Sunday, April 20, 2008

A list of Hotels - Japan

Sorted by Area



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  1. Cerulean Tower Tokyo
    26-1 Sakura-gaoka-cho, Shibuya-ku, Tokyo 150-8512 Japan
    TEL:+81-3-3476-3000 FAX:+81-3-3476-3001

  2. Shibuya Excel Hotel Tokyu
    Shibuya Mark City Building, 1-12-2, Dogenzaka,
    Shibuya-ku, Tokyo 150-0043
    Tel (81) 3-5457-0109
    Fax (81) 3-5457-0309

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  1. Royal Park Hotel
    near Tokyo station
    2-1-1 Nihonbashi-Kakigara-cho, Chuo-ku, Tokyo 103-8520, Japan
    Phone 81-3-3667-1111 Fax:81-3-3667-1115
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See maple leaf status at

Saturday, April 19, 2008

Day 10 Tuesday - National Palace Museum > Underground Mall , Taipei

:: raining continuously and sometimes heavily ::

Today was our last day and we had half a day before we left so we decided to make full use of it.

As many shops weren’t open early in the morning, we decided to spend an edifying morning at the National Palace Museum (NPM), opening hours: 9am-5pm.

After breakfast, we took the metro to Shihlin Station, exit 1. It was raining and the winds were so gusty that Mom’s umbrella tore from its spine before giving up for the ghost.

We decided to take the Red 30 which brings us directly to the Lobby of the NPM instead of buses 255, 304, S18 & S19 as we didn’t know how large the compound and how long it will take to walk. That stop looked pretty far on map to walk in that weather.

R30 was long time in coming so we decided to take the first bus that goes to NPM - 255 which dropped us off at the front gates/plaza of the grounds. Luckily, it wasn’t as far as it looked on the map and it gave us the opportunity for snapping some pictures of the oddities before heading into the museum where photo taking is not allowed.

Admission tickets NT160. YTC holders, NT80. Audio handsets that helped explain some of the exhibits - Rental NT100). The audio handsets that helped explain some of the exhibits. Looked through the special exhibits; some of them from other countries. There were lots of school children on excursion that day. I’m not sure if their holidays have started and they are having an excursion but some of the teachers were really informative on the exhibits we couldn’t help but listen to their narration. We loved the exhibits in room 205 but were unable to even finish 3 rooms before our alloted time was up.

Left at 12+pm to make our way to Zhongshan District for my especially planned unagi treat to mom. Really good bbq unagi that had really soft bones that made swallowing less of a chore & they didn’t go heavy handed on the sweet sauce. Mmm! All of us have a satisfied look when we got out of the place. Of course, mom was in the skies and couldn’t stop chirping on and on about the food and all the other places we have visited (mostly with wrong labels and location to our greatest mortification that we hope tat she would stop this burbbling). Our original plans to target shop the Zhongshan District was pretty much shot with such a delightful lunch. Not in the right frame of mind to do it (sharp and precise). It was a pity as the area stock corporate, office type cloths than the skimpy party and casual type of clothing found in Ximending. The Zhongshan Underground Mall path was eerily quiet that we basically scuttled past al the shops (many shops were closed) without a second glance.

Went back to our hotel around 2.30pm (NT160/h for extension from 1.30pm) to wash up, pack and leave.

Went to the nearest Guoguang bus terminal that is right across the road to take the bus to Taoyuan Airport. From Keyman, cross towards the Shinkong direction at the traffic junction, travel up across the street towards Taipei Main Station and Turn left towards Guoguang Terminal. You can’t possibly miss it with the huge sign saying TAOYUAN AIRPORT. Bought Bus Tickets NT125pax. It seems that GG buses leave every 15 minutes (Yeh!) so after the operator slapped a baggage sticker on our luggage, the bus came. Unlike Freego Bus which took us for a long and roundabout trip for ~2hours, GG was more organized. The baggage store was divided into two separate trunks for Terminal 1 & 2 so we didn’t need to paw through other T1 passenger’s luggage unlike our prev trip.

Also, the bus was punctual as it only make stops at official bus stands not hotel and we reached Terminal 2 under an hour at around 4.30pm which was early. We were using the prev Freego bus trip as a gauge so we ended up there early. As we still had lots of spare time, we went to browse some books. At the airport, we bought the Ivy Nougats NT499 and green tea nougats from the Airport for comparison. I must say that the nicely boxed nougats were so delicious they were eaten before we could actually give it as a gift :P

Of course the honey gave us lots of trouble & mom had to go back to the check in counter to check it in which by then, the crowd have formed. Managed to get to the boarding area at 6.25pm phew!

Day 9 Monday - Wulai > Taipei Neighbourhood Shopping > Ximending

We had a hearty breakfast at our hotel in preparation for a good workup in Wulai. However as we made our way to the Taipei Metro Station, it started to rain, argh!! again!

Took the metro to Xindian station and transferred to the Wulai-Taipei Bus (NT40, so after scanning your easycard NT15, you have to top it up with another NT25 worth of coins to get a Wulai ticket stub so have them ready to avoid causing a jam) behind the Visitor’s Info Centre located on the right of the one and only station exit. It took about 40mins to travel to Wulai. The bus driver was very friendly and conversant in Japanese. Lots of Jap tourists going to Wulai on the same bus. I think there must be quite a number of Jap retirees staying there and taking the same bus route because he was able to greet them individually by name in Japanese (and no need bus ticket leh!). The bus went past a dam and some bridges before reaching Wulai. You can’t miss it because it is the last stop and you have to relinquish your ticket stub (so no souvenir arr!). Anyways, the driver was very loud and clear in announcing each stop beforehand so no worries.

Wulai looked a little quiet and desolate on this day as we walked in. The Wulai village street was quiet so we decided to take in the scenery and go for hotsprings dip after the tiring walk before returning here for our lunch. The concrete toll gate looked like it was the only thing new there. As we walked over the bridge, we noticed the public springs in the distant right. Can’t miss it with their bright umbrellas but strangely, the only people were guys. Past the bridge is the tram station and there seem to be more activity there as some seniors from a daycare were alighting from vans in front of the station. Took the Wulai Tram (NT50, NT30 for YTC holders), which travelled for a short distance before stopping again. There’s no fixed schedule whatsoever the tram just set off every 10mins or when there is for enough people.

It was a soggy and windy day and we don’t find the Wulai Falls particularly impressive after visiting Taroko. It was a quiet day I suppose. The Brave Plaza near where you can purchase the Aborigine Dance Performance Tickets was cordoned off for renovations and so are some of the buildings in front of it. An Atayal aborigine culture performance was just starting and the lady in front of the ticketing building approached us and offered to let us have the tickets for NT200 at a discount (it is actually a bluff as I had seen forumers post THAT as the full price!).

I wasn’t interesting as I fell asleep mid-performance the time we attended one in Hualien (not artsy enough or culturally inclined I guess) so we declined politely saying that we will consider it later and continued our way to Neidong since we do not have any interest in cable cars or amusement parks. Along the way you can see the design for the railings changed from the one like looked like a giant pestle to the marriage one. We walked past a school that got my mom a little nostalgic about her younger balik kampong days. The rain got so heavy that our umbrellas were ineffective so we decided to turn back after the tunnel as the thought of changing out of our wet clothes and warming ourselves up with a dip was more enticing.

Trudged our way to a crossroad where you can see the Naruwan Hotel and decided to take the left forked path that leads up to the Hotel for a look. Never did much homework on Wulai except on how to get there so we went to the Visitor’s Centre in front of Naruwan Hotel to check out their brochures and ask the staff there for advice on choosing a good place for a hotsprings dip. The lady, a friendly local aborigine was very well prepared for my question (I’m sure a lot of visitors ask her that question) and promptly whipped out a compiled list of hotsprings sorted according to location. We were tired of walking around in the rain so I asked her if Naruwan was a good choice.

She laughed and said that she usually wouldn’t recommend visitors to that place because there are many good and cozy places to go to at lesser prices but if we intend to overnight here then in the posh hotel, go for it. Also told us that the market price in Wulai for hotsprings is between NT100-400 with varying prices due to difference/changes in packages from time to time depending on whether there are 1) Facilities: Spa/Massage, indoors/outdoors, private/public etc 2) Food and drinks provided 3) Charged according to time or unlimited so we should go shopping aka tour their facilities before deciding as it is up to personal preference. NT400 is already quite ex if there isn’t any food/drinks thrown in.

When I asked her about the water quality she diplomatically said they are about the same so it is basically a personal preference but on further conversation she divulged that Riyue is her favourite and because their charge is for unlimited time. There were 2-3 other unlimited time hotsprings resort in Wulai: Longmen and Feng something. She was very informative but I can’t remember them all now. The unlimited time hotsprings are all on the same street - Lover’s Walk so we headed there after asking her for general directions. You can’t possibly miss the street on the left side of the stairs going up to Jolly Wulai Tram (where the statue of a man in traditional aboriginal dress carrying a lady sitted on a chair was located).

On Lover’s walk, the first hotsprings is Yunzitang (Snow Hotsprings?) that looked very large and established but empty so we decided to continue walking. We saw Hotsprings 51 and Changqing (Evergreen Hotsprings which seems to be popular as it is only NT100 unlimited with drinks) just to name a few.

Behind Changqing was a road that leads to the riverside and there were people dipping there so we decided to go and have a look since it is upriver from the one with umbrellas that we noticed earlier and therefore cleaner (since all the dirty water flow downwards hehheh). We took a few photos there as it has quite an ambience: the smoke rising and the green waters etc.

The people don’t seem to mind my intrusion (I respect their privacy, never take pictures of them ok!) and deliberately struck up a conversation with the lady watching her husband dig a deeper hole for himself at the rocky pool by asking her if all the springs is natural or there is some heating equipment placed under the pool to heat up the river water channeled into the pool. Of course she gave me the ‘Are you idiotic’ look before she started to tell me that the heat comes naturally from below ground pushing the mountain springs water up. Since it gets merged with the river water which also comes from the mountains, it is cooler than the usual hot springs so they are digging deeper, not just to get a bigger pool but also get hotter water. So I asked her why I noticed only some parts of the river like here and the umbrella spots downstream have these vents, were there not anywhere else in the proximity? Since this occurs naturally so she can’t say where it will occur even though it is logical that there would be some other spots nearby…We tested the water by putting our hands into the different pools and some seemed hotter than the others.

However, if you look carefully since it was raining, it is clear that much of the surface runoff and drains at the side of the roads end along the riverside, therefore the drain water flows down here yes to the ‘springs’ before merging with the river. We were pretty sure that that is not the really dirty dirty wastewater from houses since that have to be processed before the effluent is dumped and most probably ground/rainwater drained from the roads but what about leaky petrol oil and road dirt? On close observation, some of the rocks nearer the roads were covered in algae and some hotsprings pool actually have the slimy algae coating on the rocks so we surmised that unlike the Beitou Public Springs, it is not advisable to dip here unless you don’t mind bathing in drain water.

We didn’t have the heart to tell them that since they have been bathing there for quite sometime but turned us off from taking our dip here so off we go to shop for our hotspring resort!

