Tuesday, May 23, 2017

[TRAVEL] 3D2N Itinerary in Taichung – Sun Moon Lake – Qingjing

台中,你好!

Greetings from Taiwan! ❤ As it is my first time in Taiwan, I am really excited to spend my 9 days there exploring both countryside and city. The first 3 days are spent in the centre of the country – Taichung – before the journey continues in Taipei, the most vibrant city of Taiwan. So yeah this post will be focusing on these 3 places – Taichung (Famous Fengjia Night Market!), Sun Moon Lake and Qingjing (Sheep Farm!).



#OOTD on Day 1

Trust me, spending 9 days in Taiwan is not sufficient to visit the whole of Taiwan. But it is just perfect to spend 9 days in Taichung and Taipei without having to rush!

I don't “cover as many places as possible" like others may do. I travel at my own pace, stop and take some time to appreciate every footprint I make throughout the trip. As much as I wish to visit Kaohsiung, Kenting, Alishan etc, I have to put them into my list for the next trip.

Traveling Tips: Unless you are just too lazy to do any research at all, don't bother following tour groups that rush you from one place to another. At the end of the trip, you'd be so exhausted “competing against time" and not enjoying the vacation at all.



Myfone SIM Card @ NTD500 for 10-day Unlimited Data Pass (=RM72)

The first thing you must get in Taiwan: A local Sim Card! I just can’t live without a good Internet connection, especially during boring train rides and queueing time.

$$$
NTD300 for 3 days data / NTD500 for 10 days data


Second thing you must have here is an EasyCard, a prepaid 'touch-and-go' card for the Taipei Metro, bus services, designated car parks, stores and government agencies. It can be used at most convenient stores too.

$$$
NTD200 Deposit; and top-up NTD400 throughout the 9-day trip (=RM86)


The third thing is a notebook!

Wherever you go in Taiwan, there is a tourist information centre / shops that have different designs of stamps for the place. For example, every train station has its own stamp at the counter. And throughout my 9-day trip, my entire notebook is completely filled with the stamps of every place I've been to. 

Rejoice, for traveller's notebook lovers! This notebook will definitely be the best souvenir for yourself.

$$$
NTD100 per notebook (=RM15)

9D8N Itinerary in Taiwan
Day 1: KL - Taoyuan - Taichung
Day 2: Taichung - Sun Moon Lake
Day 3: Sun Moon Lake - Qingjing - Taipei City
Day 4: Ximending, Taipei
Day 5: Jiufen - Shifen - Pingxi - Ruifang, Taipei 
Day 6: Jiufen - Danshui, Taipei
Day 7: Danshui - Daan District, Taipei
Day 8: Yang Ming Shan National Park - Shilin, Taipei
Day 9: Taipei - KL

Now let's zoom into the first day of my trip to Taiwan...


DAY 1: KL - Taoyuan - Taichung
My first meal in Taiwan -- Oden!

My first picture taken in Taoyuan International Airport upon landing. Our flight lands around 2.30pm, and the first thing we do after buying the local sim card is to treat our growling stomach a simple meal from the convenient store.

Basically you can easily enjoy a complete meal in any convenient store in Taiwan because it is so complete with all sorts of food. I am not kidding you; I got excited when seeing the wide assortment of sandwiches, sushi, hot food, bento sets, noodles etc here.

『純萃。喝』Taiwan Famous Milk Tea and Coffee @ NTD30 per bottle (=RM4)

If I were to pick only one thing from here, it would be my favourite Oden (Chinese yong tau fu kind of food) dipped with original and spicy soups, plus a bottle of Soy Milk Tea! So yummy!

From Taoyuan International Airport, we take a shuttle bus No.705 to Taoyuan High Speel Rail (HSR) station in order to board another train to Taichung. The bus ride is a comfortable 20 minutes ride with not too much crowd. 

