Wednesday, 14 September 2016

Taiwan Touch My Heart (1) ~ Itinerary & Budget

Ni hao!

I've recently been on a trip to Taiwan with one of my high school BFF's. It was a 9-day trip around the island. Even though it wasn't quite enough to explore all around the island, at least we got the chance to see some of their famous tourism objects.

In this post, I'd like to share as much information as I can recall: budget, itinerary and special tips.

I didn't take notes on all the details, but I think this would be enough to give a clear picture of the trip and help you plan your trip.

1. Flight ticket
I booked Tiger Air round-trip flights from Jakarta to Taipei for 5 - 14 May 2016. I booked the ticket in October 2015 for Rp 7.2 mio for 2 persons (appr. US$ 550 with only 1 x 15kg luggage). There was a stopover in Singapore and the price did not include luggage transfer. So, we had to get our luggage after the immigration counter and check-in again at the check-in counter. Since we had to spend a night in Singapore before our early morning flight to Taipei (at 8.45 AM), we decided to sleep at the airport.

Waiting for boarding time

2. Itinerary
May 6 - 7 : Taipei, Energy Inn Hostel in Ximen Ding - US$ 59/ 2 nights/ 4-bed female dorm with private bathroom + breakfast
May 8 : Kaohsiung, Sunwise Hotel Kaohsiung, near  Kaohsiung Main Station (MRT & Train) - NT$ 780/ 1 night/ double room with private bathroom + breakfast
May 9 : Chiayi, Light Hostel Chiayi, near Chiayi Train Station - NT$ 1,300/1 night/ 4-bed female dorm with private bathroom + breakfast
May 10 - 11 : Taichung, Starship Business Hotel, near Taichung Train Station - NT$ 2,200/ 2 nights/ double room with private bathroom + breakfast
May 12 - 13 : Taipei, Backpackers Hostel, in Ximen Ding - NT$ 3,000/2 nights/twin room with private bathroom - no breakfast
May 14 : Singapore, 1-night stay at Bliss Hotel in Chinatown, in front of Chinatown MRT station - S$ 128/ 1 night/ twin room with private bathroom - no breakfast.

Energy Inn, Tapei (dorm beds)

Energy Inn, Taipei (bathroom)

Light Hostel, Chiayi (bathroom)

Light Hostel, Chiayi (dorm beds)

Starship Business Hotel, Taichung

3. Transportation within Taiwan
MRT in Taipei & Kaohsiung : NT$ 12 - 30/trip depending on distance. I recommend to buy Easy Card for faster access to MRT & buses and save transportation expense. The card costs NT$ 100, non-refundable.
Taiwan High Speed Railway (THSR) : take HSR for a long trip as far as Taipei to Kaohsiung (Zuo Ying station). I bought the HSR ticket at Backpackers Hostel and got 20% discount (normal price almost NT$ 1,500).
Taiwan Train : No need to book in advance for this. Just buy it at the ticket counter and ask for the earliest schedule to your destination. The train costs me around NT$ 100-200ish/ each trip with reserved seats. Sometimes they sell non-reserved seat tickets for short distance travel.
Bus : I took bus from Chiayi to Alishan & from Taichung to Sun Moon Lake.
Chiayi - Alishan : NT$ ... /person/single trip. Bus station located in front of Chiayi train station.
Taichung - Sun Moon Lake : NT$ 189/person/single trip. Bus stop in front of Taichung train station.
Sun Moon Lake - Taichung : NT 500/single trip by taxi.
Taoyuan Airport - Taipei Main Station (city centre) : NT$ 125/person/single trip by airport bus. Buy ticket at a counter near the bus stop at airport exit.

4. Meals & drinks
You will never have to worry about meals in Taiwan. There is either street vendor or convenient store (7-11, Family Mart, Hi-Life) at every inch of Taiwan. At late night or early morning, the convenient stores are still open and provide sandwiches, sushi/onigiri, kuo tie, fried chicken, fish meatball and even bento box. The store assistants always offer to heat it in the oven. The prices are reasonable (around NT$ 20-100).

Snacks and coffee from convenient stores all over Taiwan :D

By the time I stepped my foot on Taiwan's ground, I already felt that something awesome was going to happen again. And yes, all the good old memories came back and I suddenly felt terribly happy and I think I fell in love with Taiwan all over again :")


My Travel Story : Eurotrip (3) ~ Arriving in Madrid

Buenos dias!

I finally arrived in Madrid at 11 AM, local time.

