Taiwan Day 7 & 8 – New Taipei City

Itinerary: Nanya Peculiar Stone, Golden Waterfall, Gold Ecological Park, Jiufen, Shifen, Chiang Kai-Shek Memorial Hall, Taipei Zoo

➡ Day 1: Singapore > Taipei | Xinbeitou Hot Spring, Shilin Night Market
➡ Day 2: Taipei > Kaohsiung | E-DA World
➡ Day 3: Kaohsiung | E-DA Theme Park > Taichung | Fengjia Market
➡ Day 4: Taichung City Tour
➡ Day 5: Taichung > Cingjing
Day 6: Cingjing > Taipei

Finally, I’m at my last post now. I pushed myself so hard to complete our 2015 Taiwan Summer Vacation series ‘cos next month I’ll be blogging about Korea. Haha, I spilled the beans about our upcoming June vacation. I’ll be back with more K-Beauty posts too. =)

On Day 7, we explored New Taipei City with our driver, Mr. Wen. He’s very kind and took great care of us, I’d highly recommend him too. He picked us from our hotel at 10am and we set-off to Jiufen, which is about 45 mins drive away.

On the way, we stopped by Nanya Peculiar Stone (南雅奇岩) – which is just a road side stop. There are many giant rocks and layered sandstone rocks being eroded by rain and wind over a long period of time and turned into peculiar shapes. We stood at the top, admiring the beautiful view of the stones scattered all around the sea that is azure blue and clear.

Nanya

T1

T18

This is one of my favourite scenic spots. Further down, we saw the Yin Yang Sea (陰陽海) – a bay where the sea is a mix of yellow and blue (didn’t manage to take a picture of this).

Next, our driver drove us up to Gold Ecological Park. On the way, we visited the Golden Waterfall (黃金瀑布). There’s no real gold here, but the water is in stunning gold as a result of the combination of regular rainfall in this mining area and the abundance of heavy metal elements deposited in the riverbed.

T17The waterfall is behind us in this picture

Gold Ecological Park (黃金博物園區) is located in the mountain town of Jinguashi (金瓜石) in Ruifang District, New Taipei City. It’s rich in historical, cultural and natural resources. The must-visit in this area is the Museum of Gold, which is an eye opener to gold mining industry as well as insightful look into the life of a miner.

Taiwan Day 6 – Cing Jing to Taipei

➡ Day 1: Singapore > Taipei | Xinbeitou Hot Spring, Shilin Night Market
➡ Day 2: Taipei > Kaohsiung | E-DA World
➡ Day 3: Kaohsiung | E-DA Theme Park > Taichung | Fengjia Market
➡ Day 4: Taichung City Tour
Day 5: Taichung > Cingjing
➡ Day 6: Cingjing > Taipei

First of all, I apologize for the poor quality pictures. As this was a free and easy trip, I expected lots of moving around with our luggage. Therefore, I brought my old point-and-shoot camera. It’s small and slips easily into my pocket. But looking at my pictures now, I regretted big time for not bringing my Olympus OMD instead.

So, for my next vacation, my Olympus shouldn’t be left home.

Continuing with Day 5 at Cingjing now. That night, we slept very early as there wasn’t much activities for us to do. The good thing was – we’re all well-rested! Even though the room wasn’t equipped with air-con or fan, the cooling weather in Cingjing is best for zzZzz.

We had a simple breakfast provided by the host of Dreamtown Minsu before we checked-out. Our driver took us to visit Small Swiss Garden. The colourful flowers, red maples and LED artificial sunflowers of the garden give it a unique atmosphere. Nonetheless, our driver said that the garden is pathetically small and he didn’t recommend it. We better off saved the time and money to visit somewhere else. We agreed and made a quick visit at the surrounding of the garden before we left.

