The first of a series of travel notes & experiences I hope to jot down in this blog, hopefully to provide some idea, inspiration & feedback to others who may be interested to read another opinion of my vacation destination outside of trusted Trip Advisor reviews (which I intend to participate in the community really soon too – look out for links!). And of course, photos to do the talking best…I hope my little way of contributing to like-minded travellers will help in some way!
Here’s my first attempt.
With my limitation of only being able to take 4 days off for a short getaway due to the current work arrangement, I decided to treat the bo & I to a city getaway (we were still pretty much OD-ed from the beach in Bali), to take a step back from everything else, and spend some time alone together.
We decided to head to Taipei for few reasons. (1) Jetstar was offering reasonably priced tickets, (2) both of us haven’t been there for a vacation before, (3) we could definitely understand the local language which meant no problem getting our way around, (4) plus we heard lots of rave reviews on the street snacks (one of our fave foods to munch on in Singapore (5) beach vacations wasn’t really on our list next after our recent indulgent trip to Bali.
If you’ve anything more than 3 days to spare, it may be worth the while to take a short day trip out of Taipei city during your vacation. This can be done via a 40-min train ride to TaiChung, TaoYuan, SunMoonLake or anywhere nearby to take in the sights instead of coping yourself up in a city, which (imho) can get a little too much like Singapore especially on months when its neither Winter, Summer or Spring (when you don’t get to see the colourful flowers in bloom from afar such as Taipei 101 on any mountains, nor at the mountain itself such as Yangmingshan). You may end up hanging out at XiMenDing, which attempts a mini version of New York Times Square but is more of a Bugis Junction with a much higher chance of celebrity spotting. Or shopping at Sogo or Taipei 101 which is every bit glamourous and sufficient for fifth-avenue lovers but every bit the usual flare which can be spotted at any other shopping meccas of asia such as HK & Japan. And by that comparison, there is already a lack in excitement. Coffee is not as lovely an affair as in the western countries but you’ll find your dose of Starbucks and other ‘trying-to-be-different’ boutique cafes nonetheless (we’re quite the sucker for prime locations to people & sight watch).
So back to our itinerary.
Day 1: departing for Taipei
Wake-up call was at 4am (can’t complain when you opt to travel via a budget carrier) as check-in was 5.30am – 5.45am. I was barely 70% awake and was practically stoned as we settled for a light breakfast & coffee at Starbucks Terminal 1. All shops at the departure lounge were closed, with only DFS cosmetics, liquor, tobacco & a bookstore open so that didn’t excite me at all…until 6am when the shops started opening one by one. With 30 minutes left to scurry from shop to shop, I fell in love with a Gucci Heritage bag but could only do as much as to give it a second glance as we hurried to the gate realizing that we were way past the final call for boarding. Boo.
light breakfast before boarding
After 4 hours and 35 minutes of flight, we finally landed at Taoyuan International Airport. Saw hordes of fans waiting for some Korean superstar which made navigation around the arrival hall a little challenging. Got ourselves a pre-paid mobile card for unlimited wireless internet & some minutes of IDD phone calls for just in case before heading for the airport express. We took the ’kuo kuang’ bus as it seemed to sell the cheapest tickets (plus we read several reviews on the exhorbitant taxi fares to Taipei City which could tally to as much as S$60). While a bus ride to Taipei Bus/Main Station would only set us back by about NT$250 = $10 SGD (for 2 pax).
long queue for the airport express
the bus showing the route its taking
After a 45 minutes bus ride, we finally arrived at our destination: Taipei Bus Station. There were already a line of taxis eagerly waiting to pick up passengers. We hopped into one and realized that the drive to our hotel was only a short 7 minutes ride which cost us about NT $75 (est. $3 SGD)
taking the bo taking me :
During the trip, we stayed at San Want Residences (神旺商務酒店
), which is a member of the SLH group. With extremely good recommendations & reviews on Trip Advisor, I decided that if I was going to treat the bo to a relaxing getaway, I wasn’t going to spare expense on our core creature comfort – a damn good hotel room with superb service & facilities. Thank goodness for AsiaRooms, Agoda & Priceline which offered steals for this gem!
san want residences
the bathroom was filled with L'occitane ameneties
a flat screen tv faces you for much needed tv before sleep
As the hotel caters mainly to business professionals and Japanese guests, the toilet bowl came with an advanced system where you can hit a few buttons to dictate the pressure of the bidet spray to wash and dry your arse (like the ones they have in Japan). There’s even a sensor to detect when someone’s approaching the bowl so the lid opens up, warms up and you’re all set to do your lazy business. Bathroom suckers will also enjoy the Japanese-styled bathtub & rainshower head in the shower cubicle, coupled with lovely L’occitane amenities.
