Saturday, December 20, 2014

Travelogue: 8D7N Taiwan December 2014 Travel Itinerary (Taipei, Taichung & Cingjing)

//edited 04.01.15 

As promised I'm back with the actual videos/pictures of those accommodations I've stayed in my trip. Well, I am overall satisfied but just really disappointed for the one that I was particularly excited about. Read below to find out more. 

Note: Comments are all in blue and italic.

***

Finally it's the end of the year - also my favourite time of the year! It's usually my travel period. Been studying part-time for years and most of the time I can't travel on odd months like October or May so... Only during school holidays, I get to really enjoy myself without having to worry about assignment or work!

This trip makes it the 3rd time for me to Taiwan but it's the first for the boy and my first to be planning the entire itinerary on our own! The previous 2 times I went, I was always on tour groups with my family members - technically no wandering and exploration. We barely had to take any trains or cabs because we're always on a chartered mini bus or tour bus. So this time round I'm really excited to go there and get to all the places I've planned by public transport!

TRANSPORTATION

//edited 04.01.15

The HSR rides and collection of tickets were all very smooth. I'm happy to have booked online because the queue was superbly long. And plus booking in advance gives you discount - so why not right?

It was pretty tough trying to understand all the transportation system in Taiwan. Basically, there's 3 different kinds. HSR - High Speed Railway, MTR - the usual internal Metro in Taipei City and lastly TRA - Taiwan Railway Administration which is the slow poke train that you see in the movie ' 那些年,我們一起追的女孩 You Are The Apple Of My Eye'. I thought the hardest to figure out was TRA because of the specific odd timings and transfer... I shall tell you my experience when I come back. I pre-booked my HSR tickets as there's like 15 - 35% discount for online purchases! Metro is just like our MRT in Singapore so that's not an issue and plus the trains come every other minute. No need to worry miss train and get stranded for an hour or so before the next one comes.

Here is an example email if you were to book your HSR tickets online in advance. Payment is made via credit card and charged in Taiwan Dollars. This is the trip when we return from Cingjing towards Taipei. I also booked the train tickets from Taoyuan to Taichung but I thought since it was the same kind of email, I shall show only one of it.


//edited 04.01.15

Ok-bus was really good. The day I got my Taiwan number, I gave it to every company that needs it. Which means all my accommodations and transportation. Ok-bus gave me a call a day before the bus ride to tell us where to meet, then just 15 minutes before the stated meeting time they will call you again to remind/tell you the location and the car plate of the mini bus. For all the private transport we have taken (Taichung > Cingjing, Cingjing > Taichung HSR, Taichung HSR > Grano House, Ximen > Taiyuan Airport) every single driver will always arrive at least 10-15 minutes in advance to wait for you. Such awesome service and yes, I am very glad about all the transportation service I used. 

For my trip from Ximen to Taiyuan Airport, I was charged NT$900 for 2 person and 3 luggages. So if you need a reliable contact, here it is.

I believe they pick up anywhere around Taipei, so you could just call and check.
My girlfriend got hers at 4 person, 4 luggages from Taipei Main Station, NT$1,000.

Traveling up to Cingjing on our own was a little tough to manage. If we had 4 travelling together, it would be better as we could just share a cab over but since there's only 2 of us - we had to go the cheapo way which is to take a bus up! Friends who have been to Cingjing recommended a few and eventually I chose to go with Ok-Bus (this is different from E-go Bus, click on the links to see the difference websites). Ok Bus picks up from Taichung and E-go Bus picks up at Taipei. So don't get confused because initially I was.

Basically all you need to do is fill up the form on their Ok-Bus website that provides an form in English. Well, when they reply, it's in Chinese so.. either you google translate it or you get someone who can read Chinese to help you out.

The schedule for the buses are quite fixed and you just have to choose and go with it. The bus will pick up from the front porch of our guesthouse then to our Cingjing accommodation and will pick us up from the front porch of our Cingjing accommodation and send us to the Taichung HSR station.

Grano-House 卡諾 Annie's Guesthouse > 清境星光流域景觀民宿 Starshine > Taichung HSR Station

This round trip is NT$2,000 (about S$88) for 2 pax.

NT$500 deposit is required and you pay the rest in cash upon the first pick up.