In Madrid Barajas Airport, there is a metro station that goes to the city center or basically anywhere around Madrid. There is also a tourist information center that you can find before you see the gate to the metro. I was kinda thinking of joining a local tour, so I decided to walk in to the tourist center to see what deals I could get. After looking at some of the local tour packages, I eventually just bought a 2-day Madrid pass that covers all transportation costs and various museums and tourist spots entrance inside Madrid for 2 x 24hrs (starting from the first scan). The pass costs me 58 euros and it comes with a guide book. The guidebook comes in handy, it consists of information on all attractions around Madrid that you can enter with your tourist pass, including opening schedule. Just to give you a slight picture to calculate, the metro in Madrid costs 1.4 euro for one trip (all stations). The 2-day pass for transportation alone (without museum entrance pass) costs 14 euros. That means the remaining 44 euros are spent for attractions entrance.

If you think you need a sim card, I can suggest to get the Vodafone one. There's a Vodafone shop at Puerta del Sol. It just costs 10 euros for 800MB of internet usage, 20 minutes phone calls and 20 SMS (if I'm not mistaken) for one month.

Madrid Metro Line
Madrid has a lot of beautiful museums and buildings. Most of them need an entrance fee. Of course buying a tourist pass might save you some euros (and queuing time!). But before deciding to buy the pass, estimate carefully how many places you can possibly visit during your visit. Don't forget to check on the opening schedule of the museums you want to visit as some closes on Monday. One attraction costs around 8 to 15 euros. You will benefit from this pass if you can visit at least 4-5 places during your stay. This pass also gives additional benefits such as discounts for selected restaurants and flamenco shows. 

Madrid Metro
Special tips on Madrid Pass:
1. Prior to your arrival in Madrid, make list of tourist spots you want to visit. You can finalize your route after you arrive, since this has a lot to do with metro and bus routes that you might only find out upon your arrival.
2. Possibly, you can only visit 2-3 places a day: 1 in the morning and 2 in the afternoon. Most museums open at 9 or 10 and close at 18 or 19.00. 
3. Leave all the fancy meal time/culinary trip in the evening. The museums close at 18.00, but the cafes and restaurants open until night. 
4. Visit as many paid museums as you can. All the free scenery can wait when you have some spare time.  

Guide Book from Madrid Pass

I stayed at a hostel in the city center: Barbieri Sol Hostel. It was very cheap (28 euros for 2 nights) but clean. The staff were helpful and friendly. The location was great: around 500m to Sol Metro Station (at Puerta del Sol), or just a few minutes walking distance to Gran Via and Plaza de Cibeles.

Here's some places I visited during my 2 night-stay in Madrid:

1. Estadio Santiago Bernabeau:
 The stadium and museum for Real Madrid football club. There are showcase of historical stuff of the club such as: the uniforms, shoes, trophies; as well as tour to the backstage: changing room, bathroom, etc. The Madrid pass gives you a priority pass so you don't need to queue to buy the entrance ticket.

Real Madrid museum inside the stadium

Photo session with your favorite football player

2. Reina Sofia Museum:
An art museum. There are some of Piccaso's pieces also, but I didn't really enjoy this place. I'm just not really into this stuff. I just went there because the Royal Palace of Madrid was closed on Monday :( I intended to see the other palace but apparently the location was far and quite unreachable by public transports :(

Museo Reina Sofia

3. Parque del Retiro:
This park is really huge and beautiful. There is a pond inside the park where you can rent a boat. There are gardens inside the park and benches every where. I can imagine myself relaxing on a bench and read a book. With the nice weather in Madrid's autumn, it must be a perfect way to spend an afternoon :)

Puerta de Alcala

Pond inside the park

One of the gardens inside Parque del Retiro

Puerta del Sol, city centre

Crowd at Puerta del Sol

KM 0 at Puerta del Sol

Gran Via

Plaza de Cibeles

View from the top of Plaza Mayor

Culinary delights in Madrid:
1. Museo del Jamon --> just a few walks from from my hostel at Puerta del Sol. Provides many kinds of jamon (bacon) and sangria too. It is also budget friendly ;)
2. Sangria --> Spanish red wine mixed with fruits. Light and refreshing. 
3. Chocolateria san Gines --> very famous churros place. They have a very thick hot dark chocolate but doesn't taste too sweet nor fatty.   
4. Coffee at most of coffee shops in Madrid --> They're not expensive and most taste very good. The bakeries are also delicious!

Museo del Jamon

Chocolateria san Gines

Hope you find this post helpful!
Ciao! ^^


My Travel Story : Eurotrip (2) ~ Journey to the West

September 5, 2015

I flew with Turkish Airlines from Jakarta Soekarno Hatta Airport to Istanbul, Turkey with an airbus. My flying experience with them was quite pleasant. Although the space for your legs was a bit cramped, but the in-flight entertainment was pretty good. They have the movie list updated and the foods were also tasty :) The Turkish delight was my favorite of all!

