It has been some time since we travel as a big family on an air plane. Last year, we went for a Royal Caribbean cruise and there were 17 of us! I would not exactly count that as travelling overseas since our furthest Port of call was just Malaysia Port Klang and we didn’t even leave the ship. This year, I won 6 free air tickets on a budget air line (I shall not mention it since I highly suspect our bout of super itchy insect bites was due to the airline seats. Please tell me this experience of bug bites on airlines is not unique to us!). I paid for the taxes and 2 full price tickets plus a $50 toddler ticket to Taiwan. We had 9 of us in total and it was Little YT’s first plane ride.
Travelling in a big group is nothing new to Kel and I. We travelled to Hongkong and Phuket with the grandparents previously. And travelled to Sweden and Australia in big groups too, although the people are different, but they are still part of our family. This time round, I decided on Taiwan to bring my parents who have not been there before and I swear to them that Taiwan is a super awesome place to visit! Kel and I simply love the food, the night market, the shopping and we never ever got sick of the mountain views. Now, I feel like going there again…
The moment I settled the air tickets, I booked a private customized tour package with Jerry Travel. Our first interactions were on facebook chat and his response was quick. He asked where we would like to go and I gave him some compulsory places of attraction to visit and asked for his recommendations for the rest. We have young and old and hence I reiterated to him that we preferred a relax pace and the itinerary would include suitable activities for the grandparents and the kids.
I viewed this trip as a companion trip to our parents and to make the kids happy. So, that was our expectations. It is important to have the right expectations when you are travelling in a big group like this. Honeymoon, babymoon, whatever -moon holiday itinerary do not fit into this holiday, such thoughts had to be thrown out of our mind.
I shall introduce our itinerary here and here is how it looks like:
Day 1 – Taiwan National Palace Museum 國立故宮博物院 / Jiufen old street 九份老街
Accomodation: Beitou Quandu Hot spring hotel 北投泉都溫泉飯店
Dinner: at Jiufen old street
Taiwan National Palace Museum 國立故宮博物院
After we touched down at Taipei International Airport, we were greeted by our stand-in driver who brought us to our first place of attraction (Jerry could not meet us on our first day due to some schedule conflict, so he only took us from the 2nd day). If you have been to China’s Palace Museum in Beijing, you would be impressed by Taiwan’s National Palace Museum. It has a permanent collection of more than 696,000 pieces ancient Chinese artefacts and artworks, making it one of the largest in the world. The very famous must-see items are the Jadeite Cabbage, The Carved Olive-stone Boat, Concentric Ivory Balls among other amazing artefacts.
The Jadeite Cabbage is masterfully carved out from a piece of Jade with natural jade colours of green and white to recreate the real cabbage. Sadly for us, this Jadeite Cabbage just left the museum to Japan on loan, hence we were not able to see it when we were there.
The “Carved Olive-stone Boat” is a tiny boat carved from an olive stone. The incredibly fully equipped skilled piece is carved with a covered deck and moveable windows. The interior has chairs, dishes on a table and eight figures representing the characters of Su Shih’s Latter Ode on the Red Cliff. The bottom is carved in minute character the entire 300+ character text with the date and the artist’s name! (Wiki source description) You have to see the artefacts for yourself to marvel in awe on how clever and skillful people in the olden days can be! Whoever did these must be super human!
Website: Taiwan National Palace Museum
Jiufen old street 九份老街
Jiefen old street has its own character. It is an old street with many shops on both sides of the narrow street. The street is so narrow that when the recycling truck drives through the street, one has to hop onto the shops on either side to make way for the truck. Highlights of this street is the small eateries that serve delicious braised meat rice, noodles with meatballs, famous yam and sweet potato balls dessert and numerous shops selling exquisite hand crafts like a zip up wallet!
