02 September 2018

Bangkok Thailand - Where to Go, What to Eat

Received a recent request from Phoon on Bangkok itinerary and hence this blog post. Within this year I've been to Bangkok twice recently - once in July for a solo birthday celebration, and once in August with my ex-classmate girlfriends combined with a getaway to Khao Yai - and am more than happy to dish out some of my favourite spots.

Lately I've also been trying out KLOOK services to determine they are worth the convenience and price before sharing with my friends and of course blog readers. While the prices may sometimes be slightly more than KKDAY, I feel that KLOOK does offer a wider selection of activities in the various countries I've searched for. Also, in terms of the airport transfer services of both providers, KLOOK has my thumbs up in terms of professionalism and punctuality.

If you're a first time user of KLOOK, do enter the promo code MOBILE10 to enjoy HK$10 off your first booking on the mobile app.


My Top 3 Fave Eats in Bangkok

Starting off the list is Ping’s Thai Teochew Seafood, a recent favorite that I spotted from an ex-colleague's Facebook sharing. It's conveniently located within Pathuwan Princess Hotel Level 2 - you would have to cut across MBK Centre (BTS National Stadium station), and you can connect to the hotel via Level 2 or Level 1 of the MBK Centre.

Some of the must-try include the Braised Fish Maw and Coconut Jelly - two of my fave menu items. If you're travelling in a bigger group, you may want to try the Fried Tanghoon served in crab (which I didn't managed to try).

You can also refer to this blogger aroimakmak's review which he shared the promo code “PingsAroiMakMak” for 10% off all ala-carte items (valid till 31 December 2018).

Hokkaido Robata Genshiyaki is my second fave stop in Bangkok. It's a bit inconvenient to get unless you have strong legs after all that Bangkok shopping. Located along Sukhumvit Road Soi 31, it's about 6 mins walk from BTS Phong Phrom station, o 15 mins walk from BTS Asok station.

You may want to try the Grilled Crab Legs, Grilled Salmon Belly, Grilled Mackerel and Grilled Scallops. They may also have seasonal promotions - in my most recent August 2018 trip, they had a Hokkaido Uni promotion and Wagyu Beef (which you grill on a hot stone yourself - can control the 'done-ness' to your liking). Unfortunately they ran out of Grilled Salmon Belly.. sobs..

You can refer to my previous blog post for more photos. And yes, do note that they open only in the evenings from 5pm.

Grilled scallop in garlic-butter sauce and the other in soy sauce

So far I've been to three of Audrey's outlets and they don't disappoint. Other than the beautiful ambiance for lots of selfies and Instagram updates, I enjoy going to Audrey’s for their Crispy Pork Cubes, Thai Tea Crepe Cake and Milo Crepe Cake. They offer both western and Thai cuisine - have also tried their boat noodles / beef noodles. Oh yah, they have this flowerpot cake that's perfect for phototaking - but Hubs and I don't really like as there's simply too much buttercream.

My fave outlet would have to be Audrey Cafe des Fleurs at Emquartier Level 8 (BTS Phrom Phong) - but of course' I haven't been to their flag ship store (Thong Lo Soi 11, rather far from BTS Thong Lo) so my fave outlet may change. You can also find Audrey at Siam Centre Level 4 (BTS Siam station), Central Embassy Level 5 (BTS Ploenchit Station) and Esplanade Level 1 (MRT Thailand Cultural Centre, the shopping mall in front of Ratchada Train Night Market).

Crispy Pork Cubes and some apple-strawberry jelly drink - Siam Centre Level 4

Day Time Markets and Night Markets

The famous day market is of course Chatuchak Weekend Market (BTS Mo Chit or MRT Kamphaeng Phet) - where you can enjoy treats such as coconut ice-cream, savory garlic bread, and duck noodles served in herbal broth - while shopping of course.

You can also score quite a few bargains in Pratunam day market, which is opposite Platinum Malls - but very out-of-breath squeezy!