The HSR ride from Taoyuan to Taichung takes another 40 minutes which is SUPER fast, as it runs at approximately 300km/h!

$$$
Bus from Taoyuan Airport to Taoyuan HSR: NTD40 (=RM6)
HSR from Taoyuan to Taichung: NTD540 (=RM77)


FYI there is a free shuttle bus No. 160 from Taichung HSR station to Fengjia Night Market, Taichung’s biggest night market in town.


Travelling Tips:
1. HSR tickets can be bought 30 days in advance via https://irs.thsrc.com.tw/IMINT. Reserve 1.5 - 2 hours for luggage collection and airport transfer.
2. Passengers who have made payment but have not collected the HSR tickets can cancel / change the ticket at least 30 minutes before departure through the system or at the Ticket Window in any THSR station.


Apart from the HSR train system, Taiwan also has its own (old) train system similar to our Malaysian KTM train. The train looks shabby and the waiting time is long, but it is pretty reliable and punctual.

Twin Star Hotel (双星大饭店)
No. 158號, Section 4, Fuxing Rd, East District, Taichung, Taiwan.
Contact: +886 4 2226 1811

Our crib for Day 1. Nice location – it’s only 1-minute walk from Taichung Railway Station!

$$$
RM220 per night

After checking-in and taking a quick shower, we are ready to explore Fengjia Night Market (逢甲夜市)! Public buses are aplenty in Taichung, and most of the routes pass by this night market, so no worries about transportation.


Fengjia Night Market (逢甲夜市)
FOOOOOOOOOD!! Food is everywhere in Fengjia Night Market. Let's go for food hunting now! 

Taiwanese Cartwheel Pie (車輪餅) @ NTD15 each (=RM2)
My favourite: Classic Butter and Red Bean Paste flavours

Barbecued Squid (大鱿鱼) @ NTD100 per stick (=RM14)

Korean Cheese Fried Chicken (韩式起司炸鸡) @ NTD100 per portion (=RM14)
Highly recommended!!

Porky Box in Bacon Cheese Sauce (猪宝盒 - 培根起司酱) @ NTD80 per portion (=RM11)
Crisp pork cutlet drizzled with different sauces such as tartar sauce, honey mustard, Japanese teriyaki, etc

Scallion Pancake in "Doggy Bone" shape
How cute is that!

 Time check: It is 11.30pm in the evening and the night market is getting more and more crowded!

One unique thing about Taiwan night market is that, every night market has at least a row of game stalls
where you can win lots of interesting plush toys (not so easily though).

And cheap clothes everywhere too! The latest trendy pieces are around NTD300-500 (=RM45-RM75),
but those going on sales can go down to only NTD100 per piece (=RM15)!

After stuffing our tummy with countless number of street food, it's time to call it a night. As we leave around 1am, we don’t see any public bus anymore at that hour, hence taxi is the best option. FYI Grab and Uber have been banned in Taiwan, unfortunately :(

$$$
Spending on food alone can cost me NTD500 (=RM72) in one evening!
Travelling Tips: Always go for sharing among your friends, for happier wallet and better waistline.


And now let's move on to Day 2 of my 9D8N Taiwan trip!
DAY 2: Taichung - Sun Moon Lake (日月潭) and
Formosan Aboriginal Culture Village 九族文化村
We have to wake up very early in the morning to board a bus to Sun Moon Lake, Taiwan's largest lake, located in the mountains of Nantou County right at the centre of Taiwan. Here's the map of Sun Moon Lake, basically huge enough for 1 day tour but not worth to spend overnight here. 

For more convenient travelling, we purchase the Sun Moon Lake Pass (which is valid until end of the year):  

Sun Moon Lake Pass @ NTD720 (=RM104)
日月潭水陸空好行套票 (約67折!)