In the end, we picked Yufuin 汤布苑 (NT250 + after dip drinks and snacks) as it recently underwent renovated. That was around 12.30pm. Pictures of nice clean facilities displayed outside their entrance. A couple was also shopping in the street so they went in after they heard us talking to the owner at the doorstep :P She explained that it does not make business sense for the smaller riverside hotsprings to have extensive, let alone outdoor spa facilities when we enquired about them because everyone wanted to maximize land usage so private rooms are more common. We jumped at the LV cypress room because the new tub looks clean and smells really aromatic so we went for the private one. It comes with towels, shower, hairdryer, plasma TV, tea area for you to savor/brew your tea and a good view of the river. Not a bad deal I think. It must have been a quiet day for the hotsprings so you can actually haggle with them. We agreed on that price for unlimited time instead of hourly rate on the understanding that we can dip as long as we like but if the premises gets busy, they might have to call us to leave when the hour is up. No problems as we can’t actually dip for so long either. It was very relaxing after a cold morning and we took our time to dry our wet clothes and shoes before leaving at 3+pm. After the dip, we were invited to sit down at their Jap style tearoom right in front of building for some drinks. The couple has completed theirs too so we were just sitting there relaxing when more and more people came in. It must have been the psychology thing again because our resort was the only one that looked bustling down the entire street!

Returned to our hotel at around 4pm and decided we need to do some urbanite activities like shopping to lift our waterlogged moods and ward off suburban depression. Houchezhan looked too challenging in the rain and the bags, hairclips, watches and scarves aren’t exactly our cup of tea so we decided to benefit the neighbourhood economy by browsing around shops nearby Keyman and Shinkong to purchase some gifts to take home. There are numerous bookshops and tuition centres between Onestar Hotel plot and Keymans so naturally there are other complementary shops selling things like electronics, stationery and kawaii things for the teenagers. Browsed around in the area and compared prices. Between the Onestar and Shinkong plots are 2 shopping compounds (3storeys) slotted in the shophouses. One is the Guangnan wholesaler and the other name I can’t remember. They are quite a distance apart actually.

I didn’t find the products (not even electronics as recommended in my tourguide) at Guangnan cheap. A basic black Logitech mouse sold in Giant for SGD$15 cost SGD$17 over there. There are other generic brands of mouse available but I feel that I should use as close to similar item for you to get a feel of the prices.

There were lots of really cheap stationery (much cheaper than Singapore lah) but when I compare prices between the 2 mini shopping, the not-Guangnan one wins hands up. Why I say so? A plain no frills clear folder with 40 pockets was sold for NT35 while it was NT29 (~SGD1.40)in the not-guangnan. Of course to be fair, I must point out they are different brands manufactured in china. Guangnan stocks more cutesy clear folders so I guess these designs cost more (~NT49). Regardless, they are all cheap compared to that sold in singapore which cost ~SGD$2.45. Even a simple project folder (consisting of A4 plastic cover and a spine that you slide in after putting in your paper) that cost ~SGD 0.40 to 0.80 cost SGD$0.24 over there which is practically cost price!

Also, comparing branded cosmetics, certain items, not all were cheaper. An example of a product that is cheaper: Za liquid concealer usually costing SGD 13.90 cost only NT225 (SGD10.32) after 10% discount. However, when I got back to Singapore, Watsons was having a buy-1-get 50% off the 2nd item so if you buy 2 Za concealers, it is $10.42 hehe, not old stock huh. Conclusion: unless you have a clear idea of current SGD price, better not buy. Stocked up on pineapple tarts at Shinkong and saw elevator ladies. Not particularly useful in this modern day except to take up good elevator space nor do I find their services good. Suppose they bridge the divide for older people who find new contraptions (if lifts can be counted as new) bewildering?

Day 8 Sunday - Ding Tai Feng (DTF) @ Yongkang Street > Maokong > Danshui

We took the metro to NTU hospital station and transferred to bus 20 in front of Heping Park. Our preparation work showed that buses 0東 and 20 stops at Xinyi Rd Sec 2 信义路2段 -Yongkang St永康街 Intersection, close to start of Yongkang Street. It was raining heavily so walking from CKS Memorial or Guting Station was not an option. When we reached there, the Ding Tai Feng 鼎太丰Main store was easy to spot from the stop as it was just on the main road with a small crowd gathering even before it was open. Ordered the xiaolongtangbao 小笼汤包 (available only on the 1st hour of weekends 9-10am) since we arranged to come on the weekend to try it out. It came with a bowl of egg soup and impeccable service. Liked it more than the xiaolongbao 小笼包as it was less salty. As I’m not a fan of Dim Sum, I can’t really comment on much on the food there.

After polishing off our second breakfast at DTF @ Yongkang (lots of Jap tourists I dunno why) we set off at around 9.30pm for Maokong. Took bus 22 at the stop we alighted earlier. I basically gave up trying to make sense of the bus routes on the spot from day 2 and simply asked the driver if it goes to any metro station. Yes it does! To Da-an Station. This line is a Light Rail system, single rail and driverless all the way to Taipei Zoo Station. When we arrived around 10am, we were rather bemused by the cutesy pictures of animals decorating the station - pillars, walls and floor. It seems that the Tomb Sweeping Festival 清明节has descended on Taipei Zoo Station one week early and lots of people were seen carrying cartons and bags of fruits and offerings from the Maokong Gondola direction to the metro. I guess people are taking advantage of the free time during weekend. We tried to see where they bought the fruits to no avail. Special bus services at the Station exit were efficiently in place to ferry the people to tomb-sweeping. Some were even discussing if they ought to buy extra tools along. There were loads of people young and old, and a long string of buses carrying pink banners announcing their routes for Qingming. I surmise there must be quite a number of ancestral tombs housed someplace around Maokong, a mountainy area. It certainly looked like an important festival for them!

Surprisingly, the Maokong gondola wasn’t situated right beside the Station by some distance away so we had to walk a little; grumbling ensued because of the rain. When we reached the Maokong Gondola, what did we see? A long line of people snaking all the way out of the building and making a few turns before it stopped. There were even police besides staff to help with the crowd control. Now that I think of it, it is a good thing the station and the gondola are a distance apart or it will be even more chaotic with the Qingming crowd.

The crowd control was excellent compared to YMS. Everyone was calm and orderly and no one was cutting queue. I think the careful arrangements by Maokong Gondola showed up very well here. They even had tents (albeit some slight leaks) set up beforehand for the crowds so it wasn’t that much of a chore queuing in the rainy weather with no cranky crowds trying to cut queue. We looked like the only bunch of senseless people to wear shorts and sandals in the cold weather and hence received a number of stares. However, the stares disappeared later when some other groups of senseless people wearing miniskirts and flipflops. Talk about a different dress culture!

Spotty rain as we went up made the view a blur. The cold+rain+wind made traveling around difficult. took the Maokong Tourbus to the Tea Promotion Centre, the one and only place we visited as it was raining to heavily to visit the tea plantations. Mom would have loved that. It is really easy to forget about cost control when you have easy card handy. The driver gave us a voucher each before we alighted entitling us to another ride for free on the tourbus b’cos we alighted early in the bus loop while paying the same fare. That’s thoughtful of them.

Danshui. Couldn’t find the bus 26 queue and spotted a Singapore Tram-like bus 836 sporting the words Fisherman’s Wharf so I decided to ask if it actually goes there. The driver acknowledged me and so we decided to board the bus which was the last one at 6pm. As the bus was waiting for the last bit of passengers, we saw the Bus 26. Its queue was actually at the same spot but the passengers have queued outside the shelter so we failed to notice it. Was berating myself for taking 836 instead of 26 as the bus have pulled out of the station after all the passengers boarded while ours was still idling. Surprisingly, 836 took a much shorter route and we arrived at the wharf earlier than the bus 26.

Brr!! it was windy and cold at the wharf which killed whatever mood I had for the place. Didn’t even want to walk on the Lover’s Bridge. The boardwalk was nearly deserted except for a few photography enthusiast. There were some couples on the bridge but it was frankly too cold for me who was not feeling quite well that day. We decided to rush down and hide in the Ah Ge shop instead. After polishing our meal of Ah ge, mifen and meatballs, we decided to take the ferry (using easycard) back to Tamshui Old street. Many changes have occurred since my last visits. Most of the shops under the boardwalk have either been split-up into 2 units or have changed hands. Loads of simple carnival games like tossing basketballs or hoops on objects, gun galleries, arcade games and so on in the old streets. It was strangely silent. The fickle crowds have decided not to come anymore?

After a weary walk up and down the quiet streets we decided not to linger and left. Hopefully the rain lets up tomorrow.

Day 7 Saturday :: Yangmingshan (YMS) Calla Lily Season > Flower Clock > Beitou Hot Springs Museum > Beitou Public Hotsprings Pool > Shilin Night Marke

~8.30am, travelled to Jiantan station to catch any bus that goes to YMS. There were long lines forming early in the morning as it was a weekend in the Calla Lily Festival. There were traffic controllers in place at the bus stands. Everyone was orderly and various buses were arriving in a continuous stream so we boarded the Flower bus 129 shortly. The situation was unlike my prev. trip there where we waited 30mins for bus 260. At the 2nd parking lot ~9.20am, we transferred to Flower bus 131 who brought us to Zhuzihu Terminal stop.

Tip: If you wish to go to Zhuzihu by bus, you can consider buses with stops at Dinghu顶湖or Shuiwei水尾 which are all within Zhuzihu. Bus Transport Link:

According to our bus driver, 131 and S9 were the only buses to enter Zhuzihu Proper竹子湖or Bamboo Lake. You could ask the buses S9 & Flower Buses 131 traveling in to let you alight anywhere within the area if the mood takes you. However, if we took the park bus 108, it would drop us at the Zhuzihu Police station (竹子湖派出所) NOT Zhuzihu and we’d have to walk for 30mins to order reach our destination. The Zhuzihu area is made up of 3 sections: Donghu (东湖), Dinghu (顶湖) and Xiahu (下湖). If you enter Zhuzihu from the 2nd Parking Lot direction via Yangjing Rd 杨金公路, you will reach Donghu, literally meaning East Lake which was developed earlier before the other 2 areas. Bus 131 passed the peaceful calla lily farms in Dinghu, loosely translated as Top lake as it was sited above the other two on the map. I expect Donghu would be a better option for visitors taking bus 108 as they wouldn’t need to walk that far in. Dinghu and Donghu seemed to be less commercialised unlike Xiahu (Lower Lake, the innermost and most bustling during Calla Lily Festival) which had restaurants, street peddlers, food stands offering snacks, fruits and veggies and cafes lining the Calla Lily Boulevard (海芋大道). It was relatively quiet in the mornings till around 11am when the narrow road transforms into a car-choked road at Xiahu. Under the hot sun, long queues formed for ANY bus to get out of Bamboo Lake. As the crowd built, queues were cut, tempers flared, and the traffic degenerated into a crawl.

