Taiwan Trip – Accommodation & Transportation Tips

Ni hao!

I’ve recently been on a trip to Taiwan with one of my high school BFF’s. It was a 9-day trip around the island. Even though it wasn’t quite enough to explore all around the island, at least we got the chance to see some of their famous tourism objects.

In this post, I’d like to share as much information as I can recall: budget, itinerary and special tips.
I didn’t take notes on all the details, but I think this would be enough to give a clear picture of the trip and help you plan your trip.

1. Flight ticket
I booked Tiger Air round-trip flights from Jakarta to Taipei for 5 – 14 May 2016. I booked the ticket in October 2015 for Rp 7.2 mio for 2 persons (appr. US$ 550 with only 1 x 15kg luggage). There was a stopover in Singapore and the price did not include luggage transfer. So, we had to get our luggage after the immigration counter and check-in again at the check-in counter. Since we had to spend a night in Singapore before our early morning flight to Taipei (at 8.45 AM), we decided to sleep at the airport.

Waiting for boarding time

2. Itinerary
May 6 – 7 : Taipei, Energy Inn Hostel in Ximen Ding – US$ 59/ 2 nights/ 4-bed female dorm with private bathroom + breakfast
May 8 : Kaohsiung, Sunwise Hotel Kaohsiung, near  Kaohsiung Main Station (MRT & Train) – NT$ 780/ 1 night/ double room with private bathroom + breakfast
May 9 : Chiayi, Light Hostel Chiayi, near Chiayi Train Station – NT$ 1,300/1 night/ 4-bed female dorm with private bathroom + breakfast
May 10 – 11 : Taichung, Starship Business Hotel, near Taichung Train Station – NT$ 2,200/ 2 nights/ double room with private bathroom + breakfast
May 12 – 13 : Taipei, Backpackers Hostel, in Ximen Ding – NT$ 3,000/2 nights/twin room with private bathroom – no breakfast
May 14 : Singapore, 1-night stay at Bliss Hotel in Chinatown, in front of Chinatown MRT station – S$ 128/ 1 night/ twin room with private bathroom – no breakfast.
Energy Inn, Tapei (dorm beds)
  
Energy Inn, Taipei (bathroom)
Light Hostel, Chiayi (bathroom)
Light Hostel, Chiayi (dorm beds)
Starship Business Hotel, Taichung
3. Transportation within Taiwan
MRT in Taipei & Kaohsiung : NT$ 12 – 30/trip depending on distance. I recommend to buy Easy Card for faster access to MRT & buses and save transportation expense. The card costs NT$ 100, non-refundable.
Taiwan High Speed Railway (THSR) : take HSR for a long trip as far as Taipei to Kaohsiung (Zuo Ying station). I bought the HSR ticket at Backpackers Hostel and got 20% discount (normal price almost NT$ 1,500).
Taiwan Train : No need to book in advance for this. Just buy it at the ticket counter and ask for the earliest schedule to your destination. The train costs me around NT$ 100-200ish/ each trip with reserved seats. Sometimes they sell non-reserved seat tickets for short distance travel.
Bus : I took bus from Chiayi to Alishan and from Taichung to Sun Moon Lake.
Chiayi – Alishan : NT$ … /person/single trip. Bus station located in front of Chiayi train station.
Taichung – Sun Moon Lake : NT$ 189/person/single trip. Bus stop in front of Taichung train station.
Sun Moon Lake – Taichung : NT 500/single trip by taxi.
Taoyuan Airport – Taipei Main Station (city centre) : NT$ 125/person/single trip by airport bus. Buy ticket at a counter near the bus stop at airport exit.
4. Meals & drinks
You will never have to worry about meals in Taiwan. There is either street vendor or convenient store (7-11, Family Mart, Hi-Life) at every inch of Taiwan. At late night or early morning, the convenient stores are still open and provide sandwiches, sushi/onigiri, kuo tie, fried chicken, fish meatball and even bento box. The store assistants always offer to heat it in the oven. The prices are reasonable (around NT$ 20-100).
Snacks and coffee from convenient stores all over Taiwan 😀
By the time I stepped my foot on Taiwan’s ground, I already felt that something awesome was going to happen again. And yes, all the good old memories came back and I suddenly felt terribly happy and I think I fell in love with Taiwan all over again :”)
Cheers,
Ariesa

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Why Taiwan is the Best Place to Learn Mandarin Chinese

I’m sure we all agree that now Mandarin Chinese is one of the important languages in global business environment. However, many people find it very difficult to learn unless you learn it in its country of origin. If you are thinking about learning Mandarin Chinese and still deciding where to go, I hope this article can give you more to consider and help you make your choice.

I happen to be one of the lucky people who have experience living in Taiwan. I spent 2 years in Taipei learning Mandarin Chinese and going to graduate school. Before choosing Taiwan, I actually had thought of going to Mainland China. But after more careful thoughts and research, I finally decided to go to Taiwan.

