Friday, April 21, 2017

Twenty Something Travel to [Taiwan]

Hi all! I'm back with a travel post to Taiwan!

I have been to Taipei about 8 years ago. This time, my family and I visited Taichung and Taipei. Now I know why Taiwan is everyone's favourite place to travel, especially for Chinese-speaking tourists like us! Taiwanese are so friendly, helpful and nice. We really had a wonderful trip there! I told my mum that I would visit Taiwan over and over again!

Qingjing Farm


when Xiao Long Bao is bigger than my face

Please get your SIM card at the arrival hall, before the immigration checkpoint. They have a couple of phone service providers there and prices are pretty competitive. We opted for an unlimited data SIM for 8 days without calls and SMS because we agreed that we wouldn't use the call and SMS function in Taiwan anyway. It was around SGD 20 per card. Do note that once you get out of the immigration checkpoint, SIMs are generally slightly more expensive.


Feng Jia Night Market

We first touched down at Taoyuan International Airport. Our first destination was Taichung, followed by Taipei. In Taipei, we bought a 3-day unlimited MTR card and travelling couldn't be easier with it. We paid around SGD 18 for a card and it can be used for travelling on their MTRs and public buses. For people who do not want to worry about not being able to find topping up machines and do not want the hassle of carrying coins, this is the way to go! GoogleMaps helped a lot in travelling in city areas like Taipei.

For Taichung, we booked a 4 days 3 nights trip with our driver, Mr. Hwang, because after some research, I realised Taichung's scenic spots are quite far from one another. Attractions are quite spaced out and some can only be reached by car. Some places are so secluded that you may not even get a cab back to your hotel when it's after dawn.

I forgot to mention that you can also rent a car if you have friends, and of course, a valid driving license. It's quite an experience to drive around Taiwan too! We thought that driving around could be quite tiring and so we engaged a driver for a more relaxing trip.


Qingjing Farm
When in Taipei, we stayed at Ximending Go Sleep Hotel (Xining), which is located right in the middle of Taipei's shopping district, Ximending. Staying there made everything so convenient. You have clothes and food shops right at your doorstep! Their free breakfast every day was however, mediocre and slightly disappointing. We preferred eating out and trying Taipei's famous breakfast places.

The room was clean, toilet was spacious. The only downside is that it could get a bit noisy if your neighbours are not considerate because the walls are not exactly soundproof. We contemplated that we wouldn't stay in the hotel for long and it's just for us to rest after a long day, so I would say it's a good choice. Moreover, Ximen MTR station is just 5-minute walk away from our hotel.


Hu Jiao Bing at Rao He Night Market
Street food are GREAT! We ate street food almost every day when in Taipei. For Taichung, because we have a pre-planned itinerary with the driver, so we got to visit some of the famous restaurants around Taichung, which was awesome! 

Mini Crabs at Shi Lin Night Market
Taro Ice at Rao He Night Market
Zhui Ji (Druken Chicken)

Ah Zong Mian Xian at Ximending
This is just a sneak of what we ate! I will do a separate food guide for awesome finds at Taipei and Taichung! Stay tuned for that!


For Taipei, it was more like a free and relaxing kinda trip so we only went shopping and eating. Not much sightseeing though! The highlight of our Taipei trip was probably our hot spring experience at Grandview Resort Beitou. I would highly recommend this hot spring resort if you are looking for a 5-star hot spring experience! They even have hotel rooms with hot spring tub for you to enjoy if you intend to stay overnight. For this resort, you really don't have to bring anything along with you. You will be provided with fresh towels, hair dryer, bathing robes, amenity kit with shampoo, conditioner, hair band etc. Toilet seat is heated as well! After enjoying the hot spring, take a shower, dry your hair and take a sip of your hot tea and savour the home-made pudding which are complimentary. We specifically requested for their Cui Lin room because it has a separate Tatami seating area which we could relax and enjoy after our dip! 

The nearest MTR station is Beitou. Alight at Beitou and look for the Grandview Resort shuttle van to bring you straight to the doorstep of the resort. Do note though, you need to register for the shuttle service back to Beitou station at the concierge if you intend to take the shuttle van back. We weren't informed about this and ended up walking to the Beitou station because the shuttle service was fully booked. We didn't want to take the cab because we are cheapskate like that. 

