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Sunday, November 15, 2015

ExpediaTravelista x Taiwan: Exploring Taipei (Part 1)

For Taipei, I will be breaking it into two posts since I was able to spend 3 days there. My itinerary for Taipei includes Shifen, Jiufen, Golden Waterfall, Yin Yang Sea, Yehliu Geopark, Huashan 1914 Creative Park, Wufenpu, Fujin Street, Taroko Marble Gorge Tour and of course the night markets - Raohe, Shida and Shilin.

Shifen, Jiufen, Golden Waterfall, Yin Yang Sea and Yehliu Geopark were all done in a day, with the guide of a driver I hired. And on that note, I'd like to give a shoutout to my Taipei driver; he is highly recommended by me. I did research for my Taipei driver, and boy am I glad he's the one I engaged in the end. We were so well-taken care of by him; you can really tell that he genuinely enjoys what he does and takes immense pride in it. I dare say that he's the best driver you can possibly find to bring you around Taipei. His name is Kevin, and you can contact (whatsapp) him at +886 988 205 513 or find him on LINE (kevin11230330).

This Taipei Part 1 post will feature Shifen, Jiufen, Golden Waterfall, Yin Yang Sea, Huashan Creative Park, Fujin Street, Raohe Night Market, my Taipei Hotel and my thoughts on Shilin Night Market and Wufenpu. Here goes! :)

Kevin did a quick stop here on the way there so that we could take in this picturesque view of Shifen, and of course, get a shot. It's a stunning view from here isn't it? And if look really closely, you can see the sky lanterns. ;)

First stop in the Shifen area was the waterfall! Please do not wear heels or any pair of shoes that would be uncomfortable/hard to walk in because it's abit of a walk, stairs to climb, and bridges to cross haha. 

And finally, time to release the sky lanterns! It was a lot of fun because visitors release the lanterns on the train tracks, which is a functioning one! So every 10 mins or so (I think!), a train will come through and everyone will scatter to the sides hahaha. Slightly chaotic but I really don't mind because the experience is as authentic as it can get.

Kevin wanted to help us get a shot with the train whizzing by us, and I'd say he nailed it!

So it turns out, the different colour represent different things. There's a different colour to represent wealth, health, career, happiness, marriage etc. Since the lantern only has 4 sides, you choose the 4 things you want the most.

All these pictures were taken by the staff at the sky lantern shop. He REALLY nailed it with this shot lol. 

Up it goes!

Kevin then went to get for us Chicken Wing Rice Rolls that come highly recommended by him. It was his treat. He treated us to alot of good food/drinks the whole day actually! See what I mean by he took really good care of us? It felt more like a dear friend of ours was bringing us around Taipei than a driver that I engaged.

And the Chicken Wing Rice Rolls were amazing btw. Just thinking of it makes me hungry.

Next stop, the Golden Waterfall!

Kevin explained that the "goldness" is not actually gold, although this is the result of the gold mining factory/ground. The gold colour you see is from the copper and iron deposits the water picks up as it passes through Jinguashi's old mines.

Here's a closer look!

Kevin then stopped us here, an abandoned copper smelting refinery. It's called the Remains of the 13 Levels (十三層遺址). I don't know about you, but the name sounds really ominous and creepy to me, which I think, befits its outlook lol. Kevin said that this building was build upon the orders of the Japanese when Taiwan was under the Japanese rule.

Can you see King Kong in this rock formation? ;)

If you look closer at the background, you can see the massive pipes trawling through the mountains. Kevin explained that the Japanese ordered these to be built so as to send the toxic fumes from deep inside the mines high up into the air.

And then Kevin dropped us another surprise treat!And damn this was probably the sweetest, most delicious mango I've ever had! Thank you again, Kevin! :)

And we've reached Jiufen!

