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Trip report and some recommendations

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posts: 475
reviews: 15
Trip report and some recommendations

Back from Taiwan (29 Oct-9 Nov), had a wonderful 12 days there and the weather was great. Came back with a tan! Out of 12 days only 2 days were rainy, both in Taipei. It was in fact very hot where I went.

Would like to recommend these from my trip:

1. Xin Xing Guest House at Miaoli, No.3 Jian Guo Street新興大旅社, 苗栗市 建國街3號 , Tel: 886-37-260133. A 50 year old guest house which won Taiwan’s top 10 minsus/hotel award. I paid only NT700 for a single room with attached bathroom. The place is very clean and comfortable and the owners are simply wonderful people. The guest house itself is worthy of spending some time exploring as it has lots of collections of a bygone era. Guest house is just a short walk from Miaoli station.

2.一口香餡餅(Yi Kou Xiang pan fried dumpling) – I tried the pork dumpling and carrot dumpling, both very good indeed. Shop is just a short walk from Miaoli train station and opens only from afternoon.

3. Mr Lai Qing Zhao (赖庆昭)the driver in Miaoli, Tel: 886-921-773062 or 886-977-118188 – I engaged him through U-Taxi. $3000 for a full day tour. I used four different drivers for this trip and he is my favourite.

4. 85-Resort, Kaohsiung. . Kaohsiung hotel彩色窩, 電話:886-938-763826 . It was lovely staying in a harbor view room.


5. Taitung woman taxi driver, 可樂碧, 886-9-21644288, refer to her blogs. http://0936644288.blogspot.com/ and http://blog.sina.com.tw/tdcocl/

She charges between NT3500-4000 for a full day tour.

6. There are others which have been recommended by forummers already so I shall not repeat here. These include Chin Shan Minsu in Alishan, Bayview Hotel Hualien.

29 Oct

Arrived Taipei at 12 noon, took Guoguang bus to Taoyuan train station then took train to Miaoli (NT189). Checked into Xin Xing. Later took train to Sanyi (NT27), then cab to the now defunct Sheng Xin Train Station (fixed price for cab NT200). eng.taiwan.net.tw/m1.aspx?sNo=0002110&id=5961 A lot of Hakka eateries there. Unfortunately I did not get to see the Long Teng broken bridge.

30 Oct

The cabbie, Mr Lai Qing Zhao 赖庆昭 (Tel: 886-977-118188 or 886-921-773 062 (U Taxi)), picked me from the guest house at 0900.

We went to Nanzhuang (南庄), Gui Hua Xiang (桂花巷), and coincidentally there was some temple festival going on that day so it was very crowded and festive.

Then we went to Luchang (鹿场). Luchang is an aboroginal village and it's pretty remote. Not a single convenience store was found there. There were a couple of restaurants, some stalls selling vegetables and fruits, a police post, a building which looks like a community club, and that's about it. But the mountains are beautiful, even Mr Lai said so.

We then went to Secret Valley, just a short drive down from Luchang. http://www.8898.tw/miaoli/p45.htm

Then to Penglai River Fish Protection Trail, Shi Shan (Lion Mountain) scenic area/Xian Shan (Fairy Hill) temple, where we climbed an endless flight of stairs right to the temple at the top. The whole mountainous area was very scenic and was swarming with worshippers that day.

We then went to Ri Xing Island (日新岛), and discovered that after passing through 2 suspension bridges and walking for about 10 mins we can actually reach the Miaoli lavender farm. Didn’t go into the lavender farm as no interest and have to pay an entrance fee. (entrance fee to Ri Xing Island is NT100 but can redeem for food / drinks at the 水榭楼台café.).

That evening, took train to Chiayi, checked into Shan Tong 三通饭店 (was White Palace). Last time I am staying there. Awful place, awful bed and there was even a horrid stain on the bedsheet.