Ratchada Train Night Market remain my fave night market as it's very convenient to get to (MRT Thailand Cultural Centre, right behind Esplanade Shopping Centre) and prices are a tad cheaper than mainstream shopping malls in Siam area. The downside is that, like most night markets, it's open towards the end of the week on Thursdays to Sundays. While food stalls are usually open from 5pm+, the shopping area is usually fully open by 7pm. Do bring a rain coat and a torch light if you're there in rainy seasons - I've encountered blackouts twice (umbrella would be too cumbersome when you need to walk through the narrow lanes with other people around)

We were staying rather near Talad Neon Night Market (next to Berkeley Hotel Pratunam) and it was a pleasant well-lit surprise when we decided to go there after a big rainstorm. Most of the shops and eateries are open - the food stalls are on the right and back of the market. Similar to Ratchada, it's open from Thursday to Sunday from 5pm. I did read somewhere that some of the eateries are open on other weekdays too - not sure how true this is.

Chang Chui Creative Park is the famous IG spot with the huge airplane-restaurant in the middle. However we seem to have went during an off-period, not forgetting the heavy downpours and long commute due to traffic jams. The market was rather quiet, with a handful of shops open. Did some 'window shopping' and managed to comb the premises rather fast. Do note it's closed on Wednesdays, and with some parts of the market only open in late afternoon to evenings. Website

For more night markets, do check out my older posts

Places I would want to Venture in Future Trips

B-Story Cafe 
Passed by a few times but haven't been there yet. Conveniently located outside BTS Ratchathawi Station Exit 4. Can check out the reviews from fellow bloggers Aroimakmak and Daphne/Mitsueki

TrueLove NeverLand 
Land of Siberian Huskies. Do note that they are closed on Mondays, and are on first come first serve basis (no reservation or booking). Refer to their official Facebook page for the administrative details. A bit inconvenient to go - may want to Grab directly from your hotel, or take a Tuk Tuk from BTS Ari Station Exit 1 or 3.

Big Dog Cafe
More large dogs... haha! I couldn't find their official page, you may want to refer to TripCanvas instead. Unlike TrueLove, advanced reservation is required. Do note they are closed on Mondays and Tuesdays.

Little Zoo Cafe
This cafe's conveniently located in Siam Square, and open daily! There's also no cover charge from what I last researched - but you would need to order 1 main dish and 1 drink per person to play with the animals. You can refer to their official Facebook page or LittleDayOut's review.

Some Tips Before I end the Post

Do remember to get your tourist discount cards at the shopping malls customer service counter. I managed to score a few cards - MBK Centre (5% discount at Tokyu and Naraya!), Siam Paragon, OneWorld etc. If you're a frequent traveler to Bangkok, apply for the Boots membership card instead - you'll get the same 5% tourist discount but get to accumulate points for future redemption.

If you want to get snacks/tidbits, you may want to check out Big C in the later part of the night to avoid the long queues (it's open till 2am). If your items can fit into a basket, you may want to try the 'basket' queues - the staff re-directed us to these counters even though we had more than 10 items in our baskets.

You can also get Tao Kae Noi seaweed at their shop in Terminal 1 basement (BTS Asok). We managed to find the crispy chicken skin (yellow packaging) snack here, which was not available at Big C.

Hope the above was useful to you in your trip planning! Do also refer to my older posts on Bangkok travels and remember to apply promo code MOBILE10 to enjoy HK$10 off your first booking on KLOOK mobile app.

01 January 2018

7D6N Taipei Itinerary | My Maiden Trip to Taiwan

Hubby and I had travel to Taiwan numerous times, of which many trips did not have a written plan on where to go and what to eat. Sometimes we do research on the spot, browsing through Facebook, YouTube and local blogs. While I have set up this blog to help fellow travelers plan their Taiwan vacations, I realized many colleagues and friends are often too 'lazy' to read through my blog and preferred to reach out to us directly (gasp) for 1-to-1 advice or the old itineraries. This sort of defeats the purpose of this blog - which instead of me manually finding old word documents, I collate, share and update our travel experiences in this online platform. I also refer back to my blog when I plan for my next trips.

