TIGHT-CHUNG: TOURING TAICHUNG, TAIWAN ON A TIGHT SCHEDULE

Looking at my last post made me realize how much backlog I got in terms of documenting my trips. So while I am stuck at home because of the enhanced community quarantine (ECQ), I would like to devote some time in writing a few articles about my previous trips. That being said, I would like to warn you guys that what you are about to read in my upcoming posts are “super throwback” articles, hence, some information may already be obsolete by this time. Nevertheless, I just want to share my experiences in general and hope that my posts will still somehow be of help to you in the future. For my first ECQ post, I’ll be sharing my 36-hour itinerary in Taichung, Taiwan. This itinerary was part of my 5D-4N Taiwan trip in May 2019.

I only roamed around Taipei during the first time I visited Taiwan. I told myself that I will see another city should I visit the country again. But given a short trip duration, I couldn’t go somewhere too far from Taipei. That is why I chose Taichung because of its close proximity to Taipei, thereby minimizing travel time. Taichung also had a lot of attractions to offer sans the expensive price tag.  

I booked a roundtrip ticket to Taipei from Manila for PHP 5,500 during an anniversary sale of an airline which was two months before the trip. It was a good deal considering that it already included 25 kilos of check-in baggage, seat selection, and complete meals for both flights.

ARRIVAL IN TAICHUNG

Because of a slight delay in my departure from Manila, I missed the 8-ish o’clock bus from Taoyuan Airport to Taichung and had to wait for the next trip at 10:45PM, which explains why I arrived way past midnight in Taichung. A fast train was an option, but the cost was almost double the bus fare so I decided to just wait for the bus while feasting on 7-11 treats inside the airport (something I like doing when I travel abroad because I like exploring product offerings of 7-11 in different countries).

Good thing that I booked a bed in an 8-bed male dormitory room at Ease Single Inn which accepted late night check-ins. The hostel was also a stone’s throw away from where the bus unloaded all passengers (this I actually didn’t know about, lucky me) so I was able to get to the hostel in no time. I booked two nights for a total of PHP 1,496. It may sound expensive for a dorm bed, but trust me, it’s quite hard to find a decent hostel at under PHP 500 a night in Taichung on the month of May. Besides, the price went a long way because it included a simple daily buffet breakfast, a basket of toiletries, and unlimited coffee, milk tea, chocolate drink, purified water, and mint candies. They were also very thoughtful in providing plastic-and-paper fans considering how warm it was outside during the summer.

HALF-DAY DIY TOUR 1

I bet you calculated how much sleep I got, and yeah, I didn’t have enough. Given my short stay in Taichung, I had to maximize my time and a little amount of sleep would have to be sacrificed. While enjoying a simple spread of breakfast at the inn’s cute dining hall, I planned my itinerary for my first morning in the city. Yeah, just for the morning, because I had already made an advance booking back in Manila for a bus tour in the afternoon.

On the way to my first destination, Chun Shui Tang, I did a short walk to get a feel of the city. I had observed that Taichung was very clean. I even saw koi fish swimming in the newly-restored Xinsheng Waterway! A lot of commercial establishments had potted plants arranged along their frontages to somehow compensate for the lack of green spaces in the crowded areas of the city. After several minutes of walking and eventually taking the bus (after realizing that my first destination was too far), I finally arrived at Chun Shui Tang, the teahouse that claimed to invent the milk tea that we all love today. By the way, I bought an EasyCard at 7-11 (NTD 200) which I used in riding local buses. I used the same card to pay for my train fares in Taipei.

The claim of Chun Shui Tang remains to be debated; nevertheless, I had to give their milk tea a try. But instead of having the classic bubble tea, I ordered a tall glass of mango milk tea (NTD 90) which was in their limited summer menu. I guess I made the right choice because the mango milk tea was very light and refreshing. It had soft tapioca pearls and was topped with crushed ice.

