Things to do in Taichung

Things to do in Taichung, Taiwan

When I booked tickets to Taiwan, I had no idea about the country or how much time I’d need to explore it. In the end I just picked a figure of 3 weeks and started building an itinerary around that. I pulled out a map and looked for cities outside of Taipei and came up with Taichung, Khaosiung and Hualien. Taichung was the first city I visited after Taipei and was I surprised to find that there were lots of cool things to do.

I went to Taichung on a local train rather high speed rail (HSR) because last minute tickets on the HSR were expensive! The 4 hour journey is perfectly comfortable and not too slow for such a long trip — it’s that the HSR is so fast!Local train from Taipei to TaichungTaipei city is modern and sophisticated with everything  organised. In comparison, Taichung immediately feels more hectic, rustic and full of character. I spent 3 nights in Taichung and while there aren’t any headline tourist attractions like Taipei 101, it is an enjoyable city to wander around and take in the sights.Taichung City scene

1. Feng Chia Night Market

In almost every city in Taiwan, there are incredibly popular night markets and Taichung is no different. Feng Chia Night Market is a crowded and vibrant market due to its proximity to the nearby university. As with most Taiwanese night markets, an assortment of stalls, food carts and traditional shops combine to keep you occupied and your belly full. In addition to food, Feng Chia Night Market also has lots of clothes, shoes and trinkets.Feng Chia Night Market

2. Taichung Park

Taichung Park is just one of many public parks in Taichung. It’s a large clean park with a bunch of paths winding their way around a picturesque lake and at night, it really comes to life with a bunch of cool lighting features. It’s possible to rent a small boat and row yourself around the lake as many locals do, particularly on weekends, but it’s not something I tried.Taichung Park

3. Rainbow Village

Rainbow village is a small cluster of brightly coloured buildings famous for their murals and quirky residents selling various arty knick-knacks. Originally part of a military establishment, the buildings eventually fell into disrepair at which point large brightly colour murals were painted on their outside.Rainbow Village TaichungWhen I visited, some of the houses were being renovated so not all the alleys could be explored. The artist who painted the walls is still there and sits in the house selling souvenirs. Most people will come here, take a few photos and leave again within about half an hour. The best way to get her is by bus — directions available on google maps.

4. Maple Garden

I actually stumbled upon Maple Garden by chance when changing bus on the way to the Rainbow Village and I’m really glad I found it! The garden is modern with futuristic roofs and bridges that curl and wind their way down to a lake surrounded by green grass and plenty of trees. There’s a cafe/restaurant within the park and it’s a pleasant place to spend a bit of time during the day.Maple Garden Taichung

5. Chun Shui Tang

Like bubble tea / pearl tea? Well it turns out pearl milk tea is originally from Taichung. In 1983 Chun Shui Tang started this worldwide phenomenon by adding pearls to their milk tea. Since then, bubble milk tea began throughout Taiwan and of course around the world.Chun Shui Tang Taichung Chun Shui Tang already has about 40 branches all over Taiwan, but if you want to visit the first location, you can stop by Chun Shui Tang in Siwei Street, Taichung. They not only serve bubble tea, they also dish up a range of food from snack to main meals — the snacks I had were tasty! It’s possible you’ll have to line up to get a seat, but it’s worth a visit anyway.

6. City Hall

Actually, City Hall is not a tourist attraction. But for those who like architecture, this building is quite interesting because it was built in the Japanese colonial period in a Fench colonial style. Weird! Looks straight out of Europe!Taichung Town Hall

7. Second Market

For those who like wandering around markets in Asia, Second Market is quite an interesting one. This undercover market houses the typical range of fresh meat, fruit and vegetables but also some awesome hole in the wall eateries. Most are open in the morning and close late in the afternoon, so it’s best to head here for breakfast. Knowing which eatery to visit is easy — just visit one with lots of customers. I highly recommend Three Generations Yee Mien.Second Market Taichung

8. Liuchuan River

If you’ve been to Seoul may know the name Cheonggyecheon Stream, it’s a river that flows through the middle of town with banks which are paved so that people can sit around hanging out with friends. Some areas along the Liuchuan River in Taichung are also made that way and in the afternoon many people bring children to play around on the edge of the clean and neat river. In addition to a pleasant walking path, there are plenty of trees and flowers and loads of grass.Liuchuan River Taichung

9. Yi Zhong Street Night Market

I actually visited this night market because it was within walking distance of my hotel (Fly Inn Hostel – great value –> check it out on booking.com) in Taichung and I’m really glad I checked it out. The main area of the market is on Yi Zhong Street, but also extends into some nearby side streets where there was quite a few good food options such as hand cut noodles. The main negative point about the market is that it’s open to through traffic so you’re constantly having to dodge cars and bikes!Fantasy Story Taichung

10. Fantasy Story

I did some browsing first before visiting Fantasy Story, but couldn’t quite figure out what it was. So I walked there to find out for myself and still could quite get it! What is certain is that there are lots of cool looking buildings which are instagrammable and a Haritts Donuts which I really liked. But other than that… I’m not really sure. To be honest, I’d like people reading this to go there and get the low down so I can update this section!Fantasy Story TaichungNot bad hey? Taichung is definitely worth spinning around for a few days. It’s not going to be your Taiwan highlight, but if you’re in Taiwan for a week of more, add Taichung into your itinerary.

