Friday, 12 February 2010

Cheap and Easy Travelling - Taiwan

Fly Jetstar Asia.  Look out for special prices on airline's website.  Bring along an empty bottle, eg mineral water bottle (500ml); and fill it up at the boarding area's water-cooler to avoid paying S$3.00 for an even smaller bottle of mineral water on-board.  Bring some tit-bits along to kill the boredom of a 5-hour trip.
Take the coach operated by Kuokuang Bus Company from Taoyang International Airport to the Taipei Railway Station to begin your trips in Taipei City.  Trip costs S$6 (NT125).
The Taipei Railway Station, Taipei Main Station (MRT) and Taipei West Bus Terminals A & B are interlinked; and within walking distance.
Take your meals at one of many night markets which operate from about 5.00pm to 5.00am.  Easily reached by Smart (Taiwan's MRT).  A trip from Taiwan's Main MRT Station (interchange of all MRT lines) to Shilin night market (above photograph) costs about S$1.00 (NT20).
A bowl of beef noodle soup costs about S$4.00 (NT80).
Above bowl of sumptous dumpling noodle soup costs NT70.
Should you decide not to check into the hotel on your arrival, you may take the MRT to Zhongxiao Danhua station; and walk over to the nearby 24-hour Eslite bookshop to spend your night.  There are benches at the lift lobby for you to rest through the night.  There is another Eslite bookshop at Taipei City Hall station (2 stations away), but it closes at 12 midnight.
There is a cafe within the bookshop that operates from 7.30am to 1.30am, and serves quality coffee and snacks.
Check into one of such many smaller hotels (directly opposite the Taipei West Bus Terminal A) in the vicinity of Taiwan Railway Station for more comfort.  Pay NT$1300 - NT$1500 for a 12.00noon - 11.30am stay at Royal Hotel (Tel: 23 111 668 / Fax: 2331 7299), 5-1 Hwaining Street.  YMCA charges more than NT$2,000 for a single room in an adjacent street, next to Caeser Park Hotel.

Contrary to common beliefs, there are more affordable lodgings in the vicinity of Taiwan Railway Station than in some other more remote towns.

Go for the 24-hour eateries that lined the streets off Chung Hsiao W Road (in the vicinity of Shin Kong Mitsukoshi Department Store).  There is a McDonald's along Kaifeng Street (off Hwaining Street /off Chung Ching S. Road).
NT$4 (S$0.18) for each piping hot dumpling !

A wide array of delicious pig's innards to whet your appetite.

Go to level one of the Taipei Railway Station if you decide to have something more palatable to your quest for fusion food.  About NT$200 (S$9.00) for a good set meal.
Go for closing-hours hot offers after 10.00pm if you are nearby the station !
Night market at Danshui (last station on the Danshui to Xindian MRT line).  Opt for a whole-day ticket at NT$200 (inclusive of NT$50 refundable deposit) for unlimited travels on the 7 lines.
Should you decide to venture beyond Taipei, Kaohsiung would be a good priority.  Opt for the train ride (about 5 hours) if you prefer to see the less developed part of Taiwan.  A one-way ride costs about NT$ 800.
Alternatively, you could opt for the High Speed Rail (HSR) at about NT$ 1300 which cuts the travelling time to a mere 1 hour or so.  The ticketing booths for HSR are located just behind the booths for the 'normal' train tickets.
The cheapest alternative would be by coach operated by Kuokuang Bus Company.  Offers as low as NT$ 400 on some morning rides are available.  Kuokuang operates round-the-clock services from some towns to Taipei.
Affordable hotel rooms are easily reached outside the railway station in Kaohsiung City.  The MRT (operated within Kaohsiung City) is next to the railway station.
At NT$80 for a single-room, simple fare of porridge, vegetables, bread, etc is served as part of the free breakfast offer.
The popular Love River is within walking distance from the Central Park (Take the MRT to Central Park Station).
For catholics, there is a church diagonally opposite the Love River.  Morning mass only.
Kaohsiung is probably best known for the Buddhist Monastery, Fo Guang San.  Kuokuang Bus Company runs regular services at NT$40 for a one-way ride to the remote village.  Take note of the time schedule from the ticketing counter or at the bus-stop outside the monastery for you to catch the returning buses.
Buffet vegetarian meals are available for all visitors.  Donations in lieu of payment for meals are encouraged.
For catholics, noon mass is available on normal weekdays at No. 2 Zhongshan North Road (Level 7).  The CICM Missions office is located on the 10th level within the same building.  The building is located near an overhead bridge erected just outside Exit M7 from the Taipei Main Station.  A prayer before leaving Taiwan certainly adds peace to a flight back home.

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