After getting a quick recharge, I took a bus going to Park Lane at the West District which was the meeting point for the afternoon tour. Since I arrived way too early in the area, I had the luxury to stroll around and see the Calligraphy Greenway, local souvenir shops, street art, and other nearby attractions. Come lunch time, I suddenly craved for Thai food (instead of Chinese lol) so I devoured a bowl of tom yum and a serving of shrimp paste chicken wings while I waited for the tour to commence.

HALF-DAY BUS TOUR

As I had mentioned above, I booked a tour from Kkday while I was still in Manila for a half-day trip to the National Taichung Theater, Rainbow Village, Gaomei Wetlands and drop-off at Feng Chia Night Market (~PHP 1,216). Included in the tour were a roundtrip airconditioned bus ride, an English-speaking tour guide and complimentary bottled water.  

The bus was full since it was peak travel season when I visited Taichung. We first went to the beautiful National Taichung Theater, an opera house with theatre rooms, an art gallery, a sky garden, culture stores, and a restaurant. Opened in 2016, it was designed by Japanese Architect Toyo Ito with the desire to create “an aesthetic that promotes a symbiotic relationship between humans and the natural world” (en.npac-ntt.org). The incorporation of natural elements was evident in the architecture—green construction; 3D curved wall structures to symbolize a natural flow of space; air holes to allow the theater to breathe during the day and allow natural light to pour in; and an external water feature, among others. It is one architectural marvel that makes it a must-visit when you are in Taichung.  

After a laidback tour of the theater, we then headed to Nantun to visit the Rainbow Military Community or also known as the Rainbow Village. The village is a housing complex for retired soldiers and their dependents. In 2008, a veteran known as Mr. Huang thought about painting the walls of the village with cute images of animals, aircrafts and other things that caught his interest. Starting with his house, Mr. Huang painted the entire village in full color with the help of other artists. Because of its new look, the village caught the attention of tourists who flocked the new attraction. The village almost got demolished because of a plan of the city government to use the land for some other purpose, but because of the clamor of thousands of people, the city government decided to modify its plans and preserved the village. The village is surely a haven for Instagram peeps because not only every corner is gram-worthy, but it also serves as an excellent backdrop for portraits. My only concern was the scorching heat of the sun because we toured the village at around 3PM. Good thing that there were some shops that sold cold drinks and ice cream to help in cooling down.

Last on the tour list was Gaomei Wetlands which was further away from central Taichung. This attraction was the reason why I booked the bus tour. I really wanted to see the sunset from the wetlands but getting there can be complicated and costly for a solo traveler. Aside from the sunset, the wetlands also offer a spectacular view of windmills and a lighthouse, and if you are lucky, a sighting of migratory birds. The wetlands also feature an elegant 800-meter boardwalk where one can wait for the sunset. Not far from the parking area is a long row of food shops where one can indulge in delectable local snacks and drinks. I bought squid balls, soya pudding and sugarcane juice (total of NTD 120) and ate them while I enjoyed the view and waited for the sun to set.

FENG CHIA NIGHT MARKET

The half-day tour ended at around 7:00PM and we were all dropped off at the entrance of Feng Chia Night Market, one of the several night markets in the city. I had no plans of buying stuff but since it was already dinner time, I thought I’d check out the night market for food. I had some grilled shrimp (NTD 50) and a set meal of steak cubes, potatoes and soda (NTD 120).

I didn’t bother checking out the products at the night market because I had other shopping plans—spell I-K-E-A! Before heading out to IKEA, I got myself papaya milk (NTD 60) which I read was something tourists were crazy about, forgetting that my tummy couldn’t tolerate papaya so you know how and where the story ended. Haha. Fortunately, I was able to reach the inn just before disaster struck.

SHOPPING AT IKEA

What is a trip abroad for me without visiting IKEA? It’s like my favorite shop in the world! Since IKEA is yet to open in Manila, I make it a habit to visit an IKEA store whenever I travel abroad.