My other Taiwan posts:

Taipei
Best Cafes in Taipei: I Tried Them All!
What to eat in Taipei – Pork, Rice and more Pork!

Taichung
Things to do in Taichung, Taiwan
What to Eat in Taichung, Taiwan – Markets, Milk Tea and More!
Review: Fly Inn Hostel – Good, Cheap Rooms in Taichung

Kaohsiung
Review: Centre Hotel, Kaohsiung

Transport
How to Get From Taipei to Taichung
The Best Way to Get From Taichung to Kaohsiung
How to get from Taipei Airport to Taipei City Centre (incl. New Train!)

 

What to Eat in Taipei Taiwan

What to eat in Taipei – Pork, Rice and more Pork!

Every time I travel to a new place I try to have a balance between ‘eating what we know is delicious’ or ‘eating local food for sake of it being local food’. Make no mistake, it does not mean local food isn’t tasty. But hunting local food can be a challenge primarily because it’s a pain to get the good stuff, but also because some of the flavours are unusual and we just never know whether we’re going to like something or not.

Here is the result of my hunt for local food in Taipei City. It’s a mixture of food I found in the night markets and from local recommendations from research on the internet. Bottom line? Food in Taipei is incredible and far beyond what I had anticipated.Raohe Night Market Taipei

1. Stinky Tofu

Stinky tofu seems to be the culinary icon of Taiwan and in Taipei it’s easy to find. If you smell food, but the odour is nasty, you’ve found yourself a stinky tofu stand. It smells a bit fermented, but when you taste it, the fermented flavour doesn’t really come through. There’s also a sourness in the smell that you definitely get a hint of when you eat it.

The original variety is square shaped with a sprinkle of pickled vegetables and watered-down chilli sauce. I decided to try the funky hipster version, shaped into long sticks and coming with a choice of cheese sauce, tartar, honey mustard, wasabi, etc. It’s certainly worth a try!

Price: NT$ 60/cup at Raohe Night Marketstinky tofu taipei

2. Scallion Pancakes

I love scallions and it’s the scallion aspect of these delectable morsels that tempted me. If you’re not into scallions, it’s probably wise to stay away from these pancakes because it is chock full of them. The raw pancakes are shaped into large donuts and then lightly fried until golden brown.

The skin of the pancake becomes a little crispy and the inside remains doughy and bread-like. These scallion pancakes are a classic Taiwanese snack and are a must try when in Taipei.

Price: NT$40 at Raohe Night Marketscallion pancake taipei

3. Frying Milk

The Taiwanese call this stuff Frying Milk. We assume they mean Fried Milk, because that’s exactly when this snack is. So how do you make Fried Milk? It appears from the stock they use that it’s simply milk with perhaps a setting agent such as gelatine which allows the milk to be cut. 3 pieces of the milk are then skewered and fried.frying milk shihlin market taipeiSellers will usually grab a freshly fried milk stick and hand it to you while saying “careful hot”. And it bloody well is — I burnt my mouth immediately! The outside is crunchy, the inside gooey and the flavour predictably like milk. This isn’t a meal in itself, but it’s worth a try when passing through one of the markets.

Price: NT$20 at Shihlin Night Marketfrying milk taipei

4. Pearl Milk Tea

Your trip to Taiwan is not complete without drinking Pearl Milk Tea in the country that invented it. It is said that Pearl Milk Tea was first popularised by a particular store in Taichung in 1983 (which I visited and will write about shortly). Pearl Milk Tea is ubiquitous in Taiwan and you can’t walk more than a few hundred metres without seeing someone sell the delicious drink.

In my opinion, the pearls in Taiwan are smaller in size and more soft than in the West so you’re jaw isn’t going to be aching from all the chewing. There are so many flavour options of milk tea in Taipei, but I like the original Brown Sugar Pearl Milk Tea. Simple and delicious.

Price: NT$40-60 depending on flavour at Shihlin Night Market

5. Hot Star Fried Chicken

The first time I saw Hot Star Fried Chicken was at Shihlin Night Market and the queue was long. It is said that the original outlet is here and they just sell 1 type of food — large fried chicken. The shape and size of the boneless fillet is simply massive. The batter is actually quite thick — perhaps a little too thick. But it’s the flour which has all the flavour with a mix of herbs and spices which drive the whole flavour sensation.hot star chicken shihlin market taipeiBefore being given your hunk of fried chicken, you’ll be asked if you prefer spicy or not. Even if you choose the spicy option, it’s not too bad — just a little bit of a kick to turn the flavour up to the next notch. I also found Hot Star Fried Chicken again in the Ximending area, but in this outlet the food options were many. Not just large hunks of fried chicken, but also fried mushrooms, fried boneless chicken nuggets, fried scallops and squid balls, tempura, etc.

