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Baby Travel, Taiwan, Travel

Baby Ray’s 1st Overseas Trip: Taiwan (Part 1: Taichung, Xinshe, Cingjing)

29 Nov , 2015  

Hello everyone! This is PapaPips reporting! Erm, ahem, Ray is twice as old now as when he went on this Taiwan trip, so erm, 😅 paiseh for the delay! Mamasjas was super busy with our #sg50 commitments and whatnots (or so she claims. I caught her reading manga a lot of times), so she resorted to nagging, coercing and threatening me to contribute my virgin post to this blogsite, which worked out fabulously according to her desire, as you can see. Zzz, women. They have plenty of tricks to make one’s life hell, so all husbands out there, protip #1: you can never win your wife, so just do what they want and life will be better LOL. Trust this 江湖人!

Back to Taiwan. Taiwan was chosen for Ray’s 1st overseas trip for various reasons: (Technically, it’s not his first trip though, since we headed to KL, Malaysia when he was about 7/8 mths old.)

1. I’ve always, always wanted to bring my parents to Taiwan. My parents are HUGE fans of those dastardly long and draggy Taiwanese dramas, where characters never ever die, someone is almost always swapped at birth, evil bitches become good, and if you skip a hundred episodes, you still swim right along with the plot. Taiwan was the natural choice for my traditional parents who will literally shrivel up and die without Asian cuisine. Go on, tear now at what a filial son I am. Kids of mine, you have big shoes and big expectations to fill yo.
2. Horror baby flight stories are abound. We don’t wanna be identified as the parents of the kid that’s screaming his head off throughout the entire flight man, so we decided to go with a shorter flight instead of being overly ambitious from the getgo. All things considered,Taiwan was still pretty doable.
3. Taiwan is a safe and family friendly country. Some countries aren’t as kind to families as Taiwan is. Just ask Jas, she will rave to you about the countless breastfeeding rooms there are in Taiwan, and how gloriously dressed up the rooms are. Not that she needs to bf in the rooms though. This pro-bf wife of mine thinks it’s a right that all babies get to eat wherever, whenever, so she hardly uses any specific nursing room. Me? Well, since I ain’t the one providing the milk, I just go along with what the missus decides. Motto in life? #happywifehappylife.

So onto our trip.

Day 1: Singapore to Taipei (EVA Air) to Taichung (Taiwan High Speed Rail)
Ray was surprisingly cooperative throughout the flight barring the occasional whining. I must have done something good in my previous life not to have been identified as the dad of a screaming, crying kid lol. But one can’t always have the good things in life though. The choosy bugger protested shrilly and loudly the moment he was placed in the bassinet as if we were trying to torture the life outta him. sheesh. Poor Mamajas had to carry him for most of the flight (I offered to carry too, but Ray was just too choosy. Yay for choosy bubs and sore free arms!).

The seats in EVA Air were quite comfortable and there was ample leg room for jashuat. Coupled with full fledged flight entertainment and attentive service for about 500bucks, there was absolutely nothing to complain about. (Yeah, quite cheap hor? We look out for cheap tickets, that’s why we look like we are travelling all the time LOL)

day1
You’ve got to provide your own in-flight entertainment and snacks for bubs to ensure a smooth plane ride. Look, we had our own toys for Ray on the flight as you can see in this pic. More protips for a great baby plane ride in this link.

Local SIM Card: Like most travellers, we bought a local sim in the airport upon our arrival. The prepaid local sims are cheap compared to SG and there are multiple options to choose from. We bought the 15 days option from the service provider with the shortest queue (can’t remember which) and thereafter, proceeded to take the shuttle service (NT30) to the High Speed Rail.

Transport, Railway tickets: At the Railway station, we bought regular class tickets (NT590) to Taichung. You can purchase these tickets in advance via the THSR website to get early bird discounts of up to 35%. We did this only for the return part of the trip back to taipei as we were uncertain of the time required to clear custom and whether there would be any flight delay from Singapore to Taiwan, so do factor the unforeseen into your considerations! (In fact, my sister’s family who flew in to Taiwan a few days after us encountered a 2 hour long flight delay).

From Taichung railway station, we took the shuttle service that comes free with the HSR (high speed rail) to our hostel, “Fengjia Box 2”. This hostel is cheap and is quite near the Fengjia night market. The location is excellent BUT the hostel is tiny and not exactly the cleanest kid on the block. Families with young kids and germaphobes may wish to avoid this hostel as it is situated at a dark alley and the toilet ain’t wow. Jas and I are ok with the standard as we are both the adventurous and chin-chai (+ cheapo) type, however my parents and sister were not so impressed with this accommodation. We stayed here for 2 nights, booked via hotels.com.

