Pre-Taiwan Trip Part II


          Early on, we decided to plan our own trip instead of engaging a tour agency– So what’s next? Firstly, we searched for a map of Taiwan and we found this on WikiTravel (http://wikitravel.org/en/Taiwan). As you can see from the map below, the island is divided into four regions – Northern Taiwan (Purple), Central Taiwan (Orange), Southern Taiwan (Blue) and Eastern Taiwan (Green). There are three international airports in Taiwan, namely Taoyuan International Airport, Kaohsiung International Airport and Taipei International (Songshan) Airport. Since we’re taking AirAsia, we’ll be landing at Taoyuan International Airport and taking off from there as well.

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We actually ‘bought’ a Lonely Planet travel guide for reference while planning for this trip. It would have cost us RM105.30, but thankfully, we were able to redeem it using the book vouchers given by the government in January this year. We thought the guide would come in handy, but in the end, we only browsed through the pages and relied mostly on the Internet to search for information. Still, it’s a good place to start.

          After having a rough idea of the country’s geography, we proceeded to “interview” friends and relatives who had been to Taiwan. We also collected their itineraries for reference. Then, we shortlisted cities and tourist destinations that we would like to include in our trip. After due deliberation, we finally decided to go to Hualien (Taroko Gorge), Alishan, Sun Moon Lake, CingJing Veteran Farm, Taipei and its surrounding tourist destinations. We plotted several possible routes to join all the destinations listed above. After considering factors such as safety, travel time and cost etcetera, we finally decided on the following:

Taoyuan Airport – Hualien (Taroko Gorge) – Taipei – Alishan – Sun Moon Lake – CingJing Veteran Farm – Taipei – Danshui – Beitou – Yehliu – Jiufen – Shifen – Taipei – Taoyuan Airport

          The next step is to figure out how to get from one place to another. It is actually very convenient to travel around in Taiwan as there are many modes of public transportation to choose from. For this trip, we will be taking high speed rail (bullet train), normal train, MRT, and shuttle bus. Anyway, we found the following websites extremely helpful in helping us plan our travel:

Taiwan High Speed Rail Ticketing Information:
http://www.thsrc.com.tw/en/?lc=en

Taiwan Railways Timetable Information System:
http://twtraffic.tra.gov.tw/twrail/English/# 

Metro Taipei Guide:
http://english.trtc.com.tw/

          From the official websites listed above, we were able to find out the routes, travel time from one station to another as well as the ticket prices. In addition, we were also able to buy the tickets online. Before you buy your tickets, do check for promotional fares etc. For Taipei-Hualien route, it is advisable to buy your tickets in advance (2 weeks prior to your travel date) as the seats are limited. Otherwise, you would have to stand all the way to Hualien (at least 2 hours). One way ticket would cost you around NT$440, but if you buy return tickets, you would be given a 10% discount. Please note, though, that the payment window is in Chinese. If like me, you are not literate in the language,  you may get stuck here. Thank God for a husband who reads Chinese. Smile

          As for the Metro (MRT), you can buy tickets at the station on the day itself. If you plan to travel extensively using public transportation, then you should get yourself a travel card (EasyCard) to avoid the hassle of queuing for tickets. In addition, you can enjoy 20% discount off your MRT rides. The EasyCard is available for purchase at all MRT stations. For a standard adult card, you would have to pay NT$500 (inclusive of NT$100 deposit and NT$400 balance). The deposit and unused fees are refundable. If necessary,  you can add value to your card at any MRT station.

          Besides taking public transportation, we have also hired three drivers for approximately 8 hours each – the first driver will bring us around Taroko Gorge in Hualien (NT$3500), the second driver will ferry us from Alishan to CingJing, stopping at Sun Moon Lake along the way (NT$5000) and the third driver will drive us to Yehliu, Jiufen and Shifen (NT$4000). To source for reliable drivers, we read reviews on travel forums such as www.tripadvisor.com. One of the drivers was recommended by friends. We emailed the drivers and after confirming the fare, the pick-up and drop-off points, as well as the itinerary for the day tour, we proceeded to make payments (some drivers require full payment, while others only require partial payment/deposit). Payments could be made through Paypal or by credit card.

