Saturday, May 31, 2014

CityInn Hotel Taipei Station Branch I Review (新驛旅店台北車站一館) - A Damn Convenient Location to Explore the Rest of Taipei!

I can only point the finger at this term known as "travel fatigue" when i came to the realisation upon my return to Singapore that i didn't take that many pictures for our last accommodation in Taiwan; City Inn Hotel Taipei Station!

This came as a brutal shock to me because the stay was over five nights and i was extremely impressed with this particular hotel. I might not have travelled much but the level of service in this hotel would be one good reason why i would strongly recommend the 3-star CityInn to my friends! More on that later.

Room size was the smallest out of the four accommodations we had in Taiwan but it has almost everything you need in a basic hotel (including free wifi access) except for a mini fridge, which is negligible for us. And, there were a lot more; for example, power sockets in the room that are compatible with our three-pin plugs and availability of a torch light next to the bed in case there is a power shortage!

Little touch of surprises was everywhere! Not many hotels would provide complimentary bag of snacks for you to munch on when you are watching a damn exciting movie on cable! CityInn does!

Speaking of cable, the LCD featured a navigation panel similar to what we can find in full service airplanes and coaches. The main attraction is of course the blue-ray movies!

Pornographic addicts would be pleased with the "adult" category.

For young, innocent chaps like myself, i am happy watching a number of blockbusters that i have yet to catch. Frankly, i hate it when hotels provide too many programmes / movies on TVs as it often means i would compromise on my sleep to finish the show!

No complaint on the bathing amenities. As you can see, CityInn doesn't provide individual bottles of shampoo, bath-gel and small bars of soup. In their place are the dispensers which i personally thought is the ecological way to reduce wastage!

Another quirky feature i found was the above. The tabs we normally hang outside the room to "make up my room" and "do not disturb" now come in magnetic form!

No more having to place it over the door handle (which can be troublesome depending on the shape of the handle)! I even had a game with Alex; see who can throw it from a distance AND make it stick onto the door!

Each level has a technological theme; level seven is the icon of android (ironically, i am an Apple supporter when it comes to phones) whereas level two is YouTube.

Level five is Google Map. The theme is only limited to the corridor and not the rooms. I don't remember there's anything remotely 'android' about the room allocated to us.

Let's get down to level two. Did you notice there is no level four in this hotel? As usual, the curious me could not help asking and the answer given was that some of the buildings in Taiwan would jump the number given the Chinese pronunciation of four is almost identical to the word "death".

Those notices pasted in the lift can be really useful - the weather forecast would determine if you would need to borrow an umbrella from the reception and your dress code for the day!

Even though CityInn is located quite near to the HSR station, you may wish to consider the private airport shuttle should you have too much to carry! Those who need to buy local snacks as souvenirs for friends / relatives / colleagues can also order directly through the reception; delivery is directly to the hotel and you only need to pay a nominal transportation fee imposed by the snack companies (not the hotel).

Half of level two is designated as the common area for guests where you can read the local newspapers for the latest update of the country and the world.

There's even a pantry with a refrigerator, coffee machine, nescafe dispenser and microwave for you to use. I honestly don't like the idea of sharing the refrigerator with strangers but i am totally in love with the coffee machine! Get a cup before you get out of the hotel.

Seating on level two can be improved; the feeling i had when i was sitting on the seats was like i am waiting to see a doctor! Tsk, not exactly a fantastic thought when i am supposed to be holidaying.

Save on cleaning costs and do your own laundry! Washing power is provided free of charge and you may even do your own ironing (irons are available from the reception counter on level one).

Some of you might have heard that our luggage was severely overweight when we got to the airport; the actual count was twenty kilograms over the limit! I would have faced much lesser frustration if i had utilised the weighing machine in CityInn! :( 

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As i mentioned in the beginning of this post, the exemplary service displayed by the operation team would be key to my strong endorsement of CityInn Taipei Station Branch I; it in fact started well before I stepped into the hotel when the receptionist called me a few days and notified me on the check in timing. 