 

逢甲夜市 (FENGJIA NIGHT MARKET)
Jashuat says: Must go
Cost: Pay as you eat, but ain’t expensive!
After we unloaded our “barang barang” in the hostel, we were so hungry as it was already 9pm. We took a 5 minutes walk to the super huge and bustling Fengjia night market for our food hunt. 5 whole minutes! Now can you see why I said the hostel location was excellent? That is, if u can look past the teeny place, and the somewhat lacking toilet. It ain’t very clean, but it’s not like it’s all gross and dirty too. Men have gone through army, so this little hostel ain’t fazing us, yeah bros?

Anyhow, the night market is HUGE man.  We had to head back there again the next night to finish walking through all the stalls. Unlike MamaJas who spent most of her time looking at clothes (sheesh women), I was all about the food yo. My only advice is – just whack the stalls. See a queue? See some newspaper clipping? Just whack nia. Waistlines are for worrying only in Singapore.

(PROTIP: If you are visiting the night market with baby, DO NOT BRING A STROLLER. The market is crowded as anything and you won’t be able to do anything with a bulky stroller.  Use a baby carrier instead for easy maneuverability. You have no idea what a lifesaver a baby carrier is on a holiday. Trust me on this.)Fengjia
A less crowded section of the Fengjia Night Market

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Some of the awesome food we tried

Day 2: Xinshe
Transport: Hired Driver (highly recommend to shorten travelling time)
We began our next day bright and early and started off with a delightful traditional breakfast recommended by our driver. Do you love 永和豆浆 from Geylang? You’re gonna love it here too, whats more, with a leveled up widespread variety! Ask your driver for brekkie recommendations, they’re the 地头蛇, so they’d know the best places! (You will need a driver if you travel in Taichung, we booked our driver via http://www.taiwan-freetrip.com and both our drivers (we had two) are quite nice)
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新社花海 (XINSHE FLOWER FESTIVAL)
Jashuat says: Must go.
Cost: Free!
Our 1st stop of the day – Xinshe Flower Festival. We were very lucky as our travel dates coincided with the annual flower exhibition in Xinshe. The dates varies for each year and thus can be hard to plan for in advance. Do google their website for more information if you plan to visit (Note: Their website changes every year, thus you have to google instead of using the current year link. For 2015, the exhibition period is 7 Nov to 6 Dec).

flower_festThumbs up for the massive and beautiful flower display. What’s more, it is free!

 

FRUIT FARM
Jashuat says: Can go.
Cost: Fixed entrance fee (NT$100) + pay for whatever you pluck!

Our next stop was a local fruit farm, this stop was solely for NaiNai to satisfy her lifelong dream of plucking fruits from trees. The fruit in season during our visit was grapes but they have different kinds of fruits to harvest throughout the year. Personally, I think the grapes were overpriced and tasted so-so only. I’ve had better grapes, esp the distilled kind. Sauvignon blanc, anyone? Nonetheless, I think it will be a good experience for kids (in our case, the old folks enjoyed it very much) to pluck their own fruits.

fruit_farmNaiNai and Gugu: Yay! Ray: Nobody stops me from sleeping. Jas: I can still camwhore with a baby like a pro

 

FOOD: 香菇街午餐
Jashuat says: Must try.
Cost: ~30+sgd/per pax (not cheap!)
Seriously, Mushroom Pot in Singapore better siam one side, this is the real Mushroom pot! This restaurant we went to is a haven for mushroom lovers, and I daresay, food lovers en general! I actually like the lor ba rice more than the mushroom pot (Yes, apologies to my vegetarian friends, the rice is covered with pork sauce and the soup is made from chicken based stock. Maybe that’s why it’s so yummy lol) though haha. The meal here is one of the most expensive meal I had on this trip too but quite sedap lah.

