Taking it slow in Taiwan for 6D5N – Taipei and Taichung

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Last year, I embarked on a brave adventure to bring the folks overseas for the first time post-pandemic. In all honesty, the desire to travel could have been an inherited trait from my parents as they too, loved to travel. When I was a child, they used to plan for family vacations at least once a year (to the best of my memory), but ever since I started earning my own money during my uni days, we kind of went separate ways with our travel plans. Prior to this Taiwan trip, the previous family trip had been the NZ one where I invited them to visit me (and bring a luggage home).

Well, this trip was something that I had been thinking about for a long time as I really don’t know when they would be too weak to travel as old age catches up on them. Like I mention, I did think about it for a long time but it was so hard to even open my mouth to suggest it as I am weighted by all the what-ifs and compromises each of us had to make in order to make this trip a success. I am someone who worries about the issues before it even begins. In fact, the first time I suggested this trip to my mum, I was faced with a rejection as my mum kind of have a post-covid side effect where she prefers to stay at home plus she has been to Taiwan before and questioned the point of re-visiting. Somehow or another, she asked me about it a week later (where the air ticket prices surged slightly) and then half a week later, I found another dates with the cheaper tickets and that’s it – we were booked on a vacation – with me as the sole chaperon.

It was kind of fun – to be able to dictate the entire itinerary, accommodation types and food options. My parents were indifferent to most choices and I just went ahead to book everything with their assumed best interests in mind. I had a long internal checklist when it came to the planning. I wanted to book accommodations that had larger rooms and possibly a sofa as I know my parents would be resting in their rooms for many evenings (which was an accurate prophecy). The accommodation must also be near to public transport with minimal to no walking and near access to convenience stores. I knew that I had to minimize the amount of walking during the trip so I arranged for airport pick-up/drop-off services, hired drivers for day trips etc. I settled everything from their data roaming card, transportation card and money – and perhaps the only thing they had to do was to pack their luggage. To be honest, i had been a long time since I was able to have such autonomy in travel planning (apart form my solo trips). and I like to be the ‘annoying one’ that doesn’t give the troop the itinerary in advance as I might not have one. So most of the time, my parents only knew where they were visiting after we arrived. To my mum, she felt like she was the one accompanying me on my travels and for my dad (I happened to peek at his message), he describes his trip as ‘my daughter planned everything’ to his friends. I see that as a compliment I guess.

Alright here we go, here’s my usual expenses table:

Details Price (NTD)  Price (SGD)
Airfare (Scoot)

Singapore to Taipei (Fly@00:20| Arrive@04:45)
Taipei to Singapore (Fly@22:10| Arrive @02:25 *ended up with a 5 hours delay*)
Baggage – 35kg outbound, 50kg inbound (additional $144/3)
Seat selection – 2 way (additional $72/3)

$363.61
Travel Insurance

I bought an annual plan so the cost here is 0. Not excluding this in my breakdown cause I’m a huge advocate of buying travel insurance so this is a reminder to you to ALWAYS BUY one.

0
Accommodation; triple (Average Price per pax per night: $79.77)

$398.85
Transportation (Divided by 3)

  • Airport Transfer (Taoyuan airport to Taichung) – $98.54
  • Airport Transfer (Taipei to Taoyuan airport) – $40.30
  • Private Driver @ Taichung (1 day) – 3500 NT (exclude tips)
  • Private Driver @ Taipei to Yangmingshan (1 day) – $157.91 (exclude tips)
  • All other Uber rides – 1,146 NT
  • Top-up transport – 2,500 NT
  • High Speed Rail (Taichung to Taipei) – $20.75 each
$223.23
Food (Divided by 3)