In the five nights we was there, they have been the recipient of our numerous, multi-tier questions yet maintained a friendly disposition that never failed to cheer us up! The final 'straw' came when i returned to my room on the last night to find the above lying on the bed. 

It's a handwritten card addressed personally to me and two egg puddings for supper! I was honestly very touched by this nice gesture as everyone has been so kind and helpful! 

A BIG THANK YOU to Michelle, Wayne, Seven, Lillian, Cindy, Raine, Anthony, Volka, Joyce and the housekeeping staff! All of you have indeed created unforgettably sweet memories and for that, we are extremely grateful. 

Location
No.7, Huaining St., Zhongzheng Dist., 
Taipei City 100, Taiwan

Map 
As above

Website (English version available)

Price
S$110.15 a night which includes taxes and fees; booked via hotels.com. I just checked the hotel website; the rates are cheaper!!! Sad...

Additional Information
Get the two maps as above! The first would help you to navigate around the hotel and the other would give you valuable information on major tourist spots along the subway stations; for example, you should exit Jiannan Road MRT station for the Miramar Ferris Wheel! 


For an overview of my 9 Days, 8 Nights Taiwan Trip [Cingjing (清境) - Sun Moon Lake (日月潭) - Taichung (臺中) - Taipei (臺 北)], click HERE.

Friday, May 30, 2014

Business Class Cabin for Taiwan High Speed Rail (HSR) 台灣高速鐵

Taking the high speed rail (henceforth HSR) is one efficient way to cut down on travelling time within Taiwan without the high, exorbitant prices we often have to fork out for domestic air travel. 

My topic today is to share the experience of business class seating in Taiwan HSR. With a journey that took us less than an hour (from Taichung to Taipei), you might wonder why did i pay more than 40% the standard ticket pricing for business class?! Two reasons; to experience the difference and because i had a huge luggage! 

Of course, i didn't know that standard class cabins have the same luggage compartment until i was physically in Taiwan. In my trip back to Taipei, the compartment was so full; i had to make use of the extra leg space in front of my spacious seat! So in a way, there were indeed some benefits to taking business class. 

Other advantages include reclining seats, independent readings lights (in bright daylight, there was seriously no need for this), supply of magazines and daily newspapers, personal music listening system and electrical sockets by the side of your seats which are not compatible for what we have in unless you bring along your international adapter.

Drink would be served, together with snacks. Your eyes are not wrong; we were given small packs of vacuumed Bee Cheng Hiang bak kwa! Nice to see a touch of a Singapore brand here in Taiwan.

I don't understand; the seat knob on top of the side facing the center aisle was indicated as one of the features for business class! Please, give us something more worthy to write about and safety is your argument point, install that for everyone! 

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Tickets (for both standard and business cabins) could be pre-purchased via the website at http://www5.thsrc.com.tw/en/ using your credit card. Early birds might even be given discounts of up to 35%! 


For an overview of my 9 Days, 8 Nights Taiwan Trip [Cingjing (清境) - Sun Moon Lake (日月潭) - Taichung (臺中) - Taipei (臺 北)], click HERE.

Thursday, May 29, 2014

Huaxi Street Tourist Night Market (华西街观光夜市) - The Snake Alley @ Taipei [Taiwan]

This is going to be a superbly short post and i am assuring you that i am writing the truth! After spending quite a bit of time at Guangzhou Street night market, we made our way to the bordering Huaxi night market! 

By the time i reached at 8.45pm, the market was already very quiet and a number of stores have actually closed for the day. Nevertheless, i was there to check out the only nemesis of Cavin Teo; snakes!

Also known as snake alley, the street was known for its numerous shops that offer snake blood, snake gall and other snakes dishes to curious tourists and as a bonus, you can even be the recipient of a number of serpent shows. No, not those kinds where the snakes are kissed and played around. 

Rather, you shall be part of the cruel slaughtering. It's hilarious how some people can justify killing with research (as indicated in Chinese above). 

I don't think i have given the night market the necessary due respect with this short post and believe i could find a lot if i am given a chance (and more time) to explore!

