Tuesday, 29 September 2015

Taiwan Travelogue September 2015 (Day 4)

Today morning everyone is really tired. Even Jaclyn who usually wakes up early only woke up at 9am today. We had breakfast, packed up our stuff and checked out at 10.45am. It was drizzling today in Yilan and we are glad that we have decided to head to Shifen Waterfall instead of exploring Yilan. 

Shifen Waterfall- a mini one near the hanging bridge before heading to the actual one
It is an hour drive to Shifen Waterfall and we reached at about 12pm. We parked and walk down to the hanging bridge, passed by a small waterfall and to the Shifen Waterfall Park (Open 9-5.30pm daily). It is indeed a majestic waterfall and one could feel the water droplet kissing their face. I read online about a NT80 entrance fees but we didn’t see any place for ticket. It is probably another entrance from the Shifen Visitor Centre or they have omitted the charges? 

Passing by the Shifen Waterfall Park before the majestic fall
A duckie that entertained the kids while we take turns to visit the washroom
The huge falls. The water practically sprinkle on you so it is hard to take photograph
The staircase leading to the observation deck was pretty steep and wet so if you are bringing kids, make sure grab on to them tightly. Forget the stroller at this place, totally useless as mostly it is steps and no flat road.

For parents with young children, you can consider having some drinks at the café and take turn to go down to the waterfall observation deck so that the kids no need to go down. It is quite windy and cold as the water droplets splashes onto you plus stairs are wet and steep. So, only I head down while hubby take cares of the kids.

There are toilets at parking area (free parking) and waterfall park so it is convenient.

My pictures of the waterfall definitely did not do justice to them- check out professional photographs of the majestic waterfall here: http://taiwanswaterfalls.com/waterfall-guide/new-taipei-waterfalls/shifen-waterfall/

Jaclyn was having some rashes on her face and neck. I am not sure if it is because of the insect bite that she gotten yesterday at Taroko National Park. She wasn’t itchy or uncomfortable so I gave her an antihistamine, hopefully will subside in no time.

 We are already quite late to return the car so we had a quick lunch at Pingxi Old Street. Lunch is super yummy- braised meat, stir fry vegetable and clam. One of the best meal I had in Taiwan I must say.

Lunch of the day. They look normal but tasted fantastic.

Cost: NT590 including 2 bowl of rice and a bottle of apple juice. 

Wooden Postcard
Cute Postbox just outside the shop!
While waiting for lunch to arrived, I grab the chance to buy some postcard (Wooden type-NT60 each) and stickers (NT20 each) for the kids. Manage to send the postcard too, it is NT20 for stamp back to Singapore. Hopefully will receive the postcard when I am back home J

Train running above the houses at Pingxi Old Street
Pingxi train station is famous for its railway which runs above the houses and shops as the shops are all at a lower ground area so one could basically see the train going on top of them which is cool. We manage to catch a glimpse of a train passing while strolling the streets. 

We are really late now so quickly drive to Ximending (30 minutes drive) and check in our hotel. There is no parking on site so we had to park at roadside and then unload our stuff. As kiddos and me go to the room, hubby went and return the car at the airport.

Reach hotel.. time to check in and rest
But before that, let's try out our left hand driving skill...
I cleaned the kids up and tuck them for nap. Today is the first day they can nap on bed after sleeping in the car for the past few days. 

Finally, we get a proper bed for nap today...
As usual, they played around and only nap about an hour later. I then went down to Level 2 to get our laundry done. It is NT50 for 30 minutes wash and NT for every 10 minutes dryer (we dry the clothes for an hour). Washing powder is complimentary can be obtained from the reception at Level 1. 

Laundry time
Full review of the hotel : http://blessedlittletravelers.blogspot.sg/2015/09/westgate-hotel-review-ximending-taipei.html

Hubby came back about 5 plus and I went down to walk around while he rests. It is really happening at Ximending with lots of food stall, restaurant and shops selling little cute things. I went back to the hotel at 6 plus and woke kiddos up for dinner. All are very tired and reluctant to wake up, but eventually manage to wake them up. 


Happening Ximending
Dinner is at Watami Casual Restaurant, food is similar to the outlet in Singapore. We had a pleasant dinner. Leisurely walk around Ximending, watch street shows and got back to hotel. 

Cute specs we bought
Shower and rest for the day.



Westgate Hotel Review (Ximending, Taipei, Taiwan)

We stayed in Westgate Hotel during our trip to Taipei in September 2015. Hotel is generally clean and comfortable. We opted for executive room but our only complain is there is only a really small window with no view at all. Hubby blamed the "lack of sunlight from window" causes us to wake up late everyday but I think we are just generally pretty good in sleeping.

