5D4N In Taiwan {with Trekking at Taroko National Park}

Tuesday, February 28, 2017

Just last July, we did a quick research and made a trip to Taiwan! (impromptu one :p)


Our trek at Taroko National Park, Hualien was really pretty. Though it was kinda short, we enjoyed ourselves immensely and are already planning to go back to Taiwan to explore the other treks! Didn't know that Taiwan has so many pretty treks as well.

The first thing that we did - was to purchase their SIM card. As we had booked our accommodation in Hualien and needed to communicate with our host, it was necessary to have a number that was contactable and had internet connection. There'll be phone stalls just right outside the airport - we bought from 台湾大哥大, apparently it seemed like to be one of the more popular telecom services over there. 


The transport system is much more systematic and straight forward. We bought our bus tickets from the airport (go straight to Kuo Kuang “國光客運“ booth and buy tickets - Bus 1819) to the Taipei Main station for less than SGD$6 (NT125) to continue our journey to Hualien. It was about an hour's ride from the airport to the Main Station.



Comfy seats onboard the bus :)



Just a heads up, the bus does not directly drop you off at the Taipei Main Station. Instead, it dropped us outside the mall that's linked directly to the Main Station, and it took us another 10-15 minutes to walk over to the Main Station.

Along the way, there was so many things to do and see over there!



One thing that we didn't do was to purchase tickets in advance. When we reached the train station, we were told that the direct tickets to Hualien was SOLD OUT on that day. Luckily we had Plan B - which was to purchase the combination tickets from Kamalan.

How the combination ticket works:
--> An hour's bus ride from Taipei Main Station to Luodong Station
--> From Luodong Station to Xincheng Station (新城車站) via train

And it all costed us only NT209! (as compared to the express direct train ride which would have costed us about NT405) That's literally half the price off!


While waiting for the bus, we bought some small snacks from the convenience stalls and we spotted my favourite fishballs!! Wheee~



My boyfriend, being the meat monster bought their braised pork rice (lu rou fan) which originates from Taiwan but it wasn't sooo good though...


The bus ride was a smooth one-hour ride, in a blink of an eye we reached Luodong Train Station!

Upon arrival at the bus interchange, we crossed the road to the train station. It was said that they have a super delicious braised pork bian tang (bento/lunch set) but we were too late :( 



While waiting for our train to arrive

Luodong Station 羅東車站 - En route to Xincheng Station~!

And we thought that the trains are really cute.. So traditional

And they have these train masters as well.. 

The scene from Train to Busan.. Lol. Lucky got no zombies onboard with us!!


While on the train, we received a message from the government saying that there was a small earthquake in Hualien. I was SOOO scared when the china passengers around us also started panicking. Lol.

EARTHQUAKE EH!


Is this how we're gonna die..? Am I gonna die before I even turn 23? In a foreign land?



Okay so we were all super cautious and were observing the area but nothing really happened...

Finally, we reached 新城車站 Xincheng Station!


Arrival at Hualien

Rihang, our host was already there waiting for our arrival. Informed him beforehand that we'd be arriving about late evening, thankfully he was there early :)

The accommodation we picked was Taroko Lodge, as recommended by Google & Tripadvisor. Had a high rating plus they organise trips to the national park, so decided to give it a try.

As it was already pretty late, Rihang's son brought us to their family restaurant to have dinner. It was a pretty simple fare, but the food was really yummy though! We made some new friends from Australia and France as well. (And we were the only Asians..)


Hao chi!


Trekking at Jhuilu Old Trail, Taroko National Park




The next morning, I got up pretty early to snap some photos of our pretty little lodge.


Morning light

Our house! (which has 3-4 rooms..)




The main living room

Visitors from all over the world... :)


If you're looking for a nice place to stay in Hualien, I'd strongly recommend Taroko Lodging, though it's a little far from the city area, it's definitely one of the nicest place to be at if you want an "off the beaten track" kind of experience.

Breakfast is included as well, and Rihang's wife will be up before 8am making breakfast fresh from their outdoor kitchen!

Took this photo and she was like, "Ah nooo! I don't have my makeup on.."

A simple & nourishing breakfast whipped up by the wife

Chatting about their career.. 


Before the trek, we did a quick stop at the nearby convenience store and bought some drinks + snacks to fuel us up during the trek!




 Me and my chocolate milk!




The trail that we took up (Jhuilu Old Trail) was said to be one of the toughest in Taroko National Park. We had to sign up for the permit to trek in advance as a limited number of people are allowed each day due to the difficulty level.

We were really lucky to be at Taroko with that lovely weather because it was the LAST DAY that we were able to trek that week, given the weather forecast that the entire Taiwan will be affected by one of the largest typhoons of the year the next day. *lucky us!*

 Such gorgeous views


The start of the Jhuilu Old Trail.



