Saturday, November 26, 2016

Taiwan Trip Summary

So, I'm back. With a sunburn. With extra body fat. And with boxes of Taiwanese mochi. Nope, no pineapple cakes... because Malaysia makes those better at a more affordable price. Now on to the important question:

How was the trip?

Generally, Taiwan was OK for me. I won't go back. It may only be 4 hours away, but it's not on my to-revisit list unlike Japan, South Korea, and Australia. It just didn't leave a great impression. But... that's just me. Who knows, you might have a different experience.
Blue sky and a sunburn at Qixingtan beach.

Day 1: A whole day of travel, from airplane to bus to train. We landed in Taoyuan International Airport at 11.30am and checked-in at Hualien at 6.40pm. 

Day 2: We rented bicycles at Giant Bicycles for NTD150 per bike a day. It was half the initial price I thought it would be. Apparently, NTD300 was for weekends. We cycled all the way to Qinxingtan beach via the city road, then cycled back to the city via the bicycle path for lunch. Did a little city sight-seeing before returning the bikes at around 3pm. After resting for a couple of hours in the hostel, and noticing the sunburn on our arms, we headed to Dongdamen Night Market for dinner. 

Day 3: Our taxi guide picked us up at our hostel at 9am. He drove us to Taroko National Park and stopped at all the places on the itinerary, except Baiyang Waterfall Trail as it was closed (the only trail I was looking forward to). The trails weren't fantastic, but there were some scenic spots. Still, I've seen better. I guess the more you travel the harder it is to be impressed. Also, pictures are an exaggeration of reality. If you'd like to see more pictures, check out my Instagram

The memorable 7-course lunch.

Day 4: Our taxi guide was right on time again. His name is Jason Huang, should you be interested. He gave an excellent service, despite the East Rift Valley being a dull place. In a sentence, let me say, Liyu Lake is just an ordinary lake, Lin Tian Shan Forestry Park is a timber museum, Guangfu Sugar Factory has nothing but sub-par ice-cream, and Ruisui Pasture isn't much of a farm. The only highlight of the day was our aboriginal lunch. Jason reserved a table for us at this reservation-only restaurant. It was NTD350 per person for 7 wild-grown, organic, aboriginal home-cooked dishes. We had our own likes and dislikes, but it was a gastronomic adventure. 

Day 5: We hopped on a morning train to Taipei and checked-in at 2pm. Then, we headed to Taipei Zoo. For the entrance fee, it is worth a visit. The zoo is huge! And there's plenty to see, if you have the time. After that, we took the Maokong Gondola to Maokong Mountain - we had the crystal cabin. As the sun was setting, the only bone-chilling moment was when cold gushes of air swooped into our glass cage. But despite the cold, the 30-minute ride provided a great panoramic view of day transitioning to night. Once at the top, we were just in time for dinner. Bracing the chilly air, we headed to Longmen Restaurant for a meal overlooking Taipei city. 

*Tip: if you want to cut cost, take a taxi down Maokong Mountain instead of the gondola. We saved NTD45 per person and 15 minutes.  

Day 6: Thinking businesses started early, we headed for Ximending at 9.30am. Half of the shops weren't open yet, but we managed to kill some time before heading for brunch at Tian Wai Tian Hotpot. You must, I repeat, you must give this restaurant a visit. The variety of seafood, desserts, drinks, fruits, and Haagen Dazs ice-creams is worth every dollar. It was the best meal of the trip, and the best buffet I've had in my life. Trust me, it's worth it. After that filling brunch, we visited Chiang Kai-Shek memorial hall, followed by the National Palace Museum (which is overpriced, in my book), and Shilin Night Market for dinner. Being that Malaysia has adopted the popular Taiwanese street food, and that we were still stuffed from the buffet, nothing intrigued us enough to make us stay for long. So we headed back after a few bites of stinky tofu. 

History lesson at Chiang Kai-Shek Memorial Hall.

Day 7: We were told to take Bus 1819 instead of a train to the airport. Just in case you end up wandering around like we did, you can buy the tickets by the bus station itself. There's a booth just a few feet from the Bus 1819 queue. Our flight was at 12.40pm and we touched Malaysian soil at 5.10pm. It was back to reality. 

A warm meal on the chilly mount.
Did the budget work?

Yes. I had a surplus of NTD335. Depending on the conversion rate, that's about RM40. Not much, but I was surprised there was an extra. As the aboriginal lunch and the Longmen dinner couldn't be estimated before hand, and were actually expensive, I was afraid I would be short on cash. But even so, there were plenty of NTD to go around.

How was the lodging?

Hualien: This listing is a hostel. The host failed to make mention of this. When I search for listings on Airbnb, I always tick the 'Entire home/apt' box. So when I checked into this place, I assumed we would have the privacy. But when night came, we were surprised to find another person staying on the third floor. Now if you don't mind hostels, then this is a great place. It's clean, cosy, and comfortable. But if you're like me, and you prefer your own space, skip this one and look for another.

Taipei: I have no idea how this listing is constantly booked and has such a high rating. I don't like to give bad reviews as it affects the livelihood of others, but despite the spacious rooms, this place lacks hygiene. The bathroom is molding, the heater isn't working, and we found a dead cockroach under the table. The home itself isn't new, but the host could've paid more attention to cleaning. Oh, and there's barely any kitchen utensils. Like I said above, pictures are an exaggeration of reality, and very much so in this case.

The cliche shot by Taroko Archway.
Did I do any shopping?

I didn't plan to, but with a surplus in budget, I did. I brought home Taiwanese mochi, nougats, and dried fruits. My brother bought himself a pair of shoes for half the price it would have been in Malaysia. 

To sum it up...

Taiwan isn't my kind of place, and it has failed to top my previous escapades. It wasn't a bad trip, but it wasn't memorable either. At least I can check Taiwan off my list. 

Next stop, Hokkaido!

Check out my other posts on Taiwan:

Friday, November 4, 2016

7 Days Taiwan Budget

Let me first say, that for 7 days, it's a pretty cheap trip. I tried to keep the budget below RM2k, but because I'm not sure about the food cost, I decided to play it safe and increase it. I also had to hire the taxi guide for an extra day, as an attraction I intended to visit on my own closed for the year.

Here's the break down:

7 Days, 6 Nights in Taiwan

Transportation: RM1149 

KL to Taipei (return) via Malindo Air: RM911
Airport to Taipei Station (return): RM40
Hualien Express Train - Tze-Chiang (return): RM110
Hualien One-Day Bike Rental: RM38
Misc Transport: RM50

Entry Fees/ Activities: RM285
Hualien 2-Day Guide Fee: RM215
National Palace Museum: RM32
Taipei Zoo: RM7.50
Maokong Gondola (return): RM30.50

Accommodation: RM 632
Hualien: RM 400 (4 nights)
Taipei: RM 232 (2 nights)

Food & Miscellaneous: RM392 
(Odd amount as it's adjusted to fit the round up of RM800 cash in-hand)  

*At time of cash conversion, currency rate fluctuates around RM 12.72 = NTD100

Estimated Total Per Person: RM2434

As always, I'm pretty sure there'll be a surplus. How much exactly, I can't tell now. It's always better to have more than less, right? Once I get back, I'll confirm whether the budget worked.

Post-trip post: