Thursday, December 4, 2014

Taipei - Travelling Tips & 马来麻辣火锅

As poor people, Dust and I has always been travelling on Budget Airlines. No exception for this time. However, this time we departed  from Terminal 1 rather than the budget terminal. It was definitely a pleasant surprise for me. I really like to window shop and nom nom :) 

With the high efficiency of the customs,  it was less than 5 min and we were in the boarding area. I can't imagine if we were in US again. 3 hours wait just to clear the customs. (P.S There was only one officer on duty and there were 4 planes waiting to be cleared. Don't ask me why they arranged their duties like that).

As usual, Dust and I wanted to go to the leg massage stations for our free massages. Too bad that they were all taken up. Some travellers were wearing shoes and putting their feet into the massage chair. To be honest, I was a little annoyed. There weren't much time left so I can't be bothered to tell them off.  Hmm wonder if the machines were that powerful that they can massage through the shoes. We decided to just chill in the beautiful indoor orchid gardens and relax by the koi pond. The kind airport staff even helped us to take a polaroid as a souvenir. 

Tips at Taipei Taoyuan International Airport
After taking a 4h-flight, we finally reached Taipei Taoyuan Airport! Here are some of the things you should do when you reach the airport.

Random Tips
1. Get a Taiwan SIM Card:
Although there is free Wifi are various places in Taiwan, it is definitely good to have data as you navigate the place. Just outside the arrival gate (opposite the Tourist Service Center), there are telecom provider booths. You can compare the prices and packages available. The staff there are pretty helpful and polite as well.

Alternatively, you can sign up for y5 buddy (http://y5buddy.sg/) if you need to have data to all your electronic devices. y5 buddy is registered in Singapore and allows you to connect to up to 10 devices. Consider what you need and take your pick!

2. Get a Youth Travel Card & Apply for iTaiwan
You are considered a Youth as long as you are younger than 30! Get this card as it gives you discounted rates or free gifts at various tourist attractions and restaurants. Don't be paiseh to ask if there are any discounts before you buy admission tickets. You may be surprised. (Alternatively, if you are very paiseh, just open your eyes wide wide and look for the sign that says they give discounted rates for the Youth Travel Card!)

When you are applying for the Youth Card, you may also want to apply for iTaiwan account. This account works like Wifi@SG. It gives you free Wifi access at various places such as railway stations and subways. Therefore, if you are on a budget and do not want to get data, this is another option for you. Although Dust got data on his phone, I applied for iTaiwan as well so that I can surf my own stuff while he use his phone which has the data plan. 

P.S  The Tourist Service Center at the Airport does not provide services such as application of Youth Card and iTaiwan Account. Therefore, you will have to apply for them at these High Speed Railway, Railway and Metro Stations: 

a) Railway Station:

  • Taipei Main Station
  • RuiFang Station 
  • Banchao Station 
  • Yilan Station
  • Zhongli Station 
  • Taoyuan Station 
  • Zhudong Station
  • Taichung Station
  • Miaoli Station 
  • Chunghua Station 
  • Chia Yi Station 
  • Tainan Station
  • Kaohsiung Station 
  • Pingtung Station

b) HSR:

  • Taoyuan 
  • Taichung
  • Chiayi
  • Tainan
  • Zhuoying
c) Taipei Metro Stations: 
  • Beitou
  • Jiantan 
  • Ximen
  • Xindian 
  • Tamsui
  • Yuanshan
  • Taipei 101

3. Bring a nice notebook!
There are rubber stamps at various metro stations as well as attractions. You can stamp you cute little notebook. I find the process pretty fun. The stamps are rather pretty too.
It made me feel like a kid again.

4. Know the name of the places you are going in Mandarin 
This really makes it easier to navigate around places. Google Maps shows the places in both English and Chinese, but some places can only be found in Chinese. It is also easier for you to ask for directions on the street as well.

Getting to Taipei 
1. Taxi
It is actually very convenient to get to the City. Taxi are plentiful. If you have 4 persons to share a cab, it might be a good choice. It's usually around TWD$900. You can try bargaining, but I think TWD900 is pretty decent and standard price. If you have a group of 4, this is not too bad an option!

2. Buses
If you are on a budget like Dust and I,  you can take the public buses at B1 of the airport. There are several bus companies serving this route. They will usually get you to Taipei Main station. If you are taking to Ximending, they do have free transfer buses but it can be quite troublesome in my opinion.
Here are some of the comparisons of the buses (客运available (take note that there are plenty of options and here are just some for you reference)
  • Free go bus: 5502 (飞狗)
    • Cost: TWD $140
    • Travel time around 1h
    • Luxurious seats (a lot of leg space where you can lean all the way back). Like those you take to KL which are super huge seats
    • However, the downside is that you need to change bus along the way which can be quite messy.
  • KuoKuang: 1819 (国光)
    • Cost: TWD $125
    • Travel time around 1h
    • Less luxurious seat but still there is plenty of leg space for you to stretch your legs
    • It is direct to Taipei Main Station so no changing of bus which is a lot better in my opinion.
  • Dayou: (大有)
    • Cost: TWD90
    • Travel time around 1h
    • Less luxurious seat but still there is plenty of leg space for you to stretch your leg
    • It is direct to Taipei Main Station so no changing of bus which is a lot better in my opinion.
    • Frequency might be less than the other bus companies but if you can catch the bus, I guess it is really cheap option. SGD $4

马辣顶级麻辣鸳鸯锅 Mala hotpot
After we had settled down, it was nearing 730pm. Famished, we decided to hop over to 马辣 hotpot (Right next to  ECFA hotel).  It was TOTALLY AWESOME. It is around SGD $26 nett for a buffet hotpot dinner. This place is voted as one of the top restaurants in Taipei by tourists. Since it is voted as one of the must go by tourists, you will expect to see a lot of tourists there. You might even meet your friends there!

Our Hotpot with all the ingredients

Since it is a mala hotpot restaurant, you must order their mala soup base. Unlike some of the restaurants in Singapore, their soup base is very fragrant and tasty. You can also choose from other soup bases which include vegetable soup and collagen soup.

They also have a wide variety of meat and seafood for you to choose from. Meat includes Angus Beef, Black Pork and New Zealand Beef. They also have crabs and large prawns. You can also find sea cucumber, fish slices and special prawn and Squid Balls. There is also wide variety of vegetables for you to choose from!

If you like to drink beer, you will be in for a treat. They have free flow of Taiwan Beer. If you are not a drinker, you will be spoilt for choices too. You can choose from Ice Tea, Floral Tea such as Lavender, Chinese Tea such as Pu Er and Tie Guan Yin or Milk Tea.

They also have a wide variety of desserts for you to choose from which includes milk pudding, large variety of fruits, mochi, jelly and Panna Cotta. Not to mention, there is a totla of 16 different flavours of Haagen Dazs and Movenpick ice-cream for you to choose from. For ice-cream lovers like Dust and I, we were totally over the moon.

Check out Ma La website for more information. Do make reservations before going down or you might be disappointed as they are really popular. You might have to wait to their supper timing if you were to walk in without a reservation.

Finally, I have to say the only downside of dining at this place is that you are only given 2h to have your buffet hotpot. However, I guess everyone should be ok with that because by then you are really too full to eat anymore! 

Mini Mango on a stick. Just thought it was pretty cute. What poor photo quality :(

Dust looks pretty greedy here. Haha. 



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