Large fried chicken: NT$70 at Shihlin Night Markethot star large chicken taipei

6. Xiao Long Bao (steamed soup dumplings)

Din Tai Fung is perhaps the most famous Xiao Long Bao restaurant in the world and it has spread to so many countries that its name is now synonymous with these silky smooth soup dumplings. The original Din Tai Fung location is on Xinyi Road, Taipei City and the lines are always long.

I decided to skip the lines and try the dumplings elsewhere as there are just so many different restaurants serving them. This place was just across the road from where I was staying and I have to say they were fantastic. Certainly not as refined as those from Din Tai Fung, but who wants refined when eating this sort of food anyway?

Price: NT$150/10 pieces at a local restaurantxiao long bao taipei

7. Lu Rou Fan (braised pork rice)

If you’ve ever eaten pork in soy sauce in Asia or at Asian restaurant and liked it, you’re going to be a fan of Lu Rou Fan. Similar in flavour to pork soy sauce dishes you’ve had before, Lu Rou Fan is served as a hunk of pork belly and it is out of this world! There are 2 options — the cheap which is small squares of pork and the expensive which is the thick pork belly, both covered in soy sauce. But prices are all relative and the expensive option is still cheap by international standards.Lu rou fan taipeiLu Rou Fan small portions are very cheap and quite filling, but I did spot a guy eating two portions of it — depends how hungry you are, I guess. I tried the Lu Rou Fan at Jing Fen Braised Pork Rice where the line is long, but the turnover very fast. I highly recommend it. There are braised pork rice joints all over Taipei, so don’t be afraid to try other places as well.

Price: NTD$30 for a small portion, NT$65 for rice with pork belly at Jing Fen Braised Pork Rice.Lu rou fan small taipei

8. Candied Fruits

This snack is actually really simple, but it looks quite tempting and that’s why I just had to try it. Similar to candy/toffee apples in Western countries, large pieces of fruit such as strawberries are skewered and then dipped into a sugar liquid. The liquid sugar hardens as it hits the cool air and creates a fantastic glossy coating on the fruit.candied fruits taipeiI thought strawberries were a fantastic fruit to coat in sugar and I actually prefer them much more than I do a standard candy/toffee apple.

In addition to strawberries, some vendors also coat cherry tomatoes, kiwi fruit, plums and sliced starfruit.

Price: NT$50 for 1 skewer with 3 strawberries and 1 tomato cherry.candied strawberries taipei

9. Fu Zhou Noodle

If you’ve ever been to Bandung in Indonesia, you’ll probably have tasted yamien which is similar to Fu Zhou noodle. In essence, Fu Zhou noodle is boiled yellow noodle stirred with sesame oil and then sprinkled with fresh chives. It’s a simple but incredibly tasty dish. Interestingly, the Taiwanese called their dry noodles ‘yi mian’. I suppose that’s where the term yamien comes from.

I ate the version topped with minced pork cooked in soy sauce and it was delicious.

Price: NT$40 for a small portion at Yi Ping Fu Zhou Noodle Housefu zhou noodle taipei

10. Taiwanese Breakfast

This really is referred to as Taiwanese breakfast and during my 2.5 weeks in Taiwan, I saw these shops everywhere. The food served is varied, but one common theme is soy milk!

What’s interesting is that besides soy milk which is consumed sweet, there is a so-called salty soy milk! You don’t just drink salty soy milk, you also eat it. How so? Well, plain soy milk is mixed with savoury ingredients such as green onions, fried onions, savoury donut slices and dried shrimps. The result is a salty porridge of sorts which is weird, but certainly worth a try.Taiwanese Breakfast TaipeiClenched in the hand of the soy milk seller there is a secret ingredient which functions as a thickening agent for the soy milk. The milk separates into a clear liquid and clumps of more solid soy milk (tofu!). It tastes good and the texture is like eating fried tofu without the skin on the outside.

Aside from soy milk, these eateries almost always sell youtiao (chinese savoury donuts). In addition you can sometimes find Chinese pancakes filled with omelet or pork chop. There are also varieties which are pork floss and pieces of youtiao wrapped in a layer of steamed rice which is then wrapped in an omelete. It’s freakin’ awesome.

Each place has its own flagship menu. Popular breakfast spots in Taipei include Fu Hang Soy Milk and Yong He Soy Milk King.

Price: up to NT$100 for breakfast for 2 people at Yong He Soy Milk.Breakfast Spot Taipei

11. Dessert

There are so many special stores selling desserts in a bowl containing anything ranging from taro balls, chewy sweets, tofu pudding, almond pudding, jelly, black jelly, red beans, etc.

