Saturday, June 07, 2014

[Taichung (臺中) > Taipei (臺北)] - Day Four Itinerary for Taiwan Trip 2014: Includes a visit to Ximending!

I didn't want to get out of the bed at 53 hotel but we needed to catch the bullet train at 10.01am! To get to the high speed rail station, i had to take the railway at Taichung main station and i honestly thought i was quite late to be still stuck at the platform at 9.11am! 

Buying a ticket was super confusing as i didn't quite understand how Taiwan railway works; the same platform could have trains going to different routes and information listed was a tad too confusing even for me; a person who reads Chinese! 

Fortunately, the Taiwanese are such nice people and i received fantastic help from the station's personnel! Key questions to ask (after purchasing your tickets) are: "which platform to take" and "what is the destination for the train". Here's our vibrantly coloured train! 

Interior of the railway train for those who are interested. Do note that there are three types of rail in Taiwan; the high speed rail (aka bullet train), the railway and the MRT (similar to what we have in Singapore).

Railway tracks - i have a friend who is obsessed about railway around the world and his aim is to complete a train journey from Singapore all the way to Europe! He is now about halfway through and i believe his next leg from China to Russia would be the most amazing! 

So cool to see the train driver in action! 

Alex goofing around with this face mask i bought for MYSELF!! Asshole insisted on wearing it as he was having a slight flu. Whoever knows him will be fully aware he is no hygiene freak, so there's absolutely no reason for him to wear the mask! 

Remember to disembark at Xinwuri (新烏日) station (around fifteen minutes from Taichung main station)! Take the escalator up to level two for the connecting HSR railway. My business class tickets have already been purchased online and the problem then was the wait to collect the tickets from the counter. 

We barely made it to the HSR platform! Phew..... Those who are keen to know more about business class seating and my experience with it may click the post HERE

Taipei Railway Station! Or Taipei main station as some prefer to call given its integration of all three railway modes; the HSR, the railway and MRT. It was regrettable i didn't have the time to check out the area as i understand there is also a main bus station that can bring you to most parts of Taiwan.

Oh ya! I am finally in Taipei, the capital of Taiwan! Living almost permanently in clean and tidy Singapore, i am always looking forward to visits of overseas cities where every turn i made can result in visual surprises, for better or for worse! 

As it was barely 12 noon, we left our luggage at CityInn hotel before proceeding to seek out lunch! As luck has its way to make my life interesting, we chanced upon the protest zone for the sunflower student movement! Click here for the post! 

Would you believe that my first meal in Taipei was MacDonald's? No kidding! Anyway, a cute doggy for your viewing pleasure; think it is a bichon-poodle cross. 

Taipei 101 - out of all the skyscrapers in the world, this is arguably one of the most beautiful! I did pay it a visit towards the end of my trip and as usual, you may expect a separate post on it. :P

We were about to enter the subway station of Shandao Temple MRT station when our curiousity of the temple, that gives the stations its name, was stirred. It must have had some historical significance but the tall temple structure and design could not have been more than a few decades.

Whichever the case, my aim was more to have an elevated view of the surrounding and looking at the time, we still almost 2.5 hours before we can check in to our hotel. 

Scenery wasn't great although i did check out the level filled with ancestral temples! I may be a person who loves the paranormal yet i do draw a line especially when i am overseas; visiting cemeteries, columbariums are still considered alright to me. 

For the first time in my life, i realised cotton candy can be sculpted

A three-level Starbucks right opposite CityInn Taipei Station Branch I - there were quite a number in the city; i knew because i was asked to buy starbucks cards for Mrs Kon! Didn't really quite get the fascination of such cards; in my opinion, it would only be a matter of time that Starbucks would allow you to have your own design on the card. 

Checking in to the hotel! For my full review of CityInn Taipei Station Branch I, please click here. To summarise the review, it is definitely the first time i feel right at home in a hotel! That's how good it is! 

After a refreshing bath, it's time for an early dinner and our choice of destination would be... Ximending; Harajuku or Shibuya of Taipei! It's actually walk-able from our hotel and if you have time, you may even check out Bo'ai street for its concentration of camera shops! 

I think Orchard Road (in Singapore) should have a pedestrian bridge that is spacious enough for people to have a rest or take photos! The bridge next to Clarke Quay that runs across Singapore River has proven to be very popular. 

Ximending (西門町)! The above is one of many entrances and you would know when you are going the right way; everyone seems to be congregating at Ximending! Maybe because it was a Sunday when i visited.

Befitting its image as the "capital" of fashion and Japanese culture, there were tonnes to see and it was extremely comfortable to walk along the pedestrian-only streets in a cool climate hovering below twenty degrees Celsius.

One of the must-eats in Ximending was said to be Ah Zhong Mian Xian (阿宗麵線) and the recommendation came not only from guidebooks; even my mom told me i must try it! 

I didn't for two reasons. One, the queue was almost three shops long and two, i have heard the soup base was made from pig's internal organs like intestine and liver; I am absolutely disgusted by those tastes! 