  • Day 1 Breakfast @ Jia Sheng – 200 NT
  • Day 1 Lunch @ Liu Lian Mian – 285 NT
  • Day 1 Tea Break @ Mao Men (near rainbow village) – 449 NT
  • Day 1 Dinner @ Tai Gen Goose – 2,627 NT
  • Day 2 Lunch @ Sun Moon Lake – 600 NT + 490NT drinks
  • Day 2 Dinner @ Night Market – 230 NT
  • Day 3 Lunch @ Man Je Dad (Jap sashimi don) – 1,606 NT
  • Day 3 Dinner @ Lao Ye Ji (Jap Izakaya) – 1,088 NT
  • Day 3 Desserts/Snacks @ Raohe – ~600 NT
  • Day 4 Coffee/Waffles @ Tiao Shi – 680 NT
  • Day 4 Lunch @ Taiwan steak (in Jinshan) – 1,660 NT
  • Day 4 Dinner @ Liao Ning Night Market – ~1,200 NT
  • Day 4 Drinks @ Once Cafe&Bar – 1,078 NT
  • Day 5 Breakfast @ Yong He – 125 NT
  • Day 5 Lunch @ Tsujihan (Jap) – 3,168 NT
  • Day 5 Coffee / Cake @ 101 – 600 NT
  • Day 5 Dinner – ~600NT
  • Day 6 Lunch @ Tian Tian Li = ~300 NT
  • Day 6 Tea @ Eighty-Eightea Rinbansyo = ~ 1,600 NT
  • Day 6 Dinner @ Din Tai Fung = ~ 1,000 NT
$292.55
Activities (Per person)

  • Hair cut + Treatment – 1,900 NT
  • Sun Moon Lake (boat) – 300 NT for adults, 150 for seniors
  • Massage in Taipei (90 mins) – 879 NT
3,079 $133.87
Exchange rate 1 SGD = 23 NT
Total $1,412.11

The amount above excluded shopping expenditure for pineapple tarts, snacks and many things I could have forgotten along the way.

To get a more accurate picture, the total expenditure we had for 3 pax was ~$4,120 but the expenditure is a little skewed as I had a lot of expenses that I incurred for myself only (e.g. hair cut, massage etc.). So I guess if we were to exclude that, keeping the expenditures under $1,200 each would be a possibility. Given that I did not scrimp on food during this trip, the budgeting was kind of reasonable.

Also, if you are visiting Taiwan, don’t forget to register for their ‘Taiwan the Luck Land‘ lucky draw which allows you the chance to win a 5,000 NT easycard! All you have to do is to register in the link prior to your trip and visit the booth (with the issued QR code) at the arrival hall after the baggage collection. You will have to scan the QR code on their devices and make a random selection on their ‘game’ to see if you’re a winner. Out of the 3 tries we had, we managed to secure 1 prize! That’s like $220 SGD extra for shopping/sightseeing! I heard that it is harder and harder to win but no harm trying and Good Luck!

Here’s a short highlight reel of my trip and you can take reference:

 

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As we have taken a red-eye flight, I didn’t want my parents to drag their luggage to the HSR train station without much sleep. Thus, I booked a driver via KKday/Klook (can’t recall which platform I used as there were numerous promotions and voucher codes that I could apply) and we had a comfortable ride from Taoyuan to our Taichung hotel. Upon reaching the hotel in Taichung, the hotel was not able to provide us early check-in unless we were willing to pay. This was not a surprise to us as I’ve read that Taiwan hotels tend to be quite strict with this.

After depositing our luggage at the hotel, we took an uber ride to a local breakfast corner I found while searching on Google maps.

 

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After which, we took a long walk to a Confucian temple as the weather felt decent. On hindsight, I don’t think it was wise for me to make my parents walk more than 30 mins after a red eye flight. Something I definitely need to take note in the future.

 

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Next up, was this century egg noodles that I was largely interested in – as I am a fan of century egg. Thankfully it was delicious and we even ordered a second serving of the pig liver =p

 

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Despite visiting Taichung twice, I have yet to visit the famous attraction – Rainbow Village. Since we had time to queue, I recalled that we took a 45 mins bus ride to the village.

 

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After all these, we were still not at check-in time! We headed over to a cute cat cafe for some drinks and tea break before grabbing another uber back to the hotel for check-in.

