Taiwan Trip Day 5: Miaoli > Taichung (Xinshe Sea of Flowers > Master of Mushroom > Go-Kart > Carton King > La Vida Hotel > Feng Chia night market)

Day 5: Just as we were getting used to our minsu at Miaoli, we had to leave for Taichung. With most of our family trips, we try to have at least 2 nights of stay at each accommodation to allow sufficient exploration and rest. Glad we did that.

After the usual breakfast at the minsu, we bid farewell to our hosts, took the mandatory photos and packed our bags into the driver’s car. A note on the driver – he left us for a day and drove all the way back to Taipei and then back again to pick us up! I felt bad after knowing that’s what he had to do. Most travel companies might charge a night of accommodation for the driver since we didn’t use his service for a day, but Hong Tour didn’t do so. Instead, he went off to do a pick up for other clients and came back 2 nights later to drive us for another day of tour towards Taichung. Very blessed to encounter an honest and accommodating tour company.

First stop was:

1) Xinshe Sea of Flower Festival (新社花海)

This is not a permanent place but one which is seasonal. Normally it takes place from early Nov to early Dec each year. Google the Chinese name to check the season each other or just ask your local accommodation folks; they will know.

We decided to visit because my mother loves flowers. But we kinda of choose the wrong day to visit – on a weekend. Sad smile Going with our itinerary, it was tough to move it around. So we went ahead despite knowing that it will be crowded. Thankfully, we headed in early at the advice of our driver and managed to skip the car-crowd. It is a one way in and one way out road; so strongly advisable to go early or get stuck in the traffic jam.

When we reached there, it was a sea of PEOPLE together with the sea of flowers….. Furthermore, it was a really sunny day; thus making the walk around the exhibits a little uncomfortable.

We rushed through the flowers, took some shots and dashed into the food market next to the festival for some reprise. It is similar to our pasar malam or the Taiwan night markets; except it’s sheltered. We bought some street food, ate and drank and was out of the place by 12-1pm.

Will recommend this place if you are a flower lover but do go on a weekday or head in early to avoid crowds.

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2) Master of Mushroom Restaurant (菇神)

I was searching for a place nearby Xinshe to have lunch and learnt from our driver that Master of Mushroom is nearby. Saw online that most have good things to say about this mushroom place.

We stopped here for lunch and it was crowded! Thankfully our driver helped to call ahead and make a reservation for us. We took a few hot pot sets and added more mushroom dishes. It was more than enough (as usual). Meal was alright, though I won’t rate it a must-go/must-eat place. The mushroom drink tasted like “bird-nest drink”. It was a convenient stop-over place for lunch as it was near to Xinshe. There was an in-house shop where we bought more mushroom products as souvenirs for friends.

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Website: http://0425822585.tai-chung.com.tw/

3) Xinshe / Taichung Go-Karting (新社卡丁車)

I first read about Go-karting in Taichung from one of my blogger’s friend’s (Miracule) blog. She used the same Tour Taiwan company. I thought my thrill-seeking boy will love that. So I requested Wendy from Hong Tour to add in Go-Karting in our schedule. There was one such track in Xinshe and we went there after lunch. It is a small track but great that they allowed younger children to ride with one adult. I didn’t take note of the age limit, but recalled that there were kids who looked as young as 5 to 6 years old. Xi En was 6 years old when he took the ride next to me.

This has to be one of the highlights of the trip for both of us. Only we took the go-kart while the the rest waited around and entertained Eizac with some arcade-like games. My memory failed me – but I remember the price for go-karting in Taiwan was way cheaper than in Singapore. So it is worth a go if you have children who will enjoy such activities. Mine do. Smile

It is quite safe as the adult has the control of the pedal and the steering wheel. The child has a dummy steering wheel. Open-mouthed smile

Xi En kept asking me to accelerate but I was too good a driver to do so! haha. There were other sole adult drivers who were there for the speed and thrill. I was just a mother trying to protect my son by letting them go ahead of me and keeping Xi En at the safer edges. Too scarily-cat!

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A raw unedited short video of our go-karting experience:

https://youtu.be/k9YwWaMAFmw

4) Carton King (纸箱王 – 台中.大坑店)

There are actually a few Carton King outlets in Taiwan. The one in Taichung is one of their main shop and thus is bigger than the rest. I misread some reviews online that it isn’t worth going and asked the tour company to drop this place. But our driver encourage us to go as the one in Taichung have good reviews. We are glad we changed our mind and went in the end.

This was the most expensive entrance fee of all the tourist places we went to. Entrance fee is NTD200. You can only redeem NTD100 for products.

Nonetheless, we had a good afternoon exploring all the huge structures made from cartons. The kids could collect stamps from various “stations” around the premise and redeem a small gift after collecting all the stamps.

We bought yummy honey biscuits from the honey shop and had fun eating and drinking out of cardboard trays/holders. It is a novelty place and recommended for first timers. If you have time, you might like to try out their steamboat meals served out of cardboard. We were full from lunch and thus only tried out their tea sets which were good too!

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

5) La Vida Hotel (Taichung) + Feng Chia Night Market

We ended the day by checking into La Vida Taichung hotel and walking through the night market. This hotel was undisputable the best stay in our Taiwan trip. The regret is we only stayed one night!!!

Hotel was strategically located just 2 mins walk from the famous Feng Chia Night Market  – managed to do some shopping here. We took turns to visit the night market – Edwin and I went down 3 times! – because we could take turns to watch the kids since the hotel is just next door to the night market. This is the only night market we could walk properly without the kids….

For the food – we queued wherever there was a Q! Tried a bit of everything; street food is best eaten piping hot! Smile with tongue out

We also had the best sleep here with cosy big beds and clean toilets with a huge bathtub! The breakfast buffet was a decent good spread and it was about 20 mins taxi ride to Taichung High Speed Rail.