Website: Jiufen Old Street
Day 2 – Leofoo Village Theme Park 新竹六福村樂園 / Gao Mei Wetland Windmill Park to watch sunset 高美溼地風車公園看夕陽 / Fengjia Night Market 逛逢甲夜市
Accomodation: Bramasole Home Stay 布拉姆所民宿 for 3 nights
Dinner: at Fengjia Night Market
Leofoo Village Theme Park
On the second day, we went to Leofoo Village Theme Park. This theme park is really huge with 4 theme areas, “Wild West”, “South Pacific”, “Arabian Kingdom” and “African Safari”. We saw many locals, many who came in groups of friends and families. We only manage to cover 2 of them as it was a typhoon period and it started raining when we were at our 2nd theme area where there were ponies, monkeys, other animals and roller coaster rides. The kids loved the roller coaster rides the best. Some of the rides include a 360 degrees viking that, to me, seems scarier than the Singapore’s Universal Studio Galactica Battlestar. The theme park has a variety of rides suitable for the daredevils and faint-hearted. It has a good mix of play for all ages. While waiting for the rain to stop, we caught this at the UFO catcher machine. The best part was we gave it many tries, and in the end it was YH who caught it by catching nothing but the pincers pushed the plush toy out! All of us spontaneously screamed in joy!
That’s the good thing with a private tour guide. When we saw that the rain was no where near stopping, I gave a call to Jerry and he arrived in less than 10 minutes and off we left Leofoo Theme Park.
Website: Leofoo Village Theme Park
Gao Mei Wetlands
The next place he brought us to was Gao Mei Wetlands Windmill Park to watch sunset. I like to watch sunset and this is certainly a good place to enjoy some less commercialized attractions overseas. Good thing that the rain did not follow us here. There were many windmills in a line producing about 3% of Taiwan’s power demand. The first time I saw such windmills were in Copenhagen enroute to Sweden across the border. These are certainly “new” windmill design to me as opposed to what all children’s books have drawn of a dutch windmill with 4 big blades. By the way, Singapore has no windmills.
We got off our mini-van and took a really leisurely walk along the breakwaters to an extended walkway into the sea. There were many couples, friends in groups and families enjoying the strong wind and beautiful view of the sunset. After an hour or so, we turned back and walked along the local delights food street. We bought the BBQ octopus, fried sweet potato balls, local drinks, and beer and ate while walking back to where Jerry was waiting.
Website: Gao Mei Wetlands
Fengjia Night Market
At night, we visited Fengjia Night Market. This is claimed to be one of the best night market in Taiwan. Boy, was it crowded! When you have young kids and grandparents, navigating through the night market is certainly a challenge. The crowd was amazing and looked like Chinatown during Chinese New Year. Everyone was tailing behind someone. Stopping for some shopping was almost impossible while trying not to lose sight of the other family members. Luckily, I managed to buy a pair of shoes for XX and YH and that’s about it. Yes, this is within our expectations to be “shoppingless”. However, we did taste many Taiwanese snacks in the night market and even found a good eatery with free flow of home-made special tea.
Day 3 – Qingjing farm 清境农场-青青草園綿羊秀.馬術秀 / Feeling 18degrees Chocolate Factory 18度c巧克力工坊
Lunch and Dinner: at local eateries
Qingjing farm is located in the high mountains. We drove up the mountains for about an hour. There were 2 parts of the mountainous farm. On one side, you see the horses and on the other side, you see the sheep. The view from the high mountains was spectacular. We were like in the clouds and the weather was a welcoming cool of below 23 deg C. The grasses were so green and the kids simply plucked out the green grasses to feed the sheep. It was relaxing to be among nature except that there was much walking to do and the walking part did tire our parents out.
In Qingjing farm, you must watch the sheep show. One of the show host was a localized Westerner and he wowed the audience with his humour and the excellent sheep’s performance. He also demonstrated how he shaved off a sheep’s wool and led his herd of sheep to run past our legs! We were apparently sitting in the sheep’s path!