What are Included:

❤ Taichung-Sun Moon Lake bus ticket (NTD190)
❤ Taichung-Puli and Puli-Sun Moon Lake bus ticket (NTD190)
*Can alight once at Puli, Youmikeng, Dakeng, Antique Assam Tea Farm)
❤ Sun Moon Lake Ropeway round-trip ticket (NTD300)
❤ Unlimited boat ride around 3 piers (Shuishe Pier - Ita Thao Pier - Xuanguang Temple Pier) (NTD300)
❤ Round-the-lake 1-day bus ticket (NTD80)
❤ Shuishe-Xiangshan 1-way bus ticket (NTD24)
Total worth: NTD1,084 (Save up to 33%!)    


Where to Buy:
❤ Nantou Bus Counter at Taichung Gancheng Station, HSR Taichung First Floor Exit 5, Qingjing Tour Booth, 7-11 i-bon

So we board the Nantou bus (南投客運) from Taichung TRA station (only few minutes walk from our hotel) straight to Sun Moon Lake. 

Travelling Tips: The bus is very punctual. Be sure to get a bus schedule from Nantou bus booth, and plan your trip well. The tourist centre here allows baggage storage until 5pm, remember to collect your bags before it closes!

*No need to get down at Puli to change bus. 
*You can also board the Nantou bus at Taichung HSR station.

I love this small Yuchi Township where I can enjoy the true feeling of countryside. Just slow down my pace, take in some fresh air and look around me.... the shops here open around 11am. The only shop we can shop by to rest in the morning is either Starbucks or Family Mart

Did I forget to mention that Family Mart and 7-Eleven can be found anywhere in Taiwan, including the most rural areas? Oh yeah, everything is pretty convenient here! 


My breakfast from Family Mart: Braised Pork Flavour Instant Noodles

The best part is, it tastes pretty good! I really wanna buy some home, but it's rather bulky to fit into my already overloaded luggage. Then we head to Starbucks for a more scenic view of the lake, as Starbucks is located up the hill. 

$$$
NTD79 (Noodles) + NTD30 (Drinks) (=RM16)

The beautiful lake at Shuishe Pier (水社码头) under a chilly weather of 20 degree Celcius.

To my surprise, the boat is actually a very grand-looking cruise which provides a comfortable 15-minute ride to Xuanguang Temple Pier (玄光码头) or 30-minute ride to Ita Thao Pier (伊達邵码头).

Looking at the boat schedule (Last boat from Ita Thao to Shuishe is at 5.10pm, you can only leave the lake latest by then), we know that Sun Moon Lake is only lively during the day.

Traveling Tips: Visit Sun Moon Lake early in the morning (Reach here at 9am) to visit all 3 attraction points (Shuishe, Xuanguang Temple and Ita Thao), otherwise you wouldn't have enough time to explore the entire lake. 

Guess which is the cruise we are boarding at Shuishe Pier?

Traveling Tips: Sun Moon Lake has a very large variety of hotels and minsu B&Bs, but this area is in high demand, so book early.

But I personally don't recommend staying overnight at Sun Moon Lake as this place becomes so boring and lifeless after 7pm. 

The interior of our cruise. So glam eh? :P
You can even cook your own pot of steamboat here!

I'm lost in serenity 

We are here at Ita Thao (伊達邵)!

Due to time constraint, we skip Xuanguang Temple (玄光) (Knowing that the Cherry Blossom there has not bloomed during our visit in end of March) and head straight to Ita Thao. It is a small town where all the food and accommodations are located at. 

Feeling peckish after a long walk? Here's the perfect place to treat your tummy a nice meal.

Okay, food aside, let's come back to Ita Thao later... because now we are heading up to Sun Moon Lake Ropeway Station (日月潭纜車站) to visit the Formosan Aboriginal Culture Village (九族文化村) theme park!

The 1 km walk to the ropeway station may seem quite long for some, but trust me, you totally wouldn't feel it as you will be busy appreciating the serene environment along the path. It is so peaceful here, and every corner is so picturesque!

We finally reach the ropeway station. Very much similar to Hakone Shrine Torii Gate in Japan eh?
#OOTD on Day 2

Travelling Tips: The best time to visit Sun Moon Lake for the pink sakura blossoms is March every year.