These are some reasons why I chose Taiwan and never regret my decision 🙂

  1. Good quality of education institutes

If you want to learn Mandarin Chinese in Taiwan with a student visa, you have to apply for a full-time study, which means: Monday to Friday at least 15 hours a week. Most institutions that offer Mandarin Chinese classes for foreign students are public or private universities that are recognised by Taiwan government. The teachers really have degree in teaching Mandarin Chinese and they are experienced. Besides the quality of teachers, most institutions also offer extra curricular activities after class. In these extra classes, you can meet even more friends from other classes and improve your listening or speaking skills, as well as get to know about Chinese culture and traditions.

I used to study Mandarin at 2 institutions in Taipei: the first was Mandarin Learning Center at Chinese Culture University and the second was Mandarin Training Center at National Taiwan Normal University. All the teachers I met in both institutions had years even decades of experience in teaching Mandarin Chinese to foreigners. They’re just professional, friendly and awesome! 🙂

To give you some ideas on school’s facility in Taiwan, here’s some pictures from my uni in Taiwan. They also provide Mandarin Chinese classes for international students. Most of public universities in Taiwan have the same standard of facility.

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My uni’s open area

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Indoor swimming pool inside my uni

2. Student friendly living cost

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One of the main concerns when we want to study abroad is of course living costs. Even though Taiwan is one of the developed countries in Asia, the living cost there is much lower than in Hong Kong, Singapore, Korea and Japan. Before deciding to go to Taiwan, I was comparing between living costs in China and Taiwan and I found out that student accommodation in China was actually much more expensive than in Taiwan. I was even comparing between a smaller city in China and Taipei, the capital of Taiwan, and it’s still cheaper in Taipei!

3. People are polite and friendly

Unlike people in their neighborhood countries: Mainland and Hong Kong, people in Taiwan are very friendly, even to foreigners. Taiwan was once colonized by Japan so Japanese culture has a bit of influence in there. Here are some phrases commonly used by people in Taiwan:

“Ni hao?” = Hello / how are you?

“Bu hao yisi” = Excuse me/ sorry

“Xie xie” = Thank you

4. Part time jobs for international students

JobSearch

As an international student, you are allowed to work for up to 20 hours a week. There are many part-time jobs available in Taiwan in various sectors. The most popular ones are: hospitality (food & beverage), foreign worker agency and English course institutes. Foreign worker agencies are popular for Southeast Asian students as they can be a translator between Southeast Asian caregivers and their Taiwanese employers. Whilst the English teaching jobs are more popular for students from western countries, especially English speaking countries. That being said, I mean that as long as you’re white, it’s pretty easy for you to get a job as an English teacher in Taiwan and you also get twice as high as the local teacher’s salary. You can find jobs through websites like tealit.

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My students in Taiwan

When I was in Taiwan, I worked in a foreign worker agency and English language school. Teaching English is not a common job for an Asian and non-native English speaker like me, but with some luck I managed to get the job.

5. Delicious and cheap local food

This is probably one of the things I loved the most in Taiwan. It seems like everything you can eat in Taiwan is delicious and cheap! When I lived in Taiwan for 2 years, I didn’t have to worry about cooking at home (since most of the rent houses don’t have kitchen anyways, lol!) and could find something to eat very easily everywhere! I usually just went to some bento takeaway restaurant for lunch and for AU$2 – 4, I could get a set of rice with 3 sides (including 1 meat/fish/chicken). There are also plenty of local breakfast cafes around any area that serves local breakfast menu. For coffee, I usually just grabbed from 7-11 or any convenient store. Yes, they do serve decent coffee in convenient stores.

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Local breakfast: egg pancake with bacon

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Coffee from 7-11

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Hot food at convenient store

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Convenient store’s ready to eat food & drink are also good!

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Night market’s food: fried chicken & luwei! *thebest*

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The famous bento box from the train station

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Various dumplings! All GOOD :p

6. Convenient and cheap public transports

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Taiwan bullet train

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MRT station in Kaohsiong

And I mean public transport across the country, not only in Taipei city. Inside Taipei or Kaohsiong city, there are MRT and buses. In other cities, there are only buses. But, if you want to travel intercity, there are intercity lines too and there is also bullet train. You can check timetables and book tickets online for intercity trains. It is fast, cheap and convenient to travel across the country during the weekends.

 

These are some famous tourism objects you can visit by public transports:

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Taiwan Aboriginal Village in Nantou

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Cable car for Sun Moon Lake sightseeing

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Train inside Alishan national park

 7. Security, safety and excellent public service quality

I would say that Taiwan is one of the safest countries in Asia. I used to hangout at the night markets very often and came home around midnight. I never felt insecure as the streets always have enough lighting and I know there are CCTV everywhere. Inside the trains and buses, there is also sticker that writes contact number for sexual harassment case.

I’m a pretty forgetful person that once I left my backpack in an intercity train. When I realised, I immediately went to see the officer in the station office and they helped me to contact the office at the next station to collect and keep my bag in their lost and found. The next day, I went to the next station and collected my bag easily.