Our tea and home-made pudding 

Hot spring tub at Grandview Resort

Here's our itinerary for Taichung:

Day 1: Taoyuan International Airport - Gao Mei Wetland (sunset) - Taichung homestay
Day 2: Taichung homestay - Zhong She Flower Market - 18 degrees Chocolate Factory - Qingjing homestay
Day 3: Mount Hehuan (sunrise) - rest - Qing Qing Cao Yuan - Qing Jing Farm - Qingjing homestay
Day 4: Sun Moon Lake - Wen Wu Temple - Pu Li Wine Factory - Taipei hotel 

Gao Mei Wetland at Taichung
Sheep at Qingjing Farm

Qingqing Cao Yuan
Mount Hehuan

Zhong She Flower Market

Zhong She Flower Market

Mao Kong

How did the name "Mao Kong" come about

Mao Kong Tea Garden

Sun Moon Lake 

Not the best shot of Taipei 101

Shi Lin Night Market
Modelling at Qingjing Farm


We visited Taichung and Taipei in the first week of January. It was supposed to be their winter. According to Mr. Hwang, it was the hottest winter they have experienced so far. Daily temperature was around 23 to 25 degrees Celcius in Taichung and around 24 degrees Celcius in Taipei. Qingjing, was around 15 to 18 degrees Celcius though! Taiwan was not as cold as I wanted it to be (except when we were at Qingjing and Hehuanshan), but the weather was perfect for travelling! There was close to no precipitation and no rainfall during our trip. We got to enjoy every single part of Taichung and Taipei!

Mount Hehuan

Mount Hehuan

Flowers at Zhong She Flower Market

The pier at Sun Moon Lake
Mao Kong

Taichung was exceptionally beautiful. Taipei was an incredible city. We love both of these places so much. 

Ending my post with one of my favourite quotes:

"Perfect happiness is a beautiful sunset, the giggle of a grandchild, the first snowfall. It's the little things that make happy moments, not the grand events. Joy comes in sips, not gulps. "

That's the end of my travel post! Do drop me a comment/question if you have any! I will reply as soon as I see it!

See ya!

Friday, March 31, 2017

Twenty Something Travel to [Where to stay in New York Edition]

When it comes to travel planning, choosing the right accommodation, to me, is one of the most time-consuming thing to do. It's not helping when you haven't been to the country/city and you have no idea which area is the most convenient place to stay. Not mentioning that the research part can be very tedious when you want a place that suits your needs.

When I choose my accommodation, there are the "rule of 3 Cs" which I need to adhere to - basically, it must be Clean, Convenient and Cheap. Places which fall short of any these criteria will be thrown out of my list of consideration straight away.

Why it needs to be clean and aesthetically pleasing:

I'm quite a fussy customer when it comes to hotel rooms. Imagine coming back to mouldy carpet, dirty toilet, faulty air-conditioner, cold shower etc after a long day outside. That's just disastrous. I want to have a good night sleep every day so that I can re-charge and enjoy exploring every day. It doesn't need to be spotlessly clean, just clean and well-maintained.

Why it needs to be convenient:

You want to save your time on transport. Imagine taking the train for almost an hour to reach tourist attractions or spend an exorbitant amount on cab fares...that's just...unwise.

Why it needs to be relatively cheap (or affordable):

Unless you like staying in the hotel rather than heading out, you don't want to spend too much just to pay for a place where you will only spend your night time sleeping. It needs to be cheap or at least affordable so that you can spend more on makeup, food, museum tickets, clothes and more clothes.

Who says clean hotels are not cheap, cheap hotels are not convenient?

Disclaimer: Hotels that fit exactly all these criteria are hard to find. But I will give you my recommendations which come close to fit all these criteria based on my research.

Here are my top picks in New York! (1 being highly recommended, * for hotels which I have stayed before)

Click on the hotel names to be directed to their official website!

1. Citizen M New York Times Square Hotel 

For fussy customers. Top-notch hotel services. Superb location. Extremely clean. No complaints.

2. Yotel*

As good as #1. Only difference is that the location of this hotel is not as central (near to everywhere) as #1...and the streets to the hotel get a bit dark and quiet at night.

3. Element New York Times Square West

You get a mini kitchen and even a washing machine in some room types. Clean. Location is not as central compared to #1 and #2.

4. Nylo Hotel NYC

Location is not as central as #1, #2 and #3. Near central park. Generally clean. Price is cheaper and more affordable than #1, #2 and #3.

5. Row NYC

Location is superb. Price is cheapest among all. Other than that, rooms are extremely small, not for fussy customers, not as clean as #1 - #4. You are paying for the location, and only that.

Note: All hotel pictures are taken from Comments are made based on Tripadvisor's reviews except those with *, those are made based on personal experience.

Monday, March 6, 2017

Twenty Something Travel to [Hong Kong]

As promised, here's my Hong Kong travel post!

I love Hong Kong, it's a vibrant and densely populated city, just like Singapore. I always wanted to visit Hong Kong Disneyland and the highly raved Ocean Park during summer but people were complaining about the frequent drizzles throughout the days in summer. Weird enough, summer is the dampest period whereas winter is the driest period. We visited Hong Kong in the first week of January during our semester break. The weather was perfect, it was around 18 to 20 degrees Celcius, mostly sunny.  

Victoria Habour


As usual, we wanted to get an unlimited data SIM card at the airport. Something to note: When we got out of the arrival hall, we spot this phone operator which was selling unlimited data SIM card at a price (if I remember correctly, it was HKD 688) and there was a queue at the store. While queuing, my sister and I were converting the amount and realised it was pretty expensive for a 7-day SIM (with a limit of 4GB of data). We decided to get out of the queue and walk around to see if there were cheaper deals. We saw a 7-eleven and we stepped into the shop to ask. Guess what we was offered? HKD 118 for a 7-day SIM with unlimited data!