So here is a screen shot of how the email would look like. Paypal will be charged to you in Taiwan Dollars subjected to their exchange rate, so you might or might not get a better rate.

ACCOMMODATION

Once again I've decided to go with Airbnb! (very cheapo me hahahaha) Airbnb is good because it's cheap, better locations sometimes and plus no breakfast provided means - I get to eat more local food!

Because I'm travelling up to Cingjing, I have to stay over a night at Taichung. At Taichung, I chose Grano-House 卡諾 Annie's guest house. 25 Dec to 26 Dec 2014, $61 for a night's stay.

Just a week from the trip, Airbnb will remind you via email and SMS. I'm assuming the same email will be send over to the host as a reminder too.

This is the room I've booked and let's see if it's really what it was shown.

//edited 04.01.15

I must say that I was delighted when I saw how the room was. Even though it's not very, very big but spacious enough for the 2 of us and most importantly, it was really - clean. Everything was pretty new and plus the service was awesome. The guesthouse owners helped us liaise with a taxi driver to pick us up from Taichung HSR and directly to Grano House for NT$300 (which isn't too bad since it saves you the trouble of going to find a cab and making sure the fellow knows where is this place)

Basic amenities like water flask, hair dryer, toothpaste/brush, towels and bathroom slippers were provided. Oh they have free wifi too! As what they promised, it was really 5 minutes walking distance to Fengjia Night Market. 

video

Kekeke, sorry for the mess.



The owners even prepared a map for tourist! How sweet!

Oh school kind of key and with the Wifi Password for you.

Guesthouse normally don't provide breakfast but for Grano they tell you where got breakfast and yes, we went to try and it was pretty decent and really nearby the guesthouse.

Overall, I am very happy with my stay at Grano and I would recommend anyone who needs a 1 or 2 night's stay at Taichung to choose them. Clean rooms - especially toilets I'm very happy about it. 

At Cingjing, I initially wanted to book Starry Night, but it was way too high and the rooms don't look very fantastic. Next I changed my mind and fixed on booking Misty Villa - but I did not in the end because of their stupid system that didn't allow me to book 1 month before, only 2 weeks before. I'm travelling on a peak seasons so I wanted to be safe and book in advance so.. I ended up with my 3rd choice, 清境星光流域景觀民宿 Starshine. A night's stay with breakfast and dinner included cost me NT$3,100 (which is about S$136).

Payment is also made through PayPal and they require a 50% deposit which amounts to about NT$1,500. You will pay the rest in cash upon check in.

The room looks decently comfortable. I hope it's as what the photo shows.

It came as a package besides getting the room, we're also given the following:



Which I thought wasn't too bad deal! Maybe because it's in the mountains so you don't really have anywhere else to eat... So they prepared everything for you! A good deal even though the per night isn't exactly the cheapest there.

//edited 04.01.15

This is the most expensive accommodation (in terms of per night) that I paid for. The pictures are pretty true to I had even the dishes that we ate looks almost the same from the pictures. The view was good and the food provided by the guesthouse was delicious. The only setback is that because it's a family run guesthouse, the owner will pick you up at 5pm to go back to the guesthouse as they need to prepare dinner. So... we reached there almost at 12, and then had a long lunch until 1 almost 2pm, so we didn't had much time to explore the places I wanted. I only stayed for a night and was to leave early next morning so... we only managed to go to the Green Green Grassland to see sheep and horses. I was kind disappointed that I didn't get to go Carton King and Little Swiss Garden but my main goal was still the sheep so I guess, it was - okay. :/

Another thing is there's no heater in the room - only the bed had a heater. It was f-r-e-e-z-i-n-g. Yes, 10 degrees is okay if you're all geared up but not when you want to bath and it's 10 degrees - not fun at all. We managed to survive one night, another night would have killed us. 


This is the video from our guesthouse balcony.

Outside our guesthouse, it's just half of it though.

See the door that's opened? That's our side of the guesthouse.


Pretty much the same as what they publicised on their website just some minor changes.

This is where dinner and breakfast was served.






And these dishes were for dinner. It was better then the restaurant food we had for lunch!




Breakfast! Doesn't look very appetising but trust it, it was so good. Yunnan dishes as breakfast, that's a change.

Overall I was happy with the stay. The food, the relaxed feel and morning scenery it was good. Just that I wouldn't recommend to come here in Winter but probably Autumn when it's not too freezing.

