Taiwan Day 7&8 – Kaohsiung, Taoyuan
I couldn’t believe we only had less than 2 days before we returned home. We had breakfast at a Taiwanese Parisian café nearby, thankful for the hot green tea that came free with every meal. It was really cold, less than ten degrees outside with a slight drizzle.
It’s a good thing we completed most of our itinerary in Kaohsiung the past 2 days. I couldn’t imagine how miserably cold it must have been in Taiwan’s north coast, but we didn’t have long to wait as we were bound for Taoyuan in the late morning.
It was with a bit of sadness that we checked out and made our way to Kaohsiung Main Station where we had purchased TRA Tzechiang tickets with assigned seats to Taoyuan two days ago.
When we checked out, the hotel staff was cooking sesame chicken with ginger (a common dish to raise internal body heat during cold weather) and she wanted to share it with us, but we could not stay back till the dish was cooked as we had a train to catch.
She gave us one useful tip before we said goodbye. To stay warm, we could go to Cosmed at Kaohsiung Main Station and enquire about heat packs. It cost about NT135 for 10 heat packs about the size of an adult hand each and can last up to 24 hours.
It works the same way as a fluorescent light stick. Unwrap, shake, use, shake again when needed. The heat pack consists of powder inside a fabric sachet, and the heat lasts longer if you keep it close to your body. Left out in the cold, the powder hardens and cools, but you can break it up using your hands without opening the sachet, shake it and wait for it to heat up again. The heat pack can get quite hot so it is not recommended to put directly against skin or fall asleep with it.
These heat packs saved us from having to buy extra overcoats in Taoyuan, where temperatures were 4 degrees when we reached. On the train there, we had our first train lunch box, which only cost NT60 or NT70. It came with 5 different kinds of toppings and was very filling.
After 4 and a half hours, we finally reached Taoyuan. Stepping out from the relatively warm train into 4 degrees is no joke. We had to walk another 10 minutes to our hotel but it felt more like half an hour. The hotel kindly provided ginger tea to warm us up.
I couldn’t wait to jump into the tub and fill it up with hot water, but that had to wait as we wanted to grab dinner before it became too cold at night.
We walked around the vicinity of Taoyuan TRA station, but there was nothing much to buy. Most of it was mid to upmarket products in shopping malls reminiscent of Takashimaya. I don’t really remember what we had for dinner, it was just too cold. But I remember popping by the Wellcome supermarket for tea leaves.
We retired shortly after the sunset as the temperatures got colder and colder. We even saw the occasional rain drop that had frozen into snow, but it wasn’t exactly a snowflake.
The next morning, we visited a café/bakery which we had passed by earlier in the day and purchased super delicious breads. My favourite was the almond quarter bread. The chocolate roll was not too bad too.
I had never heard of it before, but it has quite a few outlets especially in Kaohsiung. We enjoyed a hot cup of green tea with buns inside the café, before returning to the hotel to check out and take a bus outside the 7-11 to Taoyuan Airport.
Another 4 and a half hours later, we landed in hot and humid Singapore, where temperatures were above 30 degrees at night. But it felt good to be home.
Taiwan Travel Tips
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).
Also published on Medium.