Don’t think I’ll be able to keep this Taiwan travelogue short. So go on and read it if you have spare time. 🙂
I have never seriously considered visiting Taiwan before this trip. Whenever my friends ask me to go Taiwan, I always say no. In my thoughts, Taiwan is boring and besides I don’t fancy their food (e.g. sausages, fried food). But because moderately affordable is my 2015 travel motto… after thinking long and hard, yes… I decided on Taiwan. That was a year ago. My other option was Hong Kong but I thought wouldn’t it be better to visit a new country? Although I wanted to visit Hong Kong again pretty badly!
I booked my flight with AirAsia X (yes I know I sworn them off) because what they offered were the cheapest even after including meal, seat and luggage cost). Four months before flying off, I received an email from AirAsia. The title of the email? Your return flight from Taipei to KL has been cancelled and moved to next flight. Oh how lucky am I? 3 years back AirAsia X cancelled my London flight and now this. Thankfully this time it was quite smooth sailing. A week later, I received my new flight itinerary. So apparently they cancelled the early afternoon flight and bumped us into the late afternoon flight.
When I booked my Taiwan flight a year back, I have this sense of uneasiness (like something bad is going to happen before the trip) but I decided it was just my over-thinking-over-worrying mind. I purposely booked the trip about a month after Chester’s birthday so that I get to celebrate his birthday first before going holiday. Fast forward to present day, I knew now what that uneasiness feeling was. 🙁 🙁 🙁 Talk about a woman’s intuition! Sometimes it really scares me that my premonition does come true (always the bad things, perhaps I attract it?). I will never know when exactly Chester took his last breath. Was it 4th October or 5th October? And guess what? I flew off to Taipei on 5th November (a month later). Talk about coincidence!!! Yes, this trip did healed me quite a bit… emotionally.
As with all my independent travels, I’m the master planner. As I plan and dig deeper on what to see and eat, unknowingly to me, I fell in love with Taiwan. Before long, I was super excited and can’t wait for this trip to happen. This Taiwan holiday was a 6 days 5 nights trip (5th-10th Nov 2015) where my family and me mainly stay in Taipei except for a day trip to Jiufen. Expect to see lots of food photos as this trip is mainly for that.
I lugged my Nikon DSLR with a lighter 50mm lens with me to this trip but I ended up only using it for 2.5 days… even though I carried a backpack this time to distribute the weight between my shoulders. The rest of the trip, I kept it in my luggage. Even with lighter lens it was still heavy! I no longer have the strength like in my youthful years. LOL. For the rest of the trip, I relied on my sis’ P&S Lumix and our camera phones. So yes, most photos won’t be as good as I would like. No choice.
Btw, make sure you stick to the end of this Taiwan travelogue. Something happened!
Malaysians are exempted from visa if you stay less than 30 days in Taiwan. Yeah!
It was my first time at KLIA2. TBH, I dislike the planning of this airport. Why are the departure/arrival gates so far far far away? Allow ample time of 30 minutes or more of unplanned trekking. They do provide buggy transport but expect to walk more and go down some stairs after that.
Be also in the known that water dispenser is sparse. In fact there is only one (@ P10) throughout the length of the departure hall (e.g. Gate P). I also noticed, shops don’t sell water bottles. They sell water in cups. I guess they don’t want you to bring the water bottle on the plane because well… they need to sell drinks on board the plane? My solution? Bring my own water bottle. 🙂
A special note to AirAsia X: Partnering with Optiontown doesn’t give them the rights to bombard us with countless flight upgrade emails. So much spamming throughout that one year!!!
Our flight to Taipei departed on time at 10am. An hour later, our pre-booked lunch were served.
This is my ginger fried rice with vegetarian chicken. The rice was soft and warm with ginger aroma. You can find bits of sliced ginger in there. Overall, not bad.
Chicken teriyaki. I was told it was quite delish.
Pak Nasser’s nasi lemak was quite salty but delicious at the same time. The rice was soft and the sambal moderately spicy. All our meals came with a bottle of mineral water each.
We landed at 2.30pm (10 mins earlier than scheduled). Cool.
Arrival hall of Taoyuan International Airport at terminal 1. Time was 3.20pm. The airport is small but clean and easy to navigate. A couple of water dispensers at the arrival hall can be seen in which you can opt for cold/warm/hot water if I’m not mistaken.
Another thing, the immigration were so efficient (the most systematic in my travel experience so far). The lines move so quickly.
Because we can’t really read and understand Chinese characters and also Mandarin (only 1-3% proficiency! Hahaha), we decided to travel 24 hours with internet connection for easy route/map navigation and also in case we need to use online translation. It’s a first for us to have 24 hours internet during vacation.
During planning of this trip, I considered either going the wifi router rental route or local prepaid sim card route. I choose the prepaid sim card route because it’s more convenient. And to save money, only one of us need to buy the Taiwan sim card. The rest of us can leech the mobile data off it!!! Hehehe
You’ll find prepaid sim card booths before the immigration. Those have many tourists and long lines. We skipped that and got ours at the arrival hall of Taoyuan airport (terminal 1). After passing immigration and getting your luggage, just turn right once you enter the arrival hall, walk a little further.
And you’ll see this:
They have Taiwan Mobile, Fareastone and Chunghwa Telecom here.
We choose Taiwan Mobile (also known as Taiwan Tai Kor Tai) because that’s what my sis’ decided during planning stage. Ours are 7 days pass with unlimited internet usage and NT$150 air-time. Cost NT$500 which I consider cheap since it has unlimited internet usage. Taiwan Mobile’s internet connection throughout Taipei & Jiufen were smooth except for a couple of minutes lagging at one particular day. Overall, good.
Since, that’s settled. We’re now ready to go to our hostel.
To get to Taipei Main Station and then our hostel, we took Kuo-Kuang bus no. 1819. Cost NT$125 per pax for adults and NT$65 per pax for seniors (65 years old and above). To get the senior price, show the passport at the ticket counter. Now this is where I have to mumble jumble my way through language barrier but luckily my sister has slightly passable Mandarin. I don’t even know what Taipei Main Station is called in Mandarin.
Since it was around 4pm, bus frequency is every 10 minutes. Taipei Main Station is the 5th stop from Terminal 1 of Taoyuan airport and the bus ride will take about 55 minutes. You can refer to this scheduling near the bus ticket counters.
Our bus tickets. The bus driver will tear the dotted lines and give you back the smaller portion.
The queue was very long. How long? Our bus will arrive at platform 5 and we’re at the rear end of platform 7. “Hey, HELLO there people at platform 5.”
A couple of minutes later, the bus arrived but quickly filled up. We had to wait for the next bus which I thought will come 10 minutes after. But then another bus arrived in less than a minute. Woah that was fast. Time was 4.05pm.
Inside the Kuo-Kuang 1819 bus. It was an enjoyable ride (really smooth) and the bus were really clean.
Beautiful clouds welcoming us at the heart of Taipei. I knew I was going to enjoy Taiwan tremendously at that very moment. 🙂
The bus arrived at a bus stop outside Taipei Main Station (exit East 3). Time was 5pm. The bus ride duration was 50 mins. Bravo!
Getting to Star Hostel, our hostel for the duration of our stay in Taipei from Taipei Main Station was breezy. The hostel’s website provided clear direction and we followed it like a pro! Haha.
Took us 15 minutes of walking to reach Star Hostel with luggage in tow.
The front desk of Star Hostel. We booked two double rooms but were told the first night would be at Friend Bunk Room (a room with two sets of wooden bunk beds) because there were air-conditioned problem for the double rooms. We don’t mind at all. They also remembered our special request and made the necessary arrangement.
Tsk, some photos below were taken during day and night and put together below so I can show you everything at one go.
This is the lobby area (just beside the front desk). Beautiful.
Btw, Star Hostel front desk is located at 4th floor but no worry as they have lift service. The guest rooms are at 4th and 5th floors and you need to go by the staircase to the 5th. 6th floor is the washer and dryer area (and smoking).
What are these? Shoe cabinets, baby! If you remembered my experience with Five Stone Hostel in Singapore, you would think why I wanna be put up in the same situation again? Because this is different and so much more orderly and clean. I knew about the no-shoes-only-slippers policy before booking this hostel. I emailed them beforehand inquiring about hygiene matter and were satisfied with it. So I took the plunge.
The thing is you keep your shoes in the assigned cabinet according to your room number. Take and wear the slippers from the basket (bottom center of the photo above) before entering your room/kitchen/lounge. When you want to go out, keep the slippers in your own cabinet. That way, you don’t mix it with others. Only return the slippers to the baskets when you check out. They also provide hand sanitizer at the corner of this room. Now, the only con is that if your feet smells then you’ll be smelling that foul smell every time you open the cabinet. Hahaha
This is Friend Bunk Room with private bathroom for our first night @ 5th floor. Cost NT$3,000 per night per room (NT$750 per person). It can accommodates 4 people and very spacey. There’s a curtain, so you can pull it close when you sleep. Another set of bunk bed is at the opposite side and in the middle is a small table with cushions and flat TV at the wall.
Nice cosy bed and clean too with personal night light and electrical outlets.
The vanity area. There’s a basin, hairdryer and some cups. I love hostel with basin in the room.
The squeaky clean shower and toilet. I have no complain. Well, maybe one. The shower curtain is too short. When you shower the water will wet the toilet floor. Oh another thing is the glass door and partition. Although it’s tinted (is this the right word for it?), if you stand real close to the glass partition/door, your shadow can be seen from outside. So imagine la!!! That’s one reason why we CANNOT share room with our parents. Hehehe.
And this is our Double Room with private bathroom from second night onward at 4th floor. Average cost NT$1070 per person (room prices varies, Fri & Sat cost more). The tail end of the bed is the wall with a flat TV. Yes this room is small. Again good quality sleep and clean room. However, I can sometimes hear people from the next door sneezing and coughing.
Another view of the room. This time I bet you can judge the size of the double room. Friend Bunk Room is almost twice the size of this double room but cheaper. Oh so ironic!
The shower, toilet and basin areas are similar to Friend Bunk Room that we stayed on first day.
This is one part of their beautiful guest lounge where you can sit, eat and hang out. This area is always fully occupied at night. Can you see the small wooden house on the left of this photo? Guess what? You can climb up the little house and hang out on the first floor.
This is another part of the guest lounge. Only got to hang out here once because as usual no more place. 🙁
Imagined having this structure in your home. Ohh I would love it. Now this lounge is facing the guest kitchen.
Guest kitchen with two refrigerators, drinking water with cold or hot options (top right), coffee machine (they have milk tea here!), microwave, two sinks, recycled bins and counter-top. See the chairs one the top left photo? Yup, that’s where we usually hangout, mostly to eat or drink at night because that’s the ONLY place available. LOL There is no eating and drinking allowed in the room FYI. The breads and buns (bottom right) are breakfast for early birds, served from 6-8am. Free ‘more proper’ breakfast will be served from 8-10am at Star Cafe which is just behind this kitchen.
Star Cafe… possibly my most favorite part of this hostel. It’s so stylish and tastefully decorated. I claimed all my free breakfast here every day. 😛 At night, this space is turned into a pub.
The main reason why I choose Star Hostel was because of the wood theme. I love anything wood and this hostel has quite many of them. You can book as far out as 3 months in advance only and rooms are quickly filled. I purposely choose to stay at an area near Taipei Main Station (Star Hostel is about 10 mins away walking) because I thought it’ll be more convenient for metro ride. But imagined my horror when I got to underground, I still need to walk more to get to the MRT. But later I found some shortcuts. Well, the best way from Star Hostel to Taipei Main Station MRT is via Q Square (a shopping mall).
In summary, our stay at Star Hostel were wonderful. The staffs were very friendly and warm. The place was clean and we had good sleeps. I love the basin and toilet/bathroom in the room, fuss-free drinking water at the kitchen, refrigerator, lovely and large lounge area and free breakfast. Ohh btw our food and drinks went missing from the fridge when we changed rooms. Never knew what happened to it. Now, here’s the scary part… me and my sis felt a presence in the toilet/shower area of our double room. And one night, I felt a brush of air near my right elbow. Eeekks! I did not tell anyone until I got back Malaysia and that’s when my sis shared her story with me. So glad we knock on our room’s door before we enter every time.
So, would I stay there again? I’m open to the idea but I would try a new place. I never stayed at the same place twice when vacationing.
Okay, after babbling so much about the hostel, I hope you’re still with me. So we checked into our room and rested/slept until 7.15pm. Then we head out for dinner at Ningxia Road Night Market just because it’s near to our hostel (about 9 mins walk). Ningxia Road Night Market wasn’t in my top priority of to-visit Taipei night markets but I’m so glad we gave it a go because I had a really good time there.
Both ends of Ningxia Road Night Market (寧夏夜市) have this signboard… which is good because I know where it starts and ends. This night market is located on Ningxia Road with food stalls lining up your left and right. It’s a short stretch only but fully packed with food stalls.
Only one tiny stretch sells toys and games. The rest are all FOOD!
When we arrived, all we could do was stare and salivate from one stall to another because we didn’t know where to start! Too much choices.
Do check out my food blog for more details on Ningxia Road Night Market and the food we ate… some good, some not.
We stopped by Wellcome and 7-11 (just opposite our hostel) on the way back. Got the malt milk drink I wanted to try. Then we continued our short eating feast in the hostel’s kitchen before calling it a night at 11pm.
That’s it for day 1. Stay tuned for day 2.