Note that we started from the Swallow Cave, as the other route has actually been closed down due to landslide from the previous typhoon. :/

Our starting point - All happy to start our trek!

Beware of the unknown.. Definitely trekking has its inherent dangers, but the views pay off at the summit/finish point, right?
Becoz you're part of me. 

Our new friend from France! A very nice and sweet lad who kept offering to help us to take photos :) 


Yeap, my short legs are not a fan of these high steps x_x

At the very last part of the trek... Close to the edge

And the only way is up~

Yeap, and our friend was like.. -_-

Both of them kept getting get stung by bees at the last part, which was really scary coz we were so close to the edge!

We reached the last part of the trek, rested at the pitstop and had some snacks before we headed back out again - and yes, it's via the same route.

The last part of the trek was beautiful, reminded me of Yunnan when we spend most of our days in the car, going through gorgeous gorges and valleys :') Nature is so beautiful!

Our guide told us that he was kinda impressed by us - we were one of the fastest trekkers since usually most of his guests will take a longer time to trek in and out. I guess we're one of the seasoned ones ;P

We then explored Swallow Caves (which was bloody touristy) since we had some free time.



Nothing much to shout out again, no swallow spotted but lots of China nationals with selfie sticks. *rolls eyes*

Rihang was nice enough to bring us to the other parks to trek.



And yeap, this part was pretty nice - we got to see crystal blue water but didn't get to go down since there were signs all around. Such a pity though..

Crossing the bridge - and as you can see... Lots of tourists. 


We spotted a lot of big spiders, and D kept on throwing stones at them. Fortunately, these spiders' webs are really strong so it didn't fall hahaha.

We also managed to cover 3 different places in one day.. Difficulty level for Taroko National Park in general is pretty easy. Darren and I didn't feel that it was very hard, as compared to our trek in China!! Views were just so-so, though I did enjoyed myself in the last part of the Jhuilu Old Trail :)

To head back, we trekked out and waited at the Visitors' Centre while waiting for Rihang to pick us up and send us back :)

Night out at Zhiqiang Night Market

After an exhausting day out at the national park, we took a quick nap and proceeded to the night market after! Rihang drove us to the Xincheng Train Station, which we took a quick 4 mins ride down to the city of Hualien.

So much buzz going around there, as compared to Xincheng! However, I was pretty glad that we were staying in Xincheng as it was exactly what we needed - a break away from the city life.

D decided to bring SGD $40 to spend for that night.. (mainly on food and cab)


Yaaas - Bubble tea! Taiwan is the king of bubble teas right? Hehe. 



The market turned out to be super huge! They actually combined the other markets and make it into a main one.. 


 My favourite stall was the one that you get to choose whatever you like - and they'd deep fry for you on the spot! 


This is not your ordinary hotdog bun....

Ta-daa! Filled with noodles :) It was surprisingly quite good, but D didn't like it. 

Hugeass seafood. This was one of the prettiest stalls among all the other stalls, but also one of the most expensive. The wait was soooo long!
 

We managed to order prawns and oysters, but D didn't think it was that good.
Anyway after stuffing ourselves with A LOT of food (since it's quite cheap too!), we found out that we didn't have much cash with us after -_- 

My number 1 concern was............ No cash for food?! HAHAHA.

We were also trying to hunt down for the awesome steak as raved by the netizens, but couldn't find it. The place was too big!

By the time we wanted to try out some ice-cream, our French friend told us he couldn't eat any longer and was amazed by how much we can eat. D and I laughed to ourselves... Dude hasn't seen us eat at buffets, he'd be horrified :P

Our french friend was kind enough to also agree to lend us some money (to eat) if we did spend everything that night. 



Lots of innovative food stalls!

Everytime I'm with you... I'm in paradise.


 We were so tired by then, and luckily we still had some money back to take cab to the train station.


Heading back to Taipei


The next morning, we thanked Rihang and his family for the warm hospitality (and for giving us the biggest room even when it's just both of us!) and for looking out for us as well. He drove us to the train station and that was when we bid farewell to our friends in Taroko Lodge as well.

They also warned us of the incoming typhoon, which we were quite worried about.
Our french friend wanted to head to the neighbouring island for his next pitstop - despite the typhoon! Not sure if he's......... alive. 😓


While in the train, we could actually see that the typhoon was slowly approaching Taipei - the wind was so strong and the waves were crashing in already 😨



Thank you for tolerating our nonsense for the past 24 hours 😂


We took the train from Xincheng back to Taipei, it was about a 2 hours journey :)



Really loving the train stations in Taiwan.. They all have this rustic charm, reminds me of Japan so much!




