Taiwan · 7 Days · 99 Moments · March 2017

Christine's tour through Taiwan

7 March 2017

Bye bye Taiwan! Great trip in general! We will be back again! 😊 SQ 879 back to Singapore. Anyone interested in booking our very patient & obliging guide/driver and his Mercedes 9-seater, please contact Mr Wu Yi-Long (Biaggy) on +886922426257. He communicates in decent English!
Checked in with a mere 2 kg to spare! Straight to the lounge for some booze in a desperate attempt to recover from the trekking ordeal. A wander through the transit area en route to the gate revealed there wasn't much of great interest airside at Taoyuan Airport. There weren't many eating options either, so my choice of using my lounge pass was correct.
Lunch to refuel and warm up. This was a little restaurant called Ma Ma Wei (mother's taste). Pretty good food! Still could not warm up though! We ordered their smoked chicken, Chinese sausages and fried cabbage. Free braised mince was drizzled over my portion of rice. The cabbage was superb, the chicken sadly cold but still delicious (even the breast was tender & very moist). The sausages were somewhat disappointing.
Resting after a hard hike through the wilderness of Yangmingshan. It was such a relief to have the option of taking a bus back towards the car park area. The men continued the walk back to the car (about another 30 minutes). I, on the other hand, enjoyed a free foot bath in the mountainside and pacified myself after the hard trek with the biscuits taken from the hotel earlier that morning.
The view at the end. Hardly worth the effort and risk taken.
The walk through hell towards Qingtiangang... uneven steps, lots of stairs and massive blobs of cow poop. Undoubtedly the worst part of the trip as it was cold and I was unable to breathe for the extreme activity. We were damned lucky to not sustain any injuries during this trek. The damned sign was deceiving too... it's 1.6 km, not 1 km!
Geo-thermal activity in this part of Yangmingshan
Beautiful flower garden in Yangmingshan... a cold but beautiful start to the day.
Watching the production of traditional Taiwanese breakfast. I find it too greasy so early in the morning. To cook the you-tiao, the chef holds the 2 halves together, stretches them then throws them together into the hot oil.
The final breakfast... Donuts and sandwich from 7-11 plus coffee and biscuits from the hotel free refreshment bar. The coffee is actually superbly good! I had read that the plain ring donuts from Mr Donut were exceptional, so I took this last opportunity to grab a load to try and to bring home. Taste test done and the reviews are correct! These donuts are uniquely chewy with an almost mochi type texture and not too sweet at all. At TWD 35 a piece, definitely worth a try!
One of the landmarks I used to locate the Via Hotel was this dessert/drink stall at the main road end. I finally got to try it on the last night and was shocked to find it was a hot "drink" that was gelatinous and chewy! Hardly a drink at all! Was hoping a night of refrigeration would make it easier to consume, but nope! Will be leaving Taiwan this afternoon without a single cup of freshly brewed bubble tea. Believe it or not, the 50 Lan nearest my hotel had run out of bubbles last night! Bubble tea shop with no bubbles on a Monday night. Whatever next! 😡

6 March 2017

Ximending is so happening!!! So much energy at night and I totally missed the light display on the buildings the first night (concentrated too much on shopping!). The policemen add to the fun by appearing every so often en mass, so the illegal Hawkers literally push their carts away in a mass exodus. Quite a hilarious sight, especially since the coopers are often grinning at the raid. The street acts are also quite 😎.
Had to have another round of hotpot before leaving Taiwan. This place is so popular we could only get a table at 5.30 pm! It was only Aunty Ah Lim and myself this time as the others were invited elsewhere for dinner. I think I must have had at least 2/3 of the meat, but Aunty Ah Lim did really good for a tiny 85 year old edentulous lady!
Cute bun! But I resisted buying!😇
King Kong Mountain, an abandoned gold factory and a hungry dog! Check out his eyes! Needless to say we found some food to feed him with!
Couldn't resist my favourite peanut pancake even though it was so cold! In fact, it was so good, I had two!!!
Scenes from Juifen Old Street. Not many photos taken since this was my second visit. Still love the atmosphere despite the rain and chill. Bought a pretty ocarina and admired the stall with cold brew coffee dripping away. Love the pretty lanterns that added to the atmosphere
The cold front hit suddenly when we were exploring Jiufen. Visibility was near zero and the winds bitingly cold! We should have been able to see the sea in the distance on a clearer day.
These are the best chicken wings ever! Stuffed with either egg fried rice or smelly tofu, the massive wings are then barbecued for maximum flavour. At TWD 65 each, they were so good I had to have two!
Off to Shifen Old Street to release sky lanterns. I decided to try my hand at writing a Chinese characters for the first time in decades. Fortunately our guide Loong was standing by to read and explain, so all I had to do was copy the good luck phrases. Aunty Ah Lim was game to come help with the release.
The tallest waterfall in Taiwan is the Shifen Waterfall. It was an easy trek from the carpark, crossing a suspension bridge. Shifen was originally a coal mining area, but is now just thronged by tourists. We were happily shooting voyeuristic photos of a young couple doing kissy kissy selfies in front of the waterfall. And managed to catch a train passing through on the trek back to the car.
Homeless guy sleeping at the hotel entrance! It was a pretty cold morning too!