Our next stop was Feeling 18℃ Hand Made Chocolate Factory. Although the chocolates sold here is not cheap, it’s a MUST TRY! The owner, Master Mao, has more than ten years of experience in the production of chocolate. He also went to Japan to improve his skills. His hard works paid off when its fame spread all over Taiwan and made Feeling 18℃ a tourist attraction of Puli – which is also his hometown.

I can still remember the taste of that extraordinarily rich chocolate that melts in my mouth. The sweetness is well-balanced, the texture is silky smooth and the packaging is very beautiful too – making it a perfect gift for every occasion.

After enjoying the ice-cream and chocolates, we walked across the road to the other side of the shop for some free drinks. The shop served free tea and coffees to their visitors, how nice!

Feeling 18℃
No.20, Ci’en St., Puli Township, Nantou County 545, Taiwan (R.O.C.)
Website: http://www.feeling18c.com/en/

We continued our car ride to a local snack store that sells local specialty which includes a wide range of biscuits and cakes. Here, you can sample any type of biscuits and cakes before buying them.

3

They’re famous for their Tai Yang Bing (太陽餅) and Lemon Biscuits (檸檬餅). Their signature lemon biscuit is served cold and very yummy. Edison couldn’t stop sampling it. LOL. We bought of a few boxes of that lemon biscuits.

We also tried their Tai Yang Bing and loved it. They also have pineapple cakes in many different flavours. We loved the pineapple, lemon and strawberry flavours. And that, we bought a few boxes too.

The shop provides value-added service to pack your purchases neatly into boxes. I heard that they can also send to the hotel of your last destination! We spent quite a lot here and got one big box of Taiwan snacks loaded into our driver’s trunk before we head to Taipei. Since our next hotel in Taipei will be our last destination, it’s convenient for us to just check-in the entire box at the airport when we return to Singapore.

Ichihuku 一福堂
108-23 Zhongqing Lu Zhongqing 433 Taichung City, Taiwan.
Website: http://www.iffood.com.tw/

There is one thing that I love about Taiwan. From trains to virtually every street, you will see affordable lunch boxes (also known as bento or 便当). It’s very convenient and everyone literally eats on the go. I like the bentos sold at the HSR station with different combinations of main and side dishes brought together into one hearty and tasty box.

Do you know that these bentos first made their way to Taiwan during the first half of the 20th century from Japan and were commonly sold in Taiwan’s railway station and train cabins? So, there’s something comforting and nostalgic about these bentos.

Our driver took us to try out the nostalgic railway station bento. It’s actually an old railway station that was no longer in operation. It was brought over by the owner who then converted it into a railway station bento café.

4

5

6

7

The food wasn’t fantastic but I like how the interior of the train was being preserved. It was really nostalgic. I couldn’t remember the name of this place.

After our lunch here, we continued our journey to Taipei. The highway traffic was heavy as the locals were returning to Taipei at the end of a long weekend (Dragon Boat Festival). It took us 2.5 hours to reach Taipei, it could have been faster if we took the HSR.

Our hotel in Taipei was Simple Plus Hotel, specially handpicked by V after reading so many reviews on Agoda and TripAdvisor. He was super proud of it as this the cheapest hotel in our entire Taiwan trip (cost less than $100 per night), and it includes breakfast for three, and complimentary washer & dryer use. It’s also within 5 mins walk to FuXing NanJing metro station.

8

9

10

The room was quite small and the lightning was dim, but it was cosy and fairly comfortable. The bathroom was clean and has a nice bath tub. There were also fresh fruits served in the lobby every morning. The breakfast spread was acceptable. Overall, it’s a nice boutique hotel that’s affordable and worth the money.

Simple Plus Hotel
No.52, Ln. 4, Dunhua N. Rd., Songshan Dist., Taipei City 105, Taiwan (R.O.C.)
Website: http://www.simplehotel.com.tw/

 

Read more travel posts from Taiwan!

