Friday, May 30, 2014

Taiwan Trip Feb 2014 - Taichung Summit Resort Xin She Zhuang Yuan (新社庄园)

After our breakfast in the hotel, we set off to Xin She Zhuang Yuan (新社庄园) aka Summit Resort first as they are one of the attractions in the area that open early.

The weather was very nice (sunny but not hot) and the place is very peaceful and beautiful.

Prehaps it is best to let the pictures say it all =)

French Theme Restaurant
We pop in to their restaurant to take a look but didn't order anything as we just had a very fulling breakfast at the hotel that morning. I can imagine that it'll be a nice place to dine in or have some coffee and chill.

and the flowered pathway leading to the.. washrooms!

Gift Shop
Their gift shop sells a range of merchandise from ornaments to key chains to aromatherapy essential oils and even toys.

In all, Summit Resort is a very nice park to be strolling in in the morning and scenic enough for nice pictures with the palace theme and waterfalls. Entrance Fee is NT250 per person with a NT100 voucher which can be used to offset your payment in their restaurants and gift shops. The resort opens from 8am to 6pm on most days

Next, I will blog about Lavender Cottage. Stay tuned!

Tuesday, May 13, 2014

Taiwan Trip, Feb 2014 - Local Delights at Taichung Fengjia Night Market

For our trip, we spend 2 evenings in Fengjia night market. Best decision ever because we really need 2 evenings to finish exploring the place.

As I mentioned in my previous post, Fengjia night market is now officially my favorite night market in Taiwan because;
  • It's bigger and more spacious than the night markets in Taipei (I think it's at least a 3 times bigger than Shilin). 
  • and because it's bigger - it has so many stalls selling a variety of items from clothes, bags, hair accessories, eyelashes, shoes, mobile phone cases to food (eat, shop, drink) and; 
  • The prices are generally lower than in Taipei.   

Street Stalls of Fengjia Night Market
This is the first stall we see right after we come out of our hotel. This stall selling 大肠包小肠 seems very popular - the queues are always at least 5 metres long each time we pass by it. We didn't try them but I tried them once in Taipei's Shilin Night Market a few years back and remember that it's rice sausage over meat sausage.

Deep Fried Sweet Potato Balls (地瓜球)
This is one of our favorite Taiwan street snacks and this stall is also our favorite stall in Fengjia Night Market. We had them almost every night! The fried sweet potato balls are crispy and chewy. Highly recommended!

Deep Sea Squid
These are battered deep fried squid with your choice of toppings from black pepper powder, lemon spicy salt, chilli, wasabi, thai style, tartar to salad sauce. Their squid is taste fresh and crunchy. 

Xinjiang Mutton Stick (新疆羊肉串)
These looks and taste like mutton satay sticks minus the curry gravy.

Hu Jiao Bing Stall
The stall claim to be from Taipei's Rao He Night Market. We decided to try in Rao He Night Market since it's part of our itinerary.

Gold (Chicken) Leg

Charcoal Grilled Ribeye Steak
If you fancy some torched grilled steak, there's one too!

Grilled Oyster
There are also several stalls selling grilled oyster in several flavors - lemon, garlic, wasabi or five-flavored sauce. No idea what is the latter but it sure sound interesting.

Spongebob Squarepants 
Somewhere along the way, my sis-in-law and nephew disappears for a few minutes and came back with this waffles.

Dessert Time!
After a few hours, we drop into one of the dessert store for a break. Here's our iced yam snow and hot soya bean curd desserts. I love the ice snow yam with condensed milk. Sinful but Yums!

Cutesy Bread
Situated in the middle of the night market is a street stall selling cutesy bread that look so kawaii that you may mistaken these bread as a bread-looking souvenir/toys. These bread may look plastic - but yes, it's edible read bread. The bread comes in a variety of flavors - from milky grapes, strawberry grapes, matcha red bean to the more regular yam taste bread.

Strawberries Cup
The strawberries in Taichung are super sweet (probably because their strawberry farms are around the vincity)! The fruit stalls also provide condensed milk and honey for you to add to your strawberry cup if you prefer a even sweeter taste. Yum yum!

Cherry tomatoes with Plums
This is another must try fruit in the night markets in Taiwan. The salted plums adds a savory twist to the refreshing cherry tomatoes. Highly recommended too!