To head back to Taipei, we took the same route - and even had time to have lunch at Luodong Train Station! 

And there - was when we had one of the yummiest braised pork rice!! It was an unexpected find, we saw the signboard and decided to go with it.

One beautiful thing that I really loved about Taiwan was that they have complimentary tea whenever you go! While waiting for our bus to Taipei, I kept on refilling free tea until my boyfriend went, "Eh, you enough already hor!" #auntie #budgetbarbie4lyfe




Took a cab from the interchange to our hotel. 

Our Hotel, City Inn Plus Hotel 



We stayed at CityInn Plus Hotel at Ximending, which scored a pretty decent rating on Tripadvisor. 
Checking in was a breeze, the staffs were all so welcoming and friendly!

The lobby was a little strange with random furnitures and decors around, but the facilities are AMAZING. I'll tell you why!


1) Free laundry service
During our stay in Taipei, we spent most of our days washing our clothes because we were stuck in the hotel - unable to go out due to the strong typhoon. Shops were mostly closed.



2) Free flow tea, coffee and soft drinks
I wasn't expecting that, but yeah.. I kept on heading back for free hot tea because it was... free? Haha. I enjoyed the fact that they had a microwave oven and a sharing sink in the kitchenette as well - and computers to use in the lounge area. 


3) A recreational area for guests to hang out
We wouldn't hang out here on a normal day, but this area really saved our life during the days we were in the hotel. Unable to get out due to the typhoon, we spend most of our evenings here, watching news, using the computer for free and having our dinner at the tables too.


4) Comfortable room with... pretty toilets
Our room was kinda cozy, not super huge but not super small either. Just perfect for us two. :) 

They were nice enough to place two hershey chocolates on the bed with a thank you note to welcome us! 




Oh.. and did I mention how much I love the toilet? 





 We headed out to walk around Ximending, one of the most happening place in Taipei!






First place we headed to was - Jin Feng's Braised Pork Rice, as recommended by my friend :)


Okay nothing compares to this - the convenience stores version really suck but this was sooo good too! Not to mention I think we only spend $6 for two people - given the fact that both of us are such big eaters! 😂



Best. Ever. Up till now I'm still thinking about it... 

Braised eggs!


Took the chance to walk around Xi Men Ding shopping district. So many shops that we were going dizzy! Not exactly a fan of expensive places......

Exploring some random mall. Their sportswear are so expensive leh!


Later that, we met up with D's friend who suggested to meet at AlleyCat's, supposedly one of their popular Italian restaurant in Taipei.

Yummy pizza! Anything's amazing with cheese. Heh heh.




A hidden gem indeed :)

I was craving for bubble tea, so Ted suggested that we buy 50 - something (Haha, I don't know how to pronounce) and..............


THE MOST AMAZING BUBBLE TEA IN MY LIFE. PERIOD.


The milk tea was so, so so good!

Now I know why Taiwan is the king of Bubble Teas.
Eh.. Singapore please import this in leh!

We then bid goodbye to Ted & headed to the train station to Raohe Night Market!
Whee, I super duper love night markets - especially if  it means yummy street food and great finds. Raohe Night Market is much less touristy as compared to Shilin, and I heard that the quality of the food is much better there as well.



It started drizzling, but we didn't have an umbrella with us.. The wind was getting stronger (due to the incoming typhoon) so most shops were starting to pack up, and there were lesser people at the market too.

At the entrance of Raohe Night Market~


We were greeted with the aroma of the yummy street foods and colourful stalls along the street. Such a glorious sight!

Felt like eating everything that were in our way, but after learning our lesson at Zhiqiang Night Martket @ Hualien, we decided to save our stomach for the ones worth the calories.

The problem was... how do we know which are the good ones?


The first stall that we went to had a pretty unique concept - they were baking their buns in a traditional way. So cute!


Handmade from scratch


It was truly a great experience, having to see the locals making them on the spot and it was piping hot when we were eating it!


The next one was.....

OUR FAVOURITE OF ALL TIME.


Grilled beef cubes.

Look at that... 



There were quite a few flavours to choose from, we chose the one that was rose salted.

And we did not regret it at all.

I was kinda skeptical about it, kept asking D to stop buying so much food lest we can't finish again, but he was persistent on this. I attributed it to his love for meat, but I'm glad he persisted.

He fed me a mouthful and I was like........... "WOAH. Why you buy so little?!"

Hahahha. My poor darling.



MUST EAT IN TAIWAN! Costed us about $5 for the large portion. Oh and by the way, we ate 2 boxes of this within 15 minutes. Lol.


It was raining quite heavily due to the incoming typhoon, so the shops started packing up.. There wasn't much to see so here're some interesting finds we found along the way:

Colourful gradiant drink. Supposedly it's 100% natural. The english name.. Lol.


