All posts by Adam

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.

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

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!

how to get from Taipei to Taichung

How to Get From Taipei to Taichung

There are a number of different ways to get from Taipei to Taichung and the most popular way to undertake the 170km journey is by train. But which train you catch largely depends on how much time you’ve got and what your budget is.

food in taichung
Fantastic Food Awaits in Taichung

There are 3 types of trains servicing this route:

  • High-speed rail departing from Taipei Main Station and arriving at Taichung HSR Station (which is a short local train ride outside the centre) (timetable);
  • Express train departing from Taipei Main Station and arriving at Taichung Main Station (timetable); and
  • Local train departing from Taipei Main Station and arriving at Taichung Main Station (timetable).

Costs of these trains varies greatly, but at the time of writing, the tickets were as follows:

  • High-speed Rail = NT$700 (US$23) (possible to get a 35% discount if booked in advance)
  • Express = NT$375 (US$12.50)
  • Local = NT$241 (US$8)

Travel time for each train between Taipei and Taichung is:

  • High-speed Rail = 47 minutes
  • Express = 2 hours 10 minutes
  • Local = up to 4 hours depending on how many stops

I chose to take the local train and it was perfectly OK and modern. It actually goes quite fast, but it stops at a lot of stations making the journey drag a bit. But if you have time and you want to save money, the local train is the way to go.

I’ve also used the high-speed rail for my journey from Taichung to Kaohsiung and I highly recommend taking a fast train at some point in your journey in Taiwan. It’s awesome, fast and still cheap by world standards!

Tickets for all services can be bought on the spot before departure, but be aware that weekends and public holidays can be busy, so I would always try and buy my train tickets in advance from the station if possible. You can either do this at a vending machine or a person at the counter. Almost all stations had a good enough level of English to service my needs, so don’t worry about the language barrier.

great coffee in Taichung
They even have great coffee in Taichung – definitely worth going there from Taipei

Travelling by train in Taiwan is a wonderful way to get around and it’s definitely the way to go when travelling between Taipei and Taichung. Any questions, let me know in the comments!

Where I stayed in Taichung

Because I was travelling on a budget, I chose a cheap place to stay called Fly Inn Hostel. Cheap, clean, private bathroom, central. It certainly did the job for me — it’s not even really a hostel. I paid US$30 per night on booking.com — check current prices here!

Cathay Pacific A350

Flight Review: Cathay Pacific A350 Business Class – Is this the New Standard in Business Class?

We recently flew from Jakarta to Nagoya via Hong Kong and Nagoya to Bangkok via Hong Kong on Cathay Pacific business class and it really was excellent. But one of these 4 legs was on an Airbus A350 and we think it deserves its own review.

Route

Hong Kong to Bangkok – CX701Cathay Pacific A350 Business Class Cabin 1-2-1

Flight Time

2h 37m

Seating Configuration

1-2-1 with lay flat beds – every seat has aisle access

Boarding

Boarding was quick due to the dedicated business class boarding lane. Staff were courteous and we were seated very quickly.

Food

Food in Cathay Pacific Business Class is predictably good and plentiful. When you compare it to economy, you just never want to eat economy food again.

I started with a salad, Thai Green Chicken Curry and finished with blueberry Haagen-Daaz ice cream. I’d been stuffing my face in the business class lounge immediately prior to boarding, so this was more than enough food. Especially because it’s just supposed to be a refreshment rather than a full meal.

Seat

The seat in the Cathay Pacific A350 Business Class is excellent. Because the business class cabin only has 4 seats across, each seat has so so much room. The seats lie flat and I easily don’t touch the end of the bed and I’m about 182cm tall. Even tall people will be comfortable.Cathay Pacific A350 Business Class Lie Flat Bed

There are lots of different storage lockers in the seat for storage of hand bags and gadgets. I didn’t realise how convenient this would be until I start stashing all my junk in the empty cabinets everywhere.

Entertainment

The TV is MASSIVE. It has a large range of channels, music and games as well as 3 live TV channels. I really loved being able to watch BBC world and CNN live on board the flight.Cathay Pacific A350 Business Class Seat

The controller for the TV is excellent and has its very own ultra sharp LCD screen on it which is useful if you like playing games on the controller rather than the TV.Cathay Pacific A350 Business Class Controls

Connectivity

One of the great things about this aircraft is its connectivity. There is wifi available at a very reasonable price and it is fast. Most of the time it was as fast as 4G for me, so I could use Instagram, Facebook and Twitter with no problem whatsoever.

