Thursday, July 7, 2016

Taiwan Day 1 -Cityinn 3 Hotel. Tamsui old street, Shilin Night Market

Day 1 Taiwan Itinerary -Taoyuan Airport>Taipei Main Station>Cityinn 3 Hotel>Tamshui>Shilin Night Market. 

Hello readers! I am back to updating my blog again! I just came back from Taiwan recently, there was a promotion by Jetstar airlines which was offering $0 for return trip from taipei to Singapore so we bought our tickets to Taiwan at only $470plus with 60kg baggage! It was a two way ticket so it was quite cheap because i remember the last time we went to Taiwan which was 3 years ago, we spend about $700plus for two way ticket, taking Jetstar airline and its the same Jul month.
So its true that you can keep a lookout for promotions or booking your flight early to get cheap deals!
So after i booked our flight tickets, i started to plan our itinerary because the first time we only visit Taipei area, and this time round i went to do some research and decided to visit Taichung as well!

Once you visit Taichung, you will find that Taipei is kinda of boring. HAHA. But i still love Taiwan!
So i went to find lots of blog reviews and get to know that Taichung is not accessible compared to Taipei whereby you can get to the places you want through their MRT. So it was advisable to book a cab for the whole day if we are planning to visit the different places that i want to go in Taichung.
I went to check with several different drivers and while some quoted about the same market rate, there were others who charge slightly higher. I was actually liasing with the boss of this cab company with referral from other blogs that address him as 刘先生. He told me he would send me the confirmation slip after i confirm booking their cab for two days.
Initially,I didn't want to book the same taxi driver just in case if the driver i book was not a nice driver, i would be stucked with that driver for my entire trip in tai chung so i had another driver on the third day, before that i went to approach a few driver to ask for their quote, do take note that if you are interested to book a cab with the driver, it would be easier for you if you know how to text in chinese because i myself spend quite a great deal of time trying to text in chinese while communicating with them and they don't really speak english as often as we Singaporean do. But they are definitely much friendly than us!
I like how it was more reliable when they issue the confirmation slip with the driver name, contact number etc once we have confirmed to engage their service. It gives a more clear and detailed of your expected itinerary when they are bringing you around the whole day as well as the rate they are charging, so no hidden cost etc.
So i remember one week before we was due to travel to Taiwan, the driver that was assigned to us messaged me to confirm our itinerary and to inform us to contact him once we have reached Taichung. I was quite surprised from his display photo that he looks young as i initially thought all cab drivers should be uncle type. Talking about stereotype. hahaha.

I was looking forward to our holiday because the last time we travel was in march and it has been a few months already! So a day before we was due to fly to Taiwan which was the Hari Raya Puasa and it was my birthday as well, the boss of this cab company whatsapp me telling me i can cancel my arranged cab for the two days that i booked because typhoon is approaching and its not advisable for them to drive us to mountain which was our itinerary day 2 and not safe as well.
This was before the official news that the typhoon is affecting Taiwan, when i first received the news from him, i was like, how about we monitor the condition first? I never experienced typhoon before so i do not know the impact, i was more frustrated if my itinerary got disrupted or if my flight is cancelled. HAHA.
so i told him if we can't board the plane and flight has to be cancelled then we will cancel the cab.
So he was okay with that, and telling me he would inform me if there is any new updates, but later that afternoon, he whatsapp call me telling me its better for me to stay in Taipei for the first two days and probably go Taichung on sat and sunday because there is a stop school and work order on friday in Taiwan. So one day before we was due to travel, i had to change all my accommodation, it took me almost the entire afternoon to liaise with the different minsu because we was min-su hopping every day except the hotel in Taipei. I had to call the minsu in Taichung to check if they can change the date for me, cancel the minsu in mountain because we cannot go up on the 2nd day which was forecasted that typhoon will be affecting the whole taiwan. Le bf was checking with his friend since his friend happen to be in Taiwan and bf suggested to cancel our plan to visit Taichung by staying only at Taipei which i was reluctant because Taichung looks more fun and interesting than in Taipei after my research!