*Photo from
During 12 hours flight, they served 2 sets of meal with wine upon request. They also provided each passenger with a travel set consists of : slippers, blindfold, socks, lip balm, and dental kit.

After flying for 12 hours, I arrived in Istanbul Ataturk Airport. The airport was crowded and huge. There's no potable water around, so I had to buy a bottle of mineral water for 3 Lyra or 1 Euro. Just like any other international airport, there were quite a few shops inside that sell branded stuff. I was waiting for my connecting flight to Madrid for 3 hours in Ataturk. So there's enough time for me to wash my face, brush my teeth and change clothes.

My connecting flight from Istanbul to Madrid was a Boeing aircraft, so it was smaller than the airbus. After flying for 4 hours, we finally arrived at Madrid Barajas International Aiport. Here's some photos I took on the airplane. I think the land below me was Greece, as pointed on the monitor :)

Special tips for long-haul flight:
1. Unless you think you need it desperately, you don't need to carry a neck pillow since the aircraft will provide you with a small pillow. Saves you some space on your carry-on.
2. You may bring your own headset/earphone to connect with the in-flight entertainment, since the earphone provided can be a bit uncomfortable if worn for long hours.
3. Avoid wearing denim trousers, especially if they're thick and non-stretched. Wear leggings/jeggings instead.
4. Bring a comfy light jacket or cardigan. It's also a good idea to bring a light pashmina.
5. Bring facial cleansing wipes or micellar water (travel size) with cotton pads. Also with face moisturiser and simple makeup kit (compact powder, blush, eyeliner, mascara, eyebrow).
6. A comb/mini hair brush and hair ties/clips.
7. Your own dental kit: tooth brush, tooth paste, Listerine mouthwash travel size.

Bon voyage!


Sunday, 11 September 2016

Trip to Taichung & Nantou ~ 2011

Hey guys,

Since now I am located in Taiwan, I think I have to enjoy my stay here and take a look around the country. Though it is not a big country, but then I already fell in love with this country. I am fascinated in the language, I like the people, love the night markets and of course the street foods, cosmetics, clothing!

It was Qing Ming Jie (清明節) when my friends and I went for a trip to Tai Zhong and Nan Tou. It took us 4 hours to get to Nan Tou from Taipei. We rented a car and the driver. Fortunately Taiwan's traffic is not bad, at all! We enjoyed the traffic by continuing our beauty sleep in the car.

When we arrived there, apparently Nan Tou was on a mountain. The cool weather welcomed us and we walked around a tourist spot called Qing Jing Farm/ 清境農場 (Qing Jing Farm Link). The entrance ticket was NT $120, as far as I remember. We bought milky ice cream and enjoyed the relaxing view of the mountain. There are several kinds of ice cream, there are cow milk and lamb milk. Outside the exit, there is a food court. The price range is quite standard, from NT $80s to NT$ 100s.

The sheep at Qing Jing Farm

The cute baby horse and me
After visiting the dairy farm, we continued our trip to the beautiful Sun Moon Lake. We enjoyed the view of the lake from a cable car. We bought entrance tickets for both the cable car and the Formosan Aboriginal Culture Village/ 九族文化村 (link to the web) at NT$550. It was a fair price for such place, because I think the theme park and the Sun Moon Lake view were incredibly beautiful! There were not a huge crowd nor a long que for the rides. The place was very clean and well maintained. Here are the pictures I took there.
With the beautiful Sun Moon Lake as my background 
The cable car we took from the Aboriginal Village theme park
One of the rides in the theme park
The giant roller coaster
Me at the beautiful flower garden
Mediterranean style theme park
Simply speaking, this tourism object is highly recommended for a family or couple trip :)

*this post was written on 2nd June 2011*

Happy Around Taipei ~ Part 4

Hey guys,

This is Saturday nite again, and I'm all alone again in my room. Did I hear someone just whispered "pathetic"? Nah, believe me, I don't feel bad about this anyways. I remember when I just moved in this new house, I cleaned up everything already. Then I wanted to go out on my own, because my friend was still working in her office. So, I texted her, "Where do you think I should go?" Then she suggested me to go to Xi Men Ding. Ximen is located on the blue MRT line, one station right after the Taipei main station. Find Exit number 6, and you'll find the Pedestrian Area right in front of the Exit 6.