31 Oct

Next morning, took the 0910 bus to Alishan. Checked into Chin Shan. After lunch I ventured into the Alishan forest trail. Despite info from visitor centre and minsu, I got lost half way into the trail. I managed to find my way to the elephant trunk tree, three generation wood and the museum, but completely lost my sense of direction trying to get to the Shun Mu Station. It then got very foggy and I wasn't feeling very brave then so I made my way out again to the visitor centre to take the shuttle ticket to the Alishan Hotel. from there the trail to the Sisters Pond and Shen Mu Station was quite easy to follow. The trail was rather slippery in parts and I fell once, but very pleased I saw what I wanted to see. Took the shuttle from the temple (Shou Zheng Gong) back to visitor centre (return journey NT80). I really enjoyed the day. It felt so good walking the forest trail and being among giant trees.

I then went to check out the sunset. Glorious sunset. Night was too cold so stayed indoors.

1 Nov

Woke up freezing. Had breakfast at 松阁, then quickly went to reserve seat on the 0910 bus down to Chiayi. Thank goodness I didn't leave it till later for it wasn't a coach but a 20-seater van, and it was full with a waiting list. I think I was the first to reserve a seat. It was a horrible journey and I almost puked. It was so winding and the weather was warm and I had on a thick sweater, and the seat was terribly uncomfortable. Arrived Chiayi and bought ticket to Kaohsiung train station, then MRT to San Duo (三多商圈)then walked to the 85 resort. A hotel staff came down to meet me and brought me to the 25th storey.. I stayed at the 新古典全海景房, at only NT1600. The room was very very spacious and nicely decorated. They even provided WII entertainment which I did not use due to ignorance, and they also have an Asus notebook with 2 keys missing unfortunately and which did not come with a mouse so I had a hard time trying to use, and eventually gave up.

It was near dusk and the room was so comfortable that I decided to just rot in the room, admiring the harbour view, watched a beautiful sunset, and later the blinking harbour lights.

to be continued....

Taipei Taiwan
Destination Expert
for Taiwan, Taipei
posts: 7,637
reviews: 6
1. Re: Trip report and some recommendations

Nice to read. good info on the Miaoli Minsu.

Waiting patiently for more :):)

My folks were in town,had a great time .Realised that taipei city and some other areas indeed Handicapped friendly since I took my Dad around in a wheelchair.My Mom-iron lady-did everything herself,walked the distance Wulai,Yeliou,Keelung etc @ 85 yrs!! Amazing lady

posts: 475
reviews: 15
2. Re: Trip report and some recommendations

Nutty, amazing indeed. My mum's 74 still relatively fit but doubt she can do everything herself. Have to crack my head where to bring her so she does not over-exert, does not get motion sickness and find accommodation with lifts (most minsu don't..). Glad your folks enjoyed themselves - presume also during the fine weather week in Taipei.

Now the rest of my trip:

2 Nov

Went down to buy breakfast. Noticed a mobile breakfast van opposite the 85 building had a crowd so bought dan bing and soya bean. The tuna dan bing was the nicest I ever had in Taiwan. Loads of bean sprouts, cabbage, the egg and batter crisp and tasty.

After breakfast, met driver (陈宗庆)at 0900. First stop - 泥火山. It's not exactly a volcano and is much more smaller than I thought. It was more like a mud spring I think. Next we went to 养女湖,another mud spring but there was a solitary shop there selling some local mud spring produce. Then we drove by田寮月世界 as there was no entrance according to Mr Chen. Next, to 草山月世界. Impressive.

We then went to 美浓 where I had hakka kway teow and vegetables for lunch. Both tasted so bad (bland and oily) I hardly touched. After lunch, drove for over an hour to 水火同源. Mr Chen then suggest bringing me to 白河 to look at the lotus ponds. He did not think the lotus were in full bloom but I was pleasantly surprised to see beautiful lotus in full bloom. The leaves were so big that it can take the weight of a small child. We then drove back to 85 Resort.

Back at hotel, did my laundry at the self service laundromat on the 13th storey of building and spent rest of evening idling in my comfortable room again.

3 Nov

Next day, had 煎包 (NT35) and carrot cake (NT20) from the same stall again. How come I can never find nice carrot cakes in Taiwan? The pan fried dumpling was very delicious.