Thankfully, all the minsu owners was super nice and agreed to cancel my reservation and refund me back our deposit, there was one which i had already paid upfront through agoda and they was able to contact the minsu in charge to cancel and refund back our money as well. The driver told me we have the right to cancel because the government has the regulation that customers can cancel their hotel stay if they encountered special circumstances such as typhoon, and hotel or minsu owners cannot forfeit the customer deposit if they don't turn up etc. But still, i am grateful i didnt have any issue with the minsu owners refunding back my deposit.
They was super friendly and cancel for me my reservations, Of course i encountered some which i try to change to other dates but they were not available so i had to book some last min hotel that i could find in Taichung and the boss of this cab driver help us to book the treehouse minsu which was damm awesome (will be blogging in my subsequent post)as our accommodation upon knowing that our original minsu that we was heading is quite dangerous because of the route and advised us to cancel and suggested another minsu that he can help us to book and at a special price which i promise the lady boss i won't divulge the price. 
So i was glad i was able to sort out everything before we was taking the early flight the next morning which was 7am, limei and duffy went with us to the airport so that she can drive back the car.
We-fie taken at 5plus am at the changi airport.
This was my essential items to bring while on holiday, my vidi camera used for video-taking,camera, my selfie ring light which was suddenly trending after i bought it way earlier.
i saw through instagram that they are selling for $19.90, not sure if they have added the postage fee, but i bought it through taobao and it cost about $18, when i passed the link to Michelle, i saw the promo price was selling only at $14.  They come in three light mode, so you just need to clip this to your phone to get the lighting you want in different level of brightness.

So for those who don't know the power of taobao, go figure it out, it is so much useful and easy on your wallet than going through the agent to help you to buy. Even though this time round before i was due to travel, i went to change my phone to S7 and all i can say is, this phone is amazing, the quality use to take photo especially the video-taking is damm good! I don't even use much of my camera as S7 works well to take all the nice beautiful shots!
while waiting for the crew to announce for our seat number before we board the plane, i was telling bf this cute snow app that Michelle and Adelyn told me so we was taking some we-fie.

It was a 4 hours+ flight from Changi Airport to Taoyuan Airport, i was feeling restless as i can't seem to nap whenever i am on a plane, on a morning flight when i should be sleepy but i just can't get to sleep. We was lucky beause no one sit beside us for the entire trip so bf has the luxury to use two seats to lie down and nap. The entire plane has more empty seats than usual, not sure if everyone choose not to fly because of the typhoon. So i was playing with this snow app because i was bored.

Super funny bf becoming a fat teddy bear.
You can be a apple if you want too! There is too many cute effects on this app! Constantly upgrading new effect!

Auto add on blusher on the face and my eye get enlarged at least double the usual size! HAHA

 I was laughing when i tried on this panda effect, find myself too cute with this chubby panda face. HAHAHAHA. panda listening to earpieces while counting down the time to land.

 Unicorn! They change the colour of my eye!

When we reached the Taoyuan airport, we landed slightly later than the original time, the landing wasn't too good but we managed to arrive safely considering the wind was surrounding the entire taiwan at that time. So being the kiasu singaporeans, we walked super fast to pass the customs only to get intercept by a group of hongkong students, which forms a super long queue before our turn, but the queue was quite fast compared to when we was trying to clear the customs at KL.
Usually after we have cleared the customs, the first thing to do is to get our sim card!
The first time we get our mobile data plan was the 台湾大哥大 so for our second visit, we stick to using the same telcom provider even though after you cleared the customs, turn right, look out for the directional signs, its impossible you will miss the counter where there are several telecom providers.
If i don't remember wrongly, we bought 1 week of unlimited mobile data and 100min of overseas call for NT 500 (SGD$21.14) I am using currency rate of SGD 1 to NT 23.65. Before i change taiwan money, i did some research, while some mention its a better rate to change at the taoyuan airport than in Singapore, i think its better to change at Singapore Raffles Place the arcade money changer.