         After we had identified the places that we would be visiting, we proceeded to search for accommodation in each area.  We relied heavily on the Internet to search for comfortable ‘minsu’ (homestay)  or hotels to suit our budget.  Again, we combed through travel forums and blogs for reviews and then we looked up the ‘minsu’ or hotel websites to check for further information such as room rates, location, available facilities etc. Besides comparing the room rates $$$, it is also crucial to consider the location of the hotel/minsu and the services provided. Sometimes it is better to pay more for accommodation in a strategic location so that you do not have to waste time and money commuting.

          Personally, Kiate and I prefer ‘minsu’ to hotel. Firstly, it is more homely. You can enjoy home-cooked meals while away from home! Secondly, you can get a taste of the local culture through casual conversations with the ‘minsu’ owners. From what I gathered from friends and relatives who had been to Taiwan, most ‘minsu’ owners are very friendly and helpful folks. Besides, you will also find that ‘minsu’ owners put a lot of thought into decorating each room. You can pick your favourite theme from those available. In addition, most minsu owners would gladly provide free shuttle to and fro the train/bus station if you request.

          Well, that’s all for this post. Stay tuned for more details…

         

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20 responses to “Pre-Taiwan Trip Part II

  1. Here’s a good site for chinese readers: http://www.backpackers.com.tw/
    We benefited a lot from its Wiki and Forum.

  2. Besides Taiwan, you may find informative guides about other places too. People even submit their itinerary to ask for advice from the veterans in the forum.

  3. Pingback: Our Taiwan Trip Summary | into.her.world

  4. Hi, your blog is really great. My party of 5 adults will be going to Taiwan and our proposed itinerary is quite similar. May I get contact email address from you for the driver that ferry you from Alishan to CingJing, please? Would really really appreciate your help because we had some difficulty arranging a 7-seater car for this leg of the journey.

    Jenny

  5. Hi Cheryl,

    Sorry I did not receive the link that you mentioned. Can you re-send it please? Thank you very much for your help. We will be going to Taiwan in March of this year. BTW, I really love the photos: your husband and brother are great photographers!

  6. Hi Cheryl,

    Thanks for the links. First of all, let me wish you, Kiate and your families a very Happy and Blessed Lunar New Year.

    Secondly, let me wish you a smooth 3rd trimester (of your pregnancy). Somehow I feel like I know you already, so I am also excited about the forthcoming arrival of your bundle of joy. May the good Lord bless your little one. May He also bless you with a safe and smooth delivery.

    I really love your blog! One of the most important thing is that I feel your blog will also become an outreach channel. I also admire that you have taken on so much and done so much. keep up the good work.

    • Hi Jenny,

      You’re most welcome. Blessed Chinese New Year to you and your family too… =)
      Thanks for your prayers and blessings. Looking forward to the arrival of the li’l one.
      I’m really glad that you enjoy reading my blog. Thanks for your words of encouragement.

      May God bless you too…

      Love,
      Cheryl

  7. Hi Cheryl,
    Nice blogs you have. Very informative. Please send me your itinerary for Taiwan thru my email ritaleechua@yahoo.com. Will be in Taiwan end of this month.

    Thanks in advance.

    • Hi Rita,
      Thanks for the word of encouragement. I’ve emailed you the itinerary. I hope it is of help to you. Please note that I went in July 2012. The bus/train schedules and minsu rates etc might no longer be applicable.

      Enjoy your trip~

      Cheers,
      Cheryl

  8. Hi Cheryl, I wanna go Alishan but not to Sun Moon Lake, is it feasible?

  9. Is it feasible to go to Alishan from Hualien? How long is the trip?

  10. Hi Cheryl, thank you for sharing so much info with us. I was actually quite lost trying to arrange a free & easy trip to Taiwan this Nov. Travelling with my elderly parents and young children (below 10y.o). Will it be possible that you forward your itinerary to my email snowling@hotmail.com? Greatly appreciate it. Thank you.

  11. Hello Cheryl, I am planning a family trip this yr end, and I hv exactly the same intenaraly as u in mind, thank u for so details sharing. May I know what is the total cost in transportation to Hualian & Alishan?

    • Hi Jael, sorry for the late reply. We paid around NT$1300 each for a one-way trip from Taipei to Alishan (NT$1080 for HSR and NT$221 for bus). And the train fare from Taipei to Hualien was NT$440 per pax.

      That was back in 2012. Not sure about the ticket prices now.

      Enjoy your trip. Cheers, Cheryl

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