Took MRT to Kaohsiung station, and TRA to Taitung. Arrived Taitung around 1235. Bought a Si Jia (释迦) fruit at NT50, just to try – verdict, don’t like it. Sweet, but rather coarse and dry. Took cab (NT200) to Zhao Yang minsu (朝阳民宿)。 Didn't know they provided pick up service from station. Paid NT1200 for the room. Borrowed bike from minsu and rode to三姐妹米苔目 and had mi-tai-mak for lunch. Simply delicious! Then rode to Hai Bing Park and found the entrance to the Forest Park. From Hai Bing Park entrance it's just a short distance to Pipa Lake and 活水湖。At Pipa Lake, the park guide taught me where to ride around the park. I was quite a retard in road directions and found him appearing now and then to guide me along. Along the way I also met with many, many friendly people. Mr Guide then recommended the Egret Lake(鹭鸶湖), at the other end of the forest park, and about 1.7 km from the other (马亨亨大道)entrance of the forest park. I managed to find the lake, and I think I like this even better than the Pipa Lake. I spent about 3 hours cycling.

Back at minsu, I discovered that my jeans were dirtied by the bicycle grease. I had to cycle quite a distance on the main roads to a laundromat at 更生街. I cancelled dinner with Ke Le as I was already very tired.

4 Nov

Next morning, met Ke Le at 0800. Bubbly woman and involved in many activities, she’s a first year university student at the age of 50. We first went to 富冈渔港,then briefly stopped at 小鱼民宿 to enjoy the ambience of the place. It was still early so little activity, but the minsu overlooked the ocean and really did seem very nice. We then went to a pebbled beach, I think it was called 加母子湾,where Ke Le pointed out a villa against a mountain slope which she said used to belong to 胡茵梦 (Hu Ying Meng, quite a famous actress in the 70s).

We then made a brief stop at 都兰部落. Ke Le drove to a shop which sold the famous 东河包子. We then drove to 东河桥,which is quite near Tai Yuan Valley(泰源幽谷). There were some visitors and lots and lots of monkeys who were quite unafraid of human beings and one even went inside our van! I was so worried it will carry off my handbag. Ke Le fed them bananas. They were really quite wild, and a little too bold for me. I was rather nervous the whole time although the scenery was really beautiful. We stayed a while chatting to the other visitors, then went to 成功港,where I saw some catch of the day - sting rays and sharks. We then went to a handmade touhua shop and had touhua. Very good indeed. Unfortunately Ke Le's van broke down there. She knew people every where thank goodness, and in about half an hour got it fixed.

We then went to 三仙台,and bumped into Ah Du! Ah Du was the guy who owned a chain of bicycle shops which provide guided tours in Taitung. I joined his tour last year in Luye, and he recognised me. San Xian Tai is gorgeous. But full of tourists. We then went to lunch at the restaurant belonging to the guy who found help for our broken down van. After lunch, we went to 阿美文化村 to rest/have a siesta. While I explored the place, Ke Le slept on the grass. How relaxed is that! After that we went to Lichi Badlands. We approached it from another angle and it was not as awesome as the first time I saw it, which was from an observation point at the top. This time it was at ground level. Next time I want to go back to the entrance on top of the hill - it was superb from that view. Nearby I also saw 小黄山。

Ke Le then brought me to the minsu where she was staying (for free - she's really got loads of friends), and then to the train station to catch my train to Hualien. I was early so had the 池上便当as recommended by Ke Le however after trying quite a lot of special bian dangs so far – Fencihu, Fulong, GuanShan and now Chi Shang – I still prefer 7-11’s!

Arrived Hualien around 7.10 pm and was picked up by Bayview minsu. Room was lovely. I went down for a drink and spent the rest of evening sitting at the balcony enjoying the sea breeze and sound of waves and watching people having fun.

