Continuing from my earlier post on discovering Taiwan, here’s the itinerary which I think be useful for 1st timers plus Mr Hung’s contact at the end of post if you wanna hire him to bring you around Taiwan. Please bear with this rather long post, as I rather not break up the itinerary into 2 pages, might make it harder for you to read everything. (yes yes, some of my fans have been telling me to write shorter posts, so I am trying!)
Hiring a driver has pros and cons!
Pros – it’s great for lazy bears and humans, large families especially if you are travelling with young or old ones.
Cons – it takes longer by car, especially when some places in the south of Taipei such as Taichung and Kaohsiung can be more easily accessed with their high speed trains in half the time.
First 3 days in Taipei before we moved on to explore other areas in Taiwan:
Day 1 – arrived in Taipei late afternoon. Checked in at Tango Xinyi (great location for its price) Walked around, went to buy organic tea at Zenique (you must get the Osmanthas Oolong tea) and went for dinner at Mitsui Cuisine – fantastic high quality Japanese cuisine, must order is the chef’s Omakase Menu.
Day 2 – Sightseeing at National Chiang Kai-Shek Memorial Hall and National Palace Museum – worth a visit if you want to see some old cultural relics from China and their famous jade carved pieces – need to have strong legs, a lot of walking. Lunch at Tung Hakka Cuisine (very good local Hakka food) and coffee at Melange Cafe (Zhongshan North Rd location, waffles are rather overrated, but nice place to hang out). Shopping – be sure to check out Ri Xing Typography – 日星鑄字行, carrying the most of Chinese character lead-type molds in the world, a must to see before it may have to close down. (No. 13號, Lane 97, Tàiyuán Road, Datong District). Tried street food for dinner at Rao He Night Market (one of the popular night markets in Taipei, instead of Shilin)
Day 3 – Spent lunch and afternoon in Yong Kang Street. Had local Taiwanese delights for lunch in Sit Fun 喫飯食堂, followed by Mango Shaved ice dessert at Smoothie House – both very enjoyable! While in Yong Kang St area, be sure to get the strawberry brioche bread from Morita Bakery and slightly further down be sure to get some lovely Ginger essential oils and diffusers from Ginger Natural Ingredient – a shop that focuses on ginger as its key ingredient in all its skin and bodycare products. Made a bad choice to go Xi Men Ding (only recommend it for young people up to the age of 20, nothing much there to do otherwise), dinner at one of the restaurants in Xin Guang San Yue (新光三越) Mitsukoshi shopping mall and late night shopping in Eslite (I love the one at Songgao Road, Xinyi district, near Xin Guang San Yue).
We pretty much hung out at Eslite every night in Taipei. The Songgao Road bookstore closes at 12 mn on weekdays, and till 2 am on weekends (the other retail stores in the building closes 2 hours before the bookstore).
Exploring the rest of Taiwan:
Day 4 – Drive towards Sun Moon Lake. Stopped on the way at Chung Tai Monastery in Nantou (this is definitely worth a visit in terms of its architecture and materials used to build this monastery – extremely impressive). Went to 18 degrees chocolate to buy some chocolate (similar to Royce chocolates, pretty yummy), stopped over at Puyi Wine Museum (for me this can be skipped) with lunch across the museum to eat their local beehoon with meat balls – supposedly very famous, but I didn’t think it was that great – you can be the judge when you do go there. Adjourned to the Yue Lao Temple (apparently it’s like a Cupid temple for people to pray to meet their loved one, am skeptic about it) ending off with a cruise at Sun Moon Lake and stay overnight at The Crystal Resort.
LOVEY’S WARNING: Don’t ever stay overnight in Sun Moon Lake. It was a waste of time, very overrated compared to all the other lakes i have seen in the world. If you really have to stay overnight, make sure you stay in a large hotel which has decent restaurant food, as the small town doesn’t offer much options.