In the bowl you can expect to have shaved ice added as well as sugar syrup or some other sweet ingredient such as mango puree.Dessert Bowl TaipeiI tried a version at Raohe Night Market and I wasn’t that impressed to be honest. The texture was so overly chewy and it wasn’t pleasant despite many locals seeming to enjoy themselves. The more modern style is that of Hong Tang which is available around the world. But if you can get it anywhere in the world, it’s not really special to have it in Taiwan. For me, these desserts are a work in progress!

Price: NT$50 at Raohe Night MarketMango Dessert Taipei

12. Matsusaka Pork

When you hear the word Matsusaka, your mind immediately drifts to the top beef in Japan such as Kobe and Hida. But apparently Matsusaka Pork doesn’t necessarily have to be from Japan. It is said that since the name Matsusaka ensures the meat is of high quality (having a certain ratio of meat and fat), many food businesses in Taiwan also use that name to ‘sell’ the product. Who knows whether it’s legal to do that. Probably not!matsusaka pork raohe night marketI tried the grilled pork lightly sprayed with lemon juice. The texture is to die for, soft when chewed but still crunchy. The flavours also are not over the top because they don’t use a lot of spice or lemon spray — just a sprinkle to freshen things up and cut through the fatiness.

Price: NT$100 for small portions, NT$150 large portion at Raohe Night Market.matsusaka pork taipei

13. Grilled Mochi

I found this grilled mochi while exploring foursquare in the Ximending area. Sounds interesting, mochi grilled then dressed with topping options which can be either sweet or salty. The sweet toppings are sweetened condensed milk, chocolate sauce, green tea sauce, cheese, nuts, black sesame. The salty choices are BBQ sauce, spicy Thai, Thai curry and Japanese soy sauce.grilled mochi taipeiThe mochi which is shaped into a block is stabbed with a skewer. It’s then grilled like satay, flipped back and forth until it’s charred on the outside. The queue is sometimes long, but in my opinion the sauce was rather disappointing and not worth lining up for.

I chose the chocolate sauce and it was so so thin meaning the mochi was just like eating a block of plain sticky rice with hardly any flavouring. I’d like to try this again and see if I just got a bad batch because in theory, it should be delicious! Give it a try and let me know in the comments if I was just unlucky.

Price: NT$35 in the night market in Ximending area.grilled mochi chocolate sauce TaipeiI tried every single one of these dishes myself, so you know this is not one of those random listicles that someone researched from their bedroom without actually visiting Taiwan!

For most of these foods, there are many locations you can try, but I just mentioned the places I visited and the prices I paid. Different locations may be different prices. There are some other local foods that are notoriously popular in Taipei but I did not have time to try them for various reasons such as: other priorities to try first, sounds disgusting or simply that the line is too long.If you’re curious and have the chance, I recommend you also try: Beef Noodle, Ah Chung Rice Flour Noodle in Ximending, Beef Cubes and various grilled seafood. For those who want to know good cafes in Taipei, please read my post on all the cafes I tried in Taipei!

PS. People have emailed me asking where I stayed in Taipei. I actually stayed in two totally different areas and I actually preferred Ximending. I stayed at Ximen Taipei DreamHouse and it was cheap, comfortable and most importantly conveniently located. I got a good deal on booking.com for about US$38 per night –> Check current prices here.

My other Taiwan posts:

Taipei
Best Cafes in Taipei: I Tried Them All!
What to eat in Taipei – Pork, Rice and more Pork!

Taichung
Things to do in Taichung, Taiwan
What to Eat in Taichung, Taiwan – Markets, Milk Tea and More!
Review: Fly Inn Hostel – Good, Cheap Rooms in Taichung

Kaohsiung
Review: Centre Hotel, Kaohsiung

Transport
How to Get From Taipei to Taichung
The Best Way to Get From Taichung to Kaohsiung
How to get from Taipei Airport to Taipei City Centre (incl. New Train!)

 

VCR Cafe Kuala Lumpur

Review: VCR Cafe — Is This The Best Cafe in Kuala Lumpur?

I’ve been visiting cafes in Kuala Lumpur for as long as I can remember and to be honest, they’ve largely been mediocre. Crass copies of things that were going on in Australia a decade earlier — they felt old and nasty.

But I really should have been coming to this place all along because it’s now my favourite cafe in Kuala Lumpur. I might even go so far as to say it’s the best cafe in Kuala Lumpur. It’s been around a few years now and I just never got around to trying it.VCR Best Cafe in Kuala LumpurLocated on a small road off Jalan Pudu, VCR is in an inconvenient and odd location. You have to go out of your way to visit it. And that’s why it wasn’t that busy when I visited. I mean, most tables were filled, but there was no waiting list or anything. And I’d kind of expect a waiting list at a place this good.