Thanks for reading!

Wednesday, May 7, 2014

Taiwan Trip, Feb 2014 - Day 1 & Taipei & Taichung 6 Days Itinerary

Over the holidays, I met up with some of my ex-colleagues over sushi & jokes since everyone is back in our sunny town at the moment. The jokes were mainly centered around Jerry (aka the ratatouille family) but that's probably another story someday. 

One of the funny thing is that C pretty much remember is that I had been traveling to Taiwan like - according to him - since forever. And only Taipei. And everyone around the table agrees with him! Haha.. I admit I'm pretty much a Taipei regular since my first graduation trip was to there (and subsequent yearly trips up to 2 times a year) but I have since and move on to many other beautiful places in the world waiting for me to explore. 

It's been more than a year since my last Taiwan trip and this time round, it's a family trip with my mum, brother, sis-in-law, 3 year old hyper nephew and 1 year old toddling niece. The dynamics are slightly different - more leisurely shopping, more sights and more regular meals and more food - my nephew wants to eat almost every street snack that looks cute and he can be very persistent in his persuits! So we engaged a driver with a comfortable 8-seater from for the first 4 days of our trip. 

Ready. Get Set. Go!

Here's our Actual 6D5N Taipei-Taichung Itinerary and the Hotels we stayed:

Day 1 -- Taipei Taoyuan Airport >> Taichung Fengjia Nigh Martket
(Hotel: Beacon Hotel @ Fengjia Night Market)

Day 4 -- Jiufen >> Shifen >> Raohe Night Market  
(Hotel: Westgate Hotel @ Ximending)

Day 5 -- Taipei Main Station >> Ding Tai Feng @ Zhong Xiao Dun Hua>> Zhong Xiao Fu Xing SOGO >> Shilin Night Market
(Hotel: Westgate Hotel @ Ximending)

Day 6 -- Ximending >> Taoyuan Airport

I am happy to say that this driver-itinerary arrangement is definitely relaxed and family friendly. We discover that optimal number of places we can plan in with a driver is preferably - one place in the morning, one place in the afternoon and exploring around our hotel at night. 

For our hotels we choose tourist hotels that are located within easy walking distance to shopping areas - that's easy to go back and put down our shopping purchase or breaks. For example, the kiddos and tired adults went to bed after 10pm while my sis-in-law and I went back to shop til 1am. 

Day 1 - Airport 
We reached Taoyuan Airport and cleared the immigration counters at 6+pm and our driver pick us up from Taoyuan Airport. The ride to Taichung Fengjia Night Marker was over an hour long and thankfully, I grab a few onigiri (triangle rice balls), cakes and drinks for the family from the convenience store in Airport before we took the ride. The onigiri taste really good - the seaweed are crispy and fresh as they were separated from the rice by a plastic divider that we can easily remove before tucking in.

Beacon Hotel 
Our choice of hotel was the Beacon Hotel which is located strategically (for the average shopaholic tourist) in the middle of Fengjia Night Market. The hotel is bright, clean, much bigger than it looks in picture, comfortable and was equipped with the usual amenities (mineral water, toothbrush, comb etc) and breakfast is not bad. According to the local sales assistants, there are only 2 hotels in Fengjia Night Market which is Beacon Hotel or Le Parker (which is slightly further at one end of the night market).  

I realized that my pictures wasn't the best as we just want to put down our luggage and head out for a proper dinner.

Fengjia Night Market
Or at least a picture from the hotel room. Being a Taipei regular, I found that I prefer Fengjia Night Market to others in Taipei city because of the wide variety of street snacks - it sure deserve a post of its own! Clothing and accessories are cheaper (and nicer, somehow) than Taipei and the prices are pretty close to the price range in Bangkok platinum mall. I spotted a few Taiwan auction bag shop brands (Bigi, PG mall etc) around the area. The shops opened til 1am and there's a 24 hour McD and Watsons right beside the hotel. 

Dinner Time
We went to Dong Dak Steak house which sells western grill (steak/fish/chicken) served in hot plates along with pasta in self service buffet bar (soups, salads, soft drinks, desserts, snacks). We ordered their stinky tofu too.

Next I will blog about Fengjia Night Market and the many food stores! 

Thanks for reading!