I swear, it looks almost like it's a scene out of a painting. It was such a surreal and breathtaking sight seeing it in person. You really can't deny the charm of Jiufen and Shifen. These two places were probably my favourite this entire trip. You shouldn't miss these places if you're in Taiwan. I wonder why my family and I didn't have these two places in our itinerary when we visited Taiwan in 2012/2013. This is why I never like or recommend following a tour group hahahaha.

Also, a tip! Jiufen is the place to get your souvenirs/Taiwan food items. It's cheaper (and possible better) than the ones you get in the city.

Ever thankful that I get to experience new countries and beautiful places like this with the boy. More to come (last year, we explored Seoul. this year end, we'll be heading to Japan! Europe's in our plan for next year's travels) He makes all these experiences even more beautiful hehe.


This was the next day, exploring Taipei city on our own. 

First stop, Huashan 1914 Creative Park!

I love this place. It's just oozing with creativity and buzzing with energy with all the indie labels and exhibitions.

Our next stop's actually Wufenpu, it's a wholesale garment market; so I thought I will be spending alot here. I thought it'd be the Taiwan version of Chatuchak hahaha. But well, if I could be honest, my advice is to skip Wufenpu altogether. In my opinion, the selection of styles aren't very chic, it's abit like the first floor of Bugis Street.

I actually shopped more at night markets like Shida and Raohe because the stuff I found there were chic and pretty cheap!

So after Wufenpu, we went to Fujin Street. It feels somewhat like Taiwan's version of Tiong Bahru. I think this is also an expat area because there were alot of childcare/enrichment centres there with a strong emphasis on English, the Montessori approach, etc. Most of the kids we saw in these centres were Caucasian as well.

And the highlight of the day was the Fujin Tree 353 Cafe by Simple Kaffa. This cafe charmed its way straight to my heart because oh gosh, flowers flowers everywhere! Both dried and fresh.

My heart's just bursting with absolute glee!

The flowers and dreamy aesthetic's not the only thing that I fell head over heels in love with. It's also because of THIS CAKE. THIS AMAZING PIECE OF HONEY EGG CAKE.

I've never had or heard of a honey egg cake before this. It looks so unassuming but it's the most beautiful (taste wise) cake I've ever had. The texture is perfect with right density, and the right amount of moist. I really don't know how to describe the taste, it's so beautiful, words will fail me (or rather, do it injustice). I want a piece of it so badly right now. Gahhhh.

Tiramisu's pretty good too. But my favourite's still L'Atelier Tiramisu in Singapore. 

Good tea and coffee too!

And then it's time to conquer another night market! Raohe Night Market is also our favourite one because of how easy it is to navigate, and for its food quality. According to Kevin when we asked him the day before, it's popular among the locals. Shilin Night Market, a view I concur with as well, is far too overrated; too crowded and the food doesn't even come close to the standard you can find at Raohe and Shida Night Market. So if your itinerary doesn't allow you to have the luxury of time, just skip Shilin Night Market.

Tried the famous Pepper Cakes at Raohe, the queue was the longest you'll see in the market. It's not the type of cake you'd except. Instead, it's more like our bao. And taste-wise, it's pretty much like our Da Bao (big bun) or Rou Bao (Meat Bun). I don't fancy it very much because I'm not a fan of baos. If you are though, you should try it!



This was a cafe we chanced upon at Shida Night Market. It looks so much like it could fit perfectly in Santorini haha. 


And this was our Taipei City Hotel, FX Hotel Nanjing East. Location was a dream because it was just opposite the train station making it the perfect base to explore the city. Heh heh.

Facilities for guests to use.

For more information about EFX Hotel Nanjing East, you can check it out over at Expedia here. Expedia's listing is really really comprehensive with many pictures, details about its location, nearby attractions, hotel features and room amenities of course! I don't think I've ever seen a page on a hotel as informative as this. And if you book your flights together with your hotel on Expedia, it's cheaper, try it!


Read more Shanice x Expedia to Taiwan here:

Exploring Tainan + Kaosiung
Exploring Taichung
Exploring Taipei (Part 1)

Exploring Taipei (Part 2) Yehliu + Taroko Gorge Tour