After getting out of Zhuzihu by Bus 130, we strolled past the park blooming to azaleas to the Flower Clock to look at cherry blossoms before leaving YMS. By 3pm, the traffic was in chaos. People were still doing their best to get up the mountain in stretched bus services while early birds were starting to get off the mountain. The problem was that all the operators were focused on alleviating the queue getting up the mountain and into Zhuzihu by diverting all available buses that they quite forgot about the bunch trying to get out. From what we found out from traffic controllers at the temp bus stop in the Flower Clock parking lot, many bus routes were changed that day in order to cope with the bursting traffic within YMS. Flower Buses switched to internal operations within YMS region. S9 ceased going down to Beitou as the entire fleet were stuck on the mountain, much to the disbelief of many commuters queuing for S9 to Beitou. Further questions revealed that the only buses that were traveling as scheduled (meaning no extra buses) were 108 and 260 (which gets off YMS and plies the city). It was after furious ‘discussion’ between some commuters and the beleaguered traffic controllers (in case you were wondering, I didn’t participate in the discussion) at the Flower Clock that they managed to recall a bus 535 zooming out of the carpark to kickstart the ‘evacuation’ process (sounds rather dramatic eh?). They urged all the people waiting for S9 to take that one available bus out of YMS to Shipai Station as they didn’t know when S9 will be able to leave.

The good part of going to YMS that day was: 1) you can’t possibly get lost. If you wish to go somewhere, just follow the crowd or ask the numerous traffic controllers handy. 2) There were many bus options available within YMS but very few buses descending the mountains.

It was exhausting but finally we got out of YMS and transferred onto the metro at Shipai 石牌to visit the Beitou Hot Springs Museum near Xinbeitou 新北投 Station and the beitou public hotsprings pool (NT40) to get a sense of how a public pool looks like. By the time we got out of the hotsprings, Hell Valley was already closed for the day so we headed to famous Shilin Night Market near Jiantan Metro Station to rub elbows with the locals (it was so crowded, I mean it literally) before calling it a day. While I was queuing for the Congyoubing 葱油饼 recommended by Taipei walker, I heard a Taiwanese remark that Shilin was unusually packed that weekend; even this stall she frequented had a longer than usual queue. Tried the Shanghai Pan Fried Pork Buns (上海生煎包),Horfun Cake (河粉煎),Onion pancakes (葱油饼) ,XXL Fried Chicken Cutlet (豪大大鸡排), Jacket potato, Coffin board - stuffed deep-fried bread loaf (棺材板) just to name a few. Other must eats include: 润饼卷 similar to burrito?, Small biscuit within a Biscuit (大饼包小饼), Stinky tofu (臭豆腐).

Day 6 :: Taipei > Yeliu > Chiufen > JingGuaShi > Golden Falls > Yingyang Sea > Nanya Rock Formation > Bitou Cape > Zhongzheng Park for Keelung Nightsc

On arrangement with cabby Mr Yang, we set off at 8.30am. As forumers have said he is quite humble and we found him to be delightfully chatty and informative on Taiwan.

When we hit the National highway, he explained to us the highway system in Taiwan and how they are divided into the national & provincial highways and the numbering system: 1,3,5 vertical and 2,4,5 horizontal. When we passed the flood walls, he told us about the flood that went over the walls when Ma Ying Jiu was Mayor that caused so much damage due to dereliction of duty officers to pump out the flood waters that the city had to come up with a compensation plan (NT30-50k?) for the affected residents depending on the flood water level in their house.

As we meandered along the roads in the northeast coast, he yakked about the 疯狗浪 underwater turbulence, fisherman, Keelung Port, fishes, the only hotel at the prime sandy beach, surfers and their favourite surf beach, road construction and maintenance costs which somehow segued to politics and grumbled about wasting taxpayers money to change the dustbins with rectangular opening to round ones due to emergence of cases of citizens suing the govt for having cut themselves on the sharp edges on the openings. It was a pleasure to ride with him.

We reached Yeliu Geopark at around 9.30am, passing by the bus stand. Glad that we decided on a cabby and do not have to walk the distance as we planned to cover many places for the day. After warning us not to cross the red lines in Yehliu as it is very dangerous by relating the true story of a naughty china tourist ignored the advice of his tour guide and was hit by a sudden wave in the past (his body was never recovered), he dropped us off at the entrance. It was excellent sunny weather with light breeze and minimal tourists and perfect for photo ops that we managed to take a shocking amount of pics in 1.5h. Time went very quickly and loads of tourists were starting to come in at around 10.30-11pm with the breeze gradually whipping up into a roar, churning up bits of sand, so we decided to leave at 11+am for Chiufen.

Contingency plan to Yeliu by public transport: Option 1: @ Taipei Intercity Bus Terminal國道客運台北總站 ─ 金青中心 (經由中山高) Duration ~1.5h Cost: NT102 Option 2: @ Taipei TRA station take the train to Keelung TRA and change the Keelung Bus to Yehliu. (Good if intending to go to Yeliu & Keelung only, savings on round trip tickets) According to guide book, travel time for this option is supposed to be the shortest 35min for train + ? for bus but uncertain about bus time. Cost : 66+45=NT115

Of course when going to Chiufen, no respectable tour guide would leave out the story of the 9 portions and the part on GOLD mining. When we arrived at Chiufen around 12pm, it was decided the top priority was pampering our stomachs with balls before taking in the scenery. We tried the 豆干包tau guah pau (thumbs up but felt it was a little similar to阿给Ah Ge) and fish balls from another stall before the famous Gongwan stall as we had eaten the latter before. Also sampled all the flavours of traditional Hakka 凉糕liang gao (not sure if its konniyaku). We liked the black glutinous rice cake and the taro/redbean layered cake and therefore bought some for snacking. We also sampled the dried shrimps and spicy anchovies (ikan bilis lah!) that is rather similar to the ones you can find in any singapore nasi lemak or economy rice stalls and of course came away less than impressed. Ang Zhao红糟Meatballs, taro balls and the vegetarian meatballs are on our MUST eat list. As we went past the cafes at the top of the stairs, the aromatic scent emanating from all the shops made us miss the coffee in Singapore. Good weather, clear view of the surrounding mountains and sea, quaint architectures and scrumptious foods. What better could we ask for?

At around 2.30 pm we left for the Jinguashi Gold Ecological Museum (NT100, NT70 for YTC holders) which was not factored in our original plan. Since it was on the way, we got down for a short walk. Good scenery but as it was originally a mining area but attractions are rather spread out and accessed by stairs so it can be quite tiresome for seniors. The gold bullion thing was rather similar to the one in Toi Gold Mine, Japan. There is even a trail leading to teapot mountain and POW area and another tantalizing one that goes UP and UP to the Shinto Temple. If you have time, please do make the effort as I heard the view is fantastic. The landscape there looked oddly Celtic/ Scottish? from below and we whimsically expected Mel Gibson (think Braveheart) to charge out any moment but due to time constraints we decided to opt out.

Tip: you can get a good shot of the Earless Teapot if you stand somewhere near the old power turbines or the dustbin beside the museum. :P

The Environmental Education Center and Crown Prince Chalet was nothing special to us and the Ore Refinery Center was closed for renovations so there was nothing to see over there. However, it promises to be interesting so perhaps you can have a look-see and tell me?

All in all, our personal fav was the restored Benshan 5th Tunnel NT$50 (where you will be inducted to the life of a miner) and that made the trip worthwhile.

Chiufen > Jinguashi by public transport: @ the very obvious Bus stop opposite 7-11 take「基隆-(瑞芳-九份)-金瓜石」線or「瑞芳-金瓜石-水湳洞」bus to Jinguashi. Cost: NT32

Left around 4.10pm for the minor destination: Golden falls is basically heavily groundwater polluted by heavy metals and is toxic due to that fact. Ferric precipitate coated rocks contributed to the name. If you use a sharp rock to scrape at the riverbed, you will find that the underlying area is of a different colour. I don’t know how heavy is the pollution or if it is within acceptable thresholds for humans but I would not recommend anyone playing in/with or drinking the water (yucks!) no matter how natural it is even though Mr Yang told me that other tourists did. We spent around 15mins there before setting off to Yingyang Sea. I’m not sure how you can access this by public transport except by walking down the snaking road or walking up from the bus parking lot (open on weekend)??

Reach the viewing spot for minor destination: Yingyang Sea near ShuiNandong parking lot at 4.40pm and spent about 5mins for photo ops before heading for Nanya. Apparently it wasn’t that polluted when the mines are in operation in the past and the area was rich in seafood. On the right was an abandoned harbour/wharf that had lost its popularity in favour of deeper harbours in the nearby Keelung that can accommodate bigger ships. A former favourite spot for fishing aficionados, it is now banned due to serious pollution. Behind the spot are the creepy ruins of the 13-level Ore Refinery that looked like the film site of some post-apocalyptic/spooky movie.

4.50pm Reached Nanya Rock Formation. Unlike Yeliu it is caused by cross-bedding. Lots of photo ops for such a small location.

> 5.25pm Reached Bitou Pedestrian Trail. It was supposed to take about 1h up and down but the day was getting dark so we decided to take a shortcut by using Bitou Mtn Trail near a Temple to get to the observation post. It wasn’t the lighthouse but we figured it is better than nothing.

While it looked shorter on the map, it was a steep climb up compared to the gentle winding path of the former and we didn’t spot any goats (mentioned by Yang) scrambling up from this direction either. We got up there in 15mins even though it certainly didn’t feel that way when we were climbing.

At the top, we were rewarded by a sweeping view of the Keelung Mountain, the fishery and Island as well as the vast stretch of water. Felt like we were the only people in the world when we looked down on the dense canopy behind us below. As chilly wind was picking up the rain and whipping it into the observatory, we decided not to linger for long.

It was a fruitful and enjoyable day made even better with the cabby. Trinkets

Day 5 Thursday - Taroko Gorge, Hualien County

Woke at 6.20am and set off for Taipei TRA station to catch the 7am train to Hualien after purchasing our choice breakfast in the row of shops in front of Keyman Hotel. Really glad we stayed here this time as there were breakfast places open this early. Soymilk was VERY hot and just the right sweetness and the freshly made 煎包Jian pau that comes in 2 flavours: cabbage and Chinese leek. The carrot cake looked delicious but the stalls haven’t started frying them yet so we skipped it in favour of another stall selling dumplings and the 10 potstickers + 1 omelette/toast set (NT40!). I noticed that we seldom take pictures of our food as we were too busy enjoying them.

Reached Hualien at 9.57am to meet our cabby Mr Looi who had called beforehand to say that he would be at the rear station in red shirt and coffee colored trousers. There was a Taroko exhibition held in the passageway leading to the rear station. Not sure if it is a permanent fixture. Spent sometime reading it as that’s where we were going.

When we got there, he enquired if we were interested in going to Cingshui Cliffs for an additional NT500. That was our original intention so naturally we said yes. Were told there were 2 families he will be guiding that day so he got two drivers to ferry us around while he concentrated more on the role of a tour guide. He was a very energetic person with a great sense of humour but I suppose due to the excellent reports by the forums, he was alternately swamped with enquiries from minsus/readers and bouncing around like Indian rubber between cars. As mentioned by previous groups, he took us to buy lunchboxes at the shop selling the famed fried huge chicken thigh reported on someone’s blog that had others requesting to try it. I think he found it extremely funny as he couldn’t help chuckling whenever he mentions the fried chicken to any of the families. That’s more than five times I think.

As the other group hasn’t had their breakfast he got them both breakfast and lunch (have no idea why the meals can’t be combined). Since the fried chicken is so famous, we bought a set to try. Its not fantastically good, only so-so when we got down to eating. I suppose you have to eat it hot for it to taste good. For me, I chose the Hongshaorou set that had no bones in it to make eating simple.