Highly recommended to stay here if you are visiting Taichung.

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Ended exhausting Day 5 with a hot tub bubble bath while watching TV – a luxury especially for Xi En! Smile

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Read more about our Taiwan trip below:

Day 1: Taipei (Taoyuan) > Yilan

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

Day 3: Yilan > Miaoli

Day 4: Miaoli (Hao Wang Jiao Minsu > Picking of seasonal fruits)

Day 4: Miaoli (Flying Cow Ranch)

Day 5: Miaoli > Taichung (Xinshe Sea of Flowers > Master of Mushroom > Go-Kart > Carton King > La Vida Hotel > Feng Chia night market)

Day 6: Taichung > Taipei

Day 7 & 8: Taipei

Taiwan Trip Day 4 : Miaoli – Hao Wang Jiao Minsu (好望角民宿) > Fruit Picking

Day 4:

I choose a minsu in Maoli as there were very few good and affordable options in Miaoli. We almost went with F Hotel Sanyi but I cancelled the booking after I had good correspondences with the owner – Mary at Hao Wang Jiao ( 好望角民宿). I chanced upon good reviews on Tripadvisor and thought this will be a good alternative to hotels. Wendy, our travel guide, recommended hot springs hotels/accommodations but we are not huge fans of hot springs so decided to go for a mountainside minsu. Smile

Mary and her husband run Hao Wang Jiao minsu together. Their relatives run a camp site just down the hill – more suitable for locals.

We took 2 attic rooms which came with pine wood flooring, walls and stairs. Our room has a real attic room which can sleep a total of 7 to 8 pax; whereas my in-laws took the room next to ours with 2 huge beds good for 4 pax. The rental is very affordable as compared to Flying Cow Ranch and others nearby.

The downside: There is a flight of stairs to climb up to the rooms. And the rooms/bathrooms are a little dated in look and feel. Cleanliness and condition of the place is about 8/10 but still acceptable for a short stay.

The upside: The hospitality of the hosts – Mary and her husband – is superb! They welcomed us warmly when we reached. Helped to carry our luggage up the stairs and invited us downstairs with hot tea and some biscuits. We had home cooked breakfast on 2 mornings and it felt like they are relatives after a while! Their black dog was shy but otherwise all of them were a pleasure to mingle with. After the 2nd day, it felt like home!

There are 2 other rooms on the ground floor, but Mary said the attic rooms are better. Smile Mary’s husband (I can’t remember his name!) did most of the improvement works around the hill which are interesting when you looked closely.

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Mary’s husband and sister-in-law (we needed 2 cars) drove us to the Flying Cow Ranch (more about that on next post) and thereafter we requested to go fruit picking. They kindly picked us up after lunch and drove us to a local fruit picking farm. My mum is a huge fan of fruit picking. I can’t say it’s a proper farm; but more of a random, neighbourhood sort that only the locals might know. We paid a nominal fee to enter the land with plastic bags to pick up to a few kgs each. There were only oranges and persimmons in session; and they were grew on steep slopes. But we had good fun cutting, eating and selecting the best to pack. My two city kids were fighting to be the one to cut the fruits; clearly city kids. ^_^

We picked more than enough and feasted on yummy oranges for the next few days; and had bags to bless our driver and left some for the next guests at Hao Wang Jiao.

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After our fruitful fruit-picking-cum-eating session, we decided to eat in for the night and Mary offered to help us buy local noodles. We ordered a few variety but there weren’t any vegetarian options in the noodle shop (my mum is a vegetarian). Mary kindly offered to go to her sister-in-law’s house down the hill to grab some vegetables to stir-fry for my mum!

Xi En and I tagged along to harvest the greens – it’s a fun adventure for the city kid! And my mum – she simply loves from field-to-plate food produces. Smile

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We had a relaxing evening at Hao Wang Jiao; chatting and sipping tea with the hosts. The kids either ran around the compound or up and down the stairs.

There were nothing much to do, no high-technology cable TV to watch but that’s the whole point – we didn’t want to do much except to laze around and enjoy the fresh air.

Our hosts are really sunny and down-to-earth people and that made the whole minsu experience a pleasant one.

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Will recommend this place if you don’t mind roughing it out a little in a more rustic place. You will need to speak Mandarin as hosts are not proficient in English.

Their website: http://www.8898go.com/hwj/

I communicated with most Taiwanese via WeChat or LINE. Some use whatsapp as well. Will be useful to have those communications apps if you are planning to stay in minsu or Airbnb. Smile

Next up: Day trip to Flying Cow Ranch

Read more about our Taiwan trip below:

Day 1: Taipei (Taoyuan) > Yilan

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

Day 3: Yilan > Miaoli

Day 4: Miaoli (Hao Wang Jiao Minsu > Picking of seasonal fruits)

Day 4: Miaoli (Flying Cow Ranch)

Day 5: Miaoli > Taichung (Xinshe Sea of Flowers > Master of Mushroom > Go-Kart > Carton King > La Vida Hotel > Feng Chia night market)

Day 6: Taichung > Taipei

Day 7 & 8: Taipei

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: Taipei (Taoyuan) > Yilan

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

Day 3: Yilan > Miaoli

Day 4: Miaoli (Hao Wang Jiao Minsu > Picking of seasonal fruits)

Day 4: Miaoli (Flying Cow Ranch)

Day 5: Miaoli > Taichung (Xinshe Sea of Flowers > Master of Mushroom > Go-Kart > Carton King > La Vida Hotel > Feng Chia night market)

Day 6: Taichung > Taipei

Day 7 & 8: Taipei

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