5 Nov

Woke up at 6+ to a glorious sky. Had breakfast at hotel - very good. At 0930 walked the trail. I didn't want to ride a bicycle. Some old man saw me walking and said ' you wanted to walk?? Very far!' I assured him I won't walk too far. How wrong I was! I took a wrong turn and ended up on the main road, the same place where I was during my last trip. It was very hot, and lots of industrial vehicles passed by so it was very dusty too. After about 20-30 mins? I saw Hualien fishing port - the place I was at last year! Orh no wonder mariatan from tripadvisor said that I should have persisted when I rode from Nanbing to the fishing port last year, and I would have reached Cisingtan. Anyway, I went to the fishing port and saw the same pavilion and realised that it was called 观星亭. It was getting hotter, and I was parched, and but finally found my way (about 2.5 hours walk) back to the Family Mart outside the hotel, and had loads of hydration there - fruits, pocari. Bought food back to hotel, bathed, rested and stayed indoors entire afternoon just enjoying the movies. It was a Saturday so the beach was crowded with people and activities. I also learned there was some marathon going on that day at Taroko, so parts of Taroko would be closed to the public.

6 Nov

Next morning had breakfast at hotel. Met Ms Chiu (邱瑞英)my cabbie for the half day tour at 0900. First, Mukumugi, a protected area which limits visitors to 300 a day. We had to go to the Tong Luo Police Station (铜门派出所)to get the entrance permit - thank goodness for Tiffany she had contacts who managed to get me a permit for a Sunday morning tour. At the police station, a group of 5 guys were told all permits that morning were taken up. Ms Chiu drove me to a rest stop and I made my way alone into the trail. Beautiful morning, scenic walk but have to walk with care as there were no barriers, the trail was narrow and slippery at times. A lot of youngsters were seen in the clear aquamarine waters having fun. There were no proper stairs leading to the river. I spent 2 hours walking the trail. I was just so lucky to have great weather.

We then went to a Japanese shrine which is a third class heritage centre. Ms Chiu brought me to the train station where I was not able to get an earlier ticket to Taipei, so did my laundry at a nearby laundromat. Had 麻酱面 for lunch,with lots of chillie. Yum.

Arrived Taipei and checked in Keyman. I got an upgrade to a king bedded room.

7 Nov

Next morning left for Sandiaoling (三貂岭) train station. It was raining. I arrived at Sandiaoling around 9.30 and 2 other guys also disembarked. They were the typical 火车迷. They collect imprints from the station chops and I overheard them comparing which stamps they were still missing. I snapped lots of picture of the station - a very special station indeed as the waiting platforms were very narrow allowing only one person to stand in line. The opposite platform was built against a cliff so perpendicular it was just a sheer drop. A fast flowing river was at the other side of the station (it being a raining day), and all around, were the mountains. I would have taken a longer walk had it not been raining and very windy. While waiting for the 1110 train to Jingtong, a group of men appeared out of nowhere and I overheard them discussing the possible closure of the station as the platforms were deemed too narrow to be safe for passengers. I am so glad I went there that morning as who knows maybe it would no longer be there when I next visit Taiwan.

Took the 1110 to Jingtong. Had the 鸡卷for lunch. It was recommended by 食尚玩家 but I find it a little too sweet (NT50). I walked around the area. Rain getting heavier but indeed it gave the place a rather romantic ambience. Took the 1230 to Pingxi. Explored the old streets and I tried to remember what 刘克襄 wrote about the place in his book, 十一元的铁道旅行. I suppose some shops were no longer there. I found the four intersecting streets all right, and the 'hanging' railway track but many of the shops mentioned in the book - I only have a vague memory. But I did enjoy the walk very much.

We waited quite a while for the train to Shifen. By the time we reached Shifen the rain was very heavy and I was drenched. The locals advised me against walking to Shifen Waterfall in that weather, so I just walked around the old streets a bit before heading back to Taipei.

How come I have never noticed before that Keyman's beds are pretty hard? (except for the Japanese room)

8 Nov

Next morning, had liang mian (凉面) and meat dumpling for breakfast. Weather forecast said it would rain heavily so in order not to get soaked again I went to the National Palace Museum. Many tourists! I really took my time there, avoiding the crowds. I enjoyed looking at the exhibits and once had the pleasure of eavesdropping on a conversation by 3 Hongkongers, the middle aged lady displaying so much flair and knowledge it was simply wonderful listening to her. She was commenting on some calligraphy. Later I heard the other lady asking her about her own exhibition, which she brushed aside saying she was just interested in such arts for art sake.