Prices are quite reasonable compared what we’ve seen on some other carriers:

1h – $9.95

Entire flight – $12.95

$12.95 for an entire flight is an incredible deal especially because data usage seems to be unlimited.

The other thing you are supposed to be able to do is use your normal mobile phone coverage and pay roaming charges through your own provider. I tried to get this to work, but my strong suspicion is that Telkomsel in Indonesia doesn’t have that sort of agreement. If you have a SIM card from a big provider in the US or Europe, I could imagine this working really well. The only problem would be if you have to pay exorbitant roaming charges or not – some people do, some don’t.

Cathay Pacific A350 Business Class Cabin
Cathay Pacific A350 Business Class Cabin

Toilets

This is actually one of my favourite aspects of the plane and I don’t know why. But these toilets are very cool. They come with a window which is great in and of itself. But this window lets in amazing amounts of light. And with this light, it makes the toilet looks bigger, cleaner and just better.

The amenities in the bathroom are all quality and the mirror is huge. Space seems bigger than previous business class toilets, but it could be just the natural light.

Note: this appeared to be in the front of the cabin only as the ones in the middle of business class seemed to have a baby change table instead of window.

Verdict

The business class cabin on the Cathay A350 is excellent. Very comfortable, well-connected and perhaps the new standard for business class cabins. Awesome.

Taipei Main Station Airport Station

How to get from Taipei Airport to Taipei City Centre (incl. New Train!)

There are a number of ways of getting from Taipei Taoyuan Airport to the city centre with a range of prices. Your choice of transport is going to depend on your budget and the time you arrive at the airport as not all options operate 24 hours. I found this out the hard way when arriving at midnight.Taipei Airport to Taipei City Route Map

Cab

Cab is the quickest and easiest way to get from Taipei Airport to the city centre. You’re looking at a fare of around NT$1200 (US$40/€35) and a travel time of 45 minutes from the terminal to your hotel door. Note that the taxi will charge what’s on the meter, plus 50%, plus tolls. That’s why the price ends up being so expensive.

Train

The train from Taipei Taoyuan Airport to Taiwan City Centre has just started operation! This makes life much easier than in the past. Just hop on the train from the main terminal and it will whisk you away to Taipei Main Station in 35 minutes! From Taipei Main Station, you can then hop on the citywide MRT system in the direction of your accommodation. Either that or catch a cab. Whatever you do, it’s going to be far cheaper and only slightly slower than catching a cab all the way from the airport itself.Taipei Airport Train Inside

Frustratingly, this train service does not operate 24 hours. This means if you’re arriving late or departing early, you simply cannot use this service. In other words, many flights arrive and depart at hours outside of the hours of operation of the Taipei Airport Train.

  • Departing Taiwan Main Station: 06:00 – 23:00
  • Departing Taiwan Airport: 06:05 – 23:35
  • Price of the Taipei Airport Train is NT$160.

Taipei Airport Train Ticket MachinesBus

Bus is the cheapest way of getting from Taipei Taoyuan Airport to Taipei city centre, but it does come with drawbacks. First of all, you need to figure out which bus number to catch. This will depend on where you want to be dropped off.

If you want to be dropped off near Taipei 101, catch CitiAir Bus 1960. Last bus is at 1:05am and if you’re lucky it will depart 10 minutes late like it did for me. Cost is NT$145 (US$4.74/€4.46). Timetable here -> http://www.taiwanbus.tw/information.aspx?Lang=En&Line=3471

If you want to be dropped off around the Taipei Main Railway Station, take bus 1961 or 1819. Last 1961 bus is at 1am and 1819 runs 24 hours. Cost of 1961 is NT$90 (US$2.94/€2.77) and cost of 1819 is NT$125 (US$4.08/€3.85). Timetable for 1961 is here -> http://www.taiwanbus.tw/information.aspx?Lang=En&Line=3463. Time table for 1819 is here -> http://www.taiwanbus.tw/information.aspx?Lang=En&Line=4645

There are a range of other buses that you could choose, but disregard them! Why? Because they just serve to confuse you. The buses I have listed cover all your options. If you arrive after 1am and want to get into the city by bus, catch the 24 hour 1819 bus to Taiwan Main Station. From there you can catch a cab or walk to your hotel.

Most people are going to catch the train between Taipei Taoyuan Airport and the city centre because it’s easy and relatively cheap. The bus is becoming less and less relevant as time goes by, but if you have a late arrival, it’s still going to be useful. And cabs are really only for people who are comfortable paying top dollar for the ultimate in convenience.

Whichever mode you use, I’d love to hear your feedback so I can keep my advice up to date!