For dinner, I decided to go to this ‘flaming goose’ restaurant which is rather pricey and it turned out to be a rather value for money dinner – as there was both quantity and quality (we ordered a 2 pax meal for 3 pax) but the downside was that the highly anticipated flaming goose was disappointing. The meat was tough and hard to chew but I don’t really eat goost regularly so I’m not sure what it was supposed to taste like. Oops.

 

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Day 2

Booked a driver for a day trip which would bring us to Sun Moon Lake. The cost was 3500NT but I think my mum tipped quite a bit which negates whatever ‘savings’ I wanted to have from comparing rates. The driver is in his late 60s and he is kind of semi-retired. Being a typical taxi-driver, he talks a lot and shares a lot of the history behind the attractions that we are visiting.

I happen to see the poster of the ‘flower festival’ and asked the driver one day prior if we could alter our itinerary to visit the place at ‘Hua She’ which just started over the weekend. He was flexible to agree. The interesting thing about this driver which I ‘hired’ via a WhatsApp chat was that they are not bounded by the duration of the drive time – but by the number and distance of the places you want to visit. Thus, despite all these, he didn’t rush us through any of our itineraries and was always willing to offer suggestions.

 

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This final place was a recommendation for him – a beautiful architecture with serves as a tourist information center – where many people go there for wedding photoshoot. In fact, Taiwan is a popular destination for wedding photoshoot. We’ve lost count of the number of couples we’ve seen this trip.

 

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The driver was also kind enough to stop me at this pineapple tart shop for me to make some purchases before sending us back to the hotel. The extra stop had not been agreed upon previously but he made no fuss about driving us there. Before the end of the day, he sent a message to wish us safe travels and thank us once again for the extra money we gave as tips! While I can tell that he obviously doesn’t need the money (he recently went on a holiday to Hokkaido with a private hire driver), he must still feel happy for the appreciation we had for him.

After returning to the accommodation, my parents decided to rest while I headed out for a haircut. From a simple initial want of ‘just a haircut’, I ended up being upsold to do hair and scalp treatment which cost me 1,900 NT in total. While it is still a lot cheaper than Singapore, it was an unplanned expenditure and the worse part was the shop could not accept credit cards. I ended up having to wipe out the cash I had in my wallet, and then proceed to the ATM to make further cash withdrawals via my YouTrip card.

Even though it was pretty late by the time I was done, I decided to head out to the night market to get a bite of my all-time favourite fried chicken (which is not available in Taipie anymore). It was really delicious and I’ll recommend it to everyone who visits Taichung/Kaohsiung.

 

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Day 3

After checking out of the hotel, we took an uber to the HSR station. I’ve gotten all the tickets secured via KKday/Klook – it is cheaper if you do it online. Fun fact – you can change your tickets at the counter if you’re early and they have available seats! Would be a lot easier if you’re not fussy about sitting together.

I chose a hotel near the train station as I wanted to minimize the walking and hassle if we were to decide to take the train to the airport on the last day. The train station was only 7 mins walk but I kind of got slightly lost along the way and we took longer.

First meal in Taipei was.. Japanese!

The Japanese food in Taiwan is known to be very fresh and a lot more affordable than Singapore. It was a good meal.

 

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We walked around Ximending for a while in order to kill time before our check-in. Sadly, it started drizzling and the skies became gloomy.

It was pouring when we were deciding to step out for dinner. Thankfully, the hotel had a bus stop right outside and I successfully de-toured from my initial plan of visiting Raohe night market and found another restaurant which was ‘on the way’. It was pretty delicious and we had this ‘hand-pulled chicken in a bucket’ which was tender and delicious.

 

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As the rain was slowly reducing to a drizzle, I convinced my parents to proceed with the night market plan as I really wanted to eat my favourite ‘tang yuan’ in Taiwan. This store is really unique as they serve the hot glutinous rice flour dumplings on ice! And after which, they will invite you to add this lemon sauce into the ice and finish up the dessert. So you kind of get to enjoy both hot and cold dessert in one bowl!