Taiwan Day 5 – Taichung to Cing Jing

Cingjing Itinerary: Puli King Garden, Guangxing Paper Mill, Feeling 18C, The Old England, Green Green Grassland, Small Swiss Garden, Dreamtown Minsu

➡ Day 1: Singapore > Taipei | Xinbeitou Hot Spring, Shilin Night Market
➡ Day 2: Taipei > Kaohsiung | E-DA World
➡ Day 3: Kaohsiung | E-DA Theme Park > Taichung | Fengjia Market
➡ Day 4: Taichung City Tour
➡ Day 5: Taichung > Cingjing

I can’t believe I took so long to write up our Taiwan trip in June last year. Hopefully, I could finish it before we head for another vacation this coming school holiday. To speed up this series, the subsequent posts will be more pictorial than words as I’ve forgotten some of the details. Jiayou, Emily! ^ ^

Due to the crazy summer heat (never expected it to be any hotter than Singapore but it really was!), we were so looking forward to a cooler weather in Cingjing. On Day 5, we left Taichung after breakfast and our driver drove us up to Cingjing mountains.

On the way, we visited Puli – a town at the geographic center of Taiwan in Nantou County. It is located in a very lush and beautiful valley with many hiking trails, and its central position makes it a logical base for visiting the mountains and lakes in the area.

Our first stop was Puli King Garden. This place is more like a convenience store, restaurant, gift shop and rest area “all-in-one” designed with a castle-like exterior. There are lots of local delicacies, desserts and snacks sold here.

King Garden 2

King Garden

King Garden 3I was amazed to see Ipoh White Coffee here.

The front part of the castle is perfect for photo-taking. There is nothing much to do or see except walk around, take some photos or do some souvenirs shopping. Admission is free though.

King Park 2

King Park 3

Puli King Garden
No.219, Sec. 4, Zhongshan Rd., Puli Township, Nantou County 545, Taiwan (R.O.C.)

Our next destination was Guangxing Paper Mill. Puli was also called “The Hometown of Handmade Paper” in Taiwan. Its unique climate and exceptional water quality made it an ideal place for paper manufacturing. The Guangxing Paper Mill has been producing handmade paper for 50 years.

Taiwan Paper

Taiwan Paper 2

We went on a short factory tour. We were demonstrated the process of making papers from pulp. I couldn’t believe it took so much time and effort to hand-made a piece of paper.

Guangxing Paper Mill
No.310, Tieshan Rd., Puli Township, Nantou County 545, Taiwan (R.O.C.).
Website: http://www.taiwanpaper.com.tw/

After the paper factory, we continued our journey up to the Cingjing mountains. The journey was fun, scenic and windy. Ahh, finally cool weather!  😆

We stopped by the famous Old England Manor for some photo-taking. Standing tall on the highlands of Nantou, this traditional English Mansion with its white marble facade, gigantic clock on the main tower coupled with detailed wall sculptures is a majestic sight to behold.

Old England

Old England 2

It was said that the owner spent 9 years and invested hundreds of millions Taiwan Dollar on this Tudor-style mansion. With their cheapest suite going at TWD15,000 (S$600+ per night), this is the most luxurious and expensive minsu in Taiwan. Nope, we didn’t stay here.  😐

The Old England 老英格蘭
No.20-3, Shouting Ln., Renai County, Nantou, Taiwan 546
Website: http://www.theoldengland.com/

As I was told by my friends, one of the must-have experiences in Taiwan is staying in a minsu (民宿), also commonly known as homestay or bed-and-breakfast. Minsu owners are usually very friendly and make their guests feel at home. Some of them even drive their guests to nearby attractions for free, or help to arrange trips around the vicinity for a nominal fee. Best of all, the guests get to enjoy a sumptuous home-cooked meal.

It was a public holiday in Taiwan that weekend (Dragon Boat Festival). All the hotels on Agoda were fully booked, so we decided to give minsu a try. However, booking a minsu online isn’t an easy affair if you’re not good in Traditional Chinese.