We set off to Little Cingshui before moving on to the real Cingshui Cliffs which provided a majestic view of the black rocks sweeping down to cerulean blue Pacific Ocean. The Cingshui Cliffs is the one where you can spot the beach. I heard there is a pebble beach but I couldn’t spot it or any path leading down so we just snapped some shots of the blue blue sea. You can also see a train tunnel where the Taroko train would past at around 11.45 according to Mr Looi. Sure enough, the train came. Our cabby was quick enough to fire up or camera to catch a picture of the train gliding past. It was good weather so far and we left for the Shakadang Trail or the previously named Mystery Valley. The trail starts with a flight of caged scaffolding stairs (straight out of Jurassic Park) along the side of the red bridge that does not look particularly stable. Along the way down were cautionary signs warning us of killer bees and snakes. Luckily there were no dinosaurs. Very dry riverbed. I was told that at the end of the trail there are some carefully preserved old huts but due to time constraints we only walked a little way in before heading back.

Next, we stopped at the parking lot we alighted the other time. It looked somewhat different from the last time but we couldn’t put a finger to the changes as we weren’t sure if the toilets existed previously. We passed by more towering rocks and the Ning An Bridge and paused near the new Zhui Lu Suspension Bridge that is not open yet to the public. Right across the suspension bridge, high above is the old Deer Trail Bridge that is closed to visitors. It seems that the Japanese built this during the Occupation to hunt for the rebel aborigines. It looks like there is some war skirmishes that occurred in Taroko. We also went to the Swallows Grotto燕子口which needed no introduction before stopping at a coffee house overseeing the Indian Head for a picnic lunch.

After lunch, it was onto the Tunnel of Nine Turns九曲洞, Cimu Bridge慈母桥 and Huoran Pavillion 豁然亭 @ Tiensiang before a hike (~40mins) on the Baiyang Trail白杨步道where we passed through a series of tunnels (7 in total) cut through mountain rocks and a suspension bridge spanning the beautiful Baiyang Waterfalls (where Looi took a picture of us swallowing the waterfall). Some of the tunnels were in a straight line so we were able to traverse them following by the light at the end of the tunnel (sorry for any comparison to death) while others were pitch-black and have to be navigated by flashlight.

The hike was easy-peasy and the scenery along the way more than make up for our efforts before we reached the last tunnel before Water Curtain水帘洞being the “Number 1 Exciting!” & “Number 2 Exciting!” respectively (to quote Looi). I privately thought the order should be reversed.

The Water curtain was basically a work of Mother Nature created by a heavy seepage of spring water from the roof of the cut tunnel. Unfortunately, this also means that the porous roof is extremely susceptible to the danger of roof collapse. As such, the other water curtains (yes there are more) down the trail are out of bounds. It also signifies the end of the trail.

Note: The Eternal Spring (Changchun) Shrine Trail is closed for construction from 18th Feb to 31st May, 2008.

After this excitement, we lingered around the Baiyang Waterfalls to dry off before heading down the trail for Hualien.

At Hualien City, our driver Mr Li took us to the usual places, reported by others before so I won’t go through the details, to buy muah chee, wanton etc. The wanton portion was huge I think about 10-12 big pieces per piping bowl of wanton which costed NT180 for 3 bowls. This is ~ SGD$2.80! Where can you find so many sized wanton for $2.80 in Singapore? They tasted different from the Singapore kind, not fantastic but good. What I find the most interesting was the way they hot-sealed the paper bowls for takeaways like bubble teas. I suppose this is a more secure way to ensuring that no leaks from the sides as compared to plastic lids but I find it difficult to open the hot bowl of soupy wantons. All these were quickly slurped up in the train station.

Monday, April 14, 2008

5 modes of transport

阿里山←→石棹 公車行駛時間大約40分鐘(下山快一點點) 石棹到奮起湖開車約10分鐘 1) Forest Train 2) Minibus 3) Chiayi County Bus 4) Taxicab 5) Tourbus

Monday, April 07, 2008

Day 4 Wednesday :: Alishan > Taipei ::

Freezing 1-2 degrees before dawn and 5-6 degrees in the morning.

It was raining before dawn when we woke around 4.50am so sunrise watching was basically a lost cause. As we had woken, we felt that we should get as much as possible out of this trip since we were already on Alishan and decided to go ahead with the journey while some people decided to cancel. It was a freezing 1-2 degrees in Yushan. Along the way to Tatajia, we made stops to see the husband/wife trees but it was so cold that our camera went bonkers. We had to resort to tucking our camera at our tummies to keep it warm and take photos quick to shorten exposure to the cold. Even the driver, a local, huddled in the minibus. The view of the surrounding peaks at Tatajia was even more beautiful than Alishan but the cold made each consequent venture out of the van shorter than the previous. Even the deers and monkeys purported to be sighted in Yushan were smarter than us to come out in this weather!

As the sky slowly brightened, it became warmer so more photo ops at Shenmu II despite the drizzle. After that it was back to the hotel for breakfast.

Our breakfast ‘included’ consists of assorted porridge which the whole group slurped down heartily as it was invitingly hot after the cold morning out. Although very basic, some even asked for second helpings!

While we were collecting our porridge from the reception (haha, that sounds like some soup kitchen eh?), an obasan in red asked us if we were leaving today and our mode of transportation and introduced herself as the lady from Wufong. The morning staff in Dafeng seemed to know her well so we informed her that we intend to take the 11.10am county bus to Chiayi TRA station and intend to reach there around 2pm as we had already visited Fencihu on the way up. Also we hope to reach Taipei by She tried to talk us into sharing a vehicle with a Japanese couple to travel down the mountain at a price of $200+ per pax. We agreed to the quoted price as it was only a little more expensive than the county bus and we do not need to lug our baggage to the Alishan bus depot at 7-11, naively thinking that we would be able to reach the TRA station earlier as there wouldn’t be any stops/ delays as we do not need to wait for other passengers.

Having made arrangements with the hotel to take us up to the FRA at 8am, we were dropped off at the start of the hiking trail near Alishan Gou to take in the phytokines (sp?) and of course photos with the odd shaped trees but not before purchasing our second breakfast of egg biscuits, pau and soymilk from the breakfast van operating in front of the neighbouring Hotel Wufong. Not much changes from the previous visit.

Met two people (a nun and a aborigine lady) trudging around the woodlands near the magnolia gardens where there were paths. Out of curiosity, we went forward to take a peek. Not understanding, we decided to ask them what they were looking for. Turned out they were gathering wild veggies, which looked like curled young ferns or dragon’s beard, for lunch. The nun told us the name but I’ve forgotten it. Oh, it is more of the nun instructing her companion on where to pluck. Talk about living off the land!

We met the nun again when we went to Tze Yun Temple (near Xianglin Middle School and 3 Generations Tree) as we heard from the breakfast vendor that it was the best spot to catch the sea of clouds. A bunch of tourists were also there to admire the camellias which were in full bloom as well as the white cherry blossoms framing the little shelter housing a bell.

The nun welcomed all the fateful people (meaning it is fate that brought everyone there at that moment) within the compound with a movingly poetic little speech to come to the temple for a meal (that’s where the wild veggies went I guess). I agreed privately on the fate part and was tempted to have the meal but it was only 9.30am! A little early for lunch, a little too close to our 2nd breakfast and we have tons of things yet to see so we moved on. Its fate I guess…

Tze Yun Temple was a tranquil spot with a number of large redwoods and carefully tended flowers. We took a number of lovely pictures before we left for the Alishan House area to engage in the cherry blossom watching activity before hustling down to buy some takeaway to eat on the way down before checking out at 11am.

Waited for sometime at the lobby with the Jap couple but the van didn’t appear so we were getting worried. One-who-must-not-be-named asked who we booked our trip with and when she heard the obasan’s name, she exclaimed in a theatrical way, ”Ah, that women is a famous ditherer!” before advising us to send someone to the hotel to hurry the person along as it wasn’t convenient for her to do so as she would still meet her in the future). That’s when we should have been alerted to the person’s character and known that something was amiss but we weren’t sharp enough. The reminder worked miracles, the van finally came and we fetched 2 other passengers and a gaggle of girls before setting off.

However, due to some miscommunication (I prefer not to be to pessimistic about it), the van let us down at Fencihu for an hour to tour and have lunch! I started to have some qualms then and reiterated that we needed to be at the TRA by 2pm as we need to transfer to the THSR. She mumbled something which I couldn’t hear and told me to try the Fencihu Bento at XYZ for NT80 instead of the Fancylake Hotel which taste better and cheaper which made me even angrier as she tried to distract me from the key issue: I had told her earlier we do not intend to tour anything on the way down.

Wanted to carry our luggage out of her van and take the Fencihu-Chiayi bus down but she had parked and locked her van a distance away from the village to avoid the traffic congestion in the narrow lanes when leaving. We had no choice, since we were hijacked, but to wait this hour out by walking up and down the same old streets again. Later at ~1.30pm, when we set off again, she tried to persuade us into taking up her offer of ferrying us to the THSR station for another NT300 but we turned her down flat as we could take the free BRT (for limited time only. Original fare: NT45) behind the TRA station. She started to grumble to the Taiwanese passengers in dialect of how this bunch Hong Kongers wanted to save that little bit of money and how smooth and good was her driving but we pretended not to understand when she tried to test us with it which made her switch to chinese to persuade us to take up the offer. Our expressions got grimmer as the trip dragged on as we went to even more places like Shizuo to see the poor honey bear they caught as a pet.

If we had the intention of sightseeing, the agreed price would be a steal but this ‘bargain’ is our pain. It was obvious that she regretted our deal as it is underpriced compared to what other passengers paid (NT400) as she took us to the same places. Regardless, she was the one who initially agreed on the low low price which led to the misconception that there wasn’t to be any stops along the way. I think the obasan sensed that we were unhappy of this delay but still pushed on with her sales pitch all the way to the Everlasting Bridge.

At that point, it was 2.50pm and the pitch escalated all the way into an altercation which ended with me hysterically telling her that my joyful experience with her ‘punctuality’ (which departed from our schedule by 1h) gave me no confidence that I should pay another NT300 for a late delivery to the HSR station.

I was prepared to give her another earful when she rattled on again but I was restrained by my companion who injected a sense of levelness into the situation by pointing out that:

1) Since we are already late, there is nothing we can do but accept that fact. Brace ourselves for another round of her antics and not play into her tricks.
2) Knowing that what she wants was cash, cease the argument and refuse her offer politely.
3) Call up all the relevant parties now to inform them that we will be arriving later than the ETA of 4pm and make the best of the situation.
4) Do not put ourselves in a bad position by portraying us as unreasonable tourists.

She brought us to yet another site: Reservoir (nothing special, just any old reservoir). I was still fuming but going with the flow so it was peace and quiet all the way. Think she started feeling guilty for causing the delay so after getting the agreement of the other passengers (that’s very sweet of them), she offered to bring us to the HSR station first at no additional cost before dropping them off at Chiayi TRA.

Due to her unfamiliarity with the new highway? to Tipoh太保 we nearly went south (水库direction I think) to all the way to Tainan! :-o Good thing the schoolgirls noticed it before we went past the point of no return. After some fits and starts, she managed to find the way back to the highway with the assistance of all the locals in our van. Heheh, when I think of it now, the whole incident was a case of 越帮越忙. Nonetheless, I appreciated her attempts to help and how the other locals roped in to help her.