As I have mentioned in my previous post, Ximending is a shopping area. Many tourists and local youth come here to shop and socialize. There are KTVs, movie theatres, department store, Carrefour and pedestrian area with lots of restaurants, clothing and make-up stores. You can find almost everything here in Ximending. Since this is the area where young people gather and socialize, you can also find Taiwanese and foreign youth here with various fashion style. They might not look as stylish as the Japanese and Koreans though, but they are quite dandy and good-looking. Most of the Taiwanese young people are good-looking in my opinion, although somehow they are rather skinny.

The department stores and shopping malls in Taiwan are not as crowded as in Jakarta. Simply because shopping mall is our only place to shop, get entertainment and food. Indonesian young people also love brands and they go to malls and department stores to shop. Mango and Zara are hot among Indonesian people but not here in Taiwan. Mango stores are deserted, even in sale season like this. Unlike in Jakarta where people que to pay at the cashier for the good bargain Mango stuff. I haven't even seen any Zara stores here! Where are they? Zara doesn't even exist in Ximending? Unlike in the malls, the pedestrian area looks more lively and enjoyable! The shops have cuter stuff to display and more youthful ambiance.

It's almost always raining in Taipei
Sometimes on weekends, there are events or performances at Ximending. It can be singing performance, album launching or movie stars meet and greet. If you love Taiwan superstars, maybe it's good to drop by. Who knows you are lucky enough to meet your idol? There are also movie or music video shoots on weekdays here. Even greater chance to meet your pop idol when they are acting. 

Many restaurants and food stalls are available around Ximending. You can find snacks stalls: roasted corn or Tang Hu Lu (sugar coated berries on a stick); fast food restaurants: McD, KFC and of course local and international cuisine restaurants. My friends and I once had dinner at a hotpot resto at Ximending. They said this resto is quite popular and unique, because you are allowed to write or draw anything on the walls.

Focus on the gravity at the walls behind me!
The hotpot was quite delicious. The price range is around NT 100 and above. I think all below NT 200, so it is just a decent price for a hotpot set. The set includes veggies, chicken/pork/seafood, rice and tea.
The famous Modern Toilet Restaurant at Ximending
The restaurant's entrance (dining room is upstairs)

*this post was originally written on 5th February 2011*

Happy Around Taipei ~ Chinese New Year

Gong xi fa cai, xin nian kuai le!!

This is my first time celebrating Chinese new year in Taiwan, even the very very first time being away from my family. I feel like something is missing, something is incomplete :"(

Anyway, let's not go into it again. I had dinner with my friend's lovely family last night anyway. They've been treating me so nice since the very first time. Then they invited me to their new year's eve dinner. What a superb set of menu they prepared! Here they are ;)

Don't ask me the name of each menu, I only knew that some of them were made of pork, chicken, fish (tuna, I guess?) and beef. The soup has veggies, of course. There were also three kinds of snacks: sunflower seed, peanut and pistachio.

People told me that so many food stalls and restaurants are closed during the Chinese new year. And apparently, indeed they are! *sigh* I was so desperate to find something to eat instead of the frozen food from 7-11. Even so many resto are already closed one day before new year. But today, I tried my luck and went to Ximen Ding, one of some famous shopping areas in Taipei. Actually before going there, my friend already told me that most shops are probably closed today. But I really needed something decent to fulfill my empty stomach and got my head off the laptop. So, I kept on going and look! There was such a big crowd at Ximen Ding Pedestrian area! Yoohoo!! Most of the restaurants and shops were also open and I found this Korean hotpot restaurant.
That is the name of the restaurant, you can easily find it when you exit the MRT exit number 6. It's on your right side. Only around one or two hundred meters away from the exit.
The price range is around NT 160-180 per-set. They only sell plum juice (a Chinese traditional drink) for NT 20/medium sized cup. 
This is the stairway to the second floor, where the diner actually is. The walls are covered with popstar posters.

I was seated and waiting for my meal. Then I turned my head around, wondering when my meal was going to be delivered and how they'd deliver it. Cos the stairway was terribly narrow! Then I found this peculiar thing on the side of the room. i was bewildered and watched this thing while waiting for my meal.
This thing had panel like an elevator
Here comes my meal. The set was served with seaweed soup and rice. It consists of beef teriyaki, half-fried egg, kimchi and slices of cucumber. Unlike my previous experience with Korean cuisine, I like this one! The kimchi was also yummy, not as sour nor cold as usual. This set cost me NT 160, a decent price for a full set like this. I won't get to eat something like this everyday anyway. So, for a resto at Ximen Ding area, this is an OK price, I can recommend you this resto if you come to Taipei.
*this post was originally written on 3rd February 2011*