Luckily, I found one that has English words on its website and their photos look quite nice too. So, I booked a room in Dreamtown Minsu 嵐山小鎮. Will share more on that later.

We reached Green Green Grasslands just in-time for the sheep shearing and horse show. There are some food stalls but they didn’t look too appetizing for us. The show, according to Edison, was somewhat boring. He compared it to the animal show that he watched in Gold Coast previously, and he lamented that this show is more “talking” than “real actions”.

Cingjing Food Stall

Cingjing Sheep Show 3

Cingjing Sheep Show 4

Cingjing Sheep Show 2

I agreed that it was quite boring. Furthermore, the place was so packed with visitors (both local and from overseas). The star of the show, an angmoh who speaks fluent Taiwanese-accent Chinese, was able to keep the audience entertained with his jokes. He also sheared the sheep in front of the audience.

Dreamtown 4

After the show, our driver drove us to our minsu. We booked a twin-room in Dreamtown Minsu (李白大夢二人房), that’s the last available room. Our driver told us that we were lucky to be able to book a minsu on a public holiday long weekend as it’s usually fully-booked. Lesson learnt – avoid public holiday when visiting Taiwan!

The room has a queen-sized bed, small and looked quite old – which is a far cry from the pictures that we saw on their website. The interior of the minsu looked very outdated too. Worst of all, we had to walk down flights of stairs to our room with our heavy luggages!

Dreamtown

Dreamtown 2

Dreamtown 5

Dreamtown 6

Luckily, we ordered steamboat dinner from the host. We didn’t see much eateries around the minsu. That night, we enjoyed a home-style piping hot steamboat dinner in the cold weather. That wrapped up our not-so-fantastic visit to Cingjing. Especially at night, there wasn’t any activities to do. Within walking distance from the minsu, there’s only a 7-11 convenient store.

Dreamtown 8

Dreamtown 7The home-style steamboat was nice though
Dreamtown 10The minsu lobby that was really outdated
Dreamtown 9The breakfast was a simple affair too

Nonetheless, the hosts of Dreamtown Minsu were warm, friendly and helpful. If you’d ask me, I still prefer to stay in a hotel than minsu. Since this was our first time, it’s good to experience staying in a minsu in Taiwan at least once.

Dreamtown Minsu (嵐山小鎮)
Website: http://www.dreamtown.com.tw/

 

Read more travel posts from Taiwan!

Taiwan Day 4 – Taichung City Tour

Taichung Itinerary: Xinfeng Farm, Ah Liang’s Mushroom Garden, Lavender Cottage, Princess Annie’s Garden, Summit Resort, Carton King Creativity Park, Fengjia Night Market

➡ Day 1: Singapore > Taipei | Xinbeitou Hot Spring, Shilin Night Market
➡ Day 2: Taipei > Kaohsiung | E-DA World
➡ Day 3: Kaohsiung | E-DA Theme Park > Taichung | Fengjia Market
➡ Day 4: Taichung City Tour

Day 4 of our trip was pretty stress-free because we’ve engaged a driver to bring us around. He’ll be with us for three days to tour Taichung, Cingjing and back to Taipei on the third day. We paid him NT$12,000 (~SG$515), and it’s going to save us a lot of travelling time and hassles from moving our luggage around.

Our driver, Mr. Yang (his contact was listed on this post), picked us from our hotel at 9am sharp. He’s a very experienced and skillful driver (with more than 15 years of experience). He even prepared bottles of mineral water in his car for us, we were so touched by his kind gesture.

Most of our Taichung itinerary was suggested by him, except for Xinfeng Farm which I’ve specially requested. Reason – Edison wanted to try-out strawberry picking but unfortunately, it was summer – strawberries were no longer available. So, we planned to bring him to another fruit farm for some fruit picking opportunities. I chanced upon Xinfeng Farm from this website, so we thought of bringing him there.