Reached the HSR station at around 4.15pm. I decided to reimburse her NT200 to cover the fuel expenses for traveling the wrong way because she did attempt to make reparations even though she said it wasn’t necessary. I didn’t pay NT300 so as not to encourage her to try this on other unsuspecting tourists. Hopefully she learnt her lesson as well as we did: go through the offer clearly and carefully before agreeing. As some other of the passengers were delayed by that misroute, they decided to take the HSR too but since we were already behind schedule, we didn’t wait for them as we rushed into the station to purchase tickets.

Our mood lifted considerably after we got into the HSR station. As the queue for the manual ticketing booth was quite long, we decided to try out the auto ticketing. Unlike the railway ticketing system, it was fairly easy, just select same day ticket (non reservation seats) and the starting & destination station, select the number of tickets, paid the money and the machine spat out the ticket. Took the 4.36pm HSR and reached Taipei at 6pm. It was a blur when we got out of the station during rush hour. Confusion reigned when we surfaced at level one as all the inadequate signs were not very helpful as they seem to giving different directions and we didn’t know which exit to take. In the end, one of us ran out of Taipei Main to orientate ourselves according to the familiar landmarks like Shinkong and Hope Hotel.

Dragged our luggage across to Shinkong, traversed right and turned left and voila! our hotel.

Took the metro to Longshan Temple station after purchasing our easycards. Went to Huaxi Night Market. it looked horribly deserted that day. Guangzhou Street which was nearer to the metro station was crowded in comparison. We chose to have a yummy sit-down meal (consisting of Luroufan, bantiao, yuntun noodles, white braised tofu and some veggies) in a shop that looked extremely busy near the start of the Guangzhou Street. On the way to Huaxi, we found a stall selling scholar’s cake in the shape of the traditional scholar’s hat (two flavours:sesame and redbean). Tasted like a coarser version of tutu cake. Huaxi was surprisingly lackluster perhaps it was because it’s the weekdays. The only time we saw any crowd was when there was some demonstration on the efficacy of snake blood (no photos allowed). The man tied up a white python?/snake and slit its belly to drain out the blood. Quite ghastly!!! Mom all but ran from the display. Seafood restaurants practically lined the streets. On the way out from Huaxi we ate Ginseng Chicken which was the most aromatic and got some orange juice to quench our thirst and that’s basically the end of our Huaxi Night Market jaunt.

As we made our way back, we noticed that Longshan Temple was bustling with activity which I later realize was for GuanYin’s Birthday. There were some kind of float and the temple was packed to the gills with the crowd spilling over to the streets. Even saw some monks in straw hats standing on the street hah.

Strolled around the Longshan Underground Mall which I didn’t notice the other time I was here. There were some shops on winter sale clearance and multitudes of fortune telling shops. The interesting bit about these shops was that they have many little booths in each unit with different schools/styles of fortune telling. You have one booth for tarot cards, another for palm reading and one for tea leaves and many more ways. So if you hear something bad from one stall, try another. Strangest of all, they looking akin Neoprene booths... My companion confirmed that it had been around the other time, so much for my powers of observation.

Returned to Keyman’s at around 9+pm which is quite early but we were bushed from all the traveling and it’s another BIG day at Taroko Gorge so it is off to sleep.

PPS: A few days later back in Taipei, we heard new reports of some visitors caught for striping its tree bark on the bad advice of some priest that the forestry bureau had to wrap up the lower portions of the tree, in fact other redwood trees too, to protect them from itchy fingers. Hehheh, I now know the purpose of the wooden curtain-like slats now!

Day 3 Tuesday :: Sun Moon Lake > Alishan ::

We woke at 5.40am to catch the sunrise at the lake. As we were feeling a little lazy, we decided to just lounge in our room to enjoy it instead of traipsing out to the nearby Meihe Gardens to do so. Glad we decided to wake up early for the sunrise as the skies were clearer.

We skipped the hotel’s breakfast in favour of some tongue searing hot soymilk, waterbuns, meat buns and yummy potstickers (NT120) down the road as we rolled our luggage to the bus stop for the 7.25am Nantou bus to Taichung. While our cabby the day before recommended short bus journey to Shuili then take the Jiji line small train to Ershui and transfer to a train to Chiayi with an ETA of 1pm but we didn’t know the bus schedule and were worried that we might get lost in Shuili, an unknown quantity as we were not sure if it is in the rural area and end up wasting our time finding the train station past the time for the Alishan transport so we decided to stick to our original plan of traveling to Chiayi via Taichung (TC 1007 Mout SuAo To Kaohsiung 10:09 11:20).

As it was the Cherry Blossom season, we didn’t manage to buy the forest train tickets as we couldn’t book the tickets beforehand. We had a small interlude with a tout that misled us into thinking that she has train tickets but instead took us to a taxi. Felt it was strange when she dragged our luggage further and further away from the train station past the bus station. It was a good thing that we insisted on carrying our own luggage or she’d have strong armed it into the boot.

In the end, we called Miss Su of Dafeng Resort who promptly arranged for a local to pick us up in his SUV at 12.50pm (must pay NT400 one arr!) as we had missed the both the 12pm mini tourbus and the 12.10pm Chiayi Bus by then.

After the arrangement we parked our luggage in the luggage room in Chiayi TRA station for a small fee (can’t remember how much but it must have been cheap as we paid in NT10 coins) and went to the nearest of the eateries on Zhongzheng Rd selling the ubiquitous turkey meat rice. Tried the turkey rice, LuRou Rice, Milkfish Porridge and a interesting tricolor egg thingy (consisting of century egg, normal egg and quail egg?) with mayo that is like a slice of layered cake with hardboiled eggs quashed into it as well as some other small dishes. We were less than impressed with the turkey rice but the strange egg made up for it.

Glad we didn’t take the Chiayi Bus up as we took the route for smaller vehicles which was different from the one we took previously by tour bus, and from what I heard, the county bus too. Is that true? Anyways, it was more scenic than the previous route I took, with stretches of yellowish pine-like trees (I dunno if it is due to the lack of water for it can’t be autumn) and supposedly faster. Therefore, along the way you can see huge concreting trucks sneaking, ok, more like vrooming down this road to the swears and curses of our driver.

It was an interesting experience as he made impromptu stops in Chiayi city to pick up a monk, cartons of frozen bread from a delivery truck in front of 7-11 to bring up the mountain, an Alishan 7-11 staff and on the way up, an odd box of roasted sweet potatoes from Fencihu (hint hint). As he unloaded and loaded supplies in Shizuo and Fencihu we have ample time to take in the sights, the railway and sample foods like CaoAhQuey, Fencihu Train Biscuits (I can eat a lot of it without getting sick of the taste as it isn’t the usual cloyingly sweet traditional pastry) and Aiyu drinks in Fencihu Old street. We decided not to try the Fencihu Hotel Bento.

The journey up took around 3+h and even though bread in general doesn’t need refrigeration with temperature drop to ~7degs at Alishan (Chiayi was hot when we arrived), I wonder who will be the lucky chap eating it.

Reached Dafeng Hotel close to 4pm upon which Miss Su informed us of the last steam train depart Alishan station at 4.15pm to Shenmu Station (NT150 single trip) and recommended that there is ample time for us to go for it as an alternative for missing out on the forest train. After enquiring about the sunrise watching, we decided to take up the costlier (NT300) minibus package that will take us from our hotel to wait for the possible sunrise at Tatajia and other sights like the husband/wife tree and Shenmu II along the way instead of taking the hotel bus to the Jhaoping Station to take the train (NT150). Seeing that we come from a hot climate, she advised us to turn on the bed warmers and lay the blankets flat on the surface to ensure that they are thoroughly warmed when we go to our rooms before going to the train station.

Got to the station on time but it seems that the operator would wait for ~5mins to allow more people to purchase their tickets and board before leaving so we managed to snap some pictures with both the wooden train and the Alishan forest train that was parked beside it. The antique looking wooden train provided numerous photo taking opportunities and was lots of fun as it swayed past curves, sashayed through the trees and spat noxious fumes at its passengers. Don’t have much impression of the Shenmu Station except it was misty, crowded at the sides by tall trees and the old Shenmu was left fallen near it. The station was swarmed with people when we arrived, waiting to take photos with the train which nicely came to a halt under a flowering magnolia tree.

According to the officer at the Shenmu ticket booth (that doesn’t sell train tickets), there are two ways to return to the commercial area: One option was to take a 40mins walk through the giant woods trail, another was to take the train back. None of the passengers seem to be willing to walk the unfamiliar trail and with the sky turning dark, we felt it was more prudent to return by train and top up the return ticket at Alishan station. He also explained why there are only a few trips for both the steam train and the forest train so as to prolong the lifespan of the trains as possible: the age of train engine and the need to do constant need to do maintenance for wear and tear as well as the difficulty of finding replacement parts for the trains.

Reached Alishan Station at around 4.45pm and decided to see how far we could walk from the station up the road to Jhaoping and take in some sights. Noticed a few blossoming trees along the way and heard that the FRA would close at 5pm. We didn’t verify this as we didn’t manage to go that far as it was freezing with only one light jacket (was expecting ~10degs but didn’t expect the temperature to be 7-8 deg C in the afternoon let alone 5-6 deg C in the evening as the weather bureau website earlier posted a range of 6-13deg.) That’s when our camera started giving us problems as the AA batteries lose their performance in the cold. Our pockets started to bulge oddly as we started storing batteries there to keep them warm.

Tips for best results in cold weather: 1) Store the camera and batteries in a warm, inside pocket.
2) Never carry small metal items (eg keys or coins) in the same pocket with your batteries to prevent short circuiting the batteries.
3) Use non-rechargeable Photo Lithium batteries since they perform the best in low temperatures.
4) Avoid alkaline batteries for low temperature use.
5) Attach a hand warmer to the bottom of the camera (work well for ~10degrees)

@ around 7pm, we went to the commercial area for dinner. There are many shops with hostess hollering outside and you can scrutinize all their menus and how they actually looked like before deciding on the restaurant. We ate hotpot in NineNine Restaurant. Strangely, it came in a soupless frozen state which meant that our dinner took longer to cook as we have to defrost it. When we asked: Why no soup, the waitress told us that it will appear when the pot cooks. Sure enough it did. It was the weirdest steamboat ever! *_*;

It started to drizzle after dinner that made it even colder. The drop in temperature to 5 deg around 8pm had many people scurrying into diners, restaurants and cafes for hot food and coffee which we did after purchasing 3 sets of chenille gloves, scarf and wasabi nuts (total NT450 which we thought was much cheaper than sold in Singapore) from a shop ran by a friendly uncle at the second floor of the commercial area to ward against the cold. He told us that the previous night rained too dropping to 1-2 deg late at night but the next morning was sunny and wished us a dry morning for sunrise watching after the night’s rain.

Do note that if you aren’t prepared for the weather or do not want to lug so much baggage around, you can rent winter wear for NT100 from either the shops in the commercial area or your hotel (our hotel did posted that they provide this service even though we brought our own, not sure about other premises so you have to ask).