I got some stuff for my small home in QC and a few stuff for my family, too. It’s quite a big deal for me to visit IKEA because some of the stuff that I want are not available in all countries and prices vary per country, too. My best find in IKEA Taichung was a roman shade that wasn’t available in Hong Kong when I visited a month before my trip to Taiwan. I got it for half of its original price, too! It was exactly closing time when I left IKEA and there weren’t many buses that late so I took an Uber back to the inn.

HALF-DAY CITY TOUR 2

I still had not gotten enough sleep but I was energized enough to start my tour, thanks to the complimentary breakfast at the inn. My first destination was the Taichung Railway Station which was just walking distance from the inn. The station is an interesting mix of a wood-and-brick ground structure dating back from 1905 and a modern elevated steel structure. On the wide empty space fronting the station were gigantic temporary art installations. Since the bus terminal was also nearby, I decided to drop by and bought a 3:00PM bus ticket for Taipei.

My next destination was the Painted Animation Lane. This will get anime fans excited and nostalgic because they’ll get to take gram-worthy photos with their favorite anime and other cartoon characters at the background. The lane is actually just a narrow residential/commercial alleyway that was creatively transformed by painting cartoon characters on the walls, from the classic Mario Bros. and Spongebob Squarepants to the well-loved anime characters from Dragon Ball Z, Ghost Fighter and Slam Dunk. Interestingly, the animation lane seems to be less popular among tourists, so I literally had the place to myself.

Not so far from the Painted Animation Lane is the National Taiwan Museum of Fine Arts. I’m not really a fan of art galleries but since it was nearby, I decided to pay a visit. The museum is said to be dedicated to the education and promotion of visual arts, placing emphasis on collecting works by Taiwanese artists (ntmofa.gov.tw). Aside from permanent collections, the museum features changing exhibitions, indoor and outdoor installation art, a media center and a library. The museum is pretty huge you’ll probably need a day to explore if you’re really serious about visual arts.

Just when I was about to head back to the inn to pack my stuff and have lunch before I travel back to Taipei, I saw a Chun Shui Tang branch at the museum, seemingly telling me not to leave Taichung without getting a taste of its classic bubble tea. Well, I gave in to the temptation and decided to have lunch there. I finally got to order the classic milk tea along with donburi and shrimp shumai (total of NTD 279). The bubble tea was on the creamy side, ice was crushed like before and the pearls were a bit smaller than the ones I got used to having. At 100% sugar, it was not too sweet. The donburi was okay but the shrimp shumai was a surprise! Each piece was exaggeratedly huge and sat over some kind of tasty broth.  

DEPARTURE FOR TAIPEI

I got to the bus station way ahead of my booked schedule. Since the bus that was leaving earlier had a lot of vacant seats, I was allowed to take the earlier schedule which was preferable because it meant that I would reach Taipei earlier than expected. There’s my 36 hours in Taichung! Meanwhile, here is the breakdown of expenses:

*NTD 1.00 is approximately equal to PHP 1.70

Particulars Cost Notes
Accommodation   
Bed in an 8-bed male dormitory room x 2 nightsPHP 1,496 (NTD 880) Ease Single Inn
    
Transportation   
UberPHP 850 (NTD 500) Total of 4 rides
Bus, Taipei to Taichung and v.v.PHP 1,020 (NTD 600) 
EasycardPHP 340 (NTD 200) NTD 100 consumable and NTD 100 deposit; was not fully consumed in Taichung
    
Food   
Assorted food and beveragePHP1,832.60 (NTD 1,078) 3 orders of milk tea; 2 orders of noodles; 1 order each of chicken wings, sugarcane juice, squid balls, soya pudding, grilled shrimp, steak cubes, potatoes and soda, papaya milk, donburi, shrimp shumai
    
Tours   
Half-day bus tourPHP 1,215.50 (NTD 715) Booked via Kkday
    
TotalPHP 6,754.10 (NTD 3,973)  

**Let us continue praying for everyone’s safety in this Covid-19 situation. Extend help if and when you can. Stay safe!

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