Much to my surprise, Mr. Yang told us that he has never been there and he was kinda surprised that we asked to go there. He had to rely on his GPS to bring us there, and it was about an hour’s drive from La Vida Hotel that we stayed.

Xinfeng Farm  新峰農場

XinFeng Farm

Xinfeng Farm provides a wonderful setting for a genuine fruit picking experience that kids and adults will enjoy. For a city boy like Edison, he truly enjoyed himself here as he experienced grape picking for the first time.

Jufeng grapes (巨峰葡萄) grow here from June to August and from October to December. They have dark purple, thick and chewy skin, with a sweet and sour taste. We didn’t like eating the grapes because they’re sour, but we still bought back those that Edison picked.

XinFeng3

Admission to the farm is free. Visitors can purchase the fruits that they picked at a reasonable price. Tools for fruit picking will be provided. Apart from grapes, the farm also have peaches, tangerines, loquats and even oranges at different months.

Ah Liang’s Mushroom Garden  阿亮香菇園 | Website: http://www.aliang.com.tw/

Ah Liang's Mushroom Garden

This mushroom garden is located near Xinfeng Farm. To be honest, this place is quite boring so we left in less than half an hour. Perhaps a mushroom farm doesn’t look as interesting as a fruit farm because it’s dark and musty.

Over here, you can see how mushrooms are grown. There are a variety of mushrooms for both medicinal and culinary purposes, such as shitake, enokitake, oyster mushrooms, meaty king oyster mushrooms, and even lingzhi. Besides mushrooms, you can also purchase a variety of mushroom products here.

Ah Liang's Mushroom Garden“Mama, can we go now? This place is so boring!”

Admission is free.

Lavender Cottage  薰衣草森林 | Website: http://www.lavendercottage.com.tw/

Lavender's Cottage

Among all the places that we’ve visited in Taichung, Lavender Cottage is the most beautiful, interesting and enjoyable. So, if you’re visiting Taichung, this is the place that I’d recommend.

The best way to introduce this place to you is to tell you the story of two young women. Many years ago, two coffee-loving and herb-loving young women enjoyed travelling around the world as they drew and record their feelings into music. Tired from working in the big cities of Taipei and Kaohsiung, they decided to quit their jobs and started their new life as farmers.

They bought a hill in the middle of nowhere that even mobile phone signal was hard to pick-up. And there, they experiment with growing lavender, and built their dream of a hillside coffee shop surrounded by lavender. After years of hard work, their dream was realized and Lavender Cottage was born.

Interesting and inspiring, isn’t it?

Lavender Cottage is one of the cosiest, most beautiful and relaxing little gardens you can find in Taichung. As we stepped into the garden, we were amazed by the beauty of the purple lavender and its delightful scent. The grass is so green and the cottage is very tastefully-decorated too.

Lavender's Cottage

You can find lavender products such as soap, bath powder, fragrance and lip gloss, as well as souvenirs such as postcards here. You need to pay admission fee, but it’s redeemable for food and drinks.

Carton King Creativity Park  紙箱王創意主題園區 | Website: www.cartonking.com.tw

Carton King Creativity Park

Carton King is very popular in Taiwan, and in fact, I’ve heard of it many times before I had a chance to visit this place. Carton King Creativity Park is a pretty little garden with adjoining restaurant, honey store and souvenir store. As its name suggests, cartons are the main “ingredient” here. It’s totally unbelievable that almost all the things here are made of cardboard – except the people and food, of course! In their restaurant, even the tables and chairs are made of cardboard.

Carton King Creativity Park

Creativity is simply unlimited here. There are more than a thousand products made of cardboard, from furniture to decorations, toys, animals, lighting, photo frame, bag and puzzles. There is really no places like this elsewhere in the world.

Admission fee applies.

