeting between the two leaders from China and Taiwan in Singapore. It didn’t really interest us much while we were on holiday so we switched to other channels for entertainment.
Nearer to 5 pm, it was time for us to explore Taipei. We left our comfortable room and walked to the lift. Along the way, we stopped by at the gym and looked down to the restaurant from the glass wall. It was empty and this restaurant would serve breakfast during the morning.
There is also a small business centre with computers and a small sofa set in the room. Everything was clean and tidy and looked very new as well. For a small hotel with such facilities is pretty good.
We exited the building and orientated ourselves again. The main road, Zhonghua Road, outside the hotel was very busy with vehicles passing non-stop. So we walked further up passing 7-11 and approached the traffic junction to wait for traffic lights to turn in our favour.
Soon, we made it across the road over to the side of the famous Xi Men Ding shopping area. This side of the road was bustling with activities and human traffic.
We began our shopping mission along the main road of Zhonghua Road looking at shops. Next we took our plunge and braved the crowds to enter Xi Men Ding proper. It was pretty exciting.
The shops on both sides of the walking streets were attractive and with some trees lined the street, we had a pleasant and welcoming feel of this gorgeous place. Shoppers thronged the streets and stopped from time to time to look at offers outside shops and take pictures of the surrounding.
Buskers on the sidewalk setup their wares and attracted crowds to watch what they had to offer. This contributed to some human traffic congestions. Nevertheless, no one seemed to complain as everyone seemed to be in a happy shopping mood putting up their best behaviour.
It got even more crowded as we ventured deeper into this shopping area. This place certainly is a tourist magnet. At almost every turn, there would be people posing and taking pictures. We tried to be polite and not bombed their pictures and ruined their efforts. So we waited from time to time or walked away taking a longer route to the next place we wished to visit and shop.
What was rather discomfiting was quite a lot of people smoked openly here as this was an open space. This somewhat spoilt our otherwise perfect activity in this famous tourist hangout.
There were mobile advertisers standing or sitting in the middle of the walking streets holding up advertisement boards pointing the direction to the products and services they are offering. This of course slowed down human traffic. Anyway, those venturing into Xi Men Ding were usually not in a hurry to get to their destination.
Soon, our belly was beckoning us for a recharge so we went over to the food street. We located the famous restaurant where crowds of diners frequent. It was very crowded inside the restaurant but we managed to locate two seats with a narrow table facing the wall. We ordered glass noodles and carrot cakes and had a quick meal. It won’t be comfortable to stay long inside this small restaurant with diners camping around looking for seats for their meals. In fact, some diners would rather pack and go and eat while shopping in the open area.
It was already dark after our quick meal. We then went over to the famous drinks stall to buy papaya milk shakes and honey bitter gourd juice. The queue over here could be long at times. With drinks in our hands, we continued enjoying ourselves on the walking streets and did some shopping along the way.
It was quite fun to join in the crowd and take in the sights and sounds of this wonderful and colourful place in Taipei. We walked towards the back of Xi Men Ding and it became quieter over there with considerably less human traffic.
There was a cinema and some cafes and pubs with patrons having a great time chatting happily over drinks and watching the world go by. We also saw a cute and lovable doggie sitting patiently on the ground while the owner was having a drink with friends.
We moved back into the thick of actions in the middle of Xi Men Ding. Huge crowd gathered at the main junction with blaring loud music and some buskers were performing stunts to entertain the crowd. We peeped in through the crowd to see the show for a short while and then moved on.
Next we walked to the other end of Xi Men Ding towards Xi Men Red House. The vicinity was another lively and busy area. Tents were setup outside the Red House selling arts and crafts stuff. This looked like another place young people loved to hangout.
Across the roads the buildings were lit up with brilliant colours of advertisement of all sorts taking us to another level of feasting for the eyes during this evening tour activity. People were crowding around going about enjoying their night out with families and friends.
We entered Net Store at one of the buildings at the traffic junction. A sale was going on and the store was packed full of shoppers. My dear wife bought a nice backpack and I bought two pairs of jeans at great discount. The jeans required alteration though and it was free. However, I would have to collect the jeans the following evening which wasn’t a problem for us staying here for two nights.
After this we went back into Xi Men Ding for more action. The walking streets were still as crowded with hordes of shoppers and people hanging out. A famous noodle soup restaurant attracted long lines of customers waiting to make their purchase and walk away with their trophies eating and shopping at the same time.
A number of mobile hawkers lined the streets moving from one place to another to sell snacks and smelly bean curd. People were undeterred by the smell though and some pushcarts were doing roaring business.
Soon our stomachs were calling again and we began to feel fatigue taking over soon. We found Saizeriya Restaurant at one of the main buildings together with other restaurants near KFC. Without hesitation, we went upstairs only to have to join a queue of diners waiting for a table.
After about ten minutes, we were called and ushered to an empty table. We were glad we could finally sit down to rest and eat something properly. Those famous little Taiwanese restaurants were too small and crowded to really sit down and take our time for a good meal.
We ordered pastas and went to get our unlimited refill of drinks. Saizeriya was a really good place to park ourselves after all the shopping and to immerse ourselves in a modern and comfortable restaurant with soothing ambience to calm our tired minds and bodies.
Our food came not very long after and we had a nice supper. The drinks were great. The waitresses were helpful and friendly and we were really grateful to find this restaurant here for a break during this shopping adventure.
After another great meal, we roamed some streets at Xi Men Ding for one last time and then walked towards the main road, Zhonghua Road, to return to Hotel Green World across the road. Along the main road near a traffic junction, a lady in long white dress was playing a harp.
The music was soothing and melodious but the crowd wasn’t huge. Had she been setup in the middle inside Xi Men Ding, she would no doubt become another crowd catcher. Perhaps the big harp was too much to carry through the crowd of people into the middle of the shopping square.
We continued walking to another traffic junction after spending a few minutes listening to her performance. When the traffic lights turned to our favour, we crossed the road back to the side of our hotel. Before entering the building to take the lift to our room, we bought a big bottle of drinking water from the convenience store at the corner.
Finally, we were back to our clean, cheerful and comfortable room. The clean bathtub was put to good use. Having made ourselves comfortable, we settled in for the night lying on bed catching up with the children back home via our phones. The TV was another added companion that saw us through the next hour before we eventually succumbed to the lure of sweet dreams of the colourful and brilliant sights and sounds of Taipei. It was good to be back to civilisation.
Continue to Day 5 …