Because when i reached Taoyuan and checked the exchange rate, it was SGD 1 to NT23.44 instead.
Do take note that its better to change more taiwan money because its quite hard to find a money changer in Taiwan, unlike Singapore where you can go to different places and find a money changer store, there is none in Taiwan, you can only change money in the bank and only the Taiwan bank allow you to change money, because the last few days in Taiwan, we have to change more money but when we went to other banks, they don't take singapore dollars even though the exchange rate is so high! tsk.
There are many DBS bank outlet in Taiwan so in case where you really need to change money, you can go to the nearest DBS bank, the rate they offered is the same rate that i change at raffles place, the arcade money changer.
For this entire trip, we changed SGD $2k which is NT47300, even though we swipe creditcard for one of our hotel stay, and change extra sgd $400 while in Taiwan, i think our expenses is still lower this time round because this amount is used to pay for transport, hotel stay so actually we didn't spend much compared the other time when i just see what i like and spend spend spend. I realised one of the effective way to make sure u don't overspend is to set aside each day spending allowance into different envelope so that you will try to spend within that amount for that particular day. Even though most of the time when i think i am going to overspend and bf would suggest to swipe his creditcard if i think our money can't last for the day but i try to avoid spending using creditcard. So yay to not over-spending!

Back to us getting to Taipei Main station,there are many mode of transport to get to taipei. The first time we took a cab from Taoyuan to Taipei, it was about NT1000. (SGD $42) But this time round, we decided to take a bus from Tao yuan airport to Taoyuan high speed rail before buying the ticket to board the taoyuan high speed rail to Taipei. I love taking their high speed rail!
initially if our plan was not disrupted, we would have bought the ticket to taichung instead.
The cost to get to Taipei is definitely cheaper than taking a cab.
To take the bus, you need to go to the basement level, there is some directional signs for you to go down,after which you can proceed to the counter to buy the bus ticket, 
it cost only NT30 (SGD$1.26) per pax, and NT60 (SGD $2.52) for two of us, after we purchase the ticket, the staff will tell you to wait at the certain bus queue, the waiting time was quite short before we took the bus to taoyuan high speed rail.
If i am not wrong, it should be a 15-20min bus journey because i didn't really look at the time as i was busy replying message the moment i had my mobile data.
The driver that was assigned to us whatsapp me to check if i was going to Taichung as there was no rain or typhoon at Taichung on thursday after we reached taoyuan but i have changed my accommodation so i told him that i have told his boss we have changed our itinerary and will be going to taichung only on sat.
Only to have him replying me that ,'oh his dad has just informed him already'  Only at that point of time did i realised he was the boss's son that would be driving us around for the first two days at Taichung. HAHAHA.
So moving on, we bought the high speed rail ticket to taipei, the price is cheaper if you take those without assigned seats no. But later i asked it was just a difference of NT5 (SGD $0.21) so i told her to give us assigned seats no. I was not very sure initially because the first time we took the high speed rail was the business class and i told her i wanted the normal one and she thought i wanted the type without assigned seat no, until i asked her what is the difference because i didn't quite get what she say. Anyway for non-reserved seats which refer to free seating or free standing in the car cost NT$155 (SGD$6.55) from taoyuan to taipei, while reserved seats which is the assigned seats no cost only NT$160 (SGD$6.76) per pax.
So with a mere difference of NT5, we took the assigned seats number as i love to take the high speed rail so i don't think i would want to stand if there is no seats and pulling our two heavy luggage at the same time. It costs us NT320 (SGD$13.53) for 2 pax to travel from Taoyuan to Taipei, the rates varies according to the area that you are travelling to so you can google the THSR rates from the website to estimate the actual cost of the ticket.

I am amazed by their high speed rail because the high speed rail are really very punctual! Which means if you are departing at, let say 10.30am, exactly at 10.30am the high speed rail will arrive at the platform! It will leave the station on time so for anyone that thinks the high speed rail is our MRT, please be very punctual at the platform because once you missed it, i don't know if you can take the next train because each high speed rail has a number and some of the high speed rail don't have so many stopover, which means they could have a direct stop from let say taipei to taichung, while the next train can be having alot of stopover before arriving to taichung. You can check the train schedule at the ticket counter before purchasing the tickets.