Nonetheless, I'm happy to share my experiences - though being a broken record rewinding how great some places in Taiwan are and you should not miss out. I've decided to dig out our old itineraries for the sake of the 'lazy folks'.

7 Days 6 Nights Taipei Itinerary

To kick-off, here's my maiden trip to Taiwan back in end-February to early-March 2010. It was probably Hubby's 2nd or 3rd trip, having been there with his Prudential colleagues previously. Hence all the planning was done by him.

Honestly I didn't like Taiwan as much in the beginning - the weather in Taipei then was cold and rainy and he introduced me to many 'weird' foodstuff for the first time. You will see me mentioning this throughout the itinerary haha! However it was also the trip where I grew my 'must-eats' list including 萬年排骨老店, 小南門傳統豆花 and Mister Donut. And yes, a lot of bubble tea.

This itinerary would probably be the most useful to many first-timer travelers to Taiwan as Hubs included most of the must-see and must-eat for me. Do note that the following itinerary recollection is based on the numerous photographs taken (Hubs don't prepare written itineraries). This itinerary has not been updated, and we would skip certain places of interests such as temples and certain foods (some of the stuff I detest includes spicy cuisine, spring onions and yam).

Day 1 - Excited but blah weather

  • Flight arrival in late evening. Traveled to Taipei City via the trusty airport bus.
  • Stayed in Ximending, hotel along Chengdu Road.
  • Ate late dinner at the only stall that was opened beside the hotel. Had my first taste of pig kidney, not bad. But the stall had a stinky pee stench. 

Day 2 - Realized I have iron-stomach for Taiwan street food

  • City Hall MRT Station - Eslite (I think we walked all the floors. Loved the artsy stuff and bought a number of books), Shinkong Mitsui shopping centres (went to a foodcourt for yummy 萬年排骨老店, there was an outdoor food festival then, had my first smelly tofu there, don't like it), Taipei 101 (didn't went up though due to the gloomy weather)
  • Zhongxiao Dunhua Station - Zhongxiao Donglu, Yang Zi Da Hun Tun
  • Jiantan MRT Station - Shilin Night Market (it was fully outdoor then). Bought many bags from Tian Lan Xiao Bu.

Day 3 - Great View + Fireworks!

  • Moved to Rainbow Hotel, also in Ximending
  • Shopped around Ximen. Ate A Zong Mian Xian, KFC Egg Tarts (they had more variety than in Singapore), Ya Rou Bian (don't like)
  • Back to Taipei 101 - clear skies that day. Snapped lots of photographs. 
  • Walked to SYS Memorial Hall - we managed to squeeze to a good spot to watch the lantern festival and fireworks!
  • Houshanpi MRT Station - Formosa Chang, Wufenpu
  • Returned to Ximending for night street eats

Day 4 - Discovered miracle water!

  • Xinbeitou MRT Station - Hotspring. My only input for this trip was probably researching for this atas hotspring place Villa32. We loved it! Also, I had a very stubborn pimple for days which finally came out with a gentle touch - after which I deemed hotspring as miracle water! LOL
  • Danshui MRT Station - eat all sorts of weird stuff, don't like ah-gei and the sour plum soup. Took a boat to Fisherman's Wharf and enjoyed the sunset with Hubs.
  • Zhongxiao Dunhua Station - Dintaifung for dimsum (I think this outlet is closed now), Dong Qu Fen Yuan desserts, Daiso at Mingyao Department Store (we were crazy about Caramel Corn then)

Day 5 - Unluckiest day of the trip HAHAHA!