To get here, your best bet is to get off the monorail or train at Hang Tuah and then walking a couple of hundred metres or so.Coffee at VCR Cafe Kuala LumpurThe coffees I had here were excellent (RM11). Silky smooth milk, a strong coffee flavour, great temperature.

I also had a bowl of granola with yoghurt, milk and fruit which was awesome (RM19). A little small for my liking, but actually a really good size for a normal meal. I probably just usually overeat when at cafes.Breakfast Granola at VCR Kuala LumpurThe fitout is a good one with plenty of tables for singles and couples meaning you can easily set up a laptop here without feeling guilty. And the wifi is good!

I’m a big fan of VCR and I think most people will be too. Highly recommended if you’re into coffee and are in KL.

VCR
2 Jalan Galloway, Kuala Lumpur
+60 3 2110 2330
Opening Hours: 08:30 – 23:00
Coffee: RM11
Granola: RM19

Kaohsiung Central Hotel

Review: Centre Hotel, Kaohsiung, Taiwan

As we’ve moved further south from Taipei, hotels have seemingly become cheaper until the point of craziness. Centre Hotel in Kaohsiung is incredibly cheap for what you get.

For US$14 per night, you get a modern and clean room with big bed, writing table and chair, toiletries, tea making facilities, LCD TV with international channels and lots of space to store you luggage.Room at Centre HotelThe bathroom is basic, but clean and has hot water, but no shower curtain. The floor does get wet when you shower.Bathroom at Centre Hotel KaohsiungThe price of this place is incredible. It’s cheaper than backpacker budget, but the facilities are definitely in the flashpacker range. That is, you get a proper hotel room for next to nothing. It’s one of the best value hotels we’ve ever stayed in.

Oh and did I mention that breakfast is included in the price? It’s a basic breakfast and you might want to skip it, but it is free!Facilities Centre Hotel KaohsiungThe hotel is located in the very centre of town at the big round about. The MRT is a 30 second walk away.

There is no reason to stay anywhere else in Kaohsiung unless you have a budget up around the $60 per night mark. And even then, you’d be wondering where the extra money goes.Big bed at Centre Hotel KaohsiungOf course, this hotel is not for everyone. It’s still a budget hotel and not everything is perfect. But it’s good enough for most people and I recommend staying here.View from Room Centre Hotel KaohsiungMake sure you check the price on Agoda first to ensure you get a good deal. I found Booking.com to be slightly more expensive.

Centre Hotel
No. 6, Zhongzheng Bridge, Xinxing District, Kaohsiung City
+886 7 285 2520
www.centrehoteltw.com

Double Room: US$14 (Check current price on Booking.com)

My other Taiwan posts:

Taipei
Best Cafes in Taipei: I Tried Them All!
What to eat in Taipei – Pork, Rice and more Pork!

Taichung
Things to do in Taichung, Taiwan
What to Eat in Taichung, Taiwan – Markets, Milk Tea and More!
Review: Fly Inn Hostel – Good, Cheap Rooms in Taichung

Kaohsiung
Review: Centre Hotel, Kaohsiung

Transport
How to Get From Taipei to Taichung
The Best Way to Get From Taichung to Kaohsiung
How to get from Taipei Airport to Taipei City Centre (incl. New Train!)

Richmond Hotel Nagoya Shinkansenguchi

Richmond Hotel Shinkansen-guchi, Nagoya, Japan – Near the Train Station, Very Comfortable

The first hotel I ever stayed in in Japan is the Richmond Hotel Shinkansen and it was an awesome way to start the trip.

I stayed in this hotel as part of my trip with Japan Tourism and Cathay Pacific to Nagoya, Takayama, Shirakawa-Go and Kanazawa and because it was my first hotel in Japan, I was curious about the general standard of hotels.Room at Richmond Hotel NagoyaFirstly, the checkin procedure took less than 5 minutes and we were on our way to our room. As is with the case with many Japanese hotels, rooms here are quite small.Goodie bag richmond hotelBut small doesn’t mean crappy. The bed was layered with quilts and soft coverings, the TV was a massive thing of more than 43″, it came with phone charging adapters, pyjamas and the coolest little bathroom!

The bathroom has a deep bath, shower that has good pressure and is hot, electronic toilet with a bunch of settings and even a mirror that doesn’t steam up after you’ve had a shower. Incredible!Bathroom at Richmond Hotel NagoyaThe breakfast downstairs is often included in your room price and offers a wide range of Japanese food as well as a few Western style dishes such as cereal and bread. It was definitely filling and we were happy with it.Breakfast at Richmond Hotel NagoyaLocation of this place is really good if you need to catch a train because it is literally 5 minutes from the Nagoya train station, 2 minutes from the nearest convenience store, but about 2km from the main central district of Nagoya. And that’s something you’re going to have to think about when staying in Nagoya. Do you want to be close to the train station so you don’t have to carry your luggage far, or do you want to be close to the very centre of town so you don’t have to walk far to see the sights.Richmond Hotel Shinkansen guchiFor our first hotel in Japan, Richmond Hotel Shinkansen was a winner! And judging by many of the other reviews we’ve since read, most people agree.