Our hotel nearest station was taipei main station, i love to stay at taipei main station because its like our interchange whereby you can take the MRT, high speed rail, TRA, bus etc which i find is very convenient and they have so many underground malls and so many exits just that the size of their interchange is probably double or triple the size of our interchange in Singapore. We spend quite some time trying to find our hotel because this hotel that i found was located slightly further from the Taipei Main station, probably a 10min walk compared to the 5min walk when we used to stay at Cosmos Hotel. Le bf can't read chinese very well so i had no choice but to ask the information counter the correct route to walk to get to our hotel.They have this big area which is quite common to see people sitting down at the main area.

Spotted a train at one of their exit, while searching for the right direction to our hotel.
I was actually regretting the decision initially to choose this hotel while on our way finding the hotel from taipei main station because it looks far as we follow the google map GPS and my horror when i realised there were lots of staircase instead of escalator, their escalator only provide to those who was going up but not going down so i have to carry the luggage going through the long flight of staircase, its not just one but several times, crossing overhead bridge somemore! So i would recommend anyone who wish to stay nearby Taipei main station but has elderly joining them in the trip to consider staying in a nearby hotel such as Cosmos Hotel, when you find the correct exit and take the escalator up, its about 5min to reach the hotel, super convenient but consider expensive la, $120++ per night when you can find cheaper alternative however it is still cheaper than if you compare  one night in Singapore 4 star hotel that cost about $300plus. Cosmo is 4 star hotel if i am not wrong, most of the drivers would know where is this hotel if you tell them u want to go 天成大饭店。
However, maybe there are other nearby hotel that i have not explore as this was the hotel we stay for our first visit in taiwan so its just purely based on my own personal experience after making the comparison of this hotel that we stay on our 2nd visit.
  I was quite frustrated as i was already sweating while cursing in my heart that i am not going to book this hotel anymore because it was hard to find the place or having to walk so far and should just hop on to a cab to bring us to the hotel that would saves us the trouble of finding the place ourselves.
Because when i was checking the reviews, they mentioned it was about a 10-15min walk but we couldn't find the place so it took us longer than expected.
We manage to find the place eventually, but i just find it stupid that the entrance has some steps when i think it would be better to make it as a slope instead.Assuming most guests do bring their luggage which would be easier for luggage to pull their luggage when entering the lobby or exiting.
But luckily the lobby was quite funky and bright with different colour shade in their furniture and the environment gives off a cosy feeling when we reached their lobby so even though it was not a 4 star hotel but it changed my impression when i was cursing earlier because we couldn't find this Cityinn 3 Hotel. 

super cute graphics just before you enter the restroom. 
This was the pantry area which provide complimentary cold beverages such as milk tea and ice-lemon tea as well as coffee or tea for their guests. They have plates,bowl and a public share fridge as their standard room does not come with the fridge, when we open the fridge, it was quite full so i guess generally everyone feel safe that no one will take their stuff they stored in the fridge, and we put our chocolate cheesecake in the fridge too!
They had microwave oven as well. 
It was very convenient and they provide washing machine for you to do your own laundry! But i forgot to take a photo of it. Basically they provide the post-it note so when you are using one of the washing machine, you can indicate your room number and name, so what we do was, we would wash the laundry and went out, so by the time we returned, our laundry is done before we put in the dryer machine. For laundry that is not picked up after the time is over, it will be place in the laundry basket to be fair to other hotel guests who want to use the washing machine/dryer.
i mean the first time when i decide to book this hotel was because they have washing machine which is free of charge so you do not have to pay to use the washing machine and the dryer and their washing powder too!
It can be a nightmare bringing back 1 week of dirty laundry back home to wash so this is what i look out for when i was choosing our hotel in taipei.
So, i changed my mind even though it require us to walk more from taipei main station to this hotel, but the cute room that they have and other available facilities make up for everything that i was complaining before i reach their hotel. 
One alternative option if you guys want to stay at this hotel but want to reach the hotel with ease is to consider booking their taxi that pick you directly from Taoyuan airport.
But do take note that most Taiwan hotel provide check in only at 3pm, so if you have an early flight like us, no point reaching the hotel so early anyway since you can't check in early. But u can request to deposit your luggage at their lobby first.