 

Babi Guling Pak Malen

Babi Guling Pak Malen, Seminyak, Bali: A Great Place for Babi Guling in Seminyak

When in Bali, you absolutely have to try babi guling, the famous Balinese BBQ pork dish. But sometimes it’s difficult to find one close to where you’re staying. Babi Guling Pak Malen is not only close to Seminyak, it’s also super tasty.

I got a standard portion of Babi Guling and a fresh orange juice and the total of the bill came to Rp55.000.

The portion of pork is small. Really small. Especially when you compare it to many other places in Bali. So while the value for money is quite low here, the taste is great.

The crackling was super crispy with just a thin layer of fat, the scratchings were sinful and tasty, the sate spicy and tender and the flesh itself oh so moist.Babi Guling Pak Malen BaliI got my lawar medium spicy, but it nearly blew my head off. Soo spicy, but oh so delicious.

I think the orange juice I got with the babi guling was a perfect accompaniment. Fresh and icy cold, it went down a treat in the hot warung atmosphere.

And that brings us to the next point. The warung itself has no character. It’s hot. It’s often busy. And it’s really just functional. You come here, eat your pork, and leave. That’s it!

I really like this place because it’s well located on Sunset Road, the pork is really tasty and service is quick. The perfect place for babi guling when in Seminyak.

Warung Babi Guling Pak Malen
Jalan Sunset No.5, Seminyak
Babi Guling: Rp40.000
Orange Juice: Rp15.000

Ippolito Specialty Coffee in Bali

Ippolito Specialty Coffee, Seminyak, Bali: Great Coffee and a Free Pool!

We arrived at Ippolito Specialty Coffee expecting the place to be packed like so many other good coffee shops in Seminyak. But what we saw was a place so empty that we thought it was closed when we arrived.

It’s one of the enduring paradoxes of Indonesian cafes. You can be good, but you’re not necessarily going to be popular and I see that a lot in Bandung.Cappuccino at Ippolito Specialty CoffeeA range of food and drinks is served here as well as fantastic coffee. I tried a cappuccino which in my opinion is as good as just about anywhere in Seminyak.

Although we haven’t tried the food, it does come recommended and the menu does look quite tempting.Interior Ippolito CoffeeThe building itself is very instagrammable. Lots of brick, wood, great furniture and walls filled with bottles of wine.

Outside you’ll find the pool area. THE POOL AREA! This area is free for customers of the cafe. So if you want somewhere to swim and eat, but don’t want to pay for a beach club, we think this is the next best thing.Free Swimming Pool at IppolitoThe pool is a thing of beauty and if you don’t get a good instagram shot here, you’re not trying!

We really like this cafe. It does have a bit of a restaurant feel and that’s probably what puts most people off. But don’t be put off. It’s perfectly fine to come here, grab a coffee and set up your laptop. And besides, the wifi is fast!

Ippolito Specialty Coffee
Jalan Lebak Sari, Petitenget, Seminyak
Opening Hours: 07:00 – 23:00
Cappuccino: Rp39.000++
Swimming Pool: FREE

Corner House Seminyak

Corner House, Seminyak, Bali: Like a Phoenix Rising from the Ashes

In this very spot used to be a cafe called Corner Store — it burnt down a few years back. But like a phoenix rising from the ashes, Corner House makes an appearance and it’s very good.

Polished concrete floors, chipped white tiles on the walls reminiscent of an old butcher’s shop and a shaded outdoor area all combine to make this one of the better looking places in Seminyak.Coffee at Corner HouseCoffee here is by Revolver, so you know it’s going to be good. And I can confirm that the coffee does indeed live up to expectations.

The menu is quite extensive and I felt that I would be happy ordering any one of the items on it. In the end I got a ham and cheese toastie. And it was no more and no less than I expected. Lots of cheese, sufficient amounts of leg ham and a few bits of red onion. Definitely tasty and just what I needed for a snack.Ham and cheese Toastie at Corner HouseWifi here is fast and I was consistently getting 20mbit up and down, so it’s a good place to come if you need to do some data intensive stuff.

Interestingly, it wasn’t particularly busy when I was there. I put that down to there being so much competition these days.

Down this end of Seminyak, there seems to be fewer and fewer good cafes and this one certainly stands head and shoulder above the rest. The next really awesome place is probably down at Sisterfields or Revolver.

All in all a really good cafe on the Seminyak scene.

Corner House
Jalan Kayu Ayu (Laksamana) 10A, Seminyak
www.cornerhousebali.com
Opening Hours: setiap hari 07:00 – 23:00
Cappuccino: Rp34.500
Toastie: Rp57.500