We returned to the hotel after a cuppa coffee and were glad that we took the advice of Ms Su as the covers were really nice and toasty. In a streak of inspiration, I decided to stash our apparels (turned inside out) for the next morning under the extra bedcover to keep them warm before turning in early for the night.

6-7 degrees when we arrived dropped to 5 degrees in the evening and 1-2 degrees in Yushan.

Friday, April 04, 2008

Day 2 Monday :: Taichung > Sun Moon Lake ::

Woke at 6.30am and walked around the area between Zawjung & Carrefour. Many breakfast stalls there with almost the same menu: the ubiquitous fried noodles/mifen, innards soup and braised pork. Since pig innards soup and braised pork isn’t my cup of tea first thing in the morning so we ended up eating fried noodles, mifen, Tunghoon soup, meat balls soup in a stall that looked crowded.

We checked out early at 7+am to hunt for the Nantou bus to SML. At that time more breakfast shops have opened and there is one across the street from Zawjung Hotel selling traditional breakfast items like soymilk, pau and dumplings that smelled deliciously good when we went past it and the Ah Peh was making something that looked like popiah skin so if you are staying in that area do try it out.

Unfortunately, we still couldn’t find the bus to SML mentioned by guy from the Nantou Taichung office was supposedly near the Taichung Rd / Minquan Rd + JianGuo Rd opp a hotel after asking the TRA info counter, the vendors of the snack shops along the line of bus stands and calling the Taichung office twice. Another option was to take the Renyou 8am Bus for SML which would have departed by the time we found its bus stop. Everyone we asked gave different directions, so after running around for 0.5h (according to schedule, the nantou bus have left and the next is 1h later), we decided not to waste anymore time and take a cab to SML instead, reaching SML around 10am.

Note: While Lvchuan West looked pretty close the TRA station on the map, it certainly was so when our Freego bus went past it last night, not when lugging 20kg worth of luggage.

Initially we planned to stay in碧水山居民宿Sun Moon Lake crystal jade chalet which have a full unrestricted lakeview but it is located so much further away and it would be too troublesome to carry our luggage to the bus stop in front of the Visitor’s Centre and ridiculous to hire a cab for this. We didn’t book any lodgings in advance because it was a Monday and there are many hotels practically all buildings lining the entire road were hotels. We chose mid-range Apollo Resort Hotel at Shuishe for these reasons: 1) Proximity to visitor’s centre 2) Lakeview room for NT3000 after tax. The Harbour Resort Hotel 1 unit down the row offered lakeview with balconies big enough for you to lounge around with your loved one and savour a cup of coffee unlike Apollo’s full length window. Looked like an excellent cozy and romantic place for two.

After dropping off our luggage in the hotel, we wanted to cover as much as possible so we took up the offer of Cabby Chen at the Visitors Centre for these eight locations:

Wenwu Temple, Peacock Garden, Ita Thao, XuanZhuang Temple, Ci-En Pagoda Xuanguang Temple & Wharf, Matchmaker God in Dragon-Phoenix (Longfong) Temple. Do note that these taxi tours have their prices regulated at NT1200 (stated in brochures) so you shouldn’t pay more than that.

SML was slightly foggy when we arrived and the weather turned chilly, thickening the fog when it started drizzling in the afternoon as we toured the Ci-En Pagoda and temples. We were able to see puffs of condensation when we breathe. Nevertheless, we felt that the fog gave SML a hint of mystery and poetic beauty as layers of the surrounding landscape were hidden and revealed by the winds as they shifted the overlaying fog. We climbed many steps to finally reach the Ci-en pagoda. In that foggy and chilly atmosphere, Ci-En looked like it was snowing as the grounds were covered in zen white pebbles. Do make the effort to linger on each level as you travel up the nine floors of the pagoda as you get to see SML in 360deg. We noticed that the view becomes more fog-shrouded as we clambered up to ring the bell. The lake slowly hides itself as we moved higher thus the feel and view of the place evolved slowly transforming itself from a 3D landscape to a piece of watercolour painting. Even the feel changes when you look at the same spot at each level so I think coming here was very worth it even though it is foggy as the beautiful lake showed a different facet of her. If we have the opportunity, we would definitely revisit SML in good weather as it would shed a different light. This area is must visit for us.

Another interesting stop was at the community centre somewhere near Ital Shao. The community centre is where the aboriginal products are congregated. Previously they have to travel to different places to gather up the products but now the products come to the centre. Cabby stopped there for us to pose in front of a small replica of boats and huts featuring the traditional way of life & take some kitschy pictures of ourselves in aboriginal costumes. Later the lady (with a flowery name) there told us that the representation of the colours: blue for the shamans, white for the elders and the remainder: red. She treated us to some honey with a flowery aroma and tea and showed us her photo albums as we chatted. I suspect it is some sales ploy but it was enlightening nonetheless. It seems that the shamans for her tribe were chosen for their wisdom and ability to guide the people spiritually and recently there was a shaman induction ceremony. It was a rare occasion as the post of a Shaman is for life. The seven shamans gathered on the floating platform at the Lalu island for the induction ceremonial rituals for the new shaman. They looked to be in their 50-60’s in the pictures but some of them are already in their 70’s and 80’s. Talk about being remarkably well preserved! Also looked at their pictures of the Fengnian Festival which takes place in 7 or 8th month. Celebrations usually start on the 1st Lunar Day of the month and runs all the way to the mid-autumn festival akin to our Chinese New Year. Mom bought a HUGE jar of Magaadun 100% Pure Honey NT500, I privately thought was too ex, so wrapped up in newspaper that we forgot it was liquid. That certainly gave us trouble at the airport as we forgot to check it in. ^_^;

The bottle is currently sitting in my fridge undergoing test eh. The last time I went on Taiwan trip with a tour group in Nantou, I was told that when a jar of pure honey is tilted rapidly, you can only see ONE big bubble and if it is 100% flower honey meaning the bee is not fed with sugared water during non flowering season, there shouldn’t be sugar deposits but at the same time we debated that when the sugar concentration in the honey is so high that when temperature drops to a certain point, some of the sugar will crystallize out so we shall see.

We skipped the last attraction: Matchmaker God in order to catch the latest boat tour from Shuishe Wharf, NT200 at 4pm which lasted till 6pm which offered us more photo ops. The boat tour drops visitors off at these points with ample time to explore: Lalu Island, Xuanguang Temple Wharf, Dehua Wharf. The Xuanguang Temple is the transition point of the Sun and Moon shape that gave the lake her name. Along the way, you can see a squat building near the shore that had everyone in the ferry going “HUH?” when the captain told us it was a 2 storey lighthouse, boat houses and little floating islands of grass used for trapping fishes and also traditional Chinese fishing nets with a pulley system that, if I recall correctly, is used even in India. We experienced early Sunset (around 5.40pm) at Dehua Wharf, nothing spectacular but due to the fog cover, we were able to look straight at the tiny yellow egg yolk in the sky before it fell slowly behind the mountains.

After the boat ride, we returned to Shuishe Wharf. By that time, Meihe Gardens and the wharf area were lit up in orange and blue with the odd Christmas trees and décor which I have no idea if they were leftover from xmas. We noticed that the Ci-en pagoda was lit up like a beacon in the dimming lights when we returned to our hotel room and decided to enjoy scenic view of SML in the last rays of the setting sun at the balcony before taking a stroll around the Shuishe area till full dark before having dinner at one of the numerous restaurants in the commercial area.

Saw the elusive Taichung-HSR-SML Nantou Bus parked at the Visitors centre and double checked with the driver its timetable. It seems that there is some discreptancy due to misinterpretation with the image they posted on their website. The timings shown on their webbie for SML-Taichung 7.15am bus refer to the time it sets off from the Taichung HSR station regardless of the direction not the set off time from respectively SML or Taichung. It actually arrives in SML at 7.25am so it is best to refer to the sunmoonlake official webbie instead:

After chatting with the driver, we noticed that some shops were starting to close so we had better eat our dinner in one of the restaurants that looked less empty than the others. It must be a psychological thing because more people came in after this and the restaurant gradually filled. We particularly enjoyed the crispy Betel flower salad and steamed President fish famed in SML ~NT700 as it is charged by weight. Strange fish it is: it was very bony near the tail and nearly boneless in the centre with branched fishbones similar to the milkfish. I enjoyed it more than milkfish though.

After dinner we took a leisurely stroll and examined some of the souvenir shops slowly making our way to Meihe Gardens at 9+pm. It was dark but there were still some groups of elderly sitting around the benches in the pavilion and chatting. The trail and other parts of the gardens were not lighted except the pavilion, so we left after enjoying the breeze. The lights at the Ci-en Pagoda switched off at around 10pm and we could no longer see the pagoda from our room.

New Developments:

  1. There is a large 25 storey hotel (highest building) with conference rooms that is currently under construction near Harbour Elite Hotel which promises to give their guests an even better view of the lake and that means more $$$. I think it is an expansion of the posh posh水沙蓮大飯店 one unit ahead of Apollo.
  2. Our tour cabby also showed us the site near Ita Thao that is slated for community development with new houses (wooden ones) being built beside the lake and new opportunities for the local aborigines.
  3. Construction of Cable Car connecting Formosan Cultural Village to SML after youth centre so you have another transportation option other than the lakebus or taxis in the near future.
  4. New Buddhist museum behind the XuanZhuang Temple just started ground breaking and foundation works
  5. Reclamation of Lala Island. They had some kind of micropiles structure forming a polygonal shape. Sections of it were already lined with geo textiles with drainage in between sections then filled with soil and plants. I couldn’t get more info as the locals don’t seem to know much either. I didn’t like it because the air was foul with the construction and paint smells and it was noisy when we alighted from our tour boat. Also there seem to be some information boards being fixed all over specially for tourists when I thought Lalu was the sacred domain of the Thao Tribe that they fought hard to keep? Workers were painting the edges of the boardwalk with yellow glow paint so boat operators can see the dock clearly in the dark.

I can’t say much as there are opposing views on these developments. Some say that SML is being rapidly being urbanized and becoming ‘ugly-fied’ but the people there have to make a living and the same phenomenon is occurring elsewhere so I guess it is up to the locals to manage the fine line between the preservation of the beautiful landscape and commercialism so that the tourists keep coming back.

A general pictorial of the main commerce road:

Hotels & drinks | Food, Small Hotels/Lodgings, Souvenir Shops | Visitors centre/BusStop

Minsheng Road

Lakeview Hotels | Food, Small Hotels/Lodgings | Police Station | Fire Station/BusStop |

Day 1 Sunday :: Arriving in Taiwan > Taichung ::

The plane was delayed by 5 mins. It was a comfortable flight on SIA with no turbulence. We were kept well-fed and well-hydrated by the crew. It wasn't as well organised as the previous crew we travelled with but they were more eager to serve and constantly walked around giving out drinks. The flight was very packed so I guess they were kept on their toes. I have some opinions on the checklist of the mainteinance crew though. Had a defective safety belt inflight in Row 34. If there was servere turbulence or plane fault, I would be in trouble!

Arrived at Taoyuan Airport Terminal 2 @ 5pm. It took more than half an hour to clear immigration and collect our luggage. I hope to just carry-on my luggage next time to save time. After exiting from the Arrival Hall, we turned right and proceeded to park our luggage and mom at the bus ticketing area situated there.