The only grouse about the 5/5 hotel that we probably had was the same echoed in most of the reviews on Trip Advisor. It was a 10-15 minutes walk to the Zhongzheng station (which you’d be so grateful eventually as its only 1 stop from Taipei main station and 4 stops away from Shilin Night Market without having to change lines). Which wasn’t so bad since it was really just a straight line walk where you’ll pass Macs, Mosburger and a bunch of shops before reaching the department store (where the MRT exit 3 is as well). So seriously, you won’t feel the distance nor the sun shining directly in your face. It’s bearable.
With famished tummies and taiwan food cravings, we headed for Ximending – the ultimate hangout for the youth. Taiwanese celebrities such as Jay Chou & S.H.E also stage performances here over the weekends (so bear that in mind if you can’t stand the insanity of crowds).
fried street snacks are always a fave
look out for this famed mee sua sign: ah zhong mian zian
ah zhong mian sian
mee sua up closed
bo enjoying his bowl of mee sua
It was also at Ximending where we saw a very cool 3-storey Starbucks building which. I thought the dark wood accents and furniture was just awesome and wished that Singapore had a similar concept. Wanted to snap some shots…but as I took my first, I was told by one of the staff that no photos were allowed (seriously, Starbucks being such an international name and images popping everywhere in the web, its ironic that that they disallowed any photos). Boo.
Here’s the only shot I managed to get:
a view of the busy Ximending
After Ximending, we decided to get all touristy and seeing that it was one hell of a weather (but a good one nonetheless), we decided to head to Taipei 101 to get an aerial view of the city.
While sunset is probably one of the best times to get yourself up there to experience the cool breeze as evening gets ushered in, together with the magnificent beauty of the sun setting, you may wish to avoid weekends where possible and of course if you see hordes of tour groups heading for the entrance, let your legs carry you as fast as possible so that you don’t end up queuing behind too many people. There are 3 lifts (the fastest in Asia, so I’ve heard) that will take you up, but the queue to get there can get pretty insane. We waited about 25 minutes when we were there.
admission tickets to observatory deck at Taipei101
aerial view of Taipei
aerial view of Taipei's night
And because we waited and paid quite a sum for the admission tickets, the bo decided that we had to sit out and capture pre-dawn, dawn, post-dawn, evening lights as much as possible. It was really windy at the outdoor observatory, and I did have a little regret wearing a dress instead of a pair of shorts. But all in all, it is quite an experience to take in the various views from the top. And if there’s only one place that you want to go to get a feel of Taipei without having to buy a postcard, this may just be it.
Some 90 minutes later, we decided to hit the road to the Shilin Night Market. IMHO, this night market was probably one of the better ones which offered a good variety of shopping & food without boring or exhausting you out too much.
Thankfully for the existence of the Internet, forums & blogs, we were mindful to get off the Jiantan MRT station instead of Shilin. Its pretty easy to navigate with the assistance of their brightly illuminated directional signs.
stall selling smelly tofu and pig's blood
taiwanese sausages which were so delicious we had them everyday!
one of the many fruit stalls selling fresh & sweet fruits. I practically ate 3 bags full
the famous chicken cutlet
We had so much to snack that these food were practically our dinner for the night. Unfortunately our exhausted feet could only managed half of the market before we surrendered and headed back to the hotel at 9.05pm (on a friday!!!). We decided that if we really wanted to enjoy the rest of our trip, we weren’t gonna screw up our system & legs on the first night.
Good call I must say, to head back to the hotel because we felt so damn good as our heads hit the sofy & comfy hotel mattress.
I also received a call some 10 minutes after we checked into our room. It was a call from reception, and they asked if it was convenient to bring us an anniversary cake. I was quite taken aback by the arrangement as the only time I casually mentioned that we’ve been married for about 2 years was during our email exchange during the room reservations. Nice touch I must say, that San Want actually bothered waiting up for us to arrive before springing a very pleasant surprise.
They held a cute anniversary cake with a no. 2 candle on top, walked in, congratulated and wished us an ever blissful marriage. Offered to help us take a photo on our camera, before taking one on theirs for records, their website, and as we later found out, to print a hard copy keepsake which they presented to us when we checked-out 3 days later.
From san want residences to us
Happy 2nd anniversary!
We were so greedy that we ate half of the cake while watching the many local variety shows available on TV.
Ended the night by looking through the photos we took during the day, watched more TV, soaked in the Japanese tub to soothe our tired feet and jumped right in to the duvet for a good night’s sleep.
Day 1 was good.