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, Changi Recommends WiFi router or Taiwan Sim card, international driving licence (get yours from AAS), passport, some Taiwan dollars, minimal clothes 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 (出光 Chukuang and other local trains) 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).
Accommodation: Plus! Gateway, ShopBack, HotelsCombined
If you normally book your accommodation through travel websites such as expedia or booking.com etc, go to Plus! Gateway or ShopBack FIRST, click on the travel website and make a booking. You can collect Linkpoints or cashback with each confirmed stay.
If you’re in a hurry to find the best deal, try the HotelsCombined price comparison website so you don’t have to compare deals one by one on various booking websites. You can compare prices from the top travel sites (think of HotelsCombined as something like a Skyscanner for accommodation).
As we’ve already visited the typical tourist sites of Jiufen (Jinguashi is more interesting) and Taroko Gorge, we decided to plan most of our East Coast trip to other locations.
Getting to Jiaoxi from Taoyuan Airport
We landed at Taoyuan at 6am, and took a bus to Taipei, changing to another bus to Jiaoxi. Going to Jiaoxi by bus is faster and cheaper than TRA train.
The Jiaoxi transfer bus station is right next to the Jiaoxi Hot Springs Park. The Jiaoxi TRA train station is about a 5 minute walk away at one end of Wenquan Road, with a freaking hot springs right in front of it.
After traveling 12 hours, we were famished! Lunch was at 7-11(at the corner of Wenquan Road and Zhongshan Road) with a spacious air-conditioned second floor dedicated to customers who want to eat and chill. It even has toilets you can use.
We rented a 125cc scooter for NT300 for a day from the motorcycle shop outside Jiaoxi TRA train station using our international driving licence, topped up petrol at the nearby CPC and set off for Lanyang Museum.
Lanyang Museum (Toucheng)
It was a sweltering day, so Lanyang Museum provided a good respite. The building is next to a lake and has a shop and restaurant inside.
Tickets to the permanent gallery of Yilan’s history (pretty interesting) costs NT100 for adults, and we paid an extra NT30 each to see the special exhibition (more like a list of Yilan’s museums and local produce).
Lanyang Museum is a good place to take kids to. There were other children activities at the central forum and you can take beautiful photos against the architectural backdrop of the lake and museum.
Jinpu Tourism Pear Farm (Yilan)
We set off next to Jinpu Orchard aka Jinpu Tourism Pear Farm which was half an hour away (according to Google maps) but we took almost an hour in the hot sun to reach due to traffic lights and riding cautiously.
By the way, here’s the bus schedule from Yilan for those who don’t drive.
Why did we bother to go all the way there? Good question.
Before I go to Taiwan, I will normally visit the Taiwan Tourism office at level 10 of Chevron House in Singapore with my flight itinerary and printout of one hotel stay, to obtain a free gift usually worth more than S$5.
This time, the gift was a fruit picking voucher.
At this time of the year, pink guavas and pears are two of the few fruits in season, and Jinpu Orchard 錦普觀光梨園 (open 8am-2pm daily, call +886 3 923 1427 in advance) is one farm which grows both.
The farm also grows huge limes and an assortment of other fruits depending on the season.
The lady owner, who lives in an old house next to the farm, has been running this farm with her husband since 1991 to raise 4 children.
Business has been intermittent with a few tourists arriving a day, usually those who self-drive.
Her farm has a medium sized outdoor covered dining area which can accommodate about 50 people, and she has a few chill out places you can relax with a fruit in your hand.
You can also call her advance to book a “farmer-for -a-day” activity with the farm (during cooler months especially) which she says is a kids-friendly activity.
She let us try the farm’s specialty fruit: red heart guava or 红心芭樂 (hong xin ba le).
It was the best pink guava I’ve ever eaten!
Biting into it is like eating a guava xiaolongbao 小笼包!Check out my teeth marks in the juicy guava below.
The seeds can be eaten (just swallow, don’t chew) and I ate the entire fruit except for the hard stem.
We hung out with her for almost an hour, learning how she survived floods, earthquakes, typhoons and other types of extreme weather conditions which affected her harvests.
She admires Singapore and how degree holders in Singapore can earn more than a degree holder in Taiwan (NT22,000 a month).
Upon leaving, she gave us a bagful of pears and guavas each for the road, and a wonderful experience learning about her farm. Go visit her farm if you’ve the time to.
Artemis Garden (Yilan)
About 15 minutes after leaving Jinpu Orchard, we reached Artemis Garden, a beautiful white greenhouse/farmhouse filled with plants from top to bottom.
You can totally bring your entire family, young and old, to relax in the ambience.
Pay NT100 per adult to enter and you’ll get a coupon worth NT100 to spend inside. We bought drinks and relaxed while enjoying the fragrant air scented with plant extracts.
On the first floor, besides the cafe and a huge seating area for a couple hundred people, there is a DIY area to create your own mini-plant pot, a shop and four rooms allowing you to smell various scents.
My favourite floor is the second floor, which has a library+sofa area and a suspended walkway flanked by flowers.
If you would like to take a walk outside, there’s a path which circles the lake outside Artemis Garden.
Bee Museum (Yilan)
Like Artemis Garden, the Bee Museum is very child-friendly.
There is a café, an outdoor playground, a small museum where you can see real bees in action and a shop which allows you to try different types of honey.
We bought the honey ice cream which costs NT99 (there’s some promotion if you like their FB page), with real honeycomb!
Luna Plaza (Yilan)
My shoes broke earlier during the day, so we dropped by this shopping mall to check out shoes at Carrefour. There’s a cinema (I think) and some clothes shops, but we didn’t really walk around.
Dinner at Jiaoxi
After a relaxing hot spring bath, we headed out for dinner near the Jiaoxi train station, and stumbled upon this restaurant which serves noodles and cold dishes, like this fish dish enjoyed with wasabi, soya sauce and ginger strips!
The entire meal of fish, pig intestine beehoon, pork noodles and vegetables cost us NT175.
So if you’re ever in the Yilan region, rent a car, motorbike or whatever. The shuttle bus just takes too long to get you to the important places.
If you’re in Jiaoxi, take the time to visit the Linmeishipan trail. It’s about an hour’s walk through the MOST SCENIC forest stream views I’ve ever seen.
Wufengchi waterfall is another famous place in Jiaoxi but I haven’t had the time to visit it.
Enjoy a hot springs at any of the hotels in Jiaoxi, be it just a couple of hours or overnight. We decided to stay overnight because we simply like the Jiaoxi area.
In terms of night markets, I personally prefer the Luodong night market to the Yilan night market.
Enjoy whatever time you have in the Yilan region, you’ll find that it’s not really enough unless you stay here for a week.
Also published on Medium.