Room

Room is a good size for Ximending standard. There is a queen size bed, shower, toilet, TV, and a separate living area on a platform. In room safe is provided for safekeeping of expensive items.

Bed-queen size.
Separate living area.. pretty cosy
TV
Sink
Toilet with multiple cool function-heated seat etc
Shower head has good water pressure but the space is quite small. I can't hang my clothes in the shower room as the water will splashes on my clothes. This is how small the shower room is...
Shower 
Coffee and tea making facilities and wine glasses
Complimentary drinks in fridge

Some complimentary titbits - once off as it was not refill on subsequent days.

Amenities

Amenities included bathrobe, toiletries, hair dryer..

Bath robes
Toiletries
Baby cot and baby bath tub is available on request.

Facilities

As for facilities, there is a laundry room (which is one of the reason we opted for the hotel), gym and business centre. 

All the facilities are located on Level 2.

Second level
Laundry room- our most visited facilities. Open 6.30am to 10.30pm daily.
Price NT 50 for washing (30 minutes) and NT 10 for every 10 minutes dryer (we used about 50-60 minutes for each wash load). Washing powder is complimentary and can be obtained from reception at Level 1. 
Laundry room- washer and dryer
Ice making facilities available at laundry room
Gym room
Complimentary water and towel in gym room with magazines to read.
Business Centre- complimentary coffee and water
Parking

Do note there is no parking on site for the hotel's guest.

Wifi

Complimentary with password provided in the room. 

Breakfast

Breakfast is included in the room package so we had our breakfast at the hotel. The selection is good and food is not bad as well.

Cold section- salad
More selection for salads
Topping for salads or we just ate it on its own
Hot dishes- noodle ,egg, etc
Steamed bao
Hot food- vegetable, meat, fried potatoes
Condiments for porridge
Braised meat rice- a local favourite
Selection of breads
Hot drinks- coffee from machine. This is good
Fruits and more hot drinks
Drinks- selection of juices
Vitagen and yogurt

Overall, we had a pleasant stay at the hotel. And did I mention about its superb location. It is merely less than 5 minutes walk from Ximen MRT Station Exit 6. It is really easy to get around using MRT and because of its central location at Ximen MRT, one could get to many places in just a few stops (to name a few- CKS Memorial, Taipei Main Station, etc). On top of that, Ximending is just so bustling and happening that you can go down, had something to eat, shop, watch street show, go back to hotel and rest and go down to enjoy the "young" atmosphere again. Shops at Ximending opens till late so can practically shop anytime. There are a few shops that open 24 hours as well (7-11, Watson).

A good choice if you wanted somewhere central, near to MRT, lots of attractions nearby, wanted to get your laundry done and clean comfortable room.


Monday, 21 September 2015

Taiwan Travelogue September 2015 (Day 3)

Today will be a long day as we planned to go to Taroko Gorge for the day and followed by Hualien Town Centre for dinner. We had our breakfast send at 7am but we only manage to wake up at 7.20am. After breakfast and shower, we depart at 9am to Taroko Gorge. 

Road trip begin! It is such a nice weather!
The road is really windy as it goes around the mountain by the sea. View is definitely good as we can see the cliffs, sea and mountain. The drive from Yilan to Hualien is about 2.5 hours and can be tiring as we are not familiar with the left hand drive and most of the time it is hard to overtake the lorry or bus in front of us as there is only one lane on each side of the road and the road is super winding. 

Note: For exploring Hualien and Taroko Gorge, a better way would be to take train to Hualien and rent a car from there to go around.

We were mesmerised by the nice view and stop halfway to take photos even though the sun is really blazing away.

Really pretty view so we had to stop for some photos!



Mum, it is really sunny!
Ok, lets pose for a photo!
Another one? Mummy, lets get back to the cooling car...


Kids fall asleep on the way there and even I doze off for a bit. Poor hubby had to drive all the way.

The town just outside of Taroko Gorge is really small and there are not much choices for lunch. Some  restaurant are closed (we were there on a Sunday), one is fully booked, one only served a table of 10 person set meal. After being “rejected” by a few restaurant, we finally found one that is opened and can order a la carte. Phew! 


Munching while searching for lunch!

We had minced meat rice and noodle with meat. I am not sure if we are hungry or the food tasted pretty good! We like it! I particularly like the noodle as the soup is kinda sticky and tasted really good too!    

Lunch.... 
Cost: NT170 for 3 minced meat rice , one noodle and 3 cup herbal tea. 

After filling our stomach, we passed by local goodies shop and bought freshly made mochi with fillings (peanut, yam, sesame , pork floss) , milk nougat, and pineapple tart (the pork floss mochi is highly recommended!!!). 