5 March 2017

Found this cute shop selling multi tiered fruit juices. I chose a blue pea/ orange mix.
This shop uses their dog to draw customers in to eat their risotto.
Raohe night market was quite happening! But both Gerald and Pamela were unwell, so we called it quits after walking through one side only. Managed to buy stuff for my little Teddie. Got a similarly sized black poodle to try it on for size. Such cuteness, The sweet potato balls here are massive! Still delicious though. The spring onion pancake with beef slices was good too! The pepper buns were a major letdown. They are supposedly the highlight of the market with a massive amount of pork inside, but the smell was a bit weird for me. I enjoyed the thin chewy yet crispy skin though.
Had to try this shop's many unusual ice cream flavours including pork floss and brandy. The pork floss ice cream was savoury and creamy... delicious! We also tried Taiwan green tea, coconut, black sesame and walnut, which were sadly unremarkable. Location: Snow King
Finally reached Taipei, home for last 2 nights in Taiwan at Via Hotel Xiamen. Love the onsen bath tub!
Lunch ended just before 3 pm, so perfectly timed to witness the changing of the guard.
All that plus sliced steak, rice, fruits and much needed beer for just under TWD4000. Enjoyable, undoubted fresh, but not the best. I enjoyed the torched beef sushi the most.
A walk through Aquatic Addiction Development in search of Japanese lunch.
A little walk around Sanyi old village to absorb the atmosphere and try the local products, particularly the Hakka thunder tea, which actually tastes pretty good despite the description sounding awful. Vendors also provided taste testing for honey and alcohol.
64 year old street act hoisting a 31 kg weight over his head that younger men were barely able to lift.
We stopped by Sanyi Station next to explore a now defunct all wood station built by the Japanese. It was once the highest located mainline train station in Taiwan. Visitors can walk along the tracks and sit in the tiny waiting room. Train times are still seen above the ticketing booths. The wooden buildings across from the station are now restaurants. They look pretty spooky though...
The aunties got distracted by the market next door. The ducks and chickens are massive in this country! On their way back to the car, they saw a lady selling freshly baked sweet potatoes literally from the back of her van. They were unable to resist despite eating breakfast a mere 2 hours previously. They forced a piece on me and I must admit it was beautifully done: soft and sweet! Would have been even more perfect with salted butter 😉!
Famous bakery selling "wood" bread in little town known for its wood carving craftsmen.

4 March 2017

The meal that has put me off steamboats in Singapore for life! I have never eaten one so good that nothing in Singapore can compare... The milky miso soup was out of this world! The meat selection was wide and every cut premium and melt in mouth tender! There was seafood as well, but I had no interest after seeing the meat on offer. The buffet includes soft drinks and 12 flavours of ice cream (Haagen Das and Meiji). Man Tang Hong has branches in Taipei and Taoyuan as well as this one in Taichung. Reservations highly recommended. When our guide called the night before, only the 17.00 and 17.30 timings were available.
A quick stop at Rainbow Village en route to Taichung. We caught a glimpse of the old grandfather who painstakingly drew all the cartoons in a bid to save the village. Not really sure what the attraction was, but the village was mobbed with visitors.
Day four and we can't pack another thing into the car! Half the stuff belongs to Aunty Margaret!
Lunch time at a small restaurant en route from Formosan Aboriginal Park to Taichung. Just a small bite in preparation for a hotpot buffet tonight.
Finally a quick stop at the European Gardens to see the lavender flowers
Some people rent kimonos for a more authentic experience. In one area, this was taken way too far with square pieces of paper scattered on the ground to represent fallen petals.
Then we see a few trees that more closely resemble the Japanese sakura blossoms, with their delicate light pink petals.
Most of the trees bore a dark red blossom
Some life sized figures of the various aboriginal tribes
Cherry blossoms up close
Slow walk through avenues lined with cherry blossom trees
By some miracle, Aunty Margaret agrees to actually enter Formosa Aboriginal Cultural Village! Which means the other 2 ladies finally get up close to cherry blossoms too! We manage to borrow a wheelchair for her, so movement around the park was less of a problem. Poor Aunty Ah Lim was so traumatised by the long walk though, she begged to be sent home to Singapore that very same night!
Sun Rise at Sun Moon Lake... Just me and Aunty Ah Lim at dawn = PEACE! 😋