Sitting on the Sun Moon Lake ropeway gondola with lots of blossoming sakura under my feet
is probably the best experience here ever! 


While I am on the gondola ride, I just can't stop admiring the charming scenery of lake
surrounded by mountains of different hues and terrains.

At the end of our gondola ride, we arrive at the home to the Thao aboriginal tribe -- Formosan Aboriginal Culture Village (九族文化村) theme park which opens from 9.30am to 5pm. The entrance ticket of NTD780 (=RM112) is pretty reasonable, but we probably need a full day to truly enjoy the attractions in the theme park. 

Due to time constraint, we leave for our late lunch at Ita Thao...

The happening street of Ita Thao.


Our two-way trip to Formosan Aboriginal Culture Village takes roughly an hour or so, hence by the time we reach Ita Thao, we need something to fuel us up! The street is pretty much like any touristy street in Taiwan -- full of souvenir shops, street food, restaurants and interesting local products that we don't see elsewhere.


For example, Sun Moon Lake Black Tea is the No.1 locally-produced item here, definitely a must-buy souvenir!



Gua Bao (割包) @ NTD50 (=RM7)

This Taiwanese famous pork belly bun is highly recommended for meat lovers!


Must try the Chicken Wing stuffed with Glutinous Rice (饭饭鸡翅), so yummy!


Big Sausage Wraps Small Sausage (大肠包小肠) @ NTD55 (=RM8)

I heard the best one is in Fengjia Night Market, but honestly this is quite good too -- Be warned, this crunchy Taiwanese sausage wrapped with glutinous rice and savoury sauce can be rather filling for one. Sharing is recommended.

Fried Carrot Cake with Sesame, Chilli Powder and Soy Sauce (大甲芋头糕) @ NTD40 per portion (=RM6)

Stinky Tofu (臭豆腐) is available too!

Black Pepper Diced Pork (红烧黑胡椒山猪肉) is pretty addictive, but again, makes us full till the brim!

Other than food, cute little souvenirs are here too!

Honestly, there is nothing much here at Sun Moon Lake after 7pm. Most shops / stalls are closed by then, except for Family Mart and 7-Eleven which allow us to chill there throughout the evening. Well, resting early is good after a long day of exploring Sun Moon Lake. 

Travelling Tips: It is recommended to leave Sun Moon Lake around 5pm and head to Taichung / Qingjing for a good night sleep. 

DAY 3: Qingjing (清境) - Green Green
Grassland (青青草原) - Taipei (台北)
Our Nantou Bus Route: Sun Moon Lake - Puli (30 minutes) - Songgang (Qingjing Farm) (60 minutes)

Day 3 in Taiwan kick-starts with an early 5am morning call to board the bus as we are heading from Sun Moon Lake to Qingjing (Songgang Station). The 1.5-hour journey including a stopover at Puli Station seems exhausting, but it is totally worth the effort because we can enjoy spectacular mountainous view throughout the ride. 

The most convenient breakfast we can get early in the morning is....fast food! KFC in Taiwan offers
Crispy Chicken in Puff Pastry (鸡排烧饼 @ NTD68) (=RM10) which is extra buttery and savoury. Love it!

Similarly, Taiwan's McDonald's famous Cheese Pork Burger is my personal favourite too! Don't mind having these fast food items here over and over again. 

Yay, we are finally here at Qingjing Farm (清境农场)!

The route of going uphill takes quite some time (especially if you are heading there from Taichung, it should take around 3 hours), but I am seriously in love with the tranquility here! Imagine being surrounded by greenery, fresh air and cool breeze, you'd love it if you are a nature lover like me.

Travelling Tips: Go to Qingjing Mist Plaza (清境遊客休閒中心) to keep your luggage at Recreation Center and explore Qingjing.

