This is a couple trip my husband and I took to Taiwan. We self-planned everything (no tours, no packages), just a credit card, internet, WiFi router or Taiwan Sim card, international driving licence, passport, some money and a taste for adventure.
These are a few very important links or apps you need to bookmark or download if you’re self-planning a trip to Taiwan.
High speed rail – twice as fast as TRA’s 自强 (Tzechiang) and twice as expensive too. It only takes a couple of hours from Taipei to Kaohsiung.
Normal railway – there are 3 types of trains. Take the faster 自强 Tzechiang for long distances to save time (if you want assigned seats, buy online or go to the counter in advance), and the slower trains (chukuang and local train) for short distances to save money.
Taiwan’s iBus app
Download from Google Play store. Apparently it has the timetables and even a moving geolocation of running buses in Taiwan. You need to be able to understand 繁体字 to use it.
Google maps app
Useful if you’re figuring your way around.
Type in your location, click on Places Of Interest and click on the map option to check out the tourist spots in the vicinity. It works for restaurants and hotels too (but we prefer Booking.com and travelking for this).
Taiwan Day 1 – Taoyuan, Tainan: Anping Old Fort, Anping Old Street, Anping Tree House, DaDong night market 大東夜市
If you’ve been to Taiwan, you’ll know it as a country with heart, where people are helpful with directions and open to conversation.
Our favourite flight timing saw us arriving at Taiwan’s Taoyuan international airport at 6am, where temperatures were 6 degrees Celsius and we only had the protection of 1 sweater and a jacket each. I suppose the locals thought we were mad because throughout our entire trip, at least 3 people asked if we could survive the cold without a thick windbreaker jacket that the locals use.
But we survived, with the help of 10 heat packs, gloves, hot tea and a determination not to buy any new clothes in order to keep our check-in luggage weight below 7 kg each. Typical Singaporeans.
Anyway we booked a hotel in Tainan for our first night in Taiwan. Tainan is not very far away from Taoyuan by High Speed Rail. But being cheapskates on holiday (our aim was to spend less than $1000 collectively without flights), we took a 5 hour bus from the airport to Tainan.
I figured taking a bus would help us kill time till the shops open, since nothing much is open at 6am anyway, and by the time we reached Tainan, we could check in and see the sights already.
The bus tickets cost about NT350 per person and we had to make a transfer at the Zhongli transfer bus station (about 20mins away from the airport, followed by another 4-5 hours to Tainan). The Zhongli transfer bus station has toilets, a HiLife convenience store and tables with chairs inside the building if you need to escape from the cold.
The nice thing about Taiwan convenience stores is that they’re everywhere, there are discounts if you buy in pairs and you can settle all your meals there if there are no other options.
The bus from Zhongli to Tainan was supposed to arrive at 715am, but it was late! We stood in the cold for an extra half hour till it finally arrived.
We arrived at Tainan around 1+pm. The bus route ended at a big carpark opposite Tainan Park (it’s a 10 minutes walk to the Tainan TRA train station). After leaving our stuff at the hotel, we promptly walked to the train station to buy next morning Tzechiang tickets to Kaohsiung so we could get seats.
We then walked to a nearby shop to rent a scooter for NT450 for 24 hours (although we returned it early the next day before our morning train departed). I felt it was quite expensive but we were short of time with only 3 hours of daylight left, and the local bus that would take us just a few km down the road to the Anping Old Street would travel a convoluted route which would take an hour! It took us less than 15 minutes by scooter to reach there.
Along the way, we stopped for lunch at the famous 度小月 for noodles and rice. They’re famous for their minced meat gravy. The servings were small, but we didn’t want to overeat as we read that Anping Old Street has quite a bit of food.
Upon reaching Anping Old Street, we ordered ice cream from an ice cream shop at the junction of Gubao street and Anping Road. The shop had a 1-for-1 offer for NT100, with vanilla and chocolate ice cream flavours (you can choose).
We then went to the Anping Old Fort (there is an entrance fee but I can’t remember how much, maybe NT100 per person). We had less than 2 hours of daylight, so we took a quick look around at the old Dutch fort’s history, cannons and view from the watch tower, and off we went to the Anping Tree House (entrance fee applies too, but also around or less than NT100? per person).
There were a few Banyan trees growing around and even into the walls of an abandoned warehouse. My 12 hours of traveling fatigue just disappeared completely.
There is also a viewing point of the nearby marshes and park connector, with an adult exercise park too!
I wanted to check out the sunset at the nearby Yubin road, but the effects of traveling had taken a toll on the husband, so we decided to go back to the hotel to check-in and rest.
At night, we went to the famous Flower Night Market, only to discover it was closed 🙁 So after asking a local waiter where there were other night markets, he told us about 大東夜市 and we referred to trusty Google maps to get us there 15 to 20 minutes later.
It is quite a large night market that is 50% shopping, 30% food and 20% games. We had hot plate meat (~NT100 per plate) with spaghetti and egg next to a yam milk drink shop.
After that we browsed through the shops, spectated at a small auction area and set off on our scooter to explore the rest of Tainan.
We traveled westwards in the chilly air, stopping by for warmth at a Poya department store, and for 小笼包 at a Hi-Life convenience store before finally making it to Yubin Road (where I hoped there would be a well-lit park we could take a romantic walk at).
Disappointingly, it was so dark and deserted that we turned back and ended up chilling at a McDonald’s next to a high class nightclub.
It was 8 degrees Celsius when we finally reached our hotel and set an alarm for 530am so we could eat breakfast at a famous fish porridge restaurant the next morning.
Refer to my next blogpost for Taiwan Day 2 – Tainan, Kenting.
*Note: As of today, an earthquake has hit Taiwan, affecting many in Tainan. The people of Taiwan are in our prayers.
Also published on Medium.