The girls and I headed off to the land of milk tea and night markets for 7D6N of eating and shopping (吃东西买东西) . October weather hovered around a comfortable 21-28°C. Smack in the middle of Fall, days were hot with the bright sun and nights were cooling with strong winds. It was dryyyyy (though it did rain a tiny bit a couple of times) luckily I was equipped with my trusty Nivea Moisturiser tub.
SIN – TP : Jetstar with 15kg baggage allowance (chose this based on morning arrival time SGD231/pax)
If you’re a girl visiting Taiwan for the first time, be sure to check-in a huge but empty luggage. You’ll need it.
Tip: Get the Youth Card at Taoyuan Internation Airport (15-30yrs) — just flash it and try ur luck for free/cheaper tickets at certain attractions. It got us student price for a movie and even cheaper than student price at CingJingFarm Entry.
Covered quite a bit of ground, thanks to the familiar metro train system and Chinese-proficient friends of mine. (my mandarin is approx. primary 6 standard)
Places we visited include:
Night markets 夜市 — ShiDa 師大, ShiLin 士林, NingXia 寧夏, MiaoKou 庙口
Places of interest — CingJing Farm 清境農場, YeLiu 野柳, JiuFen 九份, ShiFen 十分, LongShanShi 龙山寺
Shopping/eating districts — XiMenDing 西門町, YongKangJie 永康街
1. Street Food
Its strange how girls here keep their figure when there’re so many high calorie supper options! Vacation’s not the time to watch ones weight, hence some pictures of our greedy faces.
Bubble tea along the way…
2. CingJing Farm
We took the HighSpeedRail (HSR) from Taipei Main Station to TaiChung (SGD32/pax for non-reserved seats) took us about 40mins, then we hired a taxi to drive us all the way up to our lodging at Misty Villa, high up a mountain range (SGD60 total) approx 1.5hrs.
Stopped for lunch at AhDong YaoZaiJi, a great recommendation by our driver. The food here was fabulous! MUST MUST MUST order the whole chicken — juicy and tender unlike any Singaporean chicken, maybe they’re more muscular due to rugged terrain up in the mountains. The view was pretty awesome too.
Finally arrived at CingJing Farm, still bright and early thanks to our meticulous planning. With tons of photo opportunities and gorgeous backdrops, my camera battery depleted too quickly. We mingled with sheep, rode horses, watched a hilarious animal show, aww-ed at ponies and tiptoed around poop. Get ready for photo spam!
3. Themed restaurant
The girls very kindly obliged my incessant need to visit Modern Toilet 便所主题餐厅 in XiMenDing – a themed restaurant where everything from the tables chairs bowls cups and decor reminds u of .. yeap a toilet.
4. Hot Spring
Millenium Hot Spring. Overcrowded with oldies even on a weekday aftnoon. Truly awkward at first with a row of obasans watching you in your skimpy westernised swimwear.. but the oldies turned out to be really friendly. My skin felt baby soft after a good 10-15min dip in the 43°C pool. Ouch at first, but pretty shiok once u get used to it.
Good idea to shower and thoroughly rinse your swimsuit after, as the powdery sulphur is rather difficult to get rid of. My suit still smells a little weird, hmm.
5. Chow’s porridge
At LongShan. We just asked around for the famous ZuRouZhou (pork porridge) and managed to find this hidden gem. A Must-try! Be sure to order the HongShaoRou (Roasted meat), PorkCheek and Porridge of course. Stay away from the bamboo shoots, yuck.
6. ShiFen 放天灯
Customary lantern-releasing along the railway tracks. First you choose the type of lantern you want, there are multi-coloured ones with each colour representing a different category (i.e. orange for love, blue for career, red for health) or single-coloured ones which are slightly cheaper. Pen down your hopes and dreams calligraphy style and release them into the night sky. Pray the angels understand chinese =X
If your taxi driver is as wonderful as ours, you’ll also experience lighting real fireworks! Something you cannot do legally in Singapore.
You can save all the last minute shopping for family and friends at JiuFen. All the typical Taiwanese food stuffs like FengLiSu (pineapple cake), TaiYangBing (ButterBiscuit), dried meat products (bakwa-ish), cuttlefish etc can be found here.
My personal recommendation: Sweetness Misty biscuit (carefully rationing my last 3 packets now!) Sweet yet salty, a chewy mystery mmmm.. its a modern blue bakery stall along JiuFen, where u can see the bakers assembling the biscuits on the spot.
When in Taiwan, eat what the Taiwanese eat. Which means MaLa everything…
9. XiMenDing Shopping
This is my kind of place. Compared to the NightMarkets, I’d much rather pay a slightly higher price for way more trendy and age-appropriate clothing/accessories at XiMenDing. Bags and clothes are not much cheaper than in Singapore, however the shoes were pretty worth it. For average SGD15, I managed to get good quality shoes with cushion! including heels, wedges and boots okay. The trick is to buy in bulk, so team up with ur friends, or just go nuts like I did and buy many many in a single store. You are allowed to bargain.
Every true hokkien will appreciate this famous MeeSua stall, AhZhongMianXien. Sprinkled with a few chunks of chewy delicious pork intestines stuffed with glutinous rice (i think), so addictive, no wonder the queue is endless. Regret not getting another bowl!
10. Photo-op at NanYangQiYan
At CingJing Farm:
Misty Villa, Family room for 1 cosy night. SGD195/room (fits 4 adults). Definitely worth it! The lady at the frontdesk was super professional and patient with us tourists, truly impressive service. They also provide complementary breakfast and a home-cooked 6 course dinner, which was so comforting after an exhausting day on the grasslands.
STAR Hostel was highly recommended by a number of friends as well as on forums. Pretty decent for a hostel, with the all important CLEAN toilets. Cons would include the lack of an elevator in a 6 storey apartment (which gave us toned leg muscles), and 1 night when the entire block experienced water shortage!! Thankfully the staff handled it well and offered alternative bathrooms in a neighboring hostel.
Double room – SGD30/pax/night. Dormitory – SGD25/pax/night
TP – SIN : Scoot with 20kg baggage allowance, SGD157/pax. 2 of the taitais exceeded their allowance (of course) but luckily the other 2 of us had light enough luggage to compensate for a total of < 80kg. Tip: Hushpuppies Ultra lightweight luggage collection, BUY IT.
Highly recommended Taxi Driver …
This is his brother’s name card, but awesome taxi driving runs in the family. We got him through a recommendation from a friend as well. Sincerely nice fatherly figure who makes you feel so safe and comfortable. Humble guy too =D .
Videos of us having fun playing funfair games at NingXia Night Market: