My third trip to Taiwan was 9 days long, from 21st June to 30th June 2014. 2 days in Taichung, 2 days in Kaohsiung, 2 days in Hualien and 3 days in Taipei. My intention was to have a budgeted and free and easy trip. I had been monitoring the exchange rates before the trip and on average, I converted currency at this rate: TWD 23.8 / SGD.
My family and I flew by Tigerair. It was my first time ordering inflight meals from Tigerair. The meals came out smaller than I thought. The dishes were so-so only. I wouldn’t recommend it.
The words on the sugar packaging add a bit of cheers to life…
A piece of advice – when you reach Taoyuan international airport immigration checkpoint, go to the most-right counter for non-citizen. This will save some time, especially if there are a lot of people queuing. This is because directly on the right are the counters for citizens. If the airport staff find that the counters for citizens are rather empty, they will direct you to those counters and you can clear your immigration earlier. I have to give my dad credit for noticing this.
To get to Taichung from Taoyuan, I chose to take high speed rail(HSR), as we had already spent 4.5 hours on the plane. To get to Taoyuan HSR station, just follow the signs at the airport to get to the bus service counters. From the Ubus service counter, I purchased tickets for bus 705. This bus to HSR station comes every 5 to 10 minutes and the trip is around half an hour.
You can purchase high speed rail tickets either from the machine or the service counters at the HSR station if you are unsure. The ticket from Taoyuan to Taichung costs TWD 590. Do plan ahead if you want to get cheaper ticket. There is early bird discount if you purchase the ticket online in advance. However, if you are unsure about timing, usually you can buy it on the spot.
I chose all my accommodation to be located right next to the famous night markets. If we spend the first half of the day travelling from one county to another, at least we can spend the remaining of the day exploring the night market. Also, it will be convenient if you are craving for supper or any night market snacks. For Taichung, we stayed in Fengjia Box 1 Coolplay, right next to Fengchia night market. Upon reaching Taichung HSR station, we took the free shuttle bus 160 to the second last stop and walked to the guesthouse. You just need to show your HSR ticket to get the free ride.
As we went on a weekend, Fengchia night market was crowded.
Our plan for the next day was to visit Sun Moon lake. We took public bus 25 to Taichung railway station. Bus fare was TWD 22 for each person. I realised after a while that we could actually use Easycard. You have to tap the card upon boarding and alighting, just like in Singapore.
My initial intention was to take the Nantou bus from Taichung railway station to sun moon lake. Journey is 2 hours long and costs TWD 190 for one-way ride. The bus stop for Nantou bus is not at the public bus station directly opposite the railway station. You have to walk further down.
We were approached by a van driver. Given my strong reluctance, he offered an appealing package at TWD 2,000 which included return ride and ferry tickets. This was for 3 pax.
We were dropped off at this street at sun moon lake.
We passed these staff the ferry tickets and were given a red stamp on our hands.
This was the ferry that we boarded. The staff would check for the red stamps.
View from the ferry…
The first stop is Xuanguang temple. This is a whole day round trip and you can choose whether to alight and board the next ferry. During the journey, the ferry guide would introduce the main attraction points.
The next stop is Ita Thao Pier. Heard from the ferry tour guide that there are only around 600 邵族 people in Taiwan, of which around 200 live at this pier. Since they are facing the risk of ‘extinction’, the government offers an incentive programme in that if you marry one of them, you will be given a government grant of TWD 120,000. A new-born baby (up to 3) will be eligible for additional grant of TWD 80,000.
Unfortunately, the van engine broke down. But the driver was kind enough to charge us TWD1,000 only. Then we took the ferry back to the main pier. Intended to take the Nantou bus back to Taichung but a cab driver offered us a price of TWD 600. It was a good deal as the additional TWD 30 could save us an hour of journey time.
Next up… Kaohsiung