Taiwan Trip Day 3: Yilan > Sanyi/Miaoli

Day 3 of Taiwan family trip starts with a hearty breakfast at our minsu. Once again, simple fare but with a touch of warmness.

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Driver picked us up for another full day tour after we checked out of the minsu.

First stop:

Miaoli Lavender Garden / Lavender Cottage (薰衣草森林)

Not much lavender was blooming when we were there. But there are some cute installations and green background for photo taking.

If your kids like to do collect “stamps” or “chops”, there are many “stamping-collecting” places all over taiwan. So bring along a little notebook for them to stamp on. Smile

There is also a restaurant but we were planning to head elsewhere for lunch and thus didn’t eat there. Food looks good though.

Went for a quick walk up the “hill”, took photos and went straight for lavender ice-cream! haha… Think the kids were only here for the ice-cream!

You need a car to get here as it is located within the mountains. Decent enough for first timer; otherwise unlikely to re-visit again.

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Entrance fee can be offset with purchases too.

Website: http://www.lavendercottage.com.tw/

Miaoli Storyland

This is NOT a playground. Actually I am not sure if this is the diner’s name except the exterior of the shop has this signage!

It is an obscure and nostalgic eatery in Miaoli which specialises in Hakka food. Apparently, they are quite well known and goes back many years in history.

As my father-in-law (and that makes my husband and sons) is a Khek (dialect group), I wanted to look for Hakka food so he can try them. Our driver brought us here and it was a good recommendation!

We would not have come here on our own as it doesn’t even look like an eatery from it’s name and facade.

It was tough to order as I wanted to try everything! hahaha! We ended up with some of the recommended specialities and some vegetarian dishes as my mum is a vegetarian.

The photos do not do justice to the taste of the food; they taste better than their presentations.

Most of the dishes are good and authentic – the cold chicken was really good! There were plates of muah chee as appetizers and red bean ice lollies as desserts! I am drooling while writing this post!

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Sheng Hsing Train Station (勝興車站)

After lunch and after consultation with the driver, we decided to go to the nearest next stop which will be on the way to our accommodation in Miaoli.

This train station in Sanyi is located within the mountains and on an up slope. It is a defunct old station which has since been converted to a tourist place together with the Sanyi old town which comprises of tea shops (Lei Cha) and miscellaneous souvenirs.

There is supposed to be a 1km underground tunnel which visitors can walk in but unfortunately, the area was closed when we were there.

As most of my photos were deleted, will recommend this blog and this info site for more details.

We ended up taking some photos of railway tracks and shopping in the old town.

Won’t recommend this place unless you like train tracks or want to do some touristy shopping enroute to your final destination.

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宜蘭–薰衣草森林–山度窯烤麵包(要幾天前先預約)-大湖草莓園–勝興車站–龍騰斷橋—苗栗通宵好望角民宿

Yilan–miaoli Lavender Garden–shandu –strawberry farm–ShanXin train station–LongTung bridge–Overnight at Miaoli.

Green Ark

We decided to come here for dinner as it’s on the way to our accommodation for the night at Miaoli. It was a big place with 2 restaurants nested above a gentle slope. Apparently, this is a venue popular for wedding photos and weddings! But we probably came at a wrong season. There were little to look around and it too freezing cold to be outdoors for long.

We literary make a beeline for the restaurant and camped indoors next to the real fireplace.  Food was decent western fare though a little more expensive; but expected for restaurant standards. Restaurant has a wooden and cosy look; lovely for couple dates. Smile

There was a little shop further up from the main entrance where you can buy cutesy souvenirs. I stayed there for a teeny winny bit longer just to warm myself next to the fire place! haha.

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I reckon this place will be better for a summer/spring visit so one can view the flora and funa; winter is way to cold to enjoy the place properly. There is an entrance fee which can be redeem with purchases as usual.

Website: http://greenark.com.tw/home.asp

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And that concluded our day while we check into our next minsu – in Miaoli – in time to take cover for the extremely cold draft/weather passing by for the night. The minsu lady did warn me to bring more clothing specially for that day and supplied us with thermal blankets, but it was still very very cold. More on that in the next post.

Read more on our Taiwan trip:

Day 1: Singapore > Taipei > Yilan

Day 2: Yilan (whole day tour)

Day 3: Yilan > Miaoli

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Xi En’s (simple) wish at the Lavender Cottage

Taiwan Trip Day 2: Yilan (whole day tour)

Read more about our first day/night after arrival at Taipei and arrival at Yilan.

Day 2 started with a good hearty breakfast at the minsu we booked for 2 nights. The home cooked breakfast was good especially the pumpkin soya bean milk! I had double glasses!