I can actually go on and on when talking about my personal experience in Taiwan. But I think, this article should be enough to help you make your mind. If you still have anymore questions, don’t hesitate to write a comment or email me at lie.ariesa@gmail.com 🙂

Cheers,

Ariesa

My Taipei Itinerary Guide

Hey there!

In this post, I’d like to share the details of my travel itinerary in Taiwan from last year. In my previous post, I’ve shared  the rough itinerary, budget and tips & tricks on transportation and food in general: read my other post. Right now I want to give a more detailed explanation on the objects we visited in each city and I’m going to start with Taipei.

Places

  1. Hair salon : well, the very first thing I did when I arrived in Taipei was indeed going to salon to get a haircut and perm. There’s no salon in Jakarta that does it as good as they do it in Taiwan. Besides, the service costs very cheap compared to most salons in Jakarta’s shopping malls. You can just walk into any salon in one of the famous night markets like Shida or Gong Guan. They usually have quite similar quality of service and price. If you’re lucky, sometimes they have special promotions too on selected service. I got my hair cut and permed for only NT$ 2,000. The curls are still in pretty shape until now (since May last year!).

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2. Taipei Zoo :  it’s a good place to visit with the family. Plus, the entrance fee is very cheap. I think it only costs around NT$ 30 for one person. The zoo is very well-maintained and has quite a lot of species including: koala, penguin and Chinese panda.

3. Chiang Kai Shek Memorial Hall : This is a complex of a few historical buildings. In one of the buildings, the Taiwanese tell their independence story through pictures, old clothing and car. Other buildings are used for musical or art performance, including international artist’s music concerts. The entrance is free of charge.

4. Yang Ming Shan National Park : this national park is located on the outskirts of Taipei in Shilin District. It’s a nice place to do light hiking and just enjoy the view of the mountain. As far as I recall, in the beginning of spring there’s a flower exhibition at one of the entrance. It’s very easy to go to Yang Ming Shan. Just go to Shilin night market or MRT first. Then you can find a few buses that go to Yang Ming Shan.

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Foggy mountain view

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Hiking trail

5. National Palace Museum: this one is also located in Shilin District. From Shilin Night Market, there are one or two buses going through the museum. There’s also a bus stop in front of the museum so you don’t have to walk too far to get into the palace. The palace is enormous and consists of loads and loads of artifacts from ancient China. It is told that the Chinese (mainland) people who took refuge to Taiwan brought them. If you take a guided tour or an audio-guide, you will hear many interesting stories about the Chinese history here. It costs NT$ 250 for general visitors and it’s worth every penny!

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National Palace Museum

Food!!!

As I’ve mentioned in my previous post, foods are very easy to find in every corner of the city and cheap! Most of them are delicious too 😀 This is one of the many things that make me happy when living in Taipei for 2 awesome years! Here are some food we enjoyed during our stay in Taipei:

  1. Taiwanese beef noodle:

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I’m quite sure we visited one of the most famous beef noodle restaurants in Taipei. The restaurant was very crowded and we had to queue to be seated and only had a few minutes to finish our meals. There are quite a few noodle menus. I ordered the original one with spicy soup while my friend had the dry-style beef noodle (which looked like Korean Jajang Myun). Each menu cost around NT 120-150 with big chunks of meat on it! It was really good so I recommend you to try it too 🙂

2. Luwei and Taiwanese crispy fried chicken

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Left: fried chicken; right: luwei

OK, the fried chicken actually has been one of my biggest guilty pleasure ever since I tried it in Taiwan! I always had it at least 1-2 a week when I lived there. It was soooo GOOOD!!! I was quite addicted to it! For me, the best fried chicken is the one sold at Shida Night Market. I think the name of the vendor was Shida Fried Chicken, it was run by an uncle and his wife. Fried chicken usually costs around NT$ 50-60. Luwei was also one of my favorite street food but I always had to share it with friends. It is a mix of vegetables with dumplings, pork meatballs, instant noodle and tofu skin. There are still other side dish to mix in Luwei, you get to pick your own mixture and let them dip all the mixture in that special soup and pour it with some ketchup. The cost of luwei varies depend on what you choose and how much you want it. Mine usually cost around NT$ 120 – NT$ 180.

3. Bento at the HSR train station

It is very famous because it’s delicious and easy to carry. I must say that actually most bentos in Taiwan are not bad if not delicious. But when you want to take Taipei HSR, it’s worth to try the bento and eat it while you wait for your train. I think it costs around NT$ 120-130 a box with choice of beef, chicken or pork.

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My bento box with pork

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Inside Taiwan HSR

 

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My friend and me on Taiwan HSR

There are actually still many kinds of good food and drinks around Taipei. Not to mention my all time favorite Ice Caramel Latte from City Cafe 7-11. It’s the BEST latte in Taiwan with the BEST price too! But I think trying lots of food in Taiwan is no guilty since most of them are good and cheap. So, try your luck and tell me what you think =)

Cheers,

Ariesa