Usually when you book reservation with them, the confirmation email will provide this info that i had listed below, the pricing of taking cab that will bring you directly from taoyuan airport to the hotel.
Fuss-free, but then you got to figure out how to walk back to the taipei main station after that la hor. HAHA, but its convenient in another way such that opposite the hotel has Macdonald, KFC and other food store as well as a pharmacy store.


For those who don't understand how to read chinese, it simply mean that it cost NT1100 for 1-2 pax, NT1150 for 3 pax, NT1250 for 4 pax and for 5-7 pax which require a bigger taxi will cost around NT1500-1750 which i guess the exact rate depend on the total no of luggage as well.

We booked the standard room which cost only NT1920 (SGD $81) for the first night, but cost NT2400 (SGD $101) on our 2nd night which i guess because its nearing weekends thus the rate is higher.
It would be cheaper to book directly at their website compare to if you book at Agoda or any other 3rd party as i went to do some price comparison before booking.
Forgot to mention this hotel provide two desktop at their lobby that you can use the internet if you decide to wait for your check in like us when we reached, it was around 2pm and i was lazy to go out so we decided to wait while i can surf the net at the corner of the lobby.
Our room was ready at 2.30pm so we was able to check in before 3pm!
The lift and their hotel room is so cute with different theme! We stay at the highest floor

This was our room no. 809. Super cute chinese lion! They use magnet for you to paste outside your room if you would like to service your room, do not disturb or not to change your linen.
Later on i went to walk around this level and found this different room name. I just find it amusing the english name for this chinese lion room is directly translate from chinese.
This was the entrance upon entering our room! Initially i was worried about the room size, but when we checked in, it was fine for us!
Cute lion stickers used as the wallpaper of this room!

Room was clean and comfortable.
This was the dressing table, there were standard coffee,tea and complimentary snacks provided in the room which we never take throughout our entire stay. HAHA.
I like to browse the compandium whenever i stay in a new hotel, this hotel can help you to buy macdonald breakfast as they provide the list inside, you just need to pass the macdonald order form to the front desk before 12 and they will deliver it to you the next morning before 9am.

We rest for awhile before walking back to Taipei Main station to have our lunch, as we know our way by then, it is nearer to the main bus station so look out for signs that direct you to the way towards bus station to get to this hotel.
Didn't see this on our last visit and now they have this line shop located in taipei main station.
Big size Mr Brown!
We went to had our lunch at their food court located at lvl 2.
i think i ordered ramen but i didnt really finish everything because it was quite oily..
After that, we decided to go Tam shui by taking their MRT, which is the red line. Last time we bought the 7 days tourist pass unlimited rides daily, but later found out it is not worth it because we actually took cab everytime and the fare seem to be quite cheap but we can only use that tourist pass for 7 days and we can't use it anymore once it expire, so this time round we went to purchase just the easy card, like our ezlink card to tap in and out on their MRT and buses. To purchase the card is NT100,  so we bought two and top up NT400 value each.
The card is so cute! and we can use it again the next time we visit Taiwan again.
This card can be used to buy drinks at the vending machine without using coins!
 Similar in Singapore they have different line, so to go Tam sui, 淡水
 there is one stop called Tam sui so you just need to alight at that station, i still remember how dumb i was when i thought Tam sui old street (淡水老街) is located near the Tamsui Fisherman's Wharf ,   淡水漁人碼頭 )
When i saw some of my friends posting in their instagram the photos of Tam sui old street, i was puzzled because i didn't see all those shops when i was at the Tamsui's Fisherman's Wharf so i went to ask them only to realised they are not located at the same area! tsk.
To get to the Tamsui old street, once you alight from the station, exit and turn left and continue walking, it will lead you to the Tam sui old street with all the foods stall etc.

