Taichung – the central part of Taiwan, a smaller city of its own and geographically located closer to the highlands. It is about an hour away via the express high speed rail (HSR) from Taipei Taoyuan HSR station, which cuts through Hsinchu and Miaoli and much faster than I had expected, before I could take a nap after an early morning flight, we have arrived at Taichung HSR station. I hope you will find this post I’ve put together helpful if you’re planning to visit Taichung.
This cottage dedicated to lavenders is tucked on a highland in Taichung. It is a quaint little village with a cottage, surrounded by a bed of lavenders where slow life truly exists. It is said that the founders of this attraction, who are also sisters, decided to leave their corporate jobs to seek slow life close to nature, and set up a little business up in the highlands. It was so peaceful to immerse myself in quietness and in nature, without a massive tourist crowd at typical attractions…and that sheer joy of not sitting in front of my desk staring at the emails and excel sheets felt pretty good.
QING JING FARM
‘Qing Jing’ in mandarin simply means quiet and peaceful. Qing Jing farm is home to many sheeps that are free to roam around and get up close with humans. I had initially planned to lie and roll on the meadow, you know think New Zealand kind of farms, but ok I take that back. I found myself staring at the ground most of the time to avoid myself stepping on sheeps’ poo. As the sheeps are free to roam around, they scatter their dump everywhere, not quite quiet and peaceful after all. Nonetheless, that very day was my first time seeing cherry blossoms, and they are such a beauty!
SUN MOON LAKE
This was one of my most looked forward to attraction, however it turned out to be a tad disappointing when I finally got there after a 2 hours drive. Perhaps I had too high an expectation of Sun Moon Lake because of the many spectacular photographs I had seen on google, but in truth it was unlike what google portrays. It is rather commercialised now and merely just a lake (and still no idea how it got its ‘Sun Moon’ name too), but of course, no harm visiting if you have the time.
ZHONGSHE FLOWER FIELD
If cheesy lovey-dovey floral backdrops for phototaking are your thing, then Zhongshe flower field is for you. Otherwise, skip it. I managed to find a not so cheesy spot for my phototaking as seen above, but across the field you will find artificial piano, cello, house, windmill, ‘I love you’ stands, heart shape backdrop, it goes on but you get the drift. Thinking about it, it was a pity I did not go to Gaomei Wetlands instead.
NATIONAL TAICHUNG THEATRE
Definitely a place for the architecture lovers. But even if you’re not, I’m sure you will still appreciate the design. Its architectural design has elements of minimalism and organic shapes, with a nice use of typography and a beautiful shade of blue with white.
FENGJIA NIGHT MARKET
One of the most prominent night markets in Taichung, which was also the first night market I visited in this trip to Taiwan, so we tried lots of food – grilled beef cubes, pepper buns, grilled chicken, giant cheese bun etc. Truth be told, most of the food stalls can be seen at other night markets in Taipei as well, in fact a number of them are of the same franchise or company. Only difference to me would be how spacious the streets are, and I like that Fengjia is spacious enough to walk around. With so many night markets across Taiwan and only that many nights in your trip, my advise is : be selective on which night market to visit. Your time, money and the calories intake could be better spent at another eatery because frankly speaking, most of the food stalls and choice of food are the same and it can get quite saturated just after a few days.
MIYAHARA, GONG YUAN YAN KE
Miyahara is a store that sells locally Taiwan produced products like pineapple cakes, biscuits and teas and it is one of the most elaborately and beautifully designed food products store I’ve came across. From its exterior to interior to its packaging, no detail is overlooked. The building used to be an eye hospital used by the Japanese during the Japanese occupation, parts of the old interior had been left behind. By night, Miyahara also sells ice cream of a variety of assorted flavours with interesting toppings. Even if you don’t intend to buy food, Miyahara itself is considerably an attraction on its own.
There’s more to Taichung than what you have seen in the above, but this is the best I could plan given the 2 days stint there.
Fujin Tree 353 Cafe
353 Fujin Street, Taipei
The quaint Fujin street of Taipei City is tucked with cosy cafes and boutiques, and being quite an indecisive person, it was hard to decide which cafe to go for a cuppa and desserts after lunch and before dinner, but we eventually settled for Fujin Tree 353 Cafe.