Qingjing Farm Pass @ NTD230 (=RM33)
清境農場旅遊套票 (約86折) 

What are Included:
❤ Puli-Songgang (Qingjing Farm) 2-way bus ticket (NTD244)
❤ Qingjing Guest House-Green Green Grassland 1-way bus ticket (NTD26)
❤ Green Green Grassland (Qingjing Farm) admission voucher
*Pay additional NTD120 (weekday) / NTD160 (weekend) for the admission ticket after discount
❤ Qingjing Guest House accommodation voucher
*40% off on weekday, 15% off on weekend 
Total worth: NTD270 (Save up to 14%!)


Where to Buy:
❤ Nantou Bus Counter at Taichung Gancheng Station, HSR Taichung First Floor Exit 5, Nantou Bus Puli Station, Qingjing Tour Booth

For our Qingjing farm trip, we use the Qingjing Farm Pass that includes transportation and vouchers for entrance and accommodation. The saving seems minimal, but it's better than nothing right? With the admission voucher, we top up NTD120 per person to enter into the famous sheep farm, Green Green Grassland


$$$
Green Green Grassland Admission Ticket (after discount) @ NTD120 (=RM17)

This place is really huge and you probably need 4-5 hours exploring the entire farm,
including playing with the sheep and photo-taking time.

It's comfortably cold up here - Only 15°C in the morning...then slowly the weather gets warmer up to 2°C.

Travelling Tips: Light jacket will do; Avoid bringing heavy bags because locker storage is kinda troublesome here.

#OOTD on Day 3
Look at those lovely sheep! 

Each of them is labelled with numbering on the ear, and the sheep here is very human-friendly. Here you can cuddle and feed them all you want! 
Mini attractions inside the farm such as Sheep Castle, Sheep Showground, Equestrian Stage Show, etc are worth a mention too. Unfortunately, the sheep showground, a fun and educational live show of sheep breeds and shearing, is only conducted during weekends. Luck is not on our side, so we did not manage to watch that. 

The farm is extra beautiful during the sakura blooming season. No regrets for spending hours just to get here!

Equestrian Stage Show -- Let's watch the performances of extremely fit horses here!

How about some sheep soft toy to bring home as souvenir?


Another popular thing to do here is the 487-step trail which allows you to reach the visitor centre and pick-up point for Nantou bus to head back to Taichung. So when we leave, we go for this trail instead of taking a bus downhill to the pick-up point. 

The 487-step trail is pretty enjoyable when the mountainous view clears off the mind
and fuels my body with positive energy. And it's less tiring going down too :P

Other places worth a visit in Cingjing include:
❤ Small Swiss Garden (清境小瑞士花園) @ NTD120 entrance ticket
❤ Lavender Cottage Farm (薰衣草森林)
❤ Flying Cow Ranch (飞牛牧场)
❤ The Old England Manor 老英格蘭古堡莊園 (Min. order of high tea set in order to enter this ancient castle)

Travelling Tips: If you are travelling in a group of 4 and above, it is highly recommended that you rent a car (About NTD3,500 - NTD5,000 per day) due to the distance from one attraction to another.

Qingjing Mist Plaza / Visitor Information Centre (清境遊客休閒中心) 


Here we board Nantou Bus No. 6658 / 6659 / 6664 to get to HSR Taichung Station and hop onto a HSR train straight to Taipei thereafter. The 2.5-hour bus journey is probably a great time for us to rest and take a nap before continuing our trip in Taiwan. 


Travelling Tips: The last bus leaving Songgang to HSR Taichung is at 5.10pm, so plan your time well. Otherwise, you can consider staying overnight at Qingjing Guest House and enjoy the sunrise at Hehuan Mountain (合歡山) on the next morning.


 $$$
Taichung HSR to Taipei HSR @ NTD700 (=RM100)
*Can get up to 35% discount for early bird booking

Goodbye Taichung, Sun Moon Lake and Qingjing! Glad to have spent one day at each location, and these are the main tourist spots in Taichung / Nantou areas which nature lovers shouldn't miss!


Next up: We spend the remaining 6 days of our trip in Taipei area, including Jiufen, Danshui, Ximending, Yangmingshan and New Taipei City. Stay tuned for my next update! 

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