 

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Day 4

Once again, I hired a driver for a drive to Yang Ming Shan + this random bus stop which supposedly looks good in pictures. I wanted to pay a visit in my previous trip but it wasn’t worthwhile to hire a driver for 2 pax and the public transport to get there was a nightmare. As my parents didn’t care where I was bringing them, I thought it was alright to sneak it this random place which they did ask.. ‘is that it?’ when we arrived. Then again, we were lucky to enjoy good weather so I guess no one is complaining.

 

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As we still had time to spare before lunch, I decided to find a cafe for us to take a break (from the car ride) and I was lucky to discover a pretty spot!

 

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I asked my parents to choose between seafood porridge and old school western food and somehow my dad chose steak we ended up at this restaurant! It was pretty interesting as it has been ages since I ate steak on a sizzling hotplate. It also came with a puff pie soup – something which I haven’t had in a really long while! The best part is that it came with free flow ice cream too~

 

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Our trip to Yang Ming Shan was rather brief as I wasn’t with companions that were willing to trek beyond 20 mins. Then again, I myself was suffering from some abrasion on my shoes and less walking was always desired. With minimal research, I had no idea where to visit so we just left it in the good hands of the driver who just drove around and dropped us at the photo-taking spots. Unlike the previous driver in Taichung, this younger driver did not provide much explanation or sharing of the attractions unless prompted. Not complaining as I could doze off guilt-free during the drive along the winding roads.

 

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Although I hired the drive for 10 hours, the folks were feeling exhausted towards the 8th hour and suggested that we are done with the mountain. I convinced them to drop by the night market (instead of heading straight back to the hotel) as I wanted to feast on the oysters which I didn’t get to eat it in my prior trip as my travel partner didn’t enjoy seafood. In addition, the plan was also to have the beef soup but we had to give it up as the store was not ready even when we were going to leave.

However fret not, the ‘mochi’ peanut/sesame place that was not open a year ago was finally open this time round and it was so delicious! I guess it kind of inspired me to make my own mochi here in Singapore as well because it was so delicious. We also ended up buying the peanut candy from the store owner who ‘upsold’ it to us despite it not being in the menu.

 

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After feasting until we couldn’t eat further, I brought my parents back to the hotel and.. went out for round 2 with a local friend! As it was a Friday night, we decided to find a fancy-looking bar and spend the next 2 hours catching up! She was a dear friend that I met for work more than 8 years ago and somehow we didn’t lose the connection! We will check in on each other once in a while and I’ll make it a point to contact her whenever I’m visiting the country she is in. Looking back, such friendships are really rare and I’m really appreciative for that random connection. I remember the whole night was full of complaints and agreeing with each other on the majority of the issues we are facing. It was fun to realise that our problems are all similar despite being in different countries and having different backgrounds.

 

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Day 5

I did not make any plans for the day as I predicted that the energy level would be pretty low by now. Eventually, we ended up visiting Taipei 101 as my parents said they have never been up before (but I did back in my first trip to Taiwan in 2009).

First up was breakfast at the famous Yong He Dou Jiang. I gave the other famous ‘Fu Hang’ a miss as the queue was notoriously long.

 

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While searching for lunch options, I was super inclined towards Jap food and thus we ended up at a restaurant which was a famous Japanese franchise – Tsujihan.

It was a fancy and luxurious meal and I even upgraded to the set that included a crab as it was my second last say so I should go.. all out right =p No regrets as it was a delicious meal which ended of with this fancy matcha dessert too!

 

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Next up – was the visit to Taipei 101. As it was a Saturday, we had to queue for tickets and queue to get up. The silver lining was that the tickets were kind of  ‘sponsored’ by Taiwan Toursim Board as I paid for the tickets using the 5,000 NT easy card that I won on my first day at the airport. To be honest, I’m not sure if I will go back up again for the 3rd time as skyscrapers are just.. skyscrapers.