I spent about 4 hours in the museum, then took the train to Danshui. At Shilin Station, I tried the 葱抓饼 (NT25) which was rather bland. At Danshui, I had another bbq cuttlefish but it did not taste as good as the one I had in 仙山, Miaoli. (NT60). Then I had the 花枝烧. I'm really not sure if it was squid or just flour with flavourings but it was rather heavy on the stomach and I threw half of it away. Then I had 潤饼, which was not bad but I was already full from all the other stuff I had so perhaps did not do justice to it.

I then bought 3 jars of 杏仁酥and南瓜子酥 for NT400.

Regret eating so much as when I went back to Taipei, I saw the bbq stall (which had been closed for the last 2 nights) was open. Too full to order any more stuff.

Oh and the weather was not bad at all. Hardly rained.

9 Nov

So sad. leaving Taiwan today.

Had chives dumpling and meat dumpling for breakfast and rotted in room till about 12 noon. Then booked 3 hours at the internet cafe. Very wet day but did not matter any more as not going anywhere.

Flight delayed for an hour and only arrived Singapore at 1.10 a.m.

Edited: 1:00 am, November 13, 2011
Singapore, Singapore
posts: 160
3. Re: Trip report and some recommendations

Great report, iranchoo. Reading your report reminds me of my own trip last month. I wish I could visit Taiwan again soon and hopefully I'll be able to do a 12-day trip like you did. :) There're so many things to see and do in Taiwan and a 7-day trip just isn't enough.

Just curious, did you travel by Jetstar?

posts: 475
reviews: 15
4. Re: Trip report and some recommendations

Tarielle thank you. Yes travelled by Jetstar though really hope they change the departure timing - 7.10 a.m.,not very friendly eh. Yes 7 days certainly too short, though the first time I was there for only 4 days then slowly increase through the years :)

Taipei Taiwan
Destination Expert
for Taiwan, Taipei
posts: 7,637
reviews: 6
5. Re: Trip report and some recommendations

Lovely reading the second part.

Actually we like hard beds here in Taiwan. i have also gotten used to it,I can never sleep on a super soft bed again!!

In fact many years ago, when I was short of money and had a "sinking" mattress, I got a plywood and slept on it for a few months before I got the money to buy a new mattress :):)

Edited: 8:24 am, November 13, 2011
Singapore, Singapore
posts: 160
6. Re: Trip report and some recommendations

7.10am is certainly not very friendly but at least we get to reach Taipei early at 12pm. I guess it isn't so bad. :) My return flight was delayed for 30 minutes and I wonder why they don't amend the return flight to a later timing if they seem to have problems adhering to the departure time. Then again, it's not a huge issue I suppose.

Unfortunately I'm not sure if I can find people who can take time off from work for 10 or 12 days at one stretch to visit Taiwan with me. Fingers crossed. :)

Johor Bahru...
posts: 1,467
reviews: 38
7. Re: Trip report and some recommendations

thanks for the good trip report, how i wish i can repeat my whole taiwan tour again very soon.

posts: 475
reviews: 15
8. Re: Trip report and some recommendations

Nutty you made me smile reading and thinking about those bygone poorer years and how resourceful we all can be.

Tarielle, I only took 8 days' leave, given the weekends and a public holiday. I think however next year does not have many long weekends unfortunately.

Daniel, anticipation is also a joy! Now I'm like you still having hangover from trip.

Johor Bahru...
posts: 1,467
reviews: 38
9. Re: Trip report and some recommendations


probably next year in april going to taiwan again for few weeks. this time will be visit those few islands.

posts: 475
reviews: 15
10. Re: Trip report and some recommendations

Wah for few weeks. That's luxury. Will be interesting to hear where you plan to go. I've been to Penghu only, so would be good to hear about the rest of the islands you plan to go. I suppose Green Island will be in your plan.