  • Went to Bank of Taiwan to exchange more cash. Dintaifung didn't accept credit cards - luckily Hub set aside some money for transportation otherwise had to stay and wash plates the previous night...
  • Walked to Yuan Ling Shoe Street... 'cos Hubby's in love with shoes. He thought he would have found lots of fashionable street-wear there. Opps!
  • Took bus Blue-7 from City Hall MRT Station to LEECO Outlet Mall. Hub's damned excited initially, but came out empty-handed. We also went to a Carrefour nearby (didn't know what food stuff to buy then)
  • We bought a big of Mister Donut and took a bus to Yangmingshan. However it was near 5pm already and the sun was setting. We walked from the bus terminal to the sign "Yangmingshan", snapped some photos, ate some donuts while walking back to the bus terminal. Sad.
  • Made our way to Shida Night Market. We loved Xu Ji Sheng Jian Bao. But that's about it for the foodstuff there as most of the foodstuff there were too bland for our taste buds' liking. I recalled buying a lot of cheap and nice jewelry there.

Day 6 - Scenic Views

  • Took train to Ruifang, changed bus to Jiufen. Ate the famous beef noodle and yam/sweet-potato ball dessert, and lots of weird kueh.
  • Took bus back to Ruifang, change train to Pingxi. We arrived after the annual lantern festival, hence it wasn't crowded in Pingxi. It felt weird to release the sky lantern in the middle of the road where not much folks around were doing it too. The store-owner gave us some sparklers and Hub became a kid again! Saw many huge spiders too (eeks!) Ate some weird-tasting peanut sesame paste, no like.. Had the gaoliang wine black pig sausage which I picked out all the spring onions and garlic haha! Took the last train back.
  • Went to Raohe Night Market. We enjoyed the meat broth and oily glutinous rice at Bai Nian Lao Dian by the shophouse temple where one of the female shop helpers welcome you in a loud screechy high pitch. (Was very excited and told Hubs at once when I returned in November 2017 and saw her again!) Had herbal mutton soup, iced fruits desserts, etc. Bought the (useless) face mask as there were lot of motorcycles exhaust. Was like wearing a decorated bra cup on our face.

Day 7 - Last Day in Taiwan

  • Sabotaged by me. Can't recall the exact MRT Station we stopped at but we WALKED a lot as I tried to search for beads and findings stores. I was still managing my Etsy shop and selling at bazaars and flea markets then.
  • Taipei Main Station underground malls. Shop non-stop too. Our 'favourite' are the Check Fun cube-rental stores due to their variety of cute stuff. 
  • Had the second 萬年排骨老店 meal, Bao Xin Fen Yuan (don't really like) and finally found Tian Wai Tian hotpot buffet. (We always look forward to our upcoming trips for the hotpot buffet).
  • Journey to the airport for evening flight.

That's all folks! Do also refer to my other blog post https://wendyboey.blogspot.sg/2014/01/taiwan-travel-itinerary-for-taipei.html when planning for a vacation in Taipei


05 August 2017

How to Travel from Taoyuan Airport to Taichung

I've traveled to Taichung more than 5 times in the past few years and have been researching for the most effective and most cost efficient way to travel from Taoyuan Airport to Taichung, and the other way round - from Taichung to Taoyuan Airport.

This blog post was first written in September 2016 and has been updated. It would cover 3 ways to get from the international airport to Taichung - airport buses, high speed rail, and public taxi.

When planning your transportation mode, you may want to consider the traveling time, transportation cost, your destination in Taichung, and convenience (e.g. travelling with multiple luggage, or travelling in a group). A comparison table is available at the end of this article.

Note: Taiwan Taoyuan International Airport is sometimes referred to as 'Taipei Airport' due to its IATA airport code: TPE, and Taipei being the biggest city in Taiwan.

Bus from Taoyuan Airport to Taichung

Since I usually reach Taiwan Taoyuan International Airport at 6am on a budget flight, my preferred transportation mode is the highway bus. Airport buses are known as 客運巴士. The two hour bus journey would allow me to catch some sleep and reach Taichung city refreshed at a nice breakfast time.