When you are at Qingjing farm, be prepared to spend half a day there. In between, we had lunch at the food centre at Qingjing which was like Singapore’s version of a hawker centre. Don’t you love looking for local food and taste when you venture foreign grounds? We tasted black pig’s meat, their zi char (fried dishes), sausages with glutinous rice and soup. They were delicious but some were too oily for my liking. Lining the walk path to the food centre, we saw many 水蜜桃 (peach) at very cheap prices. Taiwan’s peaches are a must-buy! Somehow we did not buy any as we had enough of them from the earlier buys in the local market. On our last day, we regretted not buying for home when Jerry told us that Qingjing has abundance of peaches compared to limited supplies in Taipei. We wanted to get some fresh ones on our way to the airport but to find that there was not any left to buy. So, if you are in Qingjing in the summertime, remember to grab the cheap peaches there!
Website: QingJing Farm
Feeling 18degrees Chocolate Factory
After we left Qingjing, Jerry took us to the famous Feeling 18degrees Chocolate Factory. Not exactly a factory as it is more like a cosy small town serving premium ice-cream and chocolates. There was a sitting area for patrons to enjoy free coffee. It was about 5pm and there was a long queue for both ice-cream and chocolates. We bought some macha, guinness stout, chocolate, coffee, mango, cookies and cream ice-cream. The ice-cream was relatively cheaper than in Singapore. We were told that not many places in Taiwan served such ice-cream which is really common in Singapore shopping malls. This place is popular with the young and trendy.
Website: Feeling 18 degrees
Day 4 – Sun Moon Lake 日月潭遊湖/ Wen Wu Temple 文武廟 / Peacock Park 孔雀園 / 水里車埕 Che Cheng Train Station 車埕火車站坐觀光火車 / Wu Chang Temple Earthquake Ruins Preserved Site 武昌宮
Lunch: 木茶房 Cedar Tea House
Dinner: One of the restaurants in Pu Li 埔里, near Bramasole, I couldn’t remember the name.
Sun Moon Lake and Wen Wu Temple
On day 4, after our morning hearty breakfast and fun play in Bramasole Home Stay, we went to Sun Moon Lake. It is described as a must-see attraction to go when you visit Taiwan. The lake has a shape of a sun and a crescent moon from a helicopter view which we were not able to see that. Kel and I were back to this place 7 years later and it kind of brought back some nostalgia. Due to time constraint, we skipped the boat ride to enjoy the lake’s scenery. Partly it was because XX was still feeling car sick and a boat ride would not be the best enjoyment for her. We’ll be back to take the boat ride, Sun Moon Lake!
We walked up the stairs to Wen Wu Temple. Such memories! Kel and I donated some amount to build this temple 7 years ago when we were here. Our names were supposedly engraved on one of the walls. We were naturally happy to be here personally to check that out. After searching for some time and narrowing down to our nationality and year of donation, we finally found our names! One small disappointment was my name was engraved in the wrong Chinese character! We told the person-in-charge and he told us he would rectify that. Looks like we have to be back again to check that out which we wouldn’t mind in the least bit of course! We donated again to the temple this time round and bought some chimes and beautiful souvenirs home.
Website: Sun Moon Lake
Next, on our way to lunch at Che Cheng Train Station, we stopped by a Peacock Park.
Che Cheng Train Station and Cedar Tea House
We had our lunch at Cedar Tree House at Che Cheng Train Station. They served delicious food and waffles. We got to keep the lovely wood buckets after the meal. Price was reasonable and the environment was cosy. We could enjoy the serene view from the restaurant through the full glass windows. After lunch, we took a relax stroll and snapped many photographs here. Could I ever stop marveling at Taiwan’s breathtaking scenery?
We took the wooden buckets to be hot stamped in a basement workshop near the Che Cheng Train Station. Then we boarded a train that would bring us to Ji Ji Train Station. We got to enjoy the scenic view outside the train and met Jerry 2 train stops later. He took us to Wu Chang Temple Earthquake Ruins Preserved Site which was not far away.
Wu Chang Temple Earthquake Ruins Preserved Site
Taiwan had a magnitude of 7.6 earthquake in 1999, 21 Sept which killed 2,415 people. This earthquake was also named JiJi earthquake 集集大地震 because it took place here. Wu Chang Temple was partially leveled in this earthquake. We had a chance to see the cracked walls, twisted iron rods and its ruin state. The Taiwanese government decided to preserve this ruined temple to raise awareness, educate people and remind all on the devastating damage in this disastrous earthquake and its aftermath which changed the lives of millions of those who experienced it. It was a good education tour for us and the kids in particular, which also reminded us to appreciate Singapore’s almost perfect geological location on earth.