Day 5 – Drove to Cingjing Farm – this is great fun especially in colder weather to see the horse show and hang around with the sheep. Great views of the mountains. Had a quick lunch nearby before adjourning to Tainan, where we checked into Shangri-La Far Eastern Plaza, big rooms with one of the best selection of hotel breakfast buffets. Dinner at a local street food called Ah Ming Zhu Xing Dong Fen along Bao-an Road (they do all sorts of pig parts from innards, liver to pork meat) – my only complain is the portions are too small. Checked out Shennong Street – one of the oldest streets in Tainan which has recently seen galleries, pubs moving in (maybe we went too late after 8 pm, there wasn’t much to see).
Day 6 – We continued exploring the old famous sights of Tainan such as the Tainan Confucian Temple 台灣孔廟, Anping Tree House 安平樹 (this felt really spooky, it’s definitely “hoo hoo” if you know what I mean. It’s been surrounded and entrenched by Banyan Trees for many years and the Chinese believe that Banyan Trees attracts spirits, enough said!), We had a light lunch eating some of the street food in the Tainan Old Street, such as Coffin Bread and deep fried Prawn rolls (I didn’t really enjoy it), and ended off at Lily Fruit Shop (199 Fucyan Rd) which serves deliciously sweet desserts and shaved ice.
We had a 2 hour long drive finally arriving in Taichung City. The highlight for me was buying chocolates and having a gigantic ice cream waffle cone from Miyahara 宮原眼科 where we met with R’s ex-colleague and his family. We caught up over dinner at Fu-Juang-Yuan Pork Restaurant, famous for their braised pork legs and other small dishes – personally for me, I didn’t really know how to eat the pork legs, so maybe didn’t enjoy it as much unfortunately. A 1 hour long drive after dinner brought us finally to E-Daw Resort (I thought the rooms were slightly old and was not impressed with the fact I had to run my own hot spring in my room, shouldn’t it be 24 hours running??)
Final night in Taipei:
Day 7 – We decided to explore more of Taichung instead of going to Miaoli for strawberry picking. Mr Hung brought me to the park near Park Lane shopping where there were tons of large sized teddy bears who had been specially designed by invited artists and designers. This was part of the Teddy Bear Lohas Carnival. A must stop at 海瑞貢丸 which sells Xin Zhu Mi Fen and Meatballs which we can bring back. We had a simple and delicious lunch here, probably one of the most enjoyable if talking about simple fare in Taiwan.
On hindsight, I think we should have stayed for 2 nights in Taichung and gone somewhere else for hotspring. Taichung’s hot springs wasn’t so impressive.
We headed to Taipei and arrived in the mid afternoon, where we finally had time to walk around Xin Guang San Yue (新光三越) Mitsukoshi. We ended with a yummy dinner at Wu Lao Guo which is famous for their ginseng and ma la soup base, a definite recommendation for anyone who wants to try hot pot in Taiwan. Stayed one night in Taipei to pack all our goodies bought before heading back the next day.
Day 8 – We checked out and on route to Taoyuan Airport, we went to Jiufen, famous for being the inspiration behind the famous anime – Spirited Away. We spent an hour plus walking through the streets trying out the local food before heading to the Gold Ecological Park 黃金博物園區 to take a look and had a quick stopover at the Golden Waterfall 黃金瀑布, passed the Ying Yang Sea 陰陽海, a famous bay where the sea is a mix of yellow and blue before finally arriving at the Taoyuan International Airport.
1. An advice is our itinerary is rather packed and can get quite tiring. If you rather take your time in a week in Taiwan, I think it’s nice to visit Taipei and Taichung with 1 additional relaxed spot to go to in between. We went to too many locations which made it rather tiring, that’s something to think about when you plan where you want to go.
2. Buy the local Taiwanese guide books from any bookstores that sell Mandarin guide books, they are much better and informative then buying the likes of Timeout.
3. Tourists can get tax refund of 5% back at all major shopping malls including even bookstores like Eslite.
Mr Hung (download LINE app to contact him at ‘free cost’ since Line uses Wifi)
Mobile: +88 6958606663
Rates per day: 4000 TWN per day (for small car), and 5500 TWN per day (for a large SUV car)
Additional charges of 1000 TWN per day for driver if spent out of Taipei to cover his overnight lodging.