Such a pretty one!

Walked into some "supposedly famous" beef noodle soup shop, tried their signature and was like.. Meh. But we needed something to warm our stomach that cold night!


The next day, we woke up to the typhoon. All the shops (even the malls) were closed and we were like... WHAT! Our last day in Taipei and we didn't even get to fully enjoy yesterday. :( Wanted to buy Tsum Tsum shoes but we assume it'd be closed..


We spend our morning in the hotel, washing clothes (as usual...) and helping ourselves to the free flow of tea and coffee. Watched news with the other guests at the main area as well, we felt so at home. The news was just showing us how the other parts of Taiwan was affected by the typhoon, many buildings and houses got damaged due to the strength of the typhoon :/

I got really restless and tell my boyfriend we HAVE TO GO OUT. He was really cool about it so we packed our waterproof gears and headed straight out to the streets. 😎



My friend was telling us we had to try out Ah Zhong Mee Sua at Ximending as well, and that happened to be one of the only stalls that was opened, so we gave it a try.

ITS SOOOO GOOD.
My boyfriend doesn't even like Mee Sua and he loves this. 



It's that good I swear.

Glorious bowl of Mee Sua 😍 Added with lots of garlic and vinegar!

We had a love-hate relationship with the typhoon - because of the typhoon, the queue was almost non-existent! :P

Next up, we walked around (while struggling to stay alive) the dead streets of Ximending, hoping to find shops that were opened - and ta-daaa! Yong He Soya Beancurd Shop.


Honestly, this wasn't part of our itinerary at all - but it was swamped with people. Queues were forming outside despite the strong wind, so we decided to join in as well.

It was about a 15 minutes queue before we managed to get a seat in the cramped shop.


Really cramped... 

We ordered a floss pancake - and it was soooo good! D really liked it a lot, and so do I 😋

Getting really comfortable in our seats now... Don't want to walk in the rain 😥

This was really good too!! Omelette pancake, but i still preferred the chicken floss 😊

With my lover 😚 One of my favourite shots that we've ever taken together so far!


Anyway, D is well-known for his habit of over ordering and overeating everytime, (have a feeling he'll kill me if he sees this 🤣) so after our brunch, we had our lunch after at a cute little Japanese restaurant.

It was really cute! We got so fascinated by the decor so we decided to go in (without checking the reviews, damnit) and give it a try.

Delivered by train!

Feels like Japan too :)

D said that we've to definitely try out their sushi here, since Taiwan is really near Japan - and that their source of seafood is about the same.

So..............
Sashimi

Unagi - My first love. And it was REALLY good.

As much as we enjoyed our experience in the little cozy Japanese restaurant, we didn't fancy the prices of these dishes though. Our bill came up to $80 - $90, and it wasn't that much food too :/

The food wasn't as phenomenal as we'd thought it'd be, could have saved our stomach for somewhere else better too. Nevertheless, they had some nice dishes and it was definitely a great experience 😊


Thanks my love!


The rain got a little heavy by then, so we went back to Jin Feng and tabao our favourite braised pork rice, some cakes from a nearby bakery and headed back to the hotel to eat!

Wind was so strong that some pedestrians had to cling onto the telephone booth for their dear life. We, on the other hand almost got blown away. Hahaha. Many branches fell and were all over the road too.. So thankful we got back safely.


Chilling at the main area while enjoying our favourite food!


On the day that we were leaving, we went to Ximending for the last time (fml, been going to XMD for 3 days straight 🙄) because I wanted to eat my Ah Chung mee sua!!!


This time, decided to go large and D was like, "Are you sure?" I persisted and he gave in. Hehe.




Many shops were opened by then, so we got to try out some of the food before leaving Taipei.. So so happy! Got to try out curry fishballs, chives pancakes and many more!

Went to Watsons to stock up on some necessities as well. 

We're gonna miss you, Taiwan! 


And yep, you can prolly see the aftermath of the typhoon in the photo.. Guess the locals are not ready to step out of their house yet 😂

Here are the loots I got from Watsons!


I love love love their contact lenses though. Not the cheapest, but definitely really pretty! And their Senka Speedy Perfect Whip Foam wash is soooo cheap there. I used to be a fan of Face Shop's Rice facial cleanser, but after discovering this, I'm never going back again!


Really enjoyed ourselves in Taiwan 😊

Lots of precious memories, despite the typhoon - we still had a great time there. This trip also marked the beginning of a new journey between D and I, which I never thought we'd ever be.

The people are pretty friendly, and they're all so nice. If anyone's thinking of Taiwan as their next holiday destination, do yourself a favour - book it as soon as you can! 🤗

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