Richmond Hotel Nagoya Shinkansen-guchi
2 Chome Kamejima, Nagoya
en.richmondhotel.jp
Double Room: US$100 (Check current price on booking.com)

Best Western Takayama Japan

Review: Best Western, Takayama, Japan – Near the Train Station and Centre of Town

Located about 100m from the Takayama Train Station, the Best Western Takayama is one of the best located hotels in Takayama mainly because of how close it is to the train station.

Checkin at Best Western was super fast and we were in our room with minutes. We immediately cranked up the thermostat to 25°C and despite it being -5°C outside, the room was sooooooo warm. If you’re in Takayama in winter, you will appreciate this!Room Best Western TakayamaThe rooms here are quite spacious, the bedding soft and the included pyjamas very comfortable. The TV is a big one and the wifi is fast.Room at Best Western TakayamaThe bathroom featured lots of good amenities and the shower was super hot and super strong. Cleanliness of the whole place was excellent.Bathroom Best Western TakayamaWe ate at the in-house restaurant twice. Once for incredible Hida beef at dinner and once for breakfast. Both were really impressive.Local food at Best Western TakayamaIn fact, the breakfast was excellent with a wide range of dishes including salmon, pastries, bacon and crispy fried chicken.Breakfast buffet Best Western TakayamaThe hotel itself is located just around the corner from the train station so you don’t need to a taxi to get there — you simply walk perhaps 150m. The old town is 750m away which is easy walking distance.

We really loved Best Western Takayama and highly recommend it if you need a good hotel in Takayama.

Best Western Takayama
6-6 Hanasato-Machi, Takayama
www.bestwestern.co.jp/english/takayama/reservation/
Room with Breakfast: US$124 (check current price on booking.com)

Best way to get from Taichung to Kaohsiung

The Best Way to Get From Taichung to Kaohsiung

Endless rice paddies, small villages and an imposing mountain range all flash by as you speed between the two western Taiwanese cities of Taichung and Kaohsiung. There’s no better way to get between the two cities than by train.

There are basically 2 types of trains from Taichung to Kaohsiung. A fast one and a slow one. The slow one is cheaper than the fast one. The fast train takes about 1 hour for the 200km journey and the slow train takes over 3 hours.Inside Taiwan High Speed Rail Train Carriage

But when you consider how cheap the fast one is, it sort of seems mad to choose the slow one! I got my ticket on the high speed rail for NT$630 (US$20) and that was a discount from the full price because I bought it a few days in advance and I recommend you do that if you want to get a good price.

Taiwan fast train

Tickets for the high speed rail can be bought at the Taichung main train station or even Taipei main station if you want to buy even earlier. It’s also possible to buy tickets on the day of departure, but you aren’t guaranteed to be seated next your travel partner and you’re going to pay more.

High Speed Rail trains depart from the outskirts of Taichung at a dedicated High Speed Rail station. You’ll need to catch a local train from Taichung main station to Xinwuri which takes less than 10 minutes. Xinwuri is connected directly to Taichung HSR station by a walkway. Check the High Speed Rail timetable here and enter Taichung and Zuoying as the start and end points.phone showing speed of taiwain high speed rail between Taichung and Kaohsiung

Trains going to Kaohsiung terminate at Zuoying which again is on the outskirts of Kaohsiung. From here, you have to catch the subway to where you want to go. I caught the subway to Formosa Boulevard because my hotel was right next to it — and it was incredibly cheap (around US$17) and excellent! Check it out on Booking.com here.

So there you have it. The best way to get from Taichung to Kaohsiung is by High Speed Rail! I hope you find this useful… hit me up in the comments if you have questions.

PS Slow trains depart from Taichung Main Station and arrive at Kaohsiung Main Station and cost between $2 and $5 less than the high speed train. Check here for details.

My other Taiwan posts:

Taipei
Best Cafes in Taipei: I Tried Them All!
What to eat in Taipei – Pork, Rice and more Pork!

Taichung
Things to do in Taichung, Taiwan
What to Eat in Taichung, Taiwan – Markets, Milk Tea and More!
Review: Fly Inn Hostel – Good, Cheap Rooms in Taichung

Kaohsiung
Review: Centre Hotel, Kaohsiung

Transport
How to Get From Taipei to Taichung
The Best Way to Get From Taichung to Kaohsiung
How to get from Taipei Airport to Taipei City Centre (incl. New Train!)

Taichung Fly Inn Hostel Double Deluxe Room

Review: Fly Inn Hostel – Good, Cheap Rooms in Taichung

After a disappointing experience with an AirBnB in Taipei, I thought I’d switch things up a bit and choose a regular hotel for my trip to Taichung. And I am so glad I did because Fly Inn Hostel was great value for money.