Thereafter our friendly driver came to pick us up to the first stop of the day:

Happiness 20 Farm (幸福20號農場)

This place was recommended by the travel planner (Hong Tours), Wendy. With young kids, I wanted a place where they can feed some animals and experience some farm activities.

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However, it was a little different from my expectations. There were very few animals to begin with. So don’t come expecting an Australia type of farm where there cows to milk or excited sheep to feed a bottle to.

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BUT there are many backdrops for photography opportunities if you look for the details that the owner had installed around the small farm.

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We also had fun with 2 main things:

1) D.I.Y course

After a quick walk through the farm discovered few animals, we opt to take up the D.I.Y. course – Making of Muah Chee (Glutinous Rice Ball). There are different D.I.Y courses available each day. And for bigger groups, you can pre-book pizza making and etc. The boys had fun using flour and water to make the dough and shape the muah chee together with their grandparents. Thereafter, they steam it for us and we ate it! Open-mouthed smile Xi En actually liked the taste of Muah Chee!

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2) Bubbles

It takes very little to make a kids’ day actually. There was this huge tank of bubble soap mixture which we discovered a little late during our time at the farm. There were big “wands” to make big bubbles which thrilled the kids! It was just that simple as they didn’t get to experience such big bubbles in Singapore.

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I will recommend Happiness 20 Farm if you are travelling with young kids. Also just spend the money to do the D.I.Y courses (worth it!) and eat something at the cafe. French fries with kids and even older grandmother works any time. Smile

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Entrance Fee: NTD100 per person (that’s about S$4.50) – can be offset with spending in the farm/food options

Website: http://www.20happy.com/English/about.html

The good thing about all these little farms/tourist places in Taiwan is that most of the places charge a nominal entrance fee which you can offset with spending. Essentially, that means you don’t actually pay any entrance fee when you redeem it with items/activities.

Lucky Art Crayon Factory (Yilan)

Our 2nd stop was the Lucky Art Crayon Factory. I requested for this place as I heard good reviews from friends.

Here, we moved from one station to another systemically. First we used the crayons to draw and color. Next, check out the erasable crayons.

Thereafter we went on to hammering together marker pens and making some crayons. All of which you can bring home.

I have 7 pax and so you can imagine how many we made and brought home! In the end, we gifted some to friends when we reached home.

There is also a “coloring tattoo” corner for the kids to choose stencils and color them. Those who do not like face/hand painting can busy themselves at the dress-up rooms where there are costumes and masks.

Eizac was extremely tired and uncooperative when we are at the factory and thus half of my time was spent pacifying him and carrying him around.

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Conclusion: Once again, if you have kids who might enjoy D.I.Y , understand how crayons are made or like doodling/painting, this will be a good stop.

Entrance Fee: NTD200 per person – can be offset with spending

National Arts Center (傳統藝術中心)

This is a cultural place with the surroundings set in traditional bricks shop houses building. It is a very touristy place with some shops, eateries, souvenirs shops and some payable courses you are take part in. There are also some operas and artists roaming the streets with performance from time to time.

There is a “foodcourt” in this place in which we settled our lunch. The food isn’t anything to shout about here but they fill the stomach with average standard.

There is also a big field with some kiddy cartoon characters on display for photography opportunity.

You can possibly spend 2 to 3 hours here if you eat, shop and walk around the entire premise.

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If you are not a history buff or not keen in traditional arts, I won’t recommend coming here. It is a little too commercialized in my opinion. Perhaps Jiu Fen or Shi Fen near Taipei will be a better option to sample local foods while walking through the bricks steps.

Entrance Fee: NT150 per person or less for seniors (no offsetting here)

I found this chinese blog site with photos and explanation of this place. I accidentally deleted most of my photos for the first leg so can’t share much photos. If you can read Mandarin: http://viablog.okmall.tw/blogview.php?blogid=221. If you can only read English, just type in National Center for Traditional Arts in Tripadvisor.

After lunch here, it was around 3pm and we headed back to the minsu for a rest and break. Eizac was especially exhausted with the travelling and lack of afternoon nap. Our driver kindly waited at the minsu for us till it was time to head out to Luodong night market. The plus point of hiring a driver is that you can change the itinerary according to your family’s needs.

Luodong night market (羅東夜市)

This is the biggest night market in Luodong/Yilan area. Some people will choose to live around this night market so that they can walk here. Initially we wanted to do so but glad we opt to live 10 mins drive to the market instead. It was quieter to live a bit further away and turned out the kids weren’t a huge fan of Taiwan night markets. They didn’t like the smoke from the BBQ food eateries and generally didn’t like being shorter than the stalls! It was physically tiring for us to carry the kids and so that made the experience quite uncomfortable and tiring.

We ended up eating at a fast food place with aircon and seats! haha..

