As this was supposed to be a budget trip, I didn’t want to spend too much money on accommodation. Seeking balance between comfort and affordability, I found this gem of a hotel on Agoda; a 4-star boutique hotel at only SGD 144 per night! We were later given a free upgrade to their newer wing, In-house Boutique hotel, which was even better as it was just a mere 1 minute walk from the Ximen metro station.
Besides its excellent location, In-house Boutique hotel met my expectations in more ways than one. The bed was comfy, the room was clean and tastefully decorated, the bathroom was equipped with good showers and high-tech toilet, l’occtaine toiletries was provided; it was definitely value for money. Situated in one of Taipei’s famous shopping districts – Ximending, we were also able to experience the bustling night-life and awesome street food right at the door step.
Getting to In-house hotel from Taoyuan International Airport:
Take Free-go bus (飞狗巴士) from Taoyuan International Airport bus terminal. The journey takes about 40mins to an hour, and costs NTD140 (SGD6) for a one way trip. The driver will drop you at the nearest drop-off point to the hotel.
Book In-house hotel here
Jiu fen (九份) – my favourite!
After leaving our luggage at the hotel, we set off for the first stop in our itinerary – 九份.
九份 is a small town in north Taiwan, and is one of the popular tourist destinations in Taipei. Renowned for its quaint streets and tea houses, 九份 is a wonderful place to spend an idyllic afternoon. The main commercial streets are Jishan Street and Shu Qi road, which are flanked with a wide variety of shops ranging from unique souvenirs to grilled squids to the ever famous yam ball dessert (芋圆).
Getting to 九份:
Take the Metro to Zhong Xiao Fu Xing (忠孝复兴）station. To get to the bus stop, take exit 1. Just outside the exit, there will be a row of shops on your right. Turn right (to where the shops are), walk along the shops, and turn left once you reach the corner. The bus to take is Keelung bus number 1062, heading to Jin Gua Shi. Alight when you see the 7-11 (entrance of Jiu Fen).
For a more comprehensive guide to 九份, check out the wikitravel page.
Shi fen (十分)
After spending a good few hours sipping tea and reading, we reluctantly left the warm and cosy tea house for the chilly winds and made our way to our next destination – 十分. As both of us didn’t manage to visit 十分 on our previous (separate) trips to Taiwan, we were very keen to go there this time round to experience the somewhat touristy activity of the release of sky lanterns.
Releasing sky lanterns (放天灯) is a ritual whereby wishes are written on a lantern which would later on be lit up and released into the sky – signifying the carrying of your prayers to the deities above.
The sky lanterns range from NTD100 to NTD150 depending on the number of colours chosen, each colour representing a different aspect of your life (health, money, love etc.)
Getting to 十分 from 九份:
Take bus 1062 (from the bus stop highlighted in the map) to Rui Fang train station. Take the train from Rui Fang train station to Shi Fen train station.
Raohe Night Market (饶河夜市)
饶河夜市 is one of the three most popular night markets in Taipei, joining the ranks of 师大夜市 and 士林夜市. Having been to all three night markets, I would say that I love the food at 饶河 best, despite 士林 being the seemingly more popular one. There seems to be more food variety at 饶河, or maybe my memory is failing me, while 师大 has more clothes and accessories shops to cater to the university crowd in the area.
Getting to 饶河 from十分:
Take the train from Shi Fen train station to Rui Fang train station. From there, take bus 1062 (we took another bus in the end as two bus 1062 refused to let us board due to full load) to 饶河夜市. The journey will take close to an hour. To be safe, ask the driver to inform you when to alight. They are usually more than happy to do so!
After filling our tummies with all the yummy food, we cabbed back to our hotel to rest after the long but happy day.