I like the ambiance of the cafe; the details of the space are well designed and it fits well with the essence of the street. The cafe was full on a Saturday afternoon, so we were given an outdoor table which wasn’t too bad because it’s Spring, the weather was just perfect for us to stay outdoors. In Singapore, it is almost needless to say that we would naturally be vying for an indoor air-conditioned spot to escape the humidity of our sunny island.
We had coffee with their signature matcha roll which uses premium grade quality Morihan Kyoto Uji matcha powder; the roll is soft and rich in its green tea taste. I’m for anything matcha and enjoyed it very much! Coffee was pretty good, though a tad pricey (about SGD 7-9 a cuppa). I also learnt that the cafe owner, Berg Wu is the Y2014 Barista Champion of Taiwan, so it’s no surprise they place importance on their coffees – you can probably also tell from some of their wall decors. Like they say, “Good coffee inspires you” and this couldn’t be more true. So coffee lovers and looking for a place to chill, if you’re in Taipei, you should visit Fujin Tree 353 cafe for a cuppa to enjoy a slow, quiet afternoon and watch the world go by.
Dress from Oursecondnature
Seeing Earth on the flipside with a 3.5 hours drive out of bustling Taipei city to the serenity of Hualien. The crashing of waves, the rumbling sound of rocks and the cool breeze of fresh air…God’s creation of nature is indeed so wonderful. If only we had more time to spend here, if only.
More of Hualien to come soon!
When you think of Taiwan, what comes to your mind? For me images of food floods my mind…fried chicken cutlet, 豆浆油条 (beancurd drink and fried dough fritters), bubble tea, pineapple cakes and so on. This is my second time to Taiwan, after a decade, and what’s left in my mind from my last visit were vague memories. But thank God for the invention of camera and technology so I can always look back at photographs from my hard disk. Thankfully, language isn’t a problem here since we speak and understand Mandarin, except for a few terms difference, but reading for example food menus on the other hand took a little longer because of their widespread usage of Traditional mandarin characters. More than just a food lala land, Taiwan also boasts beautiful sightseeings across its land and I’m grateful to have a taste of both in my visit to Taipei, Taichung and Hualien with short stopovers in between at Nantou and Yilan.
Whenever it comes to travelling, I hesitate at the thought of lugging my dslr camera around the entire day throughout the trip because why, it is bulky and heavy, and it is the irony of me who always want to travel light. Should my iPhone 6 suffice? It could, but the nit pick in me doesn’t allow me to. In the end as always, my dslr goes with me even if it is just a short trip to Johor Bahru or Bangkok and to be honest, as much as I still dread it everytime, I never regretted it when I review the photographs taken. So anyway, in this trip, I have taken more than 700 photographs and a single blog post would not be able to accommodate what I have to share from these 7 days, so first up, Taipei.
The iconic sky high landmark of Taipei, as its name quite suggests has 101 storeys that houses luxury boutiques, high fashion stores and its 88th and 91st storey has been set aside as the observatory decks. Perhaps it was the wrong time of the day, but the way the observatory decks were designed, I felt wasn’t really worth the time and money to visit by evening to night time. I could hardly see anything except some lights from below.
Fujin street is one of the perfect place for a slow life. The quiet and chill street is tucked with pretty cafes, shops and even a ballet studio in corners of the street. I enjoyed sipping a cuppa warm coffee by the street in a rainy, cold weather letting time past and not having to rush around the busyness of life or think about all the unfinished work back in Singapore. Having just ended a round of hectic work schedule, and flying off the following day, the month of March was an extremely busy on for me. This slowness was timely and what I needed though it was only just for a short while.
Similar to Singapore’s Public Market, but at a smaller scale, simple market is a flea market platform for Taiwanese designers and crafts makers to sell their hand made products. It is open on Sundays only between 1 to 7pm. It may be a small market but since it’s just a 5 mins walk away from Taipei 101, you should visit if you are in that area. You might pick up something nice too.