This place is also very crowded and you may have to wait for around 20-30 mins before you are assigned a table. However, the great thing for ladies is that there is a store at the entrance of the restaurant that sells quite alot of mushroom related  souvenirs as well as uniquely Taiwanese food products. You can spend some time there if the queue is long. Alternatively, there are a dozen similar restaurants that serve similar mushroom-based cuisines along the same stretch of road, but apparently this shen gu we went to was the best or something. Mamajas had a field day shopping at the store, so I doubt she was very bothered by the queue. Bought souvenirs for her colleague there and insisted on buying this thing to make aiyu jelly that she hasn’t once made. Women…

IMG_0652 IMG_0653

 

新社莊園 (Xinshe Manor)
Jashuat says:  Can go
Cost: NT$250, with $100 to offset purchases within the compound

Our next stop, the Xinshe Manor is a nice place to laze around and chill. The view within the castle is quite nice, and is good for people who like to take pictures. There is also ample space for kids to run about. Ray made a new friend while running around the Manor. That cute little baby was younger than Ray but why do they look like they’re the same size? Sighs my little chilli padi is damn kechik lah.

xinsheNice view hor?

 

心之芳庭 (Moncoeur)
Jashuat says: Meh for Pips, can go for Jas
Cost: NT$200TWD
Our final stop for the day was Moncoeur, a small area with lots of man-made structures for the sole purpose of cam-whoring. I didn’t really enjoy it much here as many of the man-made structures weren’t well maintained and there were tons of mosquitoes around that went for the kill while poor humans posed for photos. Certainly this is one of the places I will give a miss if my itinerary is tight. Mamajas thought it was pretty nice though, (see, camwhorers will definitely like it!) so it really depends. There are also lavendar products sold here so ladies will probably like it better than men. Lots of grass and such, and kids may like it too I s’pose.
ma

 

Day 3: Cingjing

彩虹眷村 (Rainbow Village)
Cost: Free
Jashuat says: Free, why not? We love free and cool stuff haha
Early in the morning, 6 o’clock, (did you sing that sentence in your head? It’s meant to be a song dammit!) we headed to the rainbow village, which is a small village with colourful war murals all over the compound. The murals were painted by a war veteran ah pek in an attempt to persuade the government not demolish the old village. He succeeded in the end and this place was converted as a tourist attraction thereafter. As cool as the idea is, protesting in Singapore and colouring thus happily will earn you a nice “Rotan”, and if that is your cuppa tea, by all means Sir. Don’t know about you but I value my backside very much. At the Rainbow Village, there is also an Ironman there who didn’t ask for money in taking pictures, but was trying to market his songs hehe. Souvenirs are also sold at the village too if you are interested.

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18度C (18 Degree Chocolate Factory)

After the rainbow village, we embarked on a near 3 hour drive to Cingjing. We had a stopover at the critically acclaimed chocolate factory, 18 degree C, which is supposedly the optimal temperature to preserve the taste of chocolate. To be frank, I think this is a marketing gimmick that works, as Jas was raving about how nice the chocolate was and promptly bought a box when IMHO, Royce tastes much better. I checked with her on what she thought of the chocolates a few weeks post-trip and she agreed that it ain’t wow and was quite a ripoff. Though the chocolates are mediocre, you should try the ice cream though. It is thick and creamy, just the way I like it. I think it tasted especially nice in the hot Taichung weather.

choco

 

阿东甕仔雞 (A Dong Urn Chicken)
Cost: Who cares? Shut up and take my money!
Jashuat says: Just open your wallet and mouth
Midway through our ascend to the farm, we stopped at this wonderful roadside restaurant called A Dong Urn Chicken. The food was goddamn friggin awesome max and the legendary Urn Chicken (甕仔雞) is DA BOMB. It was so tender, fragrant and juicy that we wolfed it down in no time. It literally melts in your mouth. Ray also enjoyed the chicken alot. Mamamia!

Another dish we had at this restaurant that was not only special but delicious was 3 Su, better known as Bird Nest Fern in SG. Yes it CAN BE EATEN, did you know that? Neither did we. But we ate them, and it was so nice that NaiNai contemplated plucking it in SG and cooking it. Please ah, dont anyhow report us to mata. We only thought about it, that’s ALL we did.

lunchFrigging awesome chicken.

