Flew up to Taipei in January to coincide with Shaun's birthday!
I'm not quite sure why we ended up picking Taipei actually.
The original plan was skiing in Japan but that was more of something I wanted to do (LOL) & the tickets turned out pretty expensive during that period so we gave up! Ended up suggesting Taipei as it's nearby enough, isn't too costly & my boyfriend eats a lot so...
Our flight departed late at night from Changi Airport so we reached really early the next morning in Taipei! The plan was naturally to maximise the amount of time we'd have overseas; a natural tourist inclination right? Big mistake. We didn't factor in how tired we'd be & the fact that we had nowhere to rest since hotel check-ins are typically around 2pm...
P.S. This is why short-term home rentals like AirBnB or Roomorama are better as they are often more flexible with check-in timings since they don't continuously have guests using the room.
Anyhow, so we found ourselves at Taoyuan International Airport at 7am with nowhere to go.
Did I also mention it was raining? So sightseeing would have sucked too.
So we did what anybody would do (I think)...
We camped out at the airport.
I actually slept like a solid 2 hours!
I considered booking a hotel room for those few hours but it was really too costly/troublesome.
Business idea for anyone: Short-stay rooms that are NOT "love" hotels.
I mean really, there's an obvious gap between late night/morning arrivals & hotel check-in times!
Anyway, it was finally onwards to night markets & street food!
Wow I swear this looked & sounded epic in theory - mashed potato, ham, CHEESE, corn...
But it was extremely meh in reality.
This, on the other hand was really yummy! Inside the dough are whatever fillings you like - ham, cheese & corn for mine. However, it tragically fell to its death before I could get a good bite T_T
To be honest, I really didn't enjoy Taiwan's food.
I already kinda suspected I wouldn't & this was confirmed LOL.
I don't eat squid, tofu... weird stuff like intestines...
Taipei's menu basically consisted of ALL MY WEIRD FOOD ITEMS.
Headed to Tamsui Fisherman's Wharf the next day!
That's the Lover's Bridge in the background, popular with people wanting to catch the sunset!
Unfortunately I'd have to say the wharf was pretty disappointing.
Somehow I imagined it to be more... wharf-y? LOL
Like seafood restaurants, picking out fresh seafood to be cooked on the spot, stuff like that.
In the end there was just an abysmal small row of shops that had NOTHING to do with seafood/sea.
Instead they peddled things like Japanese ramen, fried chicken & cheap generic souvenirs :(
Stray doggy in the shopping centre!
Bought dog food from the convenience store so here we are feeding them!
Headed to Tamsui (Danshui) Old Street after that!
It's really nearby the train/bus terminal so it's not hard to find.
Shops were similar to central Taipei street markets but things were slightly cheaper!
And definitely the best Taipei street market... Raohe!
The other night markets were a little disappointing as they were smaller & very repetitive.
So definitely go to Raohe! There was so much more food & things to see!
Yum, fried beef cubes!
Got a dessert crepe!
Bright & early the next day to go to Jiufen!
Jiufen is a small town outside of Taipei & we took a bus there!
The hillside town is characterised by red hanging lanterns & was the inspiration for the village featured in Studio Ghibli's Spirited Away! I have watched that movie a few times & I can see some resemblance, but overall I wouldn't say it was that distinctive as there were no major markers other than maybe the red lanterns... The buildings & alleys are pretty commonplace among small towns.
Oh Jiufen is also famous for their teahouses!
There were lots of quaint ones like these which offer you a great view down the hill!
This might be one of the settings which most reminded me of Spirited Away!
From Jiufen we took a bus to Ruifang train station. Ruifang station is a more major station from which you can go to Taipei, but before we headed back we made another stop...
HOUTONG CAT VILLAGE
THE HIGHLIGHT OF MY ENTIRE TRIP
CAT CAT CAT CAT
CAT CAT CAT CAT
CAT CAT CAT CAT
Ok you get it.
Sooo many cats!
It's a really, really small village.
There isn't much else there other than the cats & a few shops selling cat-related trinkets!
I remember one shop had music sung/played in the form of meows.
As in... literally the song just went "meow meow meow meow" to the tune of a well-known song but I forgot what. And it was on loop. Non-stop meowing.
Cats sleeping in boxes as soon as you exit the train station!
I was soooo excited!
After Houtong we headed to Shifen to release lanterns!
Wow I didn't even recall that we did so many things in one day.
Again, really small village. I don't know if there's anything there other than lanterns actually.
We got there pretty late so nothing was open other than lantern shops!
The shopkeepers will come to you right away proposing their lanterns.
All the shops are priced the same anyway so it really doesn't matter!
You can pick various combinations of colours!
The most expensive is naturally having all 4 colours - one on each side - with each colour representing a particular part in life. Love, Health, Money... etc.
I can't recall exactly how much it cost but it was about S$10 - S$20.
Our money wish!