After being assured that she would stay there, we headed to the far left of the Arrival Hall to check if my FarEastTone SIM could still be used. Unfortunately, it had expired. Too lazy to check on other telecom all lined up in that row, we purchased a new SIM card (NT300+350) from the FET counter. It was activated ready for use when it was handed over. If the SIM was purchased outside the Airport, it would have taken a longer time for activation to take place. This process took less than 5mins and we headed back to the express bus ticketing area to catch a bus to Taichung TRA station.

As expected, we missed the 5.45pm buses; or technically, the counters had closed purchases 5 minutes before departure time. As Guoguang and Ubus's next bus to Taichung was 6.45pm, we decided to purchase tickets for the 6pm Freego bus.

Headed for Berth 51/52 in the waiting area outside. There was a bus conductor who pasted a numbered baggage sticker on our luggage after checking our tickets to ensure we were at the right place.

Sidenote: The sticker was new as we didn't see it last May when we used freego services.

The Freego bus was 15 mins late. We had completed contacting all the relevant people and double checked with them to confirm that they had our itinerary right. Boarded the bus which was a slightly older model with sticky seats and dirty armrests.

Along the freeway we spotted many small fireworks lighting up the skies in the distance. I guess they were conducting some post-election celebrations after voting for the new president that will assume duties in May 2008. On a sie note: a Guoguang bus Airport-Taichung bus zoomed past us on the freeway which we suspect to be the 6.45pm bus! Grr!

Note: It seems that all the bus companies have buses leaving at 5.45pm. GuoGuang's next bus was 6.45pm while Freego's was every 15mins. Try to take GuoGuang rather than Freego, they seem to be more punctual.

Traffic was sluggish in Taichung City District. We reached the TRA station at 8.30pm instad of our expected time of arrival of 8.10pm which set us back by 20mins. Although the stop for the bus was technically "Taichung TRA station", the drop-off point was some distance away from the TRA station.

Note: To get to the Taichung TRA Station, simply follow the pavement, with the Jian Guo Road where you alighted at on your left, and you can find the station with no trouble.

We purchased the necessary round trip train tickets NT802pax for: Taipei-Hualien TC 1053 Shulin To Taitung 7:08 Hualien-Taipei TC 1060 Taitung To Shulin 19:00.

(The TC 1080 -- Jhihben To Taipei 19:30 was sold out because it was popular for its short journey time). On ticket purchase, we can now contact/arrange key persons before checking into Zaw-jung Business Hotel which we had booked while waiting for the Taichung Bus. Had a quick dinner at MOS as it was already quite late. Had some trouble finding the Underpass 地下道 to the rear station exit as people we asked kept giving us the wrong info. Good thing we were alert enough to double check or we'd have ended up lugging our luggage to Zhongzheng Rd Underpass.

Here are the Directions for the Underpass:

  1. Navigate yourself past the auto-ticketing machine to where the ticketing booths, stationmaster booth are.
  2. In front of the ticketing offices: on the left and right are 2 underpasses地下道.
  3. The left one goes across the street in front of the station.
  4. The right underpass leads to the rear exit which ends up in a small and quiet alley so don’t be startled.
  5. At the exit you will notice the fenced railway compound on your right.
  6. Turn left and walk down the alley.
  7. At the end of the alley you will see a small parking lot and Fuxing Rd Section 4 復興路四段.

TIP: If you are checking in at night, read the lighted signboards. They really stand out from each other. Simply stand there & scan the lighted signboards across Fuxing Rd Sec 4 on your right, you should be able to spot the Zawjung one easily.

Wheeling our luggage was a hassle as there are many stairs on the pavement. I noticed that both Twinstar Hotel (which looked spiffier across the road on the left) & Zawjung are equidistant from the rear exit.

I wasn’t expecting much of the hotel since it was el cheap (NT1580 for 2 doubles) as long as it is clean. Unfortunately, Zaw-jung Hotel was unlike what was described in the reviews and beyond my worst expectation. Even the el cheaper Futurestar in XMD was tons better than it. My impression of Zawjung stank with cigarette smell even though there were smoking signs. I don’t think staying in a different floor or turning on the air-con helped. The corridors were grimy with exposed black pipes and wires along the way from the elevator. At first glance, the room given to us was spacious and tidy like the pictures taken by other forumers. It was cleaned but it wasn’t clean clean. It passed muster on glance but on close look, there were odd specks on the pillows and the bedspread and the cupboards gave off an odd smell. Only the bathroom & towels made it in my standard. It was a tiring day and it was past 9.30pm so we decided to shower & sleep since it was only one night.

If I intend to stay in Taichung for a longer time in the future, rather than use it as transit point, I’d try the mid-range hotels located in the West District nearer Fengjia Night Market.

Friday, March 14, 2008

Maokong Area

貓空遊園公車 行駛路線 遊園公車路線經由指南路3段34巷、38巷、40巷至草湳橋,行經方向於三玄宮以西採逆時針單行,三玄宮以東至草湳橋頭採雙向行駛,由纜車貓空站為起站,沿途停靠田寮橋、樟湖路口、樟山寺、茶壺博物館、樟湖步道、三玄宮、天恩宮、茶展中心、貓空站、涼亭站、圓山、草湳,並迴轉停靠圓山、涼亭站、茶展中心、天恩宮,並回終點纜車貓空站。 班距 一般日尖峰12-15分鐘,離峰18-20分鐘 週五下午及假日:尖峰5-10分鐘、離峰12-15分鐘 (營運初期為因應人潮,可提昇至2分鐘1班) 營運時間 週一至週五9:00-22:00,國定及星期例假日:8:00-23:00

Thursday, March 13, 2008

An easy way out of hassles to Alishan

A useful network I found: Or Contact Ho Bo Ru at : +886 932879842

Local Land Tour Package to Alishan NT2500/pax


Day 1 Chiayi- Alishan Forest Recreational Area 第一天   嘉義 ─ 阿里山森林遊樂區

1pm Gather at Chiayi Train Station. A representative will explain to you the itinerary & make seating arrangements for you onboard the Alishan Forest Train. 13:00 於嘉義火車站大廳集合,有專人跟您解說行程,安排小火車座位

1.30pm Depart Chiayi for Alishan 13:30 於嘉義火車站搭乘阿里山小火車至阿里山站下車。阿里山小火車的螺旋環繞及 Z 字形爬升是世界僅存的三大登山鐵路之一。 ( 另可選搭 09:00 阿里山小火車 )

5.10pm Check into Alishan Hotel that the agent has booked for you 17:10 Check-in 阿里山飯店。

6.30pm Enjoy local Alishan cuisine 18:30 至餐廳享用當地風味晚餐

7.30pm Take a night stroll in the Alishan Commercial Area and view stars. Please Note That it might be chilly so bring your jackets. 19:30 夜遊阿里山商店街。在晴朗的月夜中極適合觀星,請須注意禦寒。  早餐:自備|午餐:自備|晚餐:風味晚餐 Meals on Day 1: Only Dinner will be provided

Day 2 Alishan FRA - Fencihu - Chiayi 第二天   阿里山森林遊樂區 ─ 奮起湖 ─ 嘉義

4.30am Specially hired tourbus will bring you to a good spot to observe sunrise in Yushan then to Tatajia Visitor's Centre to take in the majestic view of Yushan and the surrounding peaks. Along the way, we deviate to enjoy the sights of the Husband-wife tree, Deer Forest Shenmu, Mountain Lord Tree and monkeys in the wild primate preservation zone?. Yushan National Park Memorial Tablet & No.2 Deer Forest Shenmu in Taiwan 04:30 伴隨在滿天星斗,專車迎賓往玉山國家公園好望角觀日,並至塔塔加遊客中心眺望玉山群峰壯麗的山容。沿途欣賞夫妻樹、鹿林神木、夫妻樹與山霸王、獼猴群的野生彌猴保護區、玉山國家公園記念碑、全台第二鹿林神木…等。

8.00am Enjoy Breakfast Provided by Hotel 08:00 於阿里山飯店享受早餐

8.30am After meal stroll in the FRA to take in phytokenes? Along the way, you will past the Jiaoping Station and the Jicaiji as well as the Taiwan Yelan Flower Preservation Zone, Sister Lakes, Linlan Gardens, Zhenshou Temple, Xianglin Bridge, Elephant Nose Tree, 3 Generations Tree, Gaoshan Botanical Gardens, CiEn Shrine, Shenggong Plaque, Guangwu Cypress?, Giant Redwood Trail, Alishan Shenmu, Earth Deity Temple, Alishan Work Station and back to Hotel. Note that Road behind Xianglin Secondary's Track Field is the best spot to view the Cloud Seas. 08:30 餐後,建議您悠閒漫步於林道間徹底享受芬多精,路線可沿沼平車站旁之「集材機」和「台灣一葉蘭展示區」 → 姐妹潭 → 木蘭園 → 受鎮宮 → 香林橋 → 象鼻木、三代木 → 高山植物園 → 慈雲寺 → 旌功碑、樹靈塔 → 光武檜 → 巨木群棧道起點 → 阿里山神木 → 土地公廟 → 阿里山工作站 → 飯店,而香林國中運動場後方路段,視野遼闊,是阿里山森林遊樂區內觀賞雲海最佳的地點。

11am Check out 11:00 辦理退房手續

12.30 You will be brought from Alishan Visitors Centre to Fencihu to enjoy Fencihu's famed Lunchbox. Suggestion: Do not miss the railway biscuits, iron eggs and aiyu. Lunch is NOT provided! 12:30 於阿里山遊客中心 ( 或旅館 ) 前接泊至奮起湖享用最有名的奮起湖便當。建議您也別錯過奮起湖百年老街內的火車餅、草仔粿、鐵蛋與愛玉等美食 ( 中餐請自理 )

2.20pm In front of Fancylake Hotel, the bus will send you to Chiayi Station. Along the way you can enjoy the view and visit the 2 old bridges: DijiuTanChang Bridges (Everlasting Earth, Eternal Sky) 14:20 於奮起湖大飯店 ( 或公車站 ) 前專車接往嘉義火車站沿途欣賞美景,漫遊兩座古樸的吊橋: 上為天長橋,下為地久橋,據說若是有情人攜手共渡二橋,便能天長地久、白頭偕老

4.30 Reach Chiayi Railway Station. 16:30 抵達嘉義火車站,期待下次的再訪

早餐:飯店享用|午餐:奮起湖便當|晚餐:自備 Meals provided on Day 2: Breakfast by Hotel, Fencihu Lunchbox

Accomodation on Alishan

Alishan Accomodation Network :