Where to Take a Bus at Taoyuan Airport:

You can purchase the bus tickets and board the buses at the bus station, located at Terminal 1 Basement 1, or Terminal 2 Level 1. You can follow the 'Bus to City' signage at the Arrival Hall to locate the bus station.

There are 3 bus companies offering transportation services from Taoyuan Airport to Taichung - Guo Guang 國光客運 (國光號), Free Go 建明客運 (飛狗巴士) and UBUS 統聯客運. The 3 service providers offer different routes to Taichung City. Other differences include operating hours, bus frequency and ticket price.

These airport bus services to Taichung operates from early morning 6am till late night 1am, with bus frequency intervals ranging between 30 minutes and 2 hours. You can refer to the departure timing displayed at the bus ticket purchase counters.

Travel Time:

The duration of travel from Taoyuan Airport to Taichung by bus is about 2 hours.

Bus Fare from Taoyuan Airport to Taichung:

There are two types of ticket pricing.

A full-price ticket 全票 costs between TWD 230 to TWD 300. This ticket is applicable to most adults and teenagers.

A half-fare ticket 半票 costs between TWD 145 to TWD 190. Seniors over 65 years of age, children less than age of age 12 years, and people with disabilities are eligible to buy a half-fare ticket, and may be required to present identification during purchase.

Where to Alight in Taichung City:

Many passengers often alight at Chaoma Station 朝馬站 to switch to another bus service or a taxi to get to their hotel. If you have pre-arranged for a taxi to fetch you from the bus stop to your hotel, do check with the taxi driver which bus stop you should alight at. It may be nearer for the driver to pick you up from Chaoma Station and drive to your hotel.

If your hotel is situated near to Fengjia Night Market, you should alight at Chaoma Station 朝馬站 too and switch to a bus/taxi. If you alighted near Taichung Railway Station instead, it'll be about an hour's public bus ride back to Fengjia vicinity.

If you intend to travel from Taoyuan Airport to Taichung Railway Station, do alight at Taichung Station 臺中車站. There, you can switch to a local train or an express train to reach other cities and towns such as Jiji and Checheng in Nantou county.

Taichung Airport Bus Travel Tip:

If you fortunately/unfortunately purchase your ticket when the bus is about to leave the station, the bus company may rush you to run with your luggage to catch the bus! Be prepared!

For travellers arriving at the airport at night, you may want to check the bus schedule available at http://www.taoyuan-airport.com/english/buses As of 5 August 2017, the last 1860 bus service departs from the airport terminal at 23:40.

Taipei Airport to Taichung High Speed Train

Traveling by 'bullet train' would of course be a much faster way to reach Taichung. The travel time from Taoyuan Airport to Taichung by high speed rail is approximately 40 minutes. According to Wikipedia, the high speed rail can reach a high speed of 300 km/h (186 mph)!

If you are wooed by the shortened travel time of 40 minutes by high speed rail, don't forget to take into consideration the travel time to the Taiwan High Speed Rail (THSR) station!

To go from Taoyuan Airport to Taoyuan THSR station:

You can board a shuttle bus at a full fare 全票 of TWD 30. Seniors, children and disabled persons may purchase the ticket at a half fare 半票 of TWD 15. The shuttle bus tickets can be purchased at the UBUS 統聯客運 counters at Terminal 1 Arrival Lobby or Terminal 2 Arrival Lobby.

To go from Taoyuan THSR station to Taichung THSR station:

You can purchase your ticket at the station itself using cash or credit card. Tickets from Taoyuan to Taichung are available at a standard adult fare of TWD 540, or a half fare of TWD 270 for the kids, the elderly and the handicapped.

The following table shows part of a typical weekday schedule from Taoyuan THSR station to Taichung THSR station. The earliest high speed rail services from Taoyuan may start from near-7am in the morning, and the latest service may end around 11.20pm in the night. To check the THSR schedule for the day, you can go to their Timetable and Fare Search webpage.