Who drew a better Fortune Kitty? :D
Decided not to bother with winning the lottery & things like that haha.
I think the most important is not having to worry about it - affording necessities like food, housing, education, healthcare... these can add up to A LOT. Not having money worries means you already have a decent amount of it :) Anything else is a luxurious bonus :)
Erm I forgot what the Chinese words are.
The shopkeepers will help you take pictures & videos as well!
Although I can't promise the same for when it's crowded in the daytime.
That was probably our most fulfilling day!
Because the next day... was checkout.
Before going to the airport we explored a little around our area for food!
If you might remember at the start of the post - I mentioned checking into a hotel.
Yes, I did book a hotel room for our stay in Taipei.
However when I got there... it was huge shock.
The room was SO disappointing.
It was really, really tiny. Sitting on the bed I could literally touch BOTH the toilet & main door.
We couldn't even open up the suitcase fully.
I had found it on Booking.com & boy, are pictures deceiving.
I'm generally quite thorough with my research, checking reviews & ratings.
Both of these checked out good for this hotel.
P.S. It's called RF Hotel
Here is the review I left:
"The room was INCREDIBLY TINY. We opened the door & were incredibly shocked. The bed was literally right at the door & we couldn't even open up our suitcase. From the bed I am able to touch both the main door, & the toilet door. That is how little floor space there is. I know that for the price I couldn't expect a large room, but this room was far, far below expectation. Even the smallest room you see on their Booking.com pictures, was larger than the one we got. So definitely not true to pictures.
Upon entering the room I also went back to the Booking.com website to check the reviews because I was confused how such a tiny room could get decent reviews. And I have to say that I realised the reviews are extremes - 9.9s & 10s (who ever gives 10s???) versus those like mine, which mention the tininess. I leave you to infer what you can from that. Finally in conclusion, the room was so depressing that we foreited our stay & checked out after 2 nights for another hotel."
I didn't expect luxury, but no hotel/hostel/apartment has fallen so far below my expectations.
And yes, I find the reviews incredibly fishy. Most of the reviews are extremes - either 9s & 10s or 3s & 4s. I find it hard to believe that people would give a full 10 to anything unless the experience was really fantastic, something I deem rather unlikely. Furthermore, many of these reviews supposedly came from Singapore. I don't know about you, but I have never heard of Singaporeans being particularly appreciative nor generous. In fact, we're famous for complaining about every little thing. How am I to believe that Singaporeans would give a perfect 10, or a 9.9 to anything?
So long story short...
I grappled for other options & managed to get in touch with Roomorama!
I forfeited my fully-paid-for stay & moved to an apartment I picked out.
AND IT WAS SUCH A RELIEF.
The apartment was so nice!
Turned out even better than I expected as the listing on Roomorama only had 3 pictures.
I love all the natural light coming in, the big sofa area & especially the really cool bathroom!
It's not pictured, but above the bathtub is a skylight.
Thank you so much for coming through Roomorama!
If you sign up with MY LINK, you automatically get 50USD credit (approx S$70)!
My apartment was in a fantastic location as well - right beside the MTR & lots of nice cafes, restaurants & convenience stores! If you'd like to view my apartment's listing, click HERE.
And here is a rundown of my snaps during my Taipei trip!
If you haven't already, follow me on Snapchat @sophiewillocq :D
Yes this was the weather T_T
It rained literally 24/7 for the first few days.
It was so unfortunate that the weather was so gloomy!
That's not the worst part; when the rain stopped, the temperature drastically dipped.
It actually dropped to a low of 3°C! That was at the same time as Thailand's freak temperature drop to 15°C. I saw on the news that some old folks even died in more rural parts of Taiwan :O
It was just so unexpected & we were really not prepared!
See! 5°C FML T_T
Hehe I know it's a fake/inspired Craftholic toy but it's still cute!
CAT! So many cute cat-themed decorations all over Houtong!
And yes. Right after we lit our lanterns then bought these little fortune kitty charms, the shopkeeper informed us the last train was leaving in 3 minutes! So we ran & I slipped & fell T_T
And after Shaun picked me up & we dashed into the train, 2 old ladies slowly ambled their way over.
Run & fall down for nothing... LOL
But anyway some people claim that when you make wishes, it can be a good thing that something minor happens to you. It's like getting rid of all the bad luck in a relatively harmless form rather than facing it in a bigger way later on! Ok shall #ThinkPositive.
I guess that about wraps up the Taipei trip!
My favourite was definitely the last day where we covered Jiufen, Houtong & Shifen!
Would definitely recommend a visit outside of Taipei!
Sadly I have to say overall our trip was a little unlucky; what with the cold spell, accommodation issues, perpetual rain, falling down... & my complete incompatibility with Taiwanese food... hahaha.
Ah but yes, I totally forgot about hot spring baths!
Those are really popular as well but we didn't get a chance to do them so do it if you get to!
Oh well... CAT CAT CAT CAT