Because I usually like to stay in private rooms rather than dorms, it’s always going to cost me more than a traditional backpacker for accommodation. But Taiwan isn’t as cheap as many parts of Asia, so I was so happy to find this room for under US$30 per night!Facilities Fly Inn Hostel TaichungLocated a 10 minute walk from the main Taichung train station, this hotel is in a great location. It’s also close to Taichung Park and Yizhong Street Night Market. There was no sign out the front and it didn’t really look like a hotel, but I asked a passing local and they pointed me in the right direction.Bathroom Fly Inn HostelAs of March 2017, it felt new! Fittings were clean and not broken, paint was quite fresh and the bathroom sparkling.Facilities included a private hot water bathroom, air-conditioner, wardrobe, table and chair, relatively fast wifi, a couple of cups, a hairdryer, small toiletries set and a TV with international channels. Everything you need really.Toiletries Fly Inn Hostel TaichungThe room is small, but it sort of doesn’t matter because it’s comfortable.

The only negative was that when I was there it was really cold outside and the room doesn’t have heating. It wasn’t the end of the world, but it wasn’t ideal either.Fly Inn Hostel Taichung recommended budget accommodationAll in all, I thought this hotel was fantastic for the price. I paid about US$30, but you can check the price on booking.com here.

Fly Inn Hostel
10 Lianwu Road, East District, Taichung, Taiwan
+886 985 603 099
Deluxe Double: US$29.50

My other Taiwan posts:

Taipei
Best Cafes in Taipei: I Tried Them All!
What to eat in Taipei – Pork, Rice and more Pork!

Taichung
Things to do in Taichung, Taiwan
What to Eat in Taichung, Taiwan – Markets, Milk Tea and More!
Review: Fly Inn Hostel – Good, Cheap Rooms in Taichung

Kaohsiung
Review: Centre Hotel, Kaohsiung

Transport
How to Get From Taipei to Taichung
The Best Way to Get From Taichung to Kaohsiung
How to get from Taipei Airport to Taipei City Centre (incl. New Train!)

Kanazawa Train Station

Review: Dormy Inn, Kanazawa, Japan – Near the Train Station, Comfortable Rooms

We stayed at Dormy Inn when we visited Kanazawa and it was quite good, but there were a few things that could have been better.

Dormy Inn is a bigger hotel than any we’ve stayed in in Japan so far, so the checkin process was a little more crowded. But amazingly, they still checked us in within 5 minutes of us arriving. The Japanese are so efficient and you needn’t worry about checkin efficiency here.Room at Dormy Inn KanazawaThe rooms at Dormy Kanazawa are quite small, but come with large LCD TV (no international channels), fast wifi, smallish double beds, air conditioning and older style bathrooms. Even though the rooms were a little bit older than we’ve previously experienced, they were very clean and comfortable.Bathroom at Dormy Inn KanazawaThere’s a free onsen onsite, but we didn’t try it but friends of ours did. They were suitably impressed!

Breakfast in the morning had a great selection of Japanese food, so if you love Japanese food, you will love this breakfast buffet. But if you prefer Western breakfast, you will be slightly disappointed with this buffet as there are hardly any options — and the options that do exist (like croissants) are quite poor.Breakfast buffet at Dormy Inn KanazawaThe breakfast issue aside, Dormy Inn Kanazawa is a decent option if you’re visiting Kanazawa as it’s incredibly close to both the train and bus stations so that you can just walk around the corner to check in. Kenroku-en is a 3km walk away. Awesome.Dormy Inn KanazawaThe latest prices for the hotel can be found here on booking.com

Dormy Inn
2-25 Horikawa ShinmachiKanazawa
dormy-inn-kanazawa.hotel-rn.com
Double Room: Rp1.150.000

Great Cafes in Taipei

Best Cafes in Taipei: I Tried Them All!

“Taipei has one of the best cafe scenes in Asia”, was how a friend of mine put it when I asked him how good the cafes are in the Taiwanese capital. So when I arrived there, I dove straight into trying to unearth the best cafes in Taipei. And I reckon I found some really good ones. Check em out.

Kiosk

What a fantastic place to come for a great coffee and little snack… perhaps even lunch. A good range of single origin coffees as well a house blend for the milky drinks.

My cappuccino (NT$150) was one of my favourite in Taipei and I think it must be one of the best in Taipei. Silky smooth milk, great temperature and nice flavour.Kiosk Taipei Best CoffeeThe toasted sandwiches come with a range of toppings and we got the grilled cheese with sautéed mushroom as well as the spicy sausage meat with roasted red pepper. Both were really good and worth the NT$180/190 price tag.Kiosk Taipei SandwichIt’s a modern fitout with a couple of communal tables and a bunch of tiny tables for two. When I was there there were a bunch of people working on laptops, so the staff mustn’t care too much if people are taking up this space by working instead of eating.