Princess Annie’s Garden  安妮公主花園

This garden is somewhat similar to Lavender Cottage but on a much smaller scale. The garden restaurant provides ample seating varying from indoor to wooden pavilion and outdoor, with a wide variety of western cuisine, dessert and drinks. The garden has lovely decorations fit for a princess, but other than that, there is really nothing else to see here.

Admission fee applies.

Summit Resort  新社莊園 Website: http://www.summit-resort.com/

Summit Resort

Before we completely melted under the summer heat, we visited Summit Resort as our last destination before we head back to our hotel.

Summit Resort

Summit Resort

This European style castle is not left by European, but it was built by locals many years ago. It’s a beautiful and scenic place to take a stroll and pictures. The atmosphere is nice and relaxing. Best to go during winter, but certainly not summer as it’s very warm and sunny.

Summit Resort

Admission fee applies.

We returned to our hotel at around 6:30pm, took a shower and head to Fengjia Night Market for dinner. All in all, it was an enjoyable day in Taichung. Lavender Cottage and Carton King are an eye-opener that shows us the power of ideas and creativity.

 

Read more travel posts from Taiwan!

Taiwan Free and Easy Itinerary – June 2015 Summer Vacation (8D7N)

TW Itinerary

Many readers asked for my 8 days 7 nights Taiwan free and easy itinerary, so I’ve decided to share it here today. I’m sorry for losing the momentum to blog about my Taiwan summer vacation back in June 2015. I’ll attempt to pick it up again from where I left few months ago.

First off, my 8D7N Taiwan itinerary is as follow:

Day 1: Arrive at Taipei > Check-in to XinBeiTou Hot Spring > Visit Taipei 101 Observatory > Dinner at Shilin Night Market

[Read: Taiwan Day 1 – Taipei, Beitou Hot Spring Resort]

Day 2: Take HSR to Kaohsiung > Check-in to E-Da Royal Hotel > Shopping and Dinner at E-DA Outlet Mall

[Read: Taiwan Day 2 – Kaohsiung E-DA World via High Speed Rail]

Day 3: E-DA Theme Park > Take HSR to Taichung > Check-in La Vida Hotel > Shopping and Dinner at Fengjia Night Market

[Read: Taiwan Day 3 – Kaohsiung E-DA Theme Park & Taichung Fengjia Night Market]

Day 4: Taichung city tour > Visit Xinfeng Farm, Ah Liang Mushroom Garden, Lavender Cottage, Bai-Leng Watercourse, Annie’s Garden, Summit Resort, Carton King Restaurant > Back to La Vida Hotel (via driver)

[Read: Taiwan Day 4 – Taichung City Tour]

Day 5: Drive to Cingjing (via driver) > Visit King Garden, Taiwan Paper, Feeling 18C, The Old England, Green Green Grassland > Check-in to Dreamtown Minsu > Steamboat dinner at Dreamtown Minsu

[Read: Taiwan Day 5 – Taichung to Cing Jing]

Day 6: Visit Swiss Garden at Cingjing > Drive to Taipei (via driver) > Check-in to Simple Plus Hotel

[Read: Taiwan Day 6 – Cing Jing to Taipei]

Day 7: Visit New Taipei City (via driver) > 南雅奇岩、黃金瀑布、陰陽海、十三層遺址、黃金博物園區、九份老街、十分瀑布、十分鐵道放天燈、菁桐車站、波麗士電子天燈 > Back to Simple Plus Hotel

[Read: Taiwan Day 7 – New Taipei City and Taipei]

Day 8: Chiang Kai-shek Memorial Hall > Taipei Zoo > Check-out from Simple Plus Hotel > Departure at Taipei

We engaged two drivers to bring us around Taichung, Cingjing and New Taipei City. Both of them are very nice, friendly, experienced and took great care of us. We highly recommend them. I attached their name cards here, they can be easily contacted via LINE or Whatsapp.

Driver Contact

 

Read more travel posts from Taiwan!