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Location Map
As above


Wednesday, May 28, 2014

Handcrafted Cotton Candy (手創花式棉花糖) @ Taiwan!

Most of us ADULTS would not give cotton candy a second glance whenever we see them for sale; the immediate sugar rush would have been better spent on therapeutic ice cream!

However, the crowd surrounding this temporary stall outside Taipei main station stopped us in our track. As a true blue Singaporean, i deemed it necessary to check out what the hooha was all about. 

The show, if any, was quite boring in the beginning and i was about to leave when i saw the man using another wooden stick to "craft" the originally round cotton candy. 

It eventually turned out to be a flower-shaped cotton candy! The visual difference from its conventional, unexciting shape would have attracted the attention of quite a number of children. Even i, a 34 year old man, was intrigued!

Did i get one for myself? I would have if not for the fact that each handcrafted cotton candy took quite a long time to make and it's a fact that i didn't have enough time to spend in Taiwan! Good also, i can cut down on my excessive sugar intake. 

Tuesday, May 27, 2014

Fu Shan Seafood & Tze Cha (富山海鲜) @ Chong Pang [Yishun]

It's the annual mother's day but our family decided not to have it on the actual day as we all know how crowded all the eating establishments would be! Seriously, if you are that filial to your mom, every day is mother's day! 

Rest assured that I am not going to talk about filial piety today (doubt i am qualified anyway) as the yardstick can be hard to measure. So, let's continue with the makan we had at Fu Shan Seafood!

The matriarch of our family and the star of mother's day mentioned that many of her Chong Pang friends were regulars of this tze char stall and thought it should be a good and affordable choice for the celebration. 

Notice the price of crabs (S$5.50 per 100g)? It seemed to be exorbitantly priced but i understand Sri Lanka crabs are usually pricier species. 

Sambal Kangkong
马来风光
This plate of malay glory was a tad too wet for my liking even though it did not dilute the much needed spiciness signature of this dish. As i was eating it, i could not help missing the pork-lard version i had at S99.

Snowflake Beancurd
雪花豆腐
Said to be the gem of beancurd dishes, i beg to differ if we are just going to rely on taste. It sure didn't amaze me although i had to admit that besides the beancurd, there was a pretty wide mix of ingredients.

Honey Ribs
密汁排骨
An utter disappointment - this style was more braised than honeyed which would be my taste buds' preferred choice. Nevertheless, it was quite nice for a braised pork dish with meat that easily fell off the bones! 

Chilli Crab
辣椒螃蟹
When it comes to chilli crab, my first action was to take a scoop of the chilli sauce for tasting purpose. The sauce in this instance had way too much tomatoes. I only realised later that mom has specifically requested for less spicy for Jovyn and Jerald's benefit. 

Oh well, they tasted great when mixed with plain rice. Not that i am enjoying it totally as i should be cutting down on carbohydrates during dinnertime! 

Meat texture of Sri Lanka crabs never disappoints! The claw appeared to be very small because Mom had asked for smaller-sized crabs, knowing fully well that most of her family members (the lazy ones) didn't like to peel off the shells. 

Crab Bee Hoon Soup
螃蟹米粉汤
It has been a long time since i last had crab bee hoon soup! You know how many of us identify soup with diet; the more the merrier! Of course, we understand the good old advice that moderation is key to good health.

A little too peppery i think; which wasn't really a major issue. However, i didn't get that overwhelming satisfaction and there were two reasons; a lack of robust flavour and a consistency that could have been richer and thicker. 

Barley Soup
This was free and you know what is the ironic thing about this normal looking warm barley soup? Among all the dishes we had that day, this was the best surprise! It wasn't choked with sugar yet tasty enough for me to down two bowls! 

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Location
Block 101, Yishun Avenue 5,
#01-93 [within Chong Pang]

Price
Sambal Kangkong (m) - S$9.00
Snowflake Beancurd (m) - S$18.00
Honey Ribs - S$16.00
Chilli Crab and Crab Bee Hoon Soup - S$87.50
Barley Soup - Free
Rice - S$0.60 a bowl

Menu
As above.

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