Lastly, my accommodation at Taipei is also with Airbnb, I'm staying at Lily's Guesthouse. 27 Dec 2014 to 1 Jan 2015, $453 for 5 nights' stay.



I am actually quite excited and looking forward to this particular one because it looks really huge and nice. Please don't disappoint me - or I'd tell the world how bad it was. (hahahahhahha)

As usual, I will post up pictures when I return and you'd be able to see how 'true-to-picture' the accommodation was.

//edited 04.01.15

Alright, you DO NOT, and I mean D-O N-O-T even try to book or stay at any of her apartments. Dirty and I felt so deceived because it looked NOTHING like what they showed. I paid so much for this guesthouse and I could have just topped up $100 and enjoy a much cleaner and comfortable hotel in Ximen. Man, I was so disappointed. Though I didn't confront the guesthouse owner immediately but I thought I should be very honest with this apartment. 

I booked my apartments pretty early - like 2-3 months in advance? So before I flew, I went back again to check out the updated comments and I saw someone saying there was cockroach. 


COCKROACH.

You know how much I hate them? To infinity and beyond - that's how much hate I have. The comment was in November and I thought.. okay maybe because not cold enough the cockroaches are still roaming about.. I decided to give it a chance but hell - that was the worst decision I made.


Hi, meet the baby roach I stomped to death.

Initially I thought I would just tell people not to go and not take pictures but the cockroach changed my mind. Not just the cockroach was gross. The toilet had his terrible drainage stench, the sofa were so dusty like they were never dusted and even the dustbin was so dirty. My god I don't even want to continue on the corners of the floor where you see BALLS OF DUST. Balls. I mean BALLS OF IT.





Grossed out much? Yes, I stayed for 5 days like I was in a refugee camp (but the boys says this is much better than what he had in Thailand while on NS trip - wahpiang we paid money lei!) Thankfully most of the time we're not at home so... that's how I make do with it.

That's not all, their bed don't even have a proper blanket, it was just a quilt in a plain white sheet and the bed was.. sigh, ok I don't want to go on already.

I left my honest comments on their page and also a personal comment to the owners. I really hope no one else have booked this apartment, else please cancel it or something. It's not worth $90 a night. 


This is really how it looks, and you see what they show on their Airbnb website. I felt like I got scammed. 

I was so excited and seeing the apartment just, totally disappointed the shit out of me. 


I AM NEVER, N-E-V-E-R STAYING ANY OF THEIR APARTMENT AGAIN.

FLIGHT

I am so happy because... It's been really long since I took Singapore Airlines. It is double happiness because we managed to get an awesome deal! Paying $542 for a Taiwan flight with Singapore Airlines on Christmas Day.. I feel so blessed. :D

I bought the tickets on July 7 and that was probably the happiest moment in the entire July.

Although I must say that I would gladly have preferred Jetstar's midnight flight over reaching Taoyuan early in the morning and flying back Singapore late at night but.. I guess there's some sacrifices worth. 

ITINERARY

Alright explorers! Here's the places that I will aim to conquer in this 8 days trip!

//edited 04.01.15

This portion needs bit more tidying and 'homework' so I will slowly update this page again.

25 December 2014, Day One, Thursday
Fengjia Night Market 逢甲夜市 (Best and biggest - I think, night marketing in Taichung)

26 December 2014, Day Two, Friday
Carton King 紙箱王 (One of the awesome attractions to dine in when at Cingjing)
薰衣草森林香草铺子清境店
清境星光流域景觀民宿 Starshine
Little Swiss Flower Garden 小瑞士花園
Green grassland 青青草原

27 December 2014, Day Three, Saturday
Beef Noodle 牛店 (Supposedly really good beef noodles)
Wu Fen Pu 五分埔
Raohe Street Night Market 饒河街觀光夜市 (Highly raved awesome night market)
Raohe Rainbow Bridge 彩虹橋

28 December 2014, Day Four, Sunday
Melange café 米朗琪咖啡館
Tamsui Fisherman's Wharf 淡水漁人碼頭
Tamsui Old Street 淡水老街
Cat Rain 貓雨咖啡
Museum of the Strange
Shida Night Market 師大路夜市