Happy looking golden retriever outside a shop! Dog crazy friends like Jenny would love this country even though i have a suspicion she would rather spend more time playing with these canines than checking out the places of interest.

Pro-independence protest moving into Ximending; this is a scene not likely to be seen in Singapore in the near future due to its low level of acceptance among the population. Singaporeans like me have been indoctrinated since young that such movement is illegal and it is best to provide your feedback and unhappiness the legal, legitimate way. 

A character from an online game! Saw the Daiso logo behind the artifact? Each item only cost NT$39 which makes it cheaper than Singapore at only S$1.70! 

Street buskers on the street with evangelists openly criticizing other religions; the latter would have created a huge problem in Singapore given our multi-religion society. There were also a number of donation drives, including one for street dogs which used graphic images of abused dogs guaranteed to pull a few heart strings of animal lovers.

A classic day shot of Ximending main square! It was so nice to just stand there and absorb the vibrancy of the place. Quite hard to do the same thing in Singapore when it was just so hot hot hot!

Even queuing up was a breeze! This hot-star chicken cutlet is the same as the one you can find in Singapore (branches at Resort World Sentosa, Tampines One, NEX); didn't try because i was looking for a filling, balanced meal! 

Dinner at this Japanese restaurant, Mei Guan Yuan (美觀園) that started operations way back in 1946! For my review, please click here

I believe you need a full day to explore Ximending which would include shopping, eating, watching a movie and singing karaoke in what was said to be a fully contained room! Shall provision for the aforementioned in my next trip, if time permits. 

Shall check out the narrow back alleys too! For all you know, there might be surprising finds; by that, i mean quaint little shops, cafes or even chance occurrence of a gang fight or a ghost sighting! 

White bittergourds! The Great Kon said i die die must try this as it is super healthy and not as bitter as everyone thought it would be. The bitterness was felt towards the end of each sip and although it wasn't as bitter as the green bittergourd, the taste wasn't something i look forward to for a drink. Give me bubble tea anytime!

Tattoo alley! Back when i was fifteen years younger, i was actively seeking out unique designs for a tattoo on my body. Now that i am older, the desire has waned which isn't necessarily a bad thing; the money saved can be used for another overseas trip! 

Some sort of roti prata for sale in one of the street stalls. Since i was still pretty full and required the stomach space for the night markets later on, i had to give this a miss. 

Caricature drawings! As i already had one done in Krabi, i think i should not spend unnecessary time in Taiwan for another hilarious portrait. 

Straw hats for the ladies - intending to buy one from mom but knowing how picky she is, i think it is better to bring her to Taiwan instead. 4D / TOTO god, you know what to do. :)

Name painting - another trade that has now become the norm for all Chinese cities! Frankly, globalisation has its disadvantages; items that used to be limited to a specific country can now be exported all over the world, decreasing the excitement of getting them.

Another view of Ximending Square at sunset! 

Its position as one of the icons for Taipei has been solidified over the years and this would have explained the wedding photoshoot we chanced upon that Sunday evening. 

A panoramic view of the square in all its glitz and brilliance. Saw that party world building on the right? I heard it is more than ten levels of rooms, specifically for karaoke! Like movies, karaoke would be another time guzzler; so go for it when time is not a problem. 

The Red House (紅樓) is one of the most recognisable structures in Ximending and like Lau Pat Sat, the main red-brick, octagonal building has historical significance and was built in 1908 as Taiwan's first public market.

Now restyled as a creative and cultural hub, the scenes of the public market can no longer be seen even though there was a small exhibition arena in the building where you can draw imagination from the items and photographs on display. 

More information on the red house can be read here! By the way, do check out the numerous retail outlets in the building as you can find pretty creative yet unique products. They were not cheap though. 

It was also a great place to take photos! 

On the way to Huaxi Night Market to catch the live snake show! I know i can walk there from Ximending but decided on the MRT given it was already quite late! To get to Huaxi Night Market, drop at Longshan Temple MRT station (one stop from Ximending MRT station). Superstitious ones (not me) can also check out Taiwan's largest fortune teller street in that area!

First night market we saw as we exited the train station was Guangzhou Street night market (otherwise also known as Monga night market). Decided to check it out first and believe it or not, we spent way too much time there! Click here to find out more. 

By the time we got to Huaxi night market, most of the shops have closed. In a way, i did feel relieved as this would mean i don't have to see the snakes being brutally killed alive as food for us humans. 

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.


  1. Here is a bit confusing. The Taichung train station is not the HSR station? One need to take a train from Taichung train station, disembark at Xinwuri (新烏日) station and exit to board another train (HSR) to Taipei? Can I say that? The tickets we book online only covered from Xinwuri (HSR)--> Taipei (HSR)?

    1. Hallo! You are right; the railway station is not the HSR station and the tickets purchased online covered only the HSR then (not sure bout now). Save for taking the railway, you can also call a cab which might be worth the while if you are rushing for time!