 

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After that, we just headed back to the hotel as.. rest is always a preferred choice by the folks. Thankfully, they had no issues when I decide to head out on my own.

I visited the Ban Qiao area to see the Christmas lights and market! The Christmas decor was really impressive and I did enjoy myself in the cold weather (it was a cooling night).

 

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Day 6

I woke up to the news from scoot which informed me that our flight was gonna be delayed by 2 hours which was really upsetting as it was already a red eye flight. Anyway, long story short was that the delay eventually became 5 hours 40 mins and we were just 20 mins shy of claiming insurance but, at least I made it home right?

Well, after learning about the flight delay, I tried to extend the hotel checkout and the driver pick up but none was successful. The hotel was fully booked and the driver had back-to-back pick-ups which makes rescheduling difficult. Eventually, we sticked to our schedule and went to airport at 6pm (flight eventually departed at 2+) which means I had to find non-exhausting activities which could occupy 6 hours of our time.

First up, we headed to Ximending to have this local food – which included luroufan (braised pork rice). There was a long queue as it was a Sunday plus the food was really delicious. The store was really cramp and tiny which makes you want to step out and leave the moment you finish your food.

 

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The next two hours, we spent our time at a tea house – just surfing our phones and stoning around and really just waiting for time to past (while seating down). We had to conserve  our energy for the delayed return flight.

 

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Despite not being hungry, I chanced upon a dessert shop which was marked in my maps and caved in to a bowl of douhua.

 

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Also, still not hungry, we had to settle dinner before going to the airport as Taiwan airport is not known to have many food options.

Our final meal was non other than Din Tai Fung – the famous restaurant selling xiao long bao. To be honest, I was rather surprised at my mum’s suggestion as we can eat it anytime in Singapore but gosh, I discovered that they were serving dishes that were not available in Singapore and that plate of cabbage was heavenly. Everyone claims that Taiwan’s cabbage is really delicious and somehow I didn’t get any chance to try it until that evening. Believe it or not – that plate of cabbage is the same (or even more expensive) than a basket of steamed dumplings but it was so worth it!

Also, similar to Singapore, despite arriving at 5pm (thinking that it was not exactly dinner time yet), we had to wait about 45 mins for our table. I have no idea that people eat dinner at such an early duration so if you plan to visit, do remember to cater extra time for the wait!

 

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After eating, we headed back to our hotel to collect our luggage before getting into the pre-arranged car which sped like crazy to the airport. I wouldn’t be surprised if he took 35-40 mins to cover a usually 60 mins journey. As expected, we were taking budget airlines (Scoot), which means that we were not able to check-in early. We parked ourselves at the food court for the next 3 to 4 hours and I made multiple trips to the convenience store to wipe out the cash I had from the 5,000 NT card I won, plus the additional vouchers given to us as ‘compensation’ for the delay. It was a mess as I bought many random items, most of which were not delicious at all =/

To be honest, I would suggest against taking a red eye flight if you’re travelling with elderly ones. At the same time, I’m also questioning my decision to suggest flying budget airlines as I’m not sure if the cheap ticket prices was worth the delay and agony. Oh wells~

I’m not sure when will be my next trip with the folks but I think my mum hinted that I should bring her somewhere again (but she just couldn’t tell me where).

No idea who will find this post useful but just a tip for those – if you’re thinking of bringing your parents overseas – please try not to find excuses and reason not to do so as you really don’t know how much time you have left with them anymore. As much as I get annoyed and reminding myself that I invited the trouble , I still feel happy that his trip happened and that all of us are back safely in Singapore at the end of the day.

**

How has 2024 been treating you lately? Mine is somewhat below average as there’s many uncertainties in my life that I can’t seem to control of but I’m still trying to remind myself to look for the happy moments had celebrate the small wins, if any come along the way. Chinese New Year is round the corner too which means a whole round of gathering and feasting awaits! Cheers to a better ‘start’ post CNY i hope.

Take care ^^

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