Click on HSR schedule to view larger imager

Total Travel Time:

The shuttle bus journey would take about 25 minutes to arrive at Taoyuan THSR station. This is not inclusive of waiting time, which ranges from 5-10 minutes during peak hours to 20 minutes or more during non-peak hours.

So if you arrived the airport at a non-peak hour, this may mean 20 minutes waiting time + 25 minutes bus journey + maybe 5 minutes walking time + 40 minutes THSR ride = 1 hour 30 minutes. And not forgetting you would need to transfer to a bus or taxi to get to your hotel.

Taiwan High Speed Rail Travel Tip #1:

You can purchase your THSR ticket online up to 28 days in advance, payment via credit card. (21.09.2016 Thanks Chyn Huei for informing on the 'dead' link, have updated the hyperlink!) You would need to provide your passport or travel document identification number and a mobile phone number to complete the online transaction. Do note that the online ticketing system may be unavailable during non-working hours from midnight to 6+am in the morning (Taiwan time zone is GMT+8). And in the event you arrive too early or too late for the rail ticket you have purchased, you can contact the service counters for help to change or refund  your ticket (conditions apply).

Taiwan High Speed Rail Travel Tip #2:

When you purchase your THSR ticket at the station, it is likely that your seats are 'non-reserved', i.e. while your tickets are valid on the specified date, seats are not guaranteed. This means you would need to search for an empty seat in the designated train car, or stand for your journey. And if you unfortunately took the seat of a passenger with a reserved seat ticket, you would need to give up your seat to this passenger. Speaking from personal experience, this is pretty cumbersome when you are traveling with huge luggage or multiple luggage, and especially on a crowded train.

Taiwan High Speed Rail Travel Tip #3:

I don't typically get motion sickness when traveling on airplanes or ferries. However I do get migraines when traveling at rapid speed on the THSR. So if you are like some of my friends who are tantamount to motion sickness, do consume your medication and prepare a plastic bag in case you feel queasy.

Taxi from Taoyuan Airport to Taichung

Taxi transportation is very convenient when you are with multiple luggage or heavy luggage, since it will bring you directly to your hotel. It is also a good option if you arrive at timings where you are unable to board a highway bus or a shuttle bus to the THSR station.

Where to Take a Taxi at Taoyuan Airport:

You can board a taxi at the Arrivals Lobby of both Terminal 1 and Terminal 2. Airport taxi services are typically available 24 hours daily.

Taxi Travel Time:

Similar to the airport buses, the taxi journey from Taoyuan Airport to Taichung city is about 2 hours. What I usually do is to take an airport bus to Chaoma station or Taichung Railway station (which also takes about 2 hours), and then switch to a taxi to get to my hotel. This helps me to save some money on transportation.

Taxi Fare from Taoyuan Airport to Taichung:

Do note that the taxi fare is based on meter, and may include additional highway toll charges. WorldTaxiMeter.com provides an estimated taxi fare of TWD 2,362 from Taoyuan Airport to Taichung City.

In December 2015, one of my friends chartered a taxi from the airport to her Taichung hotel for her family of 4. The journey costs her TWD 5,400. After the taxi driver drops her family at their hotel, he returned to pick them up in the evening to go to Fengjia Night Market.

Click the image above to view a larger version

Getting from Taoyuan Airport to Taichung 

As discussed, there are multiple ways to get to Taichung from the international airport in Taoyuan. The following table summarizes the above article and shows some factors for your consideration:

Comparison Table:

Comparison table done by me :)

Usually I would prefer to travel from Taoyuan Airport to Taichung City by bus, and then transfer to a taxi to get to my hotel. While this may take slightly more time (maybe 30 to 40 minutes) compared to taking a high speed rail or taxi, it is much more cost efficient.

I hope you have benefited from the information shared in this post. If you like this article, do share with your friends who are planning for their trip to Taichung. Thanks!