My two colleagues and my mum just came back from Taipei, Taiwan. We were there from 10 Mar to 13 Mar 2019 (Sun to Wed). I’ve never been to Taiwan. It’s an interesting short trip with so much experiences gained. It will have a lasting impact on my memories. It all started some time in Sep last year when I casually suggested to my colleague Leo for a short visit to Taiwan. Leo did the planning and taking charge of the accounts. Each of us spent about $700 including return air-tickets, 3 nights hotel stay and food for the 4 day & 3 night trip. I spent another $300 to $400 on shopping and entertainment. Pls refer to the attached statement of accounts and the 4-day itinerary.
Taiwan has a population of more than 23.5 million people comprising 95% Han Chinese. It is a huge island with more than 36,000 sq km with so many mountains, rivers and natural landscapes which only tiny Singapore could envy and drool. Someone ever mentioned that it is an unsinkable aircraft carrier anchored just opposite to China. Most locals who served National Service have been to Taiwan for short training stint. Taiwan has been host to tiny Singapore for its army training needs since we started National Service some four or five decades ago.
We stayed in Taipei H Imperial which is just opposite to Taipei Main MRT station. It’s so nice and cool with a temperature of 15 degree when we had to suffer 33 degree back home.
Everywhere we go, we made use of the MRT system to move about. We notice that the train system is very efficient and reliable. It did not break down or delay when we were there traveling in their trains everyday most of the time. It’s so much cheaper than our MRT at only NT16 per trip where ever we go. It seems to be the standard rate. No peak or off peak charges nonsense like ours. NT16 is equivalent to S$0.70 cents. Only the trip from Taipei main station to the airport is about 40 mins costs NT160 per trip which is 10 times the normal train trip at about S$7.00. That’s also the flat rate – no peak or off peak difference. Simple and easy without any nonsense at all.
The people I saw taking the trains are also very disciplined. They queue patiently behind the lines and don’t rush like mad into the trains especially during peak hours. They readily gave up their seats once they see my mum or any elderly people. There are 3 official announcements i.e. English, Mandarin and Hokkien inside their stations and trains. Just like our train system, there are many unarmed security personnel around directing pax in crowded train stations. There are even self-service lockers in the main stations which I feel it’s quite a security risk. You could even find rubbish bins around inside the train station premises. They do not make irritating repeating high pitch ear piercing security announcements in 4 official languages that if you find any suspicious item call 999 etc.
Compared to us, the Taiwanese are not that paranoid about security. Whereas, we are planning to screen every pax boarding the train whether its peak or non-peak hours! Question is ultimately who is going to pay for all the extra costs incurred? No wonder in Taipei it’s only S$0.70 cents everywhere you go taking the trains irrespective of peak or non-peak hours! Also bear in mind they don’t have COEs to control their citizens buying cars or motorcycles. In fact, there are tons of scooters (not motorcycles) in Taipei. Unlike in Singapore, they are so cheap and affordable that almost everyone could afford it. Despite the prevalence of private transport, yet their trains are clean and efficient without breaking down and on time. Of course, all these with train doors always closed before moving off with full load of pax!
By taking their trains all over Taipei, one could visit so many places of interests conveniently and cheaply. That’s exactly what we did. We visited many places of interests and almost every night, we went to different night markets to experience the local food and atmosphere. Most of these places of interests are walking distance to MRT stations.
I find the night markets in Taipei so much more vibrant and interesting than our own road side pasar malam. Sometimes, the whole road is closed for the temporary stalls parked in the middle of the road after road closure in the evening till next morning. I don’t see any NEA license displayed or any restrictions at all. For example pig blood is openly available here whilst it’s banned in Singapore. Stalls are simply set up with all kinds of local food selling cheaply. Wares are also openly displayed with shop houses on the sides of the road. The night markets are also tourist attraction sites with many tourists from Hong Kong, Japan and Korea.