3 March 2017

Can never resist a good soft serve, especially when a unique flavour is delicious... introducing the red tea soft serve! YUMMY!! A tad expensive at TWD 60 each, but worth every cent. So good, even Aunty Margaret was willing to walk to the shop for one after tasting mine!
Dinner with a 3 minute view of Sun Moon Lake... was dark soon after our arrival. Turns out this little restaurant with an open kitchen at the entrance produces great food! We ordered steamed chicken with soy sauce, wild boar stir fried with celery, steamed fish caught from the lake, venison fried with local vegetables, stir fried fern, deep fried baby shrimp and the best deep fried tofu ever! There were also small bowls of soup, including chicken gizzard, ducks blood, intestines and the only one I dared to drink, a simple egg drop. We also had a portion of oysters fried in black bean sauce. Cost of this incredible feast? Just over TWD 2000, ie less than S$100! Which would barely pay for a steamed fish dish in some Singapore restaurants! Hands down best meal of the trip so far! Name card I took from the restaurant at the end. Not sure if it'll help anyone since there's no address... but it's about a 100 meter walk from Cherry Feast Resort in Ita Thao Village.
Incredible view from rooftop of Cherry Feast Resort
Room for the night at Cherry Feast Resort. Fortunately the blinds work well for bathroom privacy, but the shower curtains are shit! Check out the instructions for escape should there be a fire! 😳
Huge Chinese temple overlooking Sun Moon Lake
Sunset views... huge round sun but no pink skies
The Chiang Kai Shek trail with his pagoda and favourite scenic view point, his boat and private pier.
Sun Moon Lake scenic point
Lots of little roadside stalls sell fresh local vegetables. The incredible cabbages are bigger than a human head!
I really had no intention of visiting Cardboard King, but with fellow travellers that refuse to walk, we had no choice but to find somewhere to sit again. This was the only place in Cingjing with carpark access to the back entrance (all other shops were only accessible through stairs). Some cute, some incredible creations with cardboard
This may be the closest she is willing to get to a cherry blossom tree. In memory of this historic moment, a photograph!
Bye bye doggy! Shame you are tied up and can't come out to play!
Lunch set comprised of a salad, corn chowder and choice of main course with the mousse as dessert. The main courses we tried were beef bourginon, fish and ham pasta. The ham pasta was the nicest, with the beef a close second. Cost: TWD 580+10% service charge.
Elegant high tea set at The Old England manor in Cingjing
The most unfortunately named restaurant 😂
Grounds of The Old England Manor
Overnight at Maison de Chine Chiayi, a beautiful 4 star hotel with huge rooms and Super single beds. Location was a bit of a trek from Wenhua road night market, but effectively a straight road. Photo shows view of Chiayi from my 9th floor hotel room balcony.
Bought a pair of shoes from the night market for TWD 390. 😊

2 March 2017

Eating continues with the famous tau huay (soy curd) recommended by all locals. I asked for peanut soup and the waitress recommended the cold option when pushed. It was perfection at TWD 30 a bowl! Photo shows Pamela ordering her third bowl of the night!
Adopted by Pamela!
Cute doggy queueing for his supper. 😉
Dinner in Chiayi... 3 portions of Xiao Long Bao (6 in each), one bowl of oyster Mee Sua, one portion of oysters for just TWD 280! Being a fussy eater, I stayed away from the weird stuff and just focused on the xiao long baos with the street food purchased earlier.
Street food to supplement our planned dinner: 5 portions of steak cubes (100 TWD per portion) and 3 cup squid, which is unique to this stall.
After a long day of touring, we finally check-in and our friends Pamela and Wolfgang were able to join us for the rest of the evening. Gosh it's been a good 2 years since we last saw them in Singapore!
Pretty calla lilies
Three generation tree: first generation is the horizontal log, second generation is the arch, third generation stands tall.
This poor tree looks very traumatised
Another short walk to a small field of cherry blossoms in full bloom The tree trunks were all protected from vandalism.
Cherry blossoms up close
Exploring Shenzhou temple which is Taoist
Out of the forest into a magnolia park that continued to Shenzhou temple
Walking through the nature reserve was just an awesome experience! Lots of uneven steps and no handrails at all, but not too difficult a path even for the nor so fit. The air was a tad thin though...
Three brothers, four sisters... multiple offspring trees growing out of the root system of an older tree. Also a tree trunk resembling a pig.
Sisters Ponds... Legend says both sisters fell in love with the same man and killed themselves by drowning in the respective ponds. The big sister pond is the one with the pavilion. A supremely peaceful spot only accessible by foot.
Forest trek between Zhaoping Park to Sisters Pond
Just outside Zhaoping Station is the beautiful Zhaoping Park and the first of the cherry blossoms we can get up close to in mid bloom.
The fitter/braver members of the group then took the scenic train from Alishan station to Chaoping station. The remaining 3 old ladies insisted on staying at Alishan station to freeze their butts off. Temperature at that time was 8C.
Local specialty lunch featuring a fried chicken scented with tea oil. Also including a wild boar stir fry, deep fried baby shrimp, wasabi tofu, fried cabbage and mee sua. That plus a bowl of soup and 5 bowls of rice was enough for 7 of us. I think the meal cost around TWD 1600.
Halfway up Alishan... a stop en route to drink tea with a view of Elephant mountain (the one in the middle with a flat top). This place does the best ginger tea! Strong and not too sweet. The ginger is mixed with black sugar and red tea then pressed into blocks for convenient preparation (1 block per mug of tea). They charge TWD 250 per canister.
Toilet stop next to a temple. Delicious wild boar belly steaks and sausages cooked on a wood fired barbecue.
Community housing for locals displaced by natural disasters
3 hour drive from Taichung to Alishan
Morning selfie with Teddy in a carriage. This is as close to Cinderella as I'll ever get! 🤣

1 March 2017

Food at Feng Jia night market part 2. Flamed steak cubes, sweet potato fries with plum powder (TWD 40 for small... yuck!), cotton candy flower which I watched being made but didn't buy. The naked grilled prawns were good- very sweet. The egg pancake was good, but filling... I had half and kept the rest for breakfast the next day.
The food of Feng Jia night market (part I). First up was the grilled scallops. I remember loving them on my previous trip but never knew which flavour they gave to me. So I bravely chose seaweed this time, but it was quite frighteningly sweet! We returned later that night for salt flavour only. That was a little sweet too, so I'm guessing they use some kind of bastardized butter to coat the scallops in during the grilling process. Cost TWD 100 for 3 sticks. The pork belly was good! We chose plain salt too. Also TWD 100 for a box. Next up was the heavily cumin scented satay sticks. A there was chicken hearts, lamb, beef, etc. The lamb was the best. I think also TWD 100 for 6 sticks. Gerald loved the oysters steamed on the teppanyaki plate. TWD 300 for 6 pieces.
Quaint hotel decor... a Cinderella carriage outside the hotel. There's a huge teddy bear inside which can't be seen in the dark. The hotel also provided that selection of teas and pineapple tart. The freebie toiletries were also presented in a very unique way. A few boutiques directly across the alley made shopping easy for the lazy.
Driving through the streets of Taichung. This is the third largest city in Taiwan. The older areas have narrower streets. I like the modern architecture of the subway stations. Most of the building signs are in Chinese only.
Miyahara is most famous for its ice cream parlour, serving an extensive, mind-boggling range of tea ice creams and chocolate ice creams. We tried a few and I opted for one of the teas and a cheese/honey, with a wafer bowl and various toppings. I had asked for a butterfly biscuit, but the server said no. I assumed out of stock, but as others behind me had them, I'm guessing it's a premium choice requiring more $$$. My 2 scoops with wafer bowl and toppings of cheesecake, pineapple cake and teddy bear cookie cost TWD 180.
This building was an Eye hospital run by a Dr Miyahara during the Japanese occupation. It has been beautifully restored to a chocolate and local biscuit shop. The decor and packaging is exquisite. Didn't dare look at the prices!
Late lunch in a small Taoyuan town en route to Taichung. The beef soup noodles were pretty good, with an interesting flat tung hoon noodle. The noodles were so nice that Siew Hua even bought a huge bag off the shop for TWD 600!
Glimpse of Taiwan from the air SQ 876 with the air crew led by a photography friend Adelyne! She took wonderful care of us even though I hadn't seen her since our basic photography course some 5-6 years ago! Gotta love Facebook for keeping people connected!