Zheng Shi Fu (曾师傅) Local Shop! Highly Recommended!
Freshly handmade mochi
Pork floss flavour is by far my favourite
Note: This  曾师傅 franchise is super nice, we bought pineapple tart, milk nougat, freshly handmade mochi with fillings and all are nice. You can sample the food there and see if it suits your palate...Only after we get back to Taipei, we realise the goodies there are so so much cheaper than Taipei. Definitely must buy if go to Hualien!

We  then went to Visitor Centre to check out the trails around the area. We found that there is a café at visitor centre, we didn’t go and check it out though so unsure what food is sold there. Best to eat before coming, pack your own lunch or buy something from Family Mart before going for the trail at Taroko as the choices of restaurant is really limited.



Shakadang Trail

There is quite a few trail and some recommendation made by a friendly uncle at the tourist info. Sakadang trail is quite famous and although uncle did not recommend that as we have 2 young kids (4 years old and 2 years old), we decided to go for it anyway. There is a staircase leading down to trail and we survived. Hubby carry Justin and Jaclyn is old enough to walk on her own. It is really nice once you reach the end of the staircase. 


Scenery greets us when we reach the bottom of stairs

Crystal clear stream flowing along the rock formed river. Kiddos enjoyed walking although hubby and me are quite worried they might fall, luckily they survived without falling. We did not finish the whole trail as it is 3km long, we probably did about 1km until the first bench resting area and then went back. It wasn’t steep but be careful as the trail is mainly rocks and do keep the kids away from the edges.

I particularly like this bright red bridge as background.
Careful with the edges of the rocks 

 Note: 

1.     This trail is definitely not stroller friendly as the steep staircase leading down the trail doesn’t really fit the stroller and the trail is mainly stones so really hard to push. If have young kids, best to take turn to carry or choose other trail. 
2.     There is a parking area just a bridge away from the trail entrance.

Buluowan Trail


Next stop is Buluowan Trail which has a huge grass area for the kids to run about and they really love it. 


Here we come.. finally someplace we can be free!
This is so FUN!!!

We also had this homemade ice cream (NT45) from a shop on second floor and enjoyed them against the backdrop of mountain area. 



Enjoying homemade ice cream with a VIEW!

Note: Do bring insect repellant and mopiko or any insect bite cream when coming to Taroko. 

Note: If you are getting to Swallow Groate and no parking space, you can park at Buluowan and walk there. There is a huge parking area here and quite empty. 

We spend about 2.5 hours for both trails and it is good enough for us. For more adventurous type, this may not be enough. I saw a couple of accommodation (motel etc) along the gorge and probably a good choice if you would like to slowly explore different trail for a few days. One day is not enough to see everything as the national park is really big. 


Acoommodation at Taroko Gorge!
For dinner we drove to Ziqiang Night Market at Hualien Town that is 30 minutes away. 


We drove pass this amazing view and manage to capture while cruising in our car

We reached at 5pm and most shops just started to open. 


Number 1 Grilled Meat Stall- really is Number 1
Patiently wait for our turn
Wide selection to choose from...
Pass time while waiting for our grilled meat


Number 1 Grilled Meat Stall is highly recommended- the item is grilled and top with this super yummy sauce.

Popular fruit juice stall

This particular juice stall also very popular and we had this pumpkin juice which is so good.


Coffin Bread
I had to eat Jiang Jia Coffin Bread as it is my surname. It is thick slice bread dip in egg and deep-fried.  A hole is opened on top like a coffin and your selected meat is added. We had spicy chicken and satay beef, it was ok but nothing to shout about. Free drinks available with bread ordered.

Corn grilling in progress

We were quite full after the food we had and then we had to bump across this grilled corn shop that is pretty crowded so we bought one to eat. One is to select the corn and the corn is weigh, price depends on the weight and you will get a number. Once corn is ready, your number is called and you can collect from collection point and enjoy while you stroll along the night market or at bench next to the corn shop.

After this we are indeed super full but was super tempted with the seafood stall that has just started to open up.  The seafood look super fresh and prawn are huge!!!

Note: There is toilet at the night market which is great!

We drove home and it is another 2.5 hours of winding road back. Reach motel at 9.30pm, kids had bath time again and its time to sleep!



We are really grateful to God for the past 2 days as we had really good sunny weather despite weather forecast saying that it will rain. 

Time to rest and recharge for tomorrow!

Next up: We are going to Taipei and will be visiting Shifen Waterfall before returning our rental car.
http://blessedlittletravelers.blogspot.sg/2015/09/taiwan-travelogue-september-2015-day-4.html