Whenever we go, the locals always mistaken us as Malaysians. Whenever we clarified that we were Singaporeans, the response was always, “Ah Singapore beautiful and clean city. No: 1 in the world!” They really respect and admire us. But I would always tell them actually Singapore is not as clean as your Taipei city! I don’t find any rubbish bin around and the streets are always so clean. I wonder how they got rid of their rubbish. They brought home their rubbish such as sweet wrappers, little trash to dispose off? Even along the shop houses, there is no rubbish bin within sight. If we managed to find the occasional rubbish bin, it’s always the mental chrome bin with different compartments for common trash and recycle trash! We don’t have that kind of rubbish bins in our town areas. Even if we do, it’s all made of plastic. Talking about recycle trash when we still stick to rubber and plastic! Lol!
Actually once you been to one of those night markets, it’s all more or less the same. They sell almost the same food stuff and things. There’s slight difference to the set up and prices of each night market. I was told there are about 58 night markets in Taipei! Whatever, our own pasar malam simply can’t compare to theirs in terms of variety and vibrancy. Ours is just too controlled and too rigid!
On the second day, we took a train, only 2 stations away from Taipei main station to Lungshan temple. It’s their famous temple in Taipei. We had a tour of the temple. There were so many people inside the serene temple premises chanting with the morning prayer session led by the temple residents. They carried their own portable chairs and some wearing black robes in serious chanting mood all over the temple premises. It’s situated just beside the Lungshan MRT station. I bought some “drive safe” talisman souvenirs from the temple planning to present to some of my friends when I get back. In a way, I’m also supporting the temple by making purchases.
On the third day, we made a trip to the Chiang Kia Sek memorial park. It’s a short walking distance from CKS MRT station. When we reached the CKS memorial park which is just opposite the Taiwan Ministry of Finance building, away from the busy roads, I was greeted with so many park users doing morning exercises and dancing! Some practicing qigong and sword play etc.
CKS memorial is a huge structure with an equally impressive Concert Hall and Theatre Hall on both sides. I stood at the entrance of the huge park looking at CKS memorial right in front of me. The Taiwanese flag pole with its flag was fluttering proudly at a great height at the end of Freedom Square in front of the great structure with tiny humans moving about in the foreground. The Taiwanese really honored their founding father but we did not do anything for our own. I could not help but reflect on our different attitudes towards our own founding fathers.
After that, we simply walked to Yong_an wet market. Wow so much things there just like our Chinatown. They sell all kinds of things from fresh uncooked to cooked food and also fruits. Even household utensils and clothing are on sale. My mum bought so much fresh local strawberries and tiny tomatoes for a song. They are so sweet and fresh.
The best lunch we had was at Huang Ci hot springs. We had a feast there with their famous porridge cooked with either frogs, crabs, prawns or fish. We had to order and wait for about 40 mins before it’s ready. We ordered a small size pot of crab porridge yet we had difficulty finishing it. It costs about S$38 for that delicious porridge. We ordered some other dishes to go with the pot of steaming crab porridge. We went there via Uber and came back by Uber also. Each trip costs us about S$20. I’m surprised that there is Uber there. I thought it’s history as far as Sg is concerned.
Later in the evening, we went to the Meng Jia night market. My mum and myself had foot and shoulder massage at only NT399 (less than S$20) for 40 mins. It was a good massage! We had dinner at one of the small tiny eatery. We ordered stir fried vegetables with pork, shell fish, shark meat, fried oyster omelette, oyster mee hoon, fried whole frog along with two bottles of beer etc all for about NT1,000 (less than S$50).
The most enjoyable night we had was on the second night of our entire trip. Since the hotel room was crammed and could not smoke, we thought of going down to the main entrance of the hotel where are some stone benches at the pavement. There are few stalls selling hot BBQ meat and mushrooms, maize etc with the temperature at 15 degree was clearly tempting. From the nearby Family Mart (7 Eleven), we bought 12 cans of beer and enjoyed ourselves. I brought my small bluetooth X-mini sound-bar speaker and played some music. There were some Filipinos tourists staying at the next hotel also doing exactly that. I then decided to play “Anak” sung by Freddie Aguilar.
