Taiwan Day 2 – Jiaoxi, Taitung:
Breakfast at Hu Xü bun shop 鬍鬚包子, TRA train to Taitung plus lunch, dessert at Minoice 美濃冰品, Xin Yuan Chang tea shop and museum 新元昌製茶廠,Luye hot air balloon, Taitung Night Market, Carrefour and dinner at Hong Ye Teppanyaki 宏野铁板烧 (outside Carrefour’s cashier).
Breakfast at Hu Xü bun shop 鬍鬚包子.
The sun rises very early during Taiwan’s summer. We were up by 7+am to check out this bun shop and it didn’t disappoint.
Train from Jiaoxi to Hualien to Taitung
We took a TRA train to Hualien, and another TRA train to Taitung, because I couldn’t get seats on the Jiaoxi-Taitung train.
Heng ah, I managed to book tickets with assigned seats online via the TRA website in advance (ticket schedules open about 1.5-2 months early, and online bookings about 15 days early).
We enjoyed a lunchbox meal for NT100 each (this was sold at Hualien station, if you buy the version sold inside the train it looks different and costs NT80).
This lunchbox had porkchop and fish on calrose rice, flanked by 2 meatballs, 1 taukwa beancurd, cabbage, green vine vegetables (I have no idea what it is), tapioca and a preserved rose flower.
The good thing about Taitung is that it’s a chill place with lots of things to do on the outskirts.
The bad thing about Taitung is that no one will rent you a motorbike even if you have an International Driving Licence (we asked all the rental companies near the train station, sianz).
I checked the shuttle bus timings from Taitung to Luye hot air balloon venue, and it would take an hour just to get there.
If we took a train to Luye train station and a taxi for NT120 each, we would have to wait an hour for the next train to Luye. Omg I was so frustrated.
So instead of renting a motorbike for NT600 for 2 days, we decided to fork out NT3750 for a car for 2 days.
We got a Nissan Tiida, so new it was only registered in April 2016. Apparently it’s a newer version of Latio, and it’s quite spacious inside.
The best thing was that husband and I could sit in aircon comfort, shielded from the blazing summer sunrays and have conversations on the go.
Whereas on the motorbike, our conversations are usually limited to “Turn left, turn right, watch out for that crazy motorist” and I would be drenched in sweat and burnt like toast.
Note that when parking wardens put a parking ticket on your windscreen, it’s not a fine.
You just have to go to a 7-11 to pay the cost of the parking ticket. Depending on location, it could be between NT10-100 I think.
Dessert at Minoice
Thanks to a combination of Google Maps and TripAdvisor, I stumbled upon this self-made ice cream parlour with its own pond and black swan / goose (my ecology is shit).
Run by a second-generation ice cream maker, this parlour features ice cream flavours made with local produce, such as goat milk and passion fruit.
We decided to get the goat milk with black sesame ice cream flavours.
There’s a large table that can sit 8 inside the shop, about 8-10 loose stools and al-fresco seats outside where you can watch the black swan/goose do its thing.
This is the very first tea factory in Taitung. The lady owner’s grandpa who was originally from Hsinchu set up the factory.
They have machines over a hundred years old and can still be used!
You can request for a tour of their factory, prior reservation preferred (we didn’t know, we just walked in and asked).
One lesson the lady owner taught us, was that good tea, depends on what you personally think is good and suits your taste, not what anyone else tells you.
I think this philosophy should also be applicable to other things in life, like religion, music, fashion, lifestyle choices and food.
Their tea pickers pick tea leaves based on specific sizing, then take the leaves back to the shop to air dry.
To make green tea, the leaves are dried and roasted within 24 hours, whereas red tea leaves have a longer, more complicated treatment.
The tour ended with a nice half hour chilling out over tea and kuaci (those white pumpkin seeds).
You can get a limited selection of tea products from her shop, and they will apparently also ship to you if you’re in Taiwan.
I love Taiwanese hospitality (when it occurs). How often can you enter a person’s home, learn about their history and enjoy tea and company?
Luye Hot Air Balloon Festival
From July to August, you can take 2 types of rides on hot air balloons (untethered and tethered, the latter means your balloon is tied to the ground).
Buses run from Taitung train station and Luye train station (see my earlier photo above), take a taxi from the train station, or rent your own vehicle.
Apparently untethered balloon rides have to be booked in advance and tethered rides can be booked in the morning and afternoon (limited tickets).
If you just want to take photos, go either early morning, or in the late afternoon at about 5+pm. We stayed until 6+pm and left early to avoid getting stuck on the road with tons of other people.
Taitung Night Market
Tip: park here (see picture below for entrance to open air carpark), there’s lots of space and it’s within walking distance to Taitung Night Market and Tiehua Music Village.
The night market is a medium sized one, with your usual hot plate meat, smelly toufu, fried chicken cutlet, assorted games and knickknacks.
We tried this chicken cutlet (the big one at NT80) with added garlic, and came across a Carrefour in the mid section of the night market.
Near the Carrefour cashier area, there’s a Sushi Express for NT30/plate, slightly cheaper than Singapore’s $1.50/plate.
We skipped that in favour of the restaurant next door which serves teppanyaki meals (pork, beef, mutton with accompanying stir fried cabbage and beansprouts, together with free flow calrose rice, cabbage soup and red tea) from NT100 onwards.
Taitung is a good place to explore on your own. As much as possible, don’t waste time on local transport to see the local sights because there are so many places to visit.
Some places close on certain days, some only open at certain times (which you will learn from my next post). If you had taken a bus to a place that’s closed, you’d have wasted time travelling back and fro.
Bring lots of sunblock, water and a hat in summer. It’s sweltering.
Good eats and the night market are found in the city area, which isn’t within walking distance of the train station.
If you ever come to Taitung, come in a group of 4 so it’s cheaper renting a car.
Also published on Medium.