Ngong Ping


The taxi fare was pretty expensive because the starting fare was HKD 22 (SGD 4) and it skipped like lightning! We were staying near Prince Edward Station so we took a taxi there. It took us around 45 minutes and the fare was around HKD 300 (SGD 55). There were alternatives available too, like the Airport to City Express Train, buses and the MTR. However, it was actually cheaper to take the taxi considering there were four of us.

Getting around Hong Kong is easy. We got ourselves the Octopus card and navigated the city by the MTR for the rest of the days. I must say the cost of living in Hong Kong is indeed higher than that in Singapore. Everything is expensive except for their food.

Victoria Peak


Victoria Harbour
If you are planning to visit the tourist attractions all around Hong Kong, I would recommend staying near Mongkok and Prince Edward MTR station. This is because Mongkok located strategically in the middle of the MTR map, so it will never be too far to anywhere. We stayed near the Prince Edward MTR station which was very convenient. There were food stalls, grocery shops, malls etc within walking distance!


Dimsum at Yi Dian Xin (一点心)

DIMSUM! People say Hong Kong has the best dimsum in the world. I second that! We tried Dimsum as well as other famous dishes/beverage/food there! The food prices in malls were slightly on the expensive spectrum.

If you don't mind crowded places, I suggest you can just randomly walk into any shop on the streets that looks packed (it's crowded for a reason). Most of the time, the food is good, if not, brilliant! That was what we did because we didn't have any specific list of food places that we intended to try.

Random Cocktail Bun 鸡尾包

More Dimsum at 一点心

菠萝包 (Bo Luo Bao) 

虾饺 (Ha Gao) 

More 烧卖 (Siu Mai)
 牛筋面 (Niu Jin Mian)at 好旺角


Gold Fish Market

We basically toured the whole of Hong Kong. We went to Ngong Ping to visit the Great Buddha, Po Lin Monastery, Lantau Island, Hong Kong Disneyland, Ocean Park, Flower Market, Gold Fish Market, Pets Market, MOKO, Ladies Market, Victoria Harbour, Victoria Peak, Clock Tower, Central etc.

The Great Buddha

Flower Market

Hong Kong Zoological and Botanical Gardens
All tourist attractions are pretty accessible.

Few tips for travelling to these places:

1. For Ngong Ping, you can choose to take the bus up instead of the cable car. If you will feel queasy on long and rough bus rides, I will recommend taking the cable car. The latter is of course more expensive than the bus but I guess you can enjoy a smoother ride and better scenery on a cable car.

2. For Hong Kong Disneyland and Ocean Park, you can pre-book your tickets in advance online. It will be around SGD 10 cheaper per person. Oh yeah, buy the meal voucher online too (it's few dollars cheaper). Bii booked our tickets here.

Hong Kong Disneyland
For Disneyland, I think one day is enough to tour everything. For Ocean Park, you may be on a very tight schedule if you intend to visit every single attraction in a day. What I suggest is take the themepark map and plan your visit systematically to ensure you have time to cover the interesting places (at least the major ones). Note that for Ocean Park, most of the attractions close at 6pm although the official closing time is 7pm. So we left out boring rides and lame shows to make time for the amusing ones. The map and showtimes guide are essentials for the visit so that you won't miss out their light parade, special shows and fireworks. Be sure to catch the fireworks at both Disneyland and Ocean Park at night!

Winnie the Pooh Fan

Hong Kong Disneyland 

I personally prefer Ocean Park over Disneyland. The former is more educational (they have a giant aquarium, penguins, white fox, panda and sharks to watch) whereas the latter is more kids-friendly. Ocean Park has more adult-friendly thrilling rides too!

Ocean Park
Real Dolphins at Ocean Park
1 out of the 100 rides there 
They have lockers in the park for you to place your belongings. Use them if you don't feel like carrying your bulky bags!

3. Basic bargain etiquette applies at Ladies Market (don't bother bargaining if you don't intend to buy).

4. Visit the Victoria Peak at night to enjoy the night view and lighting. We bought our tickets at around 7pm and when we got up, we saw nothing but fog. The fog was so thick and we could not see anything, literally. It was also freezing cold up there. We stayed for a while and went down disappointingly. My mum brought us to a restaurant at the mall right below the Victoria Peak and we went for small bites and drinks. After 30 minutes or so, I was surprised to see buildings and lightings from the full-length window in the restaurant. I happily told my mum then the fog had cleared! We tried our luck to talk to the officer to let us go up again (it was a one-time entry ticket). And...she gracefully allowed! We were all in ecstasy when we saw the breathtaking night view!

Victoria Peak

5. Plan a hiking trip to Lantau Peak! Read more about it here.

Lantau Peak
So that sums up my trip to Hong Kong! Food is the thing I miss most in Hong Kong!

At the airport!
Till next time! We'll see you again, HK!