With that song in full blast, the barrier between us was broken. Yup music is international. From there, the Filipinos started to chat with us. They offered us BBQ wild boar meat bought from the nearby stalls. We drank and cheers all night long from about 8.30pm till midnight when we decided to call it a day. As usual, when they heard we came from Singapore, their respect for us increased. One of the Filipinos named Alex said, “Small powerful country!” It seems that everybody I met out here had very good opinion of Singaporeans. I did not realize that until when I left the country.
Overall my impression of Taipei is that the people here are not as fast paced as us. Their pace seems to be slower. They are very friendly people and helpful when we approached them for directions. Everywhere is complicated Chinese characters written all over the places. They don’t believe in simplified Chinese used by mainland China. I’m also aware that Hong Kong just like Taiwan uses complicated Chinese and stick to Cantonese whereas Taiwan still retains and promotes Hokkien.
They are also “earth green” conscious. Everywhere there are banners promoting recycling. Even their politicians – Taipei is having Mayor election are setting examples by sweeping public roads. They don’t just do the talking but really do it for all to see and follow. I hardly see any police presence except those unarmed traffic police officers and private security officers roaming the streets. Here in Singapore, very often you will see Special Ops Command officers armed to the teeth with bullet proof vests patrolling Orchard Road or Transport Security Command fully armed police officers loitering around in our MRT stations looking for targets!
If given another opportunity, I would like to visit the other cities in Taiwan. After all Taiwan is so huge with so many cities and vast rural outlying areas that even one month stay can never finish all the places especially if you consider the tons of smaller islands around mainland Taiwan.
5.05 pm Touch down Taipei AP
6.30 pm Dinner Food Court for 2 NT450
7.30 pm Left for Taipei via MRT
8.30 pm Hotel
9 pm Moved around vicinity
11 pm Back Hotel
7 am Left for Long Shan temple
2 stations away from Taipei Blue Line
Breakfast Fish porridge
9.00 am Return to Taipei
9.25 am Taipei
Red Line Tamsui-Xinyi line
10.10 am Reached Tamsui
2.30 pm Left for Taipei
3.30 pm Back Hotel
5.30 pm Left Hotel
Jiantan Red Line
6.00 pm Reached Shilin night mkt
7.45 pm Left
8.15 pm Reached Taipei MRT
8.30 pm Hotel Happy Hour
7.00 am Breakfast at hotel
7.30 am Left for Red Line Museum 2 stations away from Taipei
8.00 am Reached CKS Memorial Hall
9.00 am Left for Green Line
9.15 am Yongan mkt is wet mkt. I rather take bean curd
10.30 amLeft for Guting station fm Yongan station
11.00 am Guting area Jizhouan Literature Forest, No. 107, Tong’an Street, Zhongzheng District, Taipei City, Taiwan 100
12.30 pm Reached Huangzhi Hotspring resort
2.00 pm Left 皇池
2.40 pm Hotel
5.30 pm Left for Blue Line
6.00 pm Reached Longshan Temple station walked to Hwashi night market
8.30 pm Left
9.00 am Breakfast Beef noodles nearby restaurant NT130 $5/$6
10.15 am Hotel
11.30 am Checked out
12.15 noon Train to Taoyuan Airport
1.00 pm Arrived
1.30pm Checked in luggage
Lunch at airport
Flight delayed from 1610 hrs to 1830 hrs
1800 hrs Boarded aircraft
11.05 pm Touched down Changi Airport.