The deities from Wu Chang Temple escaped unharmed which surprised everyone. They were moved to a temporary temple opposite the road and moved to a new temple beside it just recently after they had raised enough funds.
Website: Wu Chang Temple
Day 5 – to early wet market / airport
On day 5, we were supposed to have a half day tour in Taipei. Unfortunately, our budget airline moved our flight timing earlier by 3 hours due to some schedule updates. (Remind me not to take this budget airline again!) Hence, we had to leave for the airport straight after a leisure morning breakfast in Bramasole. But we will be back again!
We bade goodbye to Mr Xie, the owner of Bramasole, exchanged small tokens of appreciation. He was wonderful in giving us Taiwanese tea leaves in an exquisite box. We gave him a sugarcane sweet pastry that we bought from some brewery market. Everyone was reluctant to leave the home stay (read here for our wonderful home stay experience). As a Chinese saying goes, 天下无不散之宴席, there is an end to all wonderful gatherings. We took many pictures and these will be our good memories to keep.
On our way to the airport, we dropped by a market to look for 水蜜桃 (peach) again but in vain as all had been sold out. Jerry bought us some nice local glutinous snack breakfast for us. They tasted good but too oily. We stopped for toilet breaks in between and finally got the chance to visit a mini-mart. Back on day 2, Kel and I had been wanting to visit a supermarket in Taiwan. We always go to a supermarket to see what they have for the locals wherever we travel. Taiwan is famous for many interesting instant cup noodles and range of milk tea. We manage to buy back some snacks and then it was straight to the airport. And this time round, we bade goodbye to our very hospitable tour guide Jerry. The kids were so fond of him that they were sad to say goodbye to their Jerry 叔叔.
All travels have their fair share of laments of planning that could have been better. For this trip, these are the things that could have suited more to my liking:
1) First night stay in a true hot spring resort with hot spring pools, but this would easily take up half a day to enjoy the facilities and grandparents may not like too much of this.
2) When we were at Leofoo village, we should have thought of asking Jerry to bring our parents to a nearby area for sight-seeing instead of them following us around in the amusement park. They were not as keen on the rides.
3) It would be good if we had chosen the Sun Moon Lake round the lake tour in the boat ride to enjoy the scenery. Well…
4) At the end of it all, I should have booked a 7 day tour to have more time to do the above!!!
And we are only touring Taichung.
My suggestion to others keen on Taiwan trip: If you can afford the time and money, plan one all-around-Taiwan trip on a tour bus to touch and go. Then, plan subsequent trips with more days to enjoy a part of Taiwan each time you go. Every part of Taiwan has its interesting places to visit and experience. Every season in Taiwan has its own charm. I guess I am never sick of going back to Taiwan for holiday 🙂
More information on Jerry Travel:
Jerry Travel Blog: http://blog.xuite.net/sky37833/jerrytravel
Jerry took good care of us throughout the whole trip. Everyone warmed up to him quickly. He always ensured our car ride was comfortable and told us not to worry about the mess that the kids made. We felt bad when we had soiled diapers, snacks wrappers, empty mineral water bottles, food crumbs strewn all over the van. But each day we board his van, everything was clean and tidy once again. As he was our personal tour guide, we were relaxed and able to enjoy each attraction at our own pace. The itinerary was flexible. This suited our big group with young and old. Jerry is very knowledgeable. Ask him anything, he is able to answer you with rich history facts, up-to-date information and he is able to connect with our parents and our kiddos. I highly recommend Jerry Travel if you want to tour Taiwan, especially with families. He even host guests on cycling tour! Did I tell you that he was a national cyclist! Oh, and there are also good tour guides in Jerry Travel too. Just check out their facebook page and you will know 🙂
Have you been to Taiwan in a big group before? Share your experience with me!