清境農場 (Cingjing Farm)
Accommodation: 愛力家生活村民宿.
Cost: NT$4680 for a LOFT family room which can easily accomodate 6 adults (3 double beds, 1 on the 1st floor and 2 on the upper floor).
Jashuat says: We don’t know how this accom compares to others in the vicinity, but it’s LOVELY!!!!
Upon arriving at Cingjing, we immediately checked-in to our guesthouse 愛力家生活村民宿. I highly recommend this guesthouse as it is not only close to the entrance of the Farm where most of the attractions and restaurants are located, it is also reasonably priced. That’s not all, just look at the view from our window! As the morning sun streamed in from the full length window while we were warm and cozy under our blankies, it just felt so luxurious and gorgeous all at the same time. Best accommodation for this entire Taiwan trip!

hotel

 

清境農場 (Cingjing Farm)
Cost: NT$160-$200 per adult
Jashuat says: Must go
When travelling, Jas is very much a nature and shopping person, and she loves to head to farms to get in touch with the countryside girl in her. Don’t know if she’s gung-ho or what, but she is mortally afraid of creepy crawlies but always wanna do farmstays. Still, ain’t gonna argue with her rationale. #happywifehappylife remember? LOL. After dropping our luggage in the guesthouse, our driver fetched us to the top entrance of the farm where we could then leisurely walk down to the main area. Enroute we saw and interacted with sheep that roamed freely around the farm, which is really lovely to see for big city kids like us. There are also some shows that are shown at specific timings but because we were late in arriving, we missed out on the performances, so hopefully, you guys plan your time better! You should aim to spend more time than we did at this place, because it’s really nice for both kids and adults alike.
cj1

There are also ponies for little kids to sit on but Ray got on the big horse with his mama and papa. He enjoyed the house ride tremendously, and was super excited to get onto the horse! Think he enjoyed the clip clop clip clop motion of the horse. (see pic below) Lucky bugger! You gotta pay to sit on the horse but it’s not too much and quite enjoyable lah!

As there are many animals around, one can touch and interact with the animals and kids will love them! For younger kids, it’s also a time for them to see the animals they’ve learnt/read about about come to life before their very eyes, which must be amazing for them!
cingjing

小瑞士花園 (Swiss Garden)
Cost: NT$120/pax
Jashuat says: can go
The Swiss Garden is a nice and chillax place located at the main entrance of the Farm. It has a man-made lake with a musical water show, something like the old sentosa musical fountain if you are old enough to remember.
Ray particularly enjoyed the show and was dancing to the rhythm, it was so cute to watch my adorable son in action (yes, yes, indulgent papa here!) Another attraction here is the flower and spice garden, but this is nothing compared to the sheer scale and variety of the Xinshe Flower Festival.
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紙箱王 (Carton King)
Cost: Free/Pay as you shop
Jashuat says: Must go. Free leh!
The Carton King is a concept/lifestyle shop with products creatively crafted using cardboards. There are different branches of it all over Taiwan, so you don’t necessarily have to come to this branch if you are short on time in CingJing. Carton King is a fascinating place though with lots of nifty contraptions, so it’s little wonder that we spent quite some time marvelling at the different products. One of these cool products was a rocking horse that could withstand the weight of #jashuatfamily. That’s pretty sturdy man. I was also pleasantly surprised that 11mo Ray knew how to rock himself (without instructions!) when we placed him on the rocking horse! This little genius sure takes after his dad lol.
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Dinner
We ended the day having a simple dinner at the main area foodstalls which is a 10 minutes walk from our Guesthouse (We skipped the hotpot dinner from the Guesthouse as we wanted to explore the main area dining option. On hindsight, the Guesthouse hotpot dinner might be a better option).

There are also 7-Elevens at the main area and we bought some tidbits and Taiwanese fruit beer back to the Guesthouse.

Do check out our part 2 of our Taiwan trip on Taichung, Nantou, Lugang, which will be available very soon!

Overall, I would really recommend heading to Taichung, esp Cingjing. It’s damn nice and chill, and is a totally different pace from Singapore 🙂

PapaPips

Do follow the Jashuat family as we zip around town and the world (we are chronic travellers lol) on facebook and we will share with you giveaways, contests, parenting tips, lifehacks and more! Incidentally, we are running an SG50 video contest where ANYONE can take part. You just need to submit a very short video of you or whoever else singing a patriotic (NDPish song) and boom, you’re in the contest!  (See top post) Very attractive prizes worth up to $3k up for grabs, so do join this contest, which ends in a week’s time!!!

Also, you can read our other Taiwan related articles here:

  1. Overview on Taiwan
  2. Taiwan Part 2 (Taichung, Nantou, Lugang)
  3. Tips on lasting a flight with a baby (worked for us. We took a flight to USA with Ray when he was 15mo)
  4. Also, we are tying up with Eubiq and OPSH to bring exclusive promotional deals to YOU, our readers, so stay tuned! Meanwhile, you can read a little more here to find out what awesome stuff these two companies have!

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