Hotels in Forest Recreation Area

Hotels in Commercial Area Near Alishan train station

  1. 阿里山櫻山大飯店 YingShan Hotel near commercial area around train station, post office 電話 (03)931-1808 傳真 (03)931-1608 地址 嘉義縣阿里山鄉中正村39號 四人房 2400/3800, 3000/4800[norm/wkend, sakura season] 雙床三人房 estm NT2580/4,300 breakfast included on norm days. checkout11amcheckin3pm
  2. 高峰大飯店 Kaofeng Hotel 地址: 阿里山鄉中正村東阿里山41號 電話: (5)2679411 傳真: 05-2679412 4人VIP原木套房/VIP和室景觀套房: 6,500/3,200 4人VIP景觀套房/4人和室套房: 6,000/ 3,000
  3. Gao Shan Ching Hotel 高山青大飯店 地址:嘉義縣阿里山鄉中正村43號 訂房:(05)267-9716 (05) 267-9988 (05)267-9388 (05)267-9688‧傳真專線:(05)267-9780 電子信箱 四人房 4300 2400 3000 3000 [rack/norm/peak/superpeak]
  4. 大峰山莊 Dafeng Villa 阿里山鄉中正村46號─旅館商店區 5-2679769 Behind Visitor's Center 4ppl 2200/3300[norm/saknm] w breakfast
  5. 阿里山 登山別館 ALI-SHAN DENGSHAN HOTEL (subsidary of Kaofeng Hotel) 嘉義縣阿里山鄉中正村東阿里山47號 商家地址: 阿里山鄉中正村東阿里山47號 電話: (5)2679758 傳真: 05-2679412
  6. 阿里山飯店美麗亞山莊 notbad  住址:嘉義縣阿里山鄉中正村49號  訂房專線:05-2679745 FAX:05-2679145 AM:09:00~PM11:00  三人房 4300 2600 3400 3400 景觀四人房 5,200 2,550 4,550 4,650 3,250 4,850 [rack/norm/sat/hols/sakuranorm/sakurapeak] 經濟四人房 4,800 2,150 4,050 4,250 3,050 4,550 Breakfast??
  7. 阿里山‧禾楓別墅 Ho Fong Villa Hotel (Subsidary of Gao Shan Ching Hotel) Lux Leh! 地址:嘉義縣阿里山鄉中正村51號 電話:(05)2679716 傳真:(05)2679780 2A db 2800/3600/4900/4500[norm/saknorm/sakpeak/peak] 2B 2200/3000/3900/3600 2C 2300/3200/4400/4000 3 2800/3800/4900/4500
  8. 阿里山力行山莊 Lishing Villa 地址: 阿里山鄉中正村52號(阿里山郵局旁) 電話: (5)2679634 傳真: 05-2679717 四人房 2400 3200 3520 [norm/peak/sakurapeak]

Hotels in Xianglin Village near Jiaoping Station

  1. 阿里山賓館 Alishan House 地址: 嘉義縣阿里山鄉香林村16號 郵件: 電話: (5)2679811 傳真: 05-2679596 ※另提供前往阿里山火車站搭乘祝山線觀日出火車之接駁專車,配合火車時刻發車。 Damn Good view but SO DAMN EXPENSIVE!!!
  2. 阿里山閣大飯店 Alishan Gou Hotel 嘉義縣阿里山鄉香林村1號 TEL:05-2679611.05-2679312 FAX:05-2679614 三人房 3,200/2080/2720/2560 [rack/norm/superpeak/peak]incl Breakfast 6.30-8.30am Checkin1pm Checkout11.30
  3. Alishan Youth Activity Center 嘉義‧救國團阿里山青年活動中心  地址:嘉義縣阿里山鄉香林村二萬坪106號  電話:(05)2679561 傳真:(05)2679562 4ppl rm NT3040/3200

Minsu in Forest Recreation Area

  1. 阿里山欣欣民宿 Xinxin Minsu 電 話: 05-2679748/ 0919-604513 手 機: 0937-573861 傳 真: 05-2679069 地 址: 嘉義縣阿里山鄉中正村24號 二人雅房   800元  1500元[平日/假日] 二人套房  1200元  2000元 四人雅房  1400元  2800元 四人套房  1800元  3600元 櫻花季價位 二人雅房  1000元  1500元 [平日/假日] 二人套房  1500元  2200元 四人雅房  1800元  2800元 四人套房  2500元  3600元

Hotels in other parts of Alishan

Minsu in other parts of Alishan

  1. 阿里山民宿-公田自在山林民宿 地址: 嘉義縣番路鄉公田村八鄰濫田仔四號 TEL: 05-2911658、0921016450 FAX: 05-2562087323766 聯絡人: Amy E-mail :
  2. 阿里山民宿-梅園雅舍民宿 地址: 嘉義縣梅山鄉瑞里村1-7號(瑞太遊客中心斜對面) TEL: 05-2620278、0952019771、0932877474 聯絡人: 葉勝夫、 黃麗玲 E-mail: 特色: *鄰近瑞里風景區約5分鐘、奮起湖30分鐘、大凍山約45分鐘。 *在民宿前排的觀景套房,即可看到絢麗的日出 。 *梅園雅舍屬於別墅型民宿,整棟民宿共8間套房,約可容納32人,適合整棟承租給網友聚會。 *生態行程建議:瑞太古道、雲潭瀑布、千年蝙蝠洞、九二一大走山、野薑花溪等旅遊景點讓你一飽大自然的鬼斧神工,來一趟不同的尋幽之旅。
  3. 阿里山民宿-達娜伊谷雅瑪家資訊 地址: 嘉義縣番路鄉公興村龍美 1鄰4之9號 TEL: 05-2586905、0921200720 FAX: 05-2586274 聯絡人: 李茂寅 E-mail: 特色: *鄰近達娜伊谷自然生態保育區約15分鐘、奮起湖30分鐘、大凍山約45分鐘。 *鄰近鄒族文化園區20分鐘,可免費欣賞原住民歌舞表演。 *看日出的話會建議去大凍山,車子即可開到鄰近處 。 *民宿主人有一手好廚藝。 *生態行程建議: 賞櫻、觀星、 賞螢(需自備手電筒)、 夕陽。

Wednesday, March 12, 2008

Bus from Chiayi THSR Station to Alishan 阿里山!!!

3月15日至4月15日阿里山櫻花季假日,增開「高鐵嘉義阿里山旅遊快線公車」,以應對櫻花季客流高峰 欲乘坐高鐵前往阿里山的民眾可於高鐵太保站公車第三月台搭乘「高鐵嘉義阿里山旅遊快線公車」,逢週六、日(即3月17、18、24、25、31及4月1、7、8日)每天上午0815、0915、1115以及下午1315出發,由高鐵直達阿里山(中途只停嘉義火車站及石桌略供旅客休息),另於嘉義車站搭車上阿里山賞花民眾,時間為每日0710、0850(假日,高鐵乘客優先)、0910、1000(假日,高鐵乘客優先)、1110、1200(假日,高鐵乘客優先)、1310、1400(假日,高鐵乘車優先)及1510。 回程,阿里山將在0830、1000、1200、1400、1500(假日,高鐵乘客優先,預計1810抵達高鐵冬保站)、1530(假日,高鐵乘客優先,預計1840抵達高鐵太保站)、1540、1600(假日,高鐵乘客優先,預計1910抵達高鐵太保站)、1630(假日,高鐵乘客優先,預計1940抵達高鐵太保站)發車。 阿里山旅遊公車並採取當日預售(0630起)及對號入座措施(嘉義至阿里山單程票價全票214元、半票107元,高鐵太保站至阿里山單程票價為全票260元、半票130元)團體包車,請洽公車處遊覽部(專線05:2788371、或05:2788177轉208),乘車資訊或購票可洽嘉義站(電話05:2243140)、或上網http//

Increased Bus Trips to Alishan during Plum Blossom Season 阿里山櫻花季加班車時刻表

一年一度阿里山櫻花季旅客,自3月15日至4月16日增開加班車,請民眾多加利用。 嘉義往阿里山公車平時有五班次: 06:10、08:10、10:10、12:10、14:10 假日固定增開二班:07:10、09:10,機動加班二班:08:00、10:00。 阿里山往嘉義公車平時有五班次:09:10、11:10、13:10、15:10、17:10 假日固定增開二班:14:10、16:10,機動加班二班:15:40、16:40

Tips to maximise coverage of Alishan

There is an extra bus departing Chiayi Bus Station (on right side of Chiayi Railway Station) at 1010 hrs on Sat, Sun and public holidays only and makes a stop at Fenchihu before proceeding to Alishan. You can visit Fenchihu either on your way uphill to Alishan (see option 1 below) or on your way downhill to Chiayi (see option 2 below).

Option 1: (Visit Fenchihu on way up to Alishan) -- Early start from Chiayi

From Chiayi Bus Station, board the 0710 hrs bus uphill to Fenchihu. Fare: NT$155 Travel time: 1 hr 50 mins. Arrive Fenchihu at 0900 hrs. Visit the two attractions -- Fenchihu Old Street and Old Railway Museum (from 0900 to 1544 hrs = 6 hrs 44 mins). Board the 1544 hrs train uphill to Alishan. Fare: NT158 Travel time: 1 hr 14 mins Arrive Alishan at 1658 hrs.

Overnight in Alishan and view sunrise the next morning. Check-out at 12 noon.

Downhill by bus: Buses depart Alishan at 0910, 1110, 1310, 1510 and 1710 hrs for Chiayi Bus Station. Fare: NT$214 Travel time: About 2.5 hrs


Downhill by forest rail trains: Weekdays – The only train departs Alishan Station at 1318 hrs for Chiayi Railway Station.

Saturdays and Sundays – Trains depart Alishan Station at 1318 hrs and 1340 hrs for Chiayi Railway Station.

For option 1, you probably need to spend a night at Chiayi to catch the 0710 hrs bus uphill to Fenchihu. The only forest train arrives Fenchihu at 1544 hrs (weekdays), you will be at Fenchihu for 6 hrs 44 mins before proceeding to Alishan. However, if it is a Saturday, Sunday or Public Holiday, there is a train arriving Fenchihu at 1114 hrs in addition to the 1544 hrs train. You will be at Fenchihu for 2 hrs 14 mins to visit the two attractions.

Option 2: (Visit Fenchihu on way down to Chiayi)

Uphill by bus:

Buses depart Chiayi Bus Station (on right side of Chiayi Railway Station) at 0610, 0810, 1210 and 1410 hrs for Alishan. Fare: NT$214 Travel time: About 2.5 hrs. There is an extra bus at 1010 hrs on Sat, Sun and public holidays and makes a stop at Fenchihu before proceeding to Alishan. OR Uphill by forest rail trains:

Weekdays – The only train departs Chiayi Railway Station at 1330 hrs for Alishan Station Saturdays and Sundays – Trains depart Chiayi Railway Station at 0900 hrs and 1330 hrs for Alishan Station. Overnight in Alishan and view sunrise the next morning. Check-out at 12 noon. Board the 1318 hrs train downhill to Fenchihu. Fare: NT158 Travel time: 1 hr 17 mins. Arrive Fenchihu at 1435 hrs. Visit the two attractions -- Fenchihu Old Street and Old Railway Museum (from 1435 to 1650 hrs = 2 hrs 15 mins). Board the 1650 hrs bus downhill to Chiayi Bus Station. Fare: NT$155 Travel time: 1 hr 50 mins. Arrive Chiayi at 1840 hrs. You will be at Fenchihu for 2hrs 15 mins to visit the two attractions. Chiayi <–> Fenchihu bus schedule: Chiayi <–> Alishan bus schedule:

There is an extra bus departing Chiayi at 1010 hrs on Sat, Sun and public holidays only. This bus will make a stop at Fenchihu before proceeding to Alishan. Bus fares: Forest rail schedule: Forest rail fares:

Suggest option 2 for visits on weekdays and either option 1 or 2 for visits on Saturdays, Sundays and Public Holidays.