cheap foods! 
We was exploring Tam sui old street only to realised they have so many shops, visited this cute hello kitty store.
We bought this freshly baked cheesecake at NT100. (SGD$4) was q-ing for awhile as it has the longest queue so we presume it must be good which is, and it smell so good!
Unfortunately, it was too big and we didn't really managed to finish it over the two days and had to dispose it. haha.
if you want to go to Tamsui Fisherman's Wharf, exit from the station and turn right, there are buses available for you to take to get there, we went there the first time and manage to view the sunset! The place is a popular spot for couples and for photographer to capture beautiful picture especially during the sunset!
We didnt went to the Tamsui's Fisherman's Wharf this time which was a pity because one of my itinerary was to visit the Choco Wonderland but it started raining heavily because of the typhoon,
the rain is on and off, so it got quite irritating with the wind as well, my umbrella was very handy during our entire trip at Taiwan.
Took this we-fie when it was quite empty due to the typhoon, no boats in sight as everyone is preparing to avoid the typhoon.

In the end, it was getting too windy and raining heavily so we went back to the station to avoid the rain, we were there for only a short while, so we waited for the rain to stop before crossing opposite to the malls and was shopping indoors.
In the end since it was raining, we decided to settle our dinner at this Magic Curry inside the mall.
I ordered this black curry which was not very nice! not spicy at all.
The curry dish that bf order was nicer!

after our dinner, we decided to visit Shilin Market to buy some night snacks to standby for the typhoon that was said to be very serious the next day and in case we can't leave the hotel, we won't be starving. HAHA
If you are in Taipei, it is very easy to get around as most of the attractions, night market is easily accessible by taking the MRT, like Shilin Night market, Raohe Night Market, Wufenpu, Ximending.
Train was quite empty when we board from tam sui station,
playing with this snow app. HAHA

we ordered a chicken cutlet and was walking around in shilin night market, shilin night market has become a night market that is catered towards tourists so i don't really like to visit here anymore. bf wanted to come because of the chicken cutlet that he like from one particular stall, however after not eating for 3 years, he say the standard has dropped so i probably won't recommend coming to this night market because i feel its just like our bugis street in Singapore or Chinatown. haha.
i bought this ice-cream from this stall to try, but not very nice leh.
Find that they use too much sugar or cheap chocolate. had only a few mouthful.
We couldn't explore much because it was raining and not easy to walk through the night market with the wet weather so we left and returned back to our hotel, and we bought this cup noodles!
HAHA this is one of the nice cup noodle found in Taiwan and it contain real meat in it!
The meat hidden in this cup of noodle! they had this in normal noodle packing, so i would recommend buying those instead of this type of bowl noodles to pack easy in your luggage. Easily found in 7-11, Family Mart and supermarkets.
We bought quite a few back home and will introduce you guys another new cup noodle that we discovered in my other post.
We stocked up alot because we was not sure if we was able to head out tomorrow, and right we returned back to the hotel, settled down, bf was tired so he slept first while i love to stay up watching the tv shows and one of my friends fb-msg me asking if i was ok because there was an explosion in Songshan station at around 10pm as she know i happened to be in Taiwan, actually in fact several friends was asking me to be safe as they heard about the news of the strong typhoon. But it was quite safe for us actually in Taipei.
The flights was all cancelled in the afternoon and there were no high speed rail, buses services the next day.
 I remember we left the taipei main station at around 9.30pm and imagine half an hour later, an explosion occured in one of the station which was shocking and when i turn on the tv channels, almost all channel news is about the explosion and the typhoon.

Click on the url below to read on my other days in Taipei & Taichung!

Day 2 Taipei-Q Square Shopping Mall-Ximending

Day 3 - Taichung Rainbow Village-Painted Animation Lane-New Banana Paradise Restaurant-Miyahara-Ah Ming Shi-Lumi Hotel-Fengjia Night Market

Day 4 Taichung-Xinshe Castle-Lavender Cottage-Zhongshe Flower Market-Feeling 18 Degree chocolate--塔洛湾景观餐厅-Yunnan Minsu

Day 5 Taichung-Old England Manor-Qingjing Farm-Lumama Restaurant-Carton King-Little Swiss-Totoro Cafe, Gaomei Wetland-Ruyi Taiyangbing

Day 6 Taipei Rilakkuma Cafe-Beauty of Gull-Nanya Rock formations-Yin Yang Sea-Remains of the thirteen levels-Golden Waterfall-Jiufen Old Street