I love this place! Go here.

(Google Maps Location)

Dawn Surf & Co. Cafe

I love this cafe. It has a really relaxed laid back vibe, with a few soft chairs, a few work benches and a longish bar for sipping your coffee at.Dawn Surf & Co Cafe Taipei frontI tried a cappuccino (NT$140) and it was my favourite yet in Taipei. Pretty strong, smoothly textured milk and good temperature. Susan had a steamed milk green tea (NT$150) which she also enjoyed.Dawn Surf & Co Cafe Taipei insideThey also serve food here, but to be honest none of it appealed to me. But I saw other people snacking on toasted sandwiches etc and they looked quite nice.

A top cafe in Taipei.

(Google Maps Location)

Double L Patisserie

When I arrived here in the pouring rain, I desperately wanted this tiny pastry shop in the suburbs to be worth the effort of coming here. And I was not disappointed.Double L Patisserie cakesThe English speaking cashier explained all the cakes and drinks and I ended up ordering a caramel cake of some sort and a strawberry and cream tart. For drinks we ordered a latte and a matcha milky drink.

All up the price was NT$600 which is expensive, but I was OK with the price because what we ate was so good.

The strawberry tart had a hard base that initially I hated. But the flavour was so good that I ended up actually liking that biscuity base a lot. A winning tart.Double L Patisserie cakesThe caramel cake was dense and again I initially didn’t like it. But the caramel was so perfect and chewy that I immediately changed my mind – I love this cake.

This is a fantastic little patisserie for coffee and cake.

(Google Maps Location)

???? (Cafe LakuLaku)

This coffee is shop is awesome and sells some of the best coffee from around the world including some COE beans. I tried a cappuccino (NT$140) and it was the best I’ve had in Taiwan so far. Susan had a pot of tea for NT$180 and it was also good. But so expensive!Cafe Laku Laku Taipei coffee Moving onto the cakes, we grabbed a matcha cake and chocolate cake which came to NT$280 together so I’m assuming NT$140 each. Both were excellent and worth trekking out here to get.Cafe Laku Laku Taipei cakesWifi here is fast and tables are perfect for setting up a laptop and getting a bit of work done. This place is definitely worth a visit.

(Google Maps Location)

Coffee Lab

Coffee Lab is a cute and cozy coffee shop in a laneway just across from the creative park. I had high hopes for this place because of all the different sorts of single origin coffees on offer. But the cappuccino I had was not really up to international standard.Coffee Lab Taipei cat It was certainly not as good as many I would get in Indonesia and miles off what I get in good Australian coffee shops. It also took about 20 minutes for them to prepare my coffee. That’s not to say the coffee was bad! It was good. Just not as good as I had expected.Coffee Lab Taipei frontBut they do have a big cat who is fun to play with and Susan’s Honey Lemon drink was nice. Both drinks came to NT$285. Worth a visit if you’re at the nearby creative park.

(Google Maps Location)

Woolloomoolloo

This cafe named after an inner-Sydney suburb immediately caught my attention with its catchy name. I tried the Xinyi branch and arrived during peak hour – it’s incredibly popular! Standard Aussie style breakfasts such as sandwiches, sausage rolls and big brekkies. We tried the big brekky (NT$320), cappuccino (NT$130) and mocha (NT$150) and were impressed by the mocha, but the cappuccino was weak and served in a Latte glass – a poor cappuccino. All prices had an additional 10% tax added at the end.Woolloomooloo Cafe Tapei breakfastSecondly, the big brekky was a disappointment. Unsalted scrambled eggs, hard roasted tomatoes, but tasty baked beans. It really needs to better than this.Woolloomooloo Cafe Taipei InteriorThe prices here are sky high and among the highest we’ve experienced anywhere, particularly for the coffee. Also, the menu is a little old-fashioned compared to what we might find in Australia or even Bangkok when looking at the very latest cafes. Still, a decent choice with reasonable food and a good vibe. They accept credit card and have wifi.

(Google Maps Location)

So there you have it. My recommendations for some fantastic cafes in Taipei. I did try a few other cafes, but I didn’t think they were worth mentioning here because they weren’t up to scratch.

Taipei really is a great city for cafe hopping. Let us know in the comments which your favourite cafes in Taipei are!

My other Taiwan posts:

Taipei
Best Cafes in Taipei: I Tried Them All!
What to eat in Taipei – Pork, Rice and more Pork!

Taichung
Things to do in Taichung, Taiwan
What to Eat in Taichung, Taiwan – Markets, Milk Tea and More!
Review: Fly Inn Hostel – Good, Cheap Rooms in Taichung

Kaohsiung
Review: Centre Hotel, Kaohsiung

Transport
How to Get From Taipei to Taichung
The Best Way to Get From Taichung to Kaohsiung
How to get from Taipei Airport to Taipei City Centre (incl. New Train!)