I love night markets if I were with friends or doing a couple trip. But with kids and older grandparents in the group, I will think twice before doing another night market trip.

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That pretty much ended our tiring 2nd day in Yilan.

For reference, our travel planner, Wendy, initially planned the following:

亞典蛋糕及橘之鄉–幸福二十農場DIY–幾米公園–蠟筆工廠DIY –傳統藝術中心–羅東夜市

Yiadian cake and orange county–happiness 20 DIY—Jimmy Park– Crayon Factory — Traditional Art Center –Luodong market (night)

But we skipped 2 of the places as it’s exhausting enough for the kids.

Summary for 2 days of Taiwan trip:

Day 1: Taipei (Taoyuan) > Yilan

Day 2: Yilan > Happiness 20 Farm > Crayon Art Factory > Traditional Art Center > Luodong Night Market

Next up: Day 3: Yilan > Miaoli

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Taiwan Trip – Day 1 (Singapore > Taipei > Yilan)

We decided on a Taiwan trip end of Nov 2015 because it was to be a  “graduation trip” (kindergarten only!) for Xi En cum an extended family trip with my in-laws.

I find Taiwan a very suitable place for families and big families! There are many suitable activities for young and old. And the best thing: you can travel comfortably in a mini-van with hired drivers cum guides.

Before we head off, I visited the Taiwan Tourist Office at Raffles Place/Chevron House. Bring along a flight ticket print out or accommodation booking confirmation to redeem free gifts for everyone on the trip. For that month, there were free metro passes which came in really useful as we needed them on the last leg of the trip. There are different freebies every month so don’t miss out. There are some maps and brochures to pick up at the office too.

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/TTBSIN/ 

Address: 30 Raffles Place, #10-01 Chervon House

Tel: 62236546

Here’s sharing our itinerary for last year; Nov 2015. I know. I procrastinated! If I don’t write now, I probably will never. Confused smile

With Taiwan set as a year-end travel destination, we decided to go with Eva Air because there were decent deals and we I wanted to try the Hello Kitty airplanes! Smile If you are interested in the Hello Kitty planes you can check their route availabilities on the EVA Hello Kitty website.

I have 2 boys so it didn’t exactly thrilled them. But the novelty still worked (more on me than them). Winking smile

Our flight plans were:

To:

BR 215 SIN – TPE (Taoyuan Airport): 1545hr – 2015hrs

Return:

BR216 TPE – SIN: 955hrs – 1430hrs

We decided to travel with the constraints of the plane being a “Hello Kitty” plane as I heard the other EVA planes were older.

In any case, both plane flights went well with no major events unlike our Melbourne trip. Xi En learnt now that he has to take a break after watching the entertainment TV and he needs to eat moderately and he needs to sleep. He did it with clockwork! *thumbs up*

Hello Kitty Airplane photos galore; too cute! :

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Upon arrival, there was a miscommunication that I thought our prearranged driver will be waiting at the arrival area. Only to realise, after buying our prepaid cards, that he is in his car circling around the airport. Maybe it is expensive to park and walk to wait for us? In any case, glad we found each other and started our long drive to Yilan – our accommodation for the night. We took about 1.5 to 2 hours to reach Yilan from Taoyuan Airport.

Note: It is useful to buy the telco cards/packages at the airport if you need connectivity on the go. It isn’t too expensive and there are different no. of days packages. It is useful to connect with your drivers.

Our accommodation for the next 2 nights was at Full Sweet Inn. It is a “minsu” (民属) – otherwise known as a homestay/B&B. Talking of which, it can be somewhat difficult if you don’t speak/read/write Mandarin. Though I do have mandarin education, I still face trouble trying to read the mandarin instructions on some of the localised hotel/minsu’s websites. One small tip: you can use google translate or type in the chinese names of the minsu and you might be able to find the original minsu’s website or someone who wrote about it in English.

There are just too many options in the Taiwan for minsu – reviews on Tripadvisor/Agoda/Expedia – might be able to give good indication of the place.

Full Sweet Inn was nested among paddy fields giving it an idyllic feel. The hosts – Jonanthan and his wife – were friendly and helpful from answering questions to booking, payment and hosting. Rooms were clean and spacious. Breakfast was homely and yummy. There was little to complain about. As we hired a driver, it was easy to move around. Otherwise, I think you do need a cab to get in and out.

Photos of Full Sweet Inn and their reviews on Tripadvisor.

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As our flight came in late, we didn’t do much on the first night except to stock up at the nearby Family Mart. We started Day 2 with proper itinerary which I will share more on the second Taiwan post. Smile

More details on our each day’s itinerary as below:

Day 1:

Singapore > Taipei > Yilan

Day 2:

Yilan (whole day tour)

Day 3:

Yilan > Miaoli