*TAIPEI TRIP 10 TO 13 MARCH 2019*
4 pax $1636
1 pax $409
Twin sharing $240 per room for 3 nights at Taipei Imperial
*Taiwan Sim Card*
$15 (shared by 2 ppl) each
$800 per pax Total $3,200
Balance : 3,200 – 2,116 = 1,054
After paying for 4 air tickets, 2 hotel rooms and 2 SIM cards
*CONVERTED TO NT*
$1,054× 22.5 = NT23,715
*10 Mar (Sun) DAY ONE EXPENDITURE*
1)Top up 4 MRT transit cards NT1,200
2)Duty free cigarettes one carton NT834.75
4)3 cans of beer NT123
5)3 chicken sticks NT100
TOTAL : NT3,107.75
Balance : NT2,0607.25
*11 Mar (Mon) DAY TWO EXPENDITURE*
1)Top up 4 MRT transit cards NT800
2) Breakfast NT400
3) Lunch NT360
4) 3 sausage NT100
5) 3 cans of beer NT109
6) Family Mart NT200
7) Dinner NT1000
8) 12 Kirin Beer NT384
Balance : NT17,254
*12 Mar(Tue) DAY THREE EXPENDITURE*
1) Breakfast NT80
2) Fruits NT160
4) Rain coat NT200
5)Cooked chicken NT150
6) Lunch NT2547
7) Uber to hot springs NT410
8) Uber back to hotel NT398
9) Dinner NT1500
10) 6 cans of beer NT192
*13 Mar(Wed) DAY FOUR EXPENDITURE*
3) Lunch NT810
*LEFT OVER BALANCE NT 9742 CONVERT BACK TO SINGAPORE CURRENCY* $432
$432 ÷ 4 pax = $108 each
One pax expenditure on 2-way flight, hotel and food cost approx $698.
Below is the Chinese translated version of the blog post. Some of my Chinese readers requested that I write in Chinese. I told them I’m not competent in Chinese. I could only use google to translate.
无论我们走到哪里，我们都使用了MRT系统来移动。我们注意到列车系统非常有效和可靠。当我们大多数时间每天都在火车上旅行时，它没有发生故障或延误。它比我们的MRT便宜得多，每次旅行只需NT16，我们就去。这似乎是标准费率。没有峰值或非高峰收费像我们的胡说八道。 NT16相当于0.70新元。只需从台北中央火车站到机场的行程大约需要40分钟，每程NT160，这是普通火车旅行的10倍，约为7.00新元。这也是固定利率 – 没有峰值或非峰值差异。简单易行，没有任何废话。
实际上，一旦你去过那些夜市之一，它们或多或少都是一样的。他们出售几乎相同的食物和东西。每个夜市的设置和价格略有不同。我被告知在台北有大约58个夜市！无论如何，我们自己的本地的夜市 (pasar malam) 根本无法与它们的多样性和活力相提并论。我们太受控制而且太僵硬了！
第三天，我们去了蔣中正(Chiang Kia Sek) 纪念公园。距离CKS地铁站仅有很短的步行路程。当我们到达台湾财政部大楼对面的中正纪念公园时，远离繁忙的道路，我受到了许多公园用户的早操和跳舞的欢迎！一些练气功和剑戏等。
我们度过的最愉快的夜晚是我们整个旅程的第二个晚上。由于酒店房间挤满了无法吸烟，我们想到了酒店的正门，在人行道上有一些石凳。很少有摊位出售热烧烤肉和蘑菇，玉米等15度的温度显然很诱人。从附近的Family Mart（7 Eleven），我们买了12罐啤酒，尽情享受。我带了我的小蓝牙X-mini条形音箱，播放了一些音乐。有一些菲律宾游客住在下一家酒店也正是这样做的。然后我决定演奏由Freddie Aguilar演唱的“Anak”。
他们也是“地球绿”意识。到处都有宣传回收的横幅。甚至他们的政治家 – 台北也正在举行市长选举，他们正在通过一条宽阔的公路来树立榜样。他们不仅仅是在说话，而是真正为所有人看到并遵循。除了那些在街上漫游的非武装交警和私人保安人员外，我几乎看不到任何警察的存在。在新加坡，你经常会看到特种部队指挥官带着防弹背心巡逻乌节路或运输安全司令部全副武装的警察在我们的地铁站寻找目标！