HUASHAN 1914 CREATIVE PARK
Built in 1914, this place was once a factory among one of the largest’s wine producers in Taiwan and was later abandoned. Years later, it was found and revived again to stage small plays, and was eventually converted into a creative space for artists and craftsman. I love the old and new essence of this place. It seems busy on a Sunday afternoon, so I did not get to explore every area because of the crowd and cold.
Wearing : Uniqlo grey v-neck top, Uniqlo boyfriend jeans, Black jacket from Seoul, Celine trio bag
SUN YAT SEN MEMORIAL HALL | CHIANG KAI SHEK MEMORIAL HALL
If you’re into history and travelling means knowing more about the country’s history, then you should visit the Sun Yat Sen memorial hall and/or the Chiang Kai Shek memorial hall to know more about these 2 leaders and what they had contributed to Taiwan or even to Asia. If you’re visiting, do look out for the changing of guards ceremony available only at certain hours.
JIU FEN OLD STREET
Though it has been rather commercialized now as one of the “must visit” in Taipei for tourists, I still like the old street vibe located on the mountain in Keelung. This place sells mostly Taiwanese souvenirs and food. Just go for the food – look out for Yam balls dessert, milk dough sticks that looks like churros she and ice cream and peanut wraps.
SHI FEN TRAIN STATION | SHI FEN WATERFALL
Initially, I was quite excited to visit Shifen train station. What I expected of Shifen to be was a quaint train track to let go of lanterns into the sky, but instead what I was greeted by was an immense number of people overcrowding the track. It was more of a market selling lanterns than anything near quaint. The lantern stall holders kept trying to convince us to purchase the 4 coloured lantern as that supposedly brings more ‘luck’, but if anything I think it was just because it costs more than a single coloured lantern. We went ahead with the white lantern, because it is more visually appealing to us. If given a choice again, I would give this place a miss.
By far, one of my favourite pineapple cakes! SunnyHills sells only pineapple cakes, honey cake and oolong tea. They believe in making honest-to-goodness food and do not use any additives, hence its shorter life span. Some may find the pineapple cake’s crust too hard but I personally like the texture. Food aside, I like its minimalist interior concept, which also complements their product focused business strategy. Being in the store somewhat makes me feel like I am in Japan.
No Taiwan trip is complete without a visit to Taiwanese night markets. Taiwan being known for its food or xiao chi (“small eats” when directly translated from mandarin). Though you can find similar food in every night markets, every market is somehow different. In some markets, they sell only food, in some others you can also do some shopping or even play carnival like kind of games. Shilin, Raohe and Shida are 3 of the more common night markets I’ve visited in Taipei.
If you have other recommendations or questions on Taipei, feel free to drop a comment below!
Amidst our short trip to Seoul, we managed to squeeze in a day for Busan, the second largest city in South Korea. The train to Busan (no coincidence intended!) via KTX is highly recommended and convenient from Seoul. Well, it is somewhat similar to what you would see in the recent film Train to Busan, of course, minus all the apocalyptic zombies. The KTX train is well equipped with wifi and comfortable seats, where my friends slept through most of the 2.5 hours journey on an early morning. Perhaps they would not sleep in if they were to watch the film before this trip.
Gamcheon Cultural Village — “The East of Santorini”. When we first had sight of these colourful lego-like buildings, as tourist as we can get, we could not stop snapping photos away even when it began to rain. The rain stopped and we proceed to spend half a day following a trail based on the village map, where we got an overview of Gamcheon in different angles. There’s a thing about these quaint villages and small towns that I really like, I’m not sure what or why exactly, but I guess it is the slow life in such environment that attracts me.
Jalgachi Fish Market — Busan is located by the sea and is eventually known for its fresh seafood. At Jalgachi, you can select your seafood from its array of fresh catch and select get a restaurant to cook it for you or vice versa, choose a restaurant first then your seafood. We did the latter. I’m not so much of a seafood lover, so I wasn’t that keen on paying too much for it especially when the prices here are on the higher side even after much bargaining. But trying to be a good sport with my friends, I caved in. Though a tad pricey, what you get are fresh, sweet and juicy seafoods
If time were on our side, we would spend at least 2 days in Busan instead of a day trip which was not sufficient us for us to cover more places. Albeit a short day trip, it was still truly memorable…like how we actually did miss our train back to Seoul by being late for 5 minutes.