29 December 2014, Day Five, Monday
Jiu Fen Old Street 九份老街
Shifen Waterfall 十分大瀑布 (Currently still closed, hence better to check)
Shifen 十分
Keelung Miaokou Night Market 基隆廟口夜市
Wanted to go Jingtong and Pingxi but.. it would be too rushy so we dropped the idea

30 December 2014, Day Six, Tuesday
Yong He Dou Jiang Da Wang 永和豆浆大王
Nefful Taiwan Headquarters 妮芙露總公司
EastMetro Mall 東區地下街
Fatimaid Café
Din Tai Fung 鼎泰豐 (Flagship store is the best!)
Yong Kang Street 永康街
Tonghua Night Market 通化夜市

31 December 2014, Day Seven, Wednesday
Porter International Concept Store
Du Xiao Yue Danzai Mian 度小月擔仔麵
Honey Creme 蜂巢冰淇淋
MELISSA M Dreams Boutique
Dazzling Cafe
Eslite Dunhua 24hr bookstore
Xinyi Shopping District 信義區
ATT 4FUN mall
Taipei 101 台北101購物中心
Agnès b. Café LPG
The Diner樂子
Ximending 西門町
Taoyuan Street Beef Noodle老王記牛肉麵大王(桃源街牛肉麵)

1 January 2015, Day Eight, Thursday
Modern Toilet Restaurant 便所主題餐廳
AY-CHUNG flour-rice noodle 阿宗面线
Ximending 西門町


***

For the entire trip, I am paying $989~ per pax for all accommodation , HSR and Cingjing transportation, flight and insurance. To make things easier, here's a summary for 2 pax:

Taipei Accommodation: S$453
Taichung Accommodation: S$61
Cingjing Accommodation: S$137
Cingjing Transport: S$88
HSR Transport: S$94
NTUC Travel Insurance: S$63
Flight: S$1,083

I know it obviously looks impossible to cover all the place but I always like to have plan B to fall back on just in case the plan A doesn't work. In any case, I have a back up list which I won't be flooding here. I will update again in major details (just like Korea post) when I come back!

***

This is probably the last post before I fly to Taiwan. Hence, humble me would like to extend my humble thanks to every single reader that have once visited my blog - for whatever post you have read. Thank you all, so much for the year 2014. I will continue to share bits and pieces of my life and joy and write better! Special thanks to all kind readers that had left kind comments - awesome silent readers and friends are appreciated as well.

I hope in the year 2015, I will be able to travel more and bring more interesting post and itineraries to share. May the cafe hop continue on for me and bring more food places for you to try too!

Here's pepperminter wishing everyone that's reading this post, Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year in advance!

May each and every single one of you be blessed with a wonderful, exciting and joyous 2015 ahead!

GOOD BYE 2014!

WITH LOADS OF LOVE, RANIELLE


10 comments:

  1. Hello share your blog is great information for us , i read your blog using unique and best information. Mymenu nutrition given diffrent types of services My Menu Nutrition

    ReplyDelete
  2. Hi, need some advice. I understand most BnB in Taichung don't come with heater. Is the temperature in Dec bearable without heater in Taichung & Taipei city?

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    Replies
    1. Hi there, my accommodation had heater hence it was not a problem. The temperature is bearable just bring some long sleeve clothes and coat.

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  3. Hi, I see you only took up one airbnb accomodation at taipei. Is it centrally located so you are able to travel up to jiu fen and every where else is accessible?

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    Replies
    1. You can travel to Jiufen and Shifen without a day trip, they aren't too far. Just Cingjing you need another accommodation preferably.

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  4. Hi i see that you are travelling for 2 to cingjing using public transport but may I know how do u manage ur luggage ?

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    1. Hi, we took some 'egobus' transfer and they will assist you with the luggage. Their transfers are mainly mini buses. It's convenient and affordable :)

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  5. Thanks for sharing! :)
    May I know how was the weather during your 8 days there? I'm visiting Cingjing, Taichung & Taipei as well next week!

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    Replies
    1. Hi there, sorry for the late response as I just returned from Japan. The weather isnt too cold in Tichung and Taipei, just Cingjing would be like 10 or so. The rest are 15-19 range, whic his cooling.

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  6. The previous 2 times I went, I was always on tour groups with my family members